Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Breaking the Grip of Corruption: Our Captured Culture’s Penultimate Effort to Promote, Protect and Fulfill Human Rights

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

on the Occasion of the First Integrity and Human Rights Conference
Manila, Philippines,
27 January 2009

Keynote Speech delivered by
LEILA M. DE LIMA
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines




My co-workers in the public sector, our friends in the private sector, distinguished speakers, members of the diplomatic community, our partners in civil society, the academe and the media, ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning!

Today's event is truly a momentous occasion, a moment where we as one people undertake the critical shift of paradigms in the seemingly endless struggle on two fronts – the struggle to squelch rabid corruption and the struggle to vigilantly uphold and protect human rights.

For many years, the problem of corruption had always been viewed as a bane to economic freedom, an impediment to free market capitalism and a black mark on the investment environment of the country. It had been viewed almost solely as hindrance to economic growth and progress, the perennial aspiration of all developing nations such as ourselves. Corruption has been seen only as an inconvenient yet unavoidable factor in bureaucratic transactions, a sinful habit that attends the ordinary course of enterprise and regulation.

Ironically, as much material and academic discourse had been poured into the evils of corruption, it is still viewed, impliedly or otherwise, as not only necessary, but more poignantly, ordinary.

Yet, as ordinary as corruption is to our jaded existence, in spite of the known malady that it brings, we find ourselves in that curiously awkward and exquisitely pained middle ground of neither denouncing it nor embracing it. When we speak to our children, we are careful never to elaborate on the real character of “real world” transactions – always sure to underscore the values of honesty and integrity in their naïve lives. We teach our law students, for example, what the law says, the essence behind legislative fiat, the ethics of the legal profession, and yet we never tell them that they cannot survive in practice without sacrificing and compromising some measure of the very values we inculcate in them during their years at school. What happens in law school is replicated in varying deviations across all classrooms, across different disciplines, across every level of education, to children of people from all walks of life.

We are neither here nor there. For everything that had transpired in our history as a nation, we have never come to grips with our languid stance on corruption. Though it is corruption precisely that had driven us to expel two presidents no less, it is the same corruption that we had so sadly conceded to time and again after the revolutions.

All along, while our efforts had focused on expelling presidents and engaging in protracted congressional hearings, anti-corruption euphoria had overlooked one crucial feature of corruption – it infects more than just our government. It infects nearly all aspects of our lives, drawing in more players than we are willing to admit. It includes not just the bureaucracy, but the private sector as well. It affects not only transaction costs, but opportunity costs on so many levels. Every person's large or small contribution to a widespread culture of corruption adds to an ever-expanding gap between those who can secure rent and those who cannot, a perpetuation of the decline of budgetary allocation into education and health while public works and military spending increase with the growing ease of securing kickbacks. The result of years of overlooking these features had led us into our quagmire now – the poor are less educated, have less access to health and economic opportunity, and therefore, are less able to uplift themselves from their own poverty. Their right to adequate services, their right to justice and development continues to be denied not just by a government that is seen to be corrupt, but a culture that fosters corruption.

And all the while, we've been witch-hunting! Who in the DOJ, in the PDEA is at fault in the Alabang Boys case; who in the SBMA and the DENR is responsible for the cutting of protected forests in Subic Bay; who in the Executive Department had been responsible for the Fertilizer Scam and the ZTE deal. The more we hunt, the reality is that the more we must examine ourselves. The more we seek revolutions, the more we must seek change in ourselves.

What we need now is not just another revolution. We need a revolution that upstages all previous revolutions – one that not only changes the configuration of political power, but one that changes the Filipino psyche. We need to put an end to our habit of openly denouncing corruption, then surreptitiously consenting to it. Many of us here are guilty of this.

The 1st Integrity and Human Rights Conference is NOT our first attempt at characterizing corruption as more than a problem of economic progress. We did not stage a revolt in 1986 because the Philippines was slowly being left behind by our Asian neighbors in terms of economic growth. We did stage a revolt because wages were not enough, purchasing power was falling, jobs were scarce, we felt no security, and more importantly friends and family members remained detained, free speech and assembly was squelched, positive change was desperately needed. We did not stage a revolt post the 1997 Asian financial crisis because of a flagging economy. It was staged because of the sentiment that the right of the people to know the truth was being systematically denied, that corrupt practice and nepotism was rampant and that which the people deserved but did not get – a government that fostered equal opportunity and an equitable distribution of wealth did not exist. NONE of the reasons for igniting a revolution was purely based on the increased transactional costs or festering rent-seeking or impaired economic progress. The reasons for revolt are those things that a people may demand from their government – rights that everyone can assert. The revolts were not purely crisis of economy, as corruption is often portrayed as instigating, but a humanitarian crisis at its core. It is a crisis, not only on the realm of economic progress and business climate, but a crisis in the broad and all-encompassing field of human development and human rights.

At its very core, corruption is not just an inconvenient requisite to bureaucratic transactions. It is a very serious violation of human rights. This statement is the reason we are here today – to instill in your minds, for you to instill in the minds of your subordinates, to instill in the minds of their children and your children, and your children's children: corruption is a violation of human rights.

Originally, this conference had been scheduled for December, right around the time that the world had been commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The timing could not have been more perfect to drive home the significant relationship between human rights as a whole and the UN Convention Against Corruption, or the UNCAC.

The storied history of the development of human rights sheds a brighter light on our current struggle to combat corruption. From the very first spark in the minds of subjugated ancient peoples that their oppression was not an inevitably perpetual condition, the moment that their current condition was seen as an affliction, that serf, slaves, conquered nations, laborers, women, farmers, pariahs all believed that there could be no inevitability except to live in dignified existence, that is when the seeds of human rights had been sown. The most prolific of revolutions, the French Revolution, set the stage for revolutions for the masses, for the proletariat and for ordinary people throughout the world. It had been studied meticulously for generations, as it is studied today, just as our own national heroes had arduously sown the seeds of human rights in our people.

Human rights had taken a dramatic turn only when the human race had reached a tipping point – a second world war that would decimate countries, almost half of a generation lost on the war front, in different theaters of conflict across the planet. Fathers, brothers, sons lost over land and sea, six million men, women and children belonging to stateless nation of Jews exterminated in concentration camps, countries around the world annexed in the name of war, culminating in the surrender of the last antagonists following the haunting moment of two whole cities, including their populations, vaporized by the power of atomic energy.

What, then, in all of this, pushed mankind to carve in stone the value of human life? What is the seminal moment for the birth of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

It was at the moment where mankind had seen its own, most grotesque face, through the most atrocious of acts directed at his fellow man, in the name of race, ultra-nationalism, alliances, in the name of status quo or change, peace or progress, in the name of saving life by ironically, taking life. It was in this furious backdrop of war, pillage, encroachment, racism, extermination and murder that man had to accept what had become of man so that we could draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so that not only war atrocities, but all atrocities, against the dignity of man can be stamped out.

Our courageous struggle against corruption and the battle for integrity and accountability, transparency and trust, derives many lessons from the development of the seminal document on human rights. It is in the comparison between the histories of human rights and corruption that we hope to deliver this new paradigm, this new revolution that upstages any past revolution in the name of integrity.

Corruption is as old as civilization, as old as the notion of private gain and the notion of greed. It is defined as the misuse of power entrusted for the purpose of private gain. At the point in human history that hierarchies had emerged in social systems, that taxation and collective wealth gave birth to personal wealth, corruption had been born. It had afflicted ancient civilizations of China and Rome, the Persians and Greek empires.

In our own brief history as a nation, it had afflicted us in the colonial rule of the Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese. Our claim to fame as one of the first colonies to gain independence had also given rise to the first indigenous democracy infected with corruption. It had been with us from the Commonwealth, the Republics that had followed, and it is still with us now.

When sociologists seek the cultural thread of corruption in our country, they speak of a cultural fabric sown with the notions of a padrino-culture, utang na loob, bahala ka na, sponsors and favors – all very well entrenched in our psyche and our culture, and very, very old. From the most notorious forms of corruption, such as the customary 20% kickback on government contracts to the most minute such as unjustified color-coding exemptions, and all the examples in between, illustrate not only the pervasiveness of corruption, but its seemingly natural place in our culture.

In human rights, it took the most horrific of events abridged into the first half of the 20th century to bring mankind into self-reflection on what had become of ourselves, imperialists in the name of colonialism and benevolent assimilation, war-mongers in the name of national security and preemptive strike, killers, butchers of the name of life, liberty and freedom of every man. Yet the critical moment had not come at self-reflection. It had not come at self-assessment. It had not come at knowing what had become of our humanity. The true flash point came at self-acceptance, when the world had proverbially looked at itself in the mirror and pointed at itself as the culprit. When the world accepted that it had become a monstrosity in spite of the highest values it held sacred, that was the time that these values had emerged in the form of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For corruption, had we reached a flash point? It seems that yes, we have. But it isn't today. It was nearly 23 years ago. Again, a tipping point appeared in 2001. But appearances are deceiving. As enormous as the uproar was in 1986 and 2001, I am not sure we had truly reached the tipping point. Why, then, are we here today, only beginning to embark on some grandly envisioned plan to eliminate corruption once and for all? Why is this only the FIRST integrity and human rights conference? Why is the struggle for integrity and the battle against corruption old but not obsolete? Why is it passé and trite but thoroughly present in our time?

Today's conference is ground-breaking but only on the condition that we cross the same threshold that faced our grandparents’ generation at the end of the last world war – the threshold of accepting what had become of us, what had become of ALL of us.

