Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fil-Am player to see action in Super Bowl

Dubbed as the Seattle Seahawk's "Unsung X-Factor" by sports website Bleacher Report, Filipino-American Doug Baldwin Jr. is set to see action in the championship game of the National Footbal League (NFL) and, perhaps, lead his team to victory.

Baldwin pinged on Filipino's radar when he carried an upside-down Philippine flag during a game last November after Typhoon Yolanda hit central Philippines. The act was not a fluke; rather, it was to show the team's support to the country, which was “at war” with the damage wrought by Typhoon Yolanda.

“Too many to count,” Baldwin told the Seattle Times of the number of relatives he has in Tacloban, including his grandmother.

He said the majority of his family had to stay in a grandaunt's house since their homes were destroyed by the super typhoon. Food and water, weeks before aid properly entered the region, was hard to come by.

Though he has never visited his relatives, Baldwin said he wants to make a trip home in the coming off-season to see his family. “I’m seriously considering taking time out this off-season to make sure I get out there. Because that’s my family," he Baldwin.

Seahawks owner Paul G. Allen matched all the donations their fans made for Yolanda victims to theirRed Cross account.

Journey to the finals

The Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers last January 19, pitting them against the Denver Broncos at the Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2.

During the match against the 49ers, Baldwin made clutch plays that set up scores by his teammates, particularly the squad's kicker Steven Hauschka.

In the second quarter, he caught a 51-yard pass from quarterback Russell Wilson, which moved the Seahawks to the 49ers' 11-yard line. A few plays later, Hauschka nailed a 32-yarder for the Seahawks first score of the game, 10-3.

Later on, Baldwin returned a kickoff for 69 yards in the third period that got the CenturyLink Field rocking and set up a second field goal for Hauschka, that cut their deficit to 17-13.

With a record of 15-3 this season, this is the first time the Seahawks made the Super Bowl since their loss to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season. The Super Bowl is the NFL's championship game, and is considered by many in the United States to be a national holiday.  Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Jeane Napoles files counter-affidavit on tax case from London

Tags: Bantay Kaban
London-based Jeane Napoles, daughter of detained businesswoman and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, has filed her counter-affidavit to a tax evasion case filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

A report on “24 Oras” on Monday said the younger Napoles denied that she willfully avoided paying taxes amounting to over P32 million.

She also reportedly said the properties being linked to her by the BIR are actually owned by her parents.

According to the BIR, Jeane was able to acquire real estate and register them in her name in 2011 and 2012, but had no declared income during those years.

Among these properties are a condominium unit in Los Angeles, California, and her share in a farm lot in Bayambang, Pangasinan.

The counter-affidavit was submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) through the Philippine Embassy in London, where Jean Napoles had it notarized, the report said.

Jeane Napoles became controversial after she posted on the internet photos showing her lavish lifestyle abroad. — KBK, GMA News

POEA bans deployment of OFWs in four areas in Thailand

Tags: OFWs in Thailand , Pinoys in Thailand
The governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has banned the deployment of newly-hired OFWs in four specific areas in troubled Thailand.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz announced on Monday that the POEA board has approved a resolution on the ban in a meeting following consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)
Under the resolution, the ban is effective in Bangkok, Nonthaburi Province, Lad Lum Kaew District (Pathumthani Province), and Bang Phli District (Samutprakan Province).
The ban was issued after the Thai government declared a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and other surrounding areas stemming from the series of protests calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Ying Luck Shinawatra
“In view of this, the Governing Board decided to impose a temporary suspension on the processing and deployment of newly-hired OFWs bound for these areas in the Kingdom of Thailand,” said Baldoz, who chairs the POEA governing board.
The DFA has already raised crisis Alert Level 2 (Restriction Phase) in Thailand. This allows only the processing and deployment of returning OFWs with existing employment contracts.
“We strongly advise our OFWs in Thailand to be vigilant and avoid going out as much as possible, especially if they have nothing important to do outside. They should also stay alert and monitor the events in those areas. If they feel that their security and safety is compromised, they can always go to the Philippine Embassy,” Baldoz said.
POEA records show the annual deployment of OFWs to Thailand has declined from 9,204 in 2012 to 6,021 in 2013. Of the 6,021 OFWs deployed to Thailand last year, only 252 were new hires, while 5,769 were re-hires.
Republic Act 10022 authorizes the POEA Governing Board, after consultation with the DFA, to impose a ban on the deployment of Filipino migrant workers in pursuit of national interest or when public welfare so requires. — KBK, GMA News

Tags: OFWs in Thailand , Pinoys in Thailand

Monday, January 27, 2014

Recruiters return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban for another job fair

Tags: Tacloban City

Labor officials and recruitment agencies returned to Tacloban City Tuesday for a second job fair seeking to benefit survivors of super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration head Hans Leo Cacdac posted on his Twitter account they are to conduct relief and medical missions first.

