Monday, July 30, 2012

Avoid texting, tweeting, Olympic fans in London urged

Sports fans attending the London Olympics were told by Olympic bosses on Sunday to avoid sending non-urgent text messages and tweets during events because an overloaded network was affecting television coverage. Coverage of the men's road cycling race on Saturday left many viewers in the dark at times, including details on how far back the chasing pack was from the leaders. Commentators were unable to get timing information due to issues surrounding the communications network of the GPS satellite navigation system. It was particularly annoying for the home crowd, who had tuned into to watch what had been billed as one of Britain's best chances of winning an early gold medal with sprint king Mark Cavendish. Many vented their anger on Twitter at the lack of information - and their disappointment at Cavendish's eventual defeat. An International Olympic Committee spokesman said it was a network issue, caused by hundreds of thousands of fans, who had lined the streets of London to cheer the British team on, sending messages. He urged people to spread their use. "Of course, if you want to send something, we are not going to say 'don't, you can't do it', and we would certainly never prevent people," the IOC spokesman said. "It's just, if it's not an urgent, urgent one, please kind of take it easy. "We don't want people to stop engaging in social media but we are asking to see if people can send by other means." The use of mobile phones to access the Internet and take and send photos and video has exploded in recent years, making London 2012 the really first social media Games, but also putting extra pressure on the networks. Mayor of London Boris Johnson warned last year the networks would face a "massive strain", with hundreds of thousands of spectators wanting to share a moment of victory or defeat with friends and family. At the time he said a huge amount of work was being done to make sure there was enough coverage, and that mobile operators and infrastructure companies would "crack it" in time. Enough cable has been laid in the Olympic Park in east London to stretch between London and New York, suggesting that if there were any problems, they would be more likely to occur at venues outside the park. Television coverage is being carried out by the Olympic Broadcasting Services, created by the International Olympic Committee in 2001 to ensure uniform coverage at all Games. The IOC spokesman said it appeared the problem lay with oversubscription on one particular network, and talks had taken place late Saturday and early Sunday in attempt to share more of the data. "We are taking action on a number of things," the spokesman said. "It's mainly a technical issue with the network. It's a network issue, and it is that which we are working on." He conceded though that asking people to not send messages at critical moments, may not have "an awful lot of effect." - Reuters

POEA warns nurses on new job scams

MANILA, Philippines – Another e-mail recruitment scam targeting Filipino nurses and medical practitioners have been uncovered, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said. POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the email, purportedly from the Sydney Adventist Hospital, charges a fee of P3,750 for a two-day “British English” training. Sydney Adventist Hospital, located in New South Wales, Australia, was informed of the scam and has since denied having a part of it. An alert in Sydney Adventist Hospital’s website said it has not issued advertisements, emails and other notices encouraging nursing staff in the Philippines to submit applications for training for employment. “The information about Sydney Adventist Hospital recruitment is not accurate and we have not organized training courses and hospital representatives will not be in the Philippines on July 21 and 22 to employ people," the hospital said in its warning. Cacdac said the scam is similar to the one allegedly sent by Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Canada which offers "Visa Interview Coaching" for a fee of P3,888. Karen Franchiti, human resource specialist of the real Stevenson Memorial Hospital, wrote the POEA denying having any business relations with "Stevenson Consultancy", which is supposed to conduct the training in the Philippines. Cacdac said the promises are similar: no placement fee, no processing fee, no salary deduction, no show money, no experience required, free accommodation and food allowance. “This is a simple cut-and-paste job and is probably sent by the same group of swindlers which uses legitimate companies to lure victims”, Cacdac added. He said those wishing to apply for employment as a nurse in Australia must be registered first with the Australian Health Practitioners Registration Authority (AHPRA) “The training program referred to as the Sydney Adventist British English Training is not associated with Sydney Adventist Hospital. These notices have been issued without our knowledge or approval. Relevant authorities have been advised that these notices are inaccurate and are investigating who has issued them. Please do not pay any fees for the advertised training in the hope of gaining employment here,” the alert said. Job applicants who have received such recruitment e-mails should forward the same to for investigation by the POEA, Cacdac said

136 OFWs set to arrive from Syria

by Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau KUWAIT – More than a hundred overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are scheduled to be repatriated from strife-torn Syria. The Philippine Rapid Response Team and Philippine Embassy officials are now working double time to arrange the exit visas of 136 OFWs who are temporarily staying at a halfway house. “Yung exit visa requirements na-waive na po lahat ‘yan noong dumating po dito, nakipag-usap ako sa mga opisyal dito, at sa magandang loob naman ng Pangulong Assad ay binigyan ng directive ang Immigration Department dito na bigyan na, i-waive iyong exit visa requirements at lahat ng penalties,” said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis. The OFWs are set to leave Syria Saturday or Sunday, he said. Aside from the 136, some 1,404 Filipinos who availed of the government’s repatriation program are still waiting for their exit visas to be processed. “’Yung iba pa na nakalista doon na 1,404 na gusto din umuwi. Iyan ay ipakiusap muli na bigyan ng waiver of visa requirements,” he said. But for some OFWs, it is their employers who prevent them leaving. Just like the case of Kathryn Importante, and OFW from Cotabato City. Importante is currently at Yafour, some 30 minutes away from the embassy. She said she called up the embassy last week, but up until now, no one came to fetch her. Although she wants to leave, she’s afraid of the many checkpoints around the city as both her passport and visa have expired. “Natatakot po ako. Medyo magulo po kasi. Nananawagan po ako na sana matulungan po ako makauwi na, makausap po iyong amo ko. Kahit na hindi po pumayag sana po makuha na po ako kasi natatakot na din po ako,” said Importante who has been working in Syria for four years now. On the other hand, there are also others who decided to take matters in their own hands instead of waiting for help to arrive. “Mahirap na rin magkagipitan dito. Kaya maigi na lumabas na tayo. Syempre, isa lang ang buhay natin dito. Hindi naman nagdadalawa ng buhay. Kailangan din natin i-safe ang mga sarili natin kahit papaano,” said Kim Guevara, an OFW from Iloilo City who has been in Syria for 12 years. More than 2,000 OFWs have been repatriated from Syria since the government implemented its mandatory repatriation program last December. However, there is still an estimated 7,000 OFWs mostly household service workers in Syria. “Kung nahihirapan sila at gusto na nilang umuwi dahil nahihirapan sila sa sitwasyon dito, kontakin nila ang embassy dito alam nila kung saan sila pupunta at mabigyan ng guidance kung paano ang dapat gagawin. Kasi hindi naman sila dapat din lumayas sa kanilang employer, kasi lalong magkaka-problema tayo sa mga employers, kaya kailangan talaga i-negotiate ng taga-embassy at ng augmentation team dito with the employers para maayos ‘yong pag-uusap para payagan silang makapunta ng embassy bago i-apply ng embassy ang exit visa,” explained Seguis.

OFW group slams OWWA reintegration program MANILA, Philippines – A global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), along with their families, held a lightning rally today at the first Congress of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) at the SMX Convention Center in the Mall of Asia. The OFWs are protesting about the agency’s P2 billion reintegration loan program for returning OFWs and their families, which OWWA presented during the Congress. Migrante International chairperson Gerry Martinez said, “This reintegration loan package is an insult to OFWs because unlike other dole-out programs by the Aquino administration, the funds will come directly from OFW contributions.” “Walang ilalabas na pondo ang gobyerno para rito.” Martinez explained that OFWs are required to pay a $25 OWWA membership fee for every two-year contract. Migrante is also renewing their calls to scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies (OOP) implemented in 2003. Martinez said that OWWA did not consult the OFWs and their families before implementing the omnibus policies. The migrant leader said that the OOP had transformed the OWWA funds from a “trust fund” into an “investment fund,” and added that OWWA funds have always been prone to misuse and abuse. “But because of the OOP, it has become more vulnerable to corruption,” Martinez said. “Sa OOP, talagang ginawang gatasan na lang ng gobyerno ang mga OFW,” he added. Migrante plans to bring these issues to President Benigno Aquino III’s attention on his second State of the Nation Address.

