Thursday, July 30, 2009

2 Pinoy MDs graduate from Cuban institute

The Philippines gained recognition anew in Cuba after two Filipinos graduated as new medical doctors from the Ciego de Avila in Cuba.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) identified the new doctors as Herbert Baguiza of Antipolo City and Robert Corpuz of Cabanatuan City.

"Dr. Baguiza and Dr. Corpuz also received citations for academic excellence and awards for their contribution to the cultural life of Ciego de Avila. They capped their years of participation in Ciego festivities with a stirring rendition of Guantanamera, a song of Cuban origin," the DFA said on its website (www.dfa.gov.ph).

It added the two were among 75 new doctors representing some 40 foreign countries who graduated from the Institute of Medicine in Ciego de Avila after six years of study

Philippine Ambassador to Cuba Dr. MacArthur Corsino took a 500-kilometer, seven-hour trip by bus from Havana to Ciego to attend the graduation ceremony.

Corsino was one of the guests of honor, who also included Ciego de Avila government and party officials and top school officials.

In his remarks, Ambassador Corsino expressed appreciation for the Cuban program of providing free but high-quality medical education to needy students from less-developed countries.

He said it was an effective instrument for building friendship on the people-to-people level in international relations.

Corsino also noted there are 30,000 foreign students from developing countries enrolled in various branches of knowledge all over Cuba.

Under the Cuban system, medical students must pass intensive exams equivalent to board exams after completing all required courses and thus become doctors of medicine upon graduation.

Foreign students usually arrive in Cuba with no knowledge of Spanish but soon master the language after six months of study as initial part of their program.

The DFA said Corpuz even assisted Corsino in translating portions of his message into Spanish.

In his speech, Corsino added he hoped more Filipinos would avail of the scholarships offered to them by the Cuban government. - GMANews.TV

Abused OFW to Singaporean employer: I’ll be back

IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE

The cases of abused Filipino domestic helpers abroad are actually nothing new. Singapore, specifically, has always had such cases.

• In 2008, a 31-year-old pregnant woman faced a Singaporean court for hurting her Filipina maid with a spoon. Read more

• In 2009, a 38-year-old Singaporean employer was charged for physically abusing her Filipina maid by kicking her and banging her head against a wall. Read more

• Singapore is also the country where OFW Flor Contemplacion was hanged in 1995 after she was found guilty by the courts of killing fellow Filipino maid Delia Maga and Maga’s four-year-old Singaporean ward.

- GMANews.TV
A Filipino domestic helper found to have been maltreated by her employer in Singapore has assured Philippine officials that she will return to the city state to pursue a case against her former boss.

“Magpapagaling muna ako tapos babalik ako sa Singapore para sa kaso (I will let my body recover first then I will return to Singapore to file a case against my employer)," Lea Tarronas told GMANews.TV in a phone interview from the central Philippines on Thursday.

The 34-year-old is now confined at the Western Visayas Medical Center, undergoing treatment for illnesses and injuries as a result of her employer’s maltreatment.

Like hundreds of thousands of other overseas Filipino domestic helpers, she left her family in the Philippines to work as maid for a family in Singapore.

But as reported by her husband, Daniel, to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila, his wife’s employer started maltreating her four months after she arrived in Singapore in March last year.

Daniel said his wife’s employer often beat her up, slapped her or step on her, and even burned her in the face and back using an iron.

Tarronas reportedly endured the maltreatment for over a year and it was only after her husband sought help from Iloilo Representative Janette Garin that her condition was confirmed.

“My wife used to be fat. When she returned to the country, she was emaciated," Daniel told a local radio station.

Doctors found her to have acute tuberculosis (cavitary TB) and advanced pneumonia and severe depression.

A report by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said when an embassy team and Singaporean police visited Tarronas at her work place on July 7, they were able to get her to talk about the maltreatment she had been getting.

The embassy reported to the DFA in Manila that Tarronas showed “visible signs" of possible abuse and was “emaciated."

Taronas eventually returned to the country on July 8.

Reports from Iloilo earlier quoted officials saying she appeared to have lost her will to fight as a possible result of her trauma tic experience.

Said a DFA report, Tarronas even refused to file a complaint or seek medical treatment despite proddings from a Singaporean police officer who was sent to check on her condition.

But after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo personally assured her family of justice for her ordeal, Tarronas agreed to pursue the case once she gets well.

In the interview with GMANews.TV, Tarronas said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is helping her out with her medical bills while Garin and the embassy will help her in filing a case of grave physical injuries against the Singaporean.

“The DFA will assist her in every way it can, together with OWWA, to ensure that she obtains justice and tormentors punished to the full extent of the laws of Singapore," said Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Minda Cruz in an earlier statement.

Although Tarronas was forced to sign two certifications by her Singaporean employers, the OWWA said it will not stop it and embassy lawyers from pursuing criminal cases against the Singaporean employer, using as “strong evidence" the scars and medical findings on Tarronas upon her repatriation.

The embassy has also recommended that Tarronas be provided with all necessary assistance to ensure her speedy recovery, including counseling services to address the trauma she may have experienced.

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas estimates that there were a total of 156,466 Filipinos in Singapore as of December 2007, mostly contract workers. - GMANews.TV

OAV mobile registration spreads in Jeddah as deadline draws near

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Inspired by the warm response to their outreach overseas absentee voting (OAV) campaign in the city of Yanbu, Philippine officials in western Saudi Arabia have scheduled a series of voter registration in Filipino schools in Jeddah.

The OAV Mobile Team of the Philippine Consulate General said registration will be held at the Al-Hekma International School from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday (July 30).

On August 7, registration will be held at the International Philippine School in Jeddah (IPSJ), followed by another one at the Pearl of the Orient International School (POIS) on August 14.

Registration will also continue at the consulate every day from 8:30 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. until August 31, when the OAV registration ends.

All that is needed by an applicant to present when registering is a copy of his or her passport or any other documents proving one’s identity.

As the registration deadline neared, Consul General Ezzedin Tago appealed on Filipinos 18 years old and above in the region to sign up so that they can participate in the selection of the Philippines’ next national leaders next year.

Saudi Arabia has the biggest number of OFWs worldwide but very few have registered since the OAV list-up started in February because of the far distances between their place of work and centers where the registration are allowed.

The registration centers are the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the Consulate General in Jeddah, and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Al Khobar.

However, the Saudi government allows registration activities to be held in Philippine schools.

Elsa Masa, a member of the OAV team, told GMANews.TV that their campaign in Yanbu was held at the Al-Tawhid International School, generating more than 500 registrants in two days. Likewise, 223 new voters were added in Khamis Mushayt.

In a letter sent to the Filipino community, Tago owed the success of this month’s registration to the kind efforts of employers like the International Medical Center (IMC), who not only permitted their migrant workers to come and register but also provided transportation service to them.

Tago also noted that civic-minded organizations like the United Filipino Muslims for Peace and Development (UFMPAD) and the “Pinoy sa Jeddah" Internet group have also been instrumental in this regard as they campaigned hard for them to register and vote.

With three more local field registrations scheduled to be held in the Philippine Curriculum schools in Jeddah, the consulate general expects a further increase in the number of registrants in the final stretch of the registration period.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), meanwhile, urged Filipinos in other places in the Middle East to register as overseas voters for the 2010 elections.

More than two million Filipinos live and work in the Middle East but less than 27,000 Filipinos have so far registered in the oil-rich region.

The government has set a target of one million OAV registrants out of an estimated eight million Filipinos abroad. As of July 29, only 154,402 overseas Filipino voters have registered, according to the OAV Secretariat of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

This number has surpassed the combined number of registrants for 2005-2006, which was 142,667. - Ronaldo Concha and Joseph Hollandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Register proper names of UAE-born kids, Pinoy expats advised

Philippine officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) advised Filipinos there to provide the full names of their UAE-born children in applying for registration.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported that the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi wants to properly document some children who were issued UAE birth certificates.

“If the mother is not married, and no father has recognized the child, the surname should be the maiden name of the mother," it said.

The report said the move aims to benefit children issued UAE birth certificates that stated only the name of the child without distinguishing the child’s name, middle name and surname.

All three names are required in Philippine documents.

The consular announcement said the surname of the child must be the surname of the father as it appears in his passport or the father indicated in the child’s birth certificate.

It added that the maiden name of the child must be the surname of the mother when she was still single or as it appears in the mother’s passport. - GMANews.TV

Pinoys in California wage battle vs 'silent epidemic'

How does hepatitis B spread?


• It is mainly transmitted in three ways: birth, blood, and sex

• It is not spread through air, food, water, breastfeeding, casual contact, kissing, hugging, coughing, sneezing, and sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.



What do you do about it?


• Get tested for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg).

• If you are not infected, get vaccinated (3 shots over 6 months).

(The hepatitis B vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing the infection and its chronic consequences. It is the first vaccine against a major human cancer.)

• If you are infected, see your doctor or a liver specialist for routine monitoring and treatment, if appropriate.

• Help promote awareness in your community.


- taken from the primer on hepatitis B of the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University


As the world focuses its attention on the A(H1N1) pandemic, Filipinos in California are gearing up to fight hepatitis B, a disease which they fear has become a “silent epidemic."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis B is “a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus."

It said that hepatitis B can cause chronic (long-term) liver disease and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, making it “a major global health problem."

It said the disease can also cause an acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

People can take several months to a year to recover from the symptoms.

Data from the WHO showed that worldwide, an estimated two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus, and more than 350 million have chronic liver infections.

The Asian Liver Center (ALC) at Stanford University in California said that hepatitis B takes about 700,000 lives each year or about one life every 30 seconds.

But what’s noticeable, said the ALC, is that over 76 percent of people chronically infected with the virus live in Asia.

It noted that in the Philippines alone, an estimated 16 million people are living with chronic Hepatitis B, making liver cancer the second most common cancer among men.

The fight against the “silent epidemic"

To address this issue, several Filipino communities in California will be partnering with ALC in campaigning against the disease.

