Monday, December 21, 2015

Grace Poe likens self to OFWs in wake of DQ due to residency problem

Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday took her case before migrant workers and their families as she cited what she believes is a supposed double standard in the treatment of Filipinos working aboard.
“Kung merong grupong nakikisimpatya sa citizenship case ko ay kayo dahil alam ninyo kung papaano manirahan sa ibang bansa,” Poe said when asked during a forum on the importance of migrant vote in 2016 polls held at the University of the Philippines, Quezon City.
“Kapag kayo ay umalis at nagpadala ng pera dito, nagbigay ng pasalubong kayo ay bagong bayani, pero pag kayo ay tatakbo na ay hindi na kayo bayani. Sa tingin ko doon nagkakaroon ng hindi patas na pagtingin,” she added.
Poe is facing disqualification cases before the Supreme Court and the Commission on Elections.
She said many Filipinos are abroad because they have to earn a living. She, however, said that there are Filipinos who return to the country to help whenever they have an opportunity to do so.
“Maraming magagaling na Filipino ang umuuwi at nagtatayo ng negosyo sa atin, nagbibigay ng oportunidad o nagsisilbi. Ang pagmamahal sa bayan ay hindi po determinado lamang ng teritoryo, kahit saan tayo, tayo ay nanatiling Filipino,” Poe said.
“Mas lalo nga tayong Filipino kapag andun tayo sapagkat mas nami-miss natin ang bayan natin at kapag bumabalik tayo dito para bang ayaw na rin nating umalis,” she said.
‘Honest mistake’
Poe lived in the US to work until the mid-2000s when her adoptive father Fernando Poe Jr. died. 
Aside from her questioned citizenship, another issue being raised against her qualification to run for president is her supposed lack of residency before May 2016.
Having stated in her certificate for candidacy for senator in 2013 that she established her residency in the country in November 2006, Poe falls short by a few months of the required 10-year residency under the constitution.
Poe's camp has maintained that the entry on residency in her COC for senator was "an honest mistake."
The senator said their her life in the US was difficult but she added that she and her husband managed to provide for their children. She said her husband had a good job.
“Pero noong bumalik ako sa Pilipinas noong 2005, yun po ang panahon ng ibang administrasyon, kamamatay lang ng tatay ko. Maraming issue ang nilabanan natin," Poe said.
"Hindi po yun ang panahon na madali dito para sa amin pero nakita ko kailangan nating ipaglaban ang ating paniniwala at hustisya din kaya bumalik ako dito,” she added.
The question on her citizenship is based on her being a foundling.
Petitioners against her presidential candidacy argued that she can't be considered a natural-born Filipino citizen, a requirement for those running for president, because her parents have yet to be identified.
Happy for Digong
Poe is hoping that the Comelec will also give her a chance to run in the 2016 elections as she lauded the poll body’s decision to accept the certificate of candidacy of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte's COC was accepted by the Comelec but Chairman Andres Bautista said he could still be disqualified depending on how the disqualification case against him would be resolved.
“Ang palagi ko naman pong posisyon ay dapat pahalagahan ang tinig ng taumbayan. Para sa akin, kung malinaw naman ang intensyon, bigyan ng pagkakataon,” Poe said when asked if she would find it unfair for the Comelec to cancel her COC when it accepted Duterte’s.
“Masaya nga ako na natanggap ang kanyang COC dahil marami siyang tagasuporta, maraming naniniwala na dapat mabigyan siya ng pagkakataon,” she added. —NB, GMA News

