Wednesday, December 26, 2012

GMA News Online awarded by OFW network

GMA News Online has been recognized by a support group for OFW families for its "dedication to advancing the cause of Overseas Filipino Workers."

2012-12-17 20.34.45.jpg

OFWs and their families were polled online about their media preferences and GMA's news website was chosen for "OFWs' Gawad Parangal," according to Fe Nicodemus, chair of KAKAMMPI, which conducted the poll.

Snapshot 58 (12-19-2012 2-43 PM).png

"GMA News Online is pro OFW, totoong mga balita, dekalidad at walang kinikilingan," said Nicodemus in a text message Thursday.

Nicodemus said most of their respondents came from the Middle East, Singapore and Hong Kong. The other media awardee was Susan K, an Inquirer columnist who writes the "Ang boses ng OFW" column. KAKAMMPI, or the Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino, also gave awards to several NGOs and institutions. Editor-in-chief Howie Severino accepted the award on GMA News Online's behalf last Monday evening.

More than half of GMA News Online's audience reside overseas, with a large number in Saudi Arabia. One of the website's more prolific sections is Pinoy Abroad, which aside from news about OFW issues, posts content related to Filipino achievers overseas as well as self-help articles that Pinoys far from home can use. It also publishes articles by overseas content partners The Filipino Reporter and The FilAm.

The section is headed by Veronica Pulumbarit, with staff writers Drei Medina and Gian Geronimo. -- GMA News

Thursday, December 6, 2012

12.12.12 is Pag-IBIG Day at SM

For the second year in a row, Pag-IBIG members will be treated to special discounts in all SM Department Stores nationwide.  Shoemart Inc., the country’s leading retail establishment, will celebrate Pag-IBIG Day on December 12, 2012 to mark the Fund’s 32nd anniversary.

On the said day, SM will grant a 5% discount to all Fund members who are non-SM Advantage Club (SMAC) members, while SMAC members, SM Prestige or BDO Rewards members will get a higher discount of 10%.

The one-day discount can be availed of for a minimum purchase of P500.  Shoppers need to present their Pag-IBIG transaction card or their UMID.

The special offer is available in all SM department stores nationwide, except SM Quiapo.  Discounts do not apply to items purchased at the Snack Exchange, Camera Shop, and Customer Service Counter, as well as to items like chemicals, toiletries, diapers, pharmacy, small appliances, business machines and other promo items.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

PhilHealth assures benefits of affected OFWs in Riyadh

THE Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has announced that the affected Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the recent accident in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia are assured of their health benefits.
A total of 11 Filipinos were injured including one casualty has been reported when an oil tanker crashed into a freeway flyover triggering an explosion.
PhilHealth President and CEO Dr. Eduardo P. Banzon said that "tutulungan ng PhilHealth ang mga kababayan nating Pilipino na naospital sanhi ng aksidenteng ito sa Riyadh."
Affected OFW-members and/or their families are encouraged to file their claim at any local PhilHealth office within 180 days upon discharge of the patient. Documents should include medical records (medical certificate) in English stating the diagnosis, services rendered and date of confinement; and proof of payment such as hospital receipts, statement of account, or discharge summary records. These documents should be accompanied with a request letter duly signed by the member.
PhilHealth will still reimburse benefits due the member even if their employer paid for the total hospital bill subject to the compliance of the above-mentioned documents.
For more details on claims for overseas confinements, OFW-members may contact PhilHealth Overseas Workers Program at (02) 441-7444 local 7416; 0917-512-9149 or 0918-963-5396; or email at

PhilHealth, DSWD Forge Partnership for the Poor

PhilHealth, DSWD Forge Partnership for the Poor

PhilHealth, DSWD Forge Partnership for the Poor

The death toll from a powerful typhoon

NEW BATAAN, Philippines (AP) — The death toll from a powerful typhoon in the southern Philippines climbed to more than 200 people Wednesday and officials feared many more bodies could be found as rescuers reach hard-hit areas that had been isolated by landslides, floods and downed communications.
At least 151 people have died in the worst-hit province of Compostela Valley since Typhoon Bopha began lashing the region early Tuesday, including 66 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp in New Bataan town, provincial spokeswoman Fe Maestre told The Associated Press.
About 80 people survived the deluge in New Bataan with injuries, but an unspecified number of villagers remain missing. On Wednesday, the farming town of 45,000 people was a muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and columns of coconut and banana trees felled by Bopha's ferocious winds.
Army Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo said 51 people died and 98 others are missing in nearby Davao Oriental province.
Disaster-response agencies reported seven other typhoon-related deaths elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Middle East: Violence must end

The ongoing violence involving Gaza and Israel, with its toll on human life and civilian casualties is a source of great concern to the Socialist International.

