Sunday, January 30, 2011

POEA sees drop in PT deployment until 2011

by Caroline J. Howard, ANC


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) expects a drop in the deployment of physical therapists abroad over the next year.

This after the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy in the United States imposed a one-year ban on applicants from the Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan and India from taking the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), the licensure exam needed to be able to work in the US.

The decision comes after the US State Board found evidence that some schools and review centers in the country leaked exam questions. (Read story: Filipino physical therapists banned from taking US tests)

Around 800 to 900 physical therapists out of 1,900 graduates who passed the annual licensure exam in the country will not be able to take the licensure exam in the US.

"In the first half of 2010, we received the same amount of job orders for the whole of last year 1,480," says Atty. Hans Cacdac, POEA Deputy Administrator for Licensing and Adjudication, in an interview on ANC's The Rundown Friday night.

"With this event, we're looking at a reduction of deployment, at least for the one year period thru 2011."



No violation

The St. Louis Review Center in Manila is one of the review centers allegedly involved in leaking exam questions, a claim its operators deny.

"For the St. Louis Review Center, there is no infringement that happened with us. The case is on appeal," says the president of the St. Louis Review Center Roger Tong-Ann, in an interview on ANC's Rundown.

He insists there was no copyright infringement in the crafting of test questions, as they, as reviewer, had come up with their own.

In the wake of the one-year licensure exam ban, Cacdac says, the labor department can take steps to monitor the process of recruitment.

"What the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) can do is get back to the FED (Federation) and find out ways in which review centers and the process of recruitment of physical therapists could have a higher degree of integrity," Cacdac says. "We also communicated with some recruiters, and the recruiter association of of health service workers from foreign lands are on top of this and making own calls to the federation."

Decision on appeal

DOLE is set to file an appeal seeking to reverse the Federation’s decision.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz says the Philippine labor attache in the US. has prepared a letter of appeal, adding the Philippines is willing to undertake steps for the ban to be lifted.

Cacdac, however, believes the incident has not completely marred the confidence in the country's pool of medical workers.

"We are not seeing this as an indictment or a commentary on the entire force of physical therapists we've sent since time immemorial. I think the US health care system would have a clear understanding of the kind of services our physical therapists have delivered and I don't think any of these high standards will be undermined by this incident," Cacdac says.

Pursuing regulation

Officials admit government may need to have some control over nursing review centers as there are largely unregulated, despite earlier attempts to place them under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

"After the nursing scam in 2006, the government thru an executive order, directed CHED to come up with a CHED Memo Order putting all review centers under CHED, but this was questioned by the review centers," says Commissioner Nilo Rosas of the Professional Regulation Commission.

"The Review Center Association of the Philippines (RECAP) is self-regulating and we're the ones calling on the government to regulate us," says Carl Balita, vice-president of the Review Center Association of the Philippines, and owner of a nursing review center.

"One issue in CHED control was they did not want us to exist that time. Our requirement was to be attached to a school and to exist only as review center. We did not resist regulation," Balita says.

Redeeming RP's image

Amid questions on the integrity of the country's physical therapists, officials now say, assessing the situation and the industry's commitments, and reaching out to concerned agencies, the private sector and review centers is crucial in redeeming the image of the country.

"This is a question of integrity and what's clear in the destination country, the FED would want to make sure they have an honest way of assessing our therapists so they have a minimum way of hurdling the safety standards they have," Cacdac says.

"The team effort is to coordinate a group that will assess the situation: what happened in 2007, and since then, and assess the meeting in Washington DC, look at the commitments we had then, see how far we've gone to attain those commitment and formulate strategies to attain those commitments," he adds.

"We may not have to abolish review center but without sacrificing integrity of licensure, I hope colleges and universities make it part of the curriculum," adds Rosas

POEA projects 6% drop in OFW deployment

By Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star


MANILA, Philippines – Fewer Filipino workers are expected to get employed abroad this year, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported on Jan. 28.

POEA chief Carlos Cao Jr. said the government foresee as much as a 6% drop in overseas deployment for 2011 with the strict implementation of a new law protecting migrant workers.

“Based on initial estimate, we are looking at 5% to 6% reduction in deployment because of our current direction to give emphasis in protection although we are not abandoning effort to deploy workers abroad,” Cao disclosed.

“As we give emphasis on protection it is natural for us to be selective and opt for better jobs,” Cao added.

Cao noted that under the Aquino administration, the government would promote the deployment of highly skilled workers and discourage employment of household service workers (HSWs) who comprise the bulk of OFWs abroad, but are more vulnerable to abuses.