The horrors of sending balikbayan boxes, according to OFWs

Fewer overseas Filipinos sent balikbayan boxes to their loved ones in the Philippines this year compared to last, according to data obtained by GMA News Online from some ports and freight forwarders.
While officials would not surmise on the possible cause of the drop, OFWs contacted by GMA News Online have pointed to the usual problems on pilferage, delays in the delivery, and mishandling of the boxes as reasons.
Rodolfo Alba, 46, a safety officer in Al Ain Feed Mill in the United Arab Emirates, recalled how his pasalubong for his mother went missing when he arrived in the Philippines last May for a visit.
"Pagdating sa conveyor para kunin na ang mga bagahe, I braced myself para sa isang luggage kung saan nakalagay ang mga paborito ng nanay [ko]," he shared via email.
"Kaso, nung akin nang kunin ay halos mabuwal ako sa gaan ng maleta. Nang suriin ko ang ginawa kong seal ay wala na ito. Wala na rin ang mga bagay na dapat sana ay kay nanay," he said, adding the missing items included shampoo, lotion and bath soaps.
Rodolfo said it was the first time he experienced such in his nine years of being an OFW in UAE.
Japan-based Terrence Changcoco, meanwhile, remembered how the second-hand CDs he sent to his brother in the Philippines arrived late and with broken jewel cases.
"Yung iba, CD mismo 'yung wasak," he said. "Hindi na nga iningatan, sobrang delayed pa."
Others, meanwhile, cited financial problems as reason why they did not send balikbayan boxes this year, while others said they didn't see the point of sending imported items to their families at home anymore.
"Early '80s, tatay ko OFW sa Dubai, he would send us boxes of Toblerone, imported corned beef, ganun. Masaya na kami nun," said Pen de Villa, who until September this year was working as a layout artist in New York.
"Ngayon, you want Toblerone? Go to 7-Eleven. You want imported corned beef, canned goods? Go to Shopwise," he said.
The drop in the number of balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines was particularly observed in the months leading to the Christmas season, when 40 percent of the estimated 4.8 million balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines every year arrive.
At the Port of Clark, 1,340 boxes, each weighing at least 30 kg, arrived in October this year, nearly 4,000 less than the 5,064 recorded in the same month last year.
It had nearly the same difference for November, when the number dipped to 3,423 for 2015 from 7,963 in 2014. For December, Port of Clark received 2,381 in 2015 compared to 4,651 in 2014.
Freight forwarder Atlas Shippers International Inc. also registered a drop in 2015.
"As per our records from November 2014 compared to November 2015 our business dropped by 10%," an operations manager told GMA News Online by phone.
For its part, the Bureau of Customs — which had to abort its plan to manually inspect balikbayan boxes after OFWs voiced their strong opposition to it — said not all ports reported fewer balikbayan boxes arriving from abroad.
It said Port of Manila logged 2,031 boxes in August and 3,506 in September, while Manila International Container Port, where most of the balikbayan boxes arrive, recorded 1,034 shipping containers in September, 864 in October, and 955 in November.
"I would say there's no marked decrease in the number of containers that we received for balikbayan boxes," BOC Deputy Commissioner Arturo Lachica had earlier said
In September, the BOC revised its rules and regulations, banning Customs personnel from opening and inspecting boxes. The new memorandum order states that boxes have to undergo mandatory x-ray scanning, and only those tagged as "suspect" will be opened in the presence of representatives from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. —KBK, GMA News

4 Pinoy seafarers missing after cargo ship sinks off Indonesia

Four Filipinos were reported missing while six others were rescued when a Danish cargo ship sunk after colliding with a chemical tanker off Indonesia's Batam island last Wednesday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday said search and rescue operations are being carried out by the Singapore Police Force Coast Guard to locate the four missing Filipino crewmen.
The six Filipinos who were rescued, meanwhile, are currently confined in a hospital in Singapore and have already been visited by Philippine officials, the DFA said, citing the Philippine Embassy in Singapore.
"The Embassy is coordinating with Singapore authorities and manning agent on the repatriation of the six Filipino seamen," the DFA said.
According to a report by the Associated Press, the collision between Danish cargo ship Thorco Cloud and chemical tanker Stolt Commitment ripped a large hole below the water line on the cargo ship, causing it to sink.
The tanker, operated by Stolt Tankers, suffered only minor damage, it said.
The cargo ship reportedly had 12 crew members from Ukraine and the Philippines and was operated by Copenhagen-based Thorco Shipping.
The AP report also said more than 100 rescuers were deployed on three navy ships and seven rescue boats to search for the missing crew members. —KBK, GMA News

Fil-Am boy is this year's Nutcracker at Lincoln Center

Every morning, Emil Jose Kelso, 12, wakes up at 5:45 a.m. to be on time for the 8:00 a.m. opening of his public school. Three times a week after school and also on Saturday mornings, he rides the subway to go to Lincoln Center for a 90-minute ballet class from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

These days, however, Emil is staying up later. Starting November 29, Emil started playing the role of the Nutcracker in New York City Ballet‘s yearly performances.
Emil, whose mom Tricia Capistrano is an immigrant from the Philippines, is one of three boys selected to play the role of Nutcracker who turns into a Prince. There are three rotating casts of principal children for the ballet company’s 49 shows. The performances start on November 25 and end on January 3.
Emil has been going to the School of American Ballet for six years. He is currently in the Boys 3 class of the SAB where he attends ballet class four times a week. His teachers include former NYC Ballet Soloist Arch Higgins, Principal Jock Sotto, and Children’s Ballet Master Dena Abergel. SAB and New York City Ballet were founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein.
Emil has been in the following New York City Ballet shows: “Sleeping Beauty” (2013), “Swan Lake” (2013, 2015), a member of the party scene in “The Nutcracker” (2013, 2014), and “La Sylphide” (2015). This is the first time he is playing the role of the Prince.
Emil’s performances have won applause from theater sites. writes that the character Nutcracker that turned into the Nutcracker Prince was “well danced by Emil Jose Kelso.” Black Tie Magazine describes as “charming” Emil’s portrayal of Herr Drosselmeier’s nephew in another Nutcracker performance.
There are four other Filipino Americans in this year’s Nutcracker.
Ruby Cosgrove and Isabelle Nebres are also from the School of American Ballet and will be in the Party Scene in Act 1 and Angels Scene in Act 2, respectively. Georgina Pazcoguin, a soloist performs as Coffee on December 15 and December 20 and Hot Chocolate on December 17. Anthony Huxley, a principal dancer of the New York City Ballet will dance as the Candy Cane on December 17 and the Cavalier on December 20.
It is a taxing schedule for a 12-year-old but for Emil and the other children at the School of American Ballet, it is worth it, said his mom Tricia, a book author and writer.
“After each show, at midnight, in a small NYC apartment, Emil is still dancing,” she said.
Emil Jose Kelso’s Performance Dates/ Times: Sunday, Dec. 13( 1 p.m.); Wednesday, Dec. 16 (2 p.m.); Friday, Dec. 18 (8 p.m.); Sunday, Dec 20 (1 p.m.); Tuesday, Dec. 22 (7 p.m.); Thursday, Dec. 24 (2 p.m.); Sunday , Dec. 27 (1 p.m.); Tuesday, Dec. 29 (2 p.m.); Wednesday, Dec. 30 (7 p.m.); and Saturday, Jan. 3 (5 p.m.). —The FilAm