The Department of Labor and Employment said the job fair will be on Jan. 22, Wednesday, a day after the relief mission.

Wednesday's job fair will be held at Rizal Park in Tacloban, one of the areas hit hardest by Yolanda.

It will have the theme "May Bukas Pa," and will underscore Filipinos' resolve as a nation to think and act positively despite the challenges they had gone through, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said.

"There is always hope and we should take every available opportunity to hasten our recovery,” she said.

Also taking part in the job fair are:

  • Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)
  • Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
  • Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)
  • Bureau of Local Employment (BLE)
  • DOLE Regional Office VIII
  • Tacloban City government
  • regional and provincial Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs)
  • private sector employers
  • licensed recruitment agencies

In the job fair, 35 overseas recruitment agencies will be offering more than 13,400 job vacancies.

The vacancies are mostly for professionals and skilled workers for countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Dubai, Kuwait, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, USA, and Canada.

"For local employment opportunities, 10 employers have confirmed participation in the jobs fair offering a total of 2,100 job vacancies in Cebu, Batangas, Cavite, ParaƱaque, and Metro Manila," the DOLE said.

Other government agencies, such as the SSS, Pag-IBIG, NBI, NSO, and DFA are expected to join and assist job applicants in their documentary requirements. — LBG/VC, GMA News

Pinoys in Thailand ordered to prepare for possible evacuation



Thai govt issues 60-day emergency decree
Thai govt issues 60-day emergency decree . An anti-government protester uses a sledgehammer to destroy the Royal Thai Police logo in Bangkok on Wednesday, January 22. A pro-government leader was shot and wounded in Thailand's northeast, a stronghold of PM Yingluck Shinawatra, as a state of emergency began in and around the capital where protesters are trying to force her to resign. The government issued a 60-day emergency decree on Tuesday, handing security agencies wide powers to detain suspects, impose a curfew and limit gatherings. Reuters/Damir Sagolj
The Philippines has called on Filipinos in Thailand to restrict their movements and prepare for possible evacuation amid intensified anti-government demonstrations there.

Manila raised Alert Level 2 over Thailand as the 60-day state of emergency was enforced on Wednesday by the Thai government to quell weeks-long protests aimed at pressuring elected Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down in favor of an unelected council.

“Alert Level 2 is issued when there are real threats to the life, security, and property of Filipinos arising from internal disturbance or external threat,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday in a statement.

Under Alert Level 2, the DFA said “Filipinos in Bangkok and the surrounding areas are instructed to restrict non-essential movements, avoid public places and prepare for evacuation.”

“While there has been an effort to maintain a state of normalcy in the Thai capital, the situation remains fluid and volatile particularly in anti-government protest areas,” it said.

Filipinos with essential travel plans to Thailand and those residing in capital Bangkok—the site of mass actions—and other parts of the country were advised to avoid protest sites and large gatherings.

They were also cautioned against taking part in the protest or other political activities.

“Everyone is advised to continue exercising extreme caution and vigilance and to closely monitor developments,” the DFA said.  

“The Philippine Embassy is ready to extend necessary assistance to all Filipino nationals in Thailand.”

On Tuesday, the Thai government imposed a 60-day state of emergency in the capital and surrounding provinces in efforts to restrain the public unrest.

Anti-government protestors have been clamoring for the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is accused of being politically influenced by her brother, exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Due to the mounting pressure, Shinawatra set a snap elections scheduled on February 2.

There were an estimated 16,000 Filipinos in Thailand based on the 2012 data from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. — with Drei Medina/KBK, GMA News

POEA bans deployment of OFWs in four areas in Thailand


The governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has banned the deployment of newly-hired OFWs in four specific areas in troubled Thailand.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz announced on Monday that the POEA board has approved a resolution on the ban in a meeting following consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Under the resolution, the ban is effective in Bangkok, Nonthaburi Province, Lad Lum Kaew District (Pathumthani Province), and Bang Phli District (Samutprakan Province).

