Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sympathizing with undocumented Pinoys in Jeddah, group camps outside DFA

Some members of a migrant worker group have set up camps outside the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to protest what they call the Philippine government’s inability to bring home hundreds of illegal Filipino workers currently stranded in Saudi Arabia.

More than a dozen protesters from Migrante group have set up camps Monday morning outside the main gate of the DFA, blocking the exit and entry of employees and guests.

Migrante chairman Garry Martinez, who said they will hold the “solidarity campout” until Tuesday afternoon, demanded the “free, immediate and mass repatriation” of the workers, of which more than 1,000 are camping outside the premises of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah.

Fearing arrests by Saudi authorities due to lack of legal documents, the Filipinos – most of whom have ran away from their employers or whose permits to stay have long expired – have set up camps outside the consulate.

They were offered shelters by the DFA but majority refused to move in to the facilities provided them. As of Monday, only 31 of the Filipino campers have accepted the DFA’s offer to stay at one of the shelters located inside the consulate. Two more shelters are being prepared for the campers – a housing facility that was leased from a Saudi-based Syrian businessman and a school gymnasium.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with the protesters at the gate of the DFA and invited them to a dialogue Tuesday morning to hear their side on how the government could hasten the repatriation of the Filipinos in Jeddah.

“It’s not true we’re not addressing your concerns,” Del Rosario told Migrante leaders. “We need to work together, get together.”

Departure procedures for illegal workers are tedious as fines would have to be paid and exit documents must be secured before they are granted permission by Saudi authorities to leave Kingdom.

The DFA said the government is doing its best to ease their plight and to have them repatriated to the Philippines at once.

“You have to differentiate your issues. We’re not the Saudi government. We’re trying to help you,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario invited Migrante to send five representatives to meet with him and discuss how to address the problem of the campers and those who would like to be repatriated from Jeddah.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the protesters will not be dispersed but appealed to them not to block the main gate so as not to disrupt the department’s operations.

“We have appealed that they would allow us to use the gate and not block it so that we can continue on with our work and transact business with foreign government representatives here in Manila,” Hernandez said.

By late afternoon, the protesters were down to less than 10 but the group said at least 100 more will join them tonight.- VVP, GMA News

Controversial PHL Consul General to Vancouver back in Manila to face probe

Philippine Consul General to Vancouver Jose Ampeso has returned to Manila to face an investigation panel that will look into the allegation that he mistreated a Filipino passport applicant there earlier this month, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the DFA fact-finding team would require Ampeso to explain his side before they determine if there is probable cause to file a case against him.

“The decision will have to be sent to the Secretary (of Foreign Affairs), and then if there is a probable cause then there will be a hearing of the case,” Hernandez told a press briefing.

At the same time, Hernandez said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has instructed Philippine Ambassador to Canada Leslie Gatan to go to Vancouver to find out about the case and get the side of the complainant.

Ampeso was ordered by the DFA to return to the Home Office after a video of him allegedly berating a passport applicant circulated over popular video-sharing site YouTube last week.

The video, posted by one greatauror28, apparently the one who drew Ampeso's ire, shows the diplomat raising his voice at a passport applicant in Red Deer, Alberta during a consular outreach program.  The Filipino called Ampeso “arrogant, rude and drunk.”

Ampeso has decried the allegations, saying the 27-second video uploaded on the internet was “unfair and unjust.” — Michaela del Callar/KBK, GMA News

Modern Singapore grapples with archaic sex law


SINGAPORE - With its gay bars and same-sex couples publicly displaying affection, the Tanjong Pagar district offers a glimpse of a Singapore whose outlook contrasts with its more conservative image.
 
Located in the city's central business area, it is also home to offices and government buildings. Its bars come to life at night, part of a gay scene that continues to evolve.
 
But while gay and lesbian couples openly live together and are gaining social acceptance, a law whose origins go back to the 19th century when Singapore was a British colony is still seen as a threat by the community.
 
A provision in the penal code known as Section 377A makes it a crime for men to have sex with each other. Even though it is not enforced actively by Singapore authorities, campaigners are demanding its repeal.
 
Gary Lim, 44, and his 37-year-old partner Kenneth Chee, both graphic designers, say they decided to challenge the law's constitutionality because they did not want to continue living in fear of being prosecuted someday.
 
The High Court recently ruled against them but the couple decided to elevate it to the Court of Appeal for a final ruling. No hearing date has been set as their lawyers are still in the process of filing the appeal papers.
 
Section 377A states a maximum of two years in prison for "any male person who, in public or private, commits... or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person".
 
Lim argues that although the government seems to turn a blind eye, the law's presence is felt indirectly, particularly in instances where emergency services might be required.
 
