Thursday, August 29, 2013

7TH APCSRHR


GENERAL BACKGROUND OF THE 7TH APCSRHR

The  7th Asia Pacific Conference on Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights (APCSRHR) will be held on January 21-24, 2014 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila, Philippines.

The APCSRHR is a civil society-led regional forum for inclusive participatory dialogue leading to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. This gathering was conceptualized during the ICPD + 5 country and NGO review in The Hague in 1999. A number of Asia-Pacific delegates noted that their voices and issues were not sufficiently heard in that global gathering and they decided that they would convene their own conference to bring together civil society organizations and their development partners to share policies, programs and experiences in implementing the ICPD-Program of Action (POA).
The first conference was convened in Manila in 2001 by the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare, Inc.  Subsequent conferences with varying SRHR themes were held in Bangkok (2003), Kuala Lumpur (2005), Hyderabad (2007), Beijing (2009), and in Yogyakarta (2011).  The foregoing Asia-Pacific conferences were organized by country and regional civil society organizations in partnership with development agencies, national and local government units.  International and local steering committees were formed to manage these conferences.
During the 6th APCSRHR in Yogyakarta, the civil society organizations and their partners decided that the next conference would be held in Manila again with the theme entitled Examining achievements, good practices and challenges; Towards a strategic positioning of sexual & reproductive health & rights for all. The choice of this theme is timely because 2014 is the ICPD”s 20th year after Cairo and the year before the reckoning of the MDG achievements.
The  7th APCSRHR would  provide an opportunity for the participants to examine the region’s performance,   good practices for diverse population segments (adolescents and youth, women of reproductive age, men, and the elderly) the roles and accountability of  different stakeholders as well as lessons learned, issues and challenges in realizing the ICPD-POA and in attaining SRHR-related MDGs.   This gathering would also generate new paradigms, innovative ideas and strategies that would address emerging SRHR issues and challenges beyond 2015.
Prior to the main conference, the 7th APCSRHR will  hold a youth-led whole-day forum on January 21, 2014 in recognition of the vital roles that young people play  in policy and program development that are geared towards the fulfilment of their reproductive health and rights.
The main conference will be on January 22-24, 2014 and it will have four major tracks.
  • Track 1: Overview of the SRHR performance including good practices, lessons learned,   challenges and future directions (beyond 2015)  for diverse groups and social settings in addressing  the ICPD-POA and in meeting the MDGs and other related commitments;
  • Track 2: Good SRHR practices in  formal and informal health systems (focus on the six pillars—governance, health facilities, health financing, human resources, regulations and health information)  issues and challenges;
  • Track 3: Sexual and reproductive rights in ‘ordinary’  or non-crisis settings and during humanitarian response: Good practices, issues and challenges
  • Track 4: Emerging and re-emerging issues, challenges and prospects beyond 2015.
Track 1 will have an opening plenary session in the morning on the overall Asia-Pacific’s  SRHR performance and future directions in relation to the ICPD-POA and MDGs from the perspectives of the civil society, development partner and the youth.   The first plenary session will be followed by four sub-regional plenary sessions in the afternoon to highlight the SRHR performance and future direction in East and Central Asia, Pacific and Oceania, South Asia, and in Southeast Asia.
Tracks 2 to 4 have three plenary and 40 parallel sessions.


Saudi begins Dondon Lanuza's deportation proceedings

ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at 08/28/2013 1:44 PM | Updated as of 08/28/2013 1:44 PM

MANILA – The Saudi Arabian government has started deportation proceedings of jailed overseas Filipino worker Rodelio "Dondon" Lanuza to the Philippines, Vice President Jejomar Binay said in a statement on Wednesday.
"I was informed by Ambassador Ezzedin Tago today, through Secretary [Albert] del Rosario, that the Dammam Reformatory Jail received on August 27 an advance copy of the order from the Emir of the Eastern Region regarding the release of Mr. Lanuza. Jail authorities have received the advance copy of the settlement of Mr. Lanuza’s case from the Dammam High Court,” said Binay.
Binay, also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, said Police Case Officer Ahmad Al Sharie of the Dammam Reformatory Jail endorsed Lanuza’s case to the travel section for deportation procedures.
“After receiving the documents, Mr. Al Sharie sent a memorandum to the Director of the Dammam Reformatory Jail on August 27 requesting approval for the fingerprinting (basamat) of Mr. Lanuza,” he said adding that the process is part of Lanuza's four-step deportation proceedings.
“First, upon approval by the Jail Director, Mr. Lanuza’s case file will be endorsed to the travel section for deportation procedures. Jawasat (Saudi Passport Office) authorities will then assign a basamat number for Dondon,” the Vice President explained.
“After Dondon’s fingerprints are taken, they will be sent to Jawasat and then to the Criminal Investigation Office (CIO) for clearance. Upon receipt of the clearance from the CIO, the exit visa will then be finally issued,” he added.
The entire deportation process could take two to three weeks to be completed, but case officers from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh will go to Dammam Reformatory Jail to discuss with the Jail Director on how they can help in expediting Lanuza's exit visa.
“While waiting for the deportation process to be completed, the Riyadh Philippine Embassy, through Ambassador Tago, has already requested the Department of Foreign Affairs to purchase the ticket for Mr. Lanuza return flight to the Philippines,” said Binay.
Lanuza was convicted of killing an Arab national in 2000. Saudi Arabia's highest court affirmed Lanuza’s death penalty in 2001, but was pardoned after paying SAR 3 million in blood money to the victim’s family.
Of the SAR 3 million, SAR 700,000 was paid by the Philippine government and supporters of Lanuza, while Saudi King Abdullah shouldered the remaining SAR 2.3 million.
“I also want to assure the family of Mr. Lanuza that the government is doing everything in its power to expedite the release of Dondon. We all would like to see him home at the soonest possible time,” the Vice President added.