The ban was issued after the Thai government declared a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and other surrounding areas stemming from the series of protests calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Ying Luck Shinawatra.

“In view of this, the Governing Board decided to impose a temporary suspension on the processing and deployment of newly-hired OFWs bound for these areas in the Kingdom of Thailand,” said Baldoz, who chairs the POEA governing board.
 
The DFA has already raised crisis Alert Level 2 (Restriction Phase) in Thailand. This allows only the processing and deployment of returning OFWs with existing employment contracts.
 
“We strongly advise our OFWs in Thailand to be vigilant and avoid going out as much as possible, especially if they have nothing important to do outside. They should also stay alert and monitor the events in those areas. If they feel that their security and safety is compromised, they can always go to the Philippine Embassy,” Baldoz said.
 
POEA records show the annual deployment of OFWs to Thailand has declined from 9,204 in 2012 to 6,021 in 2013. Of the 6,021 OFWs deployed to Thailand last year, only 252 were new hires, while 5,769 were re-hires.
 
Republic Act 10022 authorizes the POEA Governing Board, after consultation with the DFA, to impose a ban on the deployment of Filipino migrant workers in pursuit of national interest or when public welfare so requires. — KBK, GMA News

PhilHealth signs agreement with ILO for emergency response during calamities and other disasters



The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the conduct of emergency employment response to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and other calamities and disasters that may arise in the future. Shaking hands after the simple signing ceremonies held in PhilHealth’s Central Office in Pasig City are ILO Director Lawrence Jeff Johnson and PhilHealth President and CEO Alexander A. Padilla.
Also in photo are (L-R) ILO Technical Cooperation Coordinator and Resource Mobilization Officer Ruth Honculada-Georget; and PhilHealth’s OIC-EVP and COO Ramon F. Aristoza, Jr.; Chief Legal Executive Edgar Julio S. Asuncion; and VP-Member Management Group Gregorio C. Rulloda.

PhilHealth Pasig office opens Members Healthcare Access (MHA) Room

THE Local Health Insurance Office of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in Pasig City recently opened its Members Healthcare Access (MHA) Room intended for breastfeeding clients, senior citizens, persons with disability and children tagging along with their parents who have transactions with the LHIO.

This is the first MHA Room among eight LHIOs in the National Capital Region.
The MHA Room is a dedicated area within the LHIO premises which provides maternal, child, first aid care and other related services for persons with special needs. It is a multi-functional room situated near the entrance of the LHIO Pasig office and has an area where breastfeeding mothers can express milk and pregnant women can relax. It also has a separate area where children can play while waiting for their parents/relatives who have PhilHealth transactions. On top of these, the room has a first aid corner and a public assistance desk.

The formal opening ceremony of the MHA Room at the LHIO Pasig at the Development Academy of the Philippines’ building was led by Henry V. Almanon, Manager of PhilHealth’s NCR South Branch and Leticia P. Portugal, Senior Manager of PhilHealth’s Accreditation Department.

Aside from the breastfeeding and kiddie corners, the MHA Room also has a first-aid station where first-level response in emergency care or treatment is provided, and which serves as temporary health management before regular medical aid is obtained. A client who is unable to transact business due to injury and is being treated at the station will have his documents prioritized and processed while undergoing emergency treatment.

At the same time, walk-in clients who have special concerns will be entertained in the Public Assistance and Complaint Desk thus, providing a venue for a thorough discussion of their complaints. Persons with disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizens may also wait in the PWD and Senior Citizens area while their transactions are being processed. They will no longer line-up for their transactions.

The MHA Room is open for free use of clients, Mondays to Fridays, from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M

PhilHealth strengthens benefit package for disease prevention and early detection

To be able to respond to the growing health care needs of its members especially of the poor, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has recently re-introduced its Primary Care Benefit Package under a new brand called TSeKaP or Tamang Serbisyong Kalusugang Pampamilya.


TSeKaP aims to make the said benefit package more endearing to its beneficiaries which include indigent and sponsored members, members of organized groups, and land-based OFWs. PhilHealth extended the said benefit to employees of the Department of Education last year as part of a pilot test.

"Gone are the days when PhilHealth is just remembered when one is sick because our TSeKaP package is here to encourage entitled members and their qualified dependents to avoid getting sick or to even arrest sicknesses early on"PhilHealth President and CEO Alexander A. Padilla said, adding that "disease prevention and early detection saves money, and strengthens the gate-keeping function of primary care facilities which allows tertiary hospitals to maximize their resources on complicated cases."