OFWs fall prey to ticket scam, cheer Team PH

By Gerry Carpio, The Philippine Star LONDON – A group of Overseas Filipino Workers who came all the way from the United Arab Emirates to cheer for Filipino athletes found themselves victims of internet scam but they are bringing down the house elsewhere, wherever they go outside the venues with their getups and their happy “Go Philippines” cheering props. The Filipinos, one male and five females from Dubai, were on their first cheering stint in the Games, at the archery range of the millionaire’s Lord’s Cricket Club in east London, when they were refused entry at the gates by marshals. The event was the qualification round of the archery competitions in the London Games last July 27. “We bought our tickets on-line but we were told at the gates that the competition does not allow spectators to watch,” said Fe Rizal Huera, a sales administration and group coordinator of a firm in UAE. Despite the incident, the six OFWs remained in high spirits as they plan, this time, to buy their tickets from the booth to watch other games of the Filipinos in swimming, shooting, athletics, judo, boxing or cycling. The six OFWs, who work with separate firms in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are taking a 10-day company-paid annual leave to visit London to cheer for Team Phl in the course of their tour of the UK. Five are in their 20s and 30s while a sixth is in her 40s. The group is on a vacation tour every year through the initiative of their lone male companion, Michael, who has been arranging small yearly tours for close friends the past six years, although one or two had joined the tour the first time. “It’s been my dream to visit other countries and it’s great fun being able to experience it again and again,” said Michael, who is the only member that has completed the six-year annual getaway. “We thought it would be great to come to London this time to watch the Olympics and cheer for our kababayans in the Games,” said Michael. “We come from different companies in the UAE, but we manage to come together, through the internet and our cellphones, to plan our foreign tour out of UAE,” he added. “Kung minsan tambak-tambak na ang email ko sa dami ng incoming mails!” “We’ve been doing this yearly and it’s fun since we limit the tour to only six,” Michael said. “I do all the research and booking so we don’t have to get a tourist agency to do it for us. This lowers the cost a lot.” Each paid only the equivalent of P32,000 for a round trip ticket to London. “We also cut down on hotel accommodations a lot because we choose low budget inns. At saka pagdating sa meals, ambag-ambag kami. Kung minsan kumakain kami sa daan habang naglalakad. Walang pili sa pagkain. Masaya.” “We planned for London because of the Olympics. Siempre, iba na ang Olympics and we want very much to be part of the participation of our athletes,” Fe said. The group has come here complete with getups and props. Dressed in black shirts with “Philippines Kabarkada Tour” and “UKlympics” written in front, the Olympic tourists have other props ready for their cheering engagement – pom poms, yellow colored headgear, a large poster with the word “PHILIPPINES” written in large bold letters, and another with “I LOVE OLYMPICS (denoted by an Olympic ring logo), and a small Philippine flag and lots of small Philippine-inspired materials, one saying “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” After lunch at a Thai restaurant at the Westfield Mall the morning after Olympic opening ceremonies, the OFWs had a photo session at an open space fronting the Olympic Vilage. They instantly drew the attention of a huge crowd that saw them proudly wearing the Philippine getups. Soon, a number of Filipinos in the crowd also joined in the photo session as Britons, which had come in the thousands to watch the games in the nearby Olympic venues, stopped to watch the Filipinos yell out their choreographed cheer for the Philippine team. London is, of course, not the first and final destination of country’s ambassadors of goodwill from the Middle East. “We are also going to Cardilf (Wales), Edinburgh (Scotland) and other key places of the UK,” said Michael. Their next stop after the UK? “It will be a place in Eastern Europe, and we’re preparing for it now,” said Michael. OLYMPIC NOTES: The Lord’s Cricket Club, a very rich, exclusive club for the UK’s no. 1 sport, had decided to lock up the club to allow only the participants, their coaches and media to be in the playing area. Concentration is the name of the game, as they say it. This must have prompted unscrupulous merchants to sell unauthorized tickets to unsuspecting customers...Broadcast media are allowed a space only on the far side of the field, away from the periphery of vision of the archer... Print media journalists are allowed only at the stands on the farther side... After the competitions, the marshals closed the open tent sheltering the archers, blocking reporters and other cameramen taking shots from behind. The organizers had to give in to the exclusive coverage of a local TV station which is the carrying station of the Games.

Tourists in London warned vs. fake police officers

LONDON - Police on Sunday warned tourists in London to beware of people pretending to be plain-clothes officers and stealing credit cards and cash during the Olympics, and said they arrested more touts for illegally reselling Games tickets. The capital's Metropolitan Police Service said it arrested three men aged between 27 and 35 years on Saturday on charges of impersonating a police officer and conspiracy to steal. "There have been a number of incidents where criminals have impersonated police officers to take money off unsuspecting tourists," said Detective Superintendent Steve Osborn. "Officers would never take money from you, they would never take you to a cashpoint and ask you for money. They are unlikely to ask to see your bank cards and would never need to ask you for your pin number," he added. Saturday's arrests were made in central London's Russell Square, where London 2012 organisers are running a transport service for media covering the Games. Police said there was no direct connection between the arrests and the Olympics, but noted such con-men could be attracted to London by the lure of extra tourists during the Games. The London force also said it had arrested another three people for illegally reselling Olympic tickets, known as touting in Britain and scalping in the United States, after nabbing 16 on Friday and Saturday. Two of those held on Sunday were arrested outside Horse Guards Parade in central London, site of the beach volleyball tournament. Three more people have been charged with various offences in connection with a mass alternative cycle ride that officers stopped near the Olympic stadium in east London on Friday evening, the police said. Officers arrested 182 cyclists taking part in the "Critical Mass" ride for ignoring an order to stay away from the Olympic Park while the opening ceremony was underway. All but four of those arrested have been released on bail pending further inquiries. - Reuters

140 Pinoys to return from Syria this week; over 1,400 still waiting to be repatriated

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday that 140 overseas Filipino workers will be repatriated from Syria in the next four days. This is the largest batch of OFWs to come home from Syria since the unrest started in March 2011. The repatriations have already started as of this Sunday with the arrival of 19 OFWs at 3:25 p.m. onboard Etihad Airways flight EY 424. Two more Filipinos are scheduled to arrive at 10:00 p.m. this Sunday on board Emirates flight EK 334. The DFA expects 82 OFWs to arrive on July 30, 27 on July 31, and the last 10 on August 1. According to the DFA, the Syrian Government had agreed to waive the exit visa fees, penalties, and requirements for the 140 OFWs, thus saving the Philippine government over $100,000. Furthermore, in a meeting with DFA Undersecretary Rafael E. Seguis, the Syrian Government gave assurances that it will assist in the repatriation of 1,404 more OFWs who have signified their intention to come home. This will bring the total number of repatriates to 1,993. Syria also agreed to facilitate the repatriation of the other Filipinos who will seek the assistance of the Philippine Embassy in Damascus in the coming days. The repatriates will be assisted by Philippine Embassy personnel during their repatriation and will be escorted by members of the Philippine government’s Rapid Response Team (RRT) from the Embassy to the Damascus International Airport. Given the situation in Syria, the Foreign Affairs Department renewed its call on the family members of Filipinos in Syria to provide the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) with up-to-date information regarding their loved ones’ whereabouts and contact details in Syria by calling (02) 834-3333 or (02) 834-4996 or by e-mailing The DFA is also urging Filipinos in Syria to call the Embassy at (963-11)-6132626. — DVM, GMA News


By Christine F. Herrera The principal author of the reproductive health bill on Sunday said an endorsement from President Benigno Aquino III has pushed the number of its supporters to 140, more than enough to approve the contentious measure by Aug. 7, when the debates were expected to close. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the bill needed to be passed by August because Congress would be preoccupied with the deliberations on next year’s national budget by September and the filing of the candidacies for the mid-term 2013 elections by October. Although the President only mentioned the term “responsible parenthood” once during his State-of-the-Nation Address last week in reference to his administration’s plans for education, Lagman took that as an endorsement of his bill. “The message of the President was loud and clear. It’s not in the length of what he said but the content of what he said,” Lagman said. “We have been saying that we have the numbers, and most especially now that President Aquino endorsed it.” Lagman said he was optimistic that the debates, which have delayed a long-awaited vote on the bill, would likely be terminated soon. While 104 lawmakers were signatories to the bill, Lagman said, their supporters had grown to 140. The other lawmakers did not want their identities known to prevent the Catholic bishops, who vehemently oppose the bill, from pressuring them, Lagman said. “The House has extensively and adequately discussed and debated the RH bill since the interpellations started on May 17, 2011. We have been debating it for more than a year now,” said Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, one of the authors of the bill. “It is time we terminate the debate and proceed to amendments and approval.” House Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said Congress had been debating various versions of the bill for the last 11 years. “Fifteen mothers are dying daily from pregnancy-related complications, and millions of Filipinos wanting better quality of life should be listened to,” Garin said. “We owe it to our people to vote on this so that government resources and time can be used wisely and appropriately.” If the plenary voted to end the debates, Lagman said, it could proceed to the period of amendments and subject the bill to a second and then third and final reading, Lagman said. Lagman denied a Catholic Church claim that the bill’s P3-billion funding would all go toward buying contraceptives. “The bulk of the funding would go to a massive information campaign to be spearheaded by the local government units to inform the couples about the natural and modern methods and how to plan their families through birth spacing,” Lagman said. “We respect religious beliefs so we included the natural method. But it should be legal and not abortive, medically safe and truly effective.” Lagman said neither the Church nor the State had the right to impose on couples which family planning method to use. He said the bill was not a magic bullet that would immediately slow the country’s rapid population growth, but it would eventually have an impact on education, food, jobs, housing and the environment. But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Sunday said those saying the RH bill was not about population control were “liars’ and predicted it will have a tough time in the Senate. “This is indeed a population control in the guise of a health bill. No question about it,” Enrile told dzBB radio. But Senator Pia Cayetano, the principal author of the Senate version of the bill, said she remained confident that she could convince her colleagues to pass the measure. The supporters of the bill have criticized the delays introduced by those who oppose to it, saying that with more than a year in plenary debates behind them, the time was ripe for a vote. Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III, who opposes the bill, assured Cayetano that the bill would be put into vote in the last week of August or the first week of September. With Macon R. Araneta Catholics, condoms and the RH bill | Inquirer Opinion Rina Jimenez-David Well, what do you know… It seems that President Benigno Aquino III’s brief mention, almost in passing, in his State of the Nation Address of the importance of “responsible parenthood” lit a fire under the bottoms of the House and Senate leadership. Now the long-delayed Reproductive Health bill is “on the verge” of passage, at least according to the long-suffering lobby groups, and it’s all hands on deck! Tomorrow, the plenary debate in the House of Representatives begins and will end on Wednesday, after which voting is expected to commence. Supporters are urged to show up en masse at the House, wearing purple shirts or white shirts with purple accessories (purple is considered the color of the women’s movement). They are also asked to “tweet or Facebook pro-RH legislators to attend sessions” and otherwise badger all those who signed on as cosponsors to show up and make their presence count. Of course, the Catholic bishops and their adherents, all those who believe in keeping Filipino women “barefoot and pregnant,” can be expected to wage their own counterattack. But since everything that can be said has been said on this long-delayed bill, I think the House and the Senate are more than ready to finally vote on the measure. Just a reminder, though: The Filipino public has long made its sentiments on reproductive health heard and loudly articulated. The only question remaining is: Who do our legislators listen to? Will it be the Filipino people, as expressed in public opinion surveys dating back to well over a decade? Or will it be a small elite composed of Church folk and their supporters? Congress is reaching the crossroads, and let’s hope it proceeds in the right direction. * * * While we’re on the topic, I do still hold out hope that our Filipino bishops and their followers on the issue of reproductive health will come around to changing their minds and easing their vociferous opposition to the idea of giving women (and men) the means to decide their reproductive fate. I say this because Pope Benedict XVI did say in 2010 that using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS can be “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.” This was, wrote Jon O’Brien in a recent issue of “rd” or Religion Dispatches, a daily online magazine, “a great leap forward for the Catholic Church,” which previously condemned the promotion of condom use (deeming condoms “immoral”) even to prevent the spread of disease. Before I go on to discuss O’Brien’s article, titled “The Truth About Catholics and Condoms,” let me clarify here that O’Brien (whom I have met personally) is the president of Catholics for Choice and a leader of the “Condoms4Life” campaign, just so you’d know where he’s coming from. And that “rd” says it provides “a forum for journalists, scholars and advocates to share their expertise and inform the conversations that shape our lives and our democracy.” Judging from its lineup of articles, “rd” seems to cover a wide range of beliefs and opinions. * * * The Pope’s statement, says O’Brien, could have meant “not only that Catholics could feel comfortable using this tried-and-tested HIV prevention method, but that many Catholic-run health care centers might start incorporating condoms into their official HIV prevention programs.” But even after the Pope affirmed the use of condoms to help prevent the spread of HIV, “we still hear some members of the Catholic hierarchy trying to take back the Pope’s words and doing their best to prevent condoms from reaching people who need them.” Some bishops sought to reinterpret the Pope’s statement, with some applying it only to a narrow scope in his original message, insisting that Benedict was speaking of a hypothetical situation regarding a male prostitute. But incredibly, the Vatican held fast to the Pope’s original meaning. Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi “confirmed that the Pope intended his words to apply whether ‘you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual.’” But what O’Brien finds equally important is that the Pope chose “as his first example an individual who really exists. There are indeed sex workers all over the world, male and female.” Reflects O’Brien: “A living, compassionate Church acknowledges realities like these and asks: what are the moral choices available for such a person?” Worldwide, writes O’Brien, the Catholic Church provides approximately 25 percent of all AIDS care, and yet, “the principle of the Pope’s words has yet to trickle down into practice.” And while Catholic health care has provided anti-retroviral treatments to thousands, “it balks at one challenge: helping people live long, healthy lives as sexual beings.” * * * “The issue is to protect life,” says South African Bishop Kevin Dowling, whose diocese “has been devastated by AIDS deaths.” Many Catholics agree, with a 2007 poll finding that the majority of Catholics in five countries agree that “using condoms is pro-life because it helps save lives.” We’re not just talking about HIV/AIDS and condoms here, I believe. The benefits of reproductive health services have long been established, and their necessity, in light of our worsening data on child and maternal health, need no longer be proven. O’Brien says that “the hierarchy’s reluctance to acknowledge facts already grasped by ordinary Catholics is nothing new.” Neither is the power of Church leaders to stand as obstacles to change, even if that change is beneficial to society and to human beings. We can only pray that the bishops look deep into their hearts and consciences to acknowledge that condoms—and the whole range of reproductive health services—can and do save lives. That condoms and reproductive health are in fact life-affirming. _______________________________________________ THE DICTATOR