POEA: Agencies liable for abuse on HSWs

By Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star

Posted at 08/29/2013 11:56 AM | Updated as of 08/29/2013 11:56 AM

MANILA - Recruitment agencies that fail to protect Filipino household service workers (HSWs) from abuse and violence face sanctions.
Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said recruiters will be held accountable for the violence, abuse and other contract violations committed against HSWs.
“Failure to abide by their responsibility to protect OFWs warrants cancellation or suspension of their license, depending on the gravity and frequency of the offenses,” he said.
Administrator Carmelita Dimzon of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said 23-year-old domestic helper Rahima Panayaman of Cotobato City had returned home from Kuwait after suffering maltreatment from her employer for several months.
Panayaman sustained burns when her Kuwaiti employer poured boiling water on her back, and she has become bald because her employer kept pulling her hair, he added.
Dimzon said Panayaman’s employer is now in jail and has paid her almost P2 million to settle the case.
OWWA will give Panayaman a scholarship so she can finish her studies as well as the chance to avail of alternative livelihood benefits, she added.
Cacdac said some recruiters are taking shortcuts in the HSW placement process by engaging another agency to deploy workers, passing off a domestic worker as another type of worker, using fake documents, including Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar and training certifications, deployment through the backdoor, or deployment to countries with travel restrictions.
Recruitment agencies must ensure that HSWs are properly documented and only those with the the required skills and competencies are deployed, he added.

NGO opens hotline for Pinoys still in Syria

ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at 08/28/2013 5:20 PM | Updated as of 08/28/2013 5:20 PM

MANILA – The Blas F. Ople Policy Center opened a hotline for Filipinos who still have families who want to be rescued and repatriated from Syria.
"In case families of OFWs remaining in Syria find it difficult to get through the DFA's hotlines, they can also call the Ople Center through its hotline: 833-5337 or send an SMS to +639158435498 to pass on information and messages that can result in the rescue and repatriation of their loved ones," the Ople Center said in a press statement.
The Ople Center said families of OFWs or OFWs themselves can also send emails toblasoplecenter@gmail.com or post information on their Facebook page athttps://www.facebook.com/blasoplepolicycenter.
The Ople Center will share such information immediately with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, Syria and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Ople Center head Susan Ople called on local governments to reach out to constituents with relatives in Syria to inform them about the need for such information so that the rapid response team of the Philippine Embassy in Damascus can locate and rescue their loved ones.
"It is important for all stakeholders to help the government help our OFWs in Syria in a calm, sober manner. Priority should be given to the smooth flow of information between OFW families, the OFWs there, and our embassy personnel as well as the DFA and DOLE. Such information should include the hotlines that these families could call, as well as updates coming from our own embassy in Syria as confirmed by the DFA and DoLE," Ople said.
She said that four warships armed with US missiles are already in place in Syria and the Syrian government has vowed to retaliate.
"We call on everyone to include our embassy personnel and thousands of OFWs still in Syria in their prayers. Let's continue to pray for peace here at home and elsewhere in the world including in strife-torn Syria and Egypt," Ople said.

Recruiters of OFWs in sex-for-flight probe suspended


Posted at 08/29/2013 2:56 PM | Updated as of 08/29/2013 2:56 PM
MANILA – A preventive suspension was ordered against four recruitment agencies which recruited and deployed two of the female overseas Filipino workers who testified against officials of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Saudi Arabia in the sex-for-flight probe.
Kozen International Inc., Azizzah International Manpower Services, Jobstar International Manpower Services, and Ideal Placement and Manpower Services, were found to have engaged in acts of misrepresentation, contract substitution, illegal collection of placement fee, and other recruitment violations in the process of recruitment and deployment of Elena B. Beleta and Grace Victoria P. Sales.
Beleta and Sales are both witnesses in the ongoing sex-for-flight probe in the Senate.
Atty. Leah Fortuna, chairperson of the DOLE Investigating Team endorsed the two cases to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), seeking legal action on the allegations of the complainants.
Beleta alleged that she applied as a beautician with Azizzah International and paid the agency P15,000 as placement fee but her documents were submitted by Kozen International for processing as a female nurse at the POEA.
Beleta left the Philippines on March 28, 2013, hoping to work as a beautician in a parlor but was instead brought directly to the house of a certain Mohammed Al Faisal. She ran away from her employer on April 18, 2013 and went directly to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.
POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said Kozen and Azizzah, on the basis of the complainant’s sworn statement and information sheet, committed serious violations relative to the recruitment and placement of Beleta.
“The evidence is strong indicating that the complainant’s documents were reprocessed – having been deployed by a recruitment agency other than the one she originally applied with, and was made to work for a different position and employer other than what she initially applied and accepted for employment,” Cacdac said.
For her part, Sales alleged that she applied as household service worker with Jobstar International on December 2011 and was required to pay a placement fee to be deducted from her salary of 800 Saudi Riyals.
Upon verification of Sales’ records at the POEA, the investigators discovered that her documents were processed by Ideal Placement for a housekeeping position at AMI Saudi Arabia Limited/Security Forces Hospital with a monthly salary of US$314.00.
Sales left for Saudi Arabia on January 27, 2012 and it was only on that day she discovered that her documents were processed for overseas employment by Ideal Placement when she opened the envelope given by her recruiter. She also checked her employment contract and was surprised that it bore a different name.
Nevertheless, Sales said she took up the job taking care of the house and kids of her Arab employer who made unwanted sexual advances toward her. She left her employer on March 2012 and went to the POLO’s Bahay Kalinga where she worked as janitress.
Cacdac said he found strong evidence that Jobstar International and Ideal Placement committed serious violations of the POEA rules on recruitment and deployment of OFWs.
He also ordered the suspension of AMI Saudi Arabia Limited and Samaya Advanced Dental Polyclinic -- the foreign agencies of the recruitment agencies -- and their inclusion in the POEA list of agencies and principals temporarily disqualified from recruiting Filipino workers for overseas employment.

Malaysia to launch 'biggest' crackdown on illegals

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will launch what local media on Wednesday called its "biggest ever" crackdown on an estimated half a million illegal foreign workers, as a crime wave focused the nation's attention on security.

Under the three-month operation to begin on Sunday, authorities would seek to deport some 500,000 foreigners, mostly from the country's vast and less-developed neighbor Indonesia, Immigration Department Director General Alias Ahmad said.