In due time, PhilHealth said that TSeKaP will be extended to other member categories after careful studies have been made.

TSeKaP consists of essential services aimed at prevention, early detection of diseases and even interventions for healthy living. It includes consultations, visual inspection with acetic acid, regular blood pressure monitoring, periodical breast examination, and health promotion like education on breastfeeding, counseling on lifestyle modification and smoking cessation.

Preventive services also cover body measurements and digital rectal examination while diagnostics such as complete blood count, urinalysis, fecalysis, sputum microscopy, fasting blood sugar, Lipid profile and chest X-ray are also available upon the recommendation of the physician.
"TSeKaP even provides medicines for asthma, acute gastroenteritis with no or mild dehydration, pneumonia, and urinary tract infection" Padilla added.
Qualified beneficiaries can avail of these services at their designated rural health units, health centers or at outpatient departments of government hospitals nearest them in the case of DepEd employees. Land-based OFWs have the option to choose their TSeKaP providers.
Beneficiaries should enlist themselves with TSeKaP providers and be assigned to a primary care physician to enjoy the services within the validity period as indicated in their PhilHealth cards or Member Data Record in the case of land-based OFWs.
The said benefit was first introduced in 2000 to provide adequate access to quality outpatient services and has undergone several enhancements until its re-introduction as TSeKaP to help encourage usage especially among the poor.
"TSeKaP is PhilHealth’s concrete and lasting contribution to ensuring a level of care that is ‘effective, safe, person-centered, comprehensive, integrated and with continuity by a regular and trusted provider" stressed Padilla, partly quoting the World Health Organization’s definition of primary care.

To date, a total of 2,482 outpatient clinics covering at least 93 percent of all cities and municipalities in the country have been accredited as TSeKaP providers and some P2.9B has already been paid for the said package from 2012 to 2013 alone

The Department of Foreign Affairs Regional Consular Office in San Fernando

The Department of Foreign Affairs Regional Consular Office in San Fernando, Pampanga is now accepting the following documents for authentication:
1.    NBI Clearance
2.      NSO issued documents in security paper including Certificate of No Marriage     (CENOMAR)
               
3.      Barangay Certification wI Mayor Certification*

4.      Police Clearance*

     5.      Affidavits of Employment, Trainings/Seminars, and Baptism/Confirmation w/ Regional Trial Court (RTC) Certification*

     6.      Other notarized documents (Special Power of Attorney, Affidavit of Support and Guarantee, Consent, etc.) with RTC Certification*

7.      Medical certifications authenticated by the Department of Health (DOH)

8.      PRC documents**

9.      LTO License Certification (issued by LTO main office only)

     10.   Foreign documents authenticated by Philippine Embassies/Consulates abroad or documents authenticated by Foreign Embassies/Consulates based in the Philippines

    11.   School records (TOR, Diploma, Form 137, etc) with CHED, TESDA, or DepEd Certificate of Authentication and Verification (CAV)**

   12.   School records with CAV issued by State Colleges and Universities**

In case the document needs further verification, the applicant is advised to file at Authentication Division, Aseana Building, corner Bradco Ave., Macapagal Blvd., ParaƱaque City, Metro Manila. The public is reminded that Liaison Officers of Recruitment Agencies are not allowed to tansact authentication services at any Regional Consular Office (RCO).

In addition, an applicant may send an authorized representativeregardless of affinity,  to apply on his behalf. The authorized representative must have a valid ID and has to present a signed authorization letter or Special Power of Attorney from the applicant, a photocopy of the applicant’s ID bearing his signature, and a photocopy of the authorized representative’s ID

Phl Embassy Reminds Filipinos in Malaysia to Carry Identification Documents, Passports

The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur reminded Filipinos in Malaysia to fully complete their immigration documentation and always carry proper identification documents in light of the Malaysian Government’s announced crackdown on undocumented foreign nationals starting January 21.


