Monday, March 31, 2014

Bad hair days ahead? PHL finding it hard to hire beauticians, barbers



Are Filipinos in for more bad hair days soon?

The Philippines had experienced a shortage in hairdressers, barbers and beauticians in 2011 up to mid-2012, a Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) survey revealed.

Over a thousand vacancies for these jobs were left unfilled during this period, making the DOLE consider hairdressers, barbers and beauticians as among the most “hard-to-fill” occupations in the country.

Beautician and salon owner Jay Macasaddo attested to this fact. In the past year, he saw four of his colleagues pack their styling kits to work abroad, or in another salon.

“Mahirap kasi, lalo na ngayon. Kung senior hairstylist, dapat alam mo lahat. Kulang na, actually. Parang lahat na nagpupunta abroad. Kasi nga mas malaki ang kita abroad than here,” he said in an interview aired over GMA News TV's "News To Go."

Macasaddo has also been trying to hire a senior stylist for his salon for a week now, but to no avail.

According to the same DOLE survey, it usually takes more than two months for vacancies for “service workers” like beauticians and barbers to be filled.

Not making the cut

Barber Reynaldo Panisan, meanwhile, has been pulling his hair out everyday just to make ends meet.  During low days, he earns P250—way below the daily minimum wage in Metro Manila, which the DOLE pegged at P466.

Despite this, Panisan still likes what he does. He said he particularly likes exchanging stories with his fellow barbers.

“Hindi ka bilad sa maghapon. Andito ka lang sa shop. Tapos kwentuhan lang kayo ng mga kasama mo sa trabaho,” he said.

The DOLE, however, said expectations of a high salary is only partly to blame for the country's shortage in beauticians, barbers and hairdressers.

The main reason why some job vacancies in the country remained unfilled despite the high unemployment rate in the Philippines was that most applicants just do not make the cut.

According to the DOLE survey, one-third of business establishments in the country considered “lack of competency” as the reason why they are finding it difficult to recruit new hires.

The problem was most pronounced in the outsourcing business, where over 63,000 vacancies for call center agents went unfilled from 2011 to mid-2012.

In the television report, DOLE spokesman Nicon Fameronag said his agency has been coordinating with the Department of Education (DepEd) to properly train graduates in their chosen fields.

Earlier this month, the National Statistics Office said unemployment in the Philippines went up to 2.9 million in January 2014 against 2.7 million a year ago. — Andreo Calonzo/KBK, GMA News

RELIGIONS UNITE AGAINST TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS


By Fr. Shay Cullen

It was a solemn moment in the great meeting hall in the Vatican where the joint agreement and statement was to be signed by the representatives of the great world religions. It was not some lofty, irrelevant declaration to work for mutual respect for different faiths but to launch the “Global Freedom Network." Its goal is to eradicate modern forms of slavery and human trafficking.

The agreement to work together was because they shared abhorrence at the growing numbers of victims and the "searing personal destructiveness of modern slavery and human trafficking." The statement calls for "urgent action by all other Christian Churches and global faiths." This is a historical cooperation agreement and gives hope to many that people of faith will work together to stop it or reduce it significantly. 

Pope Francis was represented by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences. Present too were Mahmoud Azab, on behalf of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt, Rev. Sir John Moxon, on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, and Andrew Forrest, founder of the Walk Free Foundation. It is an important undertaking and a major change in church policy and practice. In the past, it was generally ignored, now it is taking center stage.

This modern form of slavery comes as bonded labor where people are enslaved to pay a debt, or pressured and threatened if they don't work as unpaid labor and worst, trafficked into sex slavery. The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million trafficked victims (55 percent) compared to 9.5 million (45 percent) men. Most of the girls and women are forced into sex bars and clubs and brothels that are operated with local government permits in the Philippines and elsewhere.

Thousands of young teenage children, mostly girls are lured away from their families and villages with offers of fine jobs and are sold into brothels from where they have no escape. There is an estimated 25 million people in slavery today, an illegal business that generates as much as US$34 billion a year. It is estimated that US$15 billion is generated in the developed countries.

The trafficking of children and rape even in a police station is shocking but all too frequent. Take the case of the latest child victim at the Preda center for abused children. Jezebel was only 13 years old when her stepfather tried to rape her but she was quick and agile enough to escape his clutches and ran away. She found a job in a store in Limay, Bataan but was accused of stealing and was brought to the Limay police station.