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pinoy in San Diego triple murder fit to stand trial –judge

A judge recently ruled that the Filipino-American man charged over the 2013 Christmas Eve triple killings in the parking lot of a San Diego mall is competent to stand trial, a report said.
Murder charges have been filed against Carlo Mercado, 30, for allegedly killing three people, according to a report on NBC San Diego.
He was reportedly diagnosed with schizophrenia, psychotic and catatonic depression by psychiatrists, and had a 10-month stint in Patton State Hospital, a psychiatric facility, after a judge found he was not competent to stand trial.
In September, however, Mercado was cleared for prosecution by the hospital, the report said.
While Peter Fischetti, San Diego Jail’s chief mental clinician, testified in court that Mercado was just faking his illness, Dr. Erin Ferma, a psychologist who evaluated Mercado, described him as "extremely flat, extremely disengaged."
Mercado is suspected of killing Salvatore Belvedere, 22; his brother Gianni Belvedere, 24; and Gianni’s fiancée Ilona Flint, 22.
separate report on the San Diego Union-Tribune said Mercado's ethnicity is listed in jail records as Filipino. —KBK, GMA News

Two 'tortured' Pinays seek asylum in Hong Kong

Two Filipino women who are facing charges in Hong Kong for overstaying have expressed their intention to seek asylum on accounts that they are torture victims, an online report said Thursday.
The report on Hong Kong News identified the two as Irene Saturno Agra and Luzviminda Lazaro, who are both charged last December 4 for allegedly breaching the condition of their stay before Shatin Principal Magistrate Andrew Ma.
During the hearing, Agra informed the court that she has filed a torture claim with the Immigration Department, prompting the government to withdraw the case against her, the report said.
Agra, detained but was eventually released, was accused of illegally staying in Hong Kong for two weeks. Her claim is now being assessed by the Immigration Department.
The report said Hong Kong laws allow a person to seek asylum by filing a claim under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
However, Hong Kong authorities have complained that some persons were taking advantage of the system to stay longer in the territory.
On the other hand, the report said Lazaro has also expressed her intention to file a torture claim before the Immigration Department.
But unlike Agra, Lazaro's petition for bail was denied after Ma noted that she has been overstaying in Hong Kong for nine years.
The next hearing for the case was set on December 24, the Hong Kong News report said. —KBK, GMA News

10 Pinay trafficking victims rescued with help from Kurdistan authorities

Ten Filipino victims of human trafficking in Iraq's Kurdistan region have recently been rescued and repatriated with the help of Kurdistan authorities, the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad said Thursday.
In a letter to Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Philippine Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato expressed the Embassy’s gratitude for the assistance in bringing the 10 victims — all Filipina — home two months ago.
He noted that the embasssy would not have been able to rescue and repatriate the victims without the support and cooperation of the Ministry of Interior, particularly Minister Karim Sinjari and Director General Sami Jalal Hussein, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
"Their actions to immediately address our concern underscores the serious commitment of the Regional Government in working with the international community in combatting human trafficking and preventing the exploitation and abuse of Filipinos and other migrant workers in Kurdistan," Cato said.
The embassy said it is looking forward to further collaborating with the Kurdistan Regional Government as well as with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in ensuring that the rights and welfare of Filipinos and other migrants working in the northern Iraqi region are protected.

Cato said the embassy is ready to work with regional authorities and the IOM in developing and strengthening their internal processes “to help ensure that the Kurdistan Region will stand out as a model in the way it protects migrant workers that it has been extending its kind hospitality to."