Last year, Cao said the POEA recorded a 3% decline in the number of Filipinos hired abroad mainly due to the implementation of the newly amended Migrant Workers Act.

The new law mandates, among others, insurance coverage for every Filipino worker to be deployed abroad and foreign countries to have certificate of “safe destination” from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

To prevent a possible decline in hiring of overseas workers this year, Cao said the government is intensifying programs to provide for free skills training for aspiring OFWs.

“We are already coordinating with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority so we could provide skills training that could make our workers more qualified for better employment abroad,” Cao pointed out.

Cao said the POEA is also working with the country’s maritime industry to enable the country to fill the high global demand for seafarers.

Ericson Marquez, an official of the Filipino Association for Mariners Employment Inc. (FAME), said there are at least 43,000 vacancies available for Filipino seafarers for the next three years.

“For the next three years, about 4,700 new foreign vessels would be built that would require crewmen. Based on this we are projecting at least 43,000 new jobs for Filipino seafarers,” Marquez explained.

At this time, Marquez said Filipino seafarers comprise 30% of the total number of global seafarers.

Marquez said private maritime industry would be coordinating with the government, including the POEA so that the country could capture up to 50% of the jobs for maritime officers and crew worldwide.

As this developed, POEA belied reports that the government has imposed a deployment ban in countries without the necessary certification from the DFA.

Migrante International claimed that they have been getting numerous inquiries regarding reports that the government banned the deployment of workers in several countries.

Cao said the government cannot just impose a deployment ban just because a country employing OFWs failed to secure the mandated certification from the DFA.

“We also need to consider diplomatic repercussions as well as the need for employment of our workers before we could impose a ban,” Cao explained.

OFWs dressed as 'nuns' barred at NAIA

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines – Immigration authorities stopped 6 Filipino overseas workers disguised as nuns from leaving the country.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) officer-in-charge Ronaldo Ledesma said the women were about to board a Cebu Pacific flight to Hong Kong Thursday night when they were stopped at the departure area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3).

Ledesma said the OFWs planned to take a connecting flight to Beirut despite a long standing government ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to the said Middle Eastern country.

He said the women are victims of illegal recruiters “who will not stop using all tricks and employ every scheme to circumvent our ban on the departure of undocumented OFWs.”

In a press statement, the BI said the OFWs were caught after one of them approached the BI counter and was referred by the immigration officer on-duty to his superiors for secondary inspection.

While she was being questioned, members of the BI travel control enforcement unit (TCEU) noticed the presence of 5 other women dressed as nuns who were loitering outside the immigration area premises as if waiting for a cue.

They, too, were invited for questioning. Although they have similar documents, it turned out that the ‘nun’s did not know each other.

The women claimed to be missionaries from the St. Joseph Laud Sta. Maria congregation in Baguio City and alleged that they will attend a 3-day seminar in Hong Kong. They presented a certification purportedly issued by their parish priest.

The agency said the women’s personal appearance gave them away. Immigration officers noticed that one of them was wearing red shoes, a colorful handbag and wore her 'costume' improperly.

They later admitted that they were bound for Lebanon and named a certain “Philip” as their recruiter who brought them to the airport onboard 2 vehicles.

Pinoys worry after Obama’s State of the Union Address

Pinoys worry after Obama’s State of the Union Address
By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau


SAN FRANCISCO – With America facing a deficit of $1.48 trillion, some Filipinos in San Francisco know President Obama faces a tough year ahead.

A mother of three, Evelyn Gonzales admitted that she stopped watching in the middle of Obama’s State of the Union Address because she was disheartened.

She said, “Since last year, nothing has changed.”

Education was a major part of Obama’s State of the Union Address, saying America should once again become an international leader in higher education.

But Gonzales said America cannot produce more college graduates because the government continues to cut millions of dollars in education funding.

At the Canon Kip Senior Center, 80-year-old Felicitas Juridico is worried that healthcare and deficit reductions would affect seniors like her who depend on Medicare and Social Security benefits.

She said, “We’re old. We’re sickly. What they’re giving us right now is not enough as it is. They can’t cut us anymore funding.”

Medicare and Social Security Specialist MC Canlas said he expects the government to make cuts on services benefiting seniors and low-income families, because Obama and lawmakers want to cut the deficit.

“The thing is, the government ends up spending more money if they don’t invest on the people. They need to give people basic healthcare and services,” he said.

Filipinos also said the president focused too much on reviving the economy and failed to address key issues such as immigration reform. But even with their disappointment and worries, some Filipinos are still hopeful that Obama can still turn things around.

