Monday, September 27, 2010

84 Pinay cleaners in UAE left without food, water

At least 84 Filipina cleaners have been living in misery since being abandoned by their employer without salary, food, water and electricity at a home in the United Arab Emirates.

While the local Filipino community has extended some help, the Filipina cleaners are also seeking redress from labor officials in Dubai as well as help from doctors.

“We welcome any Filipino doctor who will come and check our health. Many have symptoms of hypertension due to the depressing situation, breathing difficulties, asthma, skin rashes, cough and cold. We are sleeping on the rooftop where we can get fresh air," Mary Grace Teneros said in an article posted Sunday on UAE news site Khaleej Times.

Teneros was one of the first four cleaners who filed a suit before the Dubai court after they found out they were illegally brought there.

For now, leaders of the Filipino community have helped keep up the spirits of the stranded Filipina workers and have brought them food, medicines, and toiletries.

Roach infested

“We are very happy for the help we are receiving now, even from the Baptist Church. They also checked the villa, which as of now, is breeding lots of cockroaches and other insects as we cannot maintain the cleanliness for the lack of water," Manorin Fernandez, 38, said.

She also said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office has helped them since August to file their cases at the Dubai labor department.

“Our assistant labor attaché, Venus Abad, explained everything to us. Our contract signed at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reflected a Dh1,800 (P21,491) monthly salary and food allowance of $150. (But) we were asked to sign another contract here in Dubai, which stated our salary to be Dh700 (P8,357) which we did not receive for three months," Teneros said.

Also, the Filipino community will seek to have the Filipina cleaners’ water and electricity restored. Power and water had been cut off since September 13 due to unpaid bills amounting to Dh23,000 (P274,616).

Liza Concepcion, the president of the Filipino Community (FILCOM), is set to tackle the issue with Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano at a meeting.

No salaries

The Khaleej Times report said the 84 Filipina cleaners did not receive their salaries for three
months and have been living in the dark without food, water and electricity. Four of them filed cases with the Dubai Court as early as July 17 after they found out that they were staying illegally.

According to them, their employer got labor cards for them but did not secure employment visas with the Dubai immigration department. The rest filed complaints with the Dubai Labor September 14 for non-payment of salaries and food allowances.

In its decision, the Dubai Court ordered the employer to give them one way air tickets and settle the unpaid salaries.

On the other hand, the employer allegedly did not visit them nor care for their needs. Dubai immigration computed their overstay penalties at Dh15,000 (P179,097), which totaled Dh1.26 million (P15.044 million).

Another Filipina cleaner, Merle Perez, 42, said they had been advised to leave the villa last September 23.

“We made our appeal and showed them our papers with Dubai Labor seeking redress. We appreciate the assistance of a real estate manager, in representing us with the building owner, who turned out to be a kind-hearted man. He is now helping us," she said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Actors turn into OFWs

Iniwan nila ang glamoroso at maingay na mundo ng showbizness upang makipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa at makapagsimula ng bagong buhay.

Sa episode ng OFW Diaries hosted by Kara David nitong Biyernes, ikinuwento nina Julio Diaz at Bernardo Bernando ang kanilang naging karanasan bilang mga overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Dekado 80 nang sumikat si Julio sa industriya ng showbiz bilang dramatic actor. Sa husay niya sa pag-arte, dalawang Best Actor Award na kanyang naiuwi.

Ngunit matapos makagawa ng mahigit 60 pelikula, unti-unti nang nawala ang ningning ng bituin ni Julio, na nagmarka sa ginawa niyang pelikula tungkol sa buhay ng bayaning si “Macario Sakay."

“During that time kasi nandito ako sa bansa natin, siyempre medyo bumaba na nang bumaba yung career ko, bumaba na yung marketing value ko rito as an actor, so sabi ko hindi ako puwedeng titigil lang dito para lang sa isang bagay na para bang maghihintay," kuwento ni Julio sa OFW Diaries.

Taong 2002 nang lumipad si Julio sa Australia at nagtrabaho siya doon bilang waiter. Dahil sanay sa hirap ng buhay, nagawa rin ni Julio na magtrabaho bilang construction worker kung saan naging assistant siya sa paglalagay ng tiles sa mga bahay.


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Bukod sa Australia, nasubukan din ni Julio na magtrabaho sa Japan bilang entertainer.

Ngunit hindi katulad ng malaking kita niya sa pag-aartista noon, naging buwanan ang sahod ni Julio bilang isang OFW.

Sa kabila nito, ipinagmamalaki ni Julio ang kanyang mga karanasan at hindi raw niya ikinahihiya ang pakikipagsapalaran sa ibang bayan.

Tulad ni Julio, dekada 80 rin nang pasukin ng komedyanteng si Bernardo Bernardo ang showbizness. Masasabing dekada 90 nang sumikat siya nang husto dahil sa karakter niyang mataray na boss ng Comedy King na si Dolphy sa isang sitcom.

Sadya raw iniwan ni Bernando ang showbiz noong 2002 at lumipad patungong California, USA dahil naramdaman na niyang hindi na siya masaya sa kanyang ginawa sa harap ng camera at ibabaw ng entablado.

“Siguro masasabi ko na pinaka-height ng career ko sa telebisyon ang makasama si Dolphy, the one and only Dolphy sa isang sitcom, Home Along the Riles of course. Na for almost 11 years hit sa Philippine television at hanggang ngayon pinapanood pa sa cable," pagmamalaki niya.