For so long, corruption and the crusade against it had centered on the bureaucracy, the government. Without any surprise, government is well-represented in this conference. We have the Ombudsman, the Military, the PNP, the LGUs and even the PEZA representatives to discuss anti-corruption and the measures that are being undertaken.

Yet, our characterization of corruption as a hallmark of the government and the bureaucracy, is itself passé. Ask any college-aged student, and many will tell you that, given a choice, they will not work for government because it reeks of corruption, that their cherished Catholic School-values will be threatened and eroded until they themselves become no different from the government they eye so suspiciously. Yet, the same children who will grow up and enter the real world and find out for themselves the falsity of their insulated education. They will find out that corruption is everywhere. In this day and age, for our children NOT to know this early that corruption is more rampant than what they imagine, is to mislead them.

Corruption is no exception from any elegant economic theory of supply and demand. While we have focused so much on the supply-side of corruption, there is very little in the Filipino collective psyche about the demand-side. There is very little thought given to the two-way street, the two-to-tango relationship that characterizes corruption. Private interest or business has an equally, and sometimes even greater, interest in perpetuating the cycle of corruption. Refer back to college-aged students – they simply do not know that the private sector is itself as immersed in corruption as the government is.

This is part of that awkward middle ground upon which we stand on – to tell our children to steer clear of corruption, but not tell them that it is everywhere. To feel indignation at the latest news of another government cover-up, but not to feel indignation when we ourselves give in to corruption. To simply tell our children that it is everywhere, and then to be upstanding in the face of it, makes a whole world of difference.

To simply tell our children, to tell ourselves that corruption is everywhere, and then to be upstanding in the face of it... this is our threshold, this is the acceptance, the true flash point that we need to spark a true revolution in our quest to end corruption. To accept that our culture is steeped in nuances that enable corruption, is the first major step to a revolution that is worthy of the spirit that attended the 1986 Revolution, or to even upstage it.

The presence today of civil society and very thoughtfully, the private sector must be our irrevocable admission that the specter of corruption is played across all sectors, all strata of Philippine society. It must be our admission that corruption is not only a hazard of doing business under this government, it is a hazard that is propagated, too, by those that do business. It is not just a consequence of free enterprise, but also a result of unscrupulous enterprise.

Just as within the government, as illustrated, for example, by political aspirants who use public money to butter up barangay captains in preparation for looming elections, between government and private enterprise, and between private enterprise with other private enterprises, between big business and SMEs, and then full circle between small enterprise and government, corruption has in fact infected us on so many levels. And yet, it is even more widespread than that. Even aid agencies, foreign-funded NGOs had not been spared by this malady. The realm of NGOs remains, in the minds of our children, the last bastion of altruism and selflessness, yet it too has integrity issues. Where had all this foreign aid gone? What do we have to show for it?

While, thankfully, there remain good apples and stellar examples of integrity everywhere, in government, the private sector, in civil society, now is not the time to flaunt spotless slates, and now is not yet the time to smoke out those without clean hands. We speak of only one culture shared by all of us – a culture with nuances that facilitate the Filipino's propensity for corruption. When we admit this of ourselves collectively, only then can we genuinely move forward.

The task we are undertaking now is immense. Many have worked hard to solve the problem of corrupt governance. So much more has to be done. The creation of a long-term system of measurement, oversight, reporting and prosecution is beautifully outlined in our program objectives.

Before I close my discourse, may I share with you, further insights into the human rights approach to corruption.

Absent from anti-corruption analysis are human rights concerns. In particular, how we define corruption and how it adversely impacts on the enjoyment of rights especially of the poor and vulnerable.

No less than the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its consideration of the Philippine Government through the issuance of its Concluding Observations, has noted ". . . with concern that, despite the efforts undertaken by the State party to curb corruption, including the establishment of a number of anti-corruption bodies such as the anti-corruption court, this phenomenon continues to be widespread."

The Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to prosecute cases of corruption and review its sentencing policy for corruption-related offences. It also recommends that the State party train the police and other law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges on the strict application of anti-corruption laws, conduct awareness-raising campaigns, and ensure the transparency of the conduct of public authorities, in law and in practice. The Committee requests the State party to provide in its next periodic report detailed information about progress made, and obstacles encountered.

Taking off from this statement, the Commission on Human Rights challenges all to address corruption through the Human Rights Based Approach. We gather stakeholders: duty bearers and claimholders alike to adhere to the idea that nipping corruption requires the human rights perspective.
And we start by broadening the definition of corruption.

That is, ‘corruption is not simply a question of improper payments or bribery’ it should be defined further by including and publicizing the negative impact it ultimately brings to people – the enjoyment of rights by the claimholders. Publicizing, in such a manner that they not only are sensitized to be averse and angry about corruption but encouraging them to claim their rights by doing something about corruption.
In this sense "corruption is a toll on societies that tolerate poor governance as well as the end result for the weak demand for good governance."

In short, we begin to stem corruption not only by naming and shaming the ‘corruptor’ and the ‘corruptee’. We must empower people to act and do their part by demanding good governance lest they become tools to the perpetuation of corruption.

So now we posit not only an integrity and human rights pact but an integrity and human rights act – to be averse to the menace of corruption, to stand up against corruption and to act now and demand for good governance.

Now is the moment to choose action over lethargy and over apathy; to choose integrity over ennui. Now must be the tipping point. It must be the revolution. So when I ask you, is this the moment? – there is no other answer, there is no other choice. That we are gathered here today, ladies and gentlemen, this is the moment.

Thank you.

Pinoy workers needed in Afghanistan - NATO contractor

ANGELES CITY, Philippines - A country representative of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) contractor has announced that thousands of Filipino workers are needed to support NATO/United States Department of Defense (US-DOD) military installations in Afghanistan.

Retired Lt. Col. Edgar LaBenne, country representative of a NATO contractor who is now in this city, said an initial 1,099 workers are immediately needed before the end of February, with an estimated 1,000 more needed by mid-year.

"We are calling the attention of [Philippine government] to expedite the Afghanistan country assessment for probable issuance of an Area Specific Exemption and not a lifting of the countrywide ban," he said in a statement.

He stressed that the exemption would only be for specific areas inside NATO military installations where Filipino workers will work and live exclusively "under the same level of security and protection as the NATO troops assigned to those bases."

LaBenne described the salary package offered by the NATO contractor as "amazing" and "one of the best ever for Filipino workers."

"Considering the global economic crisis, countries declaring bankruptcies, massive lay-offs and lack of new jobs, here is a golden opportunity that we should grab," he said.

The Philippine has imposed a deployment ban to Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Lebanon due to security concerns. - Joey Aguilar, GMANews.TV

Give us more time to pay, laid-off OFWs ask lenders

MARK JOSEPH UBALDE, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - For most of the laid-off Filipino workers from Hannstar Display Corporation in Taiwan, the Year of the Ox is far from okay.

Two weeks from now, Elwood Yambao would have to give his first payment to the lending company where he borrowed P55,000 to cover his expenses going to Taiwan. He returned home last November, along with 171 others, after the LCD company they were working for suffered a huge blow from the global economic crisis.

Yambao said he doesn’t know where to get the money to pay his lenders. Both he and his wife are without jobs in Olongapo City and they still have two young kids in school.

“How can we pay our debts if we don’t even have a source of income anymore?" Yambao told GMANews.TV in an interview on Tuesday.

Although the Philippine government has helped retrenched and laid-off workers to get back on their feet through livelihood programs, skills retraining and overseas job matching, these casualties of the US-led economic crisis are finding themselves slowly being swallowed up by debts they incurred in their previous job abroad.

Toots Ople of the Blas F. Ople Foundation, an organization advocating migrants’ issues, appealed to the lending companies for a reprieve in the payment of loans of laid off overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“If possible, they should freeze the interest of the loans for the time being," Ople said in a phone interview.

According to Ople, laid off workers from Taiwan borrowed between 50,000 and 120,000 from various lending companies to cover their placement fees and other travel expenses.

Some of the lending companies charge four percent interest every month for the loaned money.
The Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) earlier said it is willing to give as much as P500,000 to start a small business.

Carmelita Dimzon, OWWA chief, said the loan is available at a low five percent interest per annum with no collateral and is payable for over 24 months with an interest-free grace period of 80 days.

“The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) has called a meeting with the lending companies to tell them to impose a moratorium on the payment of loans by laid off workers," Dimzon said.

Dimzon reported that lending companies have yet to decide about the moratorium.

In the latest data furnished to GMANews.TV, the POEA showed that 3,567 Filipinos from seven countries, including the Chinese province of Macau, have been the latest casualties of the global financial crisis.

The jobs of thousands of Filipinos overseas were threatened since October when US subprime companies declared bankruptcy, sparking fears among international investors that triggered an economic slowdown, which ultimately caused lay offs.

Owing to its US export-dependent economy, Taiwan had the largest number of companies affected by the economic crunch. A total of 60 companies in the electronic, metal works and semi-conductor industry laid off 3,321 Filipino workers due to bankruptcy and retrenchment. - GMANews.TV

Use P300B fund for laid off OFWs, Arroyo told

JOHANNA CAMILLE SISANTE, GMANews.TV

Philippines - Opposition lawmakers on Monday urged the Arroyo administration to use the government's P300-billion economic stimulus package to address unemployment amid the global financial crisis instead of spending it on "big-ticket" projects prone to corruption.

In a press conference, deputy minority leader and Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel said the government should provide immediate relief to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who lost their jobs due to the crisis by giving a subsidy of P50,000 to each retrenched migrant worker.