The operation would involve 135,000 personnel led by the department, he was quoted by The Star newspaper as saying.

Normally laid-back Malaysia has been on edge over dozens of reported shootings, many fatal, that authorities have blamed largely on a gang turf war.

While foreigners are not generally seen as a key source of crime, the presence of large numbers of undocumented workers has fuelled security worries.

The violence has added to a widespread public perception of rising crime such as thefts, burglaries, and robberies, despite government data showing crime has dropped sharply.

The figures have been met with wide skepticism.

The national police force, which has endured heavy criticism in recent months as it appeared to be caught unprepared by the shooting spree, launched a separate crackdown on August 17 targeted at gangs.

Police have said 1,400 people suspected of being involved in criminal activity have been detained under that operation.

Alias said authorities decided it was time to go after the estimated half-million people who initially registered under an amnesty scheme for illegal workers two years ago but subsequently failed to come forward to be legalized or deported.

"It is now time for full enforcement," Alias told The Star. "They can hide, but how long can they hide?"

Alias confirmed the remarks to AFP in a text message but he could not be reached for further comment.

Southeast Asia's third-largest economy is a magnet for migrant workers from poorer neighbors Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mynamar, Vietnam, Nepal and elsewhere, who fill low-paid construction, factory and plantation jobs.

The amnesty scheme was aimed at registering illegals, and 1.3 million came forward.

Of those, 500,000 have received documents permitting them to work, while 330,000 were repatriated.

The rest have not completed the process, with some workers expressing fear it would lead to deportation as the scheme requires them to be sponsored by a valid employer. — Agence France-Presse

Roxas: Janet Napoles spent night in vacant office at PNP headquarters

Janet Napoles, the suspected brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam, spent Wednesday night at a vacant office inside the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Interior secretary Manuel Roxas said Thursday.

Roxas said members of the elite PNP Special Action Force (SAF) and Camp Crame police secured Napoles, who was brought to Camp Crame after surrendering to President Benigno Aquino.

"Hinanda ang isang bakanteng opisina sa headquarters mismo ng Crame," he said in an interview on dzBB.

A separate report by dzBB's Sam Nielsen said elite police forces in full battle gear secured Napoles at Camp Crame where she spent Wednesday night.

SAF members held position at key points of Camp Crame since Napoles was brought there Wednesday night, the report added.

Media representatives were not allowed to enter the PNP national headquarters where Napoles was held. The area around the PNP national headquarters became a virtual parking lot for vehicles of media outfits.

On Wednesday night, Napoles surrendered to President Aquino and was turned over to the PNP where she was booked.

Her surrender came hours after Aquino announced a P10-million reward for information leading to her arrest.

Napoles' lawyer Lorna Kapunan earlier said her client surrendered because she feared for her life, and that there are those who want her silenced permanently. — LBG, GMA News

Makati police prepare security for Napoles' court appearance

Police in Makati City on Thursday beefed up security at the Makati Regional Trial Court in preparation for the appearance there of Janet Napoles, the central figure in the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam.

The Makati City police assured the safety of Napoles, who spent Wednesday night at Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, radio dzBB's Paulo Santos reported.

Napoles is expected to be brought before the Makati Regional Trial Court, which earlier this month issued an arrest warrant for her and her brother Reynald for serious illegal detention.

An updated dzBB report quoted Makati City police chief Senior Superintendent Manuel Lukban Jr. as saying they can provide escorts and support teams for the Napoles convoy from Camp Crame.

Lukban added they are used to provide security to diplomats and VIPs.

This is aside from security arrangements for the RTC where Napoles is to be brought and presented.

Napoles' lawyer Lorna Kapunan earlier said her client surrendered because she feared for her life, and that there are those who want her silenced permanently.

On Wednesday night, Napoles surrendered to President Benigno Aquino and was turned over to the PNP where she was booked.

Her surrender came hours after Aquino announced a P10-million reward for information leading to her arrest.

Napoles had been tagged the brains of an alleged scam involving bogus non-government organizations that received funds from lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Funds.

Last week, Aquino said it was time to abolish the PDAF but wanted a mechanism to replace it.

On the other hand, the scam had triggered public outrage that led to a huge rally at the Luneta Park in Manila last Monday, with protesters calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system. — LBG, GMA News

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

DFA, OWWA still on 'alert' for OFWs in Egypt


While the tension in Egypt may have eased, Philippine foreign affairs and labor officials are not yet letting their guard down for some 5,000 Filipinos still staying there.

Radio dzBB's Roland Bola reported that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it remains ready to help Filipinos who want to be repatriated after the peaceful outcome of protests against former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

The report quoted DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs executive director Rolando Endaya as saying that no Filipino has so far registered to avail of voluntary repatriation after the third batch of repatriates arrived in Manila Monday afternoon.

Endaya said the DFA remains on alert for overseas Filipinos who may be affected if there is tension in Egypt again.

For her part, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Carmelita Dimzon said her office remains on alert for Filipinos who want to return home, according to a report by dzBB's Denver Trinidad.

Dimzon said her office is not discounting the possibility some Filipinos may still want to be repatriated at this time.

She said the OWWA can help returning OFWs by giving them stress debriefing services. — LBG, GMA News

PNoy: Many Pinoys in Egypt resisting repatriation

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said many Filipinos in Egypt had refused to be repatriated despite the apparent security threat in the troubled African state.

"Marami ang nagre-resist [dahil] ayaw raw nila mawala ‘yung trabaho nila, especially for those who are working. But the situation is really serious," he told reporters after visiting families affected by the recent heavy monsoon rains at the Mandaluyong Elementary School.

The President said there are 5,000 to 6,000 Filipinos in Egypt, most of them students and domestic helpers.

Last Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raised Crisis Alert Level 4, which calls for mandatory repatriation shouldered by the Philippine government, over Egypt after assessing the security alert there.

Tension escalated in Egypt after authorities there implemented a crackdown on deposed President Mohamed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood by arresting the Islamist organization's top leader. Hundreds have already been killed in the violence.

Aquino said the government has already sent $240,000 to the Cairo Embassy for the repatriation of Filipinos there.