“Sa totoo po n’yan kaya ako umalis hindi na ko masaya. Kumbaga nagawa ko na ang gusto kong gawin sa Pilipinas; sa entablado, sa pelikula, sa telebisyon," pagtatapat

Case of Pinay helper battered in UAE reopened

A battered Filipino maid in the United Arab Emirates is getting another shot at justice after officials in Sharjah emirate decided to reopen her case.

UAE-based news site Khaleej Times reported the Sharjah Immigration is looking into the reasons why Marialyn Vinluan has not received compensation for torture she endured from her employer.

Vinluan had escaped from her Lebanese lady employer in Ajman on August 9 last year after she was beaten up, but it was not until May this year that the unpaid compensation came to light. (See: UAE-based Pinoy workers rally around battered colleague)

Maritess Bautista, a coordinator of the consulate, said immigration authorities learned that Vinluan is being forced to go home without compensation for physical and mental torture.

Bautista is assisting distressed Filipino workers in Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

Major Ibrahim Hamdan, assistant investigation officer at the Sharjah Immigration, meanwhile said the papers for Vinluan’s case are now with the Chief Dispute Officer of the Immigration’s Follow-up Section.

“Hopefully, the case will be closed soon," Ibrahim said.

Vinluan and her former employer were supposed to meet on September 19 at the Follow-up Section but the meeting was rescheduled.

“Vinluan is asking for damages of Dh50,000 (P599,185). But her employer wants to pay only Dh20,000 (P239,674)," Bautista said.

Vinluan said she does not want to lower the demand as she needs to undergo further medical treatment in the Philippines.

“I still have pain in the area where my rib was broken and I get black spots around my eyes every now and then," she was quoted in the report as saying.

Last May, a court in Ajman ordered the employer and her sister to settle the unpaid salary of Vinluan, who had also worked for a month without pay under her employer’s sister.

Vinluan had said her employer kept promising to pay her unpaid salary for one year and seven months when she was working as a domestic helper for the family.

But she also said she was regularly beaten up by her lady employer for the slightest reason.

From August 9 to 24 last year, Vinluan was hospitalized at Shaikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman for a broken rib, blurred vision and severe injuries in various parts of her body.

The injuries stemmed from brutal beatings allegedly by her employer using iron cords and electrical extension wires until bits of them were embedded in her body.

“I know promises are endless. Finally, I informed Philippine Consul-General Benito B. Valeriano about my decision to go home. Maritess Bautista brought me to the Sharjah Immigration Department to get my work permit cancelled so that I could leave the UAE," Vinluan said.

“To my surprise, immigration officials wanted to arrest me for absconding. My employer in Ajman had reported me to the Sharjah Immigration, which issued my work permit, as an absconder on the same day my agency brought me to Shaikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman where I had been admitted for 12 days," she added.

Vinluan’s employer and the employer’s sister were arrested on the same day Vinluan reported to the Sharjah Immigration.

They are temporarily released pending hearing after they deposited their passports with the Sharjah Immigration.

Vinluan has been under the care of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration of the Philippine Consulate since August 24, 2009.

The battered Filipina said she finally received her long-overdue salary of Dh11,800 on May 2. “They gave me a cheque of Dh8,800 (P105,456) and Dh3,000 (P35,951) in cash," Vinluan said.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Help sought for OFW who suffered stroke in KSA

overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia needs government assistance as his health is deteriorating after suffering a stroke last August.

Migrante Middle East regional coordinator John Monterona said Tamano Saltan Ismail, 35, is staying at a shelter and needs to be rehospitalized.

“Fellow workers and some kababayans (compatriots) are taking care of him but his recovery is too slow due to lack of proper medication and medical attention. As the KGS (Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan) welfare officers have told us, his condition is now deteriorating," Monterona said in an article on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines news site.

“We believe he must be rehospitalized for better medical attention and we need the help of the Philippine consulate on this matter," he added.

Monterona said Ismail, a native of Maguindanao, was rushed to the King Saud Medical Center last August 24, and underwent brain operation.

Citing a clinical abstract signed by attending physician Ali Bin Salamah, Migrante said Ismail was almost unconscious when he arrived at the hospital.

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, he fell into a coma. His blood pressure has recorded a high 200/120, but has regained consciousness.

He was transferred to Shumesy Hospital for further medication before he was released.

He is staying at a shelter run by KGS, a local organization under Migrante.

Monterona voiced fears that a proposed budget cut in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Assistance To Nationals and legal assistance fund in the 2011 budget may make it difficult for the DFA to provide the necessary assistance to illness-stricken OFWs such as Ismail.

“We’re hoping that the cut will not be done as it was illegal and of course, immoral as the government is expected to extend all the necessary assistance to migrant workers who are helping the [Philippine] economy to stay afloat," he said.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

RP officials help overstaying OFWs avail of KSA amnesty

Philippine officials have started helping overstaying Filipinos in Saudi Arabia take advantage of a six-month amnesty period allowing overstaying foreigners to leave the kingdom without punishment.

Ambassador Antonio Villamor said he will meet with Interior Ministry officials in Saudi to clarify certain details so he can guide the concerned overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on how to avail of the amnesty.

"I have informed the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines about this development. We are indeed thankful to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for this generous gesture," Villamor said in an article on Saudi-based news site Arab News.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah said it will issue an advisory about the amnesty to the concerned OFWs.

Labor Attache David Des Dicang of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in the Eastern Region said the organization was “indeed happy beyond words over this good development."

“OFWs who ran away from their sponsors and whose visas have expired could now expect to go home without penalty," Dicang said.

“If their passports have expired, they will have to fill up forms, including travel documents," he added.

Runaway OFWs

The Arab News report said the Philippine Embassy could not give an accurate number of runaway OFWs in the kingdom.