"Many fear calling the police in situations of domestic violence, theft or rape because they may be charged" for being gay, said Lim.
 
"This creates a group that is unable and fearful of tapping upon essential public services."
 
A second petition by Tan Eng Hong, 50, seeks to scrap the provision and is pending before the High Court.
 
Tan was initially charged under the section after being caught having oral sex with another man in a toilet cubicle at a shopping centre in 2010.
 
Prosecutors later reduced the charge to one of committing an obscene act in public and Tan was fined.
 
'Threat' to society
 
Church conservatives are putting up a robust fight to preserve the law, sparking a heated debate with supporters of gay rights.
 
Senior pastor Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church hit out at the legal challenges in January, calling them "a looming threat to this basic building block" of society—the traditional family.
 
"We affirm that the family unit comprises a man as father, a woman as mother, and children," Khong said.
 
Khoo Hoon Eng is the mother of two openly gay sons. "When my children first came out, I was more worried about the prejudices that they would face," the 61-year-old told AFP.
 
"A family is built with love, my family is built with love. I love my sons and they love me."
 
Government officials, while openly promising that gays would not be hounded under the law, maintain that Section 377A must stay in the books because most Singaporeans are still conservative and do not accept homosexuality.
 
Legal experts say the government's position of not enforcing the provision but leaving it intact is intended to send a social message.
 
"Keeping 377A in the books is a message that being gay is still not what the mainstream norms are," said Lynette Chua, assistant professor of law at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
 
Michael Hor, a criminal law professor at NUS, said "the government probably sees the non-repeal of an unenforced 377A as a political compromise—giving both contending lobbies something to take home."
 
Shift in attitudes
 
Singapore's media environment is highly controlled and local outlets have in recent years given gay issues sporadic coverage, only covering gay rights events that have high turnouts and court cases that involve gay men.
 
But attitudes are changing and increasing numbers of Singaporeans have been openly supportive of gay rights.
 
In 2012, organizers said some 15,000 people attended an annual event called Pink Dot promoting the freedom to love regardless of sexual orientation—a sixfold increase from the attendance at its inaugural 2009 staging.
 
Associate Professor Benjamin Detenber, head of the Nanyang Technological University's school of communication and information, tracked a "small but significant shift" toward greater acceptance of gays and lesbians based on a survey he conducted in 2005 and again in 2010.
 
"If the courts were to repeal 377A on legal grounds, there would be challenges to it, people would have trouble, but I think ultimately people will accept it," said Detenber.
 
"There is a great deal of respect for the judiciary in Singapore. The rule of law is held in very high regard," he added.
 
Jean Chong, co-founder of local lesbian activist group Sayoni, said Section 377A "doesn't just criminalise gay men" but "justifies a wide range of abusive behaviours and institutionalizes discrimination" against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) people.
 
"It sends the wrong signal to the world that Singapore is a backward and regressive state." —Agence France-Presse 

Kin of OFWs stranded in Saudi hold 'solidarity' campout at DFA Manila, call for repatriation


Relatives of Filipinos stranded in Saudi Arabia on Monday camped out in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City to show solidarity with their loved ones.
 
The campers asked the Philippine government to facilitate the repatriation of their loved ones soonest, radio dzBB's Mao dela Cruz reported.
 
DFA security personnel closed the gates to keep the protesters from entering the premises, and wrapped the DFA seal to prevent the protesters from defacing it.
 
Organizers of the solidarity action set up tents in front of the DFA and said they plan to hold the campout until May 1, Labor Day.
 
Several Filipinos in Saudi Arabia had camped out in front of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to seek help in getting home soonest.
 
Last week, Philippine Consul General Uriel Norman Garibay said some of the Filipinos camped outside the Philippine consulate are getting sick but are getting assistance
 
Earlier, Garibay said as many as 1,500 to 2,000 Filipinos wanting to return to the Philippines camped outside the consulate during the morning.
 
He said they are trying to convince the campers to move to a temporary shelter so they would not be exposed to the hot sun.
 