By: Patricia Evangelista, Philippine Daily Inquirer We are told we are on the verge of open war. The generals are mounting their cavalry; the defenders of the faith are mustering their troops. This war did not spring from the deaths of the 11 members of the New People’s Army killed in a June encounter with the Army’s 85th Infantry Battalion. Neither was it a result of the hostilities in Basilan, whose terrorists shattered the bodies of the 10 soldiers whose coffins arrived yesterday at the Villamor Air Base. The war does not involve the Chinese garrison at Scarborough, or the families of the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, or even the millions whose lives we are told are at stake at the center of Edwin Lacierda’s metaphorical war against poverty. The battle of 2012, we are told, was declared on July 23. “Now that we are ending the backlog on textbooks, perhaps we can also avoid a backlog on students,” said President Aquino at his third State of the Nation Address. “I believe responsible parenthood is the answer.” This, according to Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, is a declaration of war. “Aquino declared an open war, a head-on collision against us and against the Catholic Church. So terrible, so blatantly Aquino missed the point,” he says. “We in the prolife movement are so disgusted with these vigorous pronouncements in support of responsible parenthood.” The lines are clearly drawn, at least by the Catholic Church. “The battle resumes,” says the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Fr. Melvin Castro. It is “unacceptable” for the President of a predominantly Catholic country to endorse what is “antilife.” The enemy is named Benigno Aquino III, the evil is contraception, the prize is the very soul of the Republic of the Philippines. “Aquino has credited the Filipino people as his bosses for the changes made by his administration,” says Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros. “Now he is imposing on the Filipino people his own stand on the RH bill. He should listen to the voice of the majority of our people who are Catholics.” It is an old argument exhumed by the Catholic Church. We are Catholic. The country is mostly Catholic. The nation must employ Catholic morality. The argument falls on itself. Catholic does not mean conservative, and the millions whose birth certificates announce they are Roman Catholic do not necessarily agree with every edict of his Holiness Pope Benedict. A 2011 survey independently conducted by the Social Weather Stations puts at 82 percent respondents who believe that “the choice of a family planning method is a personal choice of couples and no one should interfere with it.” As many as 73 percent of the respondents also said that if a couple wanted to practice family planning, relevant information on “all legal methods” should be provided by the government. The majority of the people may be Catholic, but they are, by the standards of the Catholic Church, largely immoral. Perhaps it is this immoral many that the President considers his boss. Oliveros speaks as if opposition to the RH bill is automatic to members of the Catholic faith. The CBCP itself admits there are a number of priests among the Catholic brotherhood who themselves quietly support the RH bill. Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chair of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, admitted in an interview that although these priests have not openly voiced their support for the bill, the bishops are aware of their positions. But all this is irrelevant; it is only an attempt to show the distance that exists between reality and the CBCP’s imagination. The provision of free contraception and the availability of information do not limit anyone, least of all the faithful whose hatred of the freedom to fornicate is permitted to flourish. Not a single section of the RH bill demands that Oliveros and his faithful snap on banana-flavored rubber. Nothing stops them from excommunicating the erring and condemning the immoral. The Philippines may be largely Catholic, but it is fully secular. At its foundation is respect for individual choice, and it is not bound by the choices of men who happily volunteer the unlimited use of uteruses that are not their own. What is damning about this blitzkrieg attack from the Catholic Church is not so much its emphasis on morality as its own hypocrisy. Shame on the President, they say, for misleading the Filipino. Shame on the man for his selective pursuit of his promised path to righteousness. “Do not kill,” says Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes to the President after his Sona. And so they declare war on contraception while they themselves promote natural family planning, all the while howling at a killer President and his legion of antilife advocates. Where were these men of the Church when the Arroyo administration condoned the massacre of dozens of journalists and activists? How many of them declared open war on the President after reports were released of over 90 civilians lost to extrajudicial killings in the last two years? Did the CBCP as a body comment on the President’s failure to address in the Sona his own administration’s inability to bring closure to the Maguindanao massacre? Bishop Bastes himself was vocal against human rights violations in Sorsogon, has himself protested that the impunity today is similar to the conditions during martial law, and yet his request for justice is nowhere near the rage he has demonstrated against the President’s careful support for the RH bill. The Church now threatens the government with its numbers come elections. Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said the CBCP will draw a list of national and local candidates against the RH bill for endorsement to the voting public. It is the same threat they made in 2010, admitting publicly that it is better to vote for a crook than for a supporter of contraception. Legislators were elected in spite of the threat, although the Church says it was probably because “there must be other convening factors beside the issue.” It is easy for the powerful to claim moral authority, not so easy when the lambs are more recalcitrant than the shepherds would like to claim. The oddest of all odd Church arguments came from Bastes himself, complaining that the President’s support for RH “is undermining the moral force of the Catholic Church.” It is an odd and very dangerous concession—that the Church’s moral force is so fragile, so inconstant, that it is necessary for the government itself to protect its existence. They call the President an enemy, and yet concede he has the power to destroy the faith they claim is infallible. Yet protecting the powerful has never been the responsibility of any secular government. There is no cause to make the passing of this bill the last front of Catholic morality. The debate over contraception could have been no more than a matter of secular choice, but the Church will not allow it, and so the battle lines are drawn. This is not a war that Mr. Aquino declared. It is a last stand by the old guard, one that fails to see it has already lost. --

Women to Bishops: We will reject your anti-RH candidates

Following the Roman Catholic hierarchy's pronouncements that they will make a list of anti-reproductive health (RH) bill candidates that they will support for the coming 2013 elections, a group of women working in grassroots communities welcomed the move saying that it will even help them know the candidates to reject and not vote for. The Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP), a national federation of 264 community women’s organizations with 40,000 members chaired by Elizabeth Angsioco is not threatened by this announcement and in fact, fully supports it. She added, “the move is good for RH champions as non-inclusion in the bishops’ list means that they favor saving mothers from dying and adolescent girls from untimely pregnancies.” "The bishops will make our work easier. Inclusion in their list is a guarantee that a candidate is anti-RH. For women, especially those in poor communities such as our members, being anti-RH is being anti-women and anti-poor. With the bishops' list, we will no longer need to do further research on included candidates. We will simply campaign against and NOT vote for them", Angsioco stressed. However, Angsioco explained, that such move is just an empty threat from the bishops because it has been proven from past elections that the Catholic block vote is at best, a myth. Angsioco recalls that the Catholic church openly went against former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Erap Estrada, as well as former Senator Juan Flavier but all of them won the elections. She added, “Even at the local level, priests went against champions of the RH bill but virtually all of those re-electionists won. In contrast, during the 2010 elections, anti-RH candidates at the national level who said that they had the bishops' support, lost, and lost miserably. The Catholic church has never proven that it has a block vote unlike the Iglesia ni Cristo.” Angsioco explained further that all credible surveys done through a number of years by Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia have ALL proven that the Filipino people overwhelmingly support a government-funded family planning program as well as the passage of the RH bill. “Even Catholics support these because 81% to 94% of total respondents of these surveys identified themselves as Catholic. The fact is, it is only the Roman Catholic hierarchy and those closely allied to it that are rabidly against the RH bill", Angsioco ended. XXX For more information please contact Ms. Rhoda Avila at Mobile No. 09178855782.

