Sunday, March 28, 2010

Remains of Pinay slain in Singapore arrive in RP

The remains of a Filipino woman who was slain in Singapore last March 15 arrived in Manila Friday night and was received by her sister at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's cargo section.

A report on dzXL radio on Saturday said the body of Roselyn Reyes Pascua was brought to Manila on a Cebu Pacific flight at 9:05 p.m.

Pascua’s sister Jenny Leda said they plan to bury the remains this coming Tuesday at the Garden of East Memorial Park in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

Pascua, 30, was found with stab wounds in her rented room at Bencoolen Street before dawn last March 15.

The Philippine Embassy in Singapore said Pascua entered Singapore on February 3 as a tourist and extended her social visit pass until April 4.

She was staying alone in a rented room at the Peony Mansion when the incident occurred.

Police arrested an Indian suspected to be behind the killing of Pascua. The Singapore Police Force (SPF) did not identify the suspect but said he was 34 years old.

“Murder is a serious crime. We will spare no efforts to bring the perpetrator to justice. My officers have worked round the clock and left no stone unturned in their hunt for the suspect," said Senior Assistant Commissioner Ng Boon Gay, director of the Criminal Investigation Department. — LBG, GMANews.TV

Marchers hope for passage of US immigration reform bill this year

CHICAGO – Although the more than 200,000 marchers for immigration reforms were somewhat overshadowed by the health care reform debate at the Capitol Hill, they are hopeful that a bipartisan support from the U.S. Congress could put the long-sought sweeping immigration measure over the hump this year.

“This is also how we will achieve a comprehensive immigration reform. It takes courage, clarity of purpose, boldness of action, and using the people's voices and stories to describe the reality of our human needs and conditions," said Juanita Salvador-Burris, one of the organizers on board one of the hundreds of busloads from Chicago, Illinois, who joined the hundreds of thousands of marchers in Washinton D.C.

Salvador-Burris, an officer of the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights & Empowerment (AFIRE), hopes the mammoth crowd in the nation’s capital put pressure on members of Congress to also give attention to the immigration reform legislation.

“(It) took us more than 16 hours to reach Washington from Chicago (but it) was all worth every mile and minute," she said.

Following Sunday’s March for America, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) was able to obtain a meeting with Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele after staging a rally in front of the RNC office in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Kons, program associate of Immigrant Family Resource Program of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), said the activists from the FIRM will be meeting with Steele on March 31 to help in the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.

Meanwhile, Joseph Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the march was just a prelude to two weeks of events as they go back to their hometowns to continue organizing.

Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham earlier outlined their framework for comprehensive immigration reform published in the Washington Post.

Immigration reform activists praised the framework, describing it as the first concrete step toward achieving comprehensive immigration reform this year.

“(It) laid out a broad bipartisan blueprint that ensures that undocumented immigrants can work towards citizenship, crack down on bad employers, and create a flexible legal immigration system so that future immigration is controlled and orderly," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum and chair of the Reform Immigration for America campaign.

He added they are banking on the White House’s promise to put its full support behind bipartisan reform legislation.

“This framework is a good first step – and we will be working with the Administration, and leaders from both parties to ensure that 2010 is the year that Congress finally fixes America’s long-broken immigration system," Noorani said. — GMANews.TV

RP posts in Singapore, HK change work hours for OAV

The Philippine offices in Singapore and Hong Kong are changing their work hours during the overseas absentee voting period, which will run for a month starting April 10.

The Philippine Embassy in Singapore announced it will be reverting to a Monday-Friday work schedule, as it expects large numbers of voters who will be casting their votes over the weekends.

During the one-month period, the Embassy will be closed to public transactions on Saturdays and Sundays. No consular or labor services will be available on 11, 18, and 25 April and 02 and 09 May 2010, it said.

However, the Embassy will be open for such services from Monday to Friday starting April 16 until May 7.

Office hours will meanwhile continue to be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Visa applications will continue to be received from Monday to Thursday only, the Embassy added, but applicants are still advised to schedule their visit.

In Hong Kong, the Philippine Consulate General will be open from Monday to Friday starting April 11 until May 9.

It will be closed on Saturday and Sunday, the Embassy added.

The Consulate General will revert to its operations from Sundays to Thursdays starting on May 10.

There are 589,830 overseas Filipinos registered for this year’s elections. About 95,535 are Hong Kong while 31,851 are in Singapore.

For postal voters, please click here for illustrated instructions. —Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

3 Pinoy seamen ‘detained’ in Greek ship arrive in Manila

Three of the 12 Filipino seafarers virtually detained for over eight months in a Panama-flagged ship arrived in Manila Tuesday, bringing with them hopes not only for the payment of their back wages, but also for the speedy repatriation of their compatriots still in Greece.

Fifty-year-old Primo Fernandinco, who worked as a cook in the cargo carrier MV Aetea Sierra, expressed concern for the welfare of the nine other Filipinos still aboard the ship, which has been grounded in Greece since July last year.

“Tipid na lang kami sa pagkain para hindi maubos. ‘Yung tubig, kinakalawang na rin (We’re scrimping on food so it will last. As for our water containers, they’re taking up some rust too)," Fernandinco said in an interview with GMANews.TV.

Fernandinco arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on the afternoon of March 23 from Athens, along with mess men Jerry Laride and Erolin Chong Jr.

Stranded since July

The MV Aetea Sierra was impounded in the Piraeus Port in September near Athens when a case was filed against its owners by the ship charterers for its alleged failure to unload the cargo at the agreed port. Its crew had then been stranded in the ship since July last year.

The seafarers scored victory in December last year after a Greek court ruled that the ship’s crew, which also included Ukrainian and Montenegrin nationals, should get higher back wages to cover the period of July 9 to November 9 of last year, and residual claims until their actual departure from Greece. (See: Pinoys must get higher backpay – Greek court)

Fernandinco said they have already been paid their salaries for the initial four months that they were stranded, but they are still awaiting claims equivalent to roughly four months’ salary.

He described their eight-month ordeal, saying this has been the most harrowing experience for him in his almost twenty years of working as a seafarer.

“Bawal kami lumabas ‘dun. Paikut-ikot lang kami sa loob ng barko. Nagluluto pa rin ako noon para sa mga kasamahan kong Pinoy," he recounted.

(We were not allowed to go out so we just roamed inside the ship. I still cooked food for my fellow Filipino crew.)

He added they were the only ones who took this long to be repatriated, as the others have been sent home as early as just one month after the ship was grounded because of assistance from their respective embassies.

According to Fernandinco, the Philippine Embassy in Athens had told them they can be sent home any time they want, but their claims for back wages would be forfeited. The Filipino crew refused the Embassy’s offer.

No help even from agencies here

His family in the Philippines also tried asking for assistance from pertinent agencies here, to no avail.

“Pumunta kami sa OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration). Ang inalok lang sa amin, livelihood assistance pero hindi raw sila makatulong sa pagpapauwi sa kanila," his daughter Sholem said.

(We went to OWWA to ask for assistance. We were offered livelihood assistance but they said they couldn’t help in the repatriation of the Filipino workers.)

Ellene Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy, scored the Embassy for its alleged inaction on the plight of the seafarers, saying they would not have been repatriated were it not for the efforts of Filipino communities in Greece.

“The workers were very frustrated. It seemed the Embassy was better with press releases than with concrete action. They had been unresponsive," she lamented.

Four more Filipino crew are scheduled to arrive on Thursday, Sana said.

Fernandinco meanwhile said that despite his ordeal, he is planning to work overseas again as a seafarer.

“Pahinga muna ako ngayon, pero handa naman akong magbarko ulit (I’ll take a break for now, but I’m willing to go back to being a seafarer again)," Fernandinco said.—JV, GMANews.TV

Pinoys in Iran warned vs 'contracts' to carry luggage

Overseas Filipino workers in Iran were warned against falling for "contracts" to carry items or baggage from Iran to another foreign city in exchange for money or leisure trips.

Philippine Ambassador to Iran Generoso Senga said this is likely part of a modus operandi of drug-trafficking rings in the country.

"Filipino victims were asked to bring a certain item or baggage from Iran to another country, usually Bangkok, Thailand or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in exchange for money or leisure trips abroad," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in its website.

The DFA also advised the public to be vigilant when offered similar job offers in Iran and to first check the veracity of the job being offered with the Department of Labor and Employment or the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency.

Earlier, the DFA issued a warning to the public on smuggling illegal drugs in Iran after two Filipinos were apprehended for attempting to smuggle illegal drugs there.

The two were lured by offers of lucrative salaries in exchange for the seemingly easy task of transporting a package with their baggage.

But the packages were found out by the Iranian customs authorities to contain illegal drugs.

Under Sharia law, drug smuggling is punishable by life imprisonment or death by hanging.—JMA/JV, GMANews.TV

RP post in Riyadh denies neglect in repatriation of pardoned OFWs

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has denied it had "overlooked" the repatriation schedule of 11 pardoned overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the Kingdom, which resulted in the workers missing their flight.

In a statement posted on the Embassy’s Web site Tuesday, it said the workers are in the custody of Saudi jail personnel, who in turn have the sole authority to make arrangements for the OFWs’ repatriation.

"From their detention cells, the (OFWs) are directly brought to the tarmac and board the plane without going through the normal immigration procedure; they are not subjected to the departure protocols at the airport. It has to be emphasized that only Saudi authorities can bring the detainees to the airport and this Embassy does not have any authority to do so," the Embassy stated.

The 11 pardoned Filipinos were originally scheduled for repatriation to Manila on March 15, but missed their midnight flight as their group, escorted by Saudi police authorities, arrived just a minute too late at the airport. [See: 11 pardoned OFWs miss flight back to Manila]

The Embassy also said only Saudi Arabian authorities have control over the re-booking of the OFWs’ flight.