Hontiveros said the government should also make housing and other loans available for OFWs and local workers alike whose jobs were lost due to the crisis.

According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, 3,567 Filipinos from seven countries including Macau have lost their jobs due to the economic crisis. More than 90 percent of the retrenched workers came from Taiwan alone.

Hontiveros added that instead of using the fund to bail out big businesses, the government should spend on small enterprises to boost local industries.

"It (spending on big business) could be a source of corruption. We could end up subsidizing big businesses owned by politicians who have decided that the bail is necessary. If there is going to be a bail out program, it has to be given to small and medium enterprises," Hontiveros said.

Likewise, Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño cautioned the government against using the economic stimulus fund to prioritize the construction of big road projects, which they said are prone to corruption especially since the 2010 national elections are fast approaching.

Ocampo said the government should immediate problems like looming unemployment first before going on to "big-ticket" projects.

"If we're going to use a stimulus fund, we should address immediate problems, like loss of jobs, closing-down of factories, and the retrenchment of OFWs," said Ocampo.

Casiño said that if the government chooses to spend on infrastructure, it should prioritize the building of housing and hospitals because these have a "multiplier effect," adding that constructing hospitals would not only boost infrastructure, it would also improve health services and create jobs for health workers.

Casiño said infrastructure is the biggest source of "kickback" from politicians, and warned that the economic stimulus package may end up being a "political stimulus package" that will be used for 2010 elections campaigns. - GMANews.TV

OWWA willing to lend P500K for displaced OFWs

Philippines - The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on Monday announced that it has opened up a lending program for overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) displaced due to the global economic slump.

Carmelita Dimzon, OWWA chief, said that her agency can lend up to P500,000 to a displaced OFW for him or her to start a livelihood project or business enterprise.

The loan, Dimzon said in a statement, is available at a low five percent interest per annum with no collateral and is payable for over 24 months with an interest-free grace period of 80 days.

The OWWA chief said the lending program, which Labor Secretary Marianito Roque approved, is part of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program.

The Labor secretary has also issued an administrative order last week that provides guidelines for the availment of the Filipino Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund (FELSF).

Dimzon said that their agency has already released the loans of the first four FELSF borrowers and more are expected to be released in the following days in other regions.

The OWWA Board of Trustees has allocated the amount of P100 million for the FELSF as an economic safety net, after the guidelines and procedures for loan applications were approved.

The OWWA chief added that an OFW must first attend the free business courses on the production and management of their livelihood projects to borrow from the FELSF.

"These skills are important to an OFW with the ambition of transforming into an entrepreneur with a sustainable, income-producing project for the long term," Dimzon said.

The loan requirements are: OWWA membership; proof of displacement due to the global financial crisis; business proposal and a promissory note; and marital consent for married borrowers.

The Labor department on the other hand defined a displaced OFW due to the financial crisis as those who have been terminated after October 15, 2008 due to factory closures or company downsizing.

The National Reintegration Center for OFWs and the OWWA Regional Welfare Offices will endorse or pre-qualify OFWs as displaced based on the following.

1)Inclusion of the name of applicant in the list of displaced OFWs provided by the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOS) to appropriate DOLE agencies;

2) Upon validation of the information directly with the POLOS;

3) Upon interview and validation personally with the applicant to prove that his/her displacement is due to the global financial crisis.

If loan applications are completed with required documents, OWWA will immediately act on loan applications upon its submission. Attendance in the free business courses is a pre-qualifying phase. - GMANews.TV

How aspiring OFWs can save their money amid crisis

To receive a higher salary is one of the most common reasons why Filipino workers choose to work abroad. Filipinos are attracted to the huge compensation they will get as it will help them achieve their dreams of living a happy and decent life - more or less paved the way toward being financially independent.

Not all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) though go home with a fat bank account. Many even find themselves in a much worse financial state than they are before leaving the country.

To ensure that you will reap the rewards of the years you spent working in a foreign country, it is advisable that you take care of your finances even before leaving the Philippines. Here are some of the things to consider:

Develop a financial goal for yourself

Having a list of things that you wish to accomplish as a result of a two-year work contract in Dubai or Saudi Arabia would help. You may want to put into writing the amount of money you wish to save, or perhaps appliances or property you wish to acquire. Make your goals realistic by taking into consideration your salary, the cost of living in your country of destination, and others.

Involve your family and loved ones in your financial goals

It is good if your family knows your financial goals so they can encourage and support you. Discuss with them the household budget so you will know how much to send them as remittances. Remind them to spend the money wisely because you will work hard for it. Encourage them to also save money and avoid overspending.

Pay yourself first

Set aside an amount of money for savings every payday and do this right after receiving your salary. The ideal is to save at least 10% of your monthly income. You can use this savings in the future for business or other types of investment. Increase your savings in time by watching your spending habits and living below your means.

Determine your saving options

Examine the various ways on how you can save money and let it grow both here in the Philippines and abroad and choose the one that best fit you. You can open a savings or time deposit account, open an insurance or invest in stocks or mutual funds, acquire properties, etc. Just be aware of the risks involved and make sure that you are dealing with a reputable financial institution.

Prepare for your return

Prepare for the time when your work contract will expire and you have to come back to the Philippines because more often than not, there will be no job waiting for you here. Make sure that you save enough money to be able to live a comfortable life here.

Aim to be a businessman

Aside from looking for a local job upon your return, you can get into business and make your hard earned money grow. To be successful, you must be careful in choosing the kind of business to put up and do your research. It is advisable to start the business even before your work contract expires and give up your overseas job once the business is stable. You can take care of the business every time you go for a vacation. - OFW Guide

‘US health care industry unlikely haven for aspiring OFWs’

KIMBERLY JANE T. TAN, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - The United States health care industry is an unlikely haven for aspiring overseas Filipino workers amid the global financial crisis, a recruitment consultant said on Monday.

According to the assessment of recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani, at least 10 percent of OFWs are expected to return to the Philippines in 2009 due to the financial crunch, contrary to statements made by labor officials that the installment of US President Barack Obama will result in the entry of thousands of nurses to the US.

“We should not be giving false hopes to our health care professionals that the US will allow them to enter the USA in huge numbers in the next two years," he said in a statement on Monday.

“Health care staff are having overtime and benefits cuts and as in other occupations, migrants are finding the cost of living too high with some opting to return to their own country," he said.

In addition, he said the deployment of nurses to the US has dropped steadily during the last five years because of a backlog in work-based and immigrant petitions.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed that only 187 Filipino nurses entered the US in 2007.

It now takes a minimum of three to five years before a Filipino nurse can transfer to her assigned hospital in the US.

Geslani said that nurses applying for work in the United States are also still restricted by a “stalled" US immigration legislation, which is reportedly still at the initial committee and subcommittee stages, making it unlikely to be passed in 2009.

Since 2001, he said that the Department of Homeland Security has imposed strict control measures over the entry of all foreign workers to the US.

“The Department of Homeland Security will not open the gates immediately for our nurses and that Filipino nurses still hoping to get jobs abroad should look into the Middle East for employment abroad," he said

Moreover, he said that recent recommendations by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman to speed up the processing of nurses petitions might not take effect within “the near foreseeable future."

Geslani said that nurses deployment did not even reach 10,000 in 2007 and a majority of nurses have been going to the Middle East while only a few hundreds go to work in the US, United Kingdom and Ireland. - GMANews.TV

Body of missing OFW in Saipan found

HAIDEE V. EUGENIO, GMANews.TV

SUSUPE, Saipan – The body of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who had been reported missing in the US island of Saipan since July 29 was found on Saturday, Jan. 24, at a farm lot.

The remains of Alex Matubis, along with his pair of boots and back pack, were discovered by two farmers at their farm lot in the northern village of Marpi past 11 a.m. that day.

Police later found Matubis’s wallet and driver’s license in the deceased’s possession.

The Department of Public Safety of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (DPS) told the media that detectives are further investigating the case. Police have yet to release information as to whether there’s foul play.

The CNMI Crime Stoppers offered up to $1,000 to anyone who could provide information on the whereabouts of Matubis.

The blue pickup truck that Matubis had been driving until the day of his disappearance was found 18 days later on August 16 but no trace of him was found.

Matubis had been working as a draftsman/surveyor with Castro & Associates in Saipan for almost 23 years.

In early September, his wife Maria Luisa Fatima Matubis traveled to Saipan from the Philippines to personally appeal for the public’s help in finding her husband of 15 years.

“I feel that he’s alive. Every one of us in the family is hoping he’s still alive," Mrs. Matubis earlier told GMANews.TV.

She went back to the Philippines in November without having information as to where her husband was. She and her husband met for the first time in Saipan in 1990. After their marriage, Mrs. Matubis went back to the Philippines.

The Matubis couple has two children – a 16-year-old nursing student and a 14-year-old high school student. They live in San Pedro, Laguna.

Mrs. Matubis said she last saw her husband on June 28, 2008, the day when Alex Matubis returned to Saipan after a 45-day vacation in the Philippines.

Saipan is only about three hours away from Manila. - GMANews.TV

Pinay and Kuwaiti boyfriend arrested over drug raps

MANILA, Philippines - A Kuwaiti youth and his Filipino girlfriend have been arrested for allegedly possessing 250 grams of heroin and consuming tools, an online report said on Thursday.

The Arab Times reported that the two ignored the police when they were ordered to stop, prompting the authorities to chase and arrest them. – Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

5,000 new jobs open in Kuwait for Pinoys

Philippines - Kuwaiti companies are hiring a total of 5,000 Filipino workers, the Philippine envoy to Kuwait has said.

