Friday, January 29, 2016

POEA okays partial lifting of OFW deployment to South Sudan

 The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has allowed the deployment of a group of Filipino workers to a company in South Sudan, but only upon recommendation by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

 In Resolution No. 3, Series of 2016, the POEA Governing Board approved the deployment of OFWs to Pacific Architects and Engineers, Incorporated (PAE) which has projects with the US State Department in South Sudan under the Flight Ops Support Program. In a letter to the POEA Governing Board Chairman, Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, the DFA reiterated that South Sudan is under Alert Level 3 (Voluntary Repatriation Phase) and as such, the travel and deployment ban on all OFWs is maintained.

 However, the DFA said Filipinos working for the United Nations, and other international organizations and international NGOs with travel clearance may travel and temporarily stay in South Sudan. The deployment of OFWs to PAE was allowed subject to employer’s assumption of responsibility for the timely and safe evacuation of the workers should the security situation demand the same and issuance of travel clearance from the DFA. In another resolution, the POEA Governing Board also reaffirmed the Crisis Alert Level 1 issued by the DFA for Pakistan after an attack by alleged Taliban forces in a university, which killed at least 20 people.

There is no deployment or travel ban but Filipinos are advised to take necessary precautions during their stay in Pakistan particular in areas such as Balochistan Province, Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khybere Pakhtunwa, and Kashmir-Jammu.

POEA issues warning on fake job ads on social media

Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has issued an advisory about bogus job advertisements that proliferate on social media.

Cacdac said applicants for overseas jobs should be wary of “employment opportunities” advertised in Facebook and Twitter, especially those using the name of legitimate businesses abroad and licensed recruitment agencies in the Philippines as modus operandi.

He cited the case of a Philippine licensed recruitment agency which was advertised as recruiting Filipino workers for supposed jobs in Austria and Spain. The agency has clarified that it has not posted the said ads and it has no job orders for the two countries.

Cacdac said jobseekers should ensure the authenticity of job offers posted on Facebook and Twitter by calling the POEA hotlines 7221144 and 7221155 and its regional offices; using the online verification system at poea.gov.ph the POEA application for smart phones.

POEA lists 2016 overseas employment prospects

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said overseas employment prospects for Filipinos remain positive in 2016 as it lines up opportunities for OFWs in various parts of the world. In his report of DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said overall demand for overseas Filipino workers remains strong as indicated by continuing job orders of various occupations.

 Cacdac said that in terms of volumes and diversity of skills required, Middle East remains to be biggest prospect employer of OFWs in 2016 and onwards. Other than household workers, nurses, engineers, construction workers, medical and laboratory technicians, cooks, waiters and food servers, electricians, welders are the most common skills and professions needed by employers in the Middle East. Cacdac said Africa’s requirement for highly skilled and professional workers in mining and construction related industries remains high. Health workers including nurses, medics and doctors are needed in facilities operated by international health organizations.

The possibility of deployment facilitation and protection of migrant workers from the Philippines to the region is being explored where bilateral labor agreements are in their initial stages with Kenya, Morocco, Seychelles and Tunisia Cacdac said there is continuing demand for computer-related workers, and healthcare professionals in the United States of America. In Canada, occupations for business, finance and administrative, natural and applied sciences and related occupations, health, social science, education, government service, trades, transport an equipment operators and related occupations, oil and gas, processing, manufacturing and utilities are in demand.

The Administrator said there are current job orders of nurses for Belize; engineers for Bolivia; and domestic workers, electrical technicians, and engineers for Brazil. Canada has continuing demand for meat cutters, food attendants and agricultural technicians. Certified public accountants are needed in Cayman Islands; and pipe fitters and welders in Chile. Construction workers are also needed in Sta. Lucia, Guam, Panama and Venezuela. @poeaNews /myPOEA In Asia, Japan is further opening up opportunities for semi-skilled labor in the construction, ship-building and domestic work in economic zones and care workers. South Korea and Taiwan will continue to be the major destination for factory workers.

Despite the high unemployment situation, European Union faces skills mismatch and labor shortages and the demand for foreign workers is expected to grow at a faster rate (around 13%), compared to the previous decade, due to continuing skill intensive economic and technological changes. Germany, Finland, United Kingdom will continue to feel shortages for health workers in the next few years. Private recruitment agencies have yet to fill up existing job orders of nurses for Ireland, Malta, United Kingdom and Finland. UK also needs assistant caregivers and other construction related workers like welders, pipefitters and engineers.

Malta also has job orders of aircraft technicians and aircraft cabin mechanics. Cyprus needs cooks and household workers. Thousands of construction-related jobs are opening up for Filipino workers in New Zealand as Christchurch Rebuild is getting into full swing starting 2016 with immediate to long-term construction projects to complete. Australia’s planned migration program continues to welcome skilled and professional workers into the country.

 The deployment of seafarers will continue to grow in 2016 with shipping companies expecting aggregate year-over-year growth earnings of around 5%-7% from May 2015 to November 2016 which spells a stable outlook for the industry over the same period. Cacdac also reported that the demand for Filipino seafarers will increase with the continued hiring of shipping employers for tankers, cruise ships, and offshore oil rigs. ###

Travel agencies are not allowed to recruit OFWs

 Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration yesterday advised job applicants to ignore overseas jobs offered by travel agencies because they are not allowed to recruit overseas Filipino workers. Recently, officers of the POEA and Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG)PNP shut down the office of Gemille Travel and Tours which was found to have been illegally recruiting workers for supposed jobs in the Netherlands.

