The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has planned several events that aim to bring Filipino nationals together and showcase Philippine Christmas traditions in Malaysia.
Holy Masses organized by the Philippine Embassy and the Federation of Filipino Associations in Malaysia (FFAM) will be held from December 1 to December 9 at the Embassy grounds every 7:00 p.m.
The Mass celebrants will include the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Most Reverend Julian Low Beng Kim.
A Christmas concert entitled “Pamaskong Handog” will also be held on December 6 at the Amphitheatre of the Kompleks Kraft in Kuala Lumpur.
Some of the artists who will be present to entertain the Filipino community in Malaysia are Jay-R and Suy Galvez.
There will also be a lighting of giant parols as part of the Christmas Open House on December 11, to be attended by members of the diplomatic corps, Malaysian government officials and businessmen and leaders of the Filipino community.
The Open House will feature Filipino talents in Malaysia, including singer-songwriter Rachel Guerzo, singer-actress Maria Jazsmine, and musicians Willy Rebaño, Maria Rebaño and Lipraxedes Jumawan. — Bianca Rose Dabu/BM, GMA News
The Christmas season is also the season for sending balikbayan boxes. With this, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is reminding Filipinos abroad who want to send packages to their loved ones in the Philippines to steer clear of bogus forwarders.
For guidance, here is a list of DTI-accredited forwarders as of October 2015.
Filipino lawyers of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina death row convict in Indonesia who was given a temporary reprieve last April, have asked a Nueva Ecija court to deny the motion for reconsideration filed by her alleged recruiters.
Because of the pending motion for reconsideration filed by the defense, the Baloc Regional Trial Court Branch 27 in Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija, granted its request to suspend the arraignment of Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao last November 11.
The defense was asking the court to reconsider its October 25, 2015 ruling denying its Motion for Bill of Particulars, specifically the court records of Veloso's conviction in Indonesia.
In its motion, the defense argued that denial of the records "exhibited [the court's] prejudgement of the case."
But in their 13-page comment to the motion, Veloso's lawyers led by Edre Olalia said the request made by the defense was "unnecessary and immaterial to the case."
They noted that the Information of the case "already provides in a concise and ordinary language, and in terms sufficient to inform the accused of the nature and cause of the accusation against them, and to enable the Honorable Court to pronounce judgment."
"As held by the Honorable Court, moreover, the details being requested by accused-movants on the incarceration of private complainant Veloso are unnecessary and immaterial to the case," they added.
"Considering the foregoing, the prosecution submits that the accused-movants‘ instant Motion for Reconsideration must be denied," they said.
Veloso's lawyers also said the court's denial of the defense's Motion for Bill of Particulars did not "upset" the balance between the constitutional right of the accused to be informed on the nature of the accusation them and the right of the State to prosecute transgressors of the law.
"Such balance, although delicate, has not been upset by the denial of the Honorable Court of accused-movants‘ Motion for Bill of Particulars," they said.
Sergio and Lacanilao were accused of tricking Veloso into carrying a bag with 2.6 kilograms of heroin to Indonesia. —KBK, GMA News
More than 200,000 Filipinos in Doha, Qatar, were affected by the floods caused by more than a year's worth of rain that fell in a matter of hours Wednesday, almost bringing the country to a standstill.
According to a report on "Balitanghali" on Friday, a Filipino school had been forced to close for two days due to the torrential rain that also hit neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The deluge in Doha blocked several roads, making some impassable for commuters and causing huge congestion.
Schools and malls closed, hotels were affected and the rain forced the US embassy in Qatar to shut down.
Worst hit seemed to be the area around Doha's Hamad International Airport, where almost 80 millimeters of rain fell, according to the Qatar Meteorology Department.
Social media users reported leaks at the facility, which opened just last year after being constructed at an estimated cost of $17 billion (16 billion euros).
However, Hamad International said flights operated normally throughout the day.
The World Bank calculates that Qatar receives, on average, 74 millimeters of rain each year.
In response to the scale of the problems, Qatar's prime minister ordered an investigation, said the official Qatar News Agency.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani said those responsible for "flawed projects" could face possible prosecution.
"It was decided to refer all stakeholders and companies implementing the flawed projects that were revealed by the rainy weather currently experienced by the country, to investigate and then to public prosecution, the prime minister instructed," reported QNA.
As many as five unnamed companies could face prosecution, said the report, citing the government communications' office.