There, after a while, she was forced into an empty cell by a prisoner trustee and was raped. The police officer on duty saw her being raped and ignored it. Some days later, Jezebel with her trusted aunt, went back to the police station to file a charge of rape but the female police officer did not give them a certificate to have a medico-legal examination and they were advised to forget it. A case was filed but after several months, the prosecutor in Balanga, Bataan has not acted on it. That’s the state of justice and the Church and human rights advocates ought to take up this case and go write to the media, the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of Interior and Local Government about this case.

The Vatican press statement underlined just how important this move is where millions of children are raped every year like Jezebel. According to the Joint Statement, "Modern slavery and human trafficking are crimes against humanity. The physical, economic, and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemns 30 million people to dehumanization and degradation. Every day we let this tragic situation continue is a grievous assault on our common humanity and a shameful affront to the consciences of all peoples. Any indifference to those suffering and exploitation must cease. We call to action all people of faith and their leaders, all governments and people of goodwill, to join the movement against modern slavery and human trafficking and support the Global Freedom Network."

This is such a serious and growing problem that group action of protest and demanding government to fight it, not support it. That seems to be case at present.  We have to take a stand and speak out. Silence can even be misunderstood as consent. The faith that does not flow over into action for justice is dead, says Saint James. We cannot be the walking dead, we need to be filled with the spirit and have compassion and concern and take action. Faith is at its highest point when we become disciples of Jesus and go imitate the good done by the Samaritan.

There is an important challenge to all of us in this statement and initiative. Taking action to save the victims of abuse and exploitation is what Jesus of Nazareth did and expect the same from his followers.  (shaycullen@preda.org,  www.preda.org) 

VP Binay to undocumented OFWs: Get documented

By CHARED VERSCHUUR-BALLO


THE HAGUE, The Netherlands — Vice President Jejomar Binay met with Filipino migrants here last week and urged those undocumented to work on getting documented for their own good.

Binay, the presidential adviser on OFW concerns, shared this advice during his meeting with top leaders of non-government organizations here last week, and during a lecture at the Institute of Social Studies.

Vice President Jejomar Binay met with NGO leaders and attended a lecture at Institute of Social Studies in The Netherlands last week. Photo by Chared Verschuur-Ballo
The meetings were part of his travel to the Netherlands to represent the Philippines to the National Security Summit.

“The government faces a big problem with undocumented migrants. Being undocumented means that the government does not know that the migrant is in a certain country. If something happens to them, how can we help them?” said Binay.

He added that it is not only easier for the government to reach out to a migrant when he/she is documented, being so also lessens the stress on a migrant's family.

He cited the current situation in Syria where the government is having a hard time contacting undocumented Filipinos. He said even if the government wants to repatriate them, it is not possible as the government does not know where they are.

He called on Filipinos who want to work abroad to go through official channels and avoid illegal recruiters so that they can properly prepare for their trip abroad.

He noted that documented Filipinos undergo the needed seminars and workshops before leaving the country, making them psychologically prepared for a new culture.

“All those who are documented get the right support like seminars before they leave our country,” Binay said. “This prepares them emotionally and psychologically. It lessens the possibility of culture shock.”

He said those undocumented “usually enter a country with a tourist visa and just stay longer and take on jobs, most often illegally.”

“It is very stressful for someone who is new to a country to just figure out how to find a job when he's already in that country. This leads to unnecessary stress which is only one of the things we are trying to avoid here,” added Binay.

The Netherlands is home to about 18,000 Filipinos. — KBK, GMA News

PHL Embassy in Tokyo open half-day on Maundy Thursday



The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo will be open for transactions in the morning of Maundy Thursday, April 17.

In an advisory, the embassy said it will be closed after noon of Maundy Thursday, in observance of the Lenten season.

"(P)lease be informed that the Consular Section of the Philippine Embassy will be open to receive transactions and consular applications only in the morning of Maundy Thursday, 17 April 2014, from 9 a.m. to (noon)," it said.

The Embassy will be closed on Good Friday, April 18. — LBG, GMA News

DFA: Longer passport processing days in next 3 weeks


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday announced longer processing days for electronic passports from April 1 to April 15.

Passport applications will take more time to process in the next three weeks due to technical maintenance, the DFA said in a statement.

The following are the new e-passport releasing schedules, depending on where the application will be made:
 
  • 10 to 20 working days for applications at the Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) at the Aseana Business Park along Macapagal Boulevard in Parañaque, and in satellite offices located inside selected malls;
  • 15 to 25 working days for applications in regional consular offices;
  • 5 to 6 weeks for applications in foreign service posts, such as Philippine embassies in consulates.

Passport applications made at the OCA building and in selected malls normally take seven to 15 working days without the scheduled maintenance.  

The normal processing time for passport applications in regional consular offices, meanwhile, is 10 to 20 working days, while foreign service posts usually take three to four weeks.