The Embassy was reacting to statements in the previous report by migrants’ rights group Migrante-Middle East, which said that while the Embassy admitted it has overlooked the OFWs’ repatriation schedule, it promised to speed up the efforts to rebook the workers’ flight.

"While the Embassy closely monitors and makes strong representations for the release of Filipino detainees who have served their sentences or have been pardoned and in certain cases, assists in submitting the tickets of the detainees, the confirmation of these flights is also done by the jail authorities," it wrote.

An earlier statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs, however, said the Embassy was arranging the rebooking for the workers’ repatriation at the next available flight.

The DFA added that the Embassy had earlier notified and coordinated with the DFA about original repatriation schedule of the OFWs.

As this developed, the DFA said at least 200 Filipinos imprisoned for petty offenses in Saudi Arabia have been pardoned and repatriated to the Philippines since December last year.

Half of the 200 pardoned are female, and half are males, according to the DFA.

The department said its embassy in Riyadh and Consulate General in Jeddah made vigorous representations for clemency for the Filipinos.

"The DFA remains focused on looking after the welfare of our OFWs, and will continue to do so," DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said.

The pardoned Filipinos previously in jail have been repatriated under a royal pardon issued by the Saudi King on December 11 for petty crime offenders. — RSJ/KBK, GMANews.TV

Cargo ship with Filipino crewmember hijacked off Oman

A Bermuda-flagged cargo ship with a Filipino crewmember on board had been hijacked off
Oman, Philippine officials in Kenya confirmed on Wednesday.

The Philippine Embassy in Nairobi said MV Talca was hijacked Tuesday off the coast of Oman, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

"On board the vessel are 23 Sri Lankans seafarers, one Filipino and one Syrian," the DFA said, citing information from the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR).

The ship was seized by pirates 120 miles off the coast of Oman, the DFA said.

There are four Filipino seafarers, in two vessels, being held captive by pirates in Somalia, the DFA said. - RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

48 Pinoy professionals take oath in Jeddah

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Lavella Onggo Dangaran, a Filipino based in this Middle Eastern country, can not believe she is now a licensed civil engineer.

“I am very excited, this is my first time to take the board exam and I passed it. Prayers, inspiration and preparation are the only thing I brought when I took the exam," she said, beaming.

The 36-year-old Iloilo native, who sought overseas employment immediately after graduating from the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) in 1996, thanked the Philippine government for giving her a chance to take the licensure exams even when she’s abroad.

Dangaran was just one of the 48 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) here who passed the board exams. They took their oaths last Friday before the officials of the Philippine Consulate and the Philippine Professional Organization (PPO)-Western Region Chapter at the Ramada Intercontinental Hotel.

Most of those who passed the exams were architects and engineers, according to the PPO.

Philippine Consulate Consul Leo Tito Ausan Jr. administered the ceremony. Like the passers, he thanked the Philippine government for bringing the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to Saudi Arabia.

PPO Western Region Chairman Engr. Romulo Bani highlighted the remarkable program undertaken by their organization in fulfilling the examinees long awaited vision to become full pledge professional architects and engineers.

Bani announced that there would be a regular board examination in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Hongkong in accordance with the Executive Order no. 835, which was signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last Oct. 2009.

EO 835 directs the Philippine Labor department through the PRC to conduct Special Professional Licensure Board Examinations for qualified (OFWs) in the Middle East and other Asian countries that have diplomatic relations with the Philippines.

Bani said the tentative schedule for the next examination will be on November 15 to 21. He said it would be the fifth Special Licensure Examination sponsored by the PPO- Western Region and the second under EO 835.

Registration for refresher course is now on-going and the schedule will start in the first week of May 2010.

Those who took their oaths last Friday are:

Architects

Jem Baraoidan Evangelista, Alberto Calisay del Rosario, Reno Gipega Gacosta, Benrajiv Jikilulla Kashim, Alfredo Martinez Lagrana Jr., Lolito Villalon Loveria Jr., Reymund Rotoni Marin, Antonio Soco Oppus, Mauro Encinares Palmares, Reynato Martinez Palomo, Federico Reyes Polintan, Rene Rongo Telmo, Marjune Ladjaalam Tingkahan;

Civil Engineers

Jojo Pasiculan Arubio, Salic Timbul Bautil, Heclair Zaballa Benito, Jefry Cayabyab Bie, Camilo Cristobal Bulusan Jr., Lavella Onggo Dangaran, Eugene Quiambao David, Ronald Baluyot dela Peña, Jessie Baniel Diaz, Joselito Amisola Elican, Kudarat Kalasuma Kamensa, Judy Rosal Malagday, Glicerio Villalor Manuel, Jesusito Cuanan Maquiling, Joey Santiago Marollano, Fernando Lorenzo Miranda Jr., Ferdinand Baldago Montallana, Jimmy Mestidio Nobleza, Renan Nucum Nool, Joel Lazaro Pozon , Marcelino Suaybaguio Rivero, Jhobe Talavera Soron, Armand Reyes Viterbo;

Mechanical Engineers

Joel Labastida Balinon, Roel Alfon Gomba Banawis, Elmer Mepieza Garciano, Alvin Catipon Labio, Jason Vergara Macasaet, Ramon Hortinela Magoliño Jr., Alfredo Rabuyo Munio, Danilo Cabuso Villanueva;

Regular Master Electricians

Melvin Bigornia Aguillon, Noel Sabellano Mongado

Regular Electrical Engineer

Marlou Nobellos Fructuoso

Professional Electrical Engineer

Yusoph Tuano Admain

- KBK, GMANews.TV

Monday, March 22, 2010

Singapore cops arrest suspect in Pinay's slay

Authorities have arrested an Indian national who is suspected to be behind the killing of a 30-year-old Filipino woman there.

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) did not identify the suspect but said he was 34 years old.

"On 17 March 2010 at about 4 p.m., the suspect was arrested in the vicinity of Kitchener Road in Little India. He (was to be) charged in Subordinate Court 26 on 19 March 2010 for an offense of murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224. If convicted, he faces the death penalty," the SPF said on its Web site.



The victim, Roselyn Reyes Pascua, was found with stab wounds in her rented room at Bencoolen Street before dawn last March 15.
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The Philippine Embassy in Singapore said Pascua entered the island city-state on February 3 as a tourist and extended her social visit pass until April 4. She was staying alone in a rented room at the Peony Mansion when the incident occurred.

The police initially identified five suspects, including three Filipino women and two Thai men.

Police worked tirelessly round the clock over the last three days to track down the suspect, the SPF said.

"Murder is a serious crime. We will spare no efforts to bring the perpetrator to justice. My officers have worked round the clock and left no stone unturned in their hunt for the suspect," said Senior Assistant Commissioner Ng Boon Gay, director of the Criminal Investigation Department.

Based on Embassy records, there are about 160,360 Filipinos in Singapore, including over 50,000 who are classified as irregular or undocumented migrants. Most of the Filipino workers there are domestic service workers and computer programmers and analysts. - JA/KBK, GMANews.TV More Share

Paris bishop visits RP to boost efforts for OFW welfare

A Roman Catholic bishop from Paris, France visited the country this week to boost efforts to protect the welfare of Filipino migrants in France, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said on Saturday.

Paris Auxiliary Bishop Eric de Moulin-Beaufort paid a visit to the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Migrant and Itinerant People (ECMI) to bolster coordination between the Filipino community in France and the Catholic Church in the country, the CBCP said in a news report posted on its website.

“He learned about the CBCP’s response and concerns affecting the OFWs and their families left behind," CBCP-EMCI executive secretary Fr. Edwin Corros said in the report.

With Moulin-Beaufort during his visit were Fr. Gil Apuli, chaplain of the Filipino community in Paris, and Elpidio Caimoy, coordinator of the Filipino Pastoral Council.

According to Apuli, at least 40,000 documented Filipinos are currently working in France, mostly in Paris, Marseilles and Nice.

During the visit, the CBCP laid down different programs and services for Filipino migrant workers in France, and for the families they left behind in the Philippines.

The CBCP is also eyeing the possibility of setting up ordinariates, or units of the Catholic Church overseen by bishops, that will serve the needs of Filipino migrants and marginalized sectors.

These plans will be discussed in a national convention of Catholic Church canon lawyers to be held from April 12 to 15 in Tagbilaran, Bohol.—Andreo C. Calonzo/JV, GMANews.TV

Filipina found innocent of drug smuggling in Australia

A Filipina tourist detained for allegedly smuggling illegal drugs in Australia has been released from jail after she was found innocent of the crime, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday.

Filipina Maria Cecilia Silva was freed by Australian Police on Thursday—after five days of detention—after packets of iced tea recovered from her at the Melbourne Airport tested negative for drugs, an article on the DFA website reported.

According to the DFA, Silva was arrested and detained last Saturday upon her arrival at the airport on suspicion that iced tea packets she was carrying contained the illegal drug methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

Australian Customs officials and the federal police expressed regret over the incident.

The Philippine Embassy in Canberra, who assisted Silva during the incident, urged Australian authorities to implement measures to ensure that similar mistakes do not happen again, the DFA reported.

Silva received a compensation of 5,000 Australian dollars (around P209,000) for the harrowing incident, according to the DFA.—Andreo C. Calonzo/JV, GMANews.TV

Afghanistan hints at job openings for Pinoys

Job openings may be awaiting Filipino engineers and technicians, particularly in the health and development sectors in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul relayed this to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo during their meeting in Manila earlier this week.