Qatar is well-known for its fierce summer temperatures, which forced World Cup organizers to move the tournament to November and December for the first time. Matches will be taking place at this exact point in seven years' time. —Rie Takumi and Agence France Presse/KBK, GMA News
Filipinos in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates have been warned by the Philippine Consulate General against scams perpetrated by people claiming to be members of charitable organizations such as the Red Cross.
"We remind all overseas Filipino workers to be mindful of possible solicitations in the guise of raising funds for the Red Cross or other charitable organizations," the Consulate said in a statement.
The Consulate issued the warning after receiving information regarding fund-raising events being organized without the knowledge of the charities being represented.
According to Section 8 of Republic Act 10072 or Philippine Red Cross Act of 2009, it "shall be unlawful for any person to solicit, collect or receive money, materials or property of any kind by falsely representing himself to be a member, agent or representative of the Philippine Red Cross."
Usage of the Red Cross name and emblem is also a violation of section 9 of the same law. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
Despite constant reminders from authorities, some airline passengers were still apprehended in airports Thursday for carrying bullets, a report on "24 Oras" said.
According to GMA News' Oscar Oida in his report, an OFW departing for Riyadh was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 for carrying four live bullets for a .38 caliber pistol.
The OFW, identified only as "Anthony," did not deny that the bullets were his.
"Binigay po sa 'kin, nakalimutan ko lang pong i-alis dun sa pouch ko," said Anthony, a former security guard.
Anthony said he was aware of the reminders against bringing bullets in airports as he constantly followed the reports on the alleged "laglag bala" extortion racket in the news.
Meanwhile, in Naga City, a female doctor was apprehended in the airport for carrying five live 9mm rounds and two empty .45 shells in her bag.
According to Reymundo Torres, supervisor at Naga Airport, the doctor claimed the bullets may been left in her bag by her husband, who is a practical pistol shooter.
The doctor reportedly said her husband borrowed the bag when he applied for a license for his pistol. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
President Benigno Aquino III's statement dismissing reports on the alleged "laglag-bala" extortion scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as "sensationalized" did not sit well with a bishop and an OFW group.
In her report on News To Go on Thursday, GMA News' Kara David quoted Bishop Ruperto Santos as saying that the President's statement showed insensitivity toward the plight of OFWs, who are the targets of the extortion scheme.
Santos, who heads the Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, disagreed with Aquino's statement that the "laglag-bala" issue was sensationalized, saying it has been happening for a long time.
Militant pro-migrants group Migrante International echoed Santos' sentiment, saying OFWs themselves were offended with Aquino's flippancy.
“Our kababayans’ reactions range from incredulity at his insensitivity to irrepressible ire at his audacity to scornful laughter at his plain stupidity," said Connie Bragas-Regalado, one of the group's leaders.
Regalado claimed that OFWs are convinced that "laglag-bala" was a real extortion scheme.
Malacañang had already denied that Aquino was being insensitive when he indicated that the reports on the extortion scheme were overblown by the media.
On Thursday, Aquino found another ally in Justice Undersecretary Emmanuel Caparas, who said the President is taking the "laglag-bala" issue seriously and "is very concerned" about it.
"I wouldn't go so far as saying he (Aquinjo) is downplaying anything because he is definitely not downplaying anything," said Caparas, who is also the DOJ spokesman. "He's taking this seriously as we are, if not more seriously."
"Let's not put words in the President's mouth as well. The President had a message there. May sinsasabi siya doon. It had nothing to do with downplaying. He is very concerned about this," he added.
Caparas said Aquino had already shared "very good points" to the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on how to resolve the matter.
Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa had earlier formed a seven-member NBI special task force to probe the extortion racket, allegedly committed by unscrupulous airport personnel.
Caparas said the NBI task force had requested another deadline for the submission of its report because it was still interviewing more alleged victims.
The "laglag-bala" scheme has angered the public, especially OFWs, and drawn international attention. —Rie Takumi and Mark Merueñas/KBK, GMA News
The Social Security System (SSS) has made its services within reach of OFWs in at least 11 key destinations worldwide by offering toll-free numbers.
Judy Frances A. See, SSS senior vice president for international operations, said OFWs who have queries or requests to the SSS stand to benefit from this added service.
The toll-free numbers are:
-- 001-8000-CALL-SSS for Hong Kong and Singapore; -- 00-8000-CALL-SSS for Malaysia, Taiwan, Italy and United Kingdom; -- 801-4275 for Brunei; -- 00800-100-260 for Qatar; -- 800-0630-0038 for United Arab Emirates; -- 800-863-0022 for Saudi Arabia; and -- 8000-6094 for Bahrain.