Available government data said there are an estimated 2,000 Filipinos in the Kurdistan region working in the oil and gas, health, hospitality and services sectors. —KBK, GMA News

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pinoys in Dubai, Paris attend Simbang Gabi

Despite being far from home, many Filipino Catholics in Paris, France, and in Dubai, United Arab Emirates still attended the first day of Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo celebrated in their areas.
In Paris, the Mass was held at the Saint Bernadette Church with Msgr. Donvito Pavilando of the Philippine Chaplaincy in France as the celebrant. The Mass was held in coordination with the Philippine Embassy.
According to Pavilando, the message of this year's Simbang Gabi is the protection of migrants worldwide, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who have to leave their families in the Philippines in their quest for the good life.
He emphasized in his sermon that migrants should be welcomed regardless of gender and nationality.
And just like the Philippines, those who attended the Mass feasted on known Filipino delicacies afterward, among them nilagang mais, kakanin and arroz caldo to combat the cold weather there.
In Dubai, the Mass was held at St. Mary Catholic Church and was attended by a huge crowd of Filipinos, including Philippine Consulate and labor officials and their families.
By Rev. Fr. Chito Bartolo's estimate, the crowd reached 20,000 people, which he said was higher than last year's attendance.
In his sermon, Bartolo tackled unity among Filipinos.
The event was also marked by the lighting of the giant Christmas tree while a choir sang Christmas carols in the background.
Simbang Gabi, or Dawn Mass, is a nine-day novena held in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, prior to Christmas Day. It starts on December 16 with the 4 a.m. Mass and culminates with the Misa de Gallo on Christmas Eve. —KBK, GMA News

Mom of Pinoy on Saudi death row appeals for help in raising blood money

The mother of Joselito Zapanta, the Filipino on death row in Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday pleaded for help to raise the blood money needed to save her son from execution.
Interviewed by GMA News Online, Zapanta's mother Mona said they have so far raised P23 million of the P48 million being asked by the family of the Sudanese national Zapanta was convicted of killing.
"Iyon po ang problema. Iyong sa blood money po ng anak ko, ang alam ko po 23 [million pesos ang nalikom] kaya kulang pa ng 25 [million pesos] kasi po ang hinihiling po talaga ng asawa noong Sudanese, iyong pamilya, P48 million," Mona said.
Zapanta, a construction worker, was meted the death sentence in Saudi Arabia for killing Imam Ibrahim over a rental dispute in 2009. His employer then held back six months of his pay.
Mona reached out to the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a non-profit organization assisting distressed overseas Filipino workers, to help raise the blood money.
She said that donations for Zapanta's blood money may be sent to Riyadh Philippine Embassy account in the Saudi Hollandi Bank with current account number 037-040-790-022.
Susan Ople, head of the Ople Center, requested donors to notify the center at (02) 833-5337 after sending donations for them to be able to coordinate all efforts with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh. —KBK, GMA News

OFW in HK accuses employer of burning her with flat iron

An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who has been working in Hong Kong for less than a month has accused her employer of inflicting physical harm on her by burning her with a flat iron.
According to a report by GMA News stringer Corazon Amaya Cañete, the 25-year-old OFW from Cagayan Valley, who is working as a domestic helper, has sought assistance from the police regarding her 85-year-old male employer.
She said on December 12, her employer asked her to give him a massage. However, the employer was not satisfied with her massage and pushed her.
Later, while the OFW was ironing her employer's clothes, the employer allegedly came to her, grabbed the flat iron, and burned the right side of her back with it. Seemingly not contented, the employer also placed the iron on the left side of her back.
The OFW said all she could do was cry. She said the pain prevented her from sleeping at night.
With the aid of her siblings, who are also working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong, the police got wind of her situation and are now investigating it.
Available data show 50 percent of the estimated 320,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong came from the Philippines, and 47 percent came from Indonesia. The rest are from Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. —KBK, GMA News

Pinoy designer Oliver Tolentino opens new boutique in Beverly Hills

Noted Filipino fashion designer Oliver Tolentino has opened a new boutique in the post Beverly Hills in California, a report on "Balitanghali" said Wednesday.
Filipino personalities flocked to Hollywood for the opening of the boutique, the report said.

Among the guests were Filipino director Ronnie Del Carmen of the popular animated film "Inside Out," and beauty queen Bianca Guidotti.
The report said among Tolentino's popular clients are Carrie Underwood, Britanny Snow, Jessica Alba and Eva Langoria.
Tolentino said he couldn't help but get excited for the upcoming award-giving ceremonies in Hollywood.
"It's very rare for a Filipino being worn by the Hollywood actors," he said in the "Balitanghali" report. "I'm so happy when they wear it because I want the world to know that Filipino designers are good in what they are doing."  —KBK, GMA News

5 Pinoys, 4 others convicted in Nigeria for oil smuggling

LAGOS, Nigeria — A Nigerian court on Tuesday gave five sailors from the Philippines and four from Bangladesh a choice between jail and paying a hefty fine after convicting them of oil smuggling.
The suspects were arrested in March in Lagos Lagoon aboard the MT Asteris, which prosecutors said was used to illegally store 3,423 tons of crude oil.
They were each convicted of four counts of illegally storing crude oil.
Each count carries five years in prison but the sentences run concurrently, meaning the nine face a maximum of five years jail.
Alternatively they can pay a fine of 20 million naira ($100,000 dollars).
The government has taken ownership of the vessel.
Africa's biggest oil producer loses billions of dollars each year from the theft of crude from sabotaged pipelines and illegal refining of oil products.
The oil is sold on the lucrative black market, depriving the continent's most populous state of an estimated $6 billion a year in lost revenue.
Convictions for oil smuggling are common but in most cases the offenders get away with a fine. —Agence France Presse