It cited figures from militant group Migrante International indicating that some 3,000 runaway OFWs have sought its help.

However, there are many other undocumented OFWs, including maids who have run away from their sponsors and are now working for other employers.

There are also OFWs who have escaped from their sponsors without informing the embassy and are staying with other Filipinos.

Eligible for amnesty

The Saudi Interior Ministry said the amnesty would cover the following:

those who arrived in the Kingdom on Haj, Umrah visa

those whose visas that have expired, and

those who have violated Passport Department laws.

The Interior Ministry advised those eligible to report to the nearest Department for Foreigners’ Affairs (Wafideen) from September 25 this year to March 23, 2011.

The ministry advised all overstayers and other illegal residents to benefit from the pardon and leave the Kingdom before the grace period. V

The violators caught after the amnesty will receive harsh punishments, including jail time and a fine.

Assistance for foreign workers

Meanwhile, in Jeddah, the Saudi National Committee of Sunni Yuvajana Sangham (SYS), a Kerala-based sociocultural organization, welcomed the amnesty.

In a statement, Syed Habibul Bukhari, the committee’s president, urged all illegal residents in the country to take advantage of the amnesty.

Bukhari said their group will help foreign workers meet the requirements needed in availing of the amnesty.

The organization will also hold awareness programs to help foreign workers understand the details about the amnesty, he added. –VVP, GMANews.TV

7 Pinays nabbed by UK immigration

Seven Filipinas staying in London were recently arrested by the United Kingdom (UK) Border Agency and are set to be deported following a series of immigration crackdown operations.

In a release posted on the website of the British Embassy in Manila, the seven Filipino women were arrested, along with other foreign nationals, during Border Agency raids on different addresses in Willesden in northwest London on September 16.

“The enforcement operations are part of a planned nationwide crackdown by the UK Border Agency to tackle illegal working, sham marriages, bogus colleges and organised immigration crime," the release said.

It was unclear, however, what specific immigration laws were violated by the seven.

The release said UK Border Agency officers received information on locations of illegal migrants in Willesden and conducted the raid, along with Metropolitan Police officers and Brent Council staff.

They found 50 people inside the addresses and in one accommodation, and arrested 11 of them – seven Filipino women, three Chinese men and a Chinese woman due to unspecified immigration offenses.

The seven Filipinas, according to the UK Embassy, are currently being detained pending their deportation.

“This is the latest in a series of operations designed to find and remove those who have no right to live or work in the UK. We continue to work closely with the police and other agencies to target those who are here illegally, and more raids like this are planned across the UK," said Steve Fisher, head of the Border Agency's Brent local immigration team.

In July, the Border Agency likewise arrested six Filipinos, along with other migrants from Malawi and Ghana, by the Border Agency at a private nursing home in Poulner, Ringwood.

“We urge all Filipinos to comply with the conditions of their entry when visiting the UK. While the UK welcomes genuine visitors from the Philippines, we are also committed to tackling immigration abuse robustly, as evidenced by these recent arrests and removals," said Ed Mackie, UK Border Agency’s regional manager in the Philippines.

“We also continue to work closely with the Philippines Government to raise awareness of this issue and to discourage people from offending," Mackie added.

The UK Embassy noted that Philippine nationals working illegally in the UK have been apprehended by the Border Agency in regular enforcement operations and returned to Philippines.

In 2009, 85 Filipino nationals were deported from the UK after being held in detention for immigration offenses.

"Arrests are carried out by trained immigration officers who carry out operations at businesses and private addresses, acting on intelligence received from the public and other sources," the release added.

Filipinos planning to visit the UK can check the immigration rules here.–Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Help illegal OFWs avail of Saudi pardon, group urges

After Saudi authorities announced a blanket royal pardon for all violators of the Kingdom’s residency laws, a Filipino migrant advocacy group there urged the Philippine government to assist undocumented overseas Filipino workers to avail of the amnesty.

In a statement, Migrante-Middle East said there are thousands of undocumented Filipinos in the Kingdom who can benefit from the pardon.

“We are urging the concerned RP posts to immediately guide and provide assistance to undocumented and illegally staying OFWs to avail of the Royal pardon," said Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

An article posted on the Saudi Gazette said Saudi’s Ministry of Interior has announced a blanket “Royal pardon" for residency law violations, and illegal residents are advised to complete the procedure for their departure at the foreigners’ personnel offices of the Kingdom.

According to the article, applications for inclusion in the pardon will be processed from September 25, 2010 to March 23, 2011.

“The ministry advised all individuals who have broken the law to take up this opportunity. There will be harsh penalties for people who continue to commit violations, including for those who shelter violators. Penalties include imprisonment, fines, confiscation of vehicles and having their names published in local newspapers," the article stated.

Monterona said the amnesty will benefit OFWs who remain in the Kingdom even as their iqama or residency permits have already expired.

He added most of the Filipino workers illegally staying in Saudi Arabia are absconders who ran away from their employers, claiming abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices.

Records from the group show that of the 2 million-plus Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, some 3,000 are undocumented.

“There is also a considerable number of illegal and undocumented OFWs in other Middle East countries like the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, and Oman," Monterona said.

Government records show Saudi Arabia remains the top destination for OFWs, with almost 300,000 Filipinos deployed in the Kingdom last year.

The Saudi Gazette article said there is an estimated one to three million illegal residents in the country.