These toll-free numbers will be open to OFWs from 6 a.m. on Mondays to 6 a.m. on Saturdays in Philippine time.
According to See, most of the requests sought from the OFW Contact Services Unit (CSU) include reactivation of SSS membership, verification of contribution and loan records, queries on procedures on applying for SS (social security) number, location of SSS foreign representative offices, accredited overseas payment channels and status of various applications.
"Our toll-free call services, CSU hotline numbers and designated e-mail address enable OFW members to conveniently relay their queries and requests to the SSS, and in return, we can respond faster to them," See said.
Filipinos with queries for the CSU may direct their concerns through e-mail at email@example.com and via hotline numbers +632 364-7796 and +632 364-7798 and at the SSS Main Office in Quezon City from Mondays to Fridays. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
Berkeley-based Filipina Cecilia Gaerlan is on a mission. A novelist, playwright and occasional travel organizer, the Imus, Cavite, native wants to introduce young Americans to the important role Filipino soldiers played in World War II.
It was a special, if not sentimental mission. Gaerlan's father, Luis Gaerlan Jr., was among the brave Filipinos who fought alongside the Americans during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
Photo from Cecilia Gaerlan's website
Not only that, Luis was also a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March, which saw the deaths of thousands of Filipino and American POWs — mostly Filipinos — at the hands of Japanese Imperial Forces in April 1942.
"By the end of [World War II], approximately 1,000,000 Filipino civilians perished," Gaerlan said in her website. "And yet today, the Filipino soldiers' role during WWII and the suffering of the entire Filipino nation are not mentioned in US history books."
Left out in books
According to Gaerlan, during public readings of her historical World War II novel In Her Mother's Image, she noticed that not many Americans knew what happened during the war in the Philippines, including the Bataan Death March.
Inspired by her father's first-hand account of the war, which she said he loved telling them when they were growing up in the Philippines, Gaerlan decided to learn more about what really happened during the forcible 97-kilometer death trek from Mariveles, Bataan, to Capas, Tarlac, which her father and many others endured.
“To my dismay, I discovered that some books do not even mention the Filipino soldiers even though they manned 7/8ths of the main line of resistance and did most of the fighting and the dying,” she said on Bataan Legacy, a documentery film on the fall of Bataan that she created.
In the same documentary, Gaerlan said the Filipino soldiers' role during the war has been “ignored, derided, and in some instances, even maligned.”
She even went as far as saying that the Filipino soldiers were “used, deceived and sacrificed” to win the war.
As a vehicle for her mission, Gaerlan launched in the United States the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, which, according to its website, aims “to educate the public on the historical significance of Bataan and World War II in the Philippines by presenting the war from different perspectives — Filipinos, Americans, soldiers, civilians and other nationalities.”
One of Bataan Legacy's goals is to include the Bataan Death March, which it describes as a “seminal point of World War II history,” in the curriculum in high schools throughout the US, and at present, it is lobbying for the implementation of Assembly Bill 199 (AB199), a bill California passed in 2011 encouraging the inclusion of the Filipinos’ role during WWII in the social studies curriculum for Grades 7-12.
In an interview with Priceonomics, Gaerlan said when she first heard about AB199 in 2012, her first question was: “Is anybody implementing this?” Turned out it wasn't.
But luck was on her side.
At that time, the California Board of Education was in the process of revising its curriculum guidelines — a task it does only once in 10 years. Gaerlan seized the opportunity to get Bataan and the Filipino soldiers included in World War II history.
“I thought it was going to be an easy thing,” she told Priceonomics. “I didn’t realize this was going to be a multi-year process.”
With the assistance of several other organizations, Gaerlan and her Bataan Legacy group started “petitioning assembly members to strengthen the bill, spearheaded a campaign on Change.org, and networked relentlessly,” according to Priceonomics. The ultimate goal is to implement AB199 not only in schools in California, but also in schools across the US.
For their efforts, the group has received commendations from California legislators, including a proclamation from Governor Jerry Brown.
If all goes well, Gaerlan's efforts are set to pay off next year: between April and May 2016, the California Board of Education is expected to give its final stamp of approval on the new curriculum.
Gaerlan, however, is on a wait-and-see mode. “I will not believe it until I see it,” she told Priceonomics. —KBK, GMA News
A pro-OFW group on Wednesday expressed hope that the signing of the ASEAN Convention Against Human Trafficking in Person (ACTIP) will benefit Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina on death row in Indonesia for drug smuggling.