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

US presidential hopeful Clinton calls for easier naturalization

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on Monday (US time) called for an easier path to US citizenship for immigrants, including easing fees associated with naturalization, and other immigration overhauls.
Clinton's remarks, in which she also repeated calls for a pathway to citizenship, ending family detention and closing private detention centers, underscore efforts within the Democratic Party and the presidential race to court Latino voters as that population grows briskly.
"We are a big-hearted country and we should never forget that and we shouldn't let anybody on the public stage say that we are mean-spirited, that we are going to build walls -- mentally and physically -- shut doors," said Clinton in a swipe at recent remarks from Republican candidates.
"We are a country where people of all backgrounds, all nations of origin, all languages, all religions, all races can make a home. America was built by immigrants!"
"I don't want anyone who could be a citizen to miss out on that opportunity," Clinton said in New York at a conference on integrating immigrants into the United States.
Clinton said she would work to expand fee waivers for people looking to naturalize and become US citizens, as well as increasing access to language programs to improve English language proficiency.
The former secretary of state is vying with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party's nomination to the November 2016 contest.
Sanders is scheduled to address the same event, the National Immigrant Integration Conference, on Tuesday.
Both candidates, as well as former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, are expected at Saturday's Democratic debate in New Hampshire.
The US population as a whole is shifting demographically, with the Census expecting the country to become majority minority in coming decades.
Clinton is leading Sanders for her party's support by 47 percent to 26 percent, according to a five-day rolling poll by Reuters/Ipsos dated Dec. 11. Reuters

Fil-Am volunteer group swears in new officers

MILLIBRAE, Calif. — State Assembly Speaker Protempore Kevin Mullin led violence prevention educators in vowing to amplify their call to action as he swore in the new officers of San Mateo County-based nonprofit ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment.
Assembly Member Kevin Mullin swears in ALLICE 2016 officers (from left) Jose Antonio, Elsa Agasid, Jennifer Jimenez Wong and Dr. Jei Africa. Photo by M.Z. Moreno
With recent events around the world magnifying the need to focus on the root causes of abuse and ultimately violence, ALLICE's new leadership team pledged to broaden their network of allies and advocates for vigorous visibility in 2016.
"My office stands with your campaign to promote healthy communities," Mullin, the team's newest ally in government, assured the Kumares and Kumpares, as members of the multisectoral team call themselves.
Mullin swore in San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Equity Program director Dr. Jei Africa as president, Fred Finch Children's Center therapist Jennifer Jimenez Wong as vice president, Seton Medical Group family nurse practitioner Elsa Agasid as secretary and Union Bank Vice President Jose Antonio as treasurer at the all-volunteer nonprofit organization's year-end gathering to celebrate its accomplishments and set goals for the new year.
ALLICE mounts an education presentation and provider fair on elder care and elder abuse prevention in the spring and  another on intimate partner violence prevention in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Both events are staged free and open to the public with sponsorship by caring organizations and individuals.
"Our work means so much more than ever," said Africa.  "The attacks in Paris and San Bernardino County and the shooting deaths of suspects by police officers are adding stress to already tense environments.  The public needs to know how to respond or where to turn to when conflicts occur.  Our mission is to provide them with the appropriate tools to prevent abuse or deter escalation."  
Preserving civility
Mullin is the Assembly's second-in-command.  He himself models healthy interaction while presiding over for floor sessions.  
Re-elected November 2014 to represent District 22, the South San Francisco native and former S.S.F. City Council Member was elected Speaker Protempore for the 2015-2016 legislative session the following month.   He is responsible for preserving "bipartisan cooperation and civility" when his colleagues from all 80 districts conduct business and discuss copious proposed and pending legislation when the Assembly is in full session.
District 22 covers central and coastside San Mateo County including towns with high concentrations of Filipino Americans such as Pacifica, San Bruno, Millbrae, Foster City and San Mateo, as well as Burlingame, Hillsborough, Montara and Moss Beach.
The legislator's hometown South San Francisco is split between his district and District 19, represented by Member Phil Ting, which includes Colma, Daly City and parts of San Francisco.
While Mullin's committees incline toward budget, elections, business and economic development, he has spearheaded the annual Health + Safety Fair in San Bruno and frequent Senior Fraud Prevention seminars throughout the county.
Last month, Governor Brown signed into law two bills authored by Mullin that impact underprivileged  families and communities aspiring to political empowerment, Filipino Americans among those most affected.
AB762 ensures continuity of care for toddlers transitioning from child care to state pre-school, according to the assembly member's announcement.  
"Extending the toddler option on an infant and preschool child care license from 30 months to 36 months... helps bridge a previously existing gap in care that often put parents in a situation where they had to leave work or school for six months while while their children waited to be eligible for pre-school."
The announcement added that the other bill signed, AB44, ensures fairness and accessibility in statewide recounts for all voters and candidates by "providing a state-funded, full manual recount option at the discretion of the Governor for any statewide office or ballot measure where the margin of victory is 0.015% or 1,000 votes, whichever is lower."
The son of former Assembly and South San Francisco City Council Member Gene Mullin grew up around FilAms at home, Junipero Serra High School and University of San Francisco, before attending a leadership program at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard.
Though his father was a teacher and Kevin dabbled in mass media enterprise, he eventually followed his father's path to the State Legislature.  The younger Mullin was his father's political director and district director for then-state Sen. Jackie Speier.  His local office is next door to that of state Sen. Jerry Hill in San Mateo.
"I'm proud to follow Senator Hill, who I know has been a longtime ALLICE ally," Mullin said.  The officiant's wife Jessica Stanfill Mullin joined her husband in congratulating the new officers and applauding their recommitment to their mission. —Philippine News