The Israeli government and Hamas must both recognise their share of responsibility in this new round of violence which is not only causing further suffering, but is gravely endangering the precarious situation in the region and does not serve the interests of either.

In these difficult times, the Socialist International expresses its solidarity with the civilians in Gaza who are bearing the brunt of these hostilities and with the Israeli citizens who are suffering under threat from rocket attacks.

Both Israel and Palestine have a right to a secure state and to live in peace within recognised and mutually accepted borders.

These are the fundamentals for achieving peace. There is no other way forward for Israelis and Palestinians, and the events of recent days make peace ever more difficult and more distant. That is why the Hamas rockets must stop, and that is why the Israeli attacks must stop, including threats of a ground invasion which would only lead to more deaths among Israelis and Palestinians, greater suffering, and further humanitarian consequences.

The international community, including regional neighbours, must bring their influence to bear on the Israeli government and the Hamas leadership to recognise the urgent need for a ceasefire before the situation escalates into a larger conflict.

Indeed, in our view, the lack of a political horizon for peace, of a proper framework for negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians has exacerbated and entrenched the unresolved issues. The past three and a half years in particular have been wasted years in the search for peace. The world community must engage both sides, Israel and Palestine, with renewed vigour to settle this long-standing conflict.

The Socialist International will never cease in this endeavour.

Monday, November 19, 2012

OWWA to help bring home OFW's body from S. Korea

No financial benefits for relatives
MANILA, Philippines -- The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has promised to help bring home the body of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was killed in a freak accident in Seoul, South Korea.
Sonny Mansalapus, 44, was killed when the elevator he was on suddenly fell when its cable snapped on November 12.
He was an employee for a thread and fabric company based in Seoul. He is the fourth among 10 siblings, and is the family’s breadwinner.

In an interview with radio dzMM on Friday, OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon said they will help in bringing the remains of Mansalapus to Manila.

She said they will then bring his body to his relatives in Pola, Oriental Mindoro.
"Kung i-uwi na 'yung remains, we will assist hanggang makarating sa kanyang probinsya. 'Di po natin pababayaan 'yun," she said.

However, Dimzon said that no financial benefits will be given to the relatives of the OFW, who has worked in Korea for 9 years.

She said that after Mansalapus' one-year membership in OWWA ended, he did not register again and became a an illegal migrant worker in South Korea.

"Unfortunately, 'di kasi siya member (ng OWWA), nag-expire 'yung membership niya nung 2004. Kung financial benefits po, wala po tayong maibibigay kasi 'di po natin pwedeng gamitin 'yung pondo ng ibang members."

"Some other forms of assistance po makakapagbigay tayo katulad ng repatriation from Seoul to Manila to Mindoro. Kahit 'di siya documented, we'll find a way to bring his remains to his province," she added.

Dimzon said they are just waiting for the final report of police before the remains of Mansalapus can be brought to the country.

She also said that they are also looking at the company's liability for the accident since the OFW was killed while inside the workplace.

"Under their laws, meron naman silang health and safety regulations. I'm sure mananagot 'yung kumpanya sa Korean government at maco-compensate naman si Sonny," she said.

The OFW's niece, Efralyn Ganio, earlier told dzMM that she learned from her uncle’s colleague that the company where they work allegedly operates illegally in South Korea.

“Ang sabi po ng kasamahan niya ay luma (elevator) na daw po talaga yun. Ang sabi po ng kaibigan niya illegal din daw po yung kumpanya sa Korea,” she said.