last batch of monthly winners of its SSS Member-Get-Member (MGM) for OFWs promo

The Social Security System (SSS) is set to draw the last batch of monthly winners of its SSS Member-Get-Member (MGM) for OFWs promo on July 31 at the Executive Lounge, 2nd foor SSS Building, East Avenue Diliman, Quezon City, 9:30 am. Media and stakeholders are invited to join the SSS in the raffe, which has given away P10,000 to each of the 45 Filipino overseas workers who won in the past draws. Nominators and nominees who complete six monthly contributions for January to June 2012 automatically qualify for the Grand Draw in September 2012. The grand winner will walk away with a vacation package for two to Boracay and P45,000 pocket money or have the prize converted to P160,000 cash. The SSS will also draw two 2nd prize winners of P30,000 each; three 3rd prize winners of P20,000 each; and ten winners of P10,000 each as consolation prizes. Last month’s winners were Vitaliana Hara Hernando, Aileen Barbosa and Divina Pagaduan (Asia); Auricel Tolentino, Pensees Dawny Figueroa and Felipa Sanchez (Middle East); Catalina Dizon, Karen Perpetua Blas and Demetrio Joven (Europe and rest of the world). The MGM promo was conceived to promote the importance of social security protection and encourage OFWs to become active members of the SSS.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dolphy was proud to be OFW in Hong Kong in 1940s

Dolphy was proud to have been one of the first OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in Hong Kong in the 1940s, having been a young dancer and errand boy there, struggling like the masses of Filipinos who later adored him. Dolphy, born Rodolfo Quizon Sr. in Tondo, Manila on July 25, 1928, passed away at age 83 on Tuesday at 8:34 p.m. in Makati due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Dolphy was rushed to the intensive care unit of the Makati Medical Center on June 9, after complaining of difficulty in breathing. He also suffered from pneumonia and kidney ailments. In an interview with GMA News in 2009, Dolphy recalled how, at just over 20 years old, he worked as a dancer in Hong Kong in the late 1940s. When not on stage or the dance floor, he was also an errand boy. "Nagsasayaw lang ako, may boss din akong nagdala sa akin, errand boy din ako and at the same time nagsasayaw din ako," he recalled. "Unang dating ako, nakikisama ako at gusto kong matuto, ako ang pinaka-errand boy ng pinakaboss ko. Tsaka, marunong-runong ako ng English," he said. He said his attitude of being "mabilis at masipag," was probably the reason why was entrusted to run errands for his boss. In a concert in Hong Kong in 2009, Dolphy introduced himself as an OFW and told the audience, "Alam nyo ba 1950 pa lang, nagtatrabaho na ko dito.." Advice for OFWs: Don't gamble Dolphy encouraged OFWs to protect their hard-earned money. "Dapat ingatan nyo, kung nagsusugal, huwag kayong magsusugal. Yan ang unang-unang iwasan yang sugal... Daig lahat ng sugal," Dolphy said. He added: "Be practical." "Kain ka nang kain sa labas, bumili ka na lang ng naka-stock sa bahay. Kasi kami ganoon eh. Meron akong loaf of bread," he said. He even recalled how much the Philippine peso fared against the Hong Kong dollar. "Ang pera natin mas mahalaga kaysa sa pera nila. Natatandaan ko ang one peso is two dollar and eighty cents. Ang value -- 2 is to 2, or 3 is to 1 ang pera natin." He said "masarap ang buhay at mura ang bilihin noon." After his stint as an OFW in Hong Kong, Dolphy became one of the most popular actors in the Philippine movie and television industry, having starred in over 200 movies, including the hit TV sitcom "John en Marsha" where he played the role of John Purontong. Dolphy was born in Tondo, Manila to Melencio Espinosa-Quizon, a ship mechanic, and Salud Vera Quizon. The Comedy King was the eldest of 10 children that included Corazon, Josefina (Josie), Melencio Jr. "Junior," Laura, Aurora (Auring), Jorge (Georgie), Jaime (Jimmy), Teresita and Jaime. Dolphy had 18 children from six different women: six children with Grace Dominguez, four with Gloria Smith, four with Baby Smith, one with Vangie Tagulao, one with actress Alma Moreno, and two (one was adopted) with singer Zsa Zsa Padilla. Dolphy never married any of the six women he was with. — VVP/HS, GMA News

Hurricane Signal 10 in Hong Kong forces closure of PHL consulate

A severe typhoon in Hong Kong — Hurricane Signal Number 10 — forced the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Hong Kong to suspend operations for at least half a day on Tuesday. However, as Typhoon Vicente ("Ferdie" in the Philippines) was lowered to Signal Number 3 on the same day, the PCG posted a notice posted on its website saying it has resumed operations. "In view of the downgrade of Typhoon Vicente by the Hong Kong Observatory to No. 3 Strong Wind Signal at 10:10 a.m., the Philippine Consulate General will resume operations at (noon) and will be open to the public until (4:00 p.m.)," the PCG said. On Tuesday morning, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) said Hurricane Signal number 10 — the highest signal — was issued for the first time since 1999 on Monday night. RTHK said Vicente had made landfall after 4:00 a.m. near the coastal area of Taishan. Typhoon Vicente started as a tropical depression in the Philippines. While in the Philippines, "Ferdie" enhanced the southwest monsoon, which brought heavy rain on parts of the country. At least three people were killed in the Philippines, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. - VVP, GMA News

UAE activates anti-begging hotline, offers rewards for informants

As the Holy Month of Ramadan started on Friday, the police in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched a hotline offering cash rewards to those who report seasonal beggars. A report of the news site Gulf News said the public can call 06-7401616 or 06-7409999 to report instances of begging. Under the campaign, the amount of the reward will depend on the amount of cooperation given and the importance of the report. "Police patrols will be deployed at places where the beggars are found. They take advantage of Ramadan and go to mosques and markets, banks and residential areas to ask people for money," the report quoted Lt. Col. Abdullah Saif Al Matroushi, director of the Department of Criminal Investigation at Ajman Police, as saying. He said people who have "limited resources or face difficult situations" should contact authorized charity and humanitarian groups instead of begging. These groups will study their individual cases and offer them help in a legal and safe manner, he said. - VVP, GMA News

Scam alert: Beware of emails about $2-M lottery prize in UAE

Dubai authorities warned about fake emails from supposed government officials about a $2 million lottery prize in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), home to some 636,154 Filipinos, based on the 2010 Stock Estimate of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. According to a report of the news site Emirates 24/7 on Tuesday, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) issued a 'Dubai National Lottery Foundation 2012' scam alert. The modus operandi involves scammers demanding an "advance fee" using identities of DFSA Chairman Saed Eigner, UAE Central Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and UAE Ministry of Finance. Scammers reportedly send unsolicited letters, using a DFSA letter headed paper, informing persons by email that they won $2,161,500 in the "Dubai National Lottery Foundation 2012 online prize awards." However, the scammers say that the funds cannot be released until the winner pays a remittance fee of $21,600. The report said the letter is "false and is fraudulently motivated." "If you receive letters of this type, you ignore them or report them to the police or relevant financial services regulator," the DFSA said. "You should not respond to the letters; or send money to any person. If you are in doubt you should call your relevant financial services regulator for advice," the DFSA added. The DFSA said it does not communicate via private e-mail addresses (e.g. Gmail or Hotmail). - VVP, GMA News