The Department of Foreign Affairs had said the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah is preparing a temporary shelter, even as a "friend" of the Consulate offered to take in 80 women and children and 90 men in his housing compound. —KG, GMA News

Monday, April 29, 2013

More electoral mails returned to PH embassy in London




LONDON - A few hundred "return to sender" electoral mails were received by the Philippine embassy in London two weeks after the start of Overseas Absentee Voting.
As of April 25, a total of 934 were returned to the embassy because the voter might have moved to a new address or has unwittingly registered an incorrect address.
The UK, with 11, 911 registered voters, adopts postal voting where electoral mails are sent directly to voters. Ireland which has 1,109 registered voters is now under the UK Embassy.
"We are concerned that the registered voters have moved or relocated and unless they take the effort to check with the embassy, they might not be able to cast their ballots in time. This will be such a waste of government resources, a waste of the opportunity to exercise their right, especially since this is already a protracted period (one month) of elections of the overseas voters," said Deputy Chief of Mission Maria Fe Pangilinan.
Voters urged to vote, follow instructions
Due to the alarming number of returned electoral mails, the embassy has released an open letter to Filipinos in the UK and Ireland, reminding them about the OAV.
The letter signed by Ambassador Enrique Manalo said: "Voters who have not received their electoral mail by this time are strongly urged to inform the Embassy or check the embassy website to confirm if their names are on the list of registered voters. In this regard, those whose names are on the list may pick up their electoral mail at the embassy or request the embassy to re-post it to the correct address."
The Embassy also reminded the voters to be meticulous and follow the instructions in the electoral mail to ensure their votes are not invalidated.
The electoral mails include the instructions, list of candidates, ballot envelop, and paper seal. The ballots, before mailing it back to the embassy, have to be sealed using the paper seal and signed with the same signature used when they have registered.
The embassy has already received a total of 1,055 ballot envelops , of which 123 are invalid. The total number of ballot envelops from Ireland is 74, six are declared invalid.
The appreciation of the ballot envelops is done every weekend by the Special Ballot Custody Reception Group. Ballot envelops are declared invalid if there are no names and signatures in the space provided in the envelop.
"Don’t pass up the chance to exercise your right as a Filipino citizen. The election laws including the Overseas Voting Law were passed in response to the clamor of the overseas Filipinos. Let your voice be heard," said Pangilinan.

DFA in talks with Saudi gov't to repatriate stranded OFWs




JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Jesus Yabes arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Thursday to look into the situation of stranded OFWs camping beside the Philippine consulate.
Yabes accompanied by DFA Assistant Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Petronila P. Garcia met with Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago, Consul General Norman Uriel Garibay and other consulate staff to discuss issues concerning the stranded OFWs.
In an exclusive interview with the ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau right after the closed-door meeting, Yabes assured that the stranded OFWs will all be going home.
“But one thing is for sure is that, all of them will go home. All of them will go home. May mga iba nga lang may mauuna, may mga mahuhuli. Hindi naman sila puwedeng sabay-sabay. But rest assured that they will all go home,” he said.
There are about 2,000 OFWs camped beside the consulate. However, there are more than 3,000, including children, in the list submitted by the leaders in the camp site. There are also pregnant women and a newly-born baby among the stranded.
Yabes disclosed that the Philippine Government has started a dialogue with the Saudi Government since last week.
"We have also, since last week requested the Saudi Government to assist us in fast-tracking the repatriation of these people," he said.
He also expressed concerns about the welfare of the OFWs, especially children, who are camping out under the heat of the sun.
"“In the meantime we are looking for a place for them to transfer to, at ayaw naman naming sila diyan, dahil mainit, their situation there is very unhealthy,” he said.
The consulate has invited women and children to move to the consulate building but they refused. Only seven families accepted the consulate’s offer and some of them even went back to the ‘Tent City.’
"Inisip namin na sabihin sa kanila para po sa kabutihan po ng mga bata. Kaya po namin sila pinapalipat dahil kami po ay nag-aalala sa mga bata. Pinapalipat dahil kami po ay nag-aalala sa mga bata. Pinapalipat sa mas maayos na lugar kasi umiinit na po ang panahon. At pagdating ng tag-init, mas lalo pong kawawa ang mga bata at mga nanay," Garibay said.
But despite the consulate's efforts, the stranded OFWs have insisted on staying at the Tent City. Some have suffered illness, rashes and drowsiness.
Mariam Faisal , a stranded worker, even suffered a mild stroke. But he preferred to stay at the Tent City. "Kaya ako pupunta rito, gusto ko na talagang umuwi sa Pilipinas kaya lang hindi ko na kaya katawan ko," she said.
One of their coordinators said the group remains committed to their fight, until they are all repatriated back home.
"Nagtitiis po kami dito sa init, ang lahat po ng bata dito nagkakarashes dahil sa init. Ang hirap po ng sitwasyon namin pero nag-titiis kami makauwi na kami sa aming bansang lansangan,” said Joan Punong Bayan, one of the stranded OFWs
"The offer remains open. Mag-sabi lang po sila sa guard na they want to be accommodated duon po sa lugar natin sa itaas,” Garibay said.
However, Yabes told ABS-CBN that the processing of the OFWs' repatriation is not that easy especially for those who ran away from their employers, which is a violation of the Saudi Immigration and labor law.
"It’s difficult to bring them home because they have violated their immigration laws and this is what we are trying to request the Saudi government to waive those requirements and we will repatriate all our nationals,” he said.
A number of Filipino organizations continue to send food, water and medicine to the stranded. Other nationalities also brought food and medicines.
The consulate also supplied water, light and portable toilets at the Tent City. Medical missions have been conducted at the camp for three days now by OFWs working in the medical sector, including Arab nationals. OFW groups, including the Guardians Desert Fox who travelled 200 kms from Taif, came to render assistance to the stranded OFWs.