Juridico said, “We all need to unite and do our part to help America.” Balitang America

OFW dies in Jeddah flood

By Charles Tabbu, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau


SAUDI ARABIA - A Filipino overseas worker died after he was electrocuted while wading in the flood that hit Jeddah Wednesday afternoon.

Ronilo Roman Malit, 53, had spent almost half his life working in Saudi Arabia. The native of Pampanga worked as a cargo loader for 28 years but lost his life when he rushed back to their cargo warehouse to save items that might get wet from the flood.

According to his brother Nomer, Ronilo was driving back to the warehouse Wednesday noon when he was stranded by the flood at the Kandara area. He eventually decided to leave his car and walk instead.

His last call to his co-staff was around 11:40 a.m. He informed his colleague that he was walking back to the warehouse to salvage a newly purchased shoes from the Philippines that might get wet from the rising flood water.

The next call was from a friend who informed Malit’s colleague that the OFW died because he was electrocuted due to a transformer that got soaked in the water.

It took about 4 hours for his brother Nomer to reach him because of the flood. Authorities retrieved the body around 9:00 p.m.

“I am so helpless that moment. I cannot help even to transport the remains of my brother due to the traffic caused by the flood,” Nomer said. “I was not even allowed to touch my brother,” he added.

Nomer described Ronilo as a good man and a good provider to their relatives back in the Philippines.

“He was able to send our relatives to college. Some already finished their degrees and some are still in college,” said Nomer.

Nomer said he already lost a brother in a flood when typhoon Ondoy hit the Philippines.

“Now, I lost another brother from a flood again here in Saudi Arabia. It is so painful to lose my loving brothers,” he said.

Worse, Nomer said they did not recover his brother’s wallet.

“He usually has cash with him from collections from customers sending cargos. Whoever found it, please return it. We need every piece of support at this moment. His [meager] salary from being a cargo loader supports his family back home,” said Nomer.

“We need assistance for my brother’s remain to be repatriated to the Philippines as soon as possible,“ said Nomer.

A friend who knew Ronilo for a long time was surprised to learn about the sad news.

“He is a very good friend. He helped people. Until now, I can’t believe that he’s gone,” said his friend, Redendor Bual.

Meanwhile, Consul Tito Ausan of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah assured the Malit family of assistance.

Ronilo's body is still at the King Abdulaziz Hospital.

Philippines prepares for impact of Egypt riots on OFWs

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government expressed concern over the events unfolding in Egypt, particularly for the safety of the more than 6,500 Filipinos living there.

“We hope for a peaceful and just resolution to the political unrest currently taking place and a swift return to stability,” a palace statement said Saturday.

The government said it is monitoring the situation and assured that the Philippine Embassy in Cairo has contingencies in place and is ready to relocate Filipinos to safer areas if necessary.

“As always, the safety of our citizens is the paramount concern and we are doing what we can to anticipate and attend to their needs,” the statement added.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a message on Twitter that President Benigno Aquino III has already instructed the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), and the departments of national defense, foreign affairs, and labor and employment to meet and recommend further measures on the situation in Egypt.

The embassy has already prepared 4 relocation sites—3 in Cairo and 1 in Alexandria.

Earlier, Philippine Charge d’Affaires Eduardo Pablo Maglaya said the embassy activated a crisis management center to respond to the changing developments in Egypt.

According to Maglaya, the embassy also issued an advisory to Filipinos, urging them to stay indoors and avoid going to public places, particularly in areas where protests actions are being held.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said there are 6,569 Filipinos mostly based in Cairo and Alexandria.

So far, no Filipinos or foreign nationals were reported hurt in the demonstrations, the embassy said.

DFA: No Pinoys hurt in Egypt riots

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – No Filipinos have been hurt in the riots that broke out against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, ABS-CBN News Channel reported Saturday.

“There are no reports that anyone of them has been hurt during the course of the protest actions that have been taking place,” said Foreign Affairs Spokesman Ed Malaya.

Malaya said the Philippine Embassy in Egypt has already advised Filipinos to stay away from ongoing protests.

He added that communication remains difficult as Internet connection and telephone services in the area have yet to be restored.

“Our Charge d'Affairs there informed the DFA that they have activated a crisis management center at the embassy. We now run a 24-hour shift of duty officers and that he has issued an advisory to community leaders and community members to stay home and for them to stay clear of public places where the protests are taking place,” he said.

‘Bare contingency plans’

Meanwhile, the palace said the embassy has prepared contingency measures in case the situation worsens.