“Because there is such a large Filipino population in the county, the ALC is working to develop partnerships with local Filipino organizations so that community members are involved and empowered," Nicole Tantoco, a Stanford undergraduate student and intern at the ALC, told GMANews.TV in an e-mail.

Tantoco said they will be pushing for the “San Mateo Hep B Free Campaign" which seeks to test and vaccinate all Asian and Pacific Islander residents in the San Mateo County.

The San Mateo County, which includes cities like Daly City, San Bruno, and South San Francisco, is home to over 75,000 Filipinos – a tenth of the county’s population.

Because of this, she said they are working at “a more grassroots level" to provide free screenings and educational seminars about hepatitis B at local churches.

“This will bring services and information to the traditionally underserved community," she said.

Once the campaign is up and running this fall, Tantoco said they will finally be able to refer parishioners to local hospitals and clinic for free or low-cost services.

In addition, Tantoco said the ALC and the Philippine Department of Health are currently working together to produce informational brochures to distribute in health clinics and barangays. - GMANews.TV

Cooperate with decency campaign, Pinoys in Sharjah told

STOP THE SKIMPY. Women are reminded to dress appropriately in Sharjah to avoid persecution in the Muslim emirate. AP photoPhilippine officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reminded Filipinos there against wearing skimpy, eye-teasing outfits and fighting in the streets, especially in the Sharjah emirate to avoid certain persecution.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported that the public decency campaign by Sharjah police seeks to curb such objectionable practices and behavior.

"Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should be careful and should respect the laws and regulations," Philippine Vice-Consul Edwin Mendoza said.

The Philippine Consulate in Dubai reminded OFWs in Sharjah that the Criminal Investigation Department is more vigorous and strict in implementing the eight-year-old regulation.

Josephine Doria, a 34-year-old Filipino assistant nurse at Central Private Hospital, said she favors the strict enforcement.

"Personally, I would like my blouse to be long that covers the body up to the middle of the legs. I feel uncomfortable to see young couples holding hands in public," she told Khaleej Times.

Similarly, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Dubai also reminded all Chinese citizens who live, work or travel in the UAE, particularly in Sharjah, to abide by all the laws, regulations and customs of the country.

"The same reminder is also published on our website," Chinese Consul Lin Xianxin said.

For his part, Japanese Consul for Economic Affairs Kenji Saito said: "Our office from time to time reminds Japanese nationals and travelers to respect local rules and regulations. We remind them again as a general notice."

Lt. Col. Yousif Al Naqbi, Head of the Criminal Investigation Department, said the campaign was launched on July 1 and runs till the end of Ramadan.

Police have rounded up 70 youth for allegedly eve-teasing in shopping centers and malls so far.

Police patrols have been deployed in shopping centers and commercial and residential areas in all parts of Sharjah.

"Whoever lives in Sharjah or has just come to visit should respect the emirate’s rules and its society, and we appreciate the diplomatic missions’ (efforts) to spread awareness among their people living in the emirate on the importance of respecting the culture and conservative tradition of the local community," said Al Naqbi. - GMANews.TV

Human rights issues to be raised during Arroyo-Obama meeting

CHICAGO – The lobbying by human rights advocates to bring up human rights issues during the visit of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday (July 30) appears to have paid off.

A legal assistant of Rep. Jim Moran (Virginia, D) had called up the US State Department and "confirmed that human rights would be brought up by President Obama during Arroyo’s visit."

Tamari Shai, legislative assistant to Moran, informed Joanna Quiambao, a volunteer of Katarungan and Migrant Heritage Commission Legal Resources program, in an e-mail that human rights “will be a major topic of discussion. We remain hopeful that Melissa’s (Roxas) case specifically would be brought up," said Roxas’ lawyer, Arnedo S. Valera.

An e-mail message sent by this reporter to Shai for comment was not answered.

Meanwhile, Valera, of the MHC’s Legal Resources program, told this reporter that he has filed an appeal before the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak under the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, on Roxas' claim of torture and abduction by alleged elements of the Philippine military.

He said the case was received at the Geneva Office at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, 2009.

Roxas is the first known American citizen under President Obama’s presidency to claim to have been a victim of abduction and torture in the Philippines.

In a case she filed with the Philippine Supreme Court, the 31-year-old activist said she was abducted along with two companions in Kapanikian, La Paz, Tarlac, by armed men on May 19 and detained until May 25, during which she claimed the tortured occurred.

Fort Magsaysay

She said she believed the torture was carried out at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, home to the Army’s 7th Infantry Division. It also named the Special Operations Group (SOG) and those wearing military uniforms as interrogators and torturers.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights’ ocular inspection of Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija on June 10, 2009 tended to validate Melissa’s physical description of the place where she was tortured.

In the Urgent Appeal and Allegation filed by Roxas’ lawyer, it was alleged that she was subjected to torture by asphyxiation with the use of a doubled-up plastic bag, repeated beatings on the face and body, and having her head banged repeatedly against the wall by her interrogators.

Roxas suffered multiple abrasions as well as a psychological disorder called acute stress disorder with supporting medical certificates.

Roxas’ case threatens to aggravate the Philippines’ tattered reputation due to the unending cases of human rights violations, assassinations and killing of journalists.

"The Philippines always boasts of being a signatory to all major human rights declarations and treaties, it is now time to stop lip service and comply with these international UN instruments", said Valera, co-executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission based in Fairfax, Virginia.

Records of the Philippine human rights watchdog Karapatan reveal there have been more than 1,1016 victims of politically motivated torture under the Arroyo administration since 2001.

More than a thousand other activists were victims of extrajudicial killings and hundreds others victims of enforced disappearances.

President Arroyo’s officials, however, maintain that not all such violations were the handiwork of government functionaries. They said plenty of killings, abductions, and torture were committed by rebels, notably the New People’s Army (NPA). - GMANews.TV

14 Filipina workers rescued from Korean traffickers

Fourteen Filipina workers were rescued by the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (Tfair) from suspected Korean human traffickers in the northern province of Nueva Ecija last week, Vice President Noli De Castro has said.

In a statement, De Castro said the women were found training for work as dancers and entertainers in Korea at a house located at Seville St., Primavera Homes, Aduas Norte, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.

The four Korean suspects were arrested in a separate operation by combined elements of the task force and the Bureau of Immigration in Pampanga on the same day.

De Castro said the suspects were arrested at the office of Yoojin Travel and Tours General Services Corp. at Unit B of Henson building at the corner of Nile St. and Friendship Highway in Angeles City.

He identified them as Yusuk Jeung a.k.a. Ricky Jung, Jong Wook Song aka Ivan, Youn Seok Jang aka Elvin Jang, and Bokdool Shinaka Rich Shin

Tfair operations chief Senior Supt. Gilberto Sosa said the four, led by Jang, used Yoojin Travel and Tours Gen. Services Corp. as front for their illegal activities.

Sosa said Tfair found that the Korean group had started operating in the country in May and had already illegally deployed three Filipina entertainers to Korea.

De Castro said the suspects have been brought to the Tfair office in Camp Crame, Quezon City for interrogation.

According to the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VFFI), the number of human trafficking cases in the Philippines doubled in the first half of 2009. [See: 'Human trafficking cases in RP doubled in 2009']

It said that in 2008, 90 human trafficking cases were lodged before Philippine courts. But from January to June in 2009, or only six months, the number jumped to almost 200. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fil Ams give opinions ahead of Arroyo SONA

By Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

NEW YORK – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to take center stage on Monday for her annual State of the Nation Address (SONA).

But unlike in previous years, expectations from Filipino Americans on what the chief executive will report to the public are higher since this will be her last after eight years in Malacañang.

Like Filipinos in the Philippines, Filipino-Americans in New York are also gearing up for the SONA.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-USA founding member Bernadette Ellorin said Mrs. Arroyo should stick with the truth when she describes the state of the nation.

“I think her speech will be full of lies as always and that she'll make herself look good in the SONA,” said Ellorin. “Economic growth doesn't mean GDP (gross domestic product) growth. It means if your people have a good standard of living and if they are eating.”

Ellorin said that the Philippines continues to reel from poverty and human rights violations.

“That's why Filipinos are leaving the country like us. We would like to live there but we can't because of necessity,” added Ellorin.

Lawyer Ferdinand Suba, who has been in the United States for more than 20 years, also expects the truth from Arroyo, especially on the nation’s economy.

“She should talk about her economic plans finishing her tenure how she plans to help the country in her last nine months,” noted Suba.

He said the President did have good intentions in her almost nine years in power. But corruption had made it difficult for her to govern properly.

“I think she wants to leave a good legacy. She will want history books to treat her kindly,” Suba added.

For Louise Valderrama, who just recently moved to New York, Arroyo’s address should be her swan song. And her final note should pave the way for a transition of power.

“New presidents usually start from zero, back to square. Gloria should prepare programs that the new president will continue,” remarked Valderrama.

All eyes will be on Arroyo on Monday in what is expected to be her last SONA, and Filipinos in New York are tuning in to see how their version of the nation’s state measures up to Arroyo’s. By Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

5 to 10 Filipina maids fleeing sponsors daily

Published Date: July 27, 2009
By Ben Garcia, Staff Writer


KUWAIT: An average of between five and ten Filipina housemaids are fleeing every day from their sponsors in Kuwait, according to Philippine Labor Attach頊osephus Jimenez. In a recent interview with the Kuwait Times, he revealed that there are currently around 176 runaway housemaids being housed at the embassy's Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC). He added that a number of the runaway domestic workers' cases are resolved daily by mutually amicable agreement; some of the absconding workers will return
home, while others choose to stay and have their work visas transferred to other sponsors. The workers routinely cite non-payment of salaries, verbal abuse and sexual harassment as reasons for fleeing.

There are some runaways whose cases have been dragging Filipino embassy for months or even years without resolution. Among these cases are those of six young mothers and their toddlers who are now being sheltered at the FWRC while their cases are being heard. These young mothers are mostly victims of circumstances; some are too weak to fight back at their abusive husbands. Now, they are being sheltered at the embassy, as well as being fed and offered legal assistance in their individual battles.