According to the report, 105,494 attempts to enter the country at nine land and sea crossing points were registered in the first seven months of this year, with the highest single figure registered in Jizan province where 89,942 illegal immigrants were detained.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

RP agencies scored for ‘illegal’ rider in Taiwan OFWs’ contract

JERRIE M. ABELLA,

Migrants’ rights groups have slammed two agencies of the Philippine government for allowing an “illegal" provision to be added to the employment contract of the 13 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Taiwan who have raised it as one of their labor issues.

The Asian Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) scored the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan (MECO) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for letting the 13 OFWs sign an addendum in their contract, which they said was declared illegal under Taiwanese law since 1999.

According to a CBCP News article, the APMM said the addendum required OFWs to pay 2,500 New Taiwan Dollars (about P3,400) for their food, accommodation and airfare to and from Taiwan.

APMM director Ramon Bultron said that by allowing the addendum to be part of the workers’ contract, both the MECO, the Philippines’ representative office in Taiwan, and the POEA are party to the crime of human trafficking.

The addendum, the article added, was signed by the workers’ company, AV Tech Corporation; two brokerage firms from Manila and from Taiwan; and the OFWs.

Through negotiations facilitated by the Taiwanese Bureau of Labor Affairs (BLA), the 13 OFWs were able to pressure their employer to give in to 10 of their 12 demands, including returning the employees’ passports and updating their pay slips, which were delayed by two to three months, according to Migrante-Taiwan which assisted the workers. (See: 13 OFWs win case vs Taiwanese firm)

Addendum was “valid"

While the OFWs have asserted that the addendum is contradictory to labor standards and prejudicial to the interests of the migrant workers, the BLA, which currently hears the OFWs’ complaints, has said the addendum was legal.

In a separate interview, MECO Labor Affairs director Reydeluz Conferido also said the addendum was “valid".

“Contracts can be amended to improve their provisions and to make them suited to existing conditions," Conferido said.

He explained that both Philippine and Taiwanese labor laws provide that contracts may be amended, provided it is allowed by pertinent government agencies and that all signatories agree to the amendments.

Taiwanese labor laws, he noted, likewise allows renegotiation of contracts, including provisions on wages, especially if it is proven that the company was affected by an economic recession.

Group demands removal of MECO worker

As this developed, Migrante-Taiwan chairperson David Chang accused an employee of MECO of working against the interests of the workers and demanded that she be removed from her post.

In a separate statement, Chang said Gina Lin, a translator for the MECO’s labor office, insisted that she be one of the negotiators in the conciliation, and asked that Chang and another Migrante official to present their alien residence certificate (ARC) to the BLA for proper identification.

Chang said they refused Lin’s request, which they described as “irresponsible", as showing their ARC will expose their address to both the company and the brokerage agency and make them vulnerable to retaliation.

“As the negotiations pushed through, we found out that Lin was a former employee of the brokerage agency being accused of labor malpractice. It was she who earlier told the complainants that the MECO cannot help them on their case and that it takes two weeks for the National Immigration Agency to provide them shelter," Chang said in the statement.

The BLA later sided with Migrante and the workers, and barred Lin from participating in the negotiations.

According to Conferido, he sent Lin to be MECO’s official representative in the conciliatory talks.

Lin’s request, Conferido said, was valid as they had to determine Migrante’s authority to represent the workers and participate in the negotiations.

Conferido added they have yet to verify the reported decision of the BLA in favor of the workers.

GMANews.TV tried to contact POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili but her phone was unattended.

Meanwhile, the APMM asked the Philippine government to disallow the signing of an addendum to employment contracts, and to immediately investigate the incident and prosecute officials who allowed illegal amendments to contracts.

“It is bad enough that the Aquino administration has slashed the legal assistance budget for OFWs by half. Allowing labor exploitation to be put into paper is another," Bultron said. (See: P2-B cut in DFA budget scored by OFW groups)—JV, GMANews.TV

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DOLE urged to prioritize OFWs from Iraq in Guam deployment

A labor group has urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to prioritize overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) coming from Iraq when deploying laborers to Guam.

In a statement, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said DOLE should give preference to some 6,000 Filipino workers who will move out of Iraq, as it is set to enlist as many as 10,000 workers for deployment to Guam.

"On one hand, we have 6,000 workers out of Iraq. On the other hand, we have 7,000 to 10,000 initial job openings in Guam. The DOLE might as well give priority to our workers from Iraq in filling up the Guam vacancies," said TUCP secretary-general Senator Ernesto Herrera, a former senator.

He said doing so will minimize the potential economic impact on workers and their families of the continuing employment ban in the war-torn country.

The US government last July ordered all its military contractors to send home all foreign workers coming from countries that have imposed a deployment ban to Iraq.

Filipinos have been prohibited from working in Iraq since 2004 following a series of suicide bombing attacks and abduction of foreigners, including two Filipinos, as a result of the US-led war.

Late last month, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that while the total ban remains, OFWs already in Iraq and deployed in US military facilities may continue working there until they finish their contracts.

"The job openings in Guam are mostly construction-related activities and services anyway. And many of our workers out of Iraq were engaged to perform similar tasks," Herrera pointed out.

He said given the nature of work of laborers hired by American military contractors in Iraq, Filipino workers coming from the country will readily qualify for the job vacancies in Guam, a US territory.

The DOLE earlier announced that thousands of construction jobs in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) could be available to OFWs should the US$700-million-worth US military hospital project there push through.

Herrera meanwhile said Guam may need up to 30,000 foreign workers in the coming months, as the US military scrambles to build up t infrastructure and services in the US territory.

This is in preparation for the relocation of some 9,200 US troops and their 10,000 dependents from the Japanese island of Okinawa, according to Herrera.