In a statement, Migrante International noted that among the signatories was Indonesian President Joko Widodo. A report on Antara News said the ACTIP will be used as an effective legal framework for the ASEAN region to overcome human trafficking.
"These are all very welcome developments and, hopefully, indications that Pres. Widodo continues to hear our plea for Mary Jane and all other victims of trafficking who are presently on Indonesian death row," said Mic Catuira, Migrante International's deputy secretary-general.
The group believes that the signing of the convention is "one step towards attaining justice for drug trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso."
Veloso, arrested at the Yogyakarta Airport in 2010 for carrying 2.6 kilos of heroin, was spared from execution on the last minute in late April after the Indonesian government granted the Philippines' appeal to have her testify against the recruiters who allegedly tricked her into smuggling illegal drugs abroad.
The alleged recruiters are currently facing trial in Nueva Ecija, Philippines.
Widodo signed ACTIP together with other leaders of the ASEAN during the ASEAN summit in Malaysia over the weekend. The ACTIP will focus on curbing and fighting trafficking in the region, especially of women and children.
The signing of the Convention came in light of reports that Indonesia has announced a “moratorium” on executions to focus on the country’s economy.
"We pray that Pres. Widodo will make good his commitment to fight trafficking by evaluating cases such as Mary Jane’s," Catuira said. "Pres. Widodo can set an example in the region by granting clemency and pardon to Mary Jane, a victim of trafficking."
Catuira also urged the Philippine government to ensure that the trafficking and illegal recruitment cases filed against Mary Jane’s traffickers "embark without further delay."
"The resolution of these cases will prove once and for all Mary Jane’s innocence. It has been eight months since Mary Jane’s temporary reprieve, and still the trials are in their preliminary stages," she said.
Scheduled arraignment for Mary Jane’s traffickers on cases of large-scale and syndicated illegal recruitment will not be until February 2016, following series of delaying tactics by the defense. Meanwhile, the qualified trafficking case filed by Mary Jane herself and the Veloso family is yet to roll in court. —KBK, GMA News
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) here was forced to sleep outdoors near the ocean after he escaped from his employer.
In an exclusive interview with GMA News, Steve Gajelan said he left his employer after the employer forced him to work as a tile setter instead of a plumber, which was the job he applied for.
"Pinaalis ako bilang isang tubero pero pagdating ko dito sa establishment na papasukan ko ay pinagtrabaho po ako bilang isang tile setter," Gajelan said. "Mali po 'yun dahil hindi po ako marunong mag-tiles."
He also said his employer tried to make him pay for the tiles that he failed to install properly due to lack of experience.
"Doon po ako nagreklamo sa kanila dahil hindi naman po nararapat 'yun dahil hindi naman po 'yun ang trabaho ko," Gajelan said.
He added that his employer tried to have him evicted from his accommodation after learning that he has sought assistance from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) here. He said his employer has a brother who is a policeman.
Fearing his fate at the hands of the policeman, Gajelan said he escaped and was forced to live on the street, including near the sea, for days. He said a friend agreed to temporarily take custody of his belongings.
He said Philippine officials refused to let him stay at the Consulate due to the law disallowing male foreign workers from seeking temporary shelter in foreign posts.
Vice Consul RJ Sumague confirmed this, saying they have no choice but to follow the laws of the host country. He said they are now looking for ways to assist Gajelan in seeking for a temporary shelter and is already coordinating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding this.
Wants to go home
Meanwhile, Gajelan said he already wants to go home to the Philippines, noting how worried his family is about him, particularly his father who is sick.
"Nagpunta po lamang ako dito para magtrabaho hindi po para gumawa ng gulo, pero ito po ang nangyari sa akin," he said. "Maraming tao na po akong nilapitan pero wala silang nagawa."
"Sana naririnig po ako ng ating gobyerno sa Pilipinas at matulungan ako," he added, teary-eyed.
At present, Gajelan is staying at a friend's accommodation but only at night. He, however, has to leave the place in the morning to avoid getting caught by authorities. —KBK, GMA News
Families of the 13 Filipinos killed in a road accident in Saudi Arabia last November 16 are set to receive government cash assistance amounting to over P200,000.00 from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
"The legal heirs of the active OWWA members who died will receive P200,000.00 in death benefits, since their death was caused by an accident, with an additional funeral expense of P20,000.00," said OWWA administrator Rebecca Calzado in a statement Wednesday.
Aside from the fatalities, 13 other Filipinos were hurt and are recuperating from several hospitals.