Ambassador Ricardo Endaya was quoted in a report of the English language newspaper Arab Times on Monday as saying the news jobs are to be made known at the Philippine Employment & Remittance Summit 2009 at the Tayba Tent of Movenpick Hotel in the Kuwait Free Trade Zone in Shuwaikh.

“Most of these Kuwaiti companies need staff in the hotels, restaurants as well as semi- and skilled workers including workers in the health sector," Endaya said during the press conference Sunday to announce the summit.

“Despite the prevailing global economic recession resulting in the rising number of unemployment and retrenchment, we are glad that the demand for Filipino workers in Kuwait has not been greatly affected by this economic downturn," he was quoted by the report as saying.

Endaya said the two-day event aims to promote skilled Filipino workers through the exhibition of recruitment agencies that highlight their respective company profile and services, directed towards local employers and human resource offices.

“I believe that it’s just but timely now to hold this event. We hope to generate more jobs for Filipinos and we are also very happy that despite the strict implementation of the minimum salary requirement of Filipino workers at KD120, most companies have complied with this directive, with the exception of a handful few," he said.

The two-day event began Tuesday with manpower recruitment agencies in the Philippines as well as their counterparts in Kuwait and a number of dignitaries attending.

The event is under the auspices of the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) led by Labor Attaché Josephus Jimenez in cooperation with the Asian Cultural Network.

Endaya said the event was also meant to highlight the vital role played by foreign remittance companies in ensuring the fast and safe remittance of Filipino workers to their families in the Philippines.

“We have invited various remittance companies to the summit to boost networking between companies and the OFWs," he said. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Gangs use high-tech schemes to cheat OFW families

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Tuesday warned families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against syndicates using high-technology schemes to gyp them of their money.

NBI Director Nestor M. Mantaring issued the warning as agents of the bureau arrested an alleged leader of a notorious “Dugo-Dugo" gang who has allegedly gypped over 100 families of seamen and overseas OFWs by concocting stories about their relative-OFWs.

Bureau agents arrested Gilbert Tuliba, alias “Mark Anthony Siy," “Mario Pelare" and “Edison Dizon," 39, of Barangay Maguyam, Silang, Cavite and Pototan, Tigbauan, Iloilo City during an operation on Monday in Silang, Cavite.

The complainants positively identified the suspects during a confrontation at the NBI office with media as witnesses.

Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested a leader of a notorious “Dugo-Dugo" gang who duped over 100 families of seamen and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by concocting stories about their relative-OFWs and using high-technology scheme to demand huge amount of money, to ensure their safety in an operation on Monday in Silang, Cavite.

Ruel Lasala, deputy director for intelligence services, said probers later on found that Tuliba was previously convicted for illegal possession of firearms and served six years in prison.

The arrest came following the complaint of one of his victims identified as Olivia Rempillo.

Mantaring described Tuliba’s modus operandi as high-level with the use of G-cash account of Globe service in getting money from his victim-relatives of seamen and OFWs.

The NBI director also commended Globe for helping the bureau that led to the arrest of Tuliba.

Investigation showed that Tuliba would call up the families of seamen onboard vessels or OFWs and tell them of concocted gruesome stories.

“Among the tales he narrated was that their relative-seaman or OFW was involved in a mishap, fights among fellow seamen and other misdemeanor weaved," Mantaring said in a press conference.

Tuliba would then demand money from the families and assure that he would take care of all the expenses incurred for settlement.

Through phone conversation, he would misrepresent himself as a consul and ambassador of different countries depending upon the location of victims’ kin-OFWs.

Glib-tongued, he would ask for cash ranging from P40,000 to P70,000 each. He would demand money from his victims through the facilities of G-cash of Globe service.

Mantaring also said that he would sometimes borrow money from victim-acquaintances and promised to pay using G-cash. However, he would not pay his debts and would later disappear.

Tuliba succeeded in victimizing Rempillo and over 100 families in Ilocos region, Bataan, La Union and Iloilo before moving to Silang, Cavite where he was arrested on Monday, January 26.

Rempillo had sought help of the NBI and records check showed that Tuliba had pending charges for estafa (fraud), according to Mantaring.

Tuliba was arrested on Monday based on an alias warrant issued by Judge Evelyn E. Salao, of the Municipal Trial Court Branch 4, in Iloilo.

Earlier, Tuliba evaded arrest by using various aliases and constantly changed residences. However, the lawmen caught up with him when complainants identified him as one and the same Tuliba as that of aliases used.

This was checked thru NBI files which bared warrants of arrest.

Following his arrest, Tuliba admitted his crimes and NBI operatives found several identification cards under the names of his aliases.

One of his employees, Marlon Ortiz, also told the NBI about the operations of Tuliba. “He also duped me. He borrowed P22,000 from me and duped me," said Ortiz.

The NBI probers are talking with Ortiz for the identities of the alleged cohorts of Tuliba, who is under detention at the NBI. - GMANews.TV

60,000 reacquire Filipino citizenship

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 60,209 former Filipino citizens have reacquired their Philippine citizenship following the passage of the dual-citizenship law five years ago, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Tuesday.

Of the number, 23,196 were approved at the bureau's main office in Manila while 37,013 were processed and approved at various Philippine consular offices abroad, Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan said

The bureau started processing applications for dual citizenship in 2004, a year after the passage of RA 9225 or the Citizenship and Retention and Reacquisition Act of 2003.

Under the law, former natural born Filipinos who have become naturalized citizens of other countries are deemed not to have lost their Philippine citizenship.

Libanan, a former representative of Eastern Samar and one of the principal authors of the act, urged other former Filipinos to avail of the program so they can enjoy their rights and privileges as Filipinos.

He said among these rights or privileges that have lost after giving up Filipino citizenship are the rights to hold a Philippine passport, the rights to vote and own real properties in the Philippines.

"And unlike before when they always had to extend or update their stay as tourists, they may now visit and stay in the Philippines anytime and for as long as they wish," Libanan said.

Lawyer Arvin Santos, head of the bureau's task force on dual citizenship, said that Filipinos who have become American citizens topped the list of approved applicants with 40,000, followed by Canadians.

Most of them filed their applications with the Philippine consulates in the United States — in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Hawaii.

To apply for dual citizenship, an applicants pays only a fee of P3,000 (P67) and papers are immediately processed and approved if all documentary requirements are submitted, Santos said. - GMANews.TV

Monday, January 26, 2009

Economic Crisis Increases Risks for Migrant Workers

China: Economic Crisis Increases Risks for Migrant Workers
Government Should Change Discriminatory Laws and Practices

(New York, January 23, 2009) – The Chinese government should ensure that the rights of China’s estimated 150 million migrant workers are not sacrificed as Beijing copes with the ongoing global economic crisis, Human Rights Watch said today.

Migrant workers have helped to spur China’s dramatic economic growth rate over the past three decades. Yet recent research and studies by leading government-affiliated bodies and research organizations conclude that migrant workers are the earliest casualties of any economic downturn.

“China’s massive migrant worker population is already socially, economically, and legally marginalized and is uniquely vulnerable to the global slowdown’s effects on China,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The economic crisis could well spark a ‘race to the bottom’ in rights protections and work conditions as employers exploit migrants desperate to work.”

Violations of migrants’ rights were well-documented long before the current economic crisis. Migrant workers are denied the right to collective bargaining or to form trade unions outside the official All China Federation of Trade Unions. Financial and bureaucratic constraints often prevent workers from obtaining legal redress for owed wages and other labor rights violations.

Many migrant workers, particularly in construction, have long suffered from wage exploitation by employers who deny them legally stipulated labor contracts. Many employers routinely violate laws requiring monthly salary payments and instead make migrants wait for an annual payment ahead of the Lunar New Year. Such payments are often below official minimum wage standards. In many cases, employers cheat migrants of the entirety of their yearly wages.

Human Rights Watch said that migrant workers often have inadequate food and housing and unsafe working conditions, which increase the risk of illness and disability. Most have no medical or accident insurance, and shrinking job opportunities may force increasing numbers of migrants to seek work in the country’s most dangerous industries such as mining and construction.

A recent study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences indicates that migrants are the front-line victims of the country’s economic downturn through mass layoffs in the migrant-dominated export manufacturing sector. China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has indicated that up to 10 million migrants lost their jobs in 2008 due to the financial crisis. A recent study by China’s Tsinghua University suggests that up to 50 million migrant workers will lose their urban jobs in 2009 if the economic downturn continues.

Human Rights Watch said that growing joblessness will threaten the already fragile protections for migrant workers built into China’s constitution, labor law, and at least 16 other central government and municipal government laws, regulations, and directives.

“In a country that has not yet established the rule of law, the weakest in society will be the most vulnerable to exploitation,” said Adams. “The Chinese government should prioritize the development of welfare and re-employment schemes for migrant workers and ensure that unscrupulous employers don’t take advantage of unemployed migrants as the economy worsens.”

Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned that the economic crisis will amplify existing human rights violations linked to China’s discriminatory household registration, or hukou, system. Migrants from the countryside have long been denied social welfare benefits available to residents with urban hukou, including state-sponsored retirement pensions and medical care. Although some municipalities have temporary urban hukou programs, the majority of migrant workers remain deprived of urban hukou-related rights and benefits.

In January 2008 Ma Liqiang, the deputy secretary general of China’s official National Development and Reform Commission, indicated that the restrictions in the hukou system would be eliminated by 2020, but without giving a specific timetable.