He explained foreign workers needed in Guam include project managers, engineers, accountants, duty-front managers, plan makers, cost-control managers, nurses, doctors, electricians, construction laborers, plumbers, welders, carpenters and brick layers.

Also expected to be in demand are computer graphic artists, computer operators, audio-visual technicians, chefs, cooks, food and beverage managers, bar boys, drivers, receptionists and stewards. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

RP post in Jeddah verifying if helper who jumped to death was Filipina

The Philippine post in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on Monday said it is still confirming the nationality of the domestic helper who reportedly jumped to her death last week to escape her employer.

In a phone interview, welfare officer Nini Lanto of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah told GMANews.TV they have yet to verify if the domestic helper was a Filipina.

“As of Sunday, we have yet to confirm if she was a Filipina. But out Assistance to Nationals Section (ANS) is working on the case," Lanto said.

A report by the Saudi Gazette said the helper jumped from the window of her employer’s flat on the seventh floor of a building in Madina on August 31.

The report said based on information from witnesses, the woman used an umbrella as a parachute to escape, but the umbrella failed to open at the right moment and the domestic worker crashed on the pavement, killing her instantly.

Witnesses said the helper tossed out a bag containing her clothes before jumping.

Her employer said the building’s guard told him about the incident and said he found the umbrella hanging on the balcony. A knife used by the maid to open the tightly closed window was also found.

The worker was immediately buried in accordance with the request of her family, the report quoted the employer as saying.

Migrants’ rights group Migrante-Middle East earlier urged the Consulate to conduct an investigation to confirm the victim’s nationality.

“Concerned fellow [overseas Filipino workers] have called me, in separate calls, last week to tell us about the death of a domestic worker who reportedly jumped to her death from the window of her employer’s house," said Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona, however, said the concerned OFWs failed to identify the nationality and name of the victim.

Lanto was likewise unable to give the name and age of the victim.

“It is of particular interest and concern to us because aside from the need to establish the victim’s identity, (we need to know) what forced the worker to jump from the building," Monterona said.

He added Migrante case officers have previously attended to similar cases in the past, involving abused OFWs jumping from buildings to escape their employers. Some of the victims’ relatives have likewise complained of foul play.

For her part, Lanto said the domestic helper may not be a Filipina, even as the ANS continues to verify the helper’s identity. “Normally, the Consulate is immediately alerted by the local police if there is a Filipino involved in cases like this," she said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Militants ask Aquino to seek 'Ramadan amnesty' for OFWs in Saudi jails

A militant migrants’ group asked President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to seek pardon for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) jailed in Saudi Arabia.

Migrante Middle East (Migrante-ME) said the Royal Family in Saudi Arabia usually grants amnesty for OFWs before or after the holy month of Ramadan, which ends September 10.

“Gaining amnesty for jailed OFWs is usually granted by the Royal Family, before or after the Ramadan. We’re hoping that President Aquino should grab this opportunity to help our compatriots in jail, here in Saudi," Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona said
in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site.

Monterona voiced alarm over the death of prisoners in jails in Saudi Arabia due to suffocation reportedly because of the high temperature and overcrowding in jails.

He cited a newspaper report indicating that five Ethiopian prisoners died due to the heat in a Saudi jail in Jizan province.

“In Malaz (district) Central Jail, for example, more than a hundred people are being imprisoned in a five-meter-by-eight meter cell," he said.

He said the OFWs jailed in Malaz complained the temperature in their prison cells reach 44 degrees Celsius during the day. There are reportedly around 200 OFWs jailed there.

“The jailed OFWs also informed us that most of them are sleeping on the floor with only used cartons serving as their sleeping mat," he said.

Monterona said the OFWs there are asking for mattresses, blankets and medicines against colds, flu and other diseases as it becomes cold at night.

He added Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia must act swiftly and see the conditions of OFWs imprisoned in different jails in Saudi.

Meanwhile, Migrante-ME estimates there are more than 1,000 Filipino men and women, languishing in different prisons in Saudi.

“Most of them have committed petty crimes, such as violating customary laws, while others have been charge of absconding or running away from their employers due to abuses and labor malpractices," Monterona said. –VVP, GMANews.TV

All 698 Pinoys in Saudi shelter repatriated — DOLE

All the close to 700 Filipino workers who were staying in a shelter in Saudi Arabia had been repatriated, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

In a statement, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said all the 698 Filipinos who used to stay at the Seaport Hajj Terminal in Jeddah have been repatriated as of September 1.

“Our Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Jeddah had reported that as of September 1, there is not a single Filipino national remaining in the Hajj Seaport Terminal," Baldoz said.

Citing a report by Labor Attaché to Jeddah Vicente Cabe, Baldoz said that 137 of the 628 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Jeddah from July 10 to August 31 this year were children.

Of the total number of repatriated Filipino workers, 399 were adult females while 162 were adult males.

OFWs who seek shelter in Saudi Arabia are usually those who escaped abusive employers.

The DOLE explained that the Seaport Hajj Terminal is a place designated and operated by the Saudi government as a temporary shelter for deportees to curtail the incidence of overstaying foreigners loitering in public places like the Kandara Bridge.

“This is the place where overstaying foreigners, including Filipinos, who surrender for voluntary deportation, are brought. The Philippines is one of only two countries that have made an arrangement with the Saudi government for the use of the terminal. The other country is Egypt," Baldoz said.

She added the Philippines is only one of two countries in Saudi Arabia that shoulder the repatriation tickets of its overstaying nationals, and assist them in the process of repatriation.

In his report, Cabe said not all Filipinos qualified for repatriation stayed at the terminal, but everyone who were there were provided meals twice a day by the POLO, which also paid for the accommodation of Filipino nationals in the terminal.