President Benigno Aquino III is also closely monitoring developments there. The DFA however sees no need to move Filipino nationals or repatriate them at this time.

Migrante-Middle East Chapter earlier urged the government to bare its contingency plan for Filipinos caught in the middle of the riots in Egypt.

“The volatile political situation in Egypt marred by massive rallies staged by thousands of discontented Egyptian protesters demands a closer look and serious concerns on the part of the Aquino administration,” said John Leonard Monterona, the group’s regional coordinator.

Monterona said the government must send Special Envoy Roy Cimatu of the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Team to assess the political situation and secure the safety of thousands of Filipinos based in Egypt.

“We are urging the Aquino administration to bare its contingency plan for OFWs in Egypt, if there is any, as the political situation in Egypt had already escalated,” Monterona said.

The DFA said there are some 6,569 Filipinos in Egypt, mostly in Cairo and Alexandria, but are far from the venue of demonstrations.

Migrants group asks Palace to evacuate Pinoys from Egypt

abs-cbnNEWS.com
Malacanang: Filipinos still safe
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - A migrants’ rights group has appealed to Malacanang to evacuate Filipinos from Egypt due to the escalating violence there.

Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator Leonard Monterona said “the political situation in Egypt has already escalated amid the continued massive protests by the Egyptian people and there is no indication that it would be resolved calmly though we prayed for its peaceful resolution.”

Fresh riots continued in Egypt as tens of thousands flooded central Cairo demanding President Hosni Mubarak to step down from office due to corruption, police brutality and flailing economy.

As of Saturday, the death toll has reached 100.

'No need to evacuate yet'

The Department of Foreign Affairs reported that no Filipino was hurt.

In an interview with radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said: “We have been in contact with the embassy there. Our kababayans are still safe. There is no need yet to evacuate.”

She said the Filipinos have been heeding the instructions of the DFA to stay indoors and steer clear of public places especially in sites of mass protests.

In its latest press release, the DFA said it is also closely coordinating with other government agencies to monitor the situation in Egypt.

The DFA mobilized on Saturday a Crisis Management Team in Manila.

Upon the instructions of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Special Assistant Enrico Fos of the DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs will leave for Egypt on Monday to assist the Embassy in the implementation of contingency measures for the Filipino community.

Special Envoy Roy Cimatu will likewise proceed to Egypt after the conclusion of his mission in another country in the region.

Undocumented workers

Monterona said: “As the political turmoil in Egypt escalates and we could not see any indication of peaceful resolution, the Aquino government must now seriously consider the immediate evacuation of OFWs, even undocumented, and our Filipino diplomats out of Egypt.”

DFA said there are 6,569 Filipinos in Egypt, but Monterona said this is too conservative and may not include the undocumented and over-staying Filipinos.

“Based on the account made by our fellow OFWs and affiliate in Egypt, there are about 20,000 Filipinos in Egypt, a considerable number works as domestic workers and care givers,” Monterona added.

There are already Arab nations that have organized flights to take their nationals out of Egypt.

Monterona noted it would be easier for Filipinos near Cairo to leave the place since the airport and the mbassy is there.

“But what worries us are those living in Alexandria and Suez as it would take them to travel first to proceed to Cairo for evacuation,” he added.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Biktima ng human trafficking: Magkapatid na babae, ginahasa ng amo sa KSA

MANILA – Nanawagan sa pamahalaan ang isang kongresista na kaagad kumilos upang maibalik na sa Pilipinas ang libu-libong overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) na namamalagi sa mga temporary shelter sa Saudi Arabia.

Sa isang pahayag nitong Sabado, sinabi ni Coop-NATCCO party-list Rep. Cresente Paez, na bagaman nasa mga temporary shelter, marami sa mga OFW ang nagdurusa pa rin at nangangailangan ng tulong katulad ng mga naninirahan sa ilalim ng Khandara Bridge sa Jeddah.

Kabilang si Paez sa four-man House contingent na bumisita kamakailan sa Riyadh, Jeddah at Al Khobar sa Saudi Arabia, kung saan personal nilang nadinig ang pakiusap ng mga distressed OFWs na tulungan silang makauwi na sa Pilipinas. (Basahin: Kongresista nagulat sa kalagayan ng mga distressed OFW sa KSA)

Batay umano sa talaan ng OFW group na Migrante International, tinatayang 3,000 runaway OFWs ang namamalagi sa iba’t ibang temporary shelter sa KSA.

Habang nasa KSA, sinabi ni Paez na nakilala niya ang magkapatid na babae na biktima ng human trafficking at pang-aabuso ng kanilang amo sa Saudi Arabia.