Filipinos safe in Gaza, ready to evacuate - PH envoy

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos in Gaza in Israel remain safe amid the ongoing conflict in the area, a Philippine envoy said, noting plans to evacuate are still on the table.
"The Filipinos, as of yesterday, are safe. No one has been hurt," Generoso Calonge, Ambassador to Israel, told ANC's “Dateline Philippines” on Saturday.
Calonge said his office in Tel Aviv is still assessing if evacuation plans should be pursued as Egypt is helping calm the situation between Israel and Gaza.
"I understand the [Foreign Affairs] department is exploring the possibility of having an evacuation plan via the border in Egypt ... but as of today, there is an effort to have a truce between the two sides to be brokered by Egypt," Calonge said.
"We are awaiting progress in that attempt of Egypt," he continued.
There are about 120 Filipinos living in Gaza, Calonge said, noting most them are spouses of residents in the Israeli city.

Pinoys in Israel accounted for: PH envoy

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Embassy in Israel said Filipinos living there are safe despite the ongoing Gaza conflict.

Philippine Ambassador to Israel Generoso Calonge said the Filipinos in the area are all in touch with the Embassy as the authorities continuously monitor the tension.
Calonge issued this statement following another rocket attack that was launched by Hamas to Tel Aviv.
Calonge said the Philippine Embassy will continue to look after the situation of Filipinos affected by the conflict.
Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told radio dzRB on Sunday that the Philippine Embassy has prepared contingency plans for the 100 OFWs there in case the tension escalates.
“Binabatanyan ng Embahada kung ano ang kundisyon nila at handa sila sa kung ano mang contingency plan. Awa ng Diyos, wala pang nakukuhang report na may nasaktang Pinoy,” she said. - With reports from ABS-CBN News

Body of Filipino oil rig worker in Louisiana recovered

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Embassy in Washington has confirmed reports that the body recovered on Saturday evening (Sunday morning in Manila) near the oil rig that was hit by fire off the coast of Louisiana belongs to one of two Filipino workers missing.
"We regret to announce that the body that was recovered near the accident scene a few hours ago belongs to one of our two missing kababayans," Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. said in a statement.
Cuisia said the body of the Filipino was identified by Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., the employer of the victim, shortly after the body was brought to shore. The Philippine Embassy, however, did not reveal the name of the victim.
The victim was identified after the US Coast Guard informed the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago that the divers hired by the owner of the oil platform recovered a body in the waters near the site a few hours after the search for the missing workers was called off.
Extending his condolences to the family of the victim, Cuisia said: "We continue to hope and pray that our other kababayan is still alive and would be recovered soon."
Meanwhile, Cuisia said four other Filipinos were badly injured in the incident and are currently being treated at the Regional Burn Center of the Baton Rouge General Hospital also in Louisiana.
Cuisia said there were three other Filipinos working on the oil rig during the accident, but they could not confirm whether they were among the nine Filipino workers that the US Coast Guard said were hurt in the incident.
There were also other non-Filipinos working at the oil platform.
Last Friday, a fire erupted on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.
It cannot be confirmed what actually caused the fire but based on a report Cuisia shared with ABS-CBN News, the Filipino workers were "lighting a torch," a technical term which Cuisia didn’t elaborate, pending the continuing investigation.
The oil production platform is owned by Black Elk Energy, a Houston-based independent oil and gas company.
Cuisia said US welfare officer Saul de Vries will be proceeding to Baton Rouge General Hospital to check on the condition of the injured Filipino workers and see what assistance the Philippine Government could extend to them or their families in the Philippines. – with a report from Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