In November 2008 the Beijing municipal government reinforced the discriminatory nature of the urban hukou system by announcing a system that will provide employers annual subsidies of up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,470) for employing urban hukou-holding jobseekers. That system explicitly denies the same employment opportunities to non-hukou-holding migrant workers. This measure may not deter migration to Beijing by the rural poor, and does nothing to address the plight of unregistered migrants who still live there.

Human Rights Watch pointed out that rising unemployment among migrants will also imperil their children’s right to education, as laid-off migrants become unable to pay tuition fees. Although Chinese law decrees nine years of free compulsory schooling, lack of funding for rural education requires many students in the countryside to pay to attend state schools. Migrants’ remittances to their families in rural areas – which a World Bank study indicated reached US$30 billion in 2005 – have been essential in enabling migrants’ children to get an education.

“If the Chinese government is sincere about achieving a ‘harmonious society,’ it needs to start taking a zero-tolerance approach to employment discrimination against migrants,” said Adams.

To read the 2008 Human Rights Watch report, “‘One Year of My Blood’: Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in Beijing,” at:
http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/03/11/one-year-my-blood-0

For more information, please contact:
In Hong Kong, Phelim Kine (English, Mandarin): +852-6604-9792 (mobile)
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-790-872-8333 (mobile)
In New York, Minky Worden (English, Cantonese): +1-917-497-0540 (mobile)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Filipino mother with lupus pleads: 'Help me return home'

CHALAN LAULAU, Saipan – An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) diagnosed with a serious medical condition in the US territory of Saipan is seeking the community’s help for her return to the Philippines along with her two sons.

Geraldine Amor, 34, had been ill for weeks until she was admitted to the Commonwealth Health Center’s intensive care unit on Monday afternoon.

She is now penniless after her work permit was not renewed when it expired on Dec. 10, 2008 because of her medical condition. She also has to pay for her medical bills and take care of her two boys – a three-year-old and a one-year-old.

Amor has been working in Saipan for five years mostly as an administrative staffer at a now defunct restaurant before taking a job at an auto shop.

The mother of two is appealing for monetary donations from members of the Filipino community in Saipan, as well as the Philippine government. Any money raised will be spent mostly on buying airplane tickets to Manila for her and her sons.

Her aunt Remy, told GMANews.TV on Tuesday morning that Geraldine Amor’s wish is to be able to go home where she could seek further treatment and to be with her family and friends.

"We were told that she has lupus. She got complications such as heart enlargement and sore bones. She also wants to go home now because she has no job here," Remy said in Filipino.

Lupus is an auto-immune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys and brain.

Remy hopes that her niece will soon regain her strength to be able to endure the long travel back home.

Saipan is only about three hours away from Manila through direct flights which are no longer available. Geraldine Amor and her two minor sons will have to take connecting flights that will take them from Saipan to Japan and then to Manila for a total travel and wait time of up to 12 or more hours.

Those who would like to help Geraldine Amor and her sons are asked to call or send a text message to Remy Amor at (670) 484 5811. - HAIDEE V. EUGENIO, GMANews.TV

Filipinos excited over Obama's inauguration

Democrats in the Philippines celebrate after Barack Obama was declared the winner in the US presidential elections. Benjie Castro
(Updated 4:46 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines – More than two million tourists, including Filipinos, have flocked to Washington DC in the wake of preparations for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

With temperatures dipping between -3 to -5 degrees Celsius in the US capital, several tourists came to witness a historical event unfold even as only those with tickets are allowed to grace the event at the Capitol Hill.

"Alam namin itong inauguration is very historic [We know that this inauguration is very historic] and Obama was born and raised in Hawaii where we live now," a Filipina tourist said in an interview with GMA News’ Raffy Tima over QTV Balitanghali on Tuesday.

Obama was born in Honolulu in 1961, two years after Hawaii became a state. He lived in Indonesia for four years when he moved there with his mother and stepfather, but he spent 14 of his first 18 years as an islander.

"I know there is no getting around the fact that for a first African-American male to be President is a historic moment never to be duplicated and to be part of that is really beyond excitement. It’s really great to come down here and do it," said another tourist from Connecticut.

Filipino exchange student Luisa Kristabel “Abbey" Manliclic won’t watch the inauguration on television. Unlike most of her peers, she has the rare chance to see the swearing-in of the first Black-American president right in the US capital.

While thousands of Americans, including Hollywood's A-listers, scramble to get hold of the coveted inaugural invitation, Manliclic would personally witness Obama taking his oath from Chief Justice John Roberts on the steps of the Capitol.

"I feel great, it’s like a chance of a lifetime," the 16-year-old said in an interview with GMANews.TV. "He’s the first Black-American president so the event would be nothing short of great."

Two other Filipino students - college freshmen Paul Michael Thomas Cruz and Anna Marie Liwanag - have been invited to the inauguration and have reportedly flown to Washington.

Back in Manila, Abbey's father confessed he was more excited for her daughter. "I told her it might be impossible to take a picture with her and Obama," Abel, Abbey's father told GMANews.TV, "So she should take a picture with his wife, Michelle instead."

Group: More OFWs in Macau might lose jobs to locals

Philippines - More overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Macau might just end up jobless if the localization of workers continues in Asia’s gaming capital, a non-profit organization said on Tuesday.

"The Macau administration is looking at a possible 50 percent reduction in foreign workers in private security and cleaning agencies for 2009," said Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople (BFO) Policy Center in a statement on Tuesday.

Ople said that there is also some pressure for Macau – where around 13,000 Filipinos currently live and work – to prioritize hiring jobless locals for high-paying jobs like pit managers in casinos.

According to the report, she met separately with Labor Attache Leopoldo de Jesus and Consul General Jet Ledda to discuss how the financial crunch is affecting Macau and its workforce.

De Jesus told her that the tightening of Macau’s economy was also due to China’s policy limiting its citizens to visit the renowned gaming mecca only once every three months.

And while expressing optimism that majority of OFWs remain secure with their current employers, Ledda told Ople that the Philippine Consulate is still closely monitoring the situation.

"There is no doubt that our workers are highly valued in Macau. However, no one really can say for sure what the economy will be like a few months from now," he said.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) showed that 3,567 Filipinos from seven countries, including the Chinese province of Macau, have been the latest casualties of the financial crunch.

It also indicated that two construction companies from Macau had laid off a total of 45 Filipino workers due to the suspension of construction projects.

Industry recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani earlier said that OFWs in Macau have expressed fear that they would be the first casualties of the cutbacks since they are paid more than local hires.

As such, Ople asked all those in the industry to think of ways to mitigate the looming lay-offs.

"It’s about time that we also view this crisis from labor’s perspective because every job lost affects not only the worker, but also his or her household, and the economy as a whole," she said.

On the other hand, POEA chief Jennifer Manalili has recently said that the average daily deployment of Filipinos overseas remains steady at 3,647 every month, which more than offsets the number of lost jobs abroad since October.

Moreover, Ople said in the report that the Macau government has been adopting a “wait-and-see attitude" because it also needs skilled foreign workers in order to remain competitive.

But since Filipino economists foresee the crisis to continue until the end of 2009, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque has advised OFWs to just stick to their jobs. - GMANews.TV

Recruiters see rise in deployment of OFWs to Taiwan

MANILA, Philippines - Despite recent layoffs, recruiters have expressed optimism that there will be an increase in the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to Taiwan in the second quarter of 2009.

Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan (PILMAT) president Jackson Gan in a statement on Tuesday said he is optimistic that there will be increased deployment to Taiwan as there will be additional job orders due to new hiring policies to be implemented by Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs.

Taiwan recently had the largest number of companies affected by the economic crunch, laying off 3,321 Filipino workers due to the downsizing and bankruptcy of 60 companies in the electronic, metal works, and semi-conductor industry.

But Gan was optimistic that Filipino workers will be able gain employment once again in the island nation because of massive infrastructure projects that it will implement this year.

This includes the construction of roads, tunnels, additional train lines, and other pump-priming funds that will increase their economic spending.

"The construction projects for the second half of 2009 will see the entry construction workers from Southeast Asia especially from the Philippines with its large supply of skilled and unskilled workers," he said in the statement.

Gan visited officials of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) – the Philippines’ de-facto embassy in Taiwan – who reportedly told him that fewer OFWs will be returning from Taiwan in the second quarter of this year.

Labor attache Rodolfo Sambulao assured the PILMAT president that the number of factories shutting down or slowing down operations in Taiwan will go down during the first quarter of 2009.

He also said that he expects many more factories to reopen with new orders of export products from the United States.

Gan said he is also currently talking with Antonio Basilio, Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) managing director, about the redeployment of displaced workers in the island nation and the settlement of laid-off OFWs who wish to return to the Philippines.

In addition, he said that Taiwan deploying agencies are in constant communication with displaced workers and are taking care of their complaints. - Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV

Palestinian spouses of 2 Pinays opt to stay in Gaza; 33 arrive at Egypt border

MANILA, Philippines - Only 33 of the 37 Filipinos and Palestinians who were earlier reported to be moving out of the Gaza Strip have successfully crossed the border at Egypt as two Palestinian spouses opted to stay behind.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Bayani Mangibin told GMANews.TV on Tuesday that the foreign husbands only escorted their families to the designated safe zone in the Egypt-Gaza border of Rafah.

The son of one of the Palestinians also stayed behind to attend his college graduation scheduled later this week, Mangibin said.

“The Palestinians [spouses of Filipinas in Gaza] would be given temporary visas by the Philippine Embassy in Cairo before entering the Philippines," Mangibin said in an interview.