"I’m sure the embassy in Egypt has been preparing for this, and has been actively trying to encourage our countrymen to ensure their safety to leave Egypt at this time," he said.

According to the DFA, five Filipinos from Egypt are expected to be repatriated Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Aquino said the government is ready to assist returning overseas Filipino workers.

"[Labor] Secretary [Rosalinda] Baldoz, I’m sure, will be preparing to assist them together with TESDA and other government entities to impart the necessary skills for reintegration.  I’m sure naghahanda na ‘yung mga kaukulang departamento," he said.  Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News

Monday, August 19, 2013

POEA enforces total deployment ban to Egypt

ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at 08/16/2013 12:10 PM | Updated as of 08/16/2013 12:10 PM
MANILA – A total deployment ban to Egypt has been imposed by the governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) citing security risks for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
"The POEA Governing Board, in an emergency meeting, has approved yesterday Governing Board Resolution No. 9 Series of 2013 imposing a total ban on the processing and deployment of all overseas Filipino workers bound for Egypt," Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said.
Felix Oca, Estrelita Hizon, Alexander Asuncion, and Milagros Isabel Cristobal all signed the resolution, together with POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac, Governing Board Vice Chairman.
"It is not safe for OFWs to go to Egypt and work there, considering the present circumstances," Baldoz added.
Reuters reported that at least 623 people died and thousands were wounded on Wednesday when police cleared out two protest camps in Cairo set up to denounce the military overthrow on July 3 of Egypt's first freely elected president, the Islamist leader Mohamed Mursi.
Baldoz said the Department of Foreign Affairs had informed her that it has raised the crisis Alert Level 3 in Egypt in view of the escalating civil unrest and insecurity, as well as the declaration of a month-long state of emergency in the country.
Alert level 3 entails the voluntary repatriation of Filipinos in Egypt. The deployment of new workers, as well as the return to Egypt of vacationing workers, spouses of Egyptian nationals, Islamic University students, and their dependents, is likewise suspended.
It can be recalled that the DFA raised the crisis alert level in Egypt to Alert Level 2 on July 8, 2012. Four days later or on 12 July, the Governing Board, in Resolution No. 6 Series of 2013, imposed a temporary suspension on the processing and deployment of newly-hired OFWs bound for Egypt.

Fil-Egyptian teenager injured by stray bullet in strife-torn Cairo



(UPDATED 3:30 P.M.) - Amid the continued unrest in Egypt, A Filipino-Egyptian teenage girl was hit Thursday night by a stray bullet on her shoulder while she was inside her family's apartment in Cairo.

In an interview with Pia Arcangel on "Balitanghali" on Friday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said the Philippine embassy in Egypt has relayed to him the news about the first case of an injured Filipino in the strife-torn Middle Eastern country.

“May isang Filipino-Egyptian teenager na natamaan ng isang stray bullet doon sa Helwan sa Cairo kahapon ng gabi. Nandoon [siya] sa kanilang apartment pero yung bullet ay tumagos doon at siya ay tinamaan sa kanyang balikat,” he said.

In a text message to reporters on Friday, Hernandez said, "Last night, a teenage filipina-egyptian residing in Helwan, Cairo was hit in her right shoulder by a stray bullet that penetrated their apartment."

"She is now confined in a hospital where embassy personnel visited her to check her condition and offer assistance," Hernandez added.

Hernandez said embassy officials have already visited the teenager, who is currently recovering at a military hospital in Cairo.

Defer trips to Egypt

The DFA on Thursday raised the alert crisis level in Egypt to Level 3 “in view of the escalating civil unrest and insecurity as well as the declaration of a month-long State of Emergency” in the country.

The new crisis alert level means OFWs in Egypt can volunteer to be repatriated to the Philippines with the assistance of the Philippine embassy in Cairo.

On Friday, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration(POEA) imposed a total deployment ban on OFWs who want to work in Egypt in light of the violent protests and gunfight happening there.

Hernandez urged Filipinos to defer all non-essential trips to Egypt "until further notice."

"We continue to advise our kababayans to exercise extra precaution and stay in their homes; if they need to go out, they should avoid places where protest actions are taking place, and to comply with the Egyptian government's orders, especially the curfew. If their homes are located near protest areas, they must stay away from windows," he said.

"Filipinos who wish to avail of voluntary repatriation should get in touch with our embassy in Cairo. Our embassy is prepared to assist Filipinos who wish to go home in view of the security concerns in that country," he added.

However, Hernandez said the Philippine consulate in Egypt has yet to receive a request for repatriation from any Filipino workers residing or working in the country.

“Wala pa tayong natatanggap na report na may Filipino sa Egypt na gusto nang umuwi [dahil] sa nangyayaring kaguluhan doon. Pero yung ating embahada doon, pati na yung ating ambassador, ay nakikipag-ugnayan na sa mga coordinators at community leaders tungkol sa kanilang sitwasyon,” he said.

Hernandez also assured OFWs in Egypt that the DFA is willing to extend financial assistance to help them them buy a one-way plane ticket for a trip back to the Philippines should they wish to be repatriated immediately.

'Millions march of anger'

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called for a nationwide "millions' march of anger" on Friday after noon prayers to protest the recent security forces' violent crackdown on protesters in which hundreds were killed.

"Despite the pain and sorrow over the loss of our martyrs, the latest coup makers' crime has increased our determination to end them," the Islamist group said in a statement on Friday. Over 500 Brotherhood supporters were killed in the violence.

The Islamist group accuses the military of staging a coup when it ousted its leader, elected President Mohamed Mursi, last month. Liberal and youth activists who backed the military saw the move as a positive response to public demands.

At least 623 people died and thousands were wounded on Wednesday when police cleared out two protest camps in Cairo set up to denounce the military overthrow on July 3 of Mursi.