"During the meeting, Minister Rassoul likewise briefed Romulo on developments in Afghanistan, including his country's need for engineers and technicians, particularly in the health sector, as well as more development experts from the Asian region," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in an article in its Website.

Romulo and Rassoul met in Manila at the sidelines of the recently-concluded Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting (SNAMMM) on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development.

The DFA said that Romulo replied the Philippines is "ready to work with Afghanistan in those areas," but did not elaborate.

During the meeting, both officials renewed their countries' commitment to fight religious extremism and violence.

"We are one with you," Romulo told Rassoul, referring to Afghanistan's efforts against religious extremism and violence.

He stressed the success of interfaith dialogue depends on countries like Afghanistan through initiatives that foster trust and understanding and combat ignorance. — with a report by Nikka Corsino/LBG, GMANews.TV

11 pardoned OFWs miss flight back to Manila

They were just a minute too late, but 11 pardoned overseas Filipino workers missed their flight back to Manila after languishing in a Riyadh jail in Saudi Arabia for several months.

Migrants’ rights group Migrante-Middle East said the eleven were supposed to depart from Riyadh via Saudi Airlines at midnight of March 15, but jail officers brought them to the airport just a minute after their plane had left.

The eleven were among those earlier convicted of petty crimes and later granted pardon on December 11 by the King of Saudi Arabia to mark the return of crown prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz from medical treatment overseas. (See: DFA lobbies Saudi govt to include Pinoys in pardon)

“Sir, tumawag ako para sabihin sa iyo na andito pa kami sa Malaz Central Jail. Naiwan kami sa flight namin. Namuti lang mga mata ng aming pamilya sa kakahintay sa amin sa airport sa Pilipinas (Sir, I called to let you know that we’re still here at Malaz Central Jail. We missed our flight. Our families in the Philippines waited for us in vain)," OFW Arnulfo Alcantara said in a phone conversation on Thursday, as quoted by Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Alcantara, 42 years old, from Bulacan, was sent to jail along with four other OFWs in October last year for possession of alcohol, but the group had maintained the Saudi police planted bottles of liquor against them in a random search of their rented accommodation in Riyadh.

According to Monterona, Alcantara said he and the 10 others were brought by the Saudi police to the immigration office at the airport, but were told by the airport personnel that the plane had already left about a minute earlier.

Apart from Alcantara, the other pardoned OFWs were identified as Carlos Garci, Junie Balite, Edwardo Gasa, Ernesto Estrella, Richard Tinduyan, Rexel Cue, Christopher Barkin, and 3 others who were unidentified as of this posting.

The workers are still at Malaz Central Jail waiting for the new schedule of their flight back.

Monterona meanwhile said while the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh admitted that it has overlooked the OFWs’ repatriation schedule, it promised to speed up efforts to rebook the workers’ flight, possibly next week.

Alcantara lamented that they were informed of their flight schedule by Saudi authorities only on the same day according to Monterona, and that no Embassy personnel assisted them on their trip to the airport.

The Malaz Central Jail is about 45 kilometers away from the airport, which would take about an hour of travel.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh could not be reached as of posting time, as there are no offices in the Kingdom on Thursdays and Fridays.—JV, GMANews.TV

15 years after Contemplacion's death, OFWs still grappling with same issues

On the 15th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) on Wednesday marched to historic Mendiola in Manila to call for an end to government policies which they said continue to undermine migrant workers’ rights and welfare.

The workers were mostly former employees of the operations firm Annasban Group in Saudi Arabia, who stopped working October last year due to alleged unfair labor practices by the firm such as contract substitution, illegal salary reduction, and non-payment of benefits and overtime pay.



Members of Migrante International and Gabriela Women's party hold placards calling for the scrapping of policies like the OWWA Omnibus Policies and the government's labor program which, they say, victimize OFWs majority of whom are women. Jerrie M. AbellaThey were repatriated early this year after staging a hunger strike following over four months of being stranded in Riyadh. (See: Protesting OFWs in Saudi ask RP to repatriate them)

Garry Martinez, chair of the migrants’ rights group Migrante International, said that 15 years after the nation was galvanized into protest by the unjust hanging of Contemplacion in Singapore, the plight of OFWs has turned for the worse. “Appalling stories of abuse in foreign lands and the government’s neglectful response" have become everyday stories, he added.

Contemplacion, a domestic worker from Laguna, was hanged by the Singaporean government on March 17, 1995 for the murder of fellow OFW Delia Maga and the four-year-old Singaporean child under her care.

Witnesses had claimed that Contemplacion was framed by the child’s father.

Sorry plight even after returning

OFWs and their families, as well as supportive groups like Migrante, Gabriela Women’s Party and Anakpawis Party-list, joined the protest march from Morayta to Mendiola.

In the protest, former Annasban workers lamented their sorry plight in Saudi Arabia, which they say extends even after repatriation as they have yet to get the benefits due them.

“Pinapabalik-balik kami ng OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) para sa benefits namin, gaya ng medical assistance. ‘Yung financial assistance na P10,000, may ilan sa amin na hindi pa nakakakuha," caregiver Helen Manlabi said in an interview with GMANews.TV.

(We’re being made to go back and forth to OWWA for our benefits, such as medical assistance. Some of us have not yet received the P10,000 financial assistance.)

OWWA had earlier promised the Annasban workers medical, financial, and transportation assistance after staging a camp-out in front of the agency’s office. (See: OFWs claim ‘victory’ on 2nd day of OWWA camp-out)

Riza Mabubay, a former Annasban caregiver, explained that they are also claiming reimbursement of their airfare when they were repatriated, which she said practically came from their own pockets.

Their tickets are roughly 1,000 Saudi riyals each, which is equivalent to the unpaid wages they are claiming from Annasban.

Philippine labor officials in Riyadh had told them that their repatriation costs would be divided among them, their recruitment agency and their company, Mabuhay said.

“Manalo man o matalo, ipaglalaban namin ito. Mahirap sa loob namin na magsisi na lang sa huli, na hindi naming ipinaglaban ang karapatan namin. At least, wala kaming pagsisisihan," Mabubay said.

(Win or lose, we will pursue our case. It will be harder for us to regret in the end should we choose not to fight for our rights.)

The workers have already filed cases against their recruitment agencies before the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) which are scheduled for hearings this month.

They have also asked the agency to permanently ban Annasban from hiring Filipino workers. (See: Group seeks permanent ban of ‘notorious’ Saudi firm for detaining 88 OFWs)

POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili told GMANews.TV in a separate interview that the hearing schedules for the charges against recruitment agencies are currently being finalized.

“About 20 cases have already been, and they have been raffled off to hearing officers," Manalili said.

Three hearings lasting for six months are usually enough for the hearing officers to decide on the charges, she added.

Manalili also said they are reviewing the workers’ complaints for possible grounds to delist Annasban from the country’s overseas employment program.

'Gov't policy flaws'

In the same event, Migrante and the workers called for the scrapping of the OWWA Omnibus Policies and a halt to the government’s policy on labor export, which they said have only caused anguish to OFWs in distress

The Omnibus Policies, they said, are the cause of the OWWA’s “neglect" of OFWs. For one, according to these policies, an OFW’s membership ends when his or her employment expires or is terminated. Also, the said policies provide only for selective repatriation of migrant workers, and limit the coverage of benefits that OFWs and their families can avail of.

OWWA administrator Carmelita Dimzon refused to comment on the issue, saying the abolition of the Omnibus Policies is now the subject of a pending case before the Supreme Court.

“We cannot comment on that. Petitions have already been submitted to the Supreme Court. We will just wait for the court’s petition," she told GMANews.TV.

A challenge to presidential bets

Migrante meanwhile challenged presidential candidates to propose alternatives to the existing practice of labor export, which it said makes Filipino workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

“For those aiming to become the next president, heed our call: long-term domestic job generation based on genuine agrarian reform and development of local industries is the only way out of the vicious cycle of exploitation caused by the labor export program," Martinez said.

Last year, close to two million Filipinos left the country to work abroad, which roughly translates to 4,500 workers being deployed daily—a record-high in overseas deployment.

Remittances by OFWs also ballooned to over US$17.3 billion last year, which grew by 5.6% from US$16.4 billion in 2008. (See: Filipinos sent home a record $17.3B last year)

The Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continue to be the top destinations of OFWs according to the POEA, despite increasing number of cases of abuse suffered by OFWs in the region.—JV, GMANews.TV

Two Filipinos found guilty of human trafficking in HK.

Two Filipinos were found guilty by Hong Kong’s Wan Chai District Court of human trafficking in charges filed by their Filipino victims.

In a release posted on the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) website on Wednesday, the two Filipinos, a club owner and staff, are facing a maximum penalty of not more than three years.

Sentencing is scheduled on March 22.

In June last year, two victims were recruited by a relative in Macau to work as waitresses in the Chinese special administrative region, the release said.

However, upon arrival, they were told jobs were waiting for them in Hong Kong.

The victims traveled to Hong Kong, where they were subsequently forced to work as entertainers or prostitutes in a club in the Chinese territory’s Wan Chai district.

The victims were assisted by other Filipinos in the area who reported their plight to the Philippine Consulate General.

In a raid at the club by the Hong Kong Police Force, nine Filipinos were arrested, including the Filipino club owner and staff.

The two were jailed for human trafficking, while the seven others were ordered deported to the Philippines.

“The CFO will provide the necessary assistance, such as livelihood support and filing of charges against their relative in Macau, upon the arrival of the victims in the Philippines," the agency said.

The Filipino victims are in the custody of a Hong Kong-managed shelter house. - RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

Friday, March 12, 2010

RP lauded for progress on gender equality in UN session

The Philippines recently received kudos from other member-states of the United Nations for its efforts to promote gender equality and women empowerment.