Kuwento umano ng magkapatid, ni-recruit sila ng isang agency sa Manila at pinangakuang ipapasok ng trabaho sa beauty salon sa Saudi Arabia.

Ngunit pagdating nabanggit na bansa, katulong ang trabaho na kanilang binagsakan at ilang ulit pa silang hinalay ng kanilang amo bago sila “nasagip."

“One of them told us that one was even raped on the day that they were rescued," ayon kay Paez.

Patuloy din umanong dumadami ang mga OFW sa Saudi Arabia batay sa natatanggap na impormasyon mula sa Philippine consulate at non-governmental groups na tumutulong sa mga distressed migrant workers.

Ngunit kahit maiuwi na sa bansa, sinabi ng kongresista na kailangang ipagpatuloy ang pagtulong sa mga OFW na nangangailangan ng counseling at psychological treatment.

“Those who were physically abused should undergo medical treatment until they are ready to be integrated into the mainstream of society," paliwanag niya.

Nakahanda rin umano ang grupo ni Paez na tulungan ang mga makababalik na OFWs para makapagsimula sa Pilipinas katulad ng pagnenegosyo kahit maliit lamang.

“Our plan is to give them technical assistance like training on how to put up their own cooperatives so that they will become owners and managers of their own businesses," aniya.

Nakikipag-ugnayan na umano siya sa mga taong nasa likod ng mga matagumpay na kooperatiba ng itinayo ng Pinoy hairdresser na si Ricky Reyes. - GMANews.TV

9 ‘abused’ OFWs arrive from Riyadh

Some 19 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who claimed being abused by their employers in Saudi Arabia arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

The DFA said the repatriated OFWs, all women, stayed at the Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh prior to their repatriation.

"Most of the OFWs left their employers due to alleged abuse, maltreatment and non-payment of salaries," the DFA said in a news release posted Wednesday on its website.

Extending assistance to the repatriated OFWs were representatives from the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) and Overseas Welfare Workers Administration (OWWA).

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh provided the OFWs shelter, food, basic amenities, and appropriate assistance in processing their exit visas, the DFA said.

Following their arrival, the OFWs were brought to the OWWA shelter house in Pasay City for stress debriefing and counseling before heading back to their respective provinces. - KBK, GMANews.TV

3 Filipino seafarers receive P10M in settled claims

Three Filipino seamen has received over P10 million in settled claims after the Department of Labor and Employment stepped into the disputes with their respective employers.

The Labor Department said in a statement that the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) settled maritime disputes at Bahia Shipping Services Inc., Ventis Maritime Corp., and Phoenix Maritime Corp.

Beneficiaries included Fourth Engineer Froilan Vallano who obtained $95,000 (P4,225,600), oiler/fitter Rufino Boco Jr. who got P4,273,300, and able seaman Remo Jungco Jr., who received $55,000 (P2,446,400).

NCMB executive director Reynaldo Ubaldo said Vallano was working on board m/s Braeman through Bahia Shipping Services Inc. on behalf of Fred Olson Cruise Lines Ltd. for nine months.

While on board the vessel on Aug. 26, 2009, Vallano suffered multiple rib fractures and eye hemorrhage, which caused his repatriation and confinement at the Metropolitan Hospital in Manila.

In February last year, he sought for full disability benefits, illness allowances, and reimbursement of medical expenses.

On the Ventis dispute, Boco was injured on March 1, 2010 while on board m/v Triton Highway that resulted in his repatriation and hospital confinement.

Buco sought for NCMB to intercede. Eventually, he got full and complete settlement of his claims.

For his part, Jungco suffered an injury that resulted in his disability. He was discharged from m/v Iris Sky and repatriated to Manila in March 2010.

In October 2010, he asked the NCMB to arbitrate his claim for disability benefits.

On Dec. 22, Phoenix Maritime and Good Hope Management Inc. amicably settled the claim. —JE/VS, GMANews.TV

Jeddah muling nalubog sa baha; mga Pinoy pinag-iingat

JEDDAH – Nagbigay ng paalala sa mga Pinoy sa lugar na ito ang mga opisyal ng Embahada at Konsulada ng Pilipinas kaugnay sa nagaganap na matinding pagbaha doon dulot ng malakas na pag-ulan.

Ang paalala ay ginawa ni Consul Leo Tito Ausan, sa mga Pinoy matapos silang makatanggap ng impormasyon na mayroong Pinoy na nakuryente sa paglusong sa baha nitong Miyerkules.