“We would like to remind our nationals to make sure that their immigration or work documents are in order, and to carry with them proper documents, notably work permit or passport with valid visa, to avoid inconvenience in case of immigration checks,” Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya said.
He also asked employers and agents to hand over any passport and other identification documents to their Filipino employees for the latter’s safety and protection. 
Those who have no status in Malaysia are urged to make arrangements for their voluntary return to the Philippines.  Malaysian authorities have indicated that those who will leave voluntarily will not be prosecuted but will have to pay the overstay fine.
Those who will be caught will be kept in detention while undergoing deportation proceedings, and will be subjected to biometric fingerprint registration to ensure that they would not be able to return to Malaysia under a different name.
The Embassy also reiterated its appeal to those who wish to work in Malaysia to make sure that they have approved work permits or similar papers before they come over or start their work in the country.
The Malaysian Home Ministry announced on January 10 that it will be launching a massive crackdown on undocumented foreign nationals in an operation dubbed “Ops Bersepadu”. 
Expected to be affected by the crackdown are nationals from Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. 
The Malaysian government has recently banned foreign workers from working in fastfood restaurants to prioritize the hiring of locals.
Foreigners, including Filipinos, who travel to Malaysia as tourists, cannot work there legally. They should verify job offers in Malaysia with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) in Manila or the Embassy’s Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) before coming to Malaysia for a job.
The Embassy has been receiving and acting on complaints from Filipinos about individuals who promise to convert their Social Visit Passes into work visas in exchange for money.  A number of Filipinos have become victims of this form of illegal recruitment and fraud.
The Embassy has been closely coordinating with Malaysian Immigration authorities to assist affected Filipinos ever since Malaysia announced an initial crackdown against undocumented foreign workers starting September 1 last year. 

THE CAPTURE OF THE CHILDREN AND THE NATION


By Fr. Shay Cullen

The story of the rescue of Rosemary is heartening and encouraging. When we read about such stories of young children like that of Rosemary being helped and rescued from the clutches of depraved people who are arrested, we rejoice. But we may not know that hundreds of thousands are not rescued, they suffer abuse like Rosemary who was trafficked and sold at 14 years old into sex slavery and bondage. She was rescued, sheltered and healed while many others are not. A charity like Preda Foundation with limited funds can do only so much.

When children are saved by government social workers, police and charity workers, we applaud and approve and our admiration of good organized government services increases. Government is elected by the people, given public trust and paid through taxes on everything to serve the common good. In developing countries like the Philippines, government agencies, one by one have been captured by the rich to serve them rather than the poor. That's why human trafficking and exploitation is on the increase.

It’s been going on for the past many years. President Aquino says he is trying to root it out.  Hundreds of thousands are barely surviving dire poverty and hunger; the children are the most at risk. They totter on the edge of abject poverty. This is now seen in all its shame by the fury of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). It bared the sprawling slums and stripped away the fragile fabric of the hovels of the teeming poor. Dire poverty was laid embarrassingly naked.

Such poverty and social injustice causes unrest, malnutrition, disease and illness. Economists say the Philippines has a strongly growing economy, creating wealth, but for whom? Little of it is reaching the poor. A cheap hungry labor force benefits the rich.

The Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showed that 21 percent of the population, that's 4.3 million people, went hungry at least once in the second half of 2013. In Metro Manila, there was a 10 point increase in hunger up to 26%, that's 738,000 people who went hungry. The poverty rate has not gone down and it is higher since 2005. Meaning the poor still have nothing much in the world and live from meal to meal.

As little as one percent of the population are super rich and own as much as 70% to 90% of the national wealth. They use their wealth as bribes and infiltrate the bureaucracy, police, military and congress and "capture" government agencies and bend them all to support their own interests. Government appears to serve the interests of the rich more than those of the people. Corruption is epidemic. President Aquino, considered clean of corruption himself, has made its elimination the goal of his presidency.

Rosemary was a child of poverty. When her mother died of tuberculoses, Rosemary was taken by a pimp and trafficker who later became a manager of a sex bar frequented by international and local sex tourists. Rosemary was brought up as a sex worker, one of many thousands in the brothels and sex bars of the Philippines into which they are trafficked as human slaves trapped by debt.

This is one of the greatest and most shameful failures of local and national government. The mayor and officials are seemingly "captured" by favors and services, perhaps of the industry and they allow sex industry to thrive. The collusion is sickening. HIV/Aids is spreading again as a result. There is no media or public outcry; there is national collusion it seems to allow sex tourism.

In this beautiful country, the resilient, kind, patient and friendly people are exploited and most don't know it. They are manipulated and conditioned into believing the rich deserve everything they have got and sexual exploitation of even minors is acceptable. 60 years old folk singers can co-habitate with 16 year-old girls and it is judged okay. Mass media re-enforces this. Social media exults in it. Some justify it since they make money. They don't see the forced abortions and the daily abuse and human rights violations. The victims seldom earn money, as most trafficked victims are "captured", by personal debt to the bar owners and cannot escape.