Kin of stranded OFWs in Jeddah hold camp outside DFA




MANILA – Relatives of overseas Filipino workers who remain stranded at the Philippine consulate in Jeddah trooped to the Deparment of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office in Pasay City on Monday to call for the speedy repatriation of their loved ones.
The relatives held a campout outside the DFA office, in an expression of their sympathy to the plight of the stranded OFWs who were forced to stay in makeshift tents outside the consulate following a crackdown by the Saudi government against illegal workers.
The group was calling for the speedy and government-shouldered repatriation for the stranded Filipinos.
Progressive party-list group Anakpawis, in a statement, scored the Aquino government for its supposed inaction on the situation of the stranded OFWs.
"While the president is busy campaigning for his LP bets, he is oblivious to the fate of OFWs stuck in Saudi Arabia," Anakpawis Vice-chair Fernando Hicap said.
"Despite the alarming situation of OFWs, there are no concrete actions as far as the process of repatriation and aid coming from the government. If weren't for the help of concerned groups giving food and medical assistance to the stranded OFWs, many will endure far more worse conditions."
Citing information from Migrante International, Anakpawis said more than half of the stranded OFWs are women, with about 50 of them sickly and old.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Jesus Yabes arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Thursday to look into the situation of stranded OFWs camping beside the Philippine consulate.
Yabes accompanied by DFA Assistant Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Petronila P. Garcia met with Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago, Consul General Norman Uriel Garibay and other consulate staff to discuss issues concerning the stranded OFWs.
In an exclusive interview with the ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau right after the closed-door meeting, Yabes assured that the stranded OFWs will all be going home.
“But one thing is for sure is that, all of them will go home. All of them will go home. May mga iba nga lang may mauuna, may mga mahuhuli. Hindi naman sila puwedeng sabay-sabay. But rest assured that they will all go home,” he said.
There are about 2,000 OFWs camped beside the consulate. However, there are more than 3,000, including children, in the list submitted by the leaders in the camp site. There are also pregnant women and a newly-born baby among the stranded.
Yabes disclosed that the Philippine Government has started a dialogue with the Saudi Government since last week.
"We have also, since last week requested the Saudi Government to assist us in fast-tracking the repatriation of these people," he said. – with Dennis Datu, dzMM; and Charles Tabbu, ABS-CBN Middle East Bureau