33-year-old Yasmin is the mother of a four-and-a-half year old daughter. She first sought the embassy's help on October 12, 2005, with her case possibly being the longest-ever battle in this category. Her husband refused to give her his consent when she wished to return to her native country with her then one-year-old daughter. Since then, her case has been in the hands of the Ministry of Interior.

When she first had her daughter, the father denied that the baby was his, but eventually he recognized her as his child and he and Yasmin were married in a Kuwaiti court. Yasmin was thankful that her mother-in-law supported her, ensuring that her daughter obtained a Kuwaiti passport. However, when she asked permission to return home to the Philippines with her daughter, her husband refused to give his consent, leaving her no choice but seek the embassy's assistance. According to Yasmin, her moved was trigg
ered by husband's harsh treatment.

He would lock me up in the house and told me that if I leaved he would cut off my legs. I was afraid. I thank my mother-in-law, who supported me at least. She (the mother-in-law) brought me here to the embassy. I don't want to go home to the Philippines without my daughter. The police told me to just get permission from my husband so I could leave with my daughter, but my husband would not cooperate. So I've been here [at the embassy] with my daughter for almost four years now," Yasmin explained. Yasmin
was also grateful to the embassy for providing her with shelter and food while she awaits her husband's decision.
I am very grateful to the embassy for providing me with a home [free of charge] for almost four years now. Much as I want to go back home, I cannot leave my daughter here alone," she said. Yasmin's estranged Kuwaiti husband is her former employer's son.

27-year-old Bainon sought the embassy's help when she could no longer tolerate her abusive Kuwaiti husband. She came to the embassy on March 2009 with her youngest child, her four-year-old daughter, leaving her five-year-old son with her estranged husband. "I'd like to divorce my husband because he would always hurt me. He would hit me on my ears always when he's angry and now my left eardrum is damaged and I cannot hear from it. So I decided to leave him," she said.

I want him to give me a visa so that I can also work here and provide food for my daughter. I don't want to leave my two children here with him. If they want me to go back to the Philippines, I'll go, but I need to take my two kids," she said.

Andima is the 27-year-old mother of a seven-month-old son. She was jailed for three months when her employer discovered that she was pregnant by her Egyptian boyfriend. Her case was handled by the Ministry of Interior. She was brought to the Philippine Embassy after three month in jail; after giving birth to her child at the local hospital, she was returned to jail once again, remaining there for a further three months. Eventually, in May 2009, the Kuwaiti authorities again delivered her to the embassy aft
er her Egyptian boyfriend and the father of her son made it clear that he did not intend to marry her. "I would go back to the Philippines with my son. I've served my six months jail sentence for a case of love. I am just awaiting the travel document to allow me and my son to go back to the Philippines," she said.

Darwina is a 28-year-old Filipina from Basilan. She fell pregnant by a Filipino who was then working as a private nurse with her Kuwaiti employer. She had an illicit affair with him until she fell pregnant and decided to run away. In her second month of pregnancy, the father of her son went back to the Philippines, never to return to Kuwait. She stayed in Kuwait with her son, who is now three years old, without a visa. On July 21, 2009 she decided to seek assistance from the embassy. "I got tired of hidin
g and running away from the police. I want to be free. I want to share the feeling of being free with my son, so I decided to seek embassy help," she said.

Mariel is from Osamis City in Mindanao. She asked for the embassy's help when her husband was allegedly arrested by the police in connection with a drugs-related case and never communicated with his family thereafter. She went to the embassy with her one-and-a-half year old son and three-and-a-half year old daughter. Since fleeing from her sponsor four years back, she has been without a visa, managing to safely give birth to her two children inside her and her husband's small apartment. She has wanted to
return home to the Philippines since failing to hear from her husband following his arrest some months ago.

I hope I can go back home and breathe freely in the Philippines. The embassy has been very helpful already and they promised to provide me with plane tickets for me and my children. I still want to hear something about my husband because I know he was just framed. He's not into selling or pushing drugs," she insisted.

Annalisa is a 32-year-old former housemaid who worked for sponsors in South Surra. She married with her Egyptian boyfriend and got a small apartment in Farwaniya to live in. She had a child who is now two-and-a-half years old. But her Egyptian husband has five children by his first wife, leaving her with almost nothing to live on but the residue of her husband's already scant KD 120 monthly income. She said she felt bad when sometimes she could not buy not even bread for her and her son. Annalisa also re
vealed that although she is married to her Egyptian husband, her visa is still under article 20 and that he always leaves her locked inside their home in Farwaniya.

The embassy admitted that my case is a little bit difficult to resolve, but they said they will help," she told the Kuwait Times. "I've been here since March. My husband won't allow me to go to the Philippines with my son. I hope I can go back; if not, I want to work and earn money instead." Labor Attach頊osephus Jimenez said that these cases would be resolved with the help of embassy's Assistance to Nationals Unit (ATN).

I am basically providing them with board and lodgings [accommodation]. But otherwise, their cases are being handled by the ATN because their cases are not about labor-related issues. Nonetheless, on behalf of Ambassador Ricardo Endaya and the ATN, we will provide travel documentation for everyone who needs it and would like to be repatriated, with the help, of course, of local [Kuwaiti] authorities. There are many cases which need to be resolved, primarily because their father was not a Filipino, so, we'l
l have to abide by the rules prevailing in the country of their father. So, with those cases, we cannot just easily repatriate them. But rest assured that we are going to extend our help to our nationals," he said.(abscbn News)

Pinoys becoming used to OFWs leaving in droves

WHEN THE LIGHT IS OUT. Mothers are the new face of migration in the Philippines. Often they are subjected to dirty, demeaning and dangerous jobs abroad.Filipinos have become so used to their countrymen going abroad they have become insensitive to the plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), a Catholic bishop lamented Friday.

Tagbilaran, Bohol Bishop Leonardo Medroso said it is tragic that Filipinos are no longer shocked with the fast growing number of Filipinos exiting the country.

"It bespeaks of an attitude that has become accustomed, if not calloused, to the alarming reality that the phenomenon does not cause us anymore unease," he said in his web blog .

He said these migrants are not mere faceless individuals, but warm bodies with human feelings and Filipino needs that constantly call our attention.

They also have the right to a decent environment that guarantees the protection of their human dignity, he added.

"One of the greatest pains of our migrant workers is the loss of the sense of self-pride. They pine to get it back, but no amount of money that they receive can buy it back," the bishop said.

According to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, more than eight million Filipinos are scattered in all parts of the globe. Of this number, 4.7 million are migrant workers, while some 900,000 have entered different countries without proper documents.

Medroso said that while the Church has not been remiss in its obligation to extend its pastoral care to Filipino migrants, its Commission for the Pastoral Care for Migrants may find the number of Filipinos overseas "staggering."

Maruja Asis, director for Research and Publications of the Scalabrini Migration Center (SMC), a non-governmental organization dealing with migrant labor research, said migration has already distorted some Filipino values.

In a 2004 talk, Asis said a culture of migration has been embedded in the Filipino psyche.

According to her, working abroad has become an accepted fate to most Filipinos. In fact, she said it's now unusual for a Filipino not to aspire for a job abroad. This is evidenced by the growing popularity of nursing, caregiver, and computer engineering courses which are geared towards overseas employment.

“While Filipinos are not the only ones who wish to go abroad, the national dream or obsession that going abroad has become has stirred much concern. If this trend persists—and all indications suggest that it will—what kind of nation will become of a country where its people envision their future elsewhere," she said. - with Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Strengthen protection on maids, Saudi Arabia urged

GMANews.TVWhile Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council has passed a bill that would improve the condition of an estimated 1.5 million domestic workers in the country, an international rights group said the measure still falls short of international standards.

Under current Saudi labor laws, domestic workers are denied their rights as workers, such as weekly day of rest, work hour limits, and overtime pay, a 2008 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report said.

The report documented how domestic workers in Saudi Arabia reportedly worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and had “little power" to collect owed wages in labor disputes.

It said excessive workloads and unpaid wages, for periods ranging from a few months to 10 years, were among the most common complaints.

In addition, the New York-based rights watchdog found that many domestic workers were restricted to their workplaces, sometimes locked in and forbidden to leave.

But according to the HRW, a bill recently passed in Saudi Arabia would require employers to give domestic workers at least nine hours of rest every day, rest breaks, and “suitable" accommodation.

“The Shura Council finally ended its paralysis on these desperately needed protections," said Nisha Varia, deputy director of the HRW’s Women’s Rights Division, in a statement.

However, the group said the bill contains “vague" provisions that would make workers vulnerable to abuse.

As proof, the HRW cited the provisions that would require a worker to obey the employers’ orders and prohibit him or her from leaving the place of employment without a “legitimate reason."

It added that an additional burden is Saudi Arabia’s restrictive kafala (sponsorship) system, which ties the visas of migrant workers to their employers, preventing workers from changing jobs or from leaving the kingdom.

Varia said the good news is that the Cabinet can still make further changes on the bill passed by the Shura Council, an appointed consultative body, before it is enacted into law.

“Now the king and the Cabinet need to remove the flawed provisions and make sure the final law can stand up to international scrutiny. Comprehensive reforms in immigration policies and police response to violence against domestic workers are also necessary," she said.

Data from the HRW said that approximately 1.5 million women from countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines are employed as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

According to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, there were more than one million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia in 2007, making it the top destination for overseas Filipino workers (OFW). - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

PhilHealth sending representative to HK

Filipinos in Hong Kong will soon benefit from services of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) when the state agency launches a regular representative mission there.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the representative mission will spearhead information assistance, how to avail of benefits and membership registration services.

"The PhilHealth official, who will be in Hong Kong for two weeks every quarter, will perform her duties for the first time on 03-16 August," the DFA said in its website (www.dfa.gov.ph).