PHL envoy tells Fil-Ams to go out and vote


On the eve of one of the tightest races for the presidency of the United States, the Philippine embassy in Washington on Tuesday called on qualified Filipino-Americans to go out and exercise their right to vote.
The US is host to the largest concentration of Filipinos outside the Philippines and Filipinos are the second largest ethnic group in America.
“Let us use these numbers and play a bigger role in shaping the political, economic and social discourse in this country,” said Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Jr. said in a statement from Washington.
Cuisia made the statement hours before Americans begin trooping to polling precincts nationwide to decide whether to keep incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama in the White House or to have him replaced by his Republican challenger, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Echoing Malacañang’s statement, Cuisia said the Philippines will work with whoever wins the elections to further strengthen the relations between Manila and Washington.
A survey by the National Asian American Survey (NAAS) show that among Asian-Americans, Filipino-Americans are the ones most likely to go out and vote, representing a significant voting population.
There are an estimated 3.5 million Filipinos based in the US, most of them in the West Coast, particularly in California, a 2010 US census said.
“We are counting on you to help make this happen by making sure that you take part in tomorrow’s electoral exercise,” Cuisia said he rallied Filipino-Americans to support fellow Filipino-Americans who are running for other national and local positions.  
At least two Filipino-Americans are running for seats in the US House of Representatives. 
They are Dr. Marisha Agana, a Republican who is eyeing the seat for the 13th District of Ohio and incumbent Democrat Rep. Robert Scott who is running for an 11th term as representative of the Third District of Virginia.
Fifteen other Filipino-Americans are vying for state legislative seats in California, Pennsylvania and Hawaii: Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta (18th District); Chris Mateo (12th District) and Jennifer Ong (20th District), all Democrats who are aspiring for seats in the California State Assembly; and Will Sylianteng  (151st District), a Democrat seeking a seat in the Pennsylvania State House.
Also running are: Henry Aquino (38th District); Romy Cachola (30th District);  Gilbert S. Keith-Agaran (9th District); Della Au Belatti (24th District);  Rida Cabanilla-Arakawa (41st District); Marissa Capelouto (42nd District); Ty Cullen (39th District); and Chris Manabat (40th District), all Democrats running for the Hawaii House of Representatives; and Will Espero (19th District); Donna Mercado Kim (14th District); and Donovan de la Cruz (22nd District), also Democrats running for seats in Hawaii’s Senate.
Former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, the first Filipino-American governor in the US, is a strong contender for mayor of Honolulu while Kymberly Marcos Pine, Joey Manahan and Ron Menor are aspiring for seats in Honolulu’s City Council. 
Others seeking seats in Hawaii are: Greggor Ilagan (4th District) and Chelsea Yagong (1st District) for seats in the Hawaii County Council and Don Guzman for the Maui County Council.
In California, Jose Esteves is running for mayor of the City of Milpitas;  Garry Barbadillo for a seat in the Milpitas City Council;  Jim Navarro for a seat in the Union City Council; Hermy Almonte  for a seat in the San Leandro City Council; and Stewart Chen for a seat in the Alameda City Council. –KG, GMA News

PHL envoy: Amid tension, Pinoys in Israel taking conflict in stride

Despite the ongoing fighting in Israel, Filipinos there continue to take everything "in stride," the Philippine ambassador there said Monday.

Ambassador Generoso Calonge said that as of early Monday (in Manila), no Filipino has been reported killed or injured in the fighting.
"They are taking things in stride. Sa Gaza tinawagan namin sila sa hapon, okay sila so far," he said in an interview on dzBB radio.
So far, he said Israel's "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense has been effective., though roads leading to Gaza have been closed.
On the other hand, Calonge said daily life in Tel-Aviv goes on as usual, as if nothing happened.
"Pumunta ako sa palengke, maraming tao. Kung mas kaunti dahil sa ambon, palamig dito. Ang level of activity walang pagbabago halos sa Tel-Aviv," he said.
On Sunday, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras also said Filipinos in Israel have preferred to stay for now, amid government preparations for their possible evacuation.
A Presidential Communications Operations Office news release quoted Almendras as saying this was the sentiment of Filipino workers contacted so far by the Philippine Embassy.
He said Filipino workers contacted in the affected areas "said that they would prefer to stay in their respective posts in the meantime." 
But Almendras said the Philippine Embassy in Egypt has formed a team to assist Filipinos if the situation escalates further.
He added that if the Filipinos decide to move out, the Philippine Embassy in Egypt will be ready to help them.
Citing figures from Department of Foreign Affairs SEcretary Albert del Rosario, Almendras said there are 100 Filipinos in the Gaza area and 41,000 in Israel.
Renewed tensions erupted in Palestine and Israel as Israeli and Hamas forces engaged in attacks.
Rapid response teams
Meanwhile, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the department will be sending rapid response teams to Israel and Egypt.
"Pati ito sa paghanda ng possible evacuation," he said in an interview on dzRH radio.