Before leaving Saudi, here are some reminders for OFWs


ABS-CBNnews.com


MANILA - The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia released an advisory to all Filipinos, legal or undocumented, who want to return home to the Philippines.
The advisory, written in Filipino, explains the process and necessary documents that must be obtained by the worker.
The three-page advisory answers seven questions from documents to problems that may arise from absconding or even those who have children who are not documented.
The advisory was posted on the website of the embassy last April 20, 2013.
==
Q1: What are the three things that a Filipino worker must have in order for him/her to return home?
1) A Philippine Passport (still valid for six months before its expiration date) or Travel Document in the absence of a passport.
2) An airplane ticket
3) Exit Visa from the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI)
Exit Visas are given once the worker obtains a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from his sponsor and all the fees have been paid.
However, Filipinos who have criminal records in courts won’t be able to go home until their cases have been resolved.
Q2: Does the Saudi Arabian government have an amnesty program for illegal workers?
Based on the coordination made by the embassy, Saudi authorities are still in the process of studying the amnesty program and there is no assurance that it will be implemented.
Q3: What do workers who absconded from their employers/sponsors need to do to be able to come home?
Under the Saudi Law, those who absconded from their employers violated its Labor Law. It is the duty of the sponsor/employer to inform the Saudi General Directorate for Passports (Jawazat) within 24 hours of their worker leaving.
Absconding has a penalty of six months imprisonment, a fine of SAR 2,000.00, and deportation. Aside from this, a fine will be imposed against the worker for lost or expired iqama or residence ID. This is the public rights aspect of the case.
The private rights aspect meanwhile pertains to the penalties that must be paid to the employers if the workers failed to finish their contracts or if the employer filed a case against the OFW.
This is the reason why an OFW must first get the consent of his sponsor/employer, stating that the latter is not objecting to his desire to come home.
OFWs are also advised to get in touch with their employers to get an NOC and together, proceed directly to the Saudi General Directorate for Passports to pay the necessary fees and arrange for their travel home.
If the OFW is unable to contact the sponsor, he can seek help from the embassy or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office at the following numbers:
POLO-Riyadh 054-5917834
POLO-Eastern Region 050-1269742
POLO-Central Region 050-7537997
POLO-Jeddah 056-1956142
Assistance to Nationals - 056-9893301
(Police cases, detention, death and other emergencies)
OFWs, must at all times, provide accurate and truthful information to be assisted.
Q4: What are the documents needed in order for the embassy to assist the repatriation of an OFW who ran away from his/her sponsor?
1) A copy of their Philippine Passport, including the page where the entry visa is stamped
2) A copy of their residency permit (iqama)
Q5: How come those who already obtained an NOC from employers are still having difficulty in going home?
The possible reasons are:
1) There are still fines which need to be settled
2) The worker was already given an exit visa in the past but did not use it
3) The General Directorate for Passports is strict and wants to make sure that Filipinos will go home once they get an Exit Visa
Q6: What about those whose children are undocumented?
They need to show a Report of Birth or Birth Certificate or other documents which would show the child's birth date and the names of his/her parents
If there are no records from the hospital, a sworn statement of two disinterested persons may be executed. Forms may be obtained from the Consular Section of the embassy in Riyadh.
These are needed to process the Travel Document the child. However, this is not a guarantee that the child will soon be repatriated, especially if the parents are not married.
Under Saudi Law, there is a corresponding penalty imposed on parents who have children out of wedlock.
Q7: Can a worker from Riyadh or other provinces process his papers in Jeddah?
A worker must process his exit papers from their area. Once he obtains an NOC, he will need to get in touch with the Saudi General Directorate for Passports to pay fees and get his exit visa.

Kin of OFWs stranded in Saudi hold 'solidarity' campout at DFA Manila, call for repatriation



Relatives of Filipinos stranded in Saudi Arabia on Monday camped out in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City to show solidarity with their loved ones.
 
The campers asked the Philippine government to facilitate the repatriation of their loved ones soonest, radio dzBB's Mao dela Cruz reported.
 
DFA security personnel closed the gates to keep the protesters from entering the premises, and wrapped the DFA seal to prevent the protesters from defacing it.
 
Organizers of the solidarity action set up tents in front of the DFA and said they plan to hold the campout until May 1, Labor Day.
 
Several Filipinos in Saudi Arabia had camped out in front of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to seek help in getting home soonest.
 
Last week, Philippine Consul General Uriel Norman Garibay said some of the Filipinos camped outside the Philippine consulate are getting sick but are getting assistance
 
Earlier, Garibay said as many as 1,500 to 2,000 Filipinos wanting to return to the Philippines camped outside the consulate during the morning.
 
He said they are trying to convince the campers to move to a temporary shelter so they would not be exposed to the hot sun.
 
The Department of Foreign Affairs had said the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah is preparing a temporary shelter, even as a "friend" of the Consulate offered to take in 80 women and children and 90 men in his housing compound. —KG, GMA News

SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT AND SEX TOURISM MUST BE OPPOSED


by Fr. Shay Cullen

The unwelcome truth that civilized people don’t want to hear is that the human race is not so civilized after all. Hundreds of thousands of wealthy males travel from rich to poor countries every year to sexually exploit and abuse children and women in a global phenomenon known as sex-tourism. Sexual violence is common and tragically and sinfully ignored. Hundreds of thousands of women and children are trafficked and in Europe, 27,600 are victims of forced labor.

The dominant financial power of these perverts and sex starved men combined with the crooked complicity of local politicians, police and prosecutors in poor countries makes for a lethal cocktail of corruption. It sets the scene where sex slavery can thrive and children as young as 9 to 16 years old are trapped like innocent butterflies in the spider’s web of abuse and lost childhood.

What makes this so perverse is the sickly silence of the elites, government authorities, some Church leaders, charities and development agencies which are more obsessed with bureaucratic betterment than saving the victims. Abused and enslaved children are in traumatic crises, crying for care while the elites are insulated in posh palaces obsessed with paper reports and prissy protocols. The field workers are out saving the children and they face the risk and death threats coming from maligning menacing sex Mafia and then they suffer deprivation of funds, support and encouragement from those living in luxury that are supposed to help.

There is some light in this dark matter of indifference and apathy towards the victims. Why it has taken so long for the elites to take a stand for the victims of mass rape and sexual violence? The declaration by the Group of Eight (G8) leading nations says new actions to prevent and stop the sexual violence against women and children and men in areas of conflict around the world. It will be adopted formally in June this year at the meeting of the G8 in Northern Ireland.