Baldoz dismissed reports that the OFWs who were admitted to the terminal were not properly attended to by the POLO and the Philippine Embassy, saying that Philippine officials and staff regularly visited the Filipinos there to monitor their situation and provide assistance.

Baldoz earlier ordered to all labor attaches and welfare officers to speed up the repatriation of all OFWs who would like to return to the Philippines regardless of their status, and had issued the policy that distressed Filipino nationals be repatriated within 30 days after their exit permits have been obtained.

She had also authorized the use of P10 million from the 2010 budget of the DOLE as additional repatriation fund. The amount is part of the P50 million allocated by Congress last year as repatriation fund. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

Monday, September 6, 2010

HK police to return 3 phones in hostage probe mix-up

The Hong Kong police will return the three mobile phones that the Manila authorities have mistakenly handed over along with the personal belongings of the victims of the August 23 hostage tragedy.

According to a news report of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Monday, the Hong Kong police confirmed on Sunday that some of the mobile phones turned over to them by the Philippine authorities did not belong to the Hong Kong victims.

The mix-up was revealed on Saturday when the Philippine investigating team discovered that one of the two phones that the hostage-taker used on August 23 was missing.

"Of the eight phones that were given to them, only five were identified as belonging to the Hong Kong victims," said Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The Philippine National Police (PNP) is an attached agency of the DILG.

Robredo is the vice-chairman of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) probing the August 23 hostage incident.

On that day, a dismissed senior police inspector, Rolando Mendoza, hijacked a tourist bus carrying 21 Hong Kong tourists and four Filipinos. The hostage-taker was demanding for his reinstatement and the dismissal of a pending case against him at the Office of the Ombudsman. After an 11-hour standoff, Mendoza and eight Hong Kong tourists were killed.

The Philippine investigating panel was also told that Mendoza used at least two phones on August 23.

One was supplied by the police negotiators to communicate with him. The other was his personal phone, from which alleged copies of text messages he received have been leaked to the media. Most of the messages were from relatives pleading with him to surrender.

It is not yet certain whether the phone of hijacker Mendoza was among the three phones that were mistakenly handed over to the Hong Kong police.

"At this point, we can't really make a conclusion if the three phones are relevant or material," said Robredo, who believed one of the phones might have belonged to one of the Filipinos who accompanied the Hong Kong tour group.

According to the SCMP news report, Hong Kong legislator James To Kun-sun, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, urged local police to return the phones to the Manila authorities as soon as possible.

"The last thing we want to see is that Manila will make use of this as an excuse to delay the inquiry," To was quoted as saying.

The five-member Philippine panel probing the incident will extend its investigation. The panel was earlier expected to complete its work today but needs more time to interview other witnesses and stage a reenactment of the hostage incident.

The investigating team will submit a formal report to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the Hong Kong government.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police granted a request for assistance from Philippine authorities, who will be sending a delegation to Hong Kong to interview the victims. –VVP, GMANews.TV

Bangko Sentral to revise 2010 BOP surplus target

The central bank is again set to revise the country's balance of payments (BOP) position forecast, confident that the projected surplus would be breached this year.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said over the weekend that monetary authorities will review the revised BOP surplus projection of $3.7 billion set in April, and come up with a revised target.

"We will be reviewing the numbers and releasing the updated projections by November," Tetangco said.

He attributed the widening of the surplus to strong foreign exchange inflows – higher foreign commercial borrowings of the national government, increased remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and robust earnings of the business process-outsourcing (BPO) sector.

The BOP measures the difference between foreign exchange inflows and outflows representing the country's transactions with the rest of the world I n a given period.

BSP data showed that the country's BOP surplus climbed 22.2 percent to $3.326 billion in the first seven months of the year from $2.722 billion in the same period last year due to strong investment inflows and higher OFW remittances.

In April, the BSP's Monetary Board said the 2010 BOP surplus would amount to $3.7 billion from the original target of $3.2 billion.

The country's BOP surplus narrowed to $89 million in 2008 from $8.67 billion in 2007 as international trade shrunk from global financial crisis.

The BOP position recovered last year with a surplus of $5.295 billion.

The strong foreign exchange inflows, Tetangco clarified, would not necessarily put more pressure on the peso that continued to strengthen against the US dollar.

Tetangco said the BOP surplus would continue to give the peso a fundamental support in the foreign exchange market.

"The exchange rate is affected by many things. It can also be affected by what is happening to the US dollar, investors' sentiments, then when there's news about global economic recovery. You see it is responding to a lot of different factors. But BOP surplus will give the fundamental support," Tetangco said. —JE/VS, GMANews.TV

Bangko Sentral to revise 2010 BOP surplus target

The central bank is again set to revise the country's balance of payments (BOP) position forecast, confident that the projected surplus would be breached this year.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said over the weekend that monetary authorities will review the revised BOP surplus projection of $3.7 billion set in April, and come up with a revised target.

"We will be reviewing the numbers and releasing the updated projections by November," Tetangco said.

He attributed the widening of the surplus to strong foreign exchange inflows – higher foreign commercial borrowings of the national government, increased remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and robust earnings of the business process-outsourcing (BPO) sector.

The BOP measures the difference between foreign exchange inflows and outflows representing the country's transactions with the rest of the world I n a given period.

BSP data showed that the country's BOP surplus climbed 22.2 percent to $3.326 billion in the first seven months of the year from $2.722 billion in the same period last year due to strong investment inflows and higher OFW remittances.

In April, the BSP's Monetary Board said the 2010 BOP surplus would amount to $3.7 billion from the original target of $3.2 billion.