Since last week, Israel launched air strikes in Gaza, asserting its right to protect itself from rocket attacks.
Israel's military claimed its target was a rocket mastermind of the Islamic Jihad militant group Hamas, according to the Huffington Post.
The report quoted Israel officials as saying the air strikes sought to end rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled area. — RSJ, GMA News

Friday, November 16, 2012

PHL pushes for ratification of UN convention vs. human trafficking

The Philippines made another push for migrant workers' rights this month by urging fellow United Nations member states to ratify UN conventions on human trafficking, also called "modern-day slavery."

Philippine representatives made their latest pitch at the 14th session of the Human Rights Council's Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva Oct. 22 to Nov. 5.
At the session, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva Evan Garcia stressed that while the Philippines continues to fight human trafficking on the domestic front, "it will continue to seek transnational cooperation to protect the rights of migrants and trafficking victims," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
During the UPR Session, the Philippines also encouraged States under review to consider ratifying the following:
  • Palermo Protocol on trafficking against persons
  • International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and members of their families
  • International Labor Organization's (ILO's) Convention 189 on domestic workers.
The 14 countries reviewed during the 14th UPR session were the Czech Republic, Argentina, Gabon, Ghana, Ukraine, Guatemala, Benin, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zambia, Japan, Peru and Sri Lanka.
UPR is a process in the Human Rights Council where the human rights records of States are reviewed.
"Achievements and challenges faced by each UN member state in the promotion and protection of human rights are reported to the Council and considered during the UPR Working Group sessions," the DFA said.
The Philippines underwent its first review in 2008 and its second review in May 2012. - VVP, GMA News

Patas na imbestigasyon sa reklamong pang-aabuso vs Primavera, hiniling sa DFA at Malacañang

Hiniling sa pamahalaan ng isang retiradong Arsobispo ng Simbahang Katolika na magsagawa ng patas na imbestigasyon kaugnay sa reklamong pang-aabuso na isinampa ng isang kasambahay laban kay Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Shulan Primavera.

Ang panawagan ay ginawa ni Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emertitus Oscar Cruz, kasabay ng kanyang pagpuna sa mabagal na pag-usad ng imbestigasyong ng Department of Foreign Affairs laban kay Primavera.

Ayon sa isang Pinay overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) na nagsilbing kasambahay ni Primavera, hinawakan siya sa maselang bahagi ng katawan at hinalikan umano ng embahador sa magkakahiwalay na insidente.

Sa mga naunang panayam, mariing pinabulaanan ni Primavera ang mga alegasyon laban sa kanya. Inaasahang darating sa bansa ang embahador sa Miyerkules matapos ipatawag ng DFA.

Gayunpaman, hindi pa pormal na nasisimulan ng DFA ang imbestigasyon kay Primavera dahil hinihintay pa ang pahintulot ni Pangulong Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III, dahil isang political appointee ang embahador.

Ngunit para kay Cruz, hindi na dapat hintayin ang pahintulot ni Aquino sa naturang usapin at dapat na isagawa kaagad ang imbestigasyon kay Primavera upang lumabas ang katotohanan.

"Bakit kailangan pang hintayin ang go signal ni PNoy? Bakit yun bang mga diplomat they are immune from criminal investigation?," tanong ni Cruz nang makapanayam sa Radyo Veritas nitong Martes.

“Kaya nga dapat imbestigahan para malaman ang katotohanan. At ang pakiusap lamang, walang kublihan, walang palakasan," dagdag niya.

Kasabay nito, hinamon ni Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary ng CBCP-NASSA, si Primavera na harapin ang reklamong isinampa sa kanya kung wala itong itinatago.

Naniniwala rin si Gariguez na hindi pagtatakpan ni Aquino ang mga itinalagang opisyal na nasasangkot sa kontrobersiya. - MP/FRJ, GMA News

Hanjin Village Groundbreaking

Hanjin Village Groundbreaking
by Elaine G. Pecson,

   Dinalupihan Branch“There’s no place like home.” Thus, says Jin Kyu Ahn, Philippine president of Korean shipbuilder giant Hanjin Heavy Industries &Construction (HHIC), in his speech during the groundbreaking ceremony of Hanjin Village held inlate July 2012. 