It was the third mass killing of Mursi supporters since his ouster. The assault left his Muslim Brotherhood in disarray, but they warned they would not retreat in their showdown with army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. - with reports from Xianne Arcangel/ Michaela del Callar/ Reuters/ VVP, GMA News

Friday, August 16, 2013

DOLE names 2 veteran officers to man Saudi posts

ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at 08/16/2013 1:01 PM | Updated as of 08/16/2013 1:01 PM
MANILA – Two veteran officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have been designated to head the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Labor Attache Rustico M. De La Fuente will man the POLO-Riyadh and simultaneously coordinate all POLO operations in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Region.
Labor Attach Jainal T. Rasul Jr., on the other hand, has been designated as labor attaché in Jeddah.
Baldoz's action follows her issuance of DOLE Administrative Order No. 262 and A.O. 262-A, imposing stringent measures that would forestall, pre-empt, and permanently root out the alleged malpractices and misdemeanor against overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), such as the "sex-for-flight" scandal.
De la Fuente, who is the director of the DOLE's National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) from 16 September 2012 until his designation, will replace Labor Attache Adam Musa, who finished his tour of duty on Thursday.
De la Fuente rose from the ranks to become a veteran point person in the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in the past 32 years since 1981.
During the Lebanon crisis in 2007, De la Fuente was instrumental for the safe and successful rescue and evacuation of more than 6,000 OFWs back to the Philippines, in coordination with Lebanese authorities, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the International Organization for Migration.

Following the success of the crisis response in Lebanon, De la Fuente was detailed two weeks later, to Tenghiz, Kazakhstan where he coordinated repatriation of some 400 distressed OFWs affected by a riot that disrupted their workplaces.
As labor attaché, he had been posted in Doha, where he worked for the conclusion of the first bilateral labor agreement between the Philippines and Qatar, also the first between the country and a Middle Eastern OFW.
In charge in the late 1990s of the OWWA's overseas operations, he also coordinated the establishment of the first Filipino Workers Resource Center, now known as the Bahay Kalinga, mandated under Republic Act 8042, or the Migrant and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.
De la Fuente indicated that once in the POLO-Riyadh, he will immediately implement the reform measures prescribed by Baldoz under A.O.'s 262 and 262-A, with particular emphasis on a gender-balanced treatment to ensure protection of disadvantaged female OFWs. He said he will also closely coordinate his actions with transparency and accountability with other POLOs and OFW communities to better improve the delivery of POLO services and assist distressed workers.
Rasul, on the other hand, will take over the POLO in Jeddah, vice Labor Attache Atty. Alex Padaen who is being sent to Riyadh to join De la Fuente.
Rasul also rose from the ranks in government service, and is highly respected for his handling of POLO operations.
Prior to his designation to Jeddah, Rasul was posted to the POLO in London, the United Kingdom, where he served from 2005 to 2011.
As an assistant labor attaché in 1996, he was posted to Tripoli, Libya and served there until 1999; and to Riyadh from 1999 to 2011. A graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law, Rasul first joined the government service as technical/research staff of the 1986 Philippine Constitutional Commission.
Subsequently, at the Senate of the Philippines, he served as Director I of the Legislative Research Division from 1988 to 1993, and then as Director III of the Legislative Technical Affairs Bureau from 1993 to 1996, prior to joining the DOLE's overseas labor attaché corps

SSS diversifies AlkanSSSya coverage, attracts 284 ISGs so far


The Social Security System (SSS) attracted a total of 284 informal sector groups (ISGs) to join its microsavings program called “AlkanSSSya” so far, which translates to over 21,500 workers in hard-to-reach sectors now effectively covered with social security protection.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. said the agency intensified its coverage drive and diversified the types of covered ISGs to enable more workers to benefit from the AlkanSSSya, which evolved from the original “TrikanSSSya” scheme conceptualized by SSS for tricycle operators and drivers.

“The AlkanSSSya addresses a concern shared by many informal sector workers that saving for monthly SSS contributions is beyond their means. But we have shown that with a little discipline, setting aside as little as about P10 every day will enable them to receive SSS benefits when their ability to earn is hampered by various SSS-covered contingencies,” de Quiros noted.

AlkanSSSya participants contribute at a minimum monthly salary credit of P3,000, which has a corresponding SSS contribution of P312 per month. Large cabinet-type units with secure, individual boxes that serve as personal “piggy banks” store the workers’ daily savings for SSS contributions.

A total of 284 ISGs nationwide are currently covered by the AlkanSSSya program, including tricycle operators and drivers associations or “TODA” that enrolled in the TrikanSSSya since it was first launched last December 7, 2011 in Las Piñas City. De Quiros said 229 of these 284 ISGs joined the AlkanSSSya this year.

“From only 55 covered ISGs by the end of 2012, the SSS increased the number of participating ISGs to 284 in less than eight months,” de Quiros said. “Covered ISGs from the National Capital Region totaled 89, while an additional 195 ISGs are based outside NCR, which attests to the widespread support that the program has been getting.”

The participating ISGs include cooperatives, community-based associations and various workers’ groups for jail inmates, transport workers, garbage pickers, ambulant vendors, workers in golf courses, farmers and fisherfolk.

De Quiros said four participating ISGs have members who are employed in local government units, such as barangay employees, tanod and volunteer workers, who are exempted from the social security program for public sector workers.

In the transport sector alone, the covered workers range from bus dispatchers, to airport service providers, to operators and drivers of tricycles, trisikads, jeepneys, shuttle buses and motorboats. We expect more informal sector workers from varying types of industries to start their SSS savings under the AlkanSSSya program in the coming months,” he said.

Pinay nurse hailed by Obama to get award in PH


Posted at 08/16/2013 12:17 PM | Updated as of 08/16/2013 12:18 PM
First lady Michelle Obama is applauded by Menchu Sanchez (second from right) along with Dr. Jill Biden prior to U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union Speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 12, 2013. Photo by Jonathan Ernst, Reuters
MANILA - A Filipina nurse hailed by no less than US President Barack Obama is back home to receive yet another award.
Obama praised the heroism of Filipino-American nurse Menchu Sanchez during his State of the Union Address back in February.
At the height of hurricane Sandy, Sanchez led her team in evacuating 20 infants to safety from the neo-natal intensive care unit of the hospital she worked for.
Sanchez became an instant celebrity being interviewed by the international press and receiving awards from various organizations.
Now, she has come home to receive the Quezon Medalya ng Karangalan award.
Sanchez arrived in Manila on Thursday morning.
She wasted no time, heading to a Filipino restaurant to enjoy some of her favorite Pinoy dishes.
Sanchez shares she still cannot believe that at one point in her life she was honored by the most powerful leader in the world.
"Inakap niya ko nang mahigpit. Sabi niya 'thank you for coming'. Sobrang overwhelming," said Sanchez.
   