Rape and sexual slavery have become weapons of war. It is unleashed intentionally by combatants to punish their perceived enemies by raping the women and children and subjugating them to their power. Sexual violence is a way to assert their dominance and victory over their perceived enemies. The warring groups also have an interest in laying claims to territory by making hundreds of women in an area pregnant, many of whom will give birth to the children. The invading soldiers who raped and fathered the children can lay claim to a right of occupancy and domicile over the ethnic population and the land they live in. These are war crimes and too little, too late, has been done to stop them.

Sexual violence is mostly about the aggressive assertion of power and dominance as much as it is about satisfying base perverted desires and physical satisfaction of sexual urges. The countries where it is widespread and most prevalent today are Syria, Bosnia, Libya, Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commission for Refugees, has been pushing for this for many years. Women refugees who manage to flee from conflict-torn regions tell of the brutal violence that they endured and that of their children and neighbors. This is the most serious crime and injustice and violation of the dignity and most sacred rights of the person. When young children are victims, it is the most heinous crime imaginable. But all, too frequently the international community of elite agencies and government and some UN officials, look away from the horror, or take it as collateral damage part of war or even call it a “cultural phenomenon” so that they don't have to do anything. Soon we hope the rich and powerful perpetrators protected in their own country who live with impunity can be arrested on an international arrest warrant and brought before the International Criminal Court.

An international protocol is being formed to authorize the investigation of the crimes and the collection of evidence and the support and protection of the victims. In any peace treaty, amnesty for such sexual crimes will not be allowed. Investigative teams of police and medical personnel will be trained and sent to the war torn region for this purpose and education and awareness building will be part of this.

The international community of nations is finally ready to act for forcibly recognizing the enormity of the situation. The Catholic Church and their agencies and local governments must act to curb the sexual exploitation of women and children in their communities and eliminate it. Sex tourism is another form of violence against women and children.

 A 14 year-old appeared on television in the US and on YouTube with her aunt offering to sell the girl’s virginity to a foreigner for big money. The aunt and the child appeared on camera as skinny emaciated, hopeless, hungry, and they have nothing, truly the wretched of the earth. How can they be held responsible? All dignity and human values had been drained from the old woman. The child was frightened and nervous. View it here:  HYPERLINK "http://abcnews.go.com/International/americans-targeted-allegedly-running-underage-prostitution-philippines/story?id=18582802&page=4" \l ".UWAHubtihVM" http://abcnews.go.com/International/americans-targeted-allegedly-running-underage-prostitution-philippines/story?id=18582802&page=4#.UWAHubtihVM

Meanwhile, they are surrounded by wealth and luxury living. The officials in the Mayor's office continue to issue Mayor's business permits to these dens of iniquity. The institutional Church has been silent too long and the social teaching of the Church has been ignored too frequently in exchange for opulent living and religious rites and rituals and meaningless sermons while social evils proliferate. We have to get priorities correct and speak out and take action to end the trafficking and sex slavery of the women and children.

 (Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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Pagtalaga kay Brillantes bilang ambassador binatikos



BINATIKOS ng Alab ng Mamamahayag (ALAM) media group ang planong pagreretiro ni Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chairman
Sixto Brillantes para makamit ang inaasam na puwesto bilang ambassador sa Europa.

Napabalitang taimtim na pinagnanasahan ni Brillantes na makamit sa kanyang pagreretiro ang ambassadorial post sa silangang Europa bilang bonus sa sinasabi niyang ‘job well done’ bilang pinuno ng COMELEC.

Kasunod ito sa pagbawi niya sa bantang magbitiw sa COMELEC sanhi ng kaliwa’t kanang batikos mula sa iba-ibang grupo ukol sa patuloy na katiwalian sa nasabing ahensya.

Sinabi ni Brillantes aa isang panayam na hihilingin niya mismo kay Pangulong Noynoy Aquino na italaga siya bilang ambassador sa Eastern Europe sa sandaling umalis na siya sa COMELEC.

“I will wait to see the President so that I can ask him . . . My plan was to ask him, ‘Could you give me an ambassadorship instead so that I can rest. It’s so tiring in the Comelec,’” wika nito sa panayam.
Binaggit niya ang ilang bansa na nais niyang pagsilbihan: “Romania, Slovakia, or Hungary … where no Filipinos go.”

Subalit ayon kay ALAM national chairman Jerry Yap, ang pagtalaga kay Brillantes sa alin mang bansa sa Europa ay isang insult sa foreign service community.