Deployment ban in Guinea may soon be lifted –POEA chief

The government may soon lift the deployment ban it imposed in Guinea following the noted improvement in the Ebola situation there, according to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Hans Leo Cacdac.

“There remains a deployment ban there but I believe it will only just be a matter of time before it’s lifted,” he said in a statement Monday.

At present, the POEA is awaiting the recommendation of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Health (DoH) regarding the lifting of the ban, Cacdac said.
“We are not the experts on this matter so we have to rely on other government agencies to guide us on how to go about with it,” he added.

In December 2014, the POEA imposed a total deployment ban for OFWs bound for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
In May and December 2015, the POEA lifted the total deployment ban in Liberia and Sierra Leone, respectively, after the World Health Organization (WHO) said the two countries are already Ebola-free.
Nevertheless, the POEA said all OFWs bound to Sierra Leone must be provided with the appropriate advice on precautionary measures needed versus the dreaded Ebola virus, which has resulted in deaths.

Earlier, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a pro-OFW non-government organization, has asked the POEA to consider lifting the deployment ban in Guinea as appealed by OFWs there. —KBK, GMA News

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

SG couple on trial for starving Pinay DH —report

A couple in Singapore is on trial for allegedly starving their Filipina domestic helper Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, feeding her just instant noodles twice a day for over a year.
Channel News Asia is reporting that Lim Choon Hong and wife Chong Sui Foon are facing up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to S$10,000 under Singapore's Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, which provides guidelines in the treatment of domestic helpers, including making sure they have enough food.
The 40-year-old Gawidan worked for the couple for nearly a year and a half before escaping and seeking refuge at a non-profit that helps migrant workers.
Gawidan reportedly lost 20 kg while in the employ of the couple. She also complained about not getting enough rest as she was forced to sleep odd hours in a store room.
According to the investigating officer of the case, the Filipino maid was only allowed to shower once or twice a week, with her employers only allowing her to use the condominium's public toilet.
A senior resident at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's department of gastroenterology and hepatology said that Gawidan suffered "significant weight loss due to insufficient intake of food."
The doctor added that Gawidan was so malnourished that she was unable to have her period for more than a year. —JST, GMA News

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fil-Am firefighter promoted to captain

A Filipino-American firefighter became New Jersey's first fire captain of Filipino descent in a ceremony recognizing 12 others including a man posthumously promoted to fire captain, reported Friday.
Jonathan Gamutan was noted for his Filipino descent in his promotion.
Ten of his colleagues were also pronmoted to captain and two more were promoted to the rank of battalion chief.
Records from New Jersey's Civil Service Commission traced Gamutan's career as far back as the year 2000.
Gamutan was one of the men who appealed the decision of the Division of Human Resource Management to reconsider their decision regarding the "required amount of permanent status in a title to which the examination was open for Fire Captain."
Their appeals were denied by the Merit System Board and in another meeting on 2008.
Another firefighter promoted with Gamutan was James Woods, 44, who died on Dec. 26, 2014 after completing a 24-hour shift.
Stephan Drennan and Michael Nickerson were promoted to battalion chiefs, while Stephan Drennan Jeffrey Batt; Robert Baykowski; Michael Budinick; Gerald Drennan; Daniel Healy; Vincent Manchisi; Marshall O'Keefe; Miguel Rios; Joseph Shastay; and Todd Tarrant were promoted to fire chief. Rie Takumi/ALG, GMA News