"In the case of the injured workers, OWWA shall provide them with disability benefit of up to P100,000.00, depending on the severity of the disability," Calzado said. "This benefit supplements what they will be receiving from their employer."
Livelihood assistance, in the form of a food cart business equivalent to P15,000, will also be provided to the spouses of the victims, Calzado said.
"In addition, under our Education and Livelihood Assistance Program (ELAP), we shall assist the schooling preferably of the oldest child (who is less than 21 years old) until he/she graduates from college," she said.
ELAP amount ranges from P5,000 for elementary students, P8,000 for high school students and P10,000 for college students per year, according to OWWA. The sibling of an affected unmarried worker will also receive the same privilege.
Calzado said an OWWA welfare officer in Saudi Arabia is keeping a close watch on the situation of the injured workers and is in touch with their employer.
"She will update Manila regularly," she said. "The OWWA Administrator also instructed the regional directors of OWWA to inform the workers’ families about the condition of their loved ones."
Calzado assured the concerned families that the OWWA will coordinate with the workers' recruitment agencies as well as with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to facilitate the repatriation of the workers’ remains. —KBK, GMA News
An overseas Filipino worker on his way to Macau for vacation was prevented from boarding his flight Monday when he was caught with a bullet in his bag at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, a report on Unang Balita on Wednesday said.
The bullet was allegedly found in Gerard Ubarde's bag containing medicines.
Ubarde said it is impossible for a bullet to be in his bag since he knows it is against the law to carry one.
Ubarde was immediately released after the case was dismissed.
With a piece inspired by his childhood experiences in the Philippines, 28-year-old Guelph-based Filipino bested 14 other finalists to win in the 17th edition of the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, reports said.
Quoting the competition's judges, a report on Globe And Mail said Patrick Cruz's victory was “based on his decidedly contemporary attitude towards painting."
"His brave approach, maximalist aesthetic and wild graphic sensibility set a provocative tone for emerging art in Canada in 2015," it added.
Cruz told CBC Radio Canada that his piece, "Time allergy," an acrylic on canvas, is partly based on his memories of the colorful art on the sides of jeepneys he saw while growing up in Manila.
Its title is also a reference to a quote made by Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz in reference to the concept of structured time introduced by the Spanish to the Philippines.
Cruz explained to CBC, "We were kind of allergic to this idea of modernity and modernization."
Filipino artist Santiago Bose also inspired Cruz's work with his unconventional mixed-media work and critique of superstructures such as religion and conservatism. Cruz said his own experiences with migration also show in his work.
"It made me research how cultures get displaced because of economic turmoil or other factors that play in those circumstances," he told CBC. "These ideas have been orbiting in my mind for a while. So when I make work, that's always at the back of my head. It's like a cloud that's just looming all the time."
Though he has no clear plans on moving back to the Philippines, Cruz will put part of his $25,000 prize into the 2017 edition of his triennial experimental art show the Kamias Triennale.
Set at his father's old home in Kamias, Quezon City, the inaugural edition of the art show attempted to "address the conditions of art as somewhat temporal and fleeting." It will feature as guest artists the likes of Maria Taniguchi and Kat Medina. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
AL AIN, United Arab Emirates – To promote Filipino music here, all-Pinoy band 3hirdParty decided to make a bold step: eschew cover songs in favor of original compositions.
"Original songs ang tinugtog ng 3hirdParty since the start kasi 'yung concept is to promote original songs and to support OPM here in UAE," shared Miguel Perez, the band's 36-year-old guitarist and lyricist, via email.
"The song ideas came from me but are arranged by the whole band to make the sound unique to 3hirdParty," he added.
These song ideas, Miguel said, do not necessarily come from personal experiences. Or, as he put it, there are no "hugot moments" in his songs.
"Walang hugot moments'; they are not necessarily from my experiences. Some are from friends as well. Some are just plain words which I thought were a good idea for song lyrics," said Miguel, who works at TechnoHub Trading LLC.
Completing the band are vocalist/rhythm guitarist Dominique “Nick” Enojosa, 37, sales in Shift Trading LLC; bassist Floriano “Kitz” Formoso, 32, marketing in Redeem LLC; and drummer Cris Bemida, 36, decoration artist in Carrefour Hypermarket.
Among of the band's original songs are "Lunor," which is about how a couple should stick together no matter what; "LQ," which is about what the acronym implies; "In na in," about hope; "Subukan mo," about trust; "Ikaw pa naman," about someone regretting losing someone; “Wakali," about long-distance relationships; "Homer," about coming back to where you really want to be; and "Pag-nagkataon," is about things that might happen "if you choose to play around," Miguel said.