In a release posted on its Website, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the commendation was made at the 23rd Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the promotion of women's rights.

The Special Session coincided with the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women held last March 1 to 12 in New York.

The DFA said the gathering was also meant to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, hailed as an important international agenda aimed at achieving greater equality and empowerment for women.

Myrna Yao, Philippine representative and chairwoman of the Philippine Commission on the Status of Women, reported the country's policies and programs to promote gender equality and women empowerment.

These include the enactment into law of the Magna Carta of Women, which involve the appointment of the Commission on Human Rights as the gender and development ombudsman to ensure the promotion and protection of women’s rights, and the institution of a Gender Audit, assigned as the task of the Commission on Audit, to perform annual audits on the use of government offices of their gender and development budgets.

Laws have also been enacted to combat trafficking in persons, rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence through inter-agency councils, performance standards and assessment tools that ensure their effective implementation, the release further stated.

The 54th Session seeks to chart the progress made by governments since 1995, share experiences and learn from best practices in overcoming obstacles and challenges in the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment.

According to the DFA, the Philippine delegation joined more than 7,000 delegates from around the world in attending the UN session.

For her part, Senator Pilar Juliana “Pia" Cayetano delivered a statement on the progress made by Parliaments in enforcing gender equality and women's rights and their effective implementation, in addressing discriminatory legislation and in developing a more gender sensitive legal framework.

Cayetano is President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians.

The Philippine Delegation to the 54th Session included representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Commission on Women, Commission on Audit, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Agriculture, Commission on Human Rights, Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Senate, as well as members of civil society.

The Philippines likewise co-sponsored the launch of the UNAIDS Agenda for Accelerated Country Action for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV (2010-2014) with celebrated artist Annie Lennox who is also an activist for women and HIV victims.

The five-year action plan addressed gender inequalities and human rights violations that continue to put women and girls at risk of HIV infection.

It also called on the UN system to support governments, civil society and development partners in reinforcing country actions to put women and girls at the centre of the AIDS response, ensuring that their gender rights are protected.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

RP repatriates 26 OFWs from Doha

Twenty-six distressed overseas Filipino workers arrived in the Philippines Thursday following their repatriation from Doha in Qatar.

According to a release posted on the Website of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the OFWs arrived 3:35 p.m. aboard Qatar Airways Flight 646.

The DFA said many of the workers were those under the custody of the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC), which serves as the temporary shelter of distressed OFWs, and who were endorsed to the Qatari Deportation Center for eventual repatriation back home.

During his visit to Doha this February, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Marianito Roque initiated the mass repatriation of the 26 workers and pledged to provide plane tickets for their return back to Manila, the release further stated.

The Philippine Embassy in Doha, in coordination with the Office of the Labor Attaché and Workers Welfare Representatives (POLO-OWWA) in Doha, made representations with the Deportation Center authorities to facilitate the repatriation of the 26 OFWs.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Thursday, March 11, 2010

No escorts allowed at new DFA facility for passport applicants

In a bid to prevent fixers from ruining its new passport processing system, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will adopt a “no escorts" rule inside its new consular building.

The DFA made this clear on the weekend before it starts accepting passport applications with confirmed appointments at its new consular building on Monday, March 8.

“To avoid being victimized by fixers, applicants are advised to deal only with DFA-OCA (Office of Consular Affairs) personnel inside the building. No escorts are allowed to accompany individual applicants," the DFA said on its website.

It added applicants will need to bring necessary requirements such as the application form available for download at the DFA website and at the reception desks of the new consular building.

On the other hand, applicants are no longer required to bring photographs and will instead have their pictures taken using ePassport data capturing machines at DFA-OCA.

The DFA said the new ePassport technology has built-in capacity to detect fraud by capturing biometrics, signature and fingerprints of applicants.

“Applicants are also advised that only genuine documents should be submitted," the DFA said.

The new 7,000-square meter, four-storey OCA building is located at the corner of Macapagal Avenue and Bradco Street, Aseana Business Park.

Applicants may set an appointment by going online at www.passport.com.ph or by calling 737-1000, while travel agents can secure an appointment at www.dfa.gov.ph or email at scheduler@dfa-appointment.net.

They may also call 834-4961, 834-4855 and 834-3707 for other details.

The DFA likewise stressed only those with confirmed appointments will be accommodated at the new facility.

“This appointment system will be strictly implemented to enable DFA to pre-process information submitted in advance by an applicant, thus avoiding long queues, as experienced by walk-in applicants at the DFA-OCA main office in Roxas Boulevard," OCA Assistant Secretary Renato Villapando said.

The new OCA building is part of the ongoing modernization program in the agency to improve its frontline services, which include harnessing new technologies in passport and visa issuances and streamlined procedures in the authentication of documents.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Arroyo asked to veto bill amending law on OFWs

A number of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) groups urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last week to veto amendments to the migrant workers’ law, which they said are anti-OFW particularly the provision on mandatory insurance.

In a letter dated March 4, the groups said while the intent of some of the amendments are laudable, the bill amending the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 or Republic Act 8042 should be vetoed as a whole for several reasons.

The groups include members of the Consultative Council on OFWs (CCOFW), or representatives of migrant workers organizations, labor groups, trade unions, seafarers’ organizations, policy and research institutes and individual advocates.

The bill’s provision on compulsory insurance, the groups said, applies only to OFWs deployed through recruitment agencies and excludes the majority of Filipino workers whose services were not contracted through agencies.

The group said data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) covering 1990- 2008 show that only an average of 26.6 percent of the total number of OFWs are deployed through recruitment agencies, while the bulk of workers renew their contracts on their own or are hired through government placement or are direct hires.

Mandatory insurance should also not be legislated, they argued, saying recruitment or manning agencies must voluntarily insure their workers.

“In the case of the seafarers, prior to sailing, they are already enrolled by their employers in a comprehensive insurance policy, together with the vessels they work in. In the final version of the amendatory law, the proposed insurance is extended to seafarers. However, the benefits are far inferior to those enjoyed by seafarers under the current insurance scheme," the groups stated in the letter.

The group also questioned the ability of pertinent government agencies to implement the amendments to the law, as they scored the POEA for allegedly failing to curb illegal recruitment as it is tasked to do so under the law.

Instead, the groups urge the government to work on forging rights-based labor agreements with receiving countries, which they said will do more in protecting the rights of OFWs.

The groups also expressed opposition to the retention of RA 8042’s section 10, which limits money claims of OFWs terminated without due cause to just the equivalent of three months’ salary for every year of the unexpired contract.

“[O]n the strength of our conviction that the amendatory law on RA8042, particularly the provision on the compulsory insurance provision and the non-repeal of the particular provision on Section 10 on money claims, will harm, not benefit, our migrant workers, we believe that you (Arroyo) should veto this bill," the groups maintained.

The letter has over 40 signatories, including Center for Migrant Advocacy, Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party, Philippine Migrants Rights Watch, Alliance of Progressive Labor, and Focus on the Global South.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

DFA chief favors deployment of more Filipino peacekeepers

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is looking at increasing the deployment of Filipino personnel to the United Nations’ (UN) peacekeeping operations to make the country’s participation in global peacekeeping efforts more effective.

Addressing Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo said he would like to see an expansion of Philippine participation in UN peacekeeping operations by deploying more personnel to support UN operations in the field and at UN headquarters in New York.

“We hope to be able to see more Filipinos serving not only in existing and emerging missions but in the United Nations Secretariat as well," he said in a statement posted on the department’s Web site.

Romulo added that officers and personnel to be sent to UN operations should be trained for the job and properly equipped to carry out their missions. As such, he said new equipment must be acquired for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police, whose personnel make up the Philippine peacekeeping contingent deployed across the world.

“In the next few years, we hope to be able to upgrade our peacekeeping capabilities with the acquisition of equipment that would allow us to more effectively respond to UN requests for troop contributions," he said.

The Philippines signed in 2008 with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon the UN Standby Arrangements System, which involves contributing specified resources, such as troops, within an agreed response time for peacekeeping operations.

Romulo added a Philippine peacekeeping roadmap will be drawn up by the Inter-agency Council on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, which, according to him, will be strengthened and transformed into a superbody that shall provide “the vision and direction for (the Philippines’) participation in UN operations."

The inter-agency council which he chairs has the departments of National Defense, and Interior and Local Government as members.

The council is to be overseen by a secretariat that will be staffed by Filipino diplomats and peacekeepers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

Romulo said the Policy Framework and Guidelines on Philippine Participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations is in the process of being reviewed by an inter-agency technical working group.

“We hope to start making the necessary revisions to make Philippine peacekeeping policies more responsive to present-day realities," he said.

The Philippines is presently the 24th in the UN’s list of top troop contributing countries, with a total of 1,062 Filipino military and police personnel serving in Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Darfur, Golan Heights, Haiti, Kashmir, Liberia, Sudan and Timor-Leste.

The figure represents a 40-percent increase in the number of peacekeepers serving overseas compared to the total Philippine peacekeeping deployments in 2009.

Last January 12, three Filipino UN peacekeepers and a Filipino UN staff member died in the magnitude 7-quake that hit Haiti. - Jerrie Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

No Filipino casualty in Turkey quake - DFA

There were no Filipino casualties reported in the 6.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.

"The Philippine Embassy in Ankara informed the DFA that there is no reported injury or casualty among Filipinos during the earthquake that hit the province of Elazig in Eastern Turkey," DFA spokesperson Eduardo Malaya said in a text message to GMANews.TV.

"Most of the Filipinos, who number some 5,500, reside in the city of Istanbul and nearby areas," he added.

As of 2008, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas estimates there are 5,444 Filipinos in Turkey.