Beaming with pride, Sanchez said she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs and tell the world that she is a Filipina.

"Kasi likas sa atin yung bayanihan, yung pagtulong at pagligtas ng iba. Nag-yellow blouse pa nga ako kasi love ko si Cory," she said.
The second of three children, Sanchez came from humble beginnings in Catanauan, Quezon.
At the age of 3, her father died leaving the responsibility of raising the family to her mother who she considers her hero.
"Siya ang inspirasyon ko, ang dami niyang pinag-daanan para sa amin," she said.
Sanchez may have come a long way. But her dreams remain simple: to be able to give her children a good education and to continue bringing pride to her country.

Immigration officers intercept 21 alleged human-trafficking victims at NAIA

Immigration authorities on Wednesday stopped 21 overseas Filipino workers from leaving the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as they were allegedly victims of a human trafficking syndicate.

Immigration Officer-in-Charge Siegfred Mison said that the alleged victims were intercepted at the NAIA 2 terminal when they presented questionable travel documents.

Mison said it appeared from secondary inspection of the passengers that they were undocumented overseas Filipino workers disguised as tourists.

This was the latest case of human trafficking encountered by the Bureau of Immigration at the NAIA.

Last August 7, 12 passengers were prevented from boarding a flight to Singapore. The passengers had presented visas and plane tickets which showed that their final destination was Dubai, where, they claimed, they would be traveling as a group for a nine-day vacation.

However, they were barred from leaving after they gave inconsistent answers when questioned further on the real purpose of their trip.

Two days later, another group of nine passengers also bound for Singapore was intercepted.

They presented hotel reservations, round trip tickets and company IDs that turned out to be fake.

One of the supposed travelers confessed that the IDs were provided by their recruiter while two others said they were previously off-loaded for attempting to leave for Singapore without proper documents.

“We reiterate our warning to these [human-trafficking] syndicates: Stop employing various schemes to trick our immigration officers into allowing their victims to leave because it will not work,” Mison said. — DVM, GMA News

USGS: Magnitude-6.8 earthquake shakes New Zealand


(Updated 11:25 a.m.) WELLINGTON - An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 struck south of New Zealand's capital, Wellington, on Friday, sending panicked workers and residents into the streets just weeks after a similar size quake struck the city.
 
The quake, which hit near the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island, was at a depth of about 10 km (6 miles), according to NZ Geonet, which originally gave it a magnitude of 6.0.
 
While fire authorities said it was too early to assess the impact, there were some reports of superficial damage to buildings from the quake, which did not cause a wider tsunami alert, but sent items tumbling from shop shelves.
 
Air and rail services were being suspended while officials checked tracks and runways for damage.
 
There were also widespread power outages across the north of the South Island. There was no specific threat of a widespread tsunami, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
 
New Zealand has been hit by a string of quakes since a shallow, 6.3 magnitude tremor devastated the South Island's Canterbury region in 2011, killing nearly 200 people and levelling Christchurch, the country's second largest city.
 
Earthquakes are common in New Zealand, whose two islands lie along the Australia-Pacific tectonic plate boundary.  Reuters

DFA: No Pinoys hurt in New Zealand quake


There are no reports yet of any Filipinos being injured during an earthquake which struck New Zealand's capital Wellington earlier in the day, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said onFriday.
 
In a text message to reporters, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia Benavidez told them that they have not received any reports of Filipinos being injured in the Wellington quake.  
 
"Our embassy will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the safety and welfare of Filipinos there," he said.
 
Hernandez said there are about 36,000 Filipinos in New Zealand.

Little damage

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck south of New Zealand's capital on Friday, sending panicked Wellington workers and residents into the streets, but caused little major damage just weeks after a similar size quake shook the harborside city.

The quake, which hit near the northern tip of New Zealand's South Island, was dangerously shallow at a depth of about 8 kilometers (5 miles), similar to a deadly tremor that shattered the south island city of Christchurch in 2011.

Fire authorities said it was too early to assess the impact fully. There were reports of superficial damage to buildings from the quake, which shattered windows and sent items tumbling from supermarket shelves.

The U.S. Geological Survey originally measured the quake with a magnitude of 6.8 but later revised that figure down to 6.5. New Zealand quake monitoring service GNS Science put the magnitude at 6.2.

The quake did not trigger a widespread tsunami alert, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, although there was a series of strong aftershocks.

Some people were trapped in lifts in Wellington, a city of 400,000 that sprawls across hills along a major geological fault.

Air, rail and bus services were suspended while officials checked tracks, runways and roads for damage, and trading on New Zealand's NZX stock exchange was halted temporarily.

New Zealand has been hit by a string of quakes since a shallow, 6.3 magnitude tremor devastated the Canterbury region in 2011, killing nearly 200 people and causing $30 billion in damage to Christchurch, the country's second largest city.

Earthquakes are common in New Zealand, whose two islands lie along the Australia-Pacific tectonic plate boundary. - with reports from Reuters/Michaela del Callar, VVP, GMA News

To prevent sexual abuse of OFWs, DOLE wants CCTVs in PHL labor offices abroad

Installing closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems and implementing stricter rules are among the measures the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is undertaking to prevent the sexual abuse of distressed overseas Filipino workers at Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) and Bahay Kalingas.

DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued the instructions in Administrative Order No. 262-A, where the rules are "gender-balanced and sensitive and values-oriented," to help  disadvantaged female migrant workers abroad.

"(T)o prevent, pre-empt, and hopefully permanently root out the alleged malpractices and misdemeanor against overseas Filipino workers, such as the sex-for-fly, I have further issued reform measures to be strictly implemented in the POLOs," she said in a news release.