Mga tagpo sa pagbaha sa Jeddah - Ronald Concha
“May natanggap na kaming report na may nakuryenteng Pinoy at amin pa itong bineberipika," ayon sa opisyal.

Maliban sa naturang insidente, wala na umanong ibang natatanggap na ulat tungkol sa mga Filipino na maaaring napahamak sa pagbaha.

Ang paglubog sa baha ng maraming lansangan sa Jeddah nitong Miyerkules dulot ng malakas na pag-ulan ay pangalawa na ngayong Enero.

Nagmistulang ilog ang kahabaan ng mga pangunahing kalsada sa Jeddah na naging dahilan sa pagkaka-stranded ng libu-libong motorista, kabilang na mga migranteng Pinoy.

Sinabi ng isang Pinoy na nakausap ng GMANews.TV, na umaabot hanggang leeg ang lalim ng tubig sa lugar ng Ballad na paboritong lugar ng mga OFWs para pamili ng mga produkto.

Kahit maagang kinansela ang klase sa mga Philippine school dahil sa pag-ulan, marami pa ring anak ng mga OFWs ang ginabi sa pag-uwi dahil naipit sa matinding trapiko.

Ang iba namang OFWs ay napilitang magpalipas ng gabi sa kanilang mga pinapasukan.

Ikinuwento naman ng isang OFW na nagngangalang Muffy na nalubog sa tubig ang unang palapag ng kanilang bahay.

“Mabuti na lang may second floor kami," ayon sa OFW sa GMANews.TV. “Grabe po ang tubig dito, sobra ang taas. Nakakatakot po talaga."

Dahil sa peligro na malusot sa mga butas sa kalye at kaya'y makuryente, pinayuhan ni Charges d Affaires Consul General Ezzedin Tago ang mga Pinoy na manatili na lang sa kanilang mga bahay kung wala rin lang importanteng pupuntahan. - Ronald Concha, GMANews.TV

Jeddah muling nalubog sa baha; mga Pinoy pinag-iingat

JEDDAH – Nagbigay ng paalala sa mga Pinoy sa lugar na ito ang mga opisyal ng Embahada at Konsulada ng Pilipinas kaugnay sa nagaganap na matinding pagbaha doon dulot ng malakas na pag-ulan.

Ang paalala ay ginawa ni Consul Leo Tito Ausan, sa mga Pinoy matapos silang makatanggap ng impormasyon na mayroong Pinoy na nakuryente sa paglusong sa baha nitong Miyerkules.

Mga tagpo sa pagbaha sa Jeddah - Ronald Concha
“May natanggap na kaming report na may nakuryenteng Pinoy at amin pa itong bineberipika," ayon sa opisyal.

Maliban sa naturang insidente, wala na umanong ibang natatanggap na ulat tungkol sa mga Filipino na maaaring napahamak sa pagbaha.

Ang paglubog sa baha ng maraming lansangan sa Jeddah nitong Miyerkules dulot ng malakas na pag-ulan ay pangalawa na ngayong Enero.

Nagmistulang ilog ang kahabaan ng mga pangunahing kalsada sa Jeddah na naging dahilan sa pagkaka-stranded ng libu-libong motorista, kabilang na mga migranteng Pinoy.

Sinabi ng isang Pinoy na nakausap ng GMANews.TV, na umaabot hanggang leeg ang lalim ng tubig sa lugar ng Ballad na paboritong lugar ng mga OFWs para pamili ng mga produkto.

Kahit maagang kinansela ang klase sa mga Philippine school dahil sa pag-ulan, marami pa ring anak ng mga OFWs ang ginabi sa pag-uwi dahil naipit sa matinding trapiko.

Ang iba namang OFWs ay napilitang magpalipas ng gabi sa kanilang mga pinapasukan.

Ikinuwento naman ng isang OFW na nagngangalang Muffy na nalubog sa tubig ang unang palapag ng kanilang bahay.

“Mabuti na lang may second floor kami," ayon sa OFW sa GMANews.TV. “Grabe po ang tubig dito, sobra ang taas. Nakakatakot po talaga."

Dahil sa peligro na malusot sa mga butas sa kalye at kaya'y makuryente, pinayuhan ni Charges d Affaires Consul General Ezzedin Tago ang mga Pinoy na manatili na lang sa kanilang mga bahay kung wala rin lang importanteng pupuntahan. - Ronald Concha, GMANews.TV

Monday, January 24, 2011

POEA execs cry harassment over trafficking, corruption raps

By Jojo Malig, abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Five officials of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) who have been accused of human trafficking and graft and corruption before the Department of Justice (DOJ) cried foul Tuesday over the allegations.