“Wala siyang karapatang hhumingi ng bonus dahil wala din naman siyang ginawa para linisin ang COMELEC sa korapsyon. Hanggang ngayon ay may duda pa rin ang mamamayan sa nalalapit na halalan sa Mayo 13 dahil hindi pa rin natitiyak na walang dayaang mangyayari,” pinunto ni Yap.

PhilHealth: Now showing in DLTB buses


PhilHealth:  Now showing in DLTB buses

PhilHealth Regional Office (PRO) IVA recently launched its bus advertisement campaign starting with the Del Monte Land Transport Bus Company (DLTBCo) that has 250 bus units plying the Southern Tagalog and Visayas routes.


Mr. James Olayvar, General Manager of DLTBCo, has approved the partnership with PRO IVA Regional Vice President Alberto C. Manduriao to allow PhilHealth audio-visual materials to be featured/included initially with their 96 bus units plying the Manila to Lucena, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte. The AV materials will be shown once along the bus route.


The partnership is expected to increase the awareness and knowledge of commuting public about the importance of financial protection against prohibitive hospitalization through PhilHealth.


PRO IVA is also set to conduct orientation seminars with DLTB drivers and conductors about their PhilHealth coverage. (END)

SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT AND SEX TOURISM MUST BE OPPOSED


by Fr. Shay Cullen

The unwelcome truth that civilized people don’t want to hear is that the human race is not so civilized after all. Hundreds of thousands of wealthy males travel from rich to poor countries every year to sexually exploit and abuse children and women in a global phenomenon known as sex-tourism. Sexual violence is common and tragically and sinfully ignored. Hundreds of thousands of women and children are trafficked and in Europe, 27,600 are victims of forced labor.

The dominant financial power of these perverts and sex starved men combined with the crooked complicity of local politicians, police and prosecutors in poor countries makes for a lethal cocktail of corruption. It sets the scene where sex slavery can thrive and children as young as 9 to 16 years old are trapped like innocent butterflies in the spider’s web of abuse and lost childhood.

What makes this so perverse is the sickly silence of the elites, government authorities, some Church leaders, charities and development agencies which are more obsessed with bureaucratic betterment than saving the victims. Abused and enslaved children are in traumatic crises, crying for care while the elites are insulated in posh palaces obsessed with paper reports and prissy protocols. The field workers are out saving the children and they face the risk and death threats coming from maligning menacing sex Mafia and then they suffer deprivation of funds, support and encouragement from those living in luxury that are supposed to help.

There is some light in this dark matter of indifference and apathy towards the victims. Why it has taken so long for the elites to take a stand for the victims of mass rape and sexual violence? The declaration by the Group of Eight (G8) leading nations says new actions to prevent and stop the sexual violence against women and children and men in areas of conflict around the world. It will be adopted formally in June this year at the meeting of the G8 in Northern Ireland.

Rape and sexual slavery have become weapons of war. It is unleashed intentionally by combatants to punish their perceived enemies by raping the women and children and subjugating them to their power. Sexual violence is a way to assert their dominance and victory over their perceived enemies. The warring groups also have an interest in laying claims to territory by making hundreds of women in an area pregnant, many of whom will give birth to the children. The invading soldiers who raped and fathered the children can lay claim to a right of occupancy and domicile over the ethnic population and the land they live in. These are war crimes and too little, too late, has been done to stop them.

Sexual violence is mostly about the aggressive assertion of power and dominance as much as it is about satisfying base perverted desires and physical satisfaction of sexual urges. The countries where it is widespread and most prevalent today are Syria, Bosnia, Libya, Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commission for Refugees, has been pushing for this for many years. Women refugees who manage to flee from conflict-torn regions tell of the brutal violence that they endured and that of their children and neighbors. This is the most serious crime and injustice and violation of the dignity and most sacred rights of the person. When young children are victims, it is the most heinous crime imaginable. But all, too frequently the international community of elite agencies and government and some UN officials, look away from the horror, or take it as collateral damage part of war or even call it a “cultural phenomenon” so that they don't have to do anything. Soon we hope the rich and powerful perpetrators protected in their own country who live with impunity can be arrested on an international arrest warrant and brought before the International Criminal Court.

An international protocol is being formed to authorize the investigation of the crimes and the collection of evidence and the support and protection of the victims. In any peace treaty, amnesty for such sexual crimes will not be allowed. Investigative teams of police and medical personnel will be trained and sent to the war torn region for this purpose and education and awareness building will be part of this.

The international community of nations is finally ready to act for forcibly recognizing the enormity of the situation. The Catholic Church and their agencies and local governments must act to curb the sexual exploitation of women and children in their communities and eliminate it. Sex tourism is another form of violence against women and children.