Of the figure, 82 are recorded by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration as overseas Filipino workers. - Jerrie Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

2 more Pinoy seafarers freed; 3 remain in hands of Somali pirates

Two more Filipino seafarers held captive by Somali pirates were released Sunday night, reducing the number of Filipinos still in the hands of outlaws in the East African country to three.

A statement posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Web site said the two were among the crew of Thai Union 3, the Thai-owned fishing vessel that was hijacked off Seychelles last October 29.

The vessel was also carrying 23 Russians and two Ghanaians, the DFA said.

The department, citing information reaching the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers, said the released Filipino crew members were all in good condition.

Details for the repatriation are still being coordinated, the DFA said.

On Sunday afternoon, 17 Filipino seafarers who were released by Somali pirates after almost a year in captivity arrived in the country from Kaoshung, Taiwan. The 17 gained their freedom last February 11.

Meanwhile, three more Filipinos remain in captivity in Somalia on board the MV St. James Park. The DFA said this is the lowest number of Filipino captives in Somalia in recent times.

The DFA said it is coordinating with the ship’s principal and local manning agency for the speedy and safe release of the three seafarers. - Jerrie Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

Filipinos in Singapore receive automated poll briefing

The Philippines’ election and foreign affairs officials gave Filipinos in Singapore a briefing about the country’s first automated polls.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) official Armando Velasco led the event, which was attended by Filipino community leaders in the Asian city-state, the Philippine Embassy in Singapore reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Ambassador Nestor Padalhin, Vice Chairman of the Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat, also attended the briefing.

The briefing included instructions regarding the use of the new ballot and automated poll machines, also known as the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS), the city-state’s Philippine embassy said.

“Nine PCOS devices will be delivered to the Philippine Embassy in Singapore for the 2010 elections," the DFA said on its website on Monday.

Automated overseas absentee voting (OAV) will be conducted only in Singapore and Hong Kong, from April 10 to May 10. Overseas voting elsewhere will be postal or manual.

Singapore has the second highest number of registered overseas absentee voters in Asia at 31,851, the DFA noted.

During the briefing, Velasco cited key features and advantages of automated voting, which is as follows:


As the names of all the candidates are pre-printed on the ballot, there is no need to write their names on the ballot, minimizing spelling errors.


The voter only needs to shade with a special pen the blank oval
beside the names of the chosen candidates, and insert the accomplished ballot in the PCOS.


Counting and canvassing of votes will be automated and done by the PCOS, ensuring accuracy and speedy results.


At the end of the 30-day voting period, the results will be transmitted to the Comelec in the Philippines a few hours after the close of voting.

For her part, Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Minda Cruz reminded registered voters to vote as early as possible.

“I call on all registered overseas absentee voters to exercise their right of suffrage early, preferably during the first two weeks of voting, instead of waiting for the last week, to avoid long queues in our Embassy," she said.

Overseas absentee voters can only vote for the national elective positions of President, Vice President, 12 senators and one Party-list Representative, but not for local positions.

Registered voters in Singapore will be required to vote in person at the Philippine Embassy at 20 Nassim Road.

The Embassy will be open for voting for 30 straight days (April 10-May 10), including weekends, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, except on the last day of voting when it will close at 6 p.m.

Voters must bring their valid Philippine passport and identification card (PR card, S-Pass, E-Pass or Work Permit).

Before proceeding to the Embassy, the voter must check if his/her name is in the Certified List of Overseas Absentee Voters (CLOAV) found in the Comelec website.

Only overseas absentee voters whose name appears in the CLOAV will be allowed to vote. - RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

Filipinos in Singapore receive automated poll briefing

The Philippines’ election and foreign affairs officials gave Filipinos in Singapore a briefing about the country’s first automated polls.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) official Armando Velasco led the event, which was attended by Filipino community leaders in the Asian city-state, the Philippine Embassy in Singapore reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Ambassador Nestor Padalhin, Vice Chairman of the Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat, also attended the briefing.

The briefing included instructions regarding the use of the new ballot and automated poll machines, also known as the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS), the city-state’s Philippine embassy said.

“Nine PCOS devices will be delivered to the Philippine Embassy in Singapore for the 2010 elections," the DFA said on its website on Monday.

Automated overseas absentee voting (OAV) will be conducted only in Singapore and Hong Kong, from April 10 to May 10. Overseas voting elsewhere will be postal or manual.

Singapore has the second highest number of registered overseas absentee voters in Asia at 31,851, the DFA noted.

During the briefing, Velasco cited key features and advantages of automated voting, which is as follows:


As the names of all the candidates are pre-printed on the ballot, there is no need to write their names on the ballot, minimizing spelling errors.


The voter only needs to shade with a special pen the blank oval
beside the names of the chosen candidates, and insert the accomplished ballot in the PCOS.


Counting and canvassing of votes will be automated and done by the PCOS, ensuring accuracy and speedy results.


At the end of the 30-day voting period, the results will be transmitted to the Comelec in the Philippines a few hours after the close of voting.

For her part, Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Minda Cruz reminded registered voters to vote as early as possible.

“I call on all registered overseas absentee voters to exercise their right of suffrage early, preferably during the first two weeks of voting, instead of waiting for the last week, to avoid long queues in our Embassy," she said.

Overseas absentee voters can only vote for the national elective positions of President, Vice President, 12 senators and one Party-list Representative, but not for local positions.

Registered voters in Singapore will be required to vote in person at the Philippine Embassy at 20 Nassim Road.

The Embassy will be open for voting for 30 straight days (April 10-May 10), including weekends, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, except on the last day of voting when it will close at 6 p.m.

Voters must bring their valid Philippine passport and identification card (PR card, S-Pass, E-Pass or Work Permit).

Before proceeding to the Embassy, the voter must check if his/her name is in the Certified List of Overseas Absentee Voters (CLOAV) found in the Comelec website.

Only overseas absentee voters whose name appears in the CLOAV will be allowed to vote. - RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

OFW families spending less on food, more on health — ADB study

JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO, OFW Journalism Consortium

More families of overseas Filipino workers are spending less on food and more on health, a study by the Asian Development Bank revealed.

Using econometric estimations, Filipino Alvin Ang, Indian Shikha Jha, and Indonesian Guntur Sugiyarto noted that the percentage share of expenditures of migrant households to food went down slightly, from 44.9 percent in 2000 to 43.3 percent in 2006.

But expenditures to health are increasing (from 2.3 percent in 2000 to three percent) while allocations for durables are steady (2.2 percent in 2000, 2.2 in 2006).

Remittances “do not have a significant influence on other items of expenditure, particularly investment spending on education, health care, and durable goods," said the authors of “Remittances and Household Behavior in the Philippines."

Whether it’s a crisis year or not, Ang told the OFW Journalism Consortium that the share of spending for food by households in the Philippines receiving remittances is lower even with rising remittances.

Some 18.05 percent of all Filipino households received cash from abroad in the year 2000, ADB estimations show. This figure rose to 20.72 percent in 2003 and 23.3 percent in 2006.

“[This is] because these families are getting increased incomes, and also spend on other items," said Ang who also teaches economics at the University of Santo Tomas.

Hence, Ang and his colleagues concluded in the paper, there’s no evidence consumption is being fueled solely by remittances.

This view douses the oft-quoted analysts’ view that prompted property developers, telecommunication companies, insurance firms, and shopping malls to chase the money of overseas Filipinos.

Not even billions of dollars coming from over-eight million Filipinos overseas can provide clear proof remittances have been stirring domestic demand in sectors such as education, health care, and durable goods.

“[Our] analysis…does not support evidence of remittances contributing toward re-balancing growth by creating domestic demand, except for food."

Spend

The ADB paper is among the first papers to precisely show how OFWs and their households spend their remittances, even as previous studies have observed that overseas Filipinos spend their remittances on “conspicuous consumption" or “unproductive expenses".

The authors analyzed data from the 2000, 2003, and 2006 Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES) of the National Statistics Office, and looked at the income and expenditures of both migrant and non-migrant households.

The data used were prior to the global economic crisis of 2008 since government has yet to process the FIES of 2009.

Ang, however, said it does not matter whether there is a crisis or not. “The same remittance economy is affected."

If the 2009 FIES data would be available at the least by 2011, Ang himself said he would be interested to determine if the “shock event" called the global economic crisis “would have stopped or diminished the expenditures of migrant households on certain items".

Still, the authors said their conclusion on remittances and domestic demand wasn’t definitive.

What we looked at, or attempted to look at, is what we call “reverse causality", Ang said explaining that remittances affect domestic demand, and vice versa.

The ADB paper looked at how remittances impacted on poverty and household expenditure, and the reverse, he added.

The paper noted that overseas Filipino households’ spending for education are fairly stable (4.5 percent in 2000 to 4.4 in 2006), as well as for housing operations (2.0 percent in 2000 to 2.1 percent in 2006).

Not surprisingly, spending for transportation and communication (including mobile phone expenses to reach loved ones abroad) increased from 6.2 percent in 2000 to 7.2 percent in 2006.

But comparing these expenditures to those of non-migrant households, the percentage shares of expenditures of migrant households to food are lesser than non-migrant households.

Plus, the percentage shares of expenditures of migrant households to health, education, durables, transport and communication and housing operations are higher than the percentage share expenditures of non-migrant households in these allocations.

Savings

The paper noted that if a migrant or non-migrant household with five members has P75,000 per annum (roughly $1,667 at US1=P45) or P15,000 per person per year, that household is out of poverty.

All migrant households are “automatically" part of that group, Ang said.