In an e-mail sent to ABS-CBN News, Atty. Alejandro A. Padaen, Atty. Jesus Gabriel C. Domingo, Atty. Marieta S. Labong dela Cruz, Ernesto B. Vistro, and Nascel A. Gabito said there is “no case” against them.

“This is a case of trial by publicity. Our antagonists just want to subject us to ridicule when they caused the publication of the alleged case,” they said.

A complaint was earlier filed against the 5 POEA officials and recruitment agency officers Edgardo D. Wisco of Worldview International Services Corporation, Marichu Elagha of Future Careers Recruitment Agency Inc., and Amelita Villarosa of Shanlene Manpower and Recruitment Services before the DOJ for alleged human trafficking and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The complainant, who asked ABS-CBN News to temporarily withhold his name for security reasons, is an employee of the POEA.

The complaint alleged that "a total of 100 overseas Filipino workers [OFWs] were deployed in the year 2010 by the three (3) named agencies whose licenses were already cancelled by the POEA but whose penalty were not implemented by the respondents, head and officials of the POEA Adjudication Office and the Docket and Enforcement Branch, who are charged with the execution and release of orders issued against erring agencies and principals, within 15 days and, in fact, transmitted at least 30 days after signing by the POEA Administrator because the respondents intentionally, and for very long periods, conspired in the non-implementation of said orders to facilitate more deployment by agencies no longer authorized to deploy because of recruitment violations."

The complaint listed the names of OFWs deployed in the said period by these agencies, copies of cancellation orders signed by the POEA administrator, and proof of release of the orders from the Office of the Administrator to respondents.

Proof of late implementation by the respondents were also attached as evidence.

"There was human trafficking because OFWs were actually transported and recruited for overseas employment with the clear intent of exploiting them through forced labor and involuntary servitude as evidence by previous complaints against the same private respondents," the complaint read.

"These OFWs were subjected to exploitation, forced labor, some of them to prostitution, they were not paid, not fed," said Assistant City Prosecutor Raymond Jonathan Lledo, National Task Force chairman of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) in an earlier interview.

‘No trafficking took place’

The 5 POEA officials, on the other hand, described the complaint as “pure harassment,” claiming that no trafficking place.

“There is no way that we could have committed illegal trafficking. We do not personally know the agencies and the alleged victims mentioned by the complainant. And as we perform our official functions, we could not have profited from it except through our regular wages,” they said.

“The case filed against us is to cover up the illegal transactions of Jennifer Manalili and her cohorts including Stephen Cascolan and Tootsie Sebastian and to retaliate against our group who have filed charges of acts of corruption against them.”

The POEA officials said they were part of the campaign to oust Manalili as POEA administrator.

“We believe the case filed against us was a cheap and desperate shot and in retaliation to our success in thwarting their hidden scheme of taking full control of the whole POEA operations,” they added.

“Obviously, Manalili’s underlings orchestrated the filing of this 'human trafficking' case to humiliate us. Our families, co-workers and clients may not believe the accusations but harm has been done,” the POEA officials said.

They said that they consider the complaint against them as a “temporary annoyance” that “would not stand in court.”

“Nonetheless, we are waiting for the formal complaint to be served so we can clear our names as soon as possible,” they said.

VP Binay supports probe on POEA anomalies

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MANILA, Philippines - Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Monday said he supports a Senate inquiry into alleged anomalies within the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

In a statement, Binay, who is the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers' Concerns, said all steps must be taken to protect the welfare of the nation's migrant workers.

"The national interest clearly lies with the protection of the rights and welfare of our overseas workers. If there are procedural or administrative gaps and even acts of collusion or connivance to the detriment of our OFWs, then let the truth come out," he said.

The clamor for a Senate inquiry came from civil society groups that were alarmed when a complainant recently filed human trafficking charges against certain POEA personnel with the Department of Justice.

The complaint said 3 recruitment agencies whose licenses were ordered canceled were still able to recruit because the penalty was not immediately carried out by the respondents.

As a result, the complainant, who is also an employee of the POEA, said that the workers deployed by the three agencies suffered abuse and exploitation including forced labor trafficking.

The respondents, however, claimed that the complaint was meant to harass those who protested an unlawful order meant to restructure and reorganize the POEA during the term of former administrator Jennifer Manalili.

Senate Resolution No. 329 directs the Blue Ribbon committee and other appropriate Senate committees to look into complaints of anomalies and alleged corruption within the POEA which may have led to the exploitation of overseas Filipino workers.