Much like the nation itself, the Philippines is imprisoned by foreign debt on loans that benefit the rich and the poor are paying the interest on that national debt.

The huge increase in electricity charges in Metro Manila last December illustrates the capture of government by the rich elite. The electric power producers took over the national industry through privatization and sweetheart deals with friends in government. Most public utilities are now privatized and owned by the profit-driven wealthy elite. The electricity producers, Aboitiz, Malampaya and a few others with Meralco, mostly using filthy coal plants also approved by their friends in government, allegedly form a monopoly, a price fixing cartel and allegedly colluded to create a false electrical shortage to justify the price increase and thus maximize their obscene profits. They deny all wrong doing.

Besides that, corruption knows no end. Every day, new revelations emerge of one huge scam by government officials in cahoots with the barons of business. Rights advocates are taking a stand and opposing it. Media has the courage and freedom to reveal the truth but many journalists are assassinated as a result.  The dark forces strike back.

SEARCHING FOR ABUSED CHILDREN AND YOLANDA ORPHANS


By Fr. Shay Cullen
Mobile No: Sun +639228768621, Globe +63 917 627 4910

Immediately after the typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the strongest typhoon ever to hit land on 8 Novemberthis year, I wrote an article titled "The Lost Orphans of Yolanda" on 12 November in the knowledge that the children without parents are the most vulnerable to abuse, abduction, malnutrition and human trafficking. Hungry children go wandering off in search of food their parents cannot provide and you see them at city street corners begging and asking strangers for money.

That article on the orphans was based on the initial report that as many as ten thousand people had been killed by the storm surge and high winds and flying debris. The confirmed death toll has reached 6,500 dead and more bodies are uncovered as the debris is gradually removed. It was expected that there would be many homeless, hungry and orphaned children. They tend to be overlooked in the chaos that follows a great storm or disaster.

It was published in several newspapers and online and flew around the world via the internet and seemingly had its desired effect to alert the agencies, government and non-government agencies helping children in the disaster area of Yolanda to be on the lookout for homeless and abandoned orphaned children. Preda Foundation cares for almost 90 children in residential care and fifty in after care and did not have the resources for an immediate relief response until donations began arriving. Then we immediately set off to the disaster areas to assess the damage and the needs of children and learn how best we could help.

The article seemed to ignite a flurry of concern and press releases and stories about the dangers these vulnerable children faced. This may have had a preventive educational impact, I hope so. According to the DSWD Regional Director Bonoan, no orphaned children have been found, and none came into her Manila based evacuation centers. Preda social workers worked there and did not find any orphans there either. However, there are three posters appealing for information about missing children, one as young as 3 years old. Likewise in the Cebu evacuation center which we also visited, none were found according to the officer in charge. In Tacloban, reportedly there were none either, other than one family of five taken by the Council for Inter-county Adoption to an orphanage in Quezon City.

However, with 6500 people dead, it’s highly unusual that no children have been found homeless and orphaned. Perhaps relatives have taken them into their care already as informal fostering and undocumented adoption is customary. Perhaps, the fact that local government is so overwhelmed with so many other problems, they cannot cope or even know if there are orphaned children being sheltered by other families. The greatest concern is the vulnerability of boys and girls to local pimps and recruiters and foreign paedophiles disguised as government officials or charity workers.

Kandy is a 15 year-old victim of human trafficking from Samar. Before the typhoon, her parents fled the poverty and brought her and her sister, 20 years old, to Metro Manila but left them with an auntie and returned to Samar. Her sister Karina was lured to Limay, Bataan, a port, and she was ensnared in a videoke sex bar. The recruiter trafficker then texted Kandy inviting her to come and work in a bakery, she was given advance money and then to pay it off, she was forced to work in another sex videoke bar at Pexsite.  Intimidated and scared, she went and was offered as a live-partner to a Korean. She ran away from this sex-slavery but because of debts, she had to go back to another videoke bar. A concerned citizen texted Preda's hot line and within two days, Preda social workers and legal officer rescued her. She is finding a new life of dignity now at Preda home for trafficked girls. The Preda legal officer filed the criminal charges. The trafficker was arrested and is facing arraignment in Balanga, Bataan, Regional Trial Court.