It said PhilHealth and consular officials will hold an open forum and presentation at the Bayanihan Center in Kennedy Town at 2 p.m. on Aug. 2, Sunday.

PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Dr. Rey Aquino said the move is in response to the clamor of OFWs for PhilHealth to bring its services closer to its members.

He said the PhilHealth is taking this initial step to partially address the PhilHealth needs of hardworking Filipinos in Hong Kong.

“Eventually, we hope to replicate this initiative in other countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and even the Middle East where a lot of OFWs earn a living for their families," he said.

Aquino said the PhilHealth representative will be in Hong Kong to provide continuing information dissemination to Filipinos, particularly on claims processing and membership renewal.

He added the official will also address the concerns of PhilHealth members regarding the timely payment of their premiums.

“The representative will also attend OFW gatherings or meetings and coordinate with Filipino organizations in Hong Kong to facilitate the conduct of information campaigns on PhilHealth membership," he said.

Also, he said the PhilHealth official could also entertain reimbursement claims of members with expenses incurred in Hong Kong hospitals.

OFW statistics show that there are approximately 150,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong employed in the entertainment, commercial and household service sectors.

Under PhilHealth’s Overseas Workers Program (OWP), OFWs must pay their annual premium prior to deployment to ensure that they have the appropriate health insurance coverage should they be confined overseas.

“Through their membership, actively paying OFWs also ensure that their family members in the Philippines are similarly covered by PhilHealth, meaning, they can avail themselves of the hospitalization benefits should the need arise," Aquino said.

Among the inpatient benefits that the families of OFWs may avail themselves of in the Philippines are allowances for hospital room and board fees up to Php 1,035 per day for a maximum of 45 days per year, allowances for drugs and medicines up to P35,655 per single period of confinement, x-ray and other laboratory fees up to P29,430 per single period of confinement, use of operating room, and subsidies for professional fees of attending physicians.

Such benefits are available in over 1,600 PhilHealth-accredited hospitals all over the country, Aquino said.

An enhanced outpatient benefit package that includes consultations, diagnostic, promotive and curative health services is also available for OFWs and their legal dependents through 42 DOH-retained hospitals in the country.

These benefits include complete blood count, routine urinalysis, fecalysis, fasting blood sugar, electrocardiogram, Hepatitis B screening, among others.

OWP has registered almost two million OFWs working in different countries abroad.

“We hope to further capture the rest of the OFW population to make sure that they are adequately covered by our health insurance program," Aquino said. - GMANews.TV

Govt zeroes in on Afghan crash victims' recruiters

Anti-illegal recruitment authorities are zeroing in on a Dubai-based recruiter who had enticed Filipino workers to take high-paying but risky jobs in Afghanistan despite a deployment ban there.

Vice President Noli de Castro Jr. said Thursday he has instructed Labor Secretary Marianito Roque to bring the recruiter to the Philippines to face the music.

"May nagre-recruit sa kanila doon [at] kilala na namin at yan pina-follow-up ko na kay Sec. Roque para ma-identify at maibalik sa Pilipinas. Kung ano ang papeles makikiusap tayo sa Dubai government (We have identified the Dubai-based recruiter of the Filipinos and I have asked Labor Sec. Marianito Roque to bring that recruiter to the Philippines. We will coordinate with the Dubai government on the paperwork needed)," he said in an interview on dzBB radio.

The Philippine government had imposed a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Afghanistan in 2007.

“May pangalan kami ng nagre-recruit sa Dubai. Ang amin lang gagawin hahanapin ang tao na ito at pananagutin natin (We have the name of the Dubai-based recruiter. What we will do now is to look for this person and make him or her accountable)," he added.

He also said they have identified the recruiter of at least one of the fatalities in last weekend’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed at least 10 Filipino workers.

While de Castro did not say if the recruiter is the same as the Dubai-based recruiter, he said the recruiter of the fatality would target Filipinos who had worked in Iraq.

"Yan ang hinahabol namin. Pero itong namatay, ito pala may nagre-recruit dito at kilala na namin. Pinahanap ko na sa task force. May lumalapit at nag-aalok. Target nila mga dating galing Iraq kasi ang Iraq siyempre kaunti ang trabaho doon umaalis unti-unti ang Amerikano, tapos na embassy. Sa Afghanistan may 2 military base ang US na ginagawa," he said.

(We are looking for that recruiter. So far we have determined this recruiter would approach Filipinos who worked in Iraq, and urging them to work on two US bases under construction in Afghanistan. I have instructed the Tfair to look for that person.)

He also said they are now trying to identify the Manila-based partners of the recruiters.

De Castro admitted talks with companies recruiting Filipino workers may be useless, as similar talks with recruiting firms in Iraq failed to stop Filipinos from being recruited there.

“Sa Iraq, nakiusap na kami sa mga kumpanya. Pero wala, hindi tayo pinakikinggan sapagka’t hinahabol nila ang manggagawang Pilipino dahil sa ugali natin at sa sipag natin. Wala silang pakialam dahil ang kanila ay matapos dahil bilyun-bilyong dolyar ang involved dito kaya nahirapan kami pakiusapan (In Iraq, we talked to the recruiting companies. But they did not listen to us because they want Filipinos for their skills. And their goal is to finish their billion-dollar contracts)," he said.

No other casualties

On Wednesday afternoon, De Castro said he received a report from the Philippine Embassy in Pakistan that there are no other Filipino workers injured or missing aside from the 10 killed in the crash at a NATO air base in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar.

Vice Consul Conrado Demdem Jr. said it was not true, as reported by an OFW based in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that three of the injured were Filipinos and that two more were missing.

De Castro, however, instructed Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos to “double check" or “make sure" that all Filipinos are accounted for in the crash.

“We want to double check this with our embassy officials, better to make sure that there are no other injured or missing Filipinos from the said incident," he said in a radio interview.

Demdem also reported that the remains of the 10 fatalities are now in the custody of the United States military base in Kandahar and will be flown to Maryland, USA any time soon for DNA testing.

From the US, it will take at least a week for the bodies to be repatriated to the Philippines, he said.

Aware of destination

Citing cases from the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment that he heads, de Castro said Filipino workers bound for Afghanistan usually fly to Dubai as tourists, then go to Afghanistan.

Only last July 14, Tfair agents stopped 13 Filipinos who were about to board a flight for Dubai, en route to work in Afghanistan.

De Castro said passports with “Afghanistan" markings showed the Filipinos were aware they were heading for jobs in war-ravaged central Asian nation.

He cited reports reaching his office that there are some 1,500 Filipinos working in Afghanistan, mostly illegals. Some have gone there before the Philippines imposed a deployment ban.

De Castro said Filipinos are inclined to work in Afghanistan despite the risks because of the high salaries. He said a carpenter can get a salary of $1,300 (P62,575).

In the meantime, de Castro said he is still waiting for the Philippine Consulate and the AIM company, which employed the 10 Filipino fatalities, to verify claims that there were three more fatalities in the chopper crash, and two others remain missing.

He also said the identification of the three fatalities may take some time as they will be brought to Maryland, USA, where DNA samples will be extracted for identification.

“Nakiusap kami medyo matatagalan sapagka’t ayon sa report dadalhin itong bangkay sa Maryland sa USA at kukuhanan ng DNA sapagka’t sunog na sunog ang buong katawan (It may take some time before the three burned bodies are identified. The reports I got indicate that the bodies will be brought to Maryland where DNA samples will be extracted to identify them)," he said. - GMANews.TV

'Two more OFWs still missing in Afghan crash'

Several OFWs have protested the imposition of the deployment ban on these countries. But some workers sneak into these conflict areas using fake documents.- GMANews.TV Vice President Noli De Castro urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Wednesday to look into a report reaching his office that three of the critically injured victims in Sunday’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan are Filipino workers.

De Castro said he learned from Eduardo Najera, father of one of the crash victims and based in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that two more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were missing in the tragedy.

Ten Filipinos were confirmed to have died Sunday when the Russian-owned civilian Mi-8 helicopter they were on board slammed into the tarmac at Kandahar Air Base shortly after takeoff at NATO's largest air base in Afghanistan.

The DFA has said all 10 victims were employees of the US-based construction firm The AIM Group, Inc.

Keith Stephens, spokesman for Flour Corp., a U.S.-based company that subcontracted the aircraft, earlier said the 10 Filipinos were among 16 out of 21 people aboard the ill-fated chopper.

De Castro, who is concurrent presidential adviser on OFW affairs and chairman of the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (Tfair), also told the DFA to send officials of the Philippine mission in Pakistan to Afghanistan and check on the conditions of the injured Filipinos.

“We learned from Mr. Najera that the three overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the hospital have not been visited yet by our officials from our embassy in Islamabad," he said in a statement.

The Philippine ambassador in Islamabad, Pakistan, has jurisdiction over Afghanistan.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos, in charge of migrant workers' affairs, earlier identified the 10 Filipino fatalities as Ely Cariño, Manolito Hornilla, Celso Caralde, Marvin Najera, Leopoldo Jimenez, Mark Joseph Mariano, Rene D. Taboclaon, Recardo E. Vallejos, Ernesto De Vega, and Noli M. Visda.

Conejos said Philippine foreign service and labor officials based in Pakistan are already in Kandahar to help in the identification of the victims.

In the Philippines, he said, representatives from the DFA and Department of Labor and Employment will be getting DNA samples of relatives of the victims to be matched samples taken from the charred remains found in the crash site.

"It may take some time. But we've gotten assurance from the employers and military officials in Kandahar that they will to help facilitate the repatriation of the remains of the Filipino fatalities," he said.

Once the repatriation is completed and the benefits secured, the next focus of the two departments would be on how the workers were able to get to Afghanistan despite the standing ban.

Investigation

De Castro, on the other hand, said Tfair is conducting its own investigation to find out how these OFWs managed to slip into Afghanistan in violation of a standing Philippine worker deployment ban.