         The project will be developed in Barangay Nagbunga in Castillejos, Zambales on an almost 29-hectare property provided at no cost by Hanjin, and which will give rise to affordable and quality housing for its workers. “This is part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment to build a community that will promote the welfare of the efficient shipyard employees and their families in partnership with Fiesta Communities, Inc. (FCI) headed by its president, Wilfredo Tan,” Ahn added. The Hanjin official also acknowledged Pag-IBIG Fund for supporting the dream of Hanjin employees of owning properties and having houses to call their own. Pag-IBIG was represented by Marilene C. Acosta, vice president for North Luzon, and Dinalupihan Branch officers and employees headed by manager Engr. Elmer D. Tugade

VP Acosta mentioned that Pag-IBIG commits to extend end-user financing to qualified Hanjin employees who will buy units at the Hanjin Village Housing Project. This is in keeping with the Fund’s objective of making more happy members.
FCI president Wilfredo Tan expressed his happiness with the developments. Tan also promised to develop the village with good engineering design so that it will serve as a model project for any employer that wishes to establish a good working relationship with its employees and that has an initiative to provide home for the homeless. 

A total of 2,747 housing units will be constructed in Hanjin Village for a period of three years. The project will be divided into two phases. 

Phase 1 will include the development of 1,000 housing units on 12 hectares of the land. Construction of 300 units is expected to be complete by November 2012, and the remaining 700 units by end 2013. Basic facilities and amenities like cluster gate/main gate, a multi-purpose or social hall, transport terminal, parks and open spaces, and landscaping are also planned to be finished by next year.
Meanwhile, the remaining 1,747 residential units will be completed in phase 2, along with an elementary school to be donated by Hanjin.
To date, Hanjin and its partner subcontractors currently employ nearly 20,000 local employees and continue to generate more jobs and business opportunities in the surrounding communities.

Three Pinay maids testify in Ambassador Primavera's sex harassment complaint


Three Filipina former maids of embattled Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Shulan Primavera claimed that although they did not witness the alleged molestation of their fellow Filipina maid “Mabel,” they said it was possible. 

The three maids told a DFA fact-finding team that they noticed that Mabel seemed to be the favorite of Primavera, who arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday. The Ambassador has repeatedly denied the claims.

In a written testimony provided to GMA News by her lawyer, Mabel said she was molested by Primavera thrice: 
(1) Third week of February 2012 
(2) Second week of March 2012, and 
(3) Second week of April 2012.

In an interview of GMA News host Arnold Clavio for the “Unang Hirit” program, one maid alleged that Primavera asked Mabel if she already had a boyfriend.

Another maid alleged that Primavera sometimes looks at Mabel with "malicious intent." 

Primavera, however, denied ccusations that he molested Mabel, a 28-year-old single woman.

“I wish to assure you that I am innocent of these charges that were hurled against me,” he said.

“Im fine. As you can see, I can still afford to smile,” he added.

Due process

Meanwhile, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez said the case will be treated in a fair manner that follows due process.

“Makakaasa kayo na wala kaming kikilingan at magiging patas ang imbestigasyon,” he said.

Hernandez explained that their findings will be the basis on whether a full blown investigation against Primavera will take place.

Hernandez earlier explained that Primavera is only facing an investigation by the DFA's Board of Foreign Service Administration, and not by other agencies such as the National Bureau of Investigation or the Philippine National Police.

Hernandez also clarified that Primavera remains as ambassador to Kuwait and has not been relieved from his post.

Primavera, 63, a veteran career diplomat, is scheduled to retire next year after being in foreign service for 40 years. He has maintained a clean record before this incident.
Primavera is not the first diplomat to have been accused of wrongdoing.
Hernandez said there have been Filipino diplomats and DFA employees in the past who were relieved from their posts due to misconduct.

Pleased with the process

Meanwhile, Susan Ople, head of the Blas Ople Policy Center and training institute, said Mabel was pleased to see the actions being taken by the DFA in her case.

“Nabubuhayan naman ang loob ni Mabel dahil kahit papaano nakita niya na may proseso ang DFA,” Ople said.

Ople said it was rare to see a maid providing a sworn statement of affidavit against an embassy official, much less an ambassador.

“Ibig sabihin talaga nito, seryoso si Mabel sa kanyang pinaglalaban,” Ople claimed.