Once upon a drinking spree
The idea to form a band hit Miguel in 2010 while drinking with a friend at his home in Al Rigga, Deira, Dubai.
"Sabi ko nun, ‘Nick, since marunong ka naman kumanta, at nag-gigitara naman ako, bakit hindi tayo mag-artista?'" he recounted.
At the time, Miguel had already written original songs. When Nick expressed his agreement to the plan, it was all a matter of looking for the right people to complete the lineup — a process that, Miguel said, didn't come easy.
"It took us a while para mabuo yung band," Miguel said. "From common friends, work mates, nakilala namin si Kitz and Cris who had their own bands back in Pinas and had the same passion and love for music."
It took three years, or until 2013, before 3hirdParty was officially formed.
As a band, 3hirdParty's music leans toward alternative pop-rock or indie pop, "although wala kaming sinusunod na pattern when it comes to music arrangements," Miguel said.
In composing their songs, every member is encouraged to contribute their ideas, he added.
"When it comes to arranging songs, everyone in the band has their own ideas to share based on individual influences kaya nagiging unique 3hirdParty music siya," Miguel said. "Malaking factor din siguro na mostly mga songs from the 90s ang trip naming music."
Although their day jobs hinder them from becoming full-fledged artists, Miguel said he would rather describe themselves as "full-hearted artists."
"There's still a lot to learn and improve in our music making capabilities. [But] all of us in the band are definitely ‘full-hearted artists.’ We create and express music from the heart. We enjoy and love what we do. I think that is about enough to be considered as an artist," he said. —KBK, GMA News
Though details have yet to be ironed out, President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed during a bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Summit last week that Filipinos would be allowed to apply for household workers' jobs in Japan.
"We requested on the side of Philippines that they also prepare necessary system so that it will be smoothly implemented," said Japanese press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura said in a Monday report on GMA 7 news program “24 Oras”.
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) deputy administrator Atty. Jeriel Domingo said that there would be no educational requirement for Filipino housekeepers in Japan. But they should undergo training for six months with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). They also need to learn how to speak Japanese.
Filipino housekeepers in Japan will be expected to be stay-out workers. Their salary will be around $1,500 or around P66,000 every month, which is equal to the Japanese minimum wage. On top of this, domestic helpers will also receive benefits. — Trisha Macas/DVM, GMA News
A Filipino seafarer has been cited by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London for his bravery at sea after he rescued a distressed mariner last year "despite treacherous sea conditions."
Pinoy seafarer Vicente Somera receives his certificate of commendation from IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu as PHL Ambassador to UK Enrique Manalo (2nd from L) and Australia Maritime Safety Organization CEO Mick Kinley look on. DFA photo
Vicente Somera was honored for rescuing fellow seafarer Steve Collins, who nearly died of hypothermia on August 31 last year after jumping overboard to retrieve a messenger line thrown to him by crewmembers of a passing ship.
At that time, Collins' vessel, Enya II, was having problems while he was on a solo voyage from Australia to New Zealand.
Somera, who was on board MV Lars Maersk, "used his own body to protect Collins from being crushed by the swinging ladder in between passing swells," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.
"Several members of the MV Lars Maersk crew then ran down to assist the survivor up the vessel’s side in an arduous climb up the accommodation ladder to main deck level, 20 meters above," it added.
In a simple ceremony, IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu handed a certificate of commendation to Somera "for his role in rescuing, in treacherous sea conditions, gale force winds and total darkness and after three challenging hours, a hypothermic sailor who had sustained several life-threatening falls attempting to repair an oil leak on his sailing vessel and who had jumped overboard in an attempt to retrieve a messenger line which had been thrown to him."
Aside from Somera, nine other individuals received commendations for various rescues at sea, although he was the only seafarer cited in this year’s award, all the others being mostly crewmembers of rescue units.
The 2015 Exceptional Bravery at Sea Award was given to Aviation Survival Technician Christopher Leon of the US Coast Guard.
Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Enrique A. Manalo, who is also the country’s Permanent Representative to the IMO, witnessed the awarding ceremony.
"One can only be in awe of Mr. Somera’s willingness to risk his life in order to save a human life at sea," Manalo said at the ceremony. “His actions are emblematic of Filipino seafarers’ professionalism and dedication to their work.” —KBK, GMA News
President Benigno Aquino III believes that the controversy on the supposed “laglag bala” extortion racket in airports had been “sensationalized” and used by certain groups to put his administration in bad light.