Victims of Colorado movie theater shooting honored

President Barack Obama visited with friends and family of the Colorado movie theater shooting victims on Sunday, joining local officials and residents in mourning those who died. Twelve died and 58 were wounded early Friday when a lone shooter, armed with three guns and clad in body armor, opened fire at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie. Police apprehended James Eagan Holmes, 24, moments after the massacre and identified him as the killer. He is to make his first court appearance on Monday. "I refuse to say his name. In my house we're just going to call him Suspect A," Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told a community memorial service at the municipal center in Aurora, Colorado, a Denver suburb of 325,000 people. He captured a spirit of defiance in the blue-collar city that saw one of the most innocent of American pastimes turn into a horror show. Among the thousands of people spread across the lawn at the memorial were two dozen friends of victim Micayla Medek, 23, all clad in bright shades of pink, her favorite color. Henry Miranda, 23, was sitting with 'Cayla' when she was shot, and declined to talk about the night. "Today is not about 'Why?', Miranda said. "It's about celebrating the love she brought into all of our lives." Obama met with families in the University of Colorado Hospital, and in a televised address afterward never mentioned the suspect's name. He focused on the bravery of a young woman, Stephanie Davies, who saved her friend, Allie Young, by putting pressure on a gushing neck wound with one hand while calling for help on her cellphone with the other. "They assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come," Obama said. "Although the perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the last couple of days, that attention will fade away. And in the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy." Across the city, residents tried to come to terms with the tragedy. A dozen crosses with names of the dead now stood on a small hill across the street from the movie theater. Flowers stood in front of all the crosses and a giant teddy bear was next to one with the name of the youngest killed, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. A sign reading "7/20 gone not forgotten" was surrounded by balloons, flowers, American flags, Air Force hats and flags, and dozens of hand-written notes. The spray of bullets in the theater took the lives of victims ranging from the 6-year-old girl to a 51-year-old man. Many of the wounded are still in the hospital. Iraq war veteran Christina Blache said she thought the shots were part of the show. But she was hit, and a friend who was celebrating his 27th birthday died. "Who expects to be shot in a movie theater? None of us did," she told CNN. "Calculation and deliberation" Josh Nowlan, also an Iraq war veteran, said that he watched the shooter pick off victims - but then his rifle jammed. "If that gun did not jam, I am full certain I would not be here," he told CNN. Holmes and his motives remained largely a mystery on Sunday, with past associates of the 24-year-old saying he displayed no hints of a mental illness or violent tendencies. Holmes was until recently enrolled in a prestigious graduate program in neuroscience, and people who knew him struggled to comprehend the shooting. "It's absurd. It's so out of character for this young man," said Jerry Borgie, senior pastor at Penasquitos Lutheran Church in San Diego, where the Holmes family worshipped. Police said they had finished collecting evidence from Holmes's apartment, which was booby-trapped with trip wires and explosives. While residents of nearby buildings were able to return home Saturday after police painstakingly dismantled the explosives, the three-story building where Holmes lived remained evacuated due to chemical hazards. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said the shooting was the product of months of "calculation and deliberation," with Holmes receiving a "high volume" of deliveries at work and home. Area shooting range owner Glenn Rotkovich, 65, was among the few who found Holmes suspicious. Rotkovich said he received an emailed membership application from Holmes about a month ago and heard a "bizarre, freakish message" when he called to contact Holmes. "It was a very deep voice, a guttural rambling," Rotkovich, owner of the Lead Valley Range, told Reuters. "I couldn't understand it. I didn't try and understand it. That was all I needed to know." Governor Hickenlooper, speaking on NBC television's "Meet the Press" program, said there were still no clues as to the motive for the shooting. But he said Holmes was "a twisted, really delusional individual" who had not been cooperating with authorities. "Diabolic" "He was diabolical, demonic," Hickenlooper said. On Saturday afternoon, the local coroner's officer released the names of the 12 people killed, including an aspiring female sportscaster who had barely escaped a shooting in a Toronto mall earlier this summer. Those who witnessed the shooting told of a nightmarish scene, with dazed victims bleeding from bullet wounds, spitting up blood and crying for help. For many, it evoked memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, 17 miles (27 km) from Aurora, where two students opened fire and killed 12 students and a teacher. The incident has also reverberated in the U.S. presidential race. Both Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, toned down their campaigns on Friday, pulled ads from Colorado and dedicated scheduled events to the victims. In Rome on Sunday, Pope Benedict expressed dismay and sadness at the shooting. "I was deeply shocked by the senseless violence which took place in Aurora, Denver," he said in his regular Sunday Angelus address. Holmes was arrested in a parking lot behind the cinema. He was armed with a Smith & Wesson M&P .223 semi-automatic rifle, similar to an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock .40-caliber handgun. Police found an additional Glock .40-caliber handgun in his car. All the weapons had been bought legally in the previous 60 days. Arizona Senator John McCain told CNN on Sunday, the one-year anniversary of a mass attack in Norway in which a lone gunman killed dozens, that he needed to be convinced that tighter gun control would solve the problem. "The killer in Norway was in a country that had very strict gun control laws, and yet he was still able to acquire the necessary means to initiate and carry out a mass slaughter," McCain said. But California Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned why a clip holding as many as 100 bullets, which police say Holmes bought, was available in the United States. "You don't need it for self-defense. Why do you need it? Why do we make it available?" she said on Fox. "The Joker" Authorities said Holmes had dyed his hair red and called himself "the Joker" in a reference to Batman's comic-book nemesis. He is due to make his initial appearance before a judge at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on Monday morning. Sources familiar with the investigation said some 30 softball-sized containers filled with gunpowder were found in Holmes' apartment, together with containers filled with "incendiary liquids" intended to fuel a fire from the initial explosions, as well as bullets meant to ricochet around the apartment. Holmes was being held in solitary confinement to protect him from other prisoners, a routine precaution in high-profile cases, said Grayson Robinson, sheriff of Arapahoe County. Until last month, Holmes was studying for a doctoral degree in neuroscience at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical School, a few blocks from his apartment. - Reuters

UK Domestic Vacancy: Live-In Housekeeper, Weybridge, Surrey

Job Title: Own Studio, Great Live-In Housekeeper for super family Location: Weybridge, Surrey Start Date: September 2012 Salary: £275npw An experienced, flexible dog-loving Live-In Child-Friendly Housekeeper (Tagalog spks adv) is required for a fun family in Kingston. This is a large residence with 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms over 3 levels. The family have grown-up children who come and go between University and home – usually holidays so busy and quieter times (you are able to have part time jobs too). Own studio. Monday – Friday 7am – 4pm £275npw. September 2012 start. Keen to interview soonest. This is a really fantastic role for a knowledgeable Dog –Loving Housekeeper who is happy to have a couple of part time roles too (the family’s nephew needs c 3-4 hours each week – cleaning and laundry). The 4 older children are “in & out” from University to home – so busier in the holidays. You’ll be a dog lover and happy to walk the dog every morning for 20 minutes on the local golf club and happy to have the dog in your studio when the family travel. Usual housekeeping – cleaning, helping out at BBQ’s , family laundry & ironing and you’ll be confident in making spaghetti bolognaise/Shepherd’s Pie for the children when they are at home. There is a good community of like-minded Housekeepers in the area and Mum can put you in touch with them. Also lots of opportunities for babysitting the neighbour’s children too. Applying for this position: Please email your interest in this position to or please call Maita at 07585 405 851. For candidates who are not currently registered with Eden Private Staff, please include an up-to-date CV when applying. Applicants for this position should have excellent checkable references, a valid CRB and First Aid Certificate. We are not able to organise domestic working or other visas for the UK. Please do not apply unless you already home British or EU Citizenship or already hold a valid visa to work fulltime in the UK

OFWs holding global protest vs. planned hike in PhilHealth premiums

Some overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are holding from July 20 to 25 a global "web protest" against the planned increase in PhilHealth premiums. Dubbed “Global Webwide Protest to Stop PhilHealth Increase,” the move aims to stop the proposed 150 percent increase in health premiums for OFWs — from P900 to P2400 per person. According to a news release on the OFW site Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards (PEBA), Philhealth premiums for all members, including OFWs, increased from P900 to P1,200 in January this year. PhilHealth this month postponed to January 2013 plans for another increase for OFWs — from P1,200 to P2,400. PEBA said OFWs want the planned hike stopped until further discussion. “OFWs globally plead to stop and immediately implement a moratorium on imposing the increase until a comprehensive and genuine consultation with most OFWs and other stakeholders have been conducted,” PEBA said. A direct violation PEBA is a non-profit organization of international Filipino Bloggers founded by Jebee Kenji Solis, based in Jeddah. Originally, PEBA was an awarding body recognizing outstanding OFWs. However, it has now expanded its services to provide assistance to distressed OFWs. The group is staging the protesting via its Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with OFWs who are against Circular 22 which approves the increase recently issued by the Philhealth Board. PEBA also cited a law to point out that the increase is a violation. “The said increase is a direct violation of RA 10022, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 that “prohibits increase in government fees for services rendered to OFWs and their dependents,” said PEBA. On the other hand, the Twitter community has shared its insights on the matter: arnel abad: “@teamphilhealth OFW SAY NO TO Philhealth PREMIUM INCREASE MAKE IT OPTIONAL” ROLS: “STOP THE PHILHEALTH PREMIUM INCREASE, YE SFOR OPTIONAL for OFWS!” Mr. Apol E. Apuntar: “Stop the Philhealth Premium Increase!” A fairly small investment Meanwhile, in an interview with GMA News Online, Greg Rulloda, Vice President for the Philhealth Corporate Affairs Group said they are studying the best plan of action about the planned increase. “Hindi na matutuloy yung Circular 22 this July kasi pinag-aaralan namin mapaganda lalo ang programa,” Rulloda said. “Wag dapat mag-alala ang mga OFW sa Php 2,400 na isinusulong ng Philhealth dahil gagawan namin ng paraan yan para hindi isang bagsakan upang hindi mabigat sa bulsa,” he added. Rulloda cited some of the benefits that will be improved: Free consultation In patient benefits Diagnostic services Laboratory services Animal bite package Primary health care benefits Z benefits (cancers) – leukemia, breast, prostate He also stated that the Php 1,200 a year or even the Php 2,400 a year is a fair amount in exchange of the benefits the Philhealth extends not only to OFWs but their families. “We are building up our capacity to provide greater value for your money. We are also enriching benefits and enhancing our services,” he said. “Whether it’s Php 3.50 or Php 7.00 a day is a fairly small investment that can guarantee OFWs ample relief on any event of ailment,” he added. - VVP, GMA News

PHL Embassy: Reports about 180 OFWs on hunger strike in Saudi not true

Philippine officials on Monday belied reports claiming that 180 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have staged a hunger strike in Saudi Arabia to protest against "illegal recruitment, abusive employers and government neglect." According to a news release of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago said it was not true that the OFWs started having a hunger strike on July 19. “The truth is there was no hunger strike in Al Swayeh. The truth is there was no hunger strike by the Al Sabillah workers in Al-Jouf,” Tago said. "Stop work protests" However, he confirmed that 98 workers of Al-Swayeh held a "Stop work" protest against the non-payment of salary, lack of end-of-service benefit, and the non-issuance of exit visas to the workers who have finished their contracts. Labor Attache Albert Valenciano added, “there are no details of the cases of the workers in the other companies.” The embassy said Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh are already attending to the case of the Al-Swayeh workers. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration were instructed by the Labor Department to coordinate their action to facilitate the provision of the plane tickets to the concerned workers. The Embassy said it has also extended the validity of the passports of 32 of the workers free-of-charge. Earlier, Tago wrote Prince Sattam bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud twice requesting for immediate assistance to the workers and he brought the matter to the attention of the Emir who had set up a specialized inter-agency committee to solve the issue. Meanwhile, Valenciano said POLO-Riyadh provided the workers with medical assistance and food supplies.- VVP, GMA News