Afghanistan is one of five countries declared off-limits to OFWs due to security concerns. (See sidebar)

“We are now talking to the victims’ families, getting information on the people who facilitated their relatives’ deployment to Afghanistan. We are also coordinating with POEA regarding details on the recruiters’ operation," he said.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration(POEA) is the agency responsible for regulating manpower agencies that send workers abroad.

Citing initial investigation gathered by his task force, De Castro said one of the tricks of some agencies illegally recruiting Filipino workers for Afghanistan is to let them go to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates complete with travel documents.

In Dubai, the workers would be met by people who would facilitate their entry to Afghanistan.

Last July 14, Tfair operatives and Bureau of Immigration officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) stopped 13 OFWs bound for the war-ravaged central Asian country through this arrangement.

The workers admitted to Tfair investigators that they were supposed to work as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians in Kandahar Airfield, where the July 19 chopper crash happened.

The workers were reportedly promised to receive $1,300 monthly, or 62,581 pesos, five times the salary of overworked public school teachers in the Philippines.

“While the Philippine government promotes overseas employment, it has to stop workers from going to foreign lands where their safety is at risk," De Castro said in an earlier statement.

A Tfair officer, who asked not to be named, said they are looking into the possibility that the recruiters of the 13 who were stopped at the NAIA were the same group that sent the 10 OFWs to their deaths in Kandahar.

As earlier revealed by Tfair, the travel documents of the workers who were stopped at the NAIA on July 14 were “facilitated" by a man named Faisal Ahmad Muhammad Alamri.

Alamri reportedly owns Sara Tourism and Cargo, a travel and tours firm in Dubai where the workers were supposed to land first before proceeding to the Kandahar Airfield.

State of RP economy

Meanwhile, the United Opposition (UNO) on Wednesday said the death of the 10 Filipino workers who entered Afghanistan illegally is an indictment of the economic conditions under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Mayor Jejomar Binay, UNO president, said economic statistics should translate into improvements in the life of ordinary people.

But the influx of thousands of OFWs to danger zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq only shows that the economic achievements being boasted by the Arroyo government are shallow, he said.

“Poverty and despair has worsened under Mrs. Arroyo to the point that many of our workers are willing to risk their lives in order to make a decent living," Binay said.

He said the Kandahar chopper crash “exposes the economic reality under this administration – the economy only looks good in the charts of NEDA but not on the tables of the ordinary Filipinos."

“We have a very difficult life in the Philippines today. That is why many Filipino workers are going abroad. Their death focus attention on the true state of the nation under Mrs. Arroyo," he added. - GMANews.TV

Monday, July 20, 2009

Illegal recruiter hunted for duping 700 workers

MANILA, Philippines - A woman who goes by different names is being hunted by the police for tricking more than 700 Filipino workers to part with their money for non-existent jobs in the United Kingdom.

The Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (Tfair) on Saturday said the suspect got at least P35,000 from each of her victims, or a total of almost P2.5 million, in an elaborate scam that involved giving the applicants language training.

In an interview aired over Vice President Noli De Castro’s radio program Para sa Iyo, Bayan, Tfair operations chief Senior Superintendent Bernie Yang said the recruiter introduced herself to applicants as Valerie Valero, but her real name turned out to be Bridget Pedrosa Logarta.

Yang said the suspect also goes by the aliases Bridget Lugarta, Bridget Ortiz, Maria Cristy Hope, and Gina Cruz, which is actually of one of her victims.

She reportedly hails from Cebu and is married to a Dexter Insoy.

During the program, De Castro appealed to the public to call the task force if they know the whereabouts of the suspect.

He said the task force can be reached at (02)414-2199.

Complainants said they were referred to Valero by an Alba Lumeng from Bacoor, Cavite. Lumeng reportedly recruited them by promising a P300,000 monthly pay with free board and lodging for different jobs in London.

The victims said that they had to pay Lumeng P35,000 if they wanted to “train" for the jobs being offered.

“Hindi ka pwede mag-training ng wala kang P35,000 [You can’t train if you don’t have P35,000]," duped worker Almario Lopez said during the radio program.

The workers then underwent a language course under Valero.

But just as they were going to pay the P300,000 cash advance for the job orders, the recruiter reportedly disappeared, leaving her accomplices to fend for themselves.

The five accomplices of Valero, including Lumeng, are already in the custody of the Tfair.

Death due to disappointment

Meanwhile, one of Valero’s victims reportedly died while arguing with Lumeng over the scam.

Senior Superintendent Yang said Reuben Cablin of Barangay Habay, Perpetual Help, Bacoor, Cavite died of a heart attack while protesting to Lumeng at the firm’s office in Bahay Toro, Project 8, Quezon City.

“Calm siya nung una, pero bigla siyang nagbreakdown [He was calm at first but he suddenly broke down]," said fellow worker Almario.

Cablin was a former overseas Filipino worker who was able to put up a water refilling station in Cavite. He was married with one child.

Other victims said he helped them raise money for paying the training fee by selling lands.

The task force, which is chaired by Vice President De Castro, is also hunting at least 276 suspects who have standing arrest warrants for large-scale illegal recruitment and estafa (fraud).

The task force said 68 of the suspects have double digit number of arrest warrants, with a woman named Harleta Velasco topping the list with 134 arrest warrants.

Joining Velasco on top of the list were Rosemarie Liwanag (82), Maricar Inovero (79), Corazon Ventura (48), Amelia Gabriel (29), Beverly Tuazon (27), Maria Harleta Velasco (27) – suspected to be the same recruiter with the most number of arrests— Aminola Camarudin (24), and Marissa Biyalat - GMANews.TV

RP condemns 'inhumane' Jakarta bombings

TWISTED METAL. Police forensic experts inspect the damage inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel after an explosion in Jakarta on Friday. AP“These dastardly and inhumane acts all the more reinforce the need for vigilance and greater and deeper cooperation regionally and globally, to counter, prevent and suppress all acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," Romulo said.

Romulo did not issue any travel advisory for Filipinos going to Indonesia following the attacks.

Ambassador Vidal Querol told GMANews.TV that none of the fatalities in the incident were Filipinos. Querol said there were no Filipino-sounding names in the list of the casualties reported to him so far.

There are an estimated 12,000 Filipinos in the Indonesian archipelago, 7,000 of whom are working as managers, engineers, finance officers, auditors, teachers, and consultants in Jakarta.

The blasts at the two hotels in Jakarta blew out windows, scattered debris and glass across the street, and kicked up a thick plume of smoke. Facades of both hotels were reduced to twisted metal.

Alex Asmasubrata, who was jogging nearby, told the Associated Press that he walked into the Marriott before emergency services arrived and "there were bodies on the ground, one of them had no stomach," he said. "It was terrible."

The blast has largely been blamed on the Indonesia-based terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, which was also suspected to have a hand in the series of bombings across Southeast Asia, including the simultaneous explosions that killed 22 people and hurt at least 100 others in Metro Manila on Dec. 30, 2000.

The Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to have links with militants in the Philippines, notably the Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In Manila, the Philippine National Police announced that it had increased vigilance and adopted stricter security measures following the latest wave of bombings in Mindanao early this month. - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV with AP

RP condemns 'inhumane' Jakarta bombings

The Philippine government has condemned the twin bombings in Indonesia’s business capital on Friday and voiced support for its Southeast Asian neighbor in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo conveyed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s condolences to the Indonesian people especially to the families of the nine killed in the bomb explosions at the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels located side-by-side in an upscale district in Jakarta. At least 50 more civilians were injured in the incident.


TWISTED METAL. Police forensic experts inspect the damage inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel after an explosion in Jakarta on Friday. AP“These dastardly and inhumane acts all the more reinforce the need for vigilance and greater and deeper cooperation regionally and globally, to counter, prevent and suppress all acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," Romulo said.

Romulo did not issue any travel advisory for Filipinos going to Indonesia following the attacks.

Ambassador Vidal Querol told GMANews.TV that none of the fatalities in the incident were Filipinos. Querol said there were no Filipino-sounding names in the list of the casualties reported to him so far.

There are an estimated 12,000 Filipinos in the Indonesian archipelago, 7,000 of whom are working as managers, engineers, finance officers, auditors, teachers, and consultants in Jakarta.

The blasts at the two hotels in Jakarta blew out windows, scattered debris and glass across the street, and kicked up a thick plume of smoke. Facades of both hotels were reduced to twisted metal.

Alex Asmasubrata, who was jogging nearby, told the Associated Press that he walked into the Marriott before emergency services arrived and "there were bodies on the ground, one of them had no stomach," he said. "It was terrible."

The blast has largely been blamed on the Indonesia-based terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, which was also suspected to have a hand in the series of bombings across Southeast Asia, including the simultaneous explosions that killed 22 people and hurt at least 100 others in Metro Manila on Dec. 30, 2000.

The Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to have links with militants in the Philippines, notably the Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In Manila, the Philippine National Police announced that it had increased vigilance and adopted stricter security measures following the latest wave of bombings in Mindanao early this month. - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV with AP

No Pinoy casualties in Jakarta blasts - RP envoy

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Embassy in Indonesia said no Filipinos were reported among the casualties in the bomb explosions that rocked an upscale Jakarta business district early Friday.

The blasts at the neighboring Ritz-Carlton and Marriott hotels blew out windows and scattered debris and glass rubles across the street, killing nine and wounding at least 50 people.

Ambassador Vidal Querol told GMANews.TV that none of the eight fatalities in the incident were Filipinos. Querol confirmed this after seeing that there were no Filipino-sounding names in the list of the casualties reported to him so far.

There are an estimated 12,000 Filipinos in the Indonesian archipelago. Of the total, 7,000 are working as managers, engineers, finance officers, auditors, teachers and consultants in Jakarta.

Alex Asmasubrata, who was jogging past the hotels in the area, told the Associated Press that he first heard a loud explosion at the Marriott. Five minutes later, a blast followed at the Ritz.

Some of the victims were apparently taking their breakfast at the Erlanga Carlton restaurant at the Ritz when the bomb went off at around 8 a.m. (Manila time), Querol added.