In the 2000 FIES, migrant households with an average annual income of P32,242 form the lowest quintile group. The highest –fifth income quintile group– would have an P374,621 annually. Six years later, the average annual income for the first quintile group is P41,543 and the fifth income group is P455,481.

Notably, Ang said, the number migrant households belonging to the lowest income group is increasing, from 4.3 percent of all migrant households in 2000 to 7.08 percent in 2006.

As shown in the three FIES years, the first quintile group of migrant household got most of their incomes from entrepreneurial income, while the fifth quintile group had most of their incomes from remittances abroad, placed under “non-agricultural wages" in the FIES.

This is even if among the income sources of all quintile groups of migrant households are “cash received from abroad". For the fifth quintile income group, cash received from abroad increased to 14.74 percent in 2006, from 11.63 percent in 2000.

Remittances from abroad can fall under two items in the FIES: “non-agricultural wages" and “cash from abroad".

Officials of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas cite in previous media pronouncements its quarterly consumer expectations survey to show that OFW households are increasingly saving, and that their program for financial literacy to OFWs is working.

However, FIES data crunched by the ADB reveal that the first, second, third fourth and fifth quintile income groups’ allocations of household incomes to savings are all decreasing by percentage share.

Probability estimates made by the authors also showed that households savings are “very important" in lifting migrant and non-migrant Filipino households out of poverty.

“If only the OFW saves more, the more that the probability for them and their households will improve their lot increases," Ang said.

Remittance inflows to the Philippines in 2009 reached $17.348 billion. ADB, in 2005, released a landmark study on OFW remittances that included remittance dynamics, remittance usage, and OFWs’ behavior in using remittance channels. - OFW Journalism Consortium/GMANews.TV

No end in sight for OFW woes in Saudi firm, as more workers plead for help

Migration, for many people around the world, is sometimes the best, if not the only, option to improve their life choices, according to the United Nations Development Programme. For some Filipino workers now stranded in Saudi Arabia, however, overseas employment proved to be a choice they regret having made.

Now on their third day of staging a hunger strike, five more Pinays in the Kingdom are pleading with the Philippine government to speed up efforts to repatriate them, about two months after they stopped working in protest of what they allege as harsh work conditions.

The five overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are all women caregivers employed by the Annasban Group, a multimillion-riyal maintenance and operations firm previously implicated in several other complaints of unfair labor practices.

Workers Rolmar Castañeda, Marietta Montaño, Jane Gerarman and Leonor Agorilla said in an interview with GMANews.TV they have been “detained" in the company-owned facility in Riyadh for about two months now, while awaiting results of their request to be sent home.

Glory Barangan, meanwhile, stopped working early February and has been with the four other OFWs in the same facility for a month now.

Early this year, 43 other OFWs from Annasban have been repatriated by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) also after refusing to go to work on similar grounds. Now, the five workers are calling on the government to extend them the same help. (See: Repatriated OFWs from ME fighting new battle in Manila)

Caregiver had herpes zoster

In between sobs, Agorilla recalled in an interview with GMANews.TV her ordeal after working for over a year as a caregiver for Majma Rehabilitation Center.

Agorilla had worked as a caregiver, instead of cleaner as indicated in the contract she signed here in the Philippines, for a year and six months until she was diagnosed in January with herpes zoster or shingles, a painful and blistering skin rash. (See: Pinay caregiver in Riyadh seeks repatriation due to illness)

She suspects that she contracted the disease from one of the patients under her care. She was then sent back to Annasban, which deployed her to the medical facility.

“Inalok akong ipagamot ng Annasban, pero ang kundisyon, babalik ako sa trabaho. Ayoko nang bumalik ‘dun. Gusto ko na lang umuwi. Nahihirapan na ako (I was offered medical help by Annasban on the condition that I go back to work, which I don’t want to do. I just want to go home. The conditions are difficult for me)," Agorilla said.

She disclosed that she was never given any protective gear or vaccines before deployment. No information was likewise given about the medical conditions of the patients she was assigned to handle.

The food allowance and a day off specified in the original contract also never materialized, as she said workers were made to work 12 hours daily with no additional pay.

In fact, the agreed salary of 650 Saudi riyals (about P7,900) was reduced by a 100-riyal deduction every month, and she was never allowed to take on a second job as promised by her recruitment agency to augment her income.

Every month, she and the other workers were allowed to go out of the company-provided lodging facility for only 30 minutes to buy their groceries. During pay days, the workers had to surrender their ATM cards to the company driver, who would in turn be the one to draw out their salaries as their own movements were restricted.

Agorilla said she has now recovered from her illness, but she vows never to go back to that kind of work.

“Gusto ko na talagang umuwi. Hirap na hirap na ako. Umiiyak na lang ako tuwing naririnig ko ang mga anak ko, tinatanong ako kung kailan ako uuwi (I really want to go home. I’m just so weary. Whenever I hear my kids ask me when I’ll be coming home, I just break down and cry)," Agorilla said.

A 40 year-old native of Ilocos Sur, Agorilla left her two children, aged five and two years old, with relatives in Rodriguez town (formerly Montalban) in Rizal province

Drudgery was too much

The other workers, meanwhile, complained of similarly dire working conditions. Castañeda, Montaño and Gerarman started working for Annasban in September 2008 as cleaners, instead of caregivers for which they applied.

Apart from citing similar contract violations such as reduced wages, non-issuance of benefits, prolonged working hours, and virtual “detention" in the lodging facility, the three took as the last straw the company’s decision to transfer them to another job site, transporting them first to Al Hassa, and then to Riyadh.

“’Nung sinabi naman na ililipat kami sa Jeddah, ‘dun na, nag-stop work na kami (When they said that we will again be transferred to Jeddah, that was it for us, we stopped working)," Castañeda said.

Barangan decided to stop working in early February, or three months before her three-year contract was set to expire, saying that she could no longer take the drudgery she was being forced to go through.

The five workers said they are now being forced by Annasban to pay 5,000 riyals (about P61,314) to cover their deployment costs after breaching their contracts.

“Saan kami kukuha ng ganung halaga, eh wala nga kaming trabaho (Where are we supposed to get that amount, when we have already stopped working)?" Agorilla said, adding they currently do laundry jobs for the other employees in the lodging house for 50 riyals (about P613).

‘The OFWs are at fault’

Amid their seemingly hopeless conditions, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and OWWA in Riyadh appear equally helpless, to the point that one official says the workers’ plight may actually be of their own making.

“Sila ang may pagkukulang dahil nag-stop work sila, kaya ang kaya lang nating gawin ay makiusap sa Annasban na pauwiin sila (They are at fault here because they stopped work, so all we can do is ask Annasban to allow them to go home)," said welfare officer Nestor Burayag in a separate interview.

He said that negotiations with Annasban are ongoing, but added that he has no idea when the OFWs can be repatriated. Normally, the company would be entitled to reimbursement of costs it incurred when employees breach their contracts and stop working, he said.

OWWA administrator Carmelita Dimzon said in another interview that the OFWs’ repatriation is “solely" dependent on Annasban.

“Hangga’t hindi ma-negotiate sa employer na mabigyan sila ng exit visa, hindi sila makakauwi. Exit visa lang ang pamamaraan para mapauwi sila (Unless we can negotiate with the employer to issue them exit visas, they can’t go home. Exit visas are the only way for them to be repatriated)," Dimzon explained.

She added that OWWA is constantly assisting the five OFWs as the agency is mandated to do so, saying it is doing everything to speed up the workers’ repatriation.

Attempts to get in touch with Annasban meanwhile proved futile, as the company could not be reached by phone as of posting time. Inquiries sent via e-mail as early as February have remained unanswered.

Previous ban vs Annasban

Annasban had been disqualified from participating in the overseas employment program in 2005 due to a number of previous complaints against the company. The order was lifted in 2008 after Riyadh Labor Attaché Rustico Dela Fuente said the cases had been resolved and the agency had reformed its system of employing OFWs.

Records from the migrants’ rights group Migrante International however show that even during the three-year ban, the company was able to recruit OFWs. In fact, Migrante had received requests for assistance from at least 137 OFWs in five separate complaint cases, ranging from contract substitution and illegal extension of contract duration, to prolonged working hours and physical abuse. (See: Group seeks permanent ban of notorious Saudi firm for detaining 88 OFWs)

Annasban hires Filipino workers through recruitment agencies Placewell International Service Corporation, Saveway International, Global Jobsearch Services Inc., United Placeman Philippines Inc., MHHR Manpower Recruitment & Placement Agency Corp. and GMBLT Manpower Services Inc., according to Migrante.

The non-government organization Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan estimates that the Annasban employs at least 800 Filipino workers.

In the meantime, on the third day of their hunger strike, Agorilla and her four companions refused to partake of the bread, rice, sardines and noodles sent them by the POLO and OWWA. This is only the second time they received food supply from these agencies since they stopped working, they alleged.

“Baka pag namatay ako, makauwi ang bangkay ko (If I die, maybe they’ll send my body home)," Agorilla ruefully said. She then hastened to terminate the call, fearing that the company’s guards might see her and confiscate her phone, her only remaining contact with her children, as well as with groups and agencies she fervently hopes will be able to assist her and other Pinays suffering a similar plight.—JV, GMANew

OFWs end OWWA camp-out in ‘victory’

JERRIE M. ABELLA, GMANews.TV

Repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) camping out in front of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Pasay City on Friday received financial assistance from the agency amounting to P10,000 each.

In a statement, migrants’ rights group Migrante International described it as an “unprecedented victory" for the 43 OFWs who were repatriated from Saudi Arabia after staging a hunger strike. The OFWs were former employees of the operations firm Annasban Group.