Monday, July 23, 2012


President Benigno Aquino III, in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) popularly well defined impunity. That which is wrong, no matter how long it remains, is still wrong. No way can anyone say after sometime that: “It already is OK. Let bygone’s be bygone’s.” Victims of human rights violations and their families took heart at Mr. Aquino’s statement taken it to mean that he was setting a course to break from the past culture of impunity and embark on building a course that ensures the primacy of human rights and the rule of law. It meant a road built on truth, justice, as well as guaranteeing reparation and compensation for victims. It was also expected to include institutional reforms to make sure of non-recurrence of similar violations. And yet, as gleaned in the following sample cases, impunity persists. The families of six workers from Trento, Agusan del Sur, still await the fate of their members since the latter were abducted last October 14, 2000. A soldier witness testified to their being beaten to death by lead pipes, later buried and bodies burnt. This was a case personally presented to Mr. Aquino early in his Presidency which has no resolution till now. In Dona Remedios Trinindad, Bulacan, Nicanor Mariano, a charcoal maker, was killed while sleeping with some family members in a hut during a military operation on July 19, 2011. Nicanor and his wounded son, Norman, were later labelled as NPA members. No justice has been obtained by the family till now. In the same Central Luzon province, the Manalo brothers identified then General Jovito Palaparan, Jr. during their 18-month custody with the military since 14 February 2006 as the command responsible for their abduction and torture until their escape. Palparan is presently being sought for being responsible for the kidnapping and illegal detention of U.P. students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. The students are nowhere to be found till now. Palparan’s whereabouts are also unknown till now. Human rights violations may well recur again and again as, for the third year, there is no National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) that would guide this administration’s obligation of conduct and of result in ending impunity. The Chief Executive has command responsibility here. The truth of human rights violations is blocked. People are deprived of the freedom of information. Impunity, not only against civil and political rights, but also against economic, social and cultural rights would be further entrenched. Legislators are an integral force in ending impunity by passing laws, such as the one against enforced disappearance, as well as the passage for the compensation for victims of human rights violations during Martial Law. Both chambers of Congress must therefore strengthen our Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by fast-tracking the passage of its new Charter. The Senate, on the other hand, should already ratify the U.N. Convention against enforced disappearance. Local authorities should resolve the impunity of juvenile crime not by lowering the age of criminality but exercising extraordinary due diligence in implementing the law on juvenile justice. PAHRA calls on all human rights defenders to resolutely breakthrough impunity by making human rights our preferred values in governance, development and peace. PAHRA demands from the Aquino government its obligation a plan to end impunity. TULDUKAN NA ANG IMPUNITY!- END IMPUNITY!

Filipino voters to register for the 2013

In an effort to further attract more Filipino voters to register for the 2013 senatorial and party list elections, the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, has set up satellite overseas absentee voting (OAV) registration sites in Worldwide Plaza in Central Hong Kong starting on July 8. The project is in cooperation with the Philippine Bankers Club. The satellite sites are located in Metrobank and BDO Remit at the second floor, while LBC hosts a site at the third floor. Daily registrations will continue until 31 October 2012.

Despite Increasing Volume of Claims, Claims Processing TAT is Being Reduced

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) would like to assure all our partner-providers that we are pursuing improvements in our management and IT systems. Our goal is to improve efficiency of claims processing, as reflected by two relevant measures: 1) the average Turn Around Time (TAT) for claims, and the 2) percentage of submitted claims paid beyond 60 days. Our commitment has not changed. We recognize that claims processing is one of PhilHealth’s core functions towards ensuring our members’ true financial risk protection and strengthening our partnership with health care providers, and as such, is a responsibility that we take seriously. This issue of delayed claims payments or claims backlog has long been addressed by PhilHealth since late last year. In 2011, the average number of claims was around 340,000 a month. During this period, the TAT was more than 60 days, with less than half of our 20 claims processing centers or regional offices having TAT less than 60 days. As for the percentage of submitted claims beyond 60 days, 38% of the claims were paid beyond 60 days. By the end of June 2012, TAT has decreased to 48 days, with 16 out of 20 claims processing centers or regional offices reporting a TAT of less than 60 days. The TAT for case rates is even lower at 46 days. We would like to emphasize that this trend has been consistent in ALL PhilHealth Regional Offices, not just in Regions V, VI and NCR South. The percentage of claims paid beyond 60 days, on the other hand, has been reduced to 26% for ALL claims, with the percentage paid beyond 60 days for case payment claims now down to 23%. These developments took place despite the increase of the monthly number of claims from around 340,000 per month to around 450,000 claims per month. Improvements were a result of the push for case payment, improved operational efficiencies, overtime work by staff, the deployment of PhilHealth CARES, and proactive training and coordination of the PhilHealth regional offices with their respective partner hospitals. Last year, we conducted a reconciliation procedure with partner hospitals, wherein it was found that the so-called backlogs were actually mislabeled claims – the assumed receivables have already been denied by PhilHealth but were not tagged/recorded accordingly by the hospitals. “It is never our intention to deceive our stakeholders,” PhilHealth President and CEO Dr. Eduardo P. Banzon emphasized. “From these experiences, it is apparent that IT systems have to be improved from both PhilHealth’s and providers’ end.” PhilHealth believes that a shift to all case rates and electronic claims processing are key to attain claims efficiency that everyone will be happy with. “Reducing claims TAT is an impossible task if everything is on paper. We encourage our partner hospitals, especially Level 3 and 4 Hospitals, to go electronic and enroll in our e-claims system to speed up reimbursements,” Banzon added. There are currently 80 hospitals connected to the e-claims eligibility check module, but we will mobilize all level 3 and 4 hospitals to do electronic claims submission by the end of 2012. These two shall be the long-term solutions in addressing claims backlog. The Corporation indeed recognizes that we need to do more. “We are not happy with the current TAT level and percentage of claims beyond 60 days, and we won’t stop pushing until optimal levels are achieved,” said Dr. Banzon.

OAV Registration Now in Worldwide Plaza HK

In an effort to further attract more Filipino voters to register for the 2013 senatorial and party list elections, the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, has set up satellite overseas absentee voting (OAV) registration sites in Worldwide Plaza in Central Hong Kong starting on July 8. The project is in cooperation with the Philippine Bankers Club. The satellite sites are located in Metrobank and BDO Remit at the second floor, while LBC hosts a site at the third floor. Daily registrations will continue until 31 October 2012.

Canadian Foreign Minister Urges Increased Ph-Canada Trade and Investments

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, M.P. called for increased trade and investments between the Philippines and Canada, saying that the presence of huge numbers of Filipinos in Canada should spur a livelier trade in goods across the Pacific. In a dinner hosted in his honor by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario, Minister Baird said there is much potential for moving the two countries' economic relations forward. Minister Baird noted that the Philippines has become Canada's number one source of immigrants and overseas workers, with over 800,000 Filipinos now residing in the country. Minister Baird said: "We should be able to raise the level of our bilateral trade, and the Filipino diaspora could provide the needed impetus for this." Minister Baird also mentioned the huge potential for increasing tourist arrivals from Canada to the Philippines. "Family members and friends of Filipinos in Canada have heard of so many good things about the Philippines," Minister Baird said. "We should build on these people-to-people exchanges." he added. Minister Baird, who used to serve as Canada's Minister of Transportation, said the introduction of new routes for budget air carriers between Canada and the Philippines would contribute to increasing tourism exchanges and should be studied by both sides. On the deployment of Filipino workers to Canada, Minister Baird acknowledged the huge contribution of Filipino immigrants and workers to Canada's economy. "We want to ensure the ethical recruitment and protection of the welfare of Filipinos who come to work in Canada," Minister Baird said. "And that's because we want them to eventually stay and be part of Canadian society," the Minister added. Minister Baird's official visit to the Philippines began last July 16 and included a call on President Benigno S. Aquino III, a speaking engagement before a joint meeting of the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines, and a site visit to a Gawad Kalinga village sponsored by Telus.

Visa interview coaching, another illegal recruitment scheme

Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac recently revealed another come on used by fly-by-night immigration consultants to attract unsuspecting jobseekers by promising them overseas employment supposedly without payment of fees other than for medical tests and visa interview coaching in the Philippines. According to Cacdac, the scheme starts with an unsolicited job offer through e-mail to nurses and caregivers apparently from legitimate and prestigious medical facilities in Canada or the United States of America. Cacdac cited an e-mail supposedly from Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Ontario, Canada and forwarded to the POEA, which informs the recipient of her selection as staff nurse and/or caregiver, and details on the application procedure and payment process. Cacdac said the offer could be hard to refuse for some applicants looking for overseas jobs. The e-mail said the workers would not be charged any fees except Php3,888.00 for “visa interview coaching”, and Php5,000.00 for medical tests. “No placement fee. No processing fee. No salary deduction. No show money. No experience required. Free accommodation and food allowance,” the email sender assures the worker. “But by examining the e-mail, one can easily conclude that it has footprints of an employment scam. The introduction of the letter was copied from the actual website of Stevenson Memorial Hospital. The sender, David R. Purvis, used a free e-mail account instead of the hospital’s internet domain name,” Cacdac added. “These scammers have access to personal data of applicants in job search sites and any e-mail informing an applicant of being selected for a specific job he or she did not apply for is undoubtedly a recruitment scam,” Cacdac said.Cacdac also clarified that immigration consultants cannot engage in the recruitment and placement of Filipino workers for overseas jobs unless they have a license from the POEA, otherwise they are violating laws on illegal recruitment . The administrator said applicants for Canada need not pay hefty fees for advice on working visa from immigration consultants because they are readily available at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website “All the forms and information that you need to apply for a visa are available for free on this website. If you follow the instructions in the application guide, you can complete the application forms and submit them on your own”, says a blurb on the website. Cacdac said the Stevenson case is similar to Fraser Health's which also recruits nurses and caregivers through e-mail for supposed employment in Canada and asks applicants to pay Php3,750.00 for “Canadian Embassy Interview Coaching”. He said he has ordered the POEA anti-illegal recruitment branch to investigate further whether the two are related or operated by the same group of scammers. The real Fraser Health in Canada, which uses their domain name, has denied the e-mail came from them. The fake company with non-existent jobs also used a account. Cacdac is urging job applicants who have received such recruitment emails to forward the same to for verification and proper action by the POEA. ###