"No one has claimed responsibility over the explosions yet," Querol said.

He said victims were rushed to the nearby Metropolitan Medical Center (MMC) and Madistra Hospital.

A list posted at MMC contained 29 names of people who were wounded in the blasts, an AP report said.

The Marriott hotel was attacked in 2003, killing 12 people.

Philippine officials have been on edge since a powerful bomb planted outside the home of the Philippine envoy in Jakarta seriously injured then Ambassador Leonides Caday on Aug. 1, 2000.

The blast has been largely blamed on the Indonesia-based terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, which was also suspected to have a hand in the series of blasts across Southeast Asia, including the simultaneous explosions that killed several people in Metro Manila on Dec. 30 of that same year.

The Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to have links with militants in the Philippines, notably the Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

RP security

In Manila, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said the Jakarta bombings dictate that the country should not let its guard down as terrorists could strike anytime and anywhere.

Senior Superintendent Leonardo Espina, PNP spokesman, said security forces across the country have already increased vigilance and adopted stricter security measures following the latest wave of bombings in Mindanao early this month.

"Since the bombings in Mindanao, we have placed all the regions, police offices on full alert. The rest of the country are on heightened alert, and stricter security measures have been adopted and thorough vigilance, as we do not want any repeat of what happened in Mindanao elsewhere in the country," he said.

Espina said the military and police also have to continue working hand in hand with barangay officials and in-house security personnel securing vital installations, like hotels, terminals, railways, and others places where people converge.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also refused to speculate on the Indonesia bombings but echoed the PNP’s statement that there was no need for adjustments.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., AFP public affairs office chief, said the military establishment has already enhanced security in key areas following the recent bombings in various parts of Mindanao that claimed eight lives and injured nearly a hundred others, including soldiers and policemen.

He cited a number of areas in Mindanao where the military has improved security measures, including Iligan City, Maguindanao and Sulu.

“In other words, we increased all our actions to prevent future bombings. Our basis is the bombings (in Mindanao) lately, not the Jakarta (incident)," he said.

Last July 5, suspected rogue members of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front detonated an improvised bomb in front of the Cotabato City cathedral, killing six people and wounding about 55 others.

Two days later, a bomb, rigged by Abu Sayyaf terrorists into a motorcycle, went off at Jolo town in Sulu, killing two civilians and wounding 24 others, including three policemen who were out to check on the explosive.

Hours after the Jolo bombing, another bomb, placed inside a car, exploded about a hundred meters away from the Mt. Carmel church in Iligan, injuring at least 13, including an Army captain and two of his men. - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV with AP

RP Embassy opens temporary office in Dublin

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Embassy has opened its temporary office at a business center in Dublin, Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

A report from Philippine Ambassador to Ireland Ariel Abadilla said the temporary office is located at the Fitzwilliam Business Center, Suite G03, 77 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2.

"Its temporary business hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, except on Philippine and Irish holidays," the DFA said in an article on its website (www.dfa.gov.ph).

For inquiries, the Embassy may be reached at tel. no. 01 6401946 and email address dublin.philembassy@gmail.com.

Abadilla, in opening the first resident Philippine Embassy in Ireland, noted July is also the same month when diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Ireland were formalized in 1984.

To prepare for the transition process, Philippine honorary consul in Dublin John Ferris held his last consular clinic last July 11 at the Teacher’s Club on Parnell Square West, Dublin.

Ferris will also be at the new office, which opened last July 9.

Abadilla said the public can now transact regular business at the new temporary office. The Embassy began consular and frontline operations on July 13.

The initial team deployed to Ireland by the Philippine government includes Abadilla, Minister and Consul General Hjayceelyn Quintana, and Attachés Jocelyn Roxas, Ruth Patricio, and Errol Reyes.

Abadilla said that while undertaking full consular operations, the team will continue efforts in setting up the permanent location for the Embassy in two to three months’ time.

It will also attend to all aspects of Philippine-Irish diplomatic relations.

Charla Aldemita, from Misamis Occidental and now a resident of County Kildare, was the first to visit the Embassy on its opening day. She came with her husband Arnold and their two young sons.

Mrs. Aldemita said she is “very happy and content" now that there is a Philippine Embassy in Dublin that will attend to the concerns of Filipinos in Ireland.

Abadilla presented his Letter of Credence to Irish President Mary McAleese at a ceremony held at the State Reception Room of the Aras an Uachtarain (President’s Residence) June 29.

"Abadilla’s presentation of credentials marks the establishment of a Philippine resident Embassy in Ireland," the DFA said. - GMANews.TV

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Help assured for 131 distressed OFWs in Libya

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Labor and Employment assured Thursday that they are looking into the plight of the 131 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Libya.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Tripoli has “promptly" looked into the plight of the workers after receiving complaints against their employer in Benghazi, Libya.

The OFWs complained of poor accommodation, substandard toilets, insufficient food and medical facilities, absence of safety gadgets, and downgraded and delayed salaries.

Citing a report from Tripoli-based Labor Attaché Nasser Mustafa, Roque said the POLO found the complaints “legitimate" and has started making representations with the employer to address the complaints.

The DOLE chief said the employer had “acknowledged" the shortcomings and assured the POLO that it would “rectify" the problem on accommodation, food, and sanitary and safety needs of the OFWs.

The employer, he said, was also told to comply with the OFWs’ contract provision on salaries.

Roque said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is also prepared to investigate the OFWs’ recruitment agency in case the employer fails to address the complaints.

Meanwhile, 11 of the 131 OFWs had already found new employment with another company in Libya.

The Tripoli-based POLO also negotiated for the official release of the OFWs who had already started working for a new employer.

The POLO will also negotiate for the release of the rest of the distressed OFWs who would soon be absorbed by a big construction firm in Libya, said Roque in a statement.

In April, the POEA had suspended two recruitment agencies, Aquagem Int’l and Sharikat Al Saedi Int’l for substituting the contracts of several OFWs whom they deployed to Libya.

The OFWs’ employer, Cifex World, was also placed on the POEA watch list.

Mustafa, on the other hand, dismissed reports saying that he had defended the erring agencies and even acted as a “spokesman" for the Libyan company that victimized the OFWs.

Mustafa said it was he who urged the POEA to place the agencies on its watchlist. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Judge rejects Filipino nurses' NY bias claims

GARDEN CITY, New York — A federal judge has rejected discrimination claims filed by 26 Filipino nurses in New York.

The nurses said they were forced to quit their jobs at nursing homes in New York City and suburban Long Island. They said agreements made about working conditions before they left their homeland were not honored by their U.S. employers.

An administrative law judge ruled June 30 that the resignations were not protected by federal immigration employment law.

The nurses' immigration attorney said he was disappointed the ruling was made without a hearing. He is considering an appeal.

Ten of the nurses had faced misdemeanor charges for endangering sick patients by quitting their jobs at a nursing home in Suffolk County on Long Island, east of New York City. A state appellate court ruled in January that the prosecution was unconstitutional.

The nurses were recruited from the Philippines to help ease a staffing shortage in the U.S.

The case sparked outrage and protests in the Philippines over the way the nurses were treated by the company that hired them. - AP

Judge rejects Filipino nurses' NY bias claims

GARDEN CITY, New York — A federal judge has rejected discrimination claims filed by 26 Filipino nurses in New York.

The nurses said they were forced to quit their jobs at nursing homes in New York City and suburban Long Island. They said agreements made about working conditions before they left their homeland were not honored by their U.S. employers.

An administrative law judge ruled June 30 that the resignations were not protected by federal immigration employment law.

The nurses' immigration attorney said he was disappointed the ruling was made without a hearing. He is considering an appeal.

Ten of the nurses had faced misdemeanor charges for endangering sick patients by quitting their jobs at a nursing home in Suffolk County on Long Island, east of New York City. A state appellate court ruled in January that the prosecution was unconstitutional.

The nurses were recruited from the Philippines to help ease a staffing shortage in the U.S.

The case sparked outrage and protests in the Philippines over the way the nurses were treated by the company that hired them. - AP
Home > Pinoy Abroad > Top Stories 'Human trafficking cases in RP doubled in 2009'
Human trafficking can involve the following methods:
• Prostitution and sexual exploitation – Prostitution is one of the biggest problems when it comes to human trafficking. Women traded in this manner may not even be aware of where they are headed to. Most of them are promised domestic jobs, only to find themselves sold on the streets.
• Forced labor, servitude and slavery – This is also a very common practice in the trafficking of human beings. Victims are forced to work against their will and without just compensation.
• Organ market – The organ market has rapidly grown over the last decade. It has become a common underground practice for wealthy foreigners to buy organs. Victims willingly give up their organs for cash. They are paid a very small percentage of what the middleman actually gets.
Other human trafficking methods usually involve the trade of children. Some of these methods are: illegal international adoption, children trafficked and traded into early marriage. Others are recruited as beggars and street sellers. Some are sold to cults and underground sports arenas.


MANILA, Philippines - The number of human trafficking cases in the Philippines doubled in the first half of 2009, a non-government organization said.

The Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VFFI) said that in 2008, 90 human trafficking cases were lodged before Philippine courts. From January to June in 2009, or only six months, the number jumped to almost 200.

“This is an almost 100 percent increase. It is not easy, napakahirap po ng problema na ito [this is a very hard problem]," VFFI president Ma. Cecilia Flores Oebanda told reporters on Wednesday.

In most cases, she said, the workers were fooled by traffickers who promised deployment to Middle Eastern countries and were then sold into white slavery or prostitution rings.

“Sobrang dami ng nakukuha [There were so many recruited] for the purpose of forced labor," Oebanda said.

Oebanda lamented that only four of the 90 cases were prosecuted in 2008. Likewise, only 14 of the 200 cases in 2009 have been resolved.

“When it comes to prosecution, down tayo, ‘yun ang challenge [We’re not good with prosecution, that’s the challenge]," said the VFFI chief.

Because of these figures, the US State Department Trafficking in Persons report placed the Philippines in the Tier 2 Watch List.