Earlier case of abuse

Mabel first worked for a Kuwaiti employer for eight months and escaped on December 3 last year due to alleged abuse and indecent treatment.
Mabel then took refuge in the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) shelter in Kuwait. From there, she became Primavera's household helper.
After the three alleged molestation incidents happened, Mabel managed to become a part of the group that was repatriated from Syria on October 22. The group arrived in the Philippines the next day.

Unfair wages 

Meanwhile, Ople said aside from the molestation charge, the maids claimed that they were given a lower wage than what was legally accepted: $400 (roughly P16,500), the minimum wage prescribed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Mabel alleged that they were only receiving around $212 (roughly P9,000).

Ople said it was possible that they would file an unfair wages case against Primaver but as of now, they are focusing on Mabel's sexual harassment case.

“It’s an option pero sa ngayon ang tinitignan niya talaga lang ay yung katarungan sa tulong ng DFA," Ople said. - VVP, GMA News

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dubai pledges to pay Pinoy maids $400 monthly minimum

Posted at 11/12/2012 6:09 PM | Updated as of 11/13/2012 12:21 PM
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Labor and Employment says foreign recruitment agencies based in Dubai have pledged to implement the Philippines' household reform package that grants more protection to Filipino maids.
This reform includes paying Filipino maids a minimum of $400 a month or at least P16,000.
Dubai's move follows Saudi's which earlier yielded to the Philippine government's demand to grant those reforms. - ANC

Binay disputes human trafficking report

by Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Monday said he was shocked at a report allegedly undermining the efforts of Philippine government against human trafficking.
"Alam niyo, isa ako sa nagulat sa report na iyon. At kung sino man ang gumawa ng report na iyon eh, alam ninyo ang lumabas sa diyaryo. Hindi iyung mga magagandang nangyari," said Binay.
He said that contrary to the report, the Aquino administration is gaining headway against human trafficking,
He cited comparative results of convictions of 8 within 2 years, against 2 cases of conviction under the previous administration.
"We are already being considered as a model sa tamang paglaban dito sa problema ng human trafficking. May pagkukulang pa pero hindi naman ganoon kasama," said Binay.

Syrian mistaken for Pinoy fatality in Riyadh blast

By Dharel Placido,

Posted at 11/13/2012 7:34 AM | Updated as of 11/13/2012 11:24 AM
MANILA, Philippines – The body of a Syrian national was mistaken for that of Florentino Santiago, the lone overseas Filipino worker reported to have been killed in the gas tanker explosion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last November 1, an official said on Tuesday.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesperson Raul Hernandez said Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago was informed by Riyadh officials that Santiago's brother-in-law and fellow OFW identified the wrong body.
"Ang Saudi government ay gumawa ng DNA testing and matching, at nalaman na 'yung na-identify pala na cadaver o yung remains ay 'di pala ang remains ni Florentino Santiago pero remains ng isang Syrian national," Hernandez told dzMM.
Santiago was supposed to be one of the 22 fatalities in the Riyadh blast which occurred after a tanker hit a bridge in eastern Riyadh, causing a gas leak and an explosion in a nearby heavy machinery and vehicles warehouse.
The tanker was allegedly driven by another Filipino, identified as Ruben Kebeng.
Hernandez said Riyadh officials have yet to conduct DNA testing on two more unidentified cadavers. This will determine if Santiago was indeed one of the blast fatalities.
"Hindi pa po natin alam [na walang Pinoy na namatay]. Kasi mayroon pang dalawang cadaver na kailangang i-test para sigurado, para malaman natin kung iyung isa nga ay si Florentino Santiago," he said.
"Ang problema po doon ay kailangan nating i-match ang DNA ng labi sa isang relative ni Florentino Santiago."

2 Pinoys still in hospital
Hernandez said two of the 14 injured Filipinos in the blast remain inside the hospital.
The DFA official said as of Sunday, one of the Filipinos already underwent an operation while the other has yet to go under the knife.
Meanwhile, suspect Filipino Kebeng is in safe condition and has already met Filipino officials in Riyadh, according to Hernandez.
"Dinala siya sa korte para i-authenticate ang mga sinabi niya. Ang lumalabas sa mga sinabi niya na nawalan siya ng preno pero ang investigation doon ay patuloy pa," Hernandez said.
Hernandez appealed to the public not to make any conclusion about the collision while facts about it are still being gathered.
"Kailangan hintayin natin ang official report kasi siyempre marami ring sabi-sabi dyan at kailangan talaga makuha natin ang mga facts ng kaso," he said.