Ex-PHL ambassador to US Willy Gaa passes away at 69

Former Philippine Ambassador to the US Willy Gaa passed away on December 8 at 6:30 a.m. in Manila. He was 69.
He died from stroke complications from battling cancer. His wife Erlinda Gaa, his physician Luzminda Concepcion, and a team of doctors were at his bedside.
Gaa, who served as consul general in New York from 1997 to 1999, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010. He completed his service as envoy to Washington D.C. from 2006 to 2011, and retired after that.
“On this sad occasion, we recall the Ambassador’s long and dedicated service to our country and to the Filipino people,” said Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia.
“Ambassador Gaa’s professionalism and tireless efforts to advance the interests of the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora community will continue to inspire the work of the Philippine Embassy and Consulates General across the United States.”
Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. said Gaa was known in the Foreign Service for his “level-headed insightfulness and bright attitude.”
“His illustrious career that spanned 36 years proved his expertise in various aspects of the Service — in administration, consular affairs, political diplomacy…The Filipino-American community in the Northeast during his term as Consul General in New York and later as Ambassador to the U.S. will remember him as a warm and accommodating community leader.”
Ambassador Willy Gaa was a “consummate diplomat, whose actions more than his words, helped make a difference in the Filipino American community’s aspirations for empowerment,” said NaFFAA National Chairman JT Mallonga in a statement.
Gaa “deeply cared for the community,” said Mallonga. He stood with the community during its “most critical hours,” such as during the campaign of Filipino World War II Veterans for justice and equity.
“He championed this cause with determination and delight, walking the halls of Congress and meeting with U.S. leaders to speak for the thousands of veterans who needed a voice. He was there when the House finally voted for the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund on February 2007, staying late into the night to savor a measure of justice that had long been denied from our brave heroes,” he said.
Community leader and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis praised Gaa’s “diligent efforts” to motivate Filipinos and Filipino Americans to give back to their mother country.
“He instilled a sense of devotion and duty to the Philippines by encouraging them to become dual citizens, and be involved in the country’s governance as overseas voters and citizens. He also encouraged community organizations to help needy and distressed Filipino nationals who are in need of legal and humanitarian assistance. He was truly a man who cared. He gave his very best, with quiet dignity and humble grace,” she said in a statement.
His older son Wendell thanked the community for expressing their sadness and sympathy to the family and for sharing their fond memories of his father.
“Thank you all for your prayers, support and well-wishes to me and my family in this difficult time. I know my Dad is now looking from up above upon us with much pride, knowing that we will continue to carry on the work of servicing the Fil-Am community which he so dedicated his life and career to when he was in the diplomatic corps,” he said.
July 14, 2010 was declared “His Excellency Willy C. Gaa Day” in San Diego honoring the veteran diplomat’s “lifetime of service to the Philippine community throughout the world.” Gaa served as Consul General in Los Angeles from January to July in 2006.
His foreign assignment began when he became Vice Consul in the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco from 1975 to 1980. He first became an Ambassador to Libya from 1992 to 1996. He would become Manila’s envoy to Australia from 2003 to 2004 and China from 2004 to 2006 before he was given the U.S. assignment in 2006.
A condolence book will be made available at the Philippine Center Lobby from December 11 to 18 for the community. — Cristina DC Pastor/The FilAm

Friday, December 11, 2015

Japan needs immigrants to boost population or could lose to China - minister

Japan should craft an "integrated" immigration policy to cope with its shrinking population, or risk losing out to an ageing China in competition for vital foreign workers, the cabinet minister for administrative reform said on Thursday (December 10).
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made raising Japan's rock-bottom birth rate a priority and wants to focus on drawing more women and elderly into the workforce to fill gaps rather than on immigration, a contentious topic in a society where many pride themselves on cultural and ethnic homogeneity.
Forecasts based on current trends expect the population to fall below 100 million in 2048 and to about 87 million by 2060, when 40 percent of people will be 65 or older. Abe wants to hold the line at 100 million by 2060, a fifth below current levels.
"Even if you magically increased the birth rate by tomorrow, still it would take these babies 20 years to grow, so we really need to do something about the labour market," Taro Kono, appointed in October, told Reuters in an interview.
"People talk about getting more women (to) stay in the labour market, or getting more senior people staying on in the labour market. We obviously have to do both of them, and that still not enough," added Kono, known before joining the cabinet as an outspoken critic of some government policies.
Kono said given "psychological barriers" to immigration among the Japanese public, the policy debate would take time.
However, unless Japan begins to tackle the issue, it will lose out to China, itself facing an ageing, shrinking population.
"Are we competitive enough to pull good foreign workers to this country? I have some doubt about it," the U.S.-educated Kono, 52, said.
"Think about China. They will soon start getting old and need a lot of care workers and they will start sucking in all the foreign workers, and then it's going to be fierce competition," he added.
Kono said that the government was taking some steps to open up to foreign workers in sectors such as construction, nursing and domestic help, but an overall policy was needed.
"We probably need some kind of integrated policy in the future. That's what I call immigration policy or foreign workers policy - integrated, not just piece by piece," he said.
The World Bank said in a report this week that East Asia was ageing faster than any other region.   Reuters