The country's BOP surplus narrowed to $89 million in 2008 from $8.67 billion in 2007 as international trade shrunk from global financial crisis.

The BOP position recovered last year with a surplus of $5.295 billion.

The strong foreign exchange inflows, Tetangco clarified, would not necessarily put more pressure on the peso that continued to strengthen against the US dollar.

Tetangco said the BOP surplus would continue to give the peso a fundamental support in the foreign exchange market.

"The exchange rate is affected by many things. It can also be affected by what is happening to the US dollar, investors' sentiments, then when there's news about global economic recovery. You see it is responding to a lot of different factors. But BOP surplus will give the fundamental support," Tetangco said. —JE/VS, GMANews.TV

97 OFWs from Kuwait to arrive home Monday

Ninety-seven repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Kuwait will arrive in Manila on Monday morning, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Sunday.

Most of the workers left their employers for various reasons and sought refuge at the government-run Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) where they stayed for three to eight months, a DFA statement said.

According to Philippine Ambassador Shulan Primavera, Kuwaiti immigration authorities waived the usual exit or repatriation requirements through representations made by the Embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office there.

Kuwaiti authorities also shouldered the repatriates’ plane fares, the DFA said.

The DFA said the usual deportation procedure requires the OFWs from FWRC to be surrendered to the local police first. The police will then summon the workers’ employers, who will then be required to surrender the workers’ passports. The workers’ visa will also be canceled and authorities will produce their plane tickets.

Primavera said the 97 were spared from that process.

“Our OFWs were spared from being placed at the deportation center where they could have stayed for more than three months. It can even be longer if the sponsor refuses to cooperate with the police," Primavera said. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

97 OFWs from Kuwait to arrive home Monday

Ninety-seven repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Kuwait will arrive in Manila on Monday morning, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Sunday.

Most of the workers left their employers for various reasons and sought refuge at the government-run Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) where they stayed for three to eight months, a DFA statement said.

According to Philippine Ambassador Shulan Primavera, Kuwaiti immigration authorities waived the usual exit or repatriation requirements through representations made by the Embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office there.

Kuwaiti authorities also shouldered the repatriates’ plane fares, the DFA said.

The DFA said the usual deportation procedure requires the OFWs from FWRC to be surrendered to the local police first. The police will then summon the workers’ employers, who will then be required to surrender the workers’ passports. The workers’ visa will also be canceled and authorities will produce their plane tickets.

Primavera said the 97 were spared from that process.

“Our OFWs were spared from being placed at the deportation center where they could have stayed for more than three months. It can even be longer if the sponsor refuses to cooperate with the police," Primavera said. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

OFWs in Riyadh warned vs fellow Pinoys ‘seeking help’

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh warned Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia to be wary of compatriots who are pretending to be in need of assistance but are actually working with local immigration officials.

In a release, the Embassy said a Filipino worker fell for the scheme two weeks ago, after coming to the aid of an OFW who claimed she needed to be “rescued".

The Embassy said according to the victim’s narration, a Filipina called him and asked that she be brought to the Embassy or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.

The Embassy said that even as the Kingdom prohibits people from taking into their custody those workers who escaped their employers, the victim still agreed to assist the “distressed" Filipina.

The victim first brought the Filipina to his residence.

It turned out, according to the Embassy, that they were followed by immigration authorities, who stormed the victim’s house and demanded for his immigration documents as well as those of the others living with him.

The authorities likewise grilled residents of the house to find out if unmarried or unrelated women and men were living together, or if there were OFWs there who escaped their sponsors.

The Filipina who earlier asked to be rescued eventually boarded the vehicle used by the authorities and left, the Embassy added.

“Sa kabutihang palad ay walang kinulong sa mga kababayan nating tumulong sa kadahilanang wala naming nakitang kakulangan sa kanilang mga papeles," the release said.

(Fortunately, none of the Filipino residents in the house were arrested because they all had proper documentation.)

Filipinos in the Kingdom are thus reminded to refer to the Embassy fellow Filipinos who are seeking help, instead if assisting them themselves, to avoid getting into trouble.

The Embassy said in such cases, Filipinos may call the following numbers: 482-3559, 482-3615, 480-1918, 482-1577, 482-4354, 482-0507 and 482-1802. —Jerrie M. Abella/VS, GMANews.TV

Intergovt body offers aid for OFWs’ kids at school

Children of Filipino migrant workers stand to benefit from a pilot high school subsidy scheme by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

The subsidy scheme, which also aims to benefit other disadvantaged youth, was ushered in this September by the IOM, which describes itself as “an intergovernmental organization … committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society."

“The pilot secondary education subsidy aims to keep up to 250 children in secondary school over the next two school years, who would have otherwise dropped out or not enrolled for financial reasons," IOM said on its website Saturday.

Initially targeted by the scheme are participating public high schools in Masbate, Antique, Agusan del Sur and Maguindanao.

Beneficiaries will get a monthly allowance of P1,000 for transport, food and other expenses, and P500 for school-related fees.

The subsidy scheme is part of a joint program “Alternatives to Migration: Decent Jobs for Filipino Youth" supported by the Spanish-funded Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Achievement Fund.

The program is implemented jointly by IOM, the International Labour Organization, the UN Children’s Fund, and the UN Population Fund.

IOM said at least 72 children from participating high schools in Antique were awarded education subsidy support in a ceremony attended by Governor Exequiel Javier.

Also attending the awarding were representatives of IOM, OWWA, the Department of Education and participating school heads.