Under Philippine immigration laws, the Palestinian nationals from Gaza should first secure a temporary visit visa with countries like Egypt, Jordan or Israel, as the Philippines has no direct diplomatic relations in the conflict-ridden area.

Lawyer Gary Mendoza, chief of the Philippine immigration regulation division, said the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has assured that special consideration would be given to the foreign spouses to expedite the immigration process.

On January 8, a total of 16 Filipinos returned to the country using the Israel-Gaza border of Erez as their exit point. A Filipino nun, who was among the first batch of evacuees, stayed in Jerusalem under the care of a Latin patriarch.

With Israeli troops moving out of Gaza, ending a three-week war against Hamas militants, evacuation plans for the civilians trapped in the area resumed. Although both sides declared ceasefire in the area, reports said the situation remains tensed.

Mangibin said the Philippine government would not cease in the evacuation of the remaining Filipinos in the area.

“We are always looking for a window of opportunity to evacuate them," he said. - Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Filipinos excited over Obama's inauguration

Democrats in the Philippines celebrate after Barack Obama was declared the winner in the US presidential elections. Benjie Castro

(Updated 4:46 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines – More than two million tourists, including Filipinos, have flocked to Washington DC in the wake of preparations for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

With temperatures dipping between -3 to -5 degrees Celsius in the US capital, several tourists came to witness a historical event unfold even as only those with tickets are allowed to grace the event at the Capitol Hill.

"Alam namin itong inauguration is very historic [We know that this inauguration is very historic] and Obama was born and raised in Hawaii where we live now," a Filipina tourist said in an interview with GMA News’ Raffy Tima over QTV Balitanghali on Tuesday.

Obama was born in Honolulu in 1961, two years after Hawaii became a state. He lived in Indonesia for four years when he moved there with his mother and stepfather, but he spent 14 of his first 18 years as an islander.

"I know there is no getting around the fact that for a first African-American male to be President is a historic moment never to be duplicated and to be part of that is really beyond excitement. It’s really great to come down here and do it," said another tourist from Connecticut.

Filipino exchange student Luisa Kristabel “Abbey" Manliclic won’t watch the inauguration on television. Unlike most of her peers, she has the rare chance to see the swearing-in of the first Black-American president right in the US capital.

While thousands of Americans, including Hollywood's A-listers, scramble to get hold of the coveted inaugural invitation, Manliclic would personally witness Obama taking his oath from Chief Justice John Roberts on the steps of the Capitol.

"I feel great, it’s like a chance of a lifetime," the 16-year-old said in an interview with GMANews.TV. "He’s the first Black-American president so the event would be nothing short of great."

Two other Filipino students - college freshmen Paul Michael Thomas Cruz and Anna Marie Liwanag - have been invited to the inauguration and have reportedly flown to Washington.

Back in Manila, Abbey's father confessed he was more excited for her daughter. "I told her it might be impossible to take a picture with her and Obama," Abel, Abbey's father told GMANews.TV, "So she should take a picture with his wife, Michelle instead."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

OWWA and Filipino Community Provided Assistance to the Families of Filipino Migrant Workers

OWWA Administrator Carmelita S. Dimzon, led the turnover of the financial assistance amounting to Three Thousand Four Hundred Fifty-Five Canadian Dollars (C$3,455.00) last January 16,2009 to the families of Filipino migrant workers who were killed in a vehicular accident in Edmonton.

The four (4) Filipino migrants, three (3) of which were overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Renato Huelgas, April Buenaflor Yvette Nones and Ralph Adriano met their untimely demise when the truck they were traveling in slammed into a semi-trailer in Highway 63, near Wandering River. The respective families received the peso equivalent of One Hundred Thirty Six Thousand Four Hundred Seventy-Two Pesos and Fifty Centavos (P136,472.50). The OWWA Chief was assisted by the representative of the First Filipino Alliance Group of Canada Engineer Ron Gallardo, a Filipino community association in Canada.



Dimzon said that the family of deceased OFW Buenaflor, an active OWWA member, received the life insurance and burial benefits from OWWA amounting to Two Hundred Twenty Thousand Pesos (P220,000.00) due to her accidental death.

Administrator Dimzon added that Huelgas, Buenaflor, and Nones are OFWs while Adriano, was a long-time resident of Fort McMurray and an active member of its local Filipino community. The OFWs had all worked for either Tim Hortons or Wendy's for about two years, said Wayne Bigelow, vice-president of operations for Tollcorp Enterprises, the franchisee for both restaurants.



The donation of the Filipino community in Canada were made possible by the First Filipino Alliance Group of Canada led by the Hon. Carl Benito, the first Filipino elected to the of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

Meanwhile, the OWWA Administrator ordered the further verification of the membership records of OFWs Huelgas and Nones to determine if their families are also entitled to life insurance and burial benefits. Records of Huelgas and Nones indicate that their OWWA membership had already expired but in view of the possibility that their employment contract is good for two years and not for one year only as showed by existing records, their families may yet be able to avail of the said benefits.



Dimzon also encouraged the families left behind to avail of OWWA’s livelihood assistance and ordered Regional Welfare Office IV-A Officer-in-Charge Julie Fabian to assist and coordinate with them in whatever support they may need from OWWA.

Last Part: DOLE YEARENDER: Workers benefit as DOLE helped improve working conditions

The year 2008 will be remembered for the remarkable rise in the price of petroleum products in the global market as well as the financial meltdown that stemmed from the US in the third quarter of the year which continues to impact on major markets around the world at present. Despite the exigencies brought about by these adverse events, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was quick to respond to lessen the brunt on the workers.

The DOLE didn't have to prepare or formulate new programs to respond to the extraordinary needs of the times as most of the contingency plans were regular fare of the Department aimed at alleviating workers' plight. If at all, only critical adjustments have to be made to make the policies and programs more responsive and appropriate to DOLE clients.

Wage increase and non-wage benefits

On Labor Day, Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque instructed all the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs) to fasttrack sectoral consultations in their respective areas for the immediate issuance of new wage orders. Roque's directive came in the wake of increasing prices of oil products and rice even while the last wage orders have yet to reach the reglementary one-year period before a new one can be issued.

Under the rules governing wage increase, the regional boards must declare the existence of "supervening conditions" for them to be allowed to hear petitions for wage increase even before the one-year reglementary period expires. A supervening condition exists when there is an extraordinary increase in the prices of petroleum, manufactured products, and basic commodities.

For a long while that such incidence has not taken place, the DOLE's National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) affirmed the existence of supervening conditions in all regions, except for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, and thus resulted in the issuance of new wage orders. The National Capital Region, traditionally the earliest petitioners for wage hikes, was the first to grant a new wage increase for 2008 - an additional P15 on the basic pay and P5 cost of living allowance.

The Department's intervention did not stop with the issuance of said wage orders. Immediately, Roque formed a body that would identify and help implement non-wage measures with labor and management. As a result, a DOLE Inter-Agency Committee on Non-Wage Benefits for Workers was established in line with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's earlier directive to convene tripartite meetings where social partners can discuss the grant of additional non-wage benefits to workers. In July this year, 43 companies in the Calabarzon area entered into an agreement with government agencies assuring their participation in gearing up programs to help workers cope with the rising cost of fuel and food products.

Among the more unique programs proposed by the DOLE was the establishment of day-care centers especially in workplaces with more women workers. According to the DOLE Chief, such an endeavor would help workers lessen the cost of early childhood education and ensure the health and safety of the workers' children. On the employers' side, they too would benefit in terms of sustained efficiency and productivity of workers who would no longer be bothered by family and economic pressures in looking after the welfare and safety of their young children while they are at work.





Employers who establish and operate corporate-based day-care centers can also gain tax incentives under Republic Act 8980 or "An Act Promulgating a Comprehensive Policy and a National System for Early Child Care and Development, Providing Funds Therefore and For Other Purposes". Roque said that under the DOLE's family welfare program, 20 large firms nationwide will soon be putting up day-care facilities in their workplaces.

Labor standards, health and safety

As a continuing commitment, the Department conducted a nationwide inspection blitz in the first half of the year, resulting in the awarding or settlement of more than P37 million due to correction of labor standards violations at various establishments. It benefited more than 18,000 workers. Roque said the DOLE's Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC), the lead agency for the inspection activity in coordination with the DOLE regional offices, disclosed that the necessary corrections have been applied under the DOLE's Labor Standards Enforcement Framework (LSEF) on violations of core labor standards particularly the minimum wage, and social welfare benefits specifically SSS, PagIbig, and PhilHealth.

He added that under the LSEF, a nationwide inspection blitz goal covering over 30,000 companies in the country's 16 regions has been set for the entire 2008. From January to May alone, the lean corps of 142 labor inspectors were able to inspect 8,555 establishments with close to 205,000 total number of workers.

Alongside compliance with core labor standards, Roque urged all regional offices to intensify inspection of firms particularly their compliance with health and safety standards to avoid work-related fatalities and injuries. This year, the DOLE recognized 48 firms that have achieved safety milestones in implementing occupational safety and health programs, subsequently preventing the occurrence of accidents and disabling and fatal injuries in the workplace.

The honored establishments were responsible for preventing a combined number of more than 900,000 cases of disabling accidents and almost 70,000 mandays lost which could have happened in their worksites had they not complied with OSH standards and other labor laws. Equating them to actual costs, the 48 firms were able to save more than P20 million in manpower replacements and medical expenses.