The DFA assured the public that it is "exhausting all its efforts in providing a better service to the Filipinos, locally and abroad."

"The public’s utmost understanding and cooperation is requested during the implementation of these temporary passport release dates," it said. — Andreo Calonzo/KBK, GMA News

Pinoy fashion to grace the runways of Canada

Filipino pride is poised to once again sweep across the nation and the world, with Canada Philippine Fashion Week (CPFW) set to showcase Filipino culture, creativity, and artistry through chic, fresh, and fabulous fashion designs in the runways of Toronto, Canada from June 9 to 14, 2014.
 
Filipino icons, visionaries, and rising stars in the field of fashion are joining forces to not only promote and nurture Filipinos’ fashion talent in the Philippines and Canada but also aid children with disabilities in both countries through the Kol Hope Foundation for Children.

CPFW is founded by Filipino-Canadian Executive Director Jeff Rustia. While relatively young, CPFW has already earned nods from prestigious organizations in and out of the Philippines, leading it to garner distinctions such as the FEO 2014 Award for Best New Festival of the Year. CPFW has made a name for itself both as a fashion and travel event that is a must-see in Toronto, Canada.

As a teaser for things to come, CPFW held a press conference in the Shangri-La Hotel in the Philippines. Fil-Am models wowed the crowd with clothes boasting of intricate designs that can only come from Filipinos’ ingenuity and border-less imaginations. These one-of-a-kind creations were a hit among the country’s fashion-savvy residents and attracted high-profile personalities including the Philippine Consul General.

The Canada Philippine Fashion Week is endorsed by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Tourism. It is also receiving support from the Ontario government through the Ministry of Tourism, Sport, and Culture. — GMA International

Pinay maid escapes death in Malaysia car crash

A Filipina maid escaped death in a road accident that killed at least three people in Malaysia on the morning of March 24.

The Filipina, initially identified as Bacuyad Shanda, suffered a fractured hand in the incident, Malaysia's The Star Online reported.

Shanda was confined at the Parit Buntar Hospital, the report said.

Killed in the accident were her employer Teoh Yee Wei, 36; eldest son Heng Dy Hong, 5; and youngest daughter Sin Ye, 1.

The family had celebrated Sin Ye’s birthday only last March 6.

The three died of head injuries after they were thrown out of their multipurpose vehicle when it rammed a lorry on the North-South Expressway in Nibong Tebal at 6:30 a.m. last Monday.

On the other hand, Teoh's husband Heng Cheng Hang, 37, who was driving, and daughter Sin Le, 2, received outpatient treatment at the Parit Buntar Hospital for minor injuries.

"The family was heading to Kuala Lumpur when the incident happened. We believe the Toyota Vellfire was going uphill when the driver lost control and crashed into the back of the lorry," the report quoted Bandar Baharu acting OCPD Assistant Superintendent Azmi Abu Bakar as saying.

Meanwhile, he said lorry driver Tan Kim Liang, 56, was not injured.

For his part, Heng said he was angry that "no one stopped to help when I waved frantically at the passing vehicles.”

Heng said he was on his way back to Kuala Lumpur after visiting his father on Friday. — LBG, GMA News

PHL Embassy in Tokyo open half-day on Maundy Thursday

The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo will be open for transactions in the morning of Maundy Thursday, April 17.

In an advisory, the embassy said it will be closed after noon of Maundy Thursday, in observance of the Lenten season.

"(P)lease be informed that the Consular Section of the Philippine Embassy will be open to receive transactions and consular applications only in the morning of Maundy Thursday, 17 April 2014, from 9 a.m. to (noon)," it said.

The Embassy will be closed on Good Friday, April 18. — LBG, GMA News

Friday, March 28, 2014

Farmers, fisherfolk to get full subsidies for SSS contributions from DA


In its continuing campaign to extend social protection to informal sector workers, the Social Security System (SSS) has formalized a key partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the latter to fully subsidize farmers' monthly SSS contributions as self-employed members.

The agreement is expected to benefit up to 200,000 agricultural workers nationwide who may qualify for the subsidy as members of Rural Based Organizations (RBOs) or Community Extension Workers (CEWs) in good standing, with 100 farmers already selected as the first batch of beneficiaries.

Despite their invaluable role in our nation's food security, farmers often struggle with seasonal incomes and their livelihood's vulnerability against typhoons, floods and other whims of nature.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. and Agricultural Secretary Proseso Alcala signed the agreement during ceremonies at the DA Main Office in Diliman, Quezon City on March 14, with SSS Senior Vice President Judy Frances See and DA-Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Director Asterio Saliot in attendance as witnesses.