Many people may know of abducted or recruited children or see trafficking or abuse happening but are afraid to report it or have no one to trust to whom they can safely and anonymously report it and get immediate action. What Preda Foundation does best is immediate response and through its highly trained personnel, it can do undercover surveillance and research on the one hand, and give public community training to develop awareness and trust in communities and empower women and children to report human trafficking and abuse of any kind through texting to the hotline mobile number +63 917 532 4453. The one utility back on in most disaster hit areas is the mobile phone systems.

Besides giving relief foods and seeds to farmers, we need to give this public education and empowerment training seminars to parents and youth on the dangers of falling for the offers of traffickers and spread the message through radio, seminars and puppet shows and distribute information cards with the contact information and hotline number.

This way, the people knowing about trafficked children or adults can report it without fear of retaliation or threats. It's important to involve the local officials and train and hire local youth to take on the preventive educators' job and continue the empowerment and information project. The feedback to the Preda coordinator of any trafficking or child abuse will be met with an immediate response. The hotline number for reporting trafficking or child abuse of any kind is +63 917 532 4453.  We can make this a better world for children at risk.

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS


by Fr. Shay Cullen

When I was growing up, Christmas was a lovely childhood story of the baby Jesus born in a clean looking stable surrounded by his loving parents in clean robes, singing angels, adoring shepherds, kings holding gifts and harmless adoring animals. Yet in reality, it was a hard, cold, miserable time for this impoverished couple, who were like refugees and soon became such, with almost nothing in the world as they fled the killer King Herod to Egypt. They were most likely overwhelmed by the cold bitter weather and hunger like the refugees from the conflict in Syria today, fleeing the cruel “King” Assad. They have only hovels and nowhere else to live. No singing angels for them.

In the Philippines, hundreds of thousands are suffering deprivation like that of Jesus and his parents as they struggle to survive in the ruins caused by the greatest typhoon ever to hit the Philippines. It will be a tough and hungry Christmas for them who still survive under plastic sheets and with relief handouts. With the wind, rains and devastation came another storm - human exploitation and trafficking of the victims and orphaned children.

In the evacuation centers that I visit with a Preda relief team, we see posters showing the photos of 3 to 15 year-olds mysteriously gone missing, most likely stolen and sold. Five children were rescued from traffickers by government social workers. A team of foreigners were bringing the children to Manila for so called "good jobs” but likely for sexual exploitation.

Reggie is a teenage boy whose village was wiped out, flattened by that storm named Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines). He and five others were offered jobs on a big fishing boat by a rich merchant. They took the chance and they worked for weeks on the fishing boat and were then dropped off on land, unpaid and abandoned. They lost their dignity and wages. Reggie lost his freedom too. He was found wandering the Manila streets and imprisoned with youth accused of crimes. That's where we found him and got him freed. He will have a happier Christmas at Preda but over a million will not.

For many true Christians, Christmas is the most important feast of the year. It celebrates the inalienable rights and dignity of all humans. Jesus of Nazareth brought these rights into the world, lived them and taught them. His birth, life, and death were a turning point in the history of the world. The human rights of the poor, the oppressed, the victims of violations, the landless, and the hungry were proclaimed in his sermon on the mount.

The rights of children were established when he said that children were the most important in the Kingdom of God, whoever accepts them accepts Him. He introduced a new era but it has taken two thousand years for these rights to be truly respected, implemented, and defended. Christmas is the time to re-establish these values and rights in our hearts and minds, in our families and society.

Christmas is time too for family reunions, sharing of gifts, symbols of life and friendship. It is a time for renewing bonds and strengthening our spiritual values, and reflecting on the mystery of life.

Easter is equally important, it celebrates the triumph of good over evil, life over death, the weak over the powerful, death and resurrection; it also has the painful story of the suffering, torture and execution of Jesus of Nazareth, a good and loving man, Son of God, Son of Man, friend to all, Messiah of the downtrodden and the oppressed. That is a painful, but powerfully inspiring story.

Yet the Christmas story of His birth, the outcast family, poor and homeless, a child born in a cave or a hovel with animals and impoverished peasants, is for many people, more special. It celebrates caring and love, friendship and family. It’s inspiring too that in such poverty, God brought  about the birth of a great spiritual leader and teacher and prophet destined to challenge the ruling elites, defy the oppressors of the poor and bring values into the world that would change it and turn it inside out.