Human trafficking: another name for slave trading

One of the most talked about plagues of modern society is human trafficking. People, particularly women and children, are traded and shipped by boats and planes from poor countries to well-off countries that are in constant need of cheap labor and "objects" of entertainment, particularly to serve sexual depravity and perversion of all kinds. In the olden times, it was called slave trade. Until it was abolished, humans were publicly traded from merchant to merchant and the slaves were transported to Europe and the new world (then US) by the boatload. The slaves, most of them from Black Africa, were used to work in plantations as indented cheap labor and objects of their masters’ sexual perversities. The slave trading was so INHUMAN and an evil "incarnate" that it became so infamous. Governments, first the British then their counterparts in mainland Europe, could no longer tolerate the inhumanity of slave trading that it was outlawed in Europe followed by the US after another 100 years or so. But the simple outlawing of slave trading did NOT stop the trafficking of humans. Slavers and human traffickers are so creative in transforming themselves into "legal" recruitment agencies and they tap the one thousand and one ways of shipping or transporting modern day slaves to all destinations in need of indented cheap labor and "entertainers" that also include minors. UN figures on human trafficking are so shocking that they shame sophisticated law enforcement that include the Interpol, the US FBI, and the Homeland Security network tracking terrorists worldwide. The UN reports say that the number of victims of human trafficking at any given time is approximately 2.4 million persons. Of this staggering number about 80 percent are exploited for sexual entertainment and about 17 percent are exploited for forced labor. The ratio of female to male slaves (including children) is two to three meaning two female for every three persons trafficked. Human trafficking which is actually another name for slave trading is a staggering and lucrative worldwide business. The same UN reports estimate an annual value of $32 billion in this modern day slave trading. The Philippine government has passed two important legislations to combat human trafficking, at least on paper! These are RA 10022 otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 and RA 9208 also known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. With about 14 million Filipino OFWs, it would appear that most trafficked Filipinos are "willing victims" and minors looking for ways to provide financially for their families. Moreover, under the two laws on human trafficking, the element of exploitation is the thin line that defines the boundaries between "illegal recruitment" and human trafficking. The element of "exploitation" is hard to ascertain in times of need and during hard times for the families. Every OFW, whether abused or exploited or victimized through fraud and deception, wishes only to provide for the family. In various countries in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, and in neighboring places like Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, they, no doubt, serve as the modern day "slaves" of the bygone era. In the Southern Philippines, the provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Sulu and the peninsula of Zamboanga area are being used as backdoors or gateways for trafficking of modern day slaves. The grapevine even announces the departures of "boats" for the neighboring Malaysia using the Malaysian flag. Thus when you see the Malaysian flag raised in a seaport, everyone in town, except perhaps for the law enforcers, knows that there is a boatload of trafficked persons leaving for the day. Of late, the PNoy administration is showing some seriousness in the campaign against human trafficking. The Interagency Council against trafficking has fast-tracked the conviction rate to an average of 20 per year. The council has convicted 83 persons. Albeit these are small fish convictions, the sign is there that more would be coming and we can only hope that the DOJ and DSWD that chair and co-chair the Council would show more activism in pursuing the big fish involved in human trafficking. As said earlier, slave trading is a lucrative business and the demand for "slaves" is great. Definitely, there is money that goes around that makes the business robust.

Malaysian couple arrested at NAIA for escorting three OFWs

Airport immigration officers arrested a Malaysian couple last June 20 for allegedly escorting three undocumented overseas Filipino workers to Malaysia. The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Sunday the couple was apprehended at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport 3 as they were to board a Cebu Pacific flight. Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said the couple was accompanying three male victims. According to the Immigration Bureau, the three admitted they were hired to work as mechanics and welders for the Jin San Transport Contractor Snd. Bhd., a construction company owned by the Malaysians. The three victims pointed to the couple as their recruiters who facilitated their travel, saying the couple secured their single-entry tourist visa from the Malaysian Embassy in Manila. David declined to divulge the names of the foreigners and OFWs as the law prohibits the public disclosure of human traffickers and their victims. The couple was later turned over to officials of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) at the NAIA for filing of appropriate criminal charges. Blacklist BI spokesperson and acting intelligence chief lawyer Ma. Antonette Mangrobang said the Malaysians were placed on the bureau’s blacklist to prevent them from re-entering the country. She said an initial investigation showed the couple arrived in Manila last June 18 and accompanied the victims to the Malaysian Embassy the next day. “They presented to the embassy the employment contracts of the victims so they were immediately given their visa,” Mangrobang said. She said the BI will only deport the couple after they are charged and have served their sentence, if convicted. — RSJ, GMA News

Singaporean nabbed at NAIA for human smuggling

A Singaporean — Tan Pang Kwang — was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Wednesday for attempting to smuggle into the United States a Chinese woman disguised as a Singaporean. Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Ricardo David identified the victim as Lin Xiao Mei. The two were intercepted at the boarding gate of the NAIA 2 Terminal as they were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Los Angeles. The two are now detained at the immigration jail in Bicutan, Taguig pending deportation proceedings. Immigration officers found that the Singaporean passport used by Lin was fraudulent. During an investigation, Lin’s Chinese passport was found hidden under the clothes she was wearing. David commended the bureau’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) for the arrest, saying, “We have repeatedly warned these syndicates to stop using the Philippines as a transit point for their operation because they cannot elude the watchful eyes of our immigration officers.” Atty. Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, BI acting intelligence chief, said the suspects were on their way to the boarding gate when they were accosted by the TCEU members. Mangrobang said immigration officers noted inconsistencies in one of their Singaporean passports. Mangrobang claimed that the passengers refused to cooperate with investigators during questioning and that Tan was the only one who could speak English. This prompted the BI officials to ask the help of airport security personnel who found Lin's passport under the clothes she was wearing. - VVP, GMA News

31 Pinay victims of human trafficking rescued in Malaysia

At least 31 Filipino women were rescued in an operation conducted by Malaysian immigration operatives last Thursday, a Malaysian news site reported over the weekend. The women were rescued in a condominium in Taman Tun Dr Ismail following a three-month monitoring by immigration officers, Malaysia's The Star reported. But at least two other Filipinas were detained on suspicion they worked with the syndicate, the report added. The report quoted Immigration Department director (enforcement) Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz as saying the women were kept in two residential units. He said none of the 31 had their passports, adding they may have entered Malaysia via social visit passes as tourists or as students. Syndicate members monitored their movements using a closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, the report said. An investigation showed the women would be taken out to work daily at nightclubs around the Klang Valley, then brought back to the residence. Following the raid by a 44-member team led by deputy assistant director Noraizan Bidin, the department has secured interim protection orders for the 31 victims. Mohd Zamberi urged the public to inform the department if they knew of any illegal activities being carried out at 1-800-22-6969 or at 03-88801555/03-88801556. — LBG, GMA News

Scam: Kin of Pinoy workers in Visayas warned vs. fake ambassador

The kin of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Bacolod City in the Visayas were warned this week against a group of swindlers that included a fake ambassador to the Middle East. According to a report of the news site Visayan Daily Star last week, one of the gang's latest victims was a 56-year-old wife of an OFW in Saudi Arabia. The report said the victim lost some P109,000 to a man claiming to be “Rodolfo Go,” supposedly an "ambassador" to Saudi Arabia. The "ambassador" allegedly called her at 9:30 a.m. more than a week ago to say that her husband was wounded, hospitalized, and needed money. The "ambassador" allegedly claimed that the husband fought and killed an engineer in Saudi Arabia, the report said. The "ambassador" then instructed her to remit money at different pawnshops to a certain "Romwel Celedio," the report added. The victim said she sent P42,000 and P67,000 via two pawnshops before learning that her husband was not hospitalized at all. The police urged relatives of OFWs to check with their loved ones by calling them before sending money. - VVP, GMA News

SSS disburses P2.22-B for benefits in Southern Mindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY --- Benefit disbursements to Social Security System (SSS) members in Southern Mindanao reached P2.22 billion from January to May this year, which was eight percent higher than the P2.05 billion released for the same period in 2011. SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr., who is in the city with senior officials to touchbase with employers and workers in the region, said the increase in benefit payouts in Southern Mindanao was higher than the national average of five percent. "Monthly pensions of about 112,600 members in Southern Mindanao amounting to P1.61 billion comprised 72 percent of the disbursements. Apart from pensions, SSS also released about P609 million in lump-sum and short-term benefits from January to May 2012 in the area," he said. Lump-sum payments included P228.98 million for retirement, P114.73 million for death and P22.23 million for disability. Other benefit payouts in Southern Mindanao were P104.21 million for funeral grants and P138.94 million for maternity, sickness and medical services. The SSS provides benefits that help members cope with contingencies such as old age, death, sickness, disability and maternity. Benefits for retirement, death and disability are paid out as monthly pensions or in lump sum, depending on the member’s number of contributions. De Quiros said overall benefit releases from January to May 2012 hit P35.74 billion, up by five percent from P34.10 billion during the first five months of 2011. Maternity benefits of P1.77 billion posted the highest rate of increase of 11 percent from P1.60 billion last year. Retirement claims, which made up half of total releases, rose six percent to P18.08 billion while P12.59 billion in death claims made up 35 percent. The SSS also paid P1.45 billion for disability, P1.11 billion for funeral grants and P740 million for sickness and medical claims. Enhancements to the Annual Confirmation of Pensioners (ACOP) program, which took effect this year, resulted in savings for the pension fund of P18.63 million annually due to the cancellation of 584 accounts of pensioners who have died, re-married, recovered from disability or re-entered employment. "As for Southern Mindanao, the enhanced ACOP brought in savings of nearly P155,000 per month from 60 cancelled pensions in the area. Over half of the amount involved accounts of 29 pensioners who were discovered to have passed away, thanks to the ACOP," de Quiros noted. The headquarters of SSS operations in Southern Mindanao is located at its division office in Davao City, which oversees the agency’s network of branches in Bislig, Digos, Kidapawan, Mati, Tagum, Toril, General Santos, Cotabato, Koronadal and Tacurong.