Apart from farmers, fisherfolk will also be added to the list of beneficiaries for the subsidized SSS contributions. At present, over 450,000 farmers and fisherfolk are covered by SSS as self-employed members.

The DA-ATI, with RBOs and CEWs as its partners, implements extension and training activities to promote state-initiated food sufficiency programs and other priority thrusts of the DA. The subsidy for SSS contributions forms part of DA-ATI's compensation for the qualified members of RBOs and designated CEWs. Included in the list of RBOs are Rural Improvement Clubs (RIC); the youth-based 4H Clubs; Pambansang Mananalon, Mag-uuma, Magbabaul, Magsasaka (P4MP); Magsasaka Siyentista (MS); and Indigenous People (IP).

The subsidies will be based on P3,000 monthly salary credit, which is equivalent to a contribution of P330 per month. DA-ATI Regional Offices will remit the contributions to SSS quarterly via bank deposits as well as submit a regular payment list showing the beneficiaries of the monthly subsidies.

Many farmers and fisherfolk lack social security coverage and face difficulties in remitting regular contributions. This is something that SSS aims to address through initiatives such as its new partnership with DA

78 Filipinos, Indonesians pass caregiver exam in Japan

Kyodo News


TOKYO - Seventy-eight applicants from Indonesia and the Philippines passed the fiscal 2013 national examination qualifying them to work as caregivers in Japan, the health ministry said Thursday.
The number of successful foreign applicants dropped by 50 from the previous year and the pass rate of foreigners was 36.3 percent, down 3.5 percentage points from a year before, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
It was the third year foreign applicants took the examination. Japan has allowed Indonesian and Filipino nationals to work as nurses and caregivers under bilateral free trade agreements with the two Southeast Asian nations.
To overcome the language barrier, the ministry has given foreign exam takers special treatment, such as extra time to complete the test and placing "furigana" readings over Chinese characters in questions.
Even so, the pass rate of foreigners was considerably lower than the overall pass rate of 64.6 percent.
Of the 78 successful candidates, 46 were Indonesians and 32 were from the Philippines. They prepared for the exam while working at nursing care facilities in Japan.

Spain clarifies legislation offering citizenship

ABS-CBNnews.com


MANILA – Excited about the news circulating on the internet that Spain is extending citizenship to those whose last names appear on a certain list?
Well, you can rejoice only if you're a sure descendant of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.
"The Spanish government wants to bring them back as reparation for past mistakes that is why we are tracing them to offer them citizenship," explained Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Domecq.
Filipinos, many of whom got excited about the prospect of acquiring Spanish citizenship, quickly caught the spreading news on social media sites.
"Nakaka-excite kasi syempre ang laking opportunity yun," said Kimmi Angela Abella whose surname is included in the list.
The embassy of Spain in Manila has been receiving emails and queries since the news broke out.
Reuters reported last month that the Spanish government approved a law which would allow descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled in 1942 to seek Spanish nationality without giving up their current citizenship.
Majority of the descendants of Sephardic Jews are living in Europe and America and the chances of Filipinos coming from this lineage is slim even though many carry the same last names.
"Ang mga Pilipino noon pare-pareho ang apelido. Nahihirapan silang kumuha ng buwis. Dahil dito, taong 1849 nang ipag-utos ni Gobernador Heneral na si Narciso Claveria ang pagkakaroon ng sistema sa pangalan ng mga Pilipino," explained historian, Dr. Vic Torres of the De la Salle University.
The Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos became the list for which Filipinos select the last names that would represent their families.
"Hindi ibig sabihin nito may kamag-anak ka na agad sa Espanya," Dr. Torres said.
But Spain is not closing its doors on the Philippines. In fact, it is easy for Filipinos to obtain Spanish citizenship compared to other countries.
"Any Filipino who lives in Spain for two years can apply for Spanish citizenship," said Ambassador Domecq, adding that it is part of the privilege extended to Filipinos because of Spain's long history in the Philippines. Report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

9 arrested over falsification of training certificates for seamen



Government agents have arrested nine people who were believed to be part of a group involved in the falsification of training certificate for aspiring seafarers.

The nine were arrested based on a complaint filed by Mariners Polytechnic Training Center (MPTC), a training school for seafarers located on Kalaw Street in Manila, a report on GMA News' “24 Oras” said on Monday.

According to the report, the group sells fake training certificates to aspiring seamen for at least P5,000 using MPTC's name.

Holders of the fake certificate don't have to undergo an eight-day training in order to become a certified seaman, the report said.

“Ang claim ng mga respondents, mayroon daw silang kilala from the government,” said Merly Jimenez-San Pedro of MPTC in the report.