Countries in Tier 2 Watch List supposedly do not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but are making “significant" efforts to do so.

Oebanda said Mindanao has been the concentration of human trafficking cases in the Philippine for the last three years.

The hotspot provinces in Mindanao reportedly include Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Davao.

An option

To help give victims of human trafficking better livelihood opportunities, the VFFI partnered with software giant Microsoft Philippines in 2006 for the Stop Trafficking and Exploitation of People through Unlimited Potential (Step-up) project.

The Step-up project gives information technology trainings to victims of human trafficking through its Community Technology Learning Centers (CTLCs) operated by VFFI’s local partners in cities like Manila, Batangas, Bacolod, Cebu, and Davao.

Under the program, participants undergo training on leadership and interpersonal skills and IT-related modules.

Included in the curriculum are courses on computer basics, word processing, presentation, database, and spreadsheet fundamentals, digital media, Internet, and web design.

Advanced courses on PC troubleshooting and hardware repair are also available.

“Through the technology skills training, former victims are able to find better career opportunities and get a new lease on life," said Oebanda.

The VFFI said that from May 2006 to June 30, 2009, a total of 16,256 young people have already been trained in their 20 CTLCs, 5,690 of whom have reportedly gained employment while 4,030 have opted to further pursue their studies.

Faced with positive results, Microsoft Philippines gave the group another software and cash grant worth $217,720 or more than P10 million to further expand the Step-up project.

“We’re embarking on the third phase of Step-up, to ensure that adequate support is provided to our fellow Filipinos who have been victims of demoralizing acts," said Karrie Ilagan, business marketing organization director of Microsoft Philippines. - GMANews.TV

Speedy airport processing fuels RP human trafficking

MANILA, Philippines - The process of speeding up the departure of outbound Filipino workers has in turn helped in the surge of human trafficking cases in Philippine airports, a recruitment consultant said.

Emmanuel Geslani, the consultant, urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to re-impose the validation system, which was scrapped last year to expedite the processing of OFWs.

The POEA on March 2008 dropped the validation of documents of OFWs leaving through the Labor Assistance Center (LAC) to further streamline processes in overseas deployment. This resulted in an increase in OFW deployment in the following quarter.

Geslani said the function of validating exit or e-receipt is a key process that keeps syndicates from trafficking overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). He said without such measures at LAC, efforts to curb human trafficking would be “feeble" if not “useless."

“The POEA has no direct way of accurately validating and recording genuine-POEA-processed OFW deployment. It is highly probable that many such documents are fabricated," he said.

In response, POEA chief Jennifer Manalili said they are studying the proposal to revive the validation of OFW work documents and ensure that workers would not be trafficked overseas.

Interviewed by GMANews.TV, Manilili said the POEA and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) would begin sharing information to trace the validity of an OFW’s work permit as well as the record of his/her recruiter.

The labor assistance counter remained open 24/7, but its services were limited to assisting OFWs with documentation problems, issuing overseas employment certificates (OEC) to OFWs leaving the country within 24 hours, and dissemination of information and education materials to OFWs and families. [See: POEA eases OFW exit procedure at airports]

Despite having laws against human trafficking, the Philippines has been included in the US watch list of countries suspected of not doing enough to combat the illegal migration of people.

In its ninth Trafficking in Persons report, the US State Department included the Philippines along with 51 other countries on their list.

Washington’s move to expand the watch list came as officials said the world financial crisis has left more people at risk for the crime.

If a country appears on the list for two consecutive years, it can be subject to US sanctions.

Seventeen nations, up from 14 in 2008, are now subject to the trafficking sanctions, which can include a ban on non-humanitarian and trade-related aid and US opposition to loans and credits from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The penalties can be waived if the president determines it is in US national interest to do so. - GMANews.TV

RP ambassador 1st envoy received by new Basque president

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino ambassador was the first envoy to be received by the new Basque president, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The DFA said Philippine Ambassador to Spain Antonio Lagdameo met with new Basque Lehendakari (President) Patxi López in Vitoria last July 9.

"Ambassador Lagdameo is the first foreign envoy to be received by President López who assumed the Basque presidency on the first week of May. Ambassador Lagdameo briefed President López of ongoing (i.e. academic exchange, deployment of Filipino health workers, Palawan development project) and proposed projects (fishery project in Casiguran, Aurora) between the two countries," the DFA said on its website (www.dfa.gov.ph).

Lagdameo also extended an invitation to the Basque leader to visit the Philippines in the near future.

President López expressed strong interest in and support for the efforts being made by the Philippine Embassy in Madrid in intensifying Philippine-Basque relations, said the DFA.

The Philippines and the Basque Country, an autonomous region in northern Spain, have developed strong and active relations in recent years.

In December 2007, President Arroyo made a historic visit to the Basque Country to strengthen the economic, cultural and technical cooperation between the Philippines and the Basque Country.

"The Basque Country holds a special place in Philippine society. The Basque people contributed greatly to the political, economic and social development of the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period," the DFA said.

Basque names are all over the Philippine map, with towns, cities and provinces called Anda, Garchitorena, Legazpi, Mondragón, Pamplona, Urdaneta, Zumarraga and Nueva Vizcaya.

On the other hand, many Manila streets carry Basque names – Ayala, Arlegui, Bilbao, Durango, Echague, Elizondo, Gaztambide, Goiti, Guernica, and Mendiola.

"Descendants of Basque immigrants in the Philippines continue to play a prominent role in Philippine society such as the Aboitiz, Ayala, Elizalde and Zubiri families," the DFA said. - GMANews.TV

RP ambassador 1st envoy received by new Basque president

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino ambassador was the first envoy to be received by the new Basque president, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The DFA said Philippine Ambassador to Spain Antonio Lagdameo met with new Basque Lehendakari (President) Patxi López in Vitoria last July 9.

"Ambassador Lagdameo is the first foreign envoy to be received by President López who assumed the Basque presidency on the first week of May. Ambassador Lagdameo briefed President López of ongoing (i.e. academic exchange, deployment of Filipino health workers, Palawan development project) and proposed projects (fishery project in Casiguran, Aurora) between the two countries," the DFA said on its website (www.dfa.gov.ph).

Lagdameo also extended an invitation to the Basque leader to visit the Philippines in the near future.

President López expressed strong interest in and support for the efforts being made by the Philippine Embassy in Madrid in intensifying Philippine-Basque relations, said the DFA.

The Philippines and the Basque Country, an autonomous region in northern Spain, have developed strong and active relations in recent years.

In December 2007, President Arroyo made a historic visit to the Basque Country to strengthen the economic, cultural and technical cooperation between the Philippines and the Basque Country.

"The Basque Country holds a special place in Philippine society. The Basque people contributed greatly to the political, economic and social development of the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period," the DFA said.

Basque names are all over the Philippine map, with towns, cities and provinces called Anda, Garchitorena, Legazpi, Mondragón, Pamplona, Urdaneta, Zumarraga and Nueva Vizcaya.

On the other hand, many Manila streets carry Basque names – Ayala, Arlegui, Bilbao, Durango, Echague, Elizondo, Gaztambide, Goiti, Guernica, and Mendiola.

"Descendants of Basque immigrants in the Philippines continue to play a prominent role in Philippine society such as the Aboitiz, Ayala, Elizalde and Zubiri families," the DFA said. - GMANews.TV

2 on trial for Pinoy detainee’s accidental death in UAE

MANILA, Philippines — Two inmates of a detention center in the United Arab Emirates are on trial for the death of their asthmatic Filipino fellow inmate last February, an online news site has reported.

The Khaleej Times said the two who stood trial included a 19-year-old Yemeni and a 20-year-old "stateless" man.

Both men, as well as the Filipino, were inmates of Rashidiya Detention Center. The two were also accused of assaulting the Filipino victim’s companion.

On the other hand, the Court of First Instance referred an accomplice of the two to the Juveniles Court.

The victim’s companion, also a Filipino, testified that he and the victim were allowed out of the detention center to buy grocery items.

“We were trying to deliver ordered stuff to some inmates when the defendants accosted us. They wanted to take the things for free. We told them that it was ordered by other fellow mates," he said.

After the two distributed the items, the Filipino said the three blocked their way again. “They pushed me and never said what the reason was. They then beat me," he said.

During the commotion, he said he saw his companion putting his hand on his chest and breathing hard.

“He was asking for his inhaler which he used when he suffered asthma attacks. Then a police officer came and took my friend out. I knew later that he passed away. Inmates told me that he was also beaten," he said.

One of the suspects alleged that the victim’s companion showed him his middle finger, which he said angered him.

“I saw the trio beating the two Filipinos in the cell. I took them out and one of them who could not breathe properly died shortly afterward," a police guard said.

The Egyptian physician, who examined the victim, stated that he did not notice any mark of physical assault on his body.

“The nurse at the jail clinic told me that the victim had a medical record. He used to have breathing problems," the physician said.

He added he came to know from witnesses’ statements that the victim was part of the fight even though he was not directly involved in it.

“He was not beaten but he fell down and could not breathe," he said.

A medical report said the high stress and enormous muscle effort led to irregular heartbeat, which resulted in other repercussions leading to the Filipino’s death. - GMANews.TV

RP envoy at UAE leaves for UN post

MANILA, Philippines — Before leaving for his new post at the United Nations, Philippine ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Libran Cabactulan received a warm farewell from the Filipino community.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported that the Filipino community gave him a farewell party at the St. Joseph Church.

Cabactulan is to depart from the UAE this week to take up his new assignment as president of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Preparatory Committee.

At the party, he said his new assignment would take him to member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is due to attend the NAM's summit in Egypt.

In July 2008, the Philippine government endorsed Cabactulan as president of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Preparatory Committee. Cabactulan had ended his six-year term as envoy to UAE.

Last April, the 118 member-countries of NAM endorsed his candidature. Last May, the 198 countries involved in the treaty elected him president during their third preparatory conference in New York.