Noy urged to endorse RH Bill during 3rd SONA

(The Philippine Star) MANILA, Philippines - One of the authors of the Reproductive Health Bill at the House of Representatives is urging President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to endorse the measure during his third State of the Nation Address next week. In a statement, House members also expressed certainty the chief executive will include in his speech the administration’s gains in promoting good governance and economic stability in the country. Rep. Janette Garin (1st District, Iloilo), a Senior Deputy Majority Leader, said these two subjects will most likely be included in the annual report of the President to Congress and the public. “The President’s SONA will probably tackle the economic achievements of the administration and the progress on its transparency and good governance agenda, and their good effects on our country,” Garin said. Garin, also the Vice Chairperson of the House Committees on Health and on Population and Family Relations, expressed hope the President would endorse in his SONA the RH Bill which has been under the period of plenary interpellations in the House since May 17, 2011. Garin is author of House Bill 101 which is among the six RH bills consolidated and substituted by House Bill 4244 or the proposed “Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development.” The bill is principally authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay) and co-authored by Garin and 102 other lawmakers. She said the SONA might also touch on the government’s pro-poor programs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the territorial conflict between the Philippines and China, and the advantages of the sin tax reform bill which the House passed on third reading prior to the June 6 adjournment. Gunigundo, also a Deputy Majority Leader and Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Transportation, said he expects the SONA to reflect the positive results of the administration’s efforts in good governance, economic stability and education reforms. The SONA will also probably state where the country stands in accomplishing the Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015 according to Gunigundo. These MDG goals are : Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; Achieving universal primary education; Promoting gender equality and empowering women; Reducing child mortality rates; Improving maternal health; Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; Ensuring environmental sustainability; and, Developing a global partnership for development. Rep. Roger Mercado (Lone District, Southern Leyte), Chairman of the Committee on Transportation said the President is likely to discuss the accomplishments and plans of the administration in sustaining the good governance campaign which is essential to the country’s development. “The SONA will be about sustaining the right and straight path, and also about patriotism, all meant for our nation’s progress,” said Mercado.


By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News MANILA, Philippines - A cousin-in-law of President Aquino lashed out at the administration for its failure to pass the Reproductive Health Bill into law before the end of the 15th Congress. Pangasinan Rep. Carmen Cojuangco, wife of Aquino’s 2nd degree cousin Mark Cojuangco, posted several tweets imploring the President and his allies to pass the RH Bill. “Mr. President, dying mothers & starving children need your protection. The best legacy you can leave behind is the RH Bill,” she said. She also placed a similar message on the President’s Twitter account. “Please toe the line for the RH Bill. The fate of impoverished families & dying mothers is in your hands,” she said. Cojuangco scored House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II for saying that it would be more difficult to pass the RH bill as the country inches closer to the elections. She said Gonzales’s statement only shows his inaction and failure to deliver on the President’s promise. Failure to pass is 'BS' She said the failure of the 15th Congress to give the RH Bill a chance is “BS”, noting that the Lower House approved the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona in one day. “It has been 2 years since the 1st SONA! You have been dribbling us all along! Failure of passage before 3rd SONA is your neglect, [Majority House Leader],” she said. She accused the House of Representatives and the Aquino administration of giving false hopes to the poorest of the poor, noting that the administration “always gets what it wants, when it wants.” 'Trapo politics, political will' Responding to a tweet from ABS-CBN, Cojuangco cited lack of political will for the failure of Congress to pass the controversial reproductive health measure. She said the delay was pure “trapo politics” and that plenary debates in the House were just for show. “I am appalled at this brazen display of giving importance to politicos being afraid to do what is right just because elections are coming up! Plenary debates are just vaudeville. Puro moro-moro. In the end, leadership does what they want. Dictatorship is alive and kicking,” she said. Not a scapegoat Another lawmaker, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, said lack of time should not be made the scapegoat for lack of political will in passing the RH Bill. “If the Senate has the time to vote on its counterpart RH bill, why should the House find time elusive and running out on an allied measure which has been principally nurtured in the House. ‘If there is a will, there is a way’ is a truism in lawmaking,” he said. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Gonzales said there was only a slim chance that the RH Bill would be passed into law because of the upcoming 2013 elections. The Commission on Elections has set on October 1-5 the deadline of filing of candidacies for all elected positions in the 2013 mid-term elections. The RH Bill is still in the period of interpellation and debate at the plenary of the House. -- MINA TENORIO Likhaan Center for Women's Health, Inc. 88 Times Street, West Triangle Homes, Quezon City 1104 Philippines Tel: (63 2) 926-6230 Fax: (63 2) 411-3151 Email:

Monday, July 16, 2012

State of the Nation

July 16, 2012 Manila – As the upcoming 2012 State of the Nation Address is nearing, various civil society organizations are looking forward for President Aquino to include the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill in his speech. Dr. Eden R. Divinagracia, executive director of the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare Inc. (PNGOC) is optimistic that President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III will continue his support for the RH bill. Since including the RH bill as one of the 13 priority measures to members of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) last August 2011, the RH bill still languishes in both houses of Congress. Dr. Divinagracia would like to remind the President that in able to provide a good future for one’s family, the government should create a favorable environment for every Filipino. To do this, PNGOC believes that having a sound and comprehensive Reproductive Health (RH) policy that is rights-based and central to the measure is freedom of informed choice can help alleviate the lives of every Filipino people. With a RH bill in place, it will benefit every family as the state shall guarantee the human rights of all persons; it shall include the right to universal access to reproductive health information and services. The bill shall give couples, individuals and women the right to decide freely and responsibly whether or not to have children; to determine the number, spacing and timing of their children; to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence; to have relevant information; and to attain the highest condition of sexual and reproductive health. She underscore that neither the Church nor the State has the right to dictate Filipino citizens which form of family planning they should use. That choice primarily and ultimately belongs to the couple, but most especially to women who bear pregnancy, childbirth and child care. PNGOC is a national umbrella network of 97 member NGOs that believes that NOW is the right time for the passage of a Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood, and Population Development policy to recognize the needs of our women, children and families. Contact: Dr. Eden Divinagracia, Executive Director Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare, Inc. Tel Nos. 852-1898; 833-4067; Mobile: 0917-7916103 Email:

Makati continues support for OFWs

MAKATI CITY, July 10 (PIA) -- The local government continues its commitment in upholding the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families in the city as it vows full support for the newly established OFW Help Desk at City Hall. In a statement, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin S. Binay reiterated the local government’s continuing commitment after he signed a memorandum of agreement with Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) administrator Carmelita S. Dimzon on the establishment of an OFW Help Desk at the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) at the 5th Floor of Makati City Hall. “I remain strongly committed to protecting the rights and welfare of our OFWs, especially since I have seen firsthand the sad plight of some 1,500 OFWs who were stranded at the Haj Terminal of the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Saudi Arabia last year,” Binay said. The mayor was part of the delegation of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay that went to Saudi Arabia last year to hold dialogs with OFWs and check on their living and working conditions. All 1,500 OFWs stranded at the Saudi airport were granted repatriation by the Saudi government through the efforts of the Vice President. Binay also asked the city council to prioritize the passage of an ordinance enacting the Makati City Overseas Filipino Workers Welfare Program. The ordinance was passed in May 2011 along with the approval of an initial P2 million budget for the provision of financial assistance to OFWs in need. OWWA Administrator Dimzon said they will prioritize capacity building and training of local government personnel that will man the OFW Help Desk, in line with the directive of President Benigno Aquino III to intensify the programs and services for OFWs. Aside from providing office space with internet connection for the OFW Help Desk at Makati PESO, Makati will assign a focal person to man the desk and regularly coordinate with the OWWA. It will also help in providing assistance to OFWs and their families and extend other support services that may be needed by the desk. OWWA will also regularly coordinate with OFW Help Desk officers and the city government through PESO, and conduct orientation activities for them regarding OWWA programs and services. The Help Desk will be provided regularly by the agency with information, education and communication (IEC) materials on OWWA programs and services for distribution to clients who visit the desk. OWWA is the government welfare institution that promotes the interest of member OFWs. With a membership fee of $25, an OFW is entitled to a number of benefits and services, including social benefits, education and training benefits, workers welfare assistance program, repatriation program, and reintegration program. (ICRD/RJB/JCP/PIA NCR)

Pinoy doctor accused of illegally selling pain killers in US

by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau GLENDORA, California – Sixty-nine year old doctor Rolando Lodevinco Atiga was arrested Thursday morning at his Glendora Clinic and remained in police custody for nearly 8 hours. Police claim that after a 2-month sting operation, the Philippine-born physician sold highly addictive pain killer prescriptions to patients that didn't need them. “We had undercover officers with no medical problems and basically pay cash anywhere between $250 and $500. A person could pay cash and he would write a prescription and a script for drugs such as hydrocodone, vicodin, oxycoton, zanyx, that type of medicine,” said Tim Staab of the Glendora Police Department. Staab said tips helped initiate the investigation which, on one occasion, involved an officer using a dog's X-ray to convince Atiga to prescribe powerful pain medications. The Philippine Union College Graduate, who began his practice in the Philippines before migrating to southern California 37 years ago, denies any wrongdoing and claims he was doing his job as a doctor. “We do exams every person that come there, we see their history, we see who they are we see what they do we see what their physical examinations are,” he said. Police said investigations are continuing and additional charges may be placed on Atiga, as well as staff and buyers. Atiga is presently facing felony charges for unauthorized issuing of prescriptions. Police are unsure how long this alleged crime has been going on. “We'll determine what kind of evidence was confiscated at his home and at his place of business, we'll write it up in reports, submit it to the district attorney's office,” Staab said. Atiga has been on probation with the State Medical Board since 2010 for a felony conviction where he allegedly accepted illegal kickbacks for arranging home health services. Atiga will appear in court within the next 90 days where he will fight the charges that carry possible penalties of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, prison time and possible revocation of his medical license.
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