The order stemmed from the alleged involvement of Philippine labor officials in the incidents.

Baldoz ordered all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices to "install sufficient CCTV cameras in their offices and in the MWOFRCs."

MWOFRCs, or Migrant Workers and Other Filipino Resource Center, are popularly known as Bahay Kalinga.

With the CCTVs installed, the head of the POLO shall be the custodian of recorded videos, Baldoz said.

"To ensure transparency, I have instructed the installation of a clear glass-enclosed room in the MWOFRC as venue for all transactions with the wards. The MWOFRC shall also maintain a first-aid kit for the wards and personnel," she added.

Baldoz also now requires all POLOs through the Labor Attache to submit to the her quarterly reports on all matters relating to MWOFRC operations, copy furnished the head of the Post or the Ambassador or Consul General.

She also directed the POLO to always prioritize the repatriation of wards and the resolution of their complaints and cases.

"Upon admission at the MWOFRC, the POLO shall immediately profile and provide the ward with the necessary seminars and skills training in preparation for their repatriation," she said.

"All the requirements that will entitle them to the Balik-Pinay, Balik-Hanapbuhay livelihood starter kits, or to any of the DOLE Enhanced Reintegration Program, shall be processed on-site for release upon their arrival in the Philippines," she added.

Gender balance, house mother

Baldoz instructed the International Labor Affairs Bureau to ensure gender balance in the staffing of all POLOs, particularly in the Bahay Kalingas.

All personnel to be deployed overseas are to undergo special training on gender sensitivity, and for the Bahay Kalinga to have a full-time "house mother" who must be an administrative staff trained prior to deployment.

"Only female personnel shall directly attend to the complaints and cases of wards, particularly during intake/initial interviews, for further processing and handling of the assigned Case Officer. Subsequent counseling and updating sessions, if handled by a male Case Officer, shall be done in the presence of the house parent or a female POLO staff," she said.

Baldoz also instructed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to help shoulder the cost of training of wards in the Bahay Kalinga to ensure that materials and equipment are available.
Proper decorum

Baldoz reminded all POLO officials and personnel to always observe proper decorum and utmost professionalism in dealing with their wards and clients.

They should also be forewarned that sexual harassment against women and men in the employment, education, and training environment carries stiff penalties under the "Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995." - VVP, GMA News

Amid sex-for-flight scandal, PHL labor offices abroad set to strengthen monitoring, reporting system

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Friday said even before the “sex-for-flight” scandal surfaced, the automation of foreign operations in the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) and Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) through the Foreign Labor Operations Information System (FLOIS) was already set to be implemented.

In a news release, the DOLE said the implementation of the FLOIS is a move to stengthen the monitoring and reporting system of the DOLE to ensure the security, welfare, and enforcement of rights of OFWs around the world.

FLOIS aims to make POLO transactions and processes more convenient, accessible, and transparent.

The system will be accesible to DOLE, Philippine Oversease Employment Administration (POEA), and the Oversease Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), ensuring real-time reports of all POLO transactions and stored data while considerably reducing operational expenses.

ILAB Director Rodolfo Sabulao stated that the ten posts selected for the initial implementation of the FLOIS are: Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Riyadh and Jeddah, Kingdom of Sauidi Arabia; Kuwait; Milan AND Rome, Italy; Malaysia; and Singapore.

“Our government is not unaware of the many abuses suffered by our overseas workers in the foreign land where they have ventured, usually with heavy hearts, in pursuit of a more fulfilling future. It is exactly why we develop and strengthen the implementation of FLOIS,” Baldoz said.

Through the FLOIS, Baldoz hopes to curb allegations similar to the case currently faced by DOLE through close monitoring of overseas labor officers.

Sex abuse allegations

DOLE's upgrading of its online systems and databases are a further measure take by the department to prevent further abuse of those under government protection.

The other measures taken by the department are sending 13 new female labor attaches to the Middle East and returning envoys from the region to help investigate the sex abuse allegations.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Waldon on Wednesday threatened a DOLE budget cut of 25% if there is no decisive action against the personnel attached to the allegations.

Senate probe

On Thursday, three former OFWs faced a Senate probe to recount the alleged sexual abuse they experienced from a labor official in Saudi Arabia.

The Senate inquiry was called to probe the alleged "sex-for-flight" scheme in Philippine labor offices and embassies in the Middle East.
 
One of the OFWs, who identified herself as "Michelle," accused Antonio Villafuerte, a Filipino labor attache based in Riyadh, of making sexual advances to her inside of the labor office in the area last May.
 
Villafuerte, who was also present during the hearing, however, categorically denied Michelle's accusation. He said he was not in the labor office last May 18, the day the distressed OFW said the alleged sexual harassment took place.
 
Senator Teofisto Guingona III meanwhile ordered the Blue Ribbon committee secretariat to summon more witnesses in the next hearing, including an employee in the labor office in Saudi Arabia whom Michelle claimed to have seen how Villafuerte allegedly harassed her.
 
“Mahaba pa ang imbestigasyon. May iba pang testigo na kailangan marinig. May mga pinapahanap pa tayo,” Guingona said in an interview after the probe. — with reports from Rie Takumi/Andreo Calonzo/VVP, GMA News

POEA imposes total OFW deployment ban to Egypt


Labor officials on Friday imposed a total deployment ban on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Egypt amid the continued unrest there.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration's (POEA) Governing Board cited the security risks for OFWs in Egypt at this time.

"The POEA Governing Board, in an emergency meeting, has approved yesterday Governing Board Resolution No. 9 Series of 2013 imposing a total ban on the processing and deployment of all overseas Filipino workers bound for Egypt," Labor Secretary and POEA Governing Board chairperson Rosalinda Baldoz said in a news release.

The DOLE said the deployment of new workers, as well as the return to Egypt of vacationing workers, spouses of Egyptian nationals, Islamic University students, and their dependents, is likewise suspended.

"It is not safe for OFWs to go to Egypt and work there, considering the present circumstances," she added.



Among those who signed the resolution were POEA Administrator and governing board vice chairman Hans Leo Cacdac, Felix Oca, Estrelita Hizon, Alexander Asuncion, and Milagros Isabel Cristobal.