Of the nine arrested individuals, only one — Agapito Junio — was identified. They will be charged with falsification of commercial documents.

The report said based on the investigation conducted by the Questioned Documents Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), there is a big difference between the fake training certificate and the authentic one, especially on the type of paper used and on how the document is printed.

The NBI, meanwhile, appealed to aspiring seafarers not to resort to fixers in securing their documents.

“Hangga't maaari, huwag silang makipag-usap sa labas ng opisina,” said lawyer Cesar Bacani, chief of the NBI Anti-Fraud and Action Division, in the same report. — KBK, GMA News

DFA: Longer passport processing days in next 3 weeks




The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday announced longer processing days for electronic passports from April 1 to April 15.

Passport applications will take more time to process in the next three weeks due to technical maintenance, the DFA said in a statement.

The following are the new e-passport releasing schedules, depending on where the application will be made:
 
  • 10 to 20 working days for applications at the Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) at the Aseana Business Park along Macapagal Boulevard in Parañaque, and in satellite offices located inside selected malls;
  • 15 to 25 working days for applications in regional consular offices;
  • 5 to 6 weeks for applications in foreign service posts, such as Philippine embassies in consulates.

Passport applications made at the OCA building and in selected malls normally take seven to 15 working days without the scheduled maintenance.  

The normal processing time for passport applications in regional consular offices, meanwhile, is 10 to 20 working days, while foreign service posts usually take three to four weeks.

The DFA assured the public that it is "exhausting all its efforts in providing a better service to the Filipinos, locally and abroad."

"The public’s utmost understanding and cooperation is requested during the implementation of these temporary passport release dates," it said. — Andreo Calonzo/KBK, GMA News

Pinoys in Saudi laud signing of GPH-MILF peace deal


 
One more step towards peace in Mindanao
One more step towards peace in Mindanao. President Benigno Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak witness the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the MILF in Malacañang on Thursday, March 27. The agreement was signed by MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal and GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, with Tengku Dato' Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed of Malaysia as witness. Ryan Lim
Filipinos in Saudi Arabia on Friday hailed the signing of a landmark peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“We are happy indeed,” Abdulgafar Dimalutang, head of the Magdalo chapter in Riyadh, was quoted as saying in a report on Arab News.

Usman Pangandaman Salimbo, a member of OFW Congress, meanwhile described the peace deal as “a dream come true.”

“The signing of the peace deal marked the culmination of 17 years of peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government,” said Salimbo in the same report.

The Arab News report said Salimbo served as mayor of Masiu town in Lanao del Sur province in Mindanao from 1988 to 1992.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)—signed in a well-attended event in Malacañang on Thursday—will pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which President Benigno Aquino III once described as a “failed experiment.”

Ely Mua, chairman of the 2,000-member United OFW in Riyadh, also lauded the signing.

“We will keep our fingers crossed that after years of intense fighting between the MILF and government troops, peace will finally reign on Mindanao island,” said Mua, a native of Zamboanga City in Mindanao, in the same Arab News report.

“We are now hoping that the Philippine Congress will craft a Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he added.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law will formalize the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity.

Among those who attended the signing ceremony was Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah. — KBK, GMA News

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Palace dismisses calls to sack MARINA chief



Malacañang on Wednesday defended Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) head Maximo Mejia, who is being asked to resign due to alleged incompetence.

“That’s not true. We disagree with that," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press conference.

He was reacting to the statement of the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) saying Mejia should resign or be replaced for his alleged failure to address the problems of the seafaring industry.

Lacierda, however, said MARINA has been instituting a lot of reforms lately. He did not elaborate.

In a March 20 statement, UFS president Ramon Ramirez said long lines, long processing times, and a sub-par replacement of an international standard foreshadows a “bleak future” for the shipping industry under Mejia's administration.

“The Filipino seafarers are disgusted... over the lack of foresight of MARINA to confront problems and provide solutions and worried that if such incompetence continues, we will end up with no jobs,” he said. — Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News

Pag-IBIG Branches get 100% passing rate in Anti-Red Tape Survey, 7 rated Excellent

Pag-IBIG Fund delivered when the Civil Service Commission called for servant-heroes
among the government agencies, with Pag-IBIG employees enabling all 22 branches that
underwent the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA) surveys in 2013 to get passing scores, with 7
achieving Excellent ratings.

Seven Pag-IBIG branches and offices – Calapan, Naga, Kalibo, Tacloban, Cebu South, 
Davao, and Koronadal received Excellent ratings. Of these, Naga, Cebu South, and 
Davao have also been conferred the Citizen’s Satisfaction Center Seal of Excellence after 
being validated for their Excellent performance in the surveys. Eleven branches received 
Good ratings – Caloocan, Cubao, Imus, Baguio, Vigan, Isabela, Malolos, Dumaguete, 
Cagayan de Oro, Dipolog, and Kidapawan, while four were graded Acceptable – 
Dinalupihan, Batangas, Capiz, and Butuan. 