In a coffee meeting with reporters at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Malaysia, Aquino said the statistics presented to him do not necessarily add up to the possibility that an extortion racket exists inside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
“Hindi naman yata ganun ang nangyari. Medyo na-sensationalize at medyo may mga nakinabang na mag-sensationalize niyan. Okay, pero dulo nito, hindi tayo pwedeng dumaan sa haka-haka. Kailangan naman natin hanapan ng pruweba one way or the other, patunayan, ano ba ang tama?” said Aquino.
Aquino said all allegations should be backed with proof as he expressed sympathy toward innocent airport employees who have been affected by the controversy.
“Kapag napatunayan kung ano ‘yung tama, hindi ba kung may guilty parusahan, kung may inosente matanggal naman sa kanya ‘yung stigma na may ginawa siyang kasalanan,” he said.
Aquino said the controversy requires a thorough investigation.
“At ‘yung nagisip na gawing isyu ito, alam rin niya yon. ‘Ang gandang isyu ito, mapapahaba natin ng ganito katagal, hindi masasagot ng matino kaagad. At kapag ganun na hindi nasagot ng ano, papalabasin naman natin ‘hindi nila kaya sagutin’,” he said.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has asked for an extension to complete its probe.
The Senate has already conducted a hearing on the alleged extortion racket, which supposedly targets travelers and OFWs. —Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez/KBK, GMA News
Families of some of the 13 Filipinos killed in a road accident in Saudi Arabia last week have begun the laborous process of repatriating the remains of their loved ones, a report on Balitanghali said Monday.
In her report, GMA News' Maki Pulido said the wives of the three fatalities went to the recruitment agency on Monday morning to submit the documents needed to kickstart the repatriation process.
The report quoted the wives as saying that they have yet to be briefed on the entire process and on the benefits that they should receive from the government following the November 16 accident.
The wives also said they have yet to be approached by representatives from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
According to the kin of the fatalities, they learned of the accident through Facebook, and had a difficult time confirming it from the DFA because of the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) meeting last week, which was held in Metro Manila.
The report quoted a wife as saying that nobody from the DFA answered her call last week. Road closures because of the APEC summit also discouraged them from personally going to the DFA office in Pasay City.
The report said the confirmation came from the Filipino workmates of the victims.
At present, the relatives of the fatalities are awaiting updates from the recruitment agency. —KBK, GMA News
Victoria, a nurse from the Philippines, came to RN Express feeling defeated and depressed. She lost almost half a million pesos to recruiters but still had no job waiting for her. Her fiancé, a Filipino American, made the decision for her: Come to the U.S. and let’s get married.
On the strength of her fiancée visa, RNE was able to adjust her status. Within months, Victoria was working in a nursing home.
RN Express, a boutique staffing agency in Midtown, tells it like it is. If the nurse applicant has no valid visa, it will not promise the moon and the stars. Neither will it sell false hopes. It will tell the applicant that RNE may not be able to adjust her status and find her a job.
The stark fact is that no agency probably can.
An applicant who is out of status, or who came to the US using bogus documentation will find little assistance, except for friendly advice: ‘Come back when your visa is valid and we will help you.’
There are at least two ways Filipino nurses can find employment in the US and that is through Employment-Based Category 3 (EB-3) for Registered Nurses, and Employment-Based Category 2 (EB-2) for nurses with managerial experience or with masteral degrees.
As of now, according to RN Express Administrator Alex Alejandrino, EB-3 visas filed on June 15, 2007 are being processed for petition.
What this means is, “They can be processed for green cards if there is a sponsor,” he said. The nurse is issued an I-140 document, which is only the first in a series of immigration documents that will form part of their working papers.
The waiting period from 2007 to the current year of 2015 is called the “retrogression” period.
“Eight years. It is probably the longest retrogression period (for nursing applicants),” noted Alejandrino, who is also the administrator for RN Express’s sister company Manhattan Employment Services, Inc. (MESI), which staffs healthcare workers for hospitals and nursing homes.
In the early years, it was easy to find a hospital to petition for sponsorship; not so in recent years as the US began to see a deluge of foreign-educated nurses and began to streamline immigration guidelines.
Certain healthcare facilities began to use accredited staffing agencies to supply them with nurses. Agencies, like RN Express, became de facto employers and take on the expenses and risks of employing nurses when no hospital would do that. This recruitment process has been going on for many years and has led to stabilizing the nursing shortage in the country.
RN Express signs applicants to a minimum three-year contract and outsources them to waiting jobs. The agency can only do this if the applicant has a valid visa.