Iraq eyes hiring of up to 2,000 Pinoy doctors, nurses

By Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at 11/13/2012 7:35 AM | Updated as of 11/13/2012 10:59 AM
MANILA, Philippines - Despite the existing deployment ban, the Iraqi government wants to hire Filipino doctors and nurses.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said yesterday that Iraqi Ambassador Wadee Al-Batti had paid him a visit, asking permission to hire some 1,000 to 2,000 Filipino nurses and doctors.
“The opportunity of our health workers to go abroad is really big because the worldwide demand is tremendous,“ Ona said.
He said Al-Batti expressed the intention of the Iraqi government to get the services of these health professionals.
“They want as many nurses as we can give them. But the problem is the hostile situation there. There is a ban there and the only thing we want also to be sure of is the safety of workers. We want to make sure that they are safe,” he said.
Except for the Kurdistan region, a deployment ban is in effect in Iraq.
The ban was imposed following the kidnapping by Iraqi rebels of Filipino worker Angelo de la Cruz in July 2004.
The kidnappers had demanded the pullout of Philippine troops from Iraq.
The government yielded to the demand, which resulted in the safe release of De la Cruz on July 21, 2004.
Meanwhile, Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, said there are also demands for healthcare professionals in India.
“For the past two years, every time there is a meeting of all hospitals all over Asia, they (Indian hospital officials) would ask me for 200,000 nurses and other healthcare workers,” Jimenez said, adding that during a recent seminar on Hospital Management Asia in Vietnam, he was again reminded of this.
Aside from doctors and nurses, medical technologists, radio technicians and pulmonology physical therapists are also in demand in India.
Jimenez said he had already informed nurses’ organizations of the job opportunities but there were no takers.
Ona said the government is doing its best to improve the benefits and working conditions of healthcare workers so they would not be lured into working in foreign hospitals.
“We really have to make our health system robust and to do that, our Philippine Health Insurance System must also be robust,” the health chief said.

Pinoy peacekeepers risk crossfire in Israel-Syria border rift

by Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at 11/13/2012 11:42 AM | Updated as of 11/13/2012 11:58 AM
WASHINGTON D.C. - About 300 Filipino peacekeepers could be caught in the crossfire if tensions between Israel and Syria escalate in the Golan Heights.
The Filipino troops are part of the 5-nation United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, a mountainous region that Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.
In 1973, Israel agreed to return part of the territory to Syria which now forms the demilitarized zone that is controlled by the UN.
Israel has built settlements in the area where, according to reports, stray mortar shells have landed the past days. After initially responding with warning shots, Israel struck Syrian military targets on Nov. 12.
Israeli tanks stand in position overlooking a Syrian village from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights November 12, 2012. / REUTERS
A civil war is tearing Syria apart as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Bashir battle with rebels. Technically the Israel and Syria are still at war, but the Golan Heights has been largely quiet until last weekend.
There are more than 1,000 UN peacekeepers at the Golan Heights, including a battalion from the Philippines. There are also several Filipino civilians working there, including Caloocan-native Ricardo Manalo who was appointed earlier this year as chief of communications for the UNDOF.
They are there basically to keep Israeli and Syrian forces separated. They ensure that both sides respect the disengagement, including maintaining only the military equipment and forces allowed in the demilitarized zone.
The lightly-armed UNDOF was for a time, commanded by Philippine Marines Maj. Gen. Natalio Ecarma III who completed his tour of duty and relinquished command of UNDOF to Indian Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha last September.
The Filipino contingent is now led by Lt. Col. Ramon Estella.
There was no comment from UNDOF but UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon has expressed deep concern about the potential for escalation.
Israel has expressed concern about the deployment of Syrian tanks in the area, although they acknowledge that could be part of the Assad regime’s efforts to subdue rebels.
ABS-CBN sources familiar with the UNDOF said the Filipino troops will be unable to stop either side if they decide to fight it out in the Golan Heights.
“They will be caught in the crossfire. That is inevitable,” the sources explained. The UN has contingency plans ready if that happens, including possibly airlifting the troops out of the danger zone.
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