“Pag-IBIG’s 100% passing rate in the ARTA survey, as well as the Seals of Excellence
and Excellent ratings awarded by the CSC to Pag-IBIG branches, are testaments to Pag-
IBIG’s commitment to provide exemplary service to our members,” said Pag-IBIG
Chairman Jejomar C. Binay.

Pag-IBIG President Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe further shared that “Our Chairman 
of the Pag-IBIG Board, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, constantly reminds us to raise 
the bar of public service, reaching out to more of our members and making their 
availment of Pag-IBIG services convenient and hassle-free. Our recognitions show that 
Pag-IBIG employees go beyond mere compliance with what ARTA requires; we push for 
excellence in our work as we serve our 13.5 million members worldwide. Much still 
needs to be done from our end, and we continuously innovate to provide better programs 
and services to our members. We are thankful of, as well as mindful of, the laudable 
initiatives of the CSC to ensure government servants are on their toes in providing quality 
service.” 
 
From January to December 2013, CSC surveyed 929 government services offices from 
40 government agencies and 4 state universities & colleges. CSC recently announced 
that 67 government offices failed the survey.

From January to December 2013, CSC surveyed 929 government services offices from 
40 government agencies and 4 state universities & colleges. CSC recently announced 
that 67 government offices failed the survey. 
 
The ARTA survey checks on the compliance of government agencies with the provisions 
of Republic Act 9485 or the ARTA. The law promotes integrity, accountability, and 
proper management of public affairs and public property, and establishes effective 
practices aimed at the prevention of graft and corruption in government. 

The survey covers two areas: Compliance with ARTA Provisions, and Over-all Client Satisfaction. 
ARTA provisions include the availability of the agency’s Citizen’s Charter, Anti-Fixer 
Campaign, Identification or Nameplates of employees, No Hidden Costs on services, Public Assistance & Complaints Desk, and No Lunch Break. Client Satisfaction 
considers the presence of Frontline Service Provider/s, Service Quality, Physical Set-up 
or Lay-out, Basic Facilities, and Respondent-Client Satisfaction.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hong Kong fails to protect human trafficking victims – report

HONG KONG - Hong Kong is failing to protect victims of human trafficking for forced labor, a report said Monday, calling for new legislation to prevent "modern-day slavery" in a city which relies heavily on migrant workers.

The report comes at a time of growing anger over the abuse of foreign domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city, and a day before the trial of a Hong Kong employer accused of torturing her Indonesian maid is set to resume.

"Current legislation merely prohibits human trafficking 'for the purpose of prostitution', but not for the purpose of forced labor or other forms of trafficking," said the joint report by Justice Centre Hong Kong and Liberty Asia.

New legislation expanding the definition of trafficking would help in tackling forced labor abuse by perpetrators including placement agencies, loan companies and employers, it said.

"Recent allegations of domestic helper abuse in Hong Kong bear many of the characteristics of forced labor," said report co-author Victoria Wisniewski Otero, adding that a comprehensive anti-trafficking law could help protect the city's maids.

Hong Kong is home to nearly 300,000 domestic helpers, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines, and criticism from rights groups over their treatment is growing.

In January, 44-year-old housewife Law Wan-tung was charged with assault relating to her treatment of her maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who was reportedly left unable to walk following eight months of abuse. The employer was also charged with abusing two previous Indonesian maids.

Sulistyaningsih had been admitted to an Indonesian hospital in critical condition after returning home.

The incident triggered anger from thousands of domestic helpers who took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand justice.

The problem of forced labor is only deepening as Hong Kong widens its search for cheap sources of labor, according to the report.

"The main reason for trafficking is simple: Hong Kong has a high demand for cheap labor and there is a proximate abundance of supply from neighboring countries in the Asia-Pacific region," it said.

In February, Hong Kong received its first official group of maids from Myanmar, as the city tries to plug a shortage of domestic helpers.

Around 200 are expected to arrive in the city over the next three months, but activists have expressed fears that Myanmar women are one of the groups most vulnerable to abuse due to their limited skills in English and Cantonese.

In September, a Hong Kong couple were jailed for savagely beating their Indonesian domestic helper, including burning her with an iron and hitting her with a bicycle chain.