“In his remarks, Governor Javier stressed the importance of education to Filipino families and welcomed the education subsidy in helping to address the high drop out rates in secondary education," IOM said.

The IOM noted the national secondary school drop-out rate in the Philippines is close to eight percent and is usually attributed to poverty, an inability to pay school fees and pressure to contribute to the family income.—JV, GMANews.TV

Intergovt body offers aid for OFWs’ kids at school

Children of Filipino migrant workers stand to benefit from a pilot high school subsidy scheme by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

The subsidy scheme, which also aims to benefit other disadvantaged youth, was ushered in this September by the IOM, which describes itself as “an intergovernmental organization … committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society."

“The pilot secondary education subsidy aims to keep up to 250 children in secondary school over the next two school years, who would have otherwise dropped out or not enrolled for financial reasons," IOM said on its website Saturday.

Initially targeted by the scheme are participating public high schools in Masbate, Antique, Agusan del Sur and Maguindanao.

Beneficiaries will get a monthly allowance of P1,000 for transport, food and other expenses, and P500 for school-related fees.

The subsidy scheme is part of a joint program “Alternatives to Migration: Decent Jobs for Filipino Youth" supported by the Spanish-funded Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Achievement Fund.

The program is implemented jointly by IOM, the International Labour Organization, the UN Children’s Fund, and the UN Population Fund.

IOM said at least 72 children from participating high schools in Antique were awarded education subsidy support in a ceremony attended by Governor Exequiel Javier.

Also attending the awarding were representatives of IOM, OWWA, the Department of Education and participating school heads.

“In his remarks, Governor Javier stressed the importance of education to Filipino families and welcomed the education subsidy in helping to address the high drop out rates in secondary education," IOM said.

The IOM noted the national secondary school drop-out rate in the Philippines is close to eight percent and is usually attributed to poverty, an inability to pay school fees and pressure to contribute to the family income.—JV, GMANews.TV

Pinay DH in Saudi: My employer flat-ironed my arms

A Filipina domestic in Saudi Arabia has accused her employer of inflicting flat iron burns on her.

In GMA News’ “24 Oras" report, the 18-year-old overseas Filipino worker (OFW) identified only as Ranya said her employer did not like the way she ironed clothes and so burned her arms with a hot flat iron.



Ranya said she had entered Saudi Arabia just recently as an overseas worker, but had no choice but to escape from her employer and file a complaint before the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Jeddah.

POLO officials in turn filed charges against the employer, who subsequently denied the accusation, claiming that Ranya inflicted the burns herself.

Local Saudi police had also urged Ranya to admit that the injury was self-inflicted, the report added.

POLO officials meanwhile vowed to follow upon Ranya’s complaint.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV
A Filipina domestic in Saudi Arabia has accused her employer of inflicting flat iron burns on her.

In GMA News’ “24 Oras" report, the 18-year-old overseas Filipino worker (OFW) identified only as Ranya said her employer did not like the way she ironed clothes and so burned her arms with a hot flat iron.



Ranya said she had entered Saudi Arabia just recently as an overseas worker, but had no choice but to escape from her employer and file a complaint before the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Jeddah.

POLO officials in turn filed charges against the employer, who subsequently denied the accusation, claiming that Ranya inflicted the burns herself.

Local Saudi police had also urged Ranya to admit that the injury was self-inflicted, the report added.

POLO officials meanwhile vowed to follow upon Ranya’s complaint.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV
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A Filipina domestic in Saudi Arabia has accused her employer of inflicting flat iron burns on her.

In GMA News’ “24 Oras" report, the 18-year-old overseas Filipino worker (OFW) identified only as Ranya said her employer did not like the way she ironed clothes and so burned her arms with a hot flat iron.



Ranya said she had entered Saudi Arabia just recently as an overseas worker, but had no choice but to escape from her employer and file a complaint before the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Jeddah.

POLO officials in turn filed charges against the employer, who subsequently denied the accusation, claiming that Ranya inflicted the burns herself.

Local Saudi police had also urged Ranya to admit that the injury was self-inflicted, the report added.

POLO officials meanwhile vowed to follow upon Ranya’s complaint.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

DOLE to Malaysia-bound jobseekers: Beware of online scam

Filipinos seeking jobs in Malaysia should beware of an online recruitment scam, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Friday.

DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the scam involves a supposed "email" from the Malaysian immigration department seeking visa processing fees.

“Such notices are a hoax and prospective workers for Malaysia should be very wary about answering these hoax emails," Baldoz warned, citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuala Lumpur.

Baldoz said the email claims to be a notice from the immigration authority, informing a prospective applicant of a pending appointment letter from a certain "Mobil Oil Company."

The email then allegedly requests for the processing of the applicant’s documents — and a processing fee.

Labor attaché to Kuala Lumpur Hassan Gabra Jumdain cited a sample email received by a prospective applicant, with the email seeking processing fees for a visa or residence work permit.

Such fees would cost the worker a total of $670 (P29,938) that the applicant should send through Western Union to an account name with a government office address in Kuala Lumpur.

“The email also indicates that the cost of pre-paid flight tickets will be shouldered by the host employer, in this case Mobil Oil Company," Jumdain reported.

Baldoz enjoined prospective overseas Filipino workers to strictly observe precautionary measures when applying for overseas employment in Malaysia.

“They should only deal with licensed recruitment agencies posted at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration website or visit the POEA for advice. They should not be lured by sweet words from fixers and agents promising overseas jobs for a fee. Better still, they should immediately report illegal recruiters to government authorities," she said.

She also warned illegal recruiters to stop plying their nefarious trade because the law will eventually catch up with them.—JMA/JV, GMANews.TV
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