POEA to issue exit visas to displaced OFWs in Italy

Filipino workers in Italy who lost their jobs due to the economic slowdown there will soon be allowed to secure exit clearances that will enable them to enjoy privileges, including exemption from travel tax and terminal fee.
The POEA had earlier barred the displaced Filipinos from applying for an exit clearance, or the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), since they do not have any existing employment contract.
In Memorandum Circular No. 13, the POEA said the affected Filipino workers will be allowed to secure their OEC provided they have an attesa disoccupazione, a permit given by the Italian government to migrant workers who have lost their job so they could stay there for another year to seek new employment.
"These workers shall be issued POEA balik-manggagawa exit clearance upon presentation of the following: passport valid at least six months from date of intended departure; copy of valid attesa disoccupazione," the memorandum said.
The agency added that those who would like to avail of the new polices would still undergo evaluation in its main or regional offices. 
Once issued an OEC, the affected OFWs will enjoy its privileges, including exemption from travel tax and terminal fee, and will be monitored by POEA to ensure their employment rights are protected.  
The circular takes effect 15 days after it is published in a newspaper of national circulation and filed with the office of the National Administrative Register. —KBK, GMA News

Fil-Am contender Amy Vachal voted off The Voice

Despite her soulful rendition of Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love," Filipino-American jazz crooner Amy Vachal was voted off the hit singing show The Voice.
While her former coach Pharell praised the quality of her voice and current mentor Adam Levine evaluated her style as "completely different and refreshingly raw," Vachal had the lowest votes in the semifinal round.
Her teammates, Shelby Brown and Braiden Sunshine, were also removed during the semifinal round, according to report on Bustle.
Despite her elimination, Vachal remained optimistic as evidenced by her tweets.

The singer from Brooklyn also praised fellow singers Jordan Smith, Emily Ann, Jeffery Austin, and Barrett Babber for making it to the final four.

Though eliminated, the young singer told My Central Jersey that her experience in The Voice was a positive "chaos" that developed her skills and gave her a platform for more than 50 million people to discover her.
"Nothing truly great comes easy. And I know that it's going to take even more work than we have put in through this show. I am so encouraged and they are reminding us that if we use what we have been given on the show, it's going to be hard for us not to succeed," she told writer Cheryl Makin.
Vachal plans on spending the holidays with her family before working on her first full-length album.
Prior to her elimination, the singer garnered attention with her version of N'Sync's "Bye Bye Bye," Drake's "Hotline Bling," and Taylor Swift's "Blank Space." Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pinoy performers gather for a night of Christmas concert in Dubai

AL AIN, United Arab Emirates – Last December 4, a Friday, 35 Filipino musicians from all over UAE gathered in one stage in Dubai for a night of performance designed to usher in the Christmas spirit among its homesick kababayans.
Dubbed “A Christmas Musical Presentation,” the concert was held at The Fridge, located at Al Quoz Industrial Area 4, and featured Filipino bands and solo performers, most of them have been featured on GMA News Online.
Among the performers were Zack Allen; Bonz Saforteza; Alijan Tatel, who introduced his new band Kumanderku and the Ginggastee; Ela; Project: [PROTOTYPE]; 3hirdParty; and Sons of Asaph, who performed with its new drummer John Paul Abuda.


The gig was produced by Ronald Galvez, an OFW, along with Rudy Parilla, James Pacheco, Benedict Batalla and Louie Miclat of Sessions DXB.
"Sessions DXB is a platform to showcase the talents of our fellow OFWs, both amateur & professional," Galvez said. "We are encouraging everyone to shift the experience of playing music at home to a live stage performance."
Galvez and Parilla also performed in the mini-concert—as vocalist/rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist, respectively—as the Greyback Band. They were joined by vocalist/lead guitarist Ralph Mancao, composer/keyboardist Francis Del Mundo, bassist Arnold Ponseca, and drummer Jeff Garcia.
"Music and art is my passion, the same thing when I say I love my family. It’s my life and it will be forever," said Galvez, a graphic communications manager at Al-Futtaim, beaming at the success of the one-night only concert.
"I have my own home studio and music production here in Dubai which is self-supporting," he said. "Every night, I set at least three hours to work at my home studio doing graphic arts and music-related projects."
Also in the event was Tag 91.1 FM brand manager Nikki Famador, vocalist of the band Dekada. She performed together with lead guitarist Chris Barroga and drummer Benny Lalic.
Louie Da Costa of Tag 91.1 FM graced the show, too, as well as guests Joan McEldowney, an Irish singer/composer; Riff Raff Band, an Irish group; and front acts Electrokats and Olliekraft.
"A Christmas Musical Presentation" was held in coordination with Nite Owl Production, Black Light Project, Follow Up, and Music Smart Studio. Tag 91.1 FM, which has been supporting Filipino performers in the UAE, also promoted the event on air.
"We recommend those artists or bands that have three original compositions to our partner Tag 91.1 FM for acoustic live performance on air," Galvez said. "And later Tag 91.1 FM will recommend those artist/bands for other events/concert as front acts or main performers." —KBK, GMA News

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