He and wife Remedios Fe asked Filipino leaders and the priests present to pray for him to be able to do the huge task ahead of him to spread global peace.

“I have to go to different countries to consult heads of state on what they want for the review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty next year. This treaty was negotiated in 1966, but it came into operation in 1995 and the decision to review it every five years. It was reviewed in 2000, then in 2005," he said.

He said the visit of United States President Barack Obama to Moscow to meet Russian President Dmitri Medvedev for striking a deal on arms replacement and arms reduction is part of the ongoing preparation for next year’s review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Also, he urged all Filipinos to do their best to get the Filipino Expatriates (FilEx) Inc. going, calling it as “his legitimate son that should bear fruit for everyone." FilEx Inc. is a foundation he helped set up to assist Filipinos needing financial, medical and legal support in UAE.

During the farewell party, a dance and messages of gratitude from over 60 Philippine organizations were dedicated to Cabactulan. - GMANews.TV

OFWs bound for KSA advised to ‘clean’ electronic devices

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino workers bound for Saudi Arabia have been advised to make sure that no items in the electronic gadgets they are carrying are in violation of the host government’s beliefs and practices.

Migrante-Middle East said airports in Riyadh, Dammam, and Jeddah are strictly re-implementing procedures in receiving migrant workers carrying electronic devices.

Upon arrival at the airport, the migrant group said all electronic devices are to be submitted for checkup at the immigration section.

These devices include cellular phones with camera and memory card, flash disks, external hard drives, laptops, notebook computers, iPods, and MP3 players with memory cards.

Migrante said Saudi immigration authorities use a special device to scan all the contents of the devices and record them to the main scanning computer. Devices found to contain pornographic items or pirated software are confiscated immediately.

No fine would be charged for the violation but refusal to surrender the device would lead to arrest or deportation, said the group.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s stringent monitoring at its airports, pirated movies abound in the market.

Movies have long been forbidden in the kingdom, and even gatherings where men and women mix are strictly banned. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

NGO eyes rogues gallery for illegal recruiters

MANILA, Philippines - Amid mounting complaints of would-be overseas Filipino workers losing their money for non-existent jobs, a non-government organization is proposing a rogues gallery for illegal recruiters.

The Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (Ideals) unveiled the proposed “Illegal Recruiter’s Facebook" on Tuesday during one of its roundtable discussions with sectors concerned with migrant workers in Quezon City.

Lawyer Julyn Ambito, coordinator of Ideal’s Migrants Defense Program, said the proposal calls for the posting of photographs of top illegal recruiters in government offices and other strategic places, similar to the police’s “most wanted" posters.

“We take with optimism that the posting of the photographs of these top illegal recruiters, including their modus operandi at strategic places that our would-be workers frequent to process their overseas employment will deter crimes of illegal recruitment, more so, syndicated ones," said Ambito.

The proposal also calls for the coordination with the International Police to publish information on suspects who fled to other countries on its website.

It also proposed that a monetary reward be given to any person who can provide information on the whereabouts of suspected illegal recruiters.

Illegal recruiters and their victims

Ambito said their organization is currently handling eight cases of illegal recruitment that have been pending resolution for years because the accused are still at large.

“It is so frustrating that even if warrants of arrest were already issued, trial could not proceed because the court still has to acquire jurisdiction over the person of the accused," she said.

She said they have already proposed an executive order to be signed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo directing the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (Tfair) to publish the identities of top illegal recruiters who have pending warrants of arrest.

The Tfair had earlier named the suspected illegal recruiters with the most number of pending warrants of arrest.

Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa, Tfair operations chief, said that at least 276 Filipino individuals have a total of more than 20,000 unserved warrants of arrest for large-scale illegal recruitment.

Of the 276 suspects, 68 have double digit warrants of arrests.

Sosa also identified the top suspect as Harleta Velasco, who has 134 arrest warrants for illegal recruitment and estafa (fraud).

Sosa, who is from the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said they plan to come up with a list for the most wanted persons in large-scale illegal recruitment and seek public help in rounding them up.

Based on statistics supplied by Ideals, there were 1,662 confirmed victims of illegal recruitment from January to November 2008, increased of 4 percent from 1,539 during the same period in 2007. - GMANews.TV

HK paper says 'honest OFW's' story 'a big lie'

MANILA, Philippines - Did an unemployed and now-heralded overseas Filipino worker in Hong Kong really return a total of P2.1-million pesos worth of cash and checks or was her heroic act of honesty just rubbish?

When the story was first reported last May, Mildred Perez became the latest OFW lionized for her extraordinary virtue. She was showered with cash donations and praise. President Gloria Arroyo was even televised presenting her with a commendation.

But a Filipino community paper in the Chinese territory has challenged the so-called honesty of the 38-year-old domestic helper-turned-garbage scavenger who claimed to have found and returned the bag of treasure last April in exchange for a can of butter cookies.

Daisy Mandap of The Sun wrote on Wednesday that Perez’s celebrated story of returning a total of HK$350,545 was only half true as the $176,000 in cash she claimed to have found never existed.

"The more important half that caused many Filipinos to put her on a pedestal was nothing but a big lie," Mandap wrote in the report.

In the May 31 story that appeared in the Inquirer, Perez reportedly told Hong Kong-based reporter Blanche Rivera that the bag contained four checks: one for $13,000, another for $5,000, a third for $3,250, and another for HK$10,920.


Did she or didn't she? Based on the signed document presented by The Sun, the four checks Perez swore to have returned only amounted to roughly HK$176,000. Aside from the checks, the report mentioned that $176,000 in cash was also uncovered “in denomination of $1,000" bills that day. The $176,000 in cash and the four checks would amount to HK$350,545, the report said.

(Without the HK before it, the $176,000 in cash is presumably in US dollars, which would make the HK$350,545 in the Inquirer grossly inaccurate. At the current exchange rate of 1US$ = HK$7.7502, $176,000 would actually equal HK$1,364,035.20 even without factoring in the checks.) [See sidebar for additional information].

No mention of cash

But from a statement signed by Perez and submitted to Deputy Labor Attaché Nida Romulo of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Hong Kong, Mandap in her The Sun report noted that there was no mention of the $176,000 cash.

The Sun stressed that the document detailed only four checks returned on April 30. The statement was signed by Perez, a companion named David as well as two other individuals identified as the “recipients" of the lost bag. (The reporter later identified the two recipients as Yvonne Tsang and Kitty Yeung of Pioneer Electronics Company Limited, which presumably owned the bag).

A company employee interviewed by The Sun verified the denomination of the four checks and additional cash that only amounted to HK$500. The same employee said the checks couldn't have been encashed by strangers since it was issued to the company. She also didn’t say that the returned envelope was missing $176,000.

"Apparently, Perez’s lie started unraveling much earlier, though either by design or negligence," Mandap wrote, “the Filipino community was kept in the dark about what was happening."

Curiously, the cash the Inquirer reported that Perez found was the exact same amount as the total of the checks (HK$176,000) confirmed to have been returned by the OFW if the currency had been in HK$ instead of US$.


Click here to enlarge document signed by Perez.In a phone interview Tuesday night, Perez told GMANews.TV, that she was standing by her claim that she returned all the contents of the bag including the wad of money.

"Kung ano yung sinabi ko sa report ‘yun yung totoo [Whatever I said in the report is the truth]," Perez said from her hometown in Nueva Vizcaya, "I don’t give time for these people. Pressured na po ako [I’m already pressured]."

She begged off from further interviews and said she would clear things up only when she returns to Hong Kong.

Perez, a native of Bambang town in the northern Philippine province of Nueva Vizcaya, went to Hong Kong to work as a domestic helper for the sake of her family.

She was fired from her work after she filed a sexual harassment case against her employer in 2007. While waiting for the resolution of the case, she turned to scrounging in garbage bins for income. Hong Kong law bars foreign workers from seeking employment while a court case in which they are involved have yet to be resolved.

Reports that the owner of the checks and cash gave Perez only biscuits as a reward gained her sympathy.

In Hong Kong, members of the Filipino community and other expatriates and locals were said to have passed the hat around for her and collected about $15,000, while the Philippine Consulate General paid for her return air fare to Manila and the cost of sending her cargo to Nueva Vizcaya.

A citation from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) praised Perez’s honesty, which moved the House of Representatives in the Philippines to raise some P100,000 for Perez’s family and commend her for her "honesty and trustworthiness."

The scavenger suddenly became a celebrity, was feted at several events and even conferred a presidential award in Hong Kong by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who thanked her for setting a fine example for all overseas Filipinos.

She was commended and given a cash reward by the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya, offered scholarships for her two grownup children, a job for her husband, and reportedly a movie deal worth P5 million.


Perez thanks Sen. Francis Escudero in his office Wednesday, after he granted scholarships to her children. GMANews.TVReactions

Sought for comment on The Sun’s report, senior Nueva Vizcaya board member Patricio Dumlao shook his head in response.

"If this is true, then the provincial board should be circumspect in handling cases of the same nature in the future to avoid posers who will take advantage of the provincial board’s generosity," he said.

But Rep. Carlos Padilla of the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya, who authored the House resolution commending Perez, said the OFW was probably being subjected to "vilification from some sectors."

Padilla, who helped raise some P100,000 financial support for Perez’s family, said he based his actions on a report by the DFA.

"A letter was sent to me by the undersecretary of the DFA Esteban Conejos dated July 6 and my office received it on July 13. I regard it as the DFA’s official position on the matter," Padilla said.

The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong said it “stands by its belief that OFW Mildred Perez Bonde committed an honorable act of honesty…"

"Ms. Bonde has consistently stated to the Consulate that among the items she recovered and returned to the owners was cash; the Consulate, which continues to provide consular assistance to Ms. Bonde on her police case, cannot disbelieve her," said the statement signed by Consul General Claro Cristobal.

It noted that Perez exerted time and effort to securing the items she recovered and locate the rightful owners, and return the checks and cash. The statement did not give specifics on the disputed cash amount. - with Floro Taguinod, GMANews.TV

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