“This camp-out is an unprecedented victory for OFWs, because it shows what can be gained through collective and militant struggle. From their hunger strike in Riyadh to their camp-out in OWWA, these women workers of Annasban staunchly defended their rights, since the Arroyo government has consistently refused to do so," said Migrante chair Garry Martinez.

The OFWs clinched the deal in conciliation talks Thursday night, the third and last day of the group’s camp-out, after vowing not to leave until their demands are met.

Apart from the financial assistance, OWWA administrator Carmelita Dimzon said in an interview with GMANews.TV the agency will also shoulder travel expenses for workers who are going back to their provinces.

Workers may also undergo medical check-up from OWWA-accredited hospitals and clinics, and the National Kidney Institute.

According to Martinez, some of the workers complained of ailments such as high fever, jaundice and manas or edema upon repatriation.

The family of Elsie Pelayo, one of the OFWs who died several days after repatriation, will also receive a P20,000 burial benefit package.

“While we are proud of what we have achieved in this camp-out, the Arroyo government should be ashamed that we had to resort to starving ourselves and sleeping on the streets just to get what we rightfully deserve. What we asked for was not even a tenth of what OWWA earns from OFWs every day," OFW Joy Flancia said in the same statement.

According to Migrante, OWWA reportedly earns over P5 million every day from the $25 (about P1,150) membership fee from OFWs, about 4,500 of whom leave the country daily based on estimates.

Flancia added the camp-out opened their eyes to the plight of other OFWs, especially their five co-workers who are still in Saudi Arabia. The five OFWs, also from Annasban, are staging a hunger strike in Riyadh to pressure the Philippine government to speed up efforts to repatriate them.

As this developed, the OFWs said they will file a complaint against an OWWA security guard who allegedly hit Flancia on the head and stepped on her fingers as she was lying down before the agency’s doors.

Dimzon meanwhile maintained there is no legal basis for OWWA to compensate the workers for their unpaid salaries from Annasban.

“They cannot force OWWA to pay them the salaries they say their employer still owe them. But we referred them to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. The POEA is the regulatory agency that can order the recruitment agency or Annasban Co. to settle the issue," Dimzon explained.

Cases against the OFWs’ recruitment agencies have already been filed before the POEA. Martinez added similar complaints will also be filed before the National Labor Relations Commission.

OWWA likewise refused to refund the OFWs’ repatriation cost, amounting to P15,000 each, which was reportedly deducted by Annasban from the workers’ unpaid salaries.

“Cases similar to that of Annasban workers will continue to arise as long as the OWWA Omnibus Policies are in place. These policies, enacted two years into the Arroyo government, have made OWWA inutile in ensuring the rights and welfare of OFWs," said Martinez.—JV, GMANews.TV

Wife takes migration costs for peanuts

JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO and ISAGANI DE LA PAZ, OFW Journalism Consortium

IBAAN, Batangas — A Scuffed brown wooden bench in front of a school serves as a throne of the struggles endured by women left behind by migrant spouses.

The bench at Teodoro M. Luansing College in neighboring town Rosario is where Marivic Valencia, 43, sells adobong mani (roasted peanuts) during her school break and in-between taking care of her two children.

The P200 daily profit she earns bankrolls many things. Aside from the school needs of 17-year-old son Christopher and milk for her two-year-old Christina, what she earns supplements her own schooling.

Valencia is now on her third year in the college’s Computer Science degree program.

The money also supplements what husband Rogelio sends from working as a construction worker in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“If I don’t do these things, the remittance from Rogelio will not be enough for sure. I have to do my share here."

At an average, Valencia says her husband sends P9,000 a month; the largest P25,000.

She said this may be high enough for some but Valencia said she is looking at the future when her husband would stop working overseas and stay with the family.

“You may have lots of money, but that will be of no use if the family’s apart."
Hence, she went into business as well as tried to finish a degree.

She put up a home-based convenience store and also went into hog and poultry-raising.

However, her hogs and chickens caught a fatal virus and all died, leaving her indebted.

She was also sued by creditors.

Valencia said she only told Rogelio about the lawsuit, who encouraged her to settle the debt.

Having survived that, Rogelio decided to go back to the KSA for another job stint.

“We do not aspire to become rich. We just want to live a simple life."

Simple

The simple life Valencia lives starts before the break of dawn.

At 5 o’clock, she cooks breakfast for her son. While her baby’s still asleep, she goes to the local market to buy the day’s meal and the peanuts she would cook, pack, and sell for the day.

House chores and taking care of her baby follow.

Right after lunch, she walks from their house to the bench at Luansing College to sell peanuts for P10 each brown pocket paper bags.

Sales, she said, are enough to give son Christopher a day’s fare of P100 from Rosario to Lyceum of Batangas (in Batangas City, the provincial capital) and back, and enough to buy milk for baby Christine.

She only stops selling to go to class, which starts late afternoon and ends at near dusk.

Upon arriving home, Valencia takes over the care of her baby from a relative who lives near.

Only after feeding her children does she review her lessons and work on her assignment in class.

During weekends, Valencia performs her role as president of the Rosario OFW Association, a small self-help group of OFW family members and former OFWs.

Valencia says perseverance has kept her going.

She’s also not ashamed by selling or by studying alongside far-younger classmates.

“I don’t want to ask for more money every time [from my husband]. I don’t want to borrow money, too."

In a country where many spouses are separated due to overseas work, Valencia said she always thinks her husband is just “beside her", especially during difficult times.

“I [try to] understand the situation [my husband is in] there [at Saudi Arabia]," she added.

Valencia said the spouse is also a key actor here.

“The spouse is the one who will [strengthen] your resolve."

Entrepreneur

Valencia's entrepreneurship is what advocate May Ann Villalba said can reverse the imbalance of power characterizing migration.

In her presentation at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City last February, Villalba of the Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation identified three ways to do this: saving, investing, and going into business.

Savings, she said, reduce vulnerability and build capital. Investments, on the other hand, enable the migrant worker to plan for productive return and re-integration. Doing so also creates financial value and gives access to productive assets.

By entrepreneurship, the migrant and his or her family build productive activity and create jobs.

Valencia appears to be on her way to achieving the latter.

From just selling roasted peanuts, she has gone into cooking peanut butter.
Here, she said, trust is a premium.

Valencia cited that one time, she gave 30 bottles of peanut butter worth P2,500 to a woman she met for the first time during a meeting.

Easily the lady can run away with the money and Valencia can kiss her capital goodbye.

“I just trusted her, and she trusted me back. She is a regular client for three months now," Valencia said.

She also rents out her two desktop computers at home. Sometimes, she also sells Avon-branded beauty products.

Still, Villalba said several issues face migrant workers going into entrepreneurship.

The conditions are underdeveloped while there are vagaries of the market, e.g. rice crisis, importation, etc.

Villalba added that while there is lack of incentives and protection for migrant families going into enterprise development, there are also legal disincentives like high corporate tax, long and expensive process of business registration, shipping-transport cartels, and cabotage law, among others.

For Valencia, however, “it’s not all about money."

“For as long as I enjoy what I am doing, I will never feel tired."

She adds that resolve shows “because of your faith, your love, of your sacrifices for your family." - OFW Journalism Consortium/GMANews.TV

CSEC News in East Asia and Pacific

(15 February – 6 March 2010)


Sexual Exploitation of Children
Vice Dean of a temple arrested for buying sex from boys (no web-link)
THAILAND, Karasin province: police arrested a monk, 52 years old who was a Vice Dean of the temple and had been in a monkhood for 28 years. After receiving a report on the inappropriate behaviour of the monk, the police sent a decoy to go into the temple with other boys who were in prostitution. The monk confessed that he bought sex services from boys for many times by contacting them through telephone and paid them 200-500 baht each time.
Kao Sod, 05 March 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Street children increased; boys commercially sexually exploited than girls (no web-link)
THAILAND: Recent research on ‘Assistance for Street Children: Case Study on Street Teacher and Children Home (Shelter)’, conducted by the Foundation for the Better Life of Children during October 2009 – March 2010 in 5 GOs and 10 NGOs in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Nakorn Ratchasima, Khon Khen, Udon Thani, Chonburi, Sakaew, Phuket, Songkla and Bangkok, found an increase of numbers of street children from 10,000 – 20,000 street children in the past one to two years to 30,000 street children. Most of street children are at the age of 14-24 years old and did not receive the government educational policy of the 15 years free education. Most of street children who do not have families to go back to are at high risk as they are being pushed into prostitution for survival, mainly boy street children. Besides, the research found that in the past three years, some groups of street children are not living on the street but jointly stayed together in a rented house. This may due to their engagement in prostitution that requires them to have a clean and good appearance. It is also found some street children stay together as a couple and have a child together, which result them to become street families and are used by criminals in their activities, e.g. selling drugs, selling illegal CDs.
Source: www.pitakthai.com, 02 March 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Arrested transvestite for procuring high school and college/university students for sexual purposes (no web-link)
THAILAND, Pichid province: Police arrested a 32 years old transvestite who was one of big agents procuring especially junior high school, college and university students for sex services for customers who mostly were local government officials, politicians and businessmen. The transvestite already procured over 100 of the girls and would deliver them at a motel owned by a local politician located in Muang district, Pichid province. The girls would receive 1,000 baht while the transvestite would receive 500baht per girl. Police would also investigate further to arrest the buyers.
Kao Sod, 23 February 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Almost 100 street kids victims of sexual and physical abuse (no web-link)
INDONESIA: Following the recent uproar over a brace of child sex abuse and mutilation cases, the Jakarta Social Services Agency initiated last month an assessment program to identify the social background of the city's street children and determine potential sexual abuse victims. The Agency announced that it had completed assessing the city's street children, claiming it had collected almost 100 reports of sexual and economic exploitation. "As of *Thursday*, 96 children reported that they were victims of serious sexual and physical abuse," agency head Budihardjo said. "Some children even said they had been recruited and then economically exploited by an organized foundation." Budihardjo said his agency was currently coordinating with the city police to follow up reports. "If the police find enough evidence during the investigation, we will ensure that adults *who committed abuse* are sent to prison," he said.
The Jakarta Post, 17 February 2010


Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purpose
Arrested Thai and Laotian men for sexual exploitation of Laotian women in Thailand (no web-link)
THAILAND, Nongkai province: Two Thai men and two Laotian men were arrested for procuring 18 Laotian women, aged between 17-25 years old. The women were procured for providing sex services in brothels close to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, Nongkai province.
Manager Online, 24 February 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Arrested man aged 64 and woman aged 56 for trafficking of Laotian girl aged 14 for sexual purposes (no web-link)
THAILAND, Pichid province: police received a report of a missing Laotian girl aged 14 years old. According to the police investigation, the girl was lured into work in a karaoke owned by the 56 years old Thai woman. Then, she was sold further to another karaoke owned by the 64 years old Thai man for the price of 5,000 baht.
Kao Sod, 22 February 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Arrested 18 years old girl procuring girls below 18 for sex services (no web-link)
THAILAND, Pattaya: Following a police investigation on prostitution and human trafficking in Pattaya, the police went on an undercover operation and arrested a 18 years old girl for trafficking of girls below 18 for sexual purposes. The 18 years old confessed that she had been procuring girls for sex services for many years. The customers were only Thai regular customers or those who were known to her. She had about 10 girls under her operation, most of them did not go to school. She would receive 500 baht per girl while the girls themselves would receive 1,000 baht.
Kom Chad Luk, 21 February 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)


Sexual Exploitation of Children through ICT
Several pornographic video clips found stored in teenager’s handphone
MALAYSIA, BESUT: A 14-year-old schoolgirl admitted that she was addicted to kinky sex acts such as bondage after frequently watching pornographic video clips downloaded from a website that allegedly provides content of locals engaging in such acts. The report was lodged after her parents found out about her sexual escapades, which led her to claim that she had been raped. Besut OCPD Supt Kamaruddin Mohd Zakaria said yesterday that several pornographic video clips were found stored in the teenager's handphone during the probe. "We found out that the latest trend is to watch pornographic clips and imitate the act," he said. "We ask parents to keep tabs on their children by frequently checking the type of video clips stored in their handphones."
Asiaone News (source: The Star/Asia News Network), 6 March 2010

Swimming coach jailed for sex acts with boys
SINGAPORE: A swimming coach in Singapore sexually exploited his six-year-old student during their lessons together and also paid a nine-year-old boy to perform sex acts on him. In September 2008, merely three months after a man, 34, a father of two young boys, was hired to coach his student at a condominium pool, he instructed, befriended and tricked six and nine years old boys into performing a sex act on on him for S$5 (RM12) and filmed the act using his cellphone camera.
Dailychilli (source: Straits Times/ANN), 6 March 2010

Girl known through internet was lured into sexual exploitation through a false promise for acting career (no web-link)
HONG KONG: An actor was jailed for seven years for sexually abuse 15 years old girl. The actor gave a false promise to numbers of girls he met through internet that he could help get them into an acting career. He asked the girls who were interested to come to see him for a photo shooting and filling in an application form. A 15 years old girl was one of girls who decided to meet him in July last year. On the meeting, she was lured to go to a motel and sexually abused. After the abuse, the girl was in trauma and high level of depression which led her into commit suicide.
Manager Online, 05 March 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Chatroom lured a 15 years old girl to run away from home (no web-link)
THAILAND, Pattaya: 29 years old man from a northern province (Loei province) acquainted himself with a 15 years old girl who lived in an eastern province (Nakornsawan province) through Chat Kue Kue for one month, then arranged to meet a girl in her homeland. After the meeting, on the 26th February, the girl went missing from home with a computer notebook and a digital camera stolen from the girl’s home. The girl went to Bangkok with a man, stayed for a night in a hotel and pawned the girl’s notebook computer and digital camera. After that, they went and rented an apartment in Pattaya planning to find a job here but were arrested by the police. The girl’s father said that usually the girl was a good girl who received good grades from school. Recently before the girl went missing, the girl tended to stay with computer a lot and suddenly went missing from home.
Source: www.pattayadailynews.com, 04 March 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Arrested 25 years old man lured girls into sexual exploitation through Hi5 (no web-link)
THAILAND, Bangkok: following a tip-off to the police that numbers of girls studying in a school at junior high school level went missing from home as they were lured into sexual exploitation by a man through Hi5, the police launched their investigation and arrested a 25 years old man who was waiting for a girl at Jatujak Park. The man was charged for luring minors below 15 from their parents for sexual exploitation.
Manager Online, 04 March 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Pornographic magazine led 14 years old boy to lure 6 years old girl into sexual abuse (no web-link)
THAILAND: on 28 February 2010, police interviewed a 14 years old boy who worked as a waiter in a restaurant in the same area where a 6 year old girl lived. The boy confessed that after looking at a pornographic magazine he borrowed from a friend, he lured the girl who played in front of the house nearby to come and watch a movie in his house. He then used forces and sexually abused her, and threatened her not to tell anyone about the abuse. However, the abuse was revealed as the girl’s grandma noticed the girl was unusually depressed and asked her until she had to tell the cause of her depression.
Manager Online, 01 March 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Movie Director charged for attempt to sexually abuse 14 years old girl known through internet (web-link in Thai language)
SOUTH KOREA, Seoul: Public Prosecutor revealed that the suspect was a popular male movie director who invited a 14 years old to his home. The girl run away from home and came to his home to stay for a night. They both met through a chat-room on internet. While the man took the girl to a room for her to stay a night, he tried to sexually abuse her. This case reminded and led to a debate among some Koreans on their justice system in relation to sexual abuse cases. Earlier, there was a case of 25 years old man sexually abused 12 years old girl and was punished for 30 months imprisonment, which many felt that the punishment was too low for the crime that was committed.
Manager Online, 19 February 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)


Child Sex Tourism
Arrested 32 years old woman procuring and delivering 13 years old girls from Pattaya to Bangkok for sexual purposes (no web-link)
THAILAND, Pattaya: In October 2009, a Thai woman took two girls both aged 13 years old from Pattaya to 45 years old American man at a hotel in Bangna district, Bangkok for sex services. The man also video-taped the sexual exploitative activities. Following month, November 2009, the man contacted the Thai woman again. This time the police in Bangna district made an arrest following a tip off on a use of drug, which led the police to find the sexual exploitative video that the man taped it while exploiting the two girls. The police immediately charged the man for the possession of drug, but the man jumped the bail. Currently, the man is also charged for sexual abuse girl below 15 and the police is hunting for him. From the video, the police investigated further and arrested a 32 years old Thai woman for procuring the girls for sexual purposes.
Manager Online, 08 February 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)

Arrested 33 years old woman procuring a girl below 18 for foreigner (no web-link)
THAILAND, Pattaya: Police arrested a 43 years old Danish man in a rented apartment in Pattaya for commercial sexual exploitation of a girl aged 14. Following the arrest of the man, a Thai woman aged 33 was also arrested for procuring the girl. The woman confessed that she lured the girl into providing sex services to customers who mainly were foreigners. She would charge the customer for 1,000 baht and would deduct 300-500 bath (out of 1,000 baht) for herself. The woman had been doing this for many years. From further police investigation, it appeared that the woman was also jumping a bail on the previous charge of trafficking of minors under 15 for sexual purposes.
Source: www.pattayadailynews.com 7 February 2010 (CONTRIBUTION FROM ECPAT FOUNDATION)


Related Others
Women still target of discriminatory laws
UNITED NATIONS: Five years after a UN conference called for the revocation of laws that discriminate on the basis of gender, a new report highlights 36 countries that still have laws that treat women as second-class citizens. The international human rights organisation, Equality Now, which prepared the report, said the countries it highlighted represent just a sample of nations that have failed to repeal discriminatory laws against women regarding marriage, economic and personal status, and violent acts including rape. The report was released Friday on the sidelines of a two-week conference by the Commission on the Status of Women to review progress on implementing goals to achieve equality for women adopted by 189 countries at a historic conference in Beijing in 1995. The Platform for Action adopted in Beijing includes a pledge to "revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex."
The Star Online, 6 March 2010

Baby dies as parents raise virtual child
SOUTH KOREA, SEOUL: A couple left their baby daughter to starve to death at home while playing an internet game which simulated child-rearing, police said on Friday. The man aged 41 and his 25-year-old wife were arrested on Thursday, five months after they reported the death of their 3-month-old baby, a police investigator in the city of Suweon just south of Seoul said on Friday. The father met his wife in 2008 through the internet. They had been on the run since their baby died. It quoted police as saying they had become obsessed with raising a virtual girl character called 'Anima' in the popular role-playing game 'Prius Online'. "The couple seemed to have lost their will to live a normal life because they didn't have jobs and gave birth to a premature baby," Chung Jin-Won, a police officer, told Yonhap. "They indulged themselves in the online game of raising a virtual character so as to escape from reality, which led to the death of their real baby." "Due to our sense of guilt, we have not been to a PC gaming room over these five months," the couple told police after their arrest.
Worldnews Network (source: The Times of India), 5 March 2010





--
Dolores SD. Alforte
Executive Director

ECPAT Philippines
143 Anonas Extension
Sikatuna Village, Diliman
1101 Quezon City, Philippines
Tel: (632) 9208151 / (632) 4415108
Fax: (632) 9299642
Email: doksdalforte@gmail.com
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