The waiting period for EB-2 petitions for specialized nurses is shorter because the retrogression period does not apply to them. This visa is for a nurse with at least five years of nursing experience or an MA in Nursing, said Alejandrino. “There is no retrogression.”
One is tempted to ask: Would a nurse manager in the Philippines still want to go through the hassle of applying to work in the US and going through the rigors of complying with numerous tests and requirements? Alejandrino let the numbers speak: A supervisor in the Philippines earns approximately Php360K a year; in the U.S. that amount could be $64K.
RN is willing to work with nurses who are already in the US as long as their visas are current, he said.
Ask what qualities RN Express is looking for in their nurses, Alejandrino replied, “Attitude and the ability to follow protocols.” As long as they are willing to learn, willing to do the work, and have a can-do attitude, there will be a job waiting for them. —The FilAm
SAN MATEO, Calif. - Close, but keep the Champagne in the chiller.
Filipino Americans in what looms as battleground county next year had sought to set the stage for celebration after the Nov. 3 local elections. Their hopes turned to disappointment when results showed key candidates unsuccessful in their bids.
In a countywide race, Anthony "Fel" Amistad placed fourth of seven bets for the governing board of the San Mateo County community college district. The businessman and college professor collected 20,057 or 11.21 percent of total votes.
The San Mateo resident trailed some 13,000 votes behind his closest foe and led by over 7,000 ahead of the fifth placer. Topnotcher Dave Manderkern, an incumbent, got 48, 684 votes or 26.87 percent of the tally.
The district in contention governs College of San Mateo, Canada College and Skyline College with an enrollment of 40,000. As of 2012, Filipinos accounted for 9.6 percent of the student population, coming third after "Asians" — some Filipinos check off Asian as their ethnicity — Hispanics at 22 percent and Caucasians at 28.3 percent, per district statistics.
The three winners make the five-member governing board all Caucasian.
Meanwhile Daly City small-business owner Renato Beltran took 2,015 or 42.12 percent of votes in the contest for the short-term governing board of Jefferson Elementary School District. The two-way race went to Clayton Koo, who received 2,782 or 57.88 percent. Koo, identified as a "community outreach professional" on the ballot, was endorsed by the powerful San Mateo Labor Council. ?
While not thrilled by the outcome, Filipino American Democratic Club president Dory Panieza applauded the numbers garnered by the candidates.
"Other elected officials have won by less than a thousand votes," Panieza said as she noted the five-digit sum that went to Amistad. "Perhaps our candidates who want to serve in the public sector can consider relocating where victory comes easier."
Beltran lost by a few hundred. In his case, leaders had hoped a FilAm would retain the seat vacated by Joseph Otayde, who resigned after moving out of the area. Otayde had won the seat uncontested and later was re-elected.
JESD covers all the primary and intermediate schools in Daly City and neighboring Colma.
That governing board boasts of diversity, having an African American, a Latina, a Caucasian and a Pacific Islander. Though based in a city where Filipino Americans predominate, the board now has no FilAm representative.
"We need to develop leaders who understand the process," Perla Ibarrientos, elected delegate to the Northern California Democratic Party District 19, offered a debrief. As delegate, Ibarrientos votes for the party's officers and endorsees.
"Political aspirants should reach out to the community, be visible, attend meetings, speak up - do their homework and strengthen their track record," she said.
Those who truly wish to serve may start by applying for appointed seats on local, county or state commissions. Most commissions are voluntary and some may come with stipends.
"Commissions are ideal for learning about governance and appointed commissioners can serve just as productively as elected officials," said Erlinda Galeon, president of the Daly City Public Libraries Commission and corresponding secretary of the Friends of the Filipino Community, a political action committee, as fundraisers for political entities and endeavors are known. "We work for love of the community."
Galeon said candidates should be cautious about putting their names on the ballot because mounting multiple failed campaigns does not help "empowerment."
"Voters may be discouraged from supporting a candidate who may seem unelectable," she said. "Aspirants should be thoughtful about each campaign because their loss record could cost their election."
The Nov. 3 polls were significant in paving the way for November 2016, when San Mateo County will elect a new Supervisor for District 5. District 5 covers Daly City, Brisbane, Colma and parts of South San Francisco and San Bruno — all heavily populated by FilAms.
The results of the recent races could presage the fight for District 5, which is contested by five elected members of council members including two from Daly City, most notably Mike Guingona, the first Filipino American elected in the history of Daly City. —Philippine News