Amnesty International in November condemned the "slavery-like" conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong and accused authorities of "inexcusable" inaction. — Agence France-Presse

25th Bataan Memorial Death March in US draws more than 6,000 attendees

The Bataan Memorial Death March celebrated its 25th anniversary last March 22 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico (NM).

Begun more than 70 years after the original Bataan Death March, the event—which serves to commemorate the survivors and victims—drew in more than 6,200 participants, according to news site Carlsbad Current-Argus. Among the attendees were 13 Bataan survivors, almost all of them in their 90's.

"There was nothing to eat and nothing to drink, and you had to keep marching," Eugene Schmitz, a 96-year-old survivor, told El Paso Times.

He added, "Many fell by the wayside on that march. You couldn't help them; you just kept going, wondering if you were going to be next."

In 1989, ROTC cadet Ray Pickering suggested a memorial event commemorating World War II to his instructor at New Mexico State University.

Alamogordo Daily News reported that the memorial marathon was opened to civilians in 1993.

Military officers and ROTC candidates were placed in a separate category apart from civilians, but both trekked 26.2 miles of sand for the course. Those who could not go through the full marathon instead settled for the Bataan Honorary March, which only covered 14.2 miles.

Filipino and American forces were forced to march from Bataan to Tarlac in April 1942, after the Japanese Army beat the allied forces at the battle of Bataan. The US Army website states that civilians and prisoners alike were slaughtered during the 65 mile walk, though the exact number is still unknown. — Rie Takumi/VC, GMA News

OFW in Jeddah dies while on the phone with wife

Tags: Saudi Arabia
Cardiac arrest claimed the life of a Filipino overseas worker in Jeddah on March 8 while he was on the phone with his wife, a Saudi news report said.

Arnel Casilie, a cook for a restaurant on Tahliya Street for the last 17 years, collapsed and died in a convenience store before his co-workers were able to bring him to a hospital, reported Saudi Gazette on Sunday.

“I could not believe seeing somebody died in front of me and the worst is he was talking to his wife on an overseas call at that time,” Alex, who witnessed Casilie's death during his shift at the convenience store, told Filipino Times Sunday.

According to Saudi Gazette, Casilie's co-workers had advised him to take a leave from work and get a check-up days before the incident happened because Caslie had complained of body pains. Ronald Luna, one of his co-workers, said Casilie was diabetic and had high blood pressure.

Philippine Consul General Uriel Norman Garibay urged Filipinos to "remember our families back home" and take better care of their health.

"Life is precious. We should take good care of it. A regular medical check-up is very important, exercise regularly and eat healthy food," Saudi Gazette quoted Garibay as saying. — BM, GMA News

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yolanda, Pinoy resilience discussed at White House meeting with Fil-Am leaders

Leaders and organizations from New York were among those invited. White House photo
On March 14, the White House Initiative on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the White House Office of Public Engagement brought together 175 Filipino-American leaders at the White House to discuss key issues of importance to the community.

Participants came from diverse sectors of society – non-profits, businesses, government, and philanthropy – and traveled from the far reaches of the country, including New York, California, and even Hawaii.

The briefing opened with remarks by the Honorable Lorna Schofield, the first Filipino-American Article III federal judge, who spoke about her journey to becoming a lifetime judge and how her mother encouraged her to reach for her dreams.

In the wake of the devastation brought on by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Philippines, Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), discussed her November 2013 visit to Tacloban and her amazement at the resilience of the Filipino people who were impacted by the typhoon.

To date, the United States has provided more than $87 million in humanitarian funding to the Philippines for Typhoon Haiyan relief.

Gloria Steele, USAID mission director for the Philippines and the Pacific Islands, provided a video testimonial on how the most effective way that people can assist relief efforts is by making cash donations to reputable humanitarian organizations.

Kiran Ahuja, WHIAAPI executive director, engaged participants in an interactive dialogue about the Initiative’s cross-cutting priorities and the reports by the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund Interagency Working Group. She also highlighted several efforts to better connect the AAPI community with the federal government, including WHIAAPI’s call for ideas to expand opportunities for AAPIs and request for feedback on federal agency plans.

Representatives from the White House National Security Council and Domestic Policy Council, US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Small Business Administration shared updates on the President’s planned trip to the Philippines in April, commonsense immigration reform, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Affordable Care Act, and small business resources.

In group breakouts, participants discussed how the administration can continue to partner with FilAm leaders and organizations to serve the community’s needs.

The briefing closed with remarks by Cris Comerford, the first FilAm White House Executive Chef, who encouraged participants to continue persevering in their efforts to uplift the community.