 A 14 year-old appeared on television in the US and on YouTube with her aunt offering to sell the girl’s virginity to a foreigner for big money. The aunt and the child appeared on camera as skinny emaciated, hopeless, hungry, and they have nothing, truly the wretched of the earth. How can they be held responsible? All dignity and human values had been drained from the old woman. The child was frightened and nervous. View it here:  HYPERLINK "http://abcnews.go.com/International/americans-targeted-allegedly-running-underage-prostitution-philippines/story?id=18582802&page=4" \l ".UWAHubtihVM" http://abcnews.go.com/International/americans-targeted-allegedly-running-underage-prostitution-philippines/story?id=18582802&page=4#.UWAHubtihVM

Meanwhile, they are surrounded by wealth and luxury living. The officials in the Mayor's office continue to issue Mayor's business permits to these dens of iniquity. The institutional Church has been silent too long and the social teaching of the Church has been ignored too frequently in exchange for opulent living and religious rites and rituals and meaningless sermons while social evils proliferate. We have to get priorities correct and speak out and take action to end the trafficking and sex slavery of the women and children.

 (Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

OUR HEARTS ARE TROUBLED, OUR FAITH IS CHALLENGED


By Fr. Shay Cullen

Readers frequently share their comments and opinions, their problems and troubles about many things including the challenge to their faith. Before the resignation of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis I received the letter below.

Dear Fr. Shay,
I would really appreciate your help. At the moment I feel very confused. For a while I have been disheartened by Rome. I can’t believe the way they handled the cases of child abuse, it seems to go against everything I believe and their reaction was hard to grasp and still is. I understand the heart of our faith is to love one another, to forgive and be non-judgmental, so I try, but it’s their attitude to the victims that seems so wrong. 

Recently a priest (name omitted) has voiced opinions on subjects like priests been able to marry, women priests and birth control, things we all discuss and have views on and now the (former) Pope is trying to silence him and others with such views, but I agree with some of his views, does this mean I  don't belong in the Catholic Church?

My three children won’t have anything to do with the church, they say it’s hypocritical and although it deeply saddens me, I can’t argue with them. I tell them to remember the love God has for them and he will always be there for them no matter what and I pray......... it would help me so much if you could give me some direction, I feel so lost.

Thanking you for your kindness,

Ann



Here are edited extracts of my reply:

Dear Ann,
We all need peace of mind and heart these days with all the betrayals we, the "faithful", have suffered by those who have made their careers as managers of church affairs. So the first thing we have to live with is that reality, that the Gospel, Good News of Jesus has over the centuries been hijacked, or "gospel-jacked" and taken out of its original simplicity and beauty and "dogmatized", to the point of being distorted beyond recognition.

So an ordinary person seeking a purpose and meaning and a direction in life can’t understand what is going on! So our faith is belief in and relationship with Jesus of Nazareth, his actions, words, teaching, and sacrifice of himself for those teachings. We have to read the gospels from cover to cover again and again and anchor our faith in Him and His life and wisdom and guide our lives along this path of simplicity.....

Our children are right, there is much hypocrisy  in the church management, but we believe in the founder, the man from Nazareth and if we can direct their interest and commitment to goodness to  Him, they could have a happier, fulfilled life.  We can have the same attitude that Jesus had to the church authorities of his day, be critical, challenging and in disagreement, calling them hypocrites, whited sepulchers and so on. Even if we challenge the institutional Church, we follow our conscience and are doing what is right and good for the whole community, we don't become heretics, we will still be true friends of Jesus of Nazareth, that is what faith is.

We have to challenge any institution that covers up child abuse and other crimes by any of its members. Jesus was and is tough on child abusers... "...tie a millstone around their necks and throw them in to the sea", (Luke 17. 1-3) no words of instant forgiveness for child abusers, but first, justice, repentance and accepting penance(behind bars), then the victims can forgive more easily).

Justice was the center of his teaching , if justice is lacking there cannot be any love, respect, dignity, honesty, and truth. He died for that teaching. He came to turn the world and the religion of his day upside down and he was given the death penalty for his "crime" of challenging the leaders of the church of his day. He was to be silenced permanently, but everything he said and did came alive again and so did he in our minds, hearts and lives.
In his day, Jesus confronted them and called for total reform. They then killed him for that. The church managers have made grave mistakes throughout history, the inquisition, the Crusades, holy wars, etc. and now celibacy, child protection, the role of women, etc. are the challenges that have to be met. 

Ann, the best thing to do is seek for yourself the meaning of life as lived by Jesus and don't think too much about the goings on with church hierarchy and the church "authorities". Our faith is in Jesus and his message, not in a religious institution or structure.

Email: shaycullen@preda.org (Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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