Significantly, Roque issued DOLE Department Circular No.2, series of 2008, amending Rule 1003.03 of the occupational safety and health standards of the 1974 Labor Code, thereby expanding the OSHS coverage to include establishments engaged in land, sea, and air transportation. Prior to the issuance of said order, these companies were not covered by OSHS except their garages, dry docks, port hangars, and maintenance and repair shops. Roque stressed that protecting workers from hazardous workplaces is part of the national efforts to ensure the conservation of valuable manpower resources and the prevention of loss or damage to lives and properties.

source: Information and Publication Service

Japan to recruit Pinoy nurses, caregivers starting this year

Starting this year, Japan would recruit Filipino nurses and caregivers for training and employment in that country under the Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the Philippines (JPEPA), Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque announced Monday.

Roque said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services (JICWELS) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) providing for the recruitment of Filipino nurses as candidate-kangoshi and caregivers as candidate-kaigofukushishi to Japan under the Framework for the Movement of Natural Persons of JPEPA, which came into force on Dec. 11, 2008.

POEA Administrator Jennifer Jardin-Manalili and signed for the Philippine side, while Japan was represented by Takashi Tsunoda, managing director of JICWELS. The signing of the MOU at the Blas F. Ople Development Center in Intramuros, Manila and witnessed by Secretary Roque.

Roque said the MOU provides for the roles and responsibilities of the two parties and the working conditions for the Filipino nurses and caregivers, that would ensure their welfare and protection while training and working in Japan.

He said the hiring program shall commence with the initial recruitment of 200 Filipino nurses and 300 caregivers whom the POEA would endorse to JICWELS. The latter, for its part, would match the nurses and caregivers to hospitals and institutions in Japan that it had pre-qualified to receive the Filipino candidates.

He said the Filipino nurses and caregivers shall be covered by a fully transparent employment contract adding the Filipinos shall receive the same salaries equivalent to what Japanese nurses and caregivers receive, based on similar tasks and qualifications.

For her part, Administrator Manilili said that prior to their actual work with their respective employers in Japan, the selected candidates shall nonetheless undergo a six-month language and culture training. During the training, the candidates shall receive allowance of not less than 40,000 yen or more than P21,000 per month.

"The language training shall help them prepare to eventually take the Japanese licensure examination. The examinations can be taken not more than three chances within three years in the case of candidate-nurses, and once on the 4th year of stay in the case of candidate-caregivers," Manalili said.

She added that before obtaining their qualification as full-fledged nurse in Japan, candidate-nurses shall work under the supervision of a Japanese Kangoshi to fully familiarize them with the Japanese system. After passing the licensure or certification examinations, the fully qualified nurse and certified caregiver shall have the option to stay for an unlimited period in Japan to practice their profession based on new and upgraded employment contract with their employer.

Registered nurses with at least three years experience are qualified to apply for training and employment in Japan. Candidate caregivers, on the other hand, should be a graduate of a four-year course and should be certified by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Graduates of a nursing course may also apply as caregiver.

Applicants shall be required to undergo an aptitude test and interview by JICWELS to facilitate their matching with employers,. After selection, they must pass the required medical examination to conclude the employment contract and to successfully qualify to enter Japan. Nominal expenses of application shall be borne by applicants for document submission/authentication, medical examination (P1,500 basic) and visa fee (P1,150).

Airfare and onsite training costs are shouldered by the employers or the Government of Japan.

Qualified nurses and candidates are invited to apply with the POEA and to register online at www.eregister.poea.gov.ph.

source: Information and Publication Service

OFWs still waiting for govt's promise of assistance

“Gusto po ata ng government binubugbog kami ng mga amo namin. Gusto ata nila nakakulong kami bago pa kami pansinin. Paano naman kami na naghirap din?”

Bernadette Corcas, was was among the 105 OFWs laid off in Taiwan who returned to the country last December 3. She and her cousin, Christina de Borja, 30, signed a two-year contract with the same company as semi-conductor factory workers in Taiwan.

They did not finish their contract and worked in Taiwan for only eight months.

The two were also among the Filipino workers shown on television receiving cash gifts and gift certificates from President Arroyo during their trip to Malacañang a few days upon their arrival.

“Actually maraming promises. Tulad ng livelihood. Isang ka-batch namin nag-try mag avail ng livelihood. Ngayon ang sabi ng OWWA nakahold daw po ang fund para doon. Yung sinasabing P50,000 wala naman. Hinahabol na kami ng mga taong pinagkakautangan namin, yung mga lending company,” de Borja told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

They said that they are just among the many OFWs who borrowed from money lenders to pay for their placement fees. Now, the monthly interest is accumulating and they have no means to pay the money back.

“Walang natatanggap. Sa 126 na nagpunta ng Malacañang lahat sila nag-hysterical kasi talagang bayong lang ang dala,” Corcas said.

“Yung tseke totoong binawi yun pagkaabot. Di ba inabot yung tseke sa apat na provinces na binigyan nila. Pagka-abot na pagkaabot pinaupo yung mga taong inabutan na representative ng bawat provinces tapos binawi na. Binawi na isa-isa yung tseke,” De Borja said. “Ang problema ko yung mga utang ko kasi nakasanla kasi ang lupa ng lola ko ginamit ko collateral lupa ng lola ko.”

What hurts them more was the thought that they have been used by Malacañang for photo opportunities.

“Ginamit lang kami sa Malacañang para magpabango sa mga tao pero wala talagang nangyari,” said Corcas.

The group is now pursuing their case before the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and are still pinning their hopes on the promises of assistance by the government.

They stressed that their agencies, which charged them exorbitant amount, should be banned from sending workers abroad.

“Sa government, sana yung sinabi nilang promises sa amin, hindi naman namin sinasabing lahat matupad. Sana doon man lang sa livelihood na sinasabi nila mabigyan ng justice. Sa mga OFWs na padating pa sana maasikaso din nila. Marami na ang humingin ng tulong sa Taiwan. Sa placement fee, sana ma-refund namin hindi man buo pero yung dapat lang Pati plane ticket kami ang sumagot,” De Borja said.

The group is being assisted by Migrante International, an alliance of migrant organizations here and abroad.

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez said their hotlines are still busy answering calls for help from OFWs laid off from Taiwan.

“Sa batas kasi kapag ikaw ay male-lay off o pauuwiin dapat ang sasagot dyan yung employer or agency. Kung hindi sasagutin ng dalawa, OWWA. Mayroon namang pondo ang OWWA na P11.2 billion,” Martinez said Friday.

He added: “Pangalawa, alam nila sa simula nang i-report namin sa POEA na excessive fee ang na-charge. Sa batas po natin dapat isang buwan lang po ang babayarang placement fee. Sinigil sila ng P97,000 mayroong P105,000. Yung kagabing nag-text sa akin umabot ng P165,000 at ang nire-refund na lang dito ay P10,000.”

For his part, Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque reassured the OFWs that his department and other concerned government agencies are doing everything it can for the migrant workers displaced by the global economic crisis.

“Yung issue sa kanila tungkol sa refund sa placement fee, yan naman ay nahawakan ng POEA at inatasan ko si Deputy Administrator Cacdac ng POEA na sila ay harapin kahapon. So far 252 sa mga nagsiuwi sa Taiwan ang ating nabigyan ng refund ng placement fee na nanggaling sa kanilang mga binayad sa mga recruitment agencies,” Roque said.

Roque has ordered the labor attaché in Taiwan to verify who among the OFWs have paid for their own ticket back home.

“Sabi ko nga kung talagang ang ating OFW ang nagbayad ng kanilang pamasahe pauwi ay hindi nararapat kaya aking inorder ang OWWA na isauli sa kanila ang kanilang ibinayad na pamasahe pauwi at OWWA na ang mangungulekta sa kanilang mga recruitment agencies or employers sa Taiwan,” explained Roque.

For Martinez, his only appeal is for the government not to use labor export as the solution to the growing number of jobless returning OFWs affected by the economic crisis. With a report from ABS-CBN News

DSWD expects more deportees from Malaysia

abs-cbnNEWS.com

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) office in the region confirmed Monday that about 30,000 Filipinos are expected to be deported from Sabah, Malaysia this year.

Last Sunday, 351 Pinoy deportees arrived in Zamboanga City via a commercial vessel.

DSWD Social Welfare Officer-4, Elizabeth Lim-Dy said all deportees were in good health.

Out of the 351 deportees, DSWD only served 346. Dy said five of the deportees have gone missing. She explained that some do actually escape.

Meawhile, DSWD is looking forward a commercial fast craft that would carry Pinoy deportees from Malaysia.

Dy said that with the fast craft, this will lessen the work of their social workers since it will pass through three disembarkation point in Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Zamboanga City.

She said the DSWD processing center can accommodate at least 500 people and the department has no problem with their budget.

However, Dy admitted that they lack personnel to look after the processing of the deportees’ documents in going back to their respective provinces and cities.

A reintegration program was also formed by DSWD and the labor department to encourage deportees not to go back to Malaysia.

Five pilot villages in Zamboanga City will first benefit from the program which includes free services of livelihood training, scholarship grants and health benefits. Report from Leila Vicente, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Probe P250M OFW 'global crisis fund'--Gabriela

abs-cbnNEWS.com

An investigation is now being pushed in the House of Representatives to determine where the P250 million Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) fund allotted for Filipino migrant workers displaced by the global economic crisis went.

“The Arroyo government’s so-called ‘assistance program’ for Filipino workers displaced by the global financial meltdown could be a ruse to divert millions of OFW money to the pockets of corrupt government officials,” said Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan.