The Senate resolution stressed that the global demand for Filipino workers must be balanced with the need to safeguard their rights through duly-verified job contracts, carefully-screened foreign employers, and professionally competent as well as honest licensed recruitment agencies.

"At the core of this controversy is the welfare and protection of every overseas worker who relies on the POEA to ensure that his or her job contract and foreign employer have been duly verified and rigorously screened," the resolution, authored by Sen. Antonio Trillanes, said.

In Saudi, people need a license to blog

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MANILA, Philippines - Bloggers in Saudi Arabia may have a harder time making themselves heard this year.

The Saudi Arabian government is now requiring its nationals to have a license before they start posting things online, reported ITP, a technology website in the Middle East.

Those caught blogging without a permit from the Ministry of Culture and Information may be subjected to a fine of up to $26,664 and a possible ban on all online activity.

"The stringent new regulations, which went into effect on January 1, 2011, also state that all Saudi news blogs and electronic news sites will now be licensed and required to strictly abide by Sharia law and 'include the call to the religion of Islam,'" ITP said in its report.

Only Saudi nationals who are at least 20 years old and a high school graduate can register for a blogging license. If approved, they will be required to provide detailed information on their hosting company, and their posts will be closely monitored.

Websites and blogs that the government disapproves of will be shut down.

Saudi nationals who post on online forums, communicate on listservs and enter in chatrooms are also advised to register with the government under the new law.

Meanwhile, non-nationals are still allowed to post their views online, but not about news.

In Saudi, people need a license to blog

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines - Bloggers in Saudi Arabia may have a harder time making themselves heard this year.

The Saudi Arabian government is now requiring its nationals to have a license before they start posting things online, reported ITP, a technology website in the Middle East.

Those caught blogging without a permit from the Ministry of Culture and Information may be subjected to a fine of up to $26,664 and a possible ban on all online activity.

"The stringent new regulations, which went into effect on January 1, 2011, also state that all Saudi news blogs and electronic news sites will now be licensed and required to strictly abide by Sharia law and 'include the call to the religion of Islam,'" ITP said in its report.

Only Saudi nationals who are at least 20 years old and a high school graduate can register for a blogging license. If approved, they will be required to provide detailed information on their hosting company, and their posts will be closely monitored.

Websites and blogs that the government disapproves of will be shut down.

Saudi nationals who post on online forums, communicate on listservs and enter in chatrooms are also advised to register with the government under the new law.

Meanwhile, non-nationals are still allowed to post their views online, but not about news.

2,448 distressed OFWs left western Saudi in 2010

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines – A total of 2,448 Filipinos in distress were repatriated from Saudi Arabia's western region last year, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah said Sunday.

The Consulate General, in a press statement, said it coordinated with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, immigration authorities, and other agencies in the repatriation process.

Funding for the repatriation came from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office/Overseas Workers Welfare Authority (1,539), the host government (844), employers (43), and workers' personal expense (37).

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also gave funds for some cases.

Consulate staff members also visited the Khandara Bridge in Jeddah, where overstaying nationals, including overseas Filipinos, often congregate.

Overstaying nationals usually congregate at the Khandara Bridge overpass to call the attention of local immigration authorities in the hope that their subsequent arrest from the said public place would lead to faster deportation proceedings.

Some temporarily camp out at the overpass, while others return either to their homes or their friends’ houses.

The consulate said it is working on the repatriation of some 40 Filipinos who recently seen at the Khandara overpass. "The allegations of neglect made by some quarters are baseless and gratuitous," the Consulate-General said.

It added that local regulations and processes need to be observed.

“With respect to those staying at the Khandara Bridge, it is the local immigration police that determine the number of people to be processed for deportation and when to begin said process,” the consulate explained.

The Consulate-General also noted that not all 40 are OFWs. A number of them were hajj/umrah pilgrims who overstayed their visas.

The Saudi government announced on 23 September a 6-month royal amnesty for some overstaying foreign nationals.

The amnesty program is effective until March 23 this year.

The consulate, meanwhile, issued an advisory to the Filipino community on the deportation procedures for holders of expired umrah, hajj, or visitors' visas.

Meanwhile, the consulate in Jeddah and the Philippine embassy in Riyadh advised Filipinos who have problems with their employers to first seek the assistance either of their respective offices or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, including filing of complaints with Saudi authorities if needed, instead of absconding and seeking work elsewhere.

“If OFWs seek work elsewhere without permission of Saudi authorities or otherwise become out of status, they would have difficulty securing an exit permit when they want to return to the Philippines,” the consulate added.
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