As a proud second-generation Filipino American, I continue to be inspired by community leaders throughout the country who have worked collaboratively to help our kababayan, or fellow countrymen – whether it’s providing humanitarian assistance in the Philippines or spreading awareness about key federal resources throughout the United States. I look forward to continued collaboration, advocacy, and engagement between the FilAm community and the federal government in the months and years ahead. — The FilAm

Jason Tengco is a senior advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This essay originally appeared in the White House blog.

PHL lowers alert level for Thailand from 2 to 1

The Philippine government has lowered the alert level in Bangkok and surrounding areas in Thailand from 2 to 1, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Monday.

Under Alert Level 1, Filipinos in Bangkok and the concerned areas, namely Nonthaburi Province, Lad Lum Kaew District of Pathumthani Province, and Bang Phli District of Samutprakan Province, are advised to take necessary precautions.

"There is no ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers under Alert Level 1," the DFA said.

Manila raised Alert Level 2 over Thailand in January following the enforcement of a 60-day state of emergency 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.

The Thai government lifted the state of emergency on March 19.

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

PHL, Indonesia intensify drive vs. human trafficking

Philippine and Indonesian officials have agreed to strengthen cooperation and intensify joint efforts to crackdown on human trafficking between the two countries.

The agreement was reached during a meeting last week between Philippine Immigration commissioner Siegfred Mison and a visiting Indonesian delegation.

During the conference, both parties agreed to tackle the serious plight of refugees and asylum seekers of other nationalities entering their borders.

The authorities noted that most victims of human trafficking are Filipinos desperately seeking jobs abroad using tourist visas falsified by syndicates.

Mison, for his part, cited the need for stronger cooperation and tighter measures. He said considering that millions of people come and go through the ports each year, detecting human trafficking victims is like trying to find a needle in the hay.

The visiting Indonesian group was composed of officials and members of the “Desk of People Smuggling, Refugee and Asylum Seeker of the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal and Security Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.”

The Bureau of Immigration recently got flak for its stricter policy on departing Filipinos, particularly its move to require Filipinos who want to travel abroad to show proof of their financial capability to do so.

Under the standing policy, the BI will allow Filipinos to leave the country as long as they can show travel documents including a passport, visa, and a round-trip ticket. However, travelers bound for countries that have a high incidence of human trafficking will be subject to a secondary assessment.

According to the guidelines, which the BI said it has been implementing since 2012, the secondary inspection is "for the purpose of protecting vulnerable victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment and other related offenses." —KBK, GMA News

Hong Kong fails to protect human trafficking victims – report

HONG KONG - Hong Kong is failing to protect victims of human trafficking for forced labor, a report said Monday, calling for new legislation to prevent "modern-day slavery" in a city which relies heavily on migrant workers.

The report comes at a time of growing anger over the abuse of foreign domestic helpers in the southern Chinese city, and a day before the trial of a Hong Kong employer accused of torturing her Indonesian maid is set to resume.

"Current legislation merely prohibits human trafficking 'for the purpose of prostitution', but not for the purpose of forced labor or other forms of trafficking," said the joint report by Justice Centre Hong Kong and Liberty Asia.

New legislation expanding the definition of trafficking would help in tackling forced labor abuse by perpetrators including placement agencies, loan companies and employers, it said.

"Recent allegations of domestic helper abuse in Hong Kong bear many of the characteristics of forced labor," said report co-author Victoria Wisniewski Otero, adding that a comprehensive anti-trafficking law could help protect the city's maids.

Hong Kong is home to nearly 300,000 domestic helpers, mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines, and criticism from rights groups over their treatment is growing.

In January, 44-year-old housewife Law Wan-tung was charged with assault relating to her treatment of her maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who was reportedly left unable to walk following eight months of abuse. The employer was also charged with abusing two previous Indonesian maids.

Sulistyaningsih had been admitted to an Indonesian hospital in critical condition after returning home.

The incident triggered anger from thousands of domestic helpers who took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand justice.

The problem of forced labor is only deepening as Hong Kong widens its search for cheap sources of labor, according to the report.

"The main reason for trafficking is simple: Hong Kong has a high demand for cheap labor and there is a proximate abundance of supply from neighboring countries in the Asia-Pacific region," it said.

In February, Hong Kong received its first official group of maids from Myanmar, as the city tries to plug a shortage of domestic helpers.

Around 200 are expected to arrive in the city over the next three months, but activists have expressed fears that Myanmar women are one of the groups most vulnerable to abuse due to their limited skills in English and Cantonese.

In September, a Hong Kong couple were jailed for savagely beating their Indonesian domestic helper, including burning her with an iron and hitting her with a bicycle chain.

Amnesty International in November condemned the "slavery-like" conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong and accused authorities of "inexcusable" inaction. — Agence France-Presse
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