Last July 12, the POEA Governing Board issued Resolution No. 6 imposing a temporary suspension on the processing and deployment of newly-hired OFWs bound for Egypt.

At that time, the Department of Foreign Affairs had raised the crisis alert level in Egypt to "2."

On Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs raised the crisis alert level in Egypt to "3," entailing the voluntary repatriation of Filipinos in Egypt.

Baldoz said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario had instructed the Philippine Embassy in Cairo to assist in the repatriation of Filipinos in Egypt who wish to return to the Philippines.

According to the 2011 Stock Estimate of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, there are nearly 6,800 Filipinos in Egypt.

Over 600 deaths in one day

At least 623 people died and thousands were wounded on Wednesday when police cleared out two protest camps in Cairo set up to denounce the military overthrow on July 3 of Egypt's first freely elected president, Islamist leader Mohamed Mursi.

It was the third mass killing of Mursi supporters since his ouster. The assault left his Muslim Brotherhood in disarray, but they warned they would not retreat in their showdown with army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

"After the blows and arrests and killings that we are facing, emotions are too high to be guided by anyone," said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad.

A statement from the Brotherhood called for a nationwide "march of anger" by millions of supporters on Friday after noon prayers.

"Despite the pain and sorrow over the loss of our martyrs, the latest coup makers' crime has increased our determination to end them," it said.

The Brotherhood accuses the military of staging a coup when it ousted Mursi. Liberal and youth activists who backed the military saw the move as a positive response to public demands.

Friday prayers have proved a fertile time for protests during more than two years of unrest across the Arab world.

In calling for a "Friday of anger," the Brotherhood used the same name as that given to the most violent day of the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. That day, Jan. 28, 2011, marked the protesters' victory over the police, who were forced to retreat while the army was asked to step in.

This week's carnage will do further damage to state coffers. The government has set a nighttime curfew that it says will last at least a month, a move that will deal a further blow to the crucial tourism industry.

Many of those who died on Wednesday were still laid out more than a day later in Cairo morgues and at a city mosque. Their families accused the government of putting bureaucratic hurdles in their way to make it hard to obtain permission to bury them.

Under Islamic tradition, bodies ought to be buried within 24 hours of death. - with a report fromReuters/VVP, GMA News

Fil-Egyptian teenager injured by stray bullet in strife-torn Cairo


(UPDATED 3:30 P.M.) - Amid the continued unrest in Egypt, A Filipino-Egyptian teenage girl was hit Thursday night by a stray bullet on her shoulder while she was inside her family's apartment in Cairo.

In an interview with Pia Arcangel on "Balitanghali" on Friday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said the Philippine embassy in Egypt has relayed to him the news about the first case of an injured Filipino in the strife-torn Middle Eastern country.

“May isang Filipino-Egyptian teenager na natamaan ng isang stray bullet doon sa Helwan sa Cairo kahapon ng gabi. Nandoon [siya] sa kanilang apartment pero yung bullet ay tumagos doon at siya ay tinamaan sa kanyang balikat,” he said.

In a text message to reporters on Friday, Hernandez said, "Last night, a teenage filipina-egyptian residing in Helwan, Cairo was hit in her right shoulder by a stray bullet that penetrated their apartment."

"She is now confined in a hospital where embassy personnel visited her to check her condition and offer assistance," Hernandez added.

Hernandez said embassy officials have already visited the teenager, who is currently recovering at a military hospital in Cairo.

Defer trips to Egypt

The DFA on Thursday raised the alert crisis level in Egypt to Level 3 “in view of the escalating civil unrest and insecurity as well as the declaration of a month-long State of Emergency” in the country.

The new crisis alert level means OFWs in Egypt can volunteer to be repatriated to the Philippines with the assistance of the Philippine embassy in Cairo.

On Friday, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration(POEA) imposed a total deployment ban on OFWs who want to work in Egypt in light of the violent protests and gunfight happening there.

Hernandez urged Filipinos to defer all non-essential trips to Egypt "until further notice."

"We continue to advise our kababayans to exercise extra precaution and stay in their homes; if they need to go out, they should avoid places where protest actions are taking place, and to comply with the Egyptian government's orders, especially the curfew. If their homes are located near protest areas, they must stay away from windows," he said.

"Filipinos who wish to avail of voluntary repatriation should get in touch with our embassy in Cairo. Our embassy is prepared to assist Filipinos who wish to go home in view of the security concerns in that country," he added.

However, Hernandez said the Philippine consulate in Egypt has yet to receive a request for repatriation from any Filipino workers residing or working in the country.

“Wala pa tayong natatanggap na report na may Filipino sa Egypt na gusto nang umuwi [dahil] sa nangyayaring kaguluhan doon. Pero yung ating embahada doon, pati na yung ating ambassador, ay nakikipag-ugnayan na sa mga coordinators at community leaders tungkol sa kanilang sitwasyon,” he said.

Hernandez also assured OFWs in Egypt that the DFA is willing to extend financial assistance to help them them buy a one-way plane ticket for a trip back to the Philippines should they wish to be repatriated immediately.

'Millions march of anger'

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called for a nationwide "millions' march of anger" on Friday after noon prayers to protest the recent security forces' violent crackdown on protesters in which hundreds were killed.

"Despite the pain and sorrow over the loss of our martyrs, the latest coup makers' crime has increased our determination to end them," the Islamist group said in a statement on Friday. Over 500 Brotherhood supporters were killed in the violence.

The Islamist group accuses the military of staging a coup when it ousted its leader, elected President Mohamed Mursi, last month. Liberal and youth activists who backed the military saw the move as a positive response to public demands.

At least 623 people died and thousands were wounded on Wednesday when police cleared out two protest camps in Cairo set up to denounce the military overthrow on July 3 of Mursi.

It was the third mass killing of Mursi supporters since his ouster. The assault left his Muslim Brotherhood in disarray, but they warned they would not retreat in their showdown with army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. - with reports from Xianne Arcangel/ Michaela del Callar/ Reuters/ VVP, GMA News
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