Jesus from Nazareth, a child from nowhere, became the greatest teacher the world has never forgotten despite many trying to deny, ignore and quash those values and rights. We must defend them to the end. Each of us can rediscover this great truth and experience the meaning of Christmas by renewing our faith and finding our spiritual strength to act to save the exploited, the abused and the hungry.

I thank all the good people who have supported the work at the Preda center here in Olongapo city and have donated generously to the appeal for the survivors of the typhoon whom we are helping by bringing relief directly to them. May all have a blessed and holy Christmas.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

4 Pinoy seafarers arrive home after six-month detention in Argentina

After a six-month detention in Argentina, four Filipino seafarers arrived home Sunday afternoon to the warm embraces of their families.

The four — Harvey Baladjay, Stephen Nalumen, Ryan Lagumbay, and Vicente Siguan — were detained in August after being accused of throwing four African stowaways overboard.

A news release from ANGKLA, a party-list group representing Filipino seafarers, said lack of jurisdiction was cited as reason behind the four's release.

Through their families, the four, maintaining their innocence, sought assistance from the Philippine government in their case.

“Hindi talaga kami nawalan ng pag-asa. Alam namin na hindi kami pababayaan ng Diyos. Malaking bagay ang suporta ng pamilya namin,” said Joy Nalumen, Stephen's wife, who wrote the letter to ANGKLA seeking assistance for the four seafarers' case.

Philippine Ambassador to Argentina Rey Carandang said the four seafarers were released under the custody of the Philippine Embassy.

The four arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 aboard Emirates flight EK 332 at 4 p.m. Sunday. They were welcomed by their families and various government officials.

“We have been praying and fighting for their repatriation for months now," said Bienvenido Lagumbay, brother of Ryan. “If it weren’t for our family—these Filipino seafarers could still be there in their detention cells in Argentina."

“Now we can really start the year right—with our family complete," he added.  Rie Takumi/LBG/KBK, GMA News

Help sought for hospitalized OFW in Saudi Arabia

The family of an overseas Filipino worker who suffered a stroke in Saudi Arabia has appealed for help to be able to bring her home.

A report on “24 Oras” Monday said the family of Novelita Perez could not afford the bill worth 200,000 riyal (P2 million) she incurred for her four-month hospital stay in Jeddah.



The report said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has agreed to shoulder the cost to bring Perez home, adding it is just waiting approval from the Office of Fiscal Management.

Migrants' rights group Migrante has also promised assistance, the “24 Oras” report said. — KBK, GMA News

Dubai court sentences housewife to 15 years for torturing Pinay, Ethiopian maids

A United Arab Emirates court on Monday sentenced an Emirati housewife to 15 years in jail for torturing her Ethiopian and Filipina maids.
 
The Ethiopian maid died after she was forced to drink pesticide and developed pneumonia due to her infected wounds, UAE-based news site Gulf News reported.
 
In its decision, the Dubai Court of First Instance also found the housewife prevented the Ethiopian from “getting proper and timely medication” for her infected wounds.
 
The Filipina maid, 30, was also unfed and locked up in the housewife's Al Rashidiya residence for more than a month.
 
Judge Urfan Omar likewise sentenced the housewife to another month and fined her Dh2,000 for beating a third maid.
 
The court also ordered the Emirati's husband jailed for three years for allegedly aiding his wife by preparing a room with sealed windows at the top of the villa for the maids.
 
But the couple pleaded not guilty.
 
The Gulf News report quoted the court as saying the couple was responsible for the Ethopian's death "because they prevented the victim from having proper and timely medication to treat the wounds that became infected and developed into pneumonia.”
 
In her testimony, the Filipina said the housewife would beat them with sticks while they were naked, and would bang their heads against the wall until they bled.
 
“She did not feed us properly and locked us up for long periods. She beat us with sticks until they broke on our bodies. She constantly threatened to send me to jail because her husband worked in the court. Her brutality and torture made me consider absconding… but I failed to do so because we were confined all the time. She prevented me from calling my parents," she said.
 
Also, she said the housewife also forced them to drink detergent, adding they would go so hungry they would search for food in the dustbin.
 
The Filipina said the housewife once forced her to drink bleach mixed with Dettol because she did not like the way she cleaned the bathroom.
 
“She beat us brutally until we bled. She used to remove our clothes and force us into the washroom where she would take pictures of us naked and threaten to send them to our friends," she said.  — ELR, GMA News
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