In a statement, Ilagan said the call to probe the fund was pushed by the alleged “duping” incident in Malacañang last December. Around 100 OFWs laid off from their works in Taiwan were invited to Malacañang supposedly to accept checks amounting to around P50,000 and several gift packages from concerned government agencies.

However, the OFWs alleged that they were asked to return the checks after the press photo opportunity.

The congresswoman demands that Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque and OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon be included in the investigation as they were the ones who escorted the OFWs.

“The incident was a grand show of this government’s insensitivity and further exploitation of migrant workers. The OFWs have already lost their jobs and still they were cruelly used and tricked by the institutions and people they are relying on for help,” said Ilagan.

Ilagan said the P250 million crisis fund came from the P11.2 billion OWWA fund and has accumulated using the US$25 OFW mandatory membership fee.

“Filipino overseas workers should have immediate access to this fund as it came from their own sweat and blood,” said Ilagan.

Ilagan’s party also wants the government and concerned agencies to establish a more responsive program for Filipinos displaced by the global financial crisis.

Number of Pinoy visa changers on Kish Island drops

Philippines - The number of Filipino visa changers stranded on the border of the United Arab Emirates and Oman has dwindled, but the agony of the expatriates there has not subsided.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported that large number of people sharing rented rooms makes the life of Filipino women there "even more agonizing."

Still, many of those who want to change their visas prefer Kish to Oman.

Janice Parco, who was stranded in Al Buraimi in October and had returned to the UAE on one-month tourist visa, said she went to Kish instead of the Omani border to change her visa scheduled to expire this month.

"At least, the Iranian government allows us to extend our stay in Kish if we are stranded for months. In Oman, we could extend the visa for a week after which we had to pay Dh100 daily for overstaying. The last time I was there, I had to pay over Dh3,000 for overstaying before I finally got my new UAE tourist visa," she said.

She added hotels in Kish cost less compared to the ones in Oman. "A night in Al Buraimi costs me Dh60. In Kish, I could stay at a hotel charging as low as Dh35 a day with free breakfast," Parco said.

The report said charges in Kish for overstaying after a week's extension could just be Dh80 (P1,023.44) daily compared to Dh100 (P1,279.30) in Oman.

Aminah Marbuey, coordinator of the Philippine Embassy on the UAE-Oman border, said that over 2,000 Filipinos are stranded on the Oman border now, 1,000 less than their number in August to October 2008.

Other than Filipinos, many Arabs, African-Arabs, Indians and Pakistanis are also trapped there.

"Ten to 12 people occupied a hotel room earlier. This time when I went to check, only eight guests shared a hotel room," she added.

Marbuey also said the situation on the border is a lot better than before as many have gone back to the UAE with new tourist visas.

"Before, three buses full of visa changers from the UAE arrived in Al Buraimi daily. This time, even during the holidays in December, only a busload of visa changers came daily. The number has come down because of the difficulty in extending their stay in Oman just in case their new UAE tourist visas don't come in time," she said.

She added Oman only grants one week extension, "and if they don't leave, they have to pay the fine as they become illegals."

Aminah also said many visa changers are getting wiser.

"Many Filipinos, for instance, are sharing flats of expatriate residents on the border, and stay longer with less expenses. They are also free from harassment from the hotel management, who threaten to call the police if the hotel bills are not paid," she said.

However, some of those still stranded on the Omani border are struggling to locate their travel agents in the UAE.

Jo Dimitui, a Filipino living in Dubai, said his friends, who have been stranded in Al Buraimi for 52 days, called him to follow up their visa procedures.

"They requested me to go to their agency as no one picked up the phone when they rang its office. When I went there, it was already closed down," he said.

Earlier, the Naturalisation and Residency Department (NRD) in Abu Dhabi imposed penalties on travel agencies for violating visa rules, allowing people to enter or stay in the country illegally.

The announcement did not mention any closure of the agencies but stated that the penalties ranged from warning letters to the suspension of the agencies' transactions with the department for one year. - GMANews.TV

Bulatlat.com: Seven of 168 retrenched Pinoys in Taiwan get benefits

MIGRANT WATCH/ BULATLAT.COM

Philippines - Seven of the 168 retrenched workers of Walton Advanced Engineering Inc. in Taiwan were able to clinch some of their demands after asserting their rights.

This was relayed by the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) and the Migrante chapter in Taiwan.

The seven workers, who were not named by APMM, received the following: 1) payment for breach of contract amounting to NT$17,280 for every month remaining in their contract; 2) cost of plane ticket from Taiwan to the Philippines; 3) separation fee; 4) refund of a one-month broker fee amounting to NT$1,800; and, 5) refund for the 20 percent income tax deducted from them by the Taiwan government.

The seven workers were assisted by the Labor Rights Association (LRA) and later by Migrante Taiwan.

The rest of the 168 workers, said APMM, were intimidated by their broker, the Century Pacific Corporation. They were made to sign a quit-claim agreement with the threat that if they did not sign, they risk not receiving any money, not being provided food in their dormitories, and not being given airfare to go back home.

The APMM claimed that the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) only renegotiated on behalf of the seven workers when the plight of the Filipino workers in Walton was raised directly to the head office of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), and was publicized in the media on January 9.

Migrante Taiwan said MECO told the 161 workers to shoulder their airfare even if this violates article 4.2 of the employment contract, which stipulates that the employer pays for the fare to and from Taiwan.

The 161 workers got a measly separation pay since most of them had only been working in Taiwan for only four to six months. Separation pay is equivalent to one month’s basic pay (NT$17,280) for every year of service. They were also made to pay for two months of brokers’ fees since they were not able to pay for these. There was no refund for the 20 percent income tax.

The incident at Walton is not an isolated one, said APMM. Of the nearly 5,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) laid off in Taiwan last year, 742 from 10 companies “voluntarily resigned".

Migrante Taiwan said that Philippine Labor Attaché in Taiwan Rodolfo Sabulao admitted in a dialogue with Filipino migrant organizations on January 11 that they are more interested in retaining the job orders of employers.

“This simply means that the MECO does not dare to file breach of contract and/or illegal termination cases against employers lest their job orders be threatened," said Migrante.

The Philippine government, said APMM and Migrante, is not after the protection of the rights of OFWs.

The groups said MECO’s position is in line with the national government’s labor export policy (LEP).

The two groups said OFWs should follow the footsteps of the seven workers at Walton in asserting their rights and in linking with local and other groups willing to assist them. “They should also inculcate in their minds that right now all the working people in Taiwan are being attacked by being laid-off; being forced to accept unpaid leave and other anti-worker schemes and should be ready to assist even the local workers who are resisting these attacks," they said. - Bulatlat.com

Boat of Pinoys sneaking into Sabah capsizes; 4 dead, 3 missing

MANILA, Philippines - A boat carrying 12 Filipinos trying to sneak into Sabah capsized on January 13, leaving at least four dead and three missing.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Bayani Mangibin told GMANews.TV on Monday that only five passengers of the ill-fated boat survived. But since the Filipinos were undocumented, Mangibin said the immediate identification of the survivors and the casualties is difficult.

The New Straits Times earlier reported that the bodies of four Filipinos – three children and a woman – had been recovered off a beach in Kampung Tinosa, Malaysia.

The victims were identified as Madeline Ahamal, 19; three-year-olds Bibi Lain Mokhtar and Nagd Faikal Bastri; and Nagd's two-month-old brother Rajimal Bastri.

According to the report, authorities have sent the recovered bodies to the Duchess of Kent Hospital in Sandakan, Malaysia and will continue to look for the three who are still missing.

Citing reports from Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency, Mangibin said the Filipinos were on their way to Pulau in Sabah when tragedy struck.

Mangibin said they are still looking for the three other Filipinos reported missing in the incident.
Hundreds of undocumented Filipinos, mostly originating from Mindanao in southern Philippines, are deported every month as part of Malaysia’s massive campaign to rid its shores of unwanted immigrants.

The crackdown on illegal migrants in Malaysia has started in 2002, with the searches extending from construction sites in Kuala Lumpur to Sabah 's oil palm plantations.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos, in an earlier interview, said it is very likely that the deported Filipinos would keep returning to Sabah, which they consider more as their home.

"They go back to Sabah because our ties [there] is so strong. They don’t understand why they need a Philippine passport and a visa to enter Sabah," Conejos said.

Kuala Lumpur had previously given amnesty that allowed illegal immigrants to leave the country with a promise they could return as legal workers once they received proper documents.

The government's tough action has enjoyed popular support in Malaysia, where illegal workers, who had numbered more than a million in a country of 24 million people, have been blamed for crime and other social ills. - Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

4 Pinoy nurses die in Saudi Arabia car crash

Philippines - Four Filipino nurses died in a car crash in Taif, Saudi Arabia last Friday (January 16).

The female nurses were identified as Nancy Brion, Gemma Teodora, Cecille Detorio and Rosely Laceda.

The four were working in a private dental clinic in Al Baha city in south west Saudi Arabia, said Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesperson Bayani Mangibin on Monday.

The Philippine consulate in Saudi Arabia had already ordered the victims’ employer to secure the police report of the Filipino casualties and find out if someone is liable in the incident.

Mangibin said the relatives of the nurses have already been informed.

"We are coordinating with authorities to facilitate the return of their remains to the country," he added.

Aside from the repatriation of the remains, Mangibin said the Department of Foreign Affairs would assist in checking the documents of the victims to find out if they are eligible for the burial fund of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration. - GMANews.TV
There was an error in this gadget
There was an error in this gadget