 Cacdac said the travel agency was recruiting bellboys, waiters, service crew, receptionists, and room attendants and charges them 120,000 pesos to 150, 000 pesos as payment for placement and processing fees. Gemille Travel and Tours which is located at the Ground Floor of Joncor Building in A. Mabini St., Ermita, Manila and allegedly owned by a certain Jocelyn D. Hafiz Ismael was primarily engaged in holiday travel booking. Cacdac said two of the travel agency’s employees were caught accepting employment and travel documents from its applicants. The POEA has filed cases of illegal recruitment against the travel agency’s owner and staffs.

He advised applicants to validate the authenticity of job offers with the POEA through its verification system at poea.gov.ph, hotlines 7221144 and 7221155; POEA Mobile Phone Application (downloadable via Google Play or App Store); Facebook and Twitter accounts; or visit its offices in Manila and the provinces.

Beware of Portugal jobs offered through email

 The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) cautions overseas job applicants to be extra careful in considering employment offers through e-mail. Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said the Philippine Embassy in Lisbon has reported continuing cases of Filipinos who have been victimized or received e-mails from entities offering jobs and promising to process entry visas or work permits.

 Cacdac said these unscrupulous individuals have represented real and even reputable companies in Portugal by using information on their websites but replacing their contact information. They require payment of fees for Entry Clearance Certificates, International Overseas Employment Certificates (IOEC), and Affidavits of Guarantee Fund, all of which are not required by the Portuguese authorities.

 In other cases, the email recipient is asked to transact with designated travel agency that will process the necessary documents and visa required for the job contract for a fee. Cacdac said the public should be aware that prestigious companies have their own human resource department that always require personal interviews and rarely hire employees through the internet.

 If presented with a job offer for Portugal, workers are advised to request for a copy, which usually specifies employment details such as number of workers to be hired, the type of work with full description and complete information on the employer. “Any unsolicited job offer through e-mail which requires payment of fees for testing, language seminar, documentation, and processing of visa and other travel documents is a sure sign of a scam,” Cacdac added.

 He advised applicants to validate the authenticity of job offers with the POEA through its verification system at poea.gov.ph, hotlines 7221144 and 7221155; POEA Mobile Phone Application (downloadable via Google Play or App Store); Facebook and Twitter accounts; or visit its offices in Manila and the provinces

SUPREME COURT’s SECOND DIVISION DISMISSES COMPLAINT AGAINST PHILHEALTH CHIEF


THE Second Division of the Supreme Court recently dismissed outright the complaint for disbarment (docketed as A.C. No. 10846) filed by the Eye Center Conglomerate, Inc., represented by Dr. Raymond Evangelista, against  Alexander A. Padilla, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Philippine Health  Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
In a Resolution dated October 5, 2015, the SC Second Division resolved to dismiss the complaint for “violation of the Lawyer’s Oath and Canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility” against Padilla “there being no prima facie case against respondent.”  The dismissal of the case by the Second Division was immediate and without the need of the respondent’s comment.
The case stemmed from a press conference conducted in May 2015 where PhilHealth announced to the media the issuance of the STOP-Claims (Suspension of Transaction of Payments of Claims) Order on claims filed by two (2) eye centers due to an “abnormal jump” in their reimbursements in benefit payments on cataract operations spanning several years.
Meanwhile, PhilHealth Medical Specialist III Dr. Kim P. Gariando filed a perjury complaint against Dr. Raymond Evangelista, corporate director of the Eye Center Conglomerate, Inc., in connection with the latter’s filing of a verified libel com   plaint against the former before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City and docketed as I.S. No. XV-03-INV-15G08773, as a result of Dr. Gariando’s statements aired in GMA 7’s news program “Saksi” on the audit findings report on eye centers that his team submitted. In his Complaint-Affidavit for Perjury, Dr. Gariando alleges that “[i]n the case of respondent Evangelista’s Complaint-Affidavit for Libel filed against me, paragraph 10 thereof which accuses me of categorically stating QCEC as one of the two eye centers performing ‘hakot’ system, is a willful and deliberate assertion of falsehood as I did not mention respondent, QCEC or any eye center in the Lei Alviz interview shown in “Saksi.’”
Perjury is committed either by “falsely testifying under oath or by making false affidavit.” (END)

Reference:  Dr. Israel Francis A. Pargas
                    OIC-Vice President, Corp. Affairs Group
                    0915-6450808

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Despite closer PHL-Japan ties, integration woes still hound Japinoys

Despite closer ties between the Philippines and Japan, Japanese-Filipino children are still finding it hard to find their identity owing to Japan's strong national identity that discourages Japanese fathers from acknowledging their children from a foreigner.
Take Ken Ishikawa for example. Interviewed through Facebook, Ishikawa lamented how he continues to struggle to "make sense of myself as a person" in the face of Japanese societal taboos involving mixed-race children.
"My greatest struggle so far is being able to make sense of myself as a person and to integrate the elements of my Filipino and Japanese heritage together," he said. "I would have a healthier sense of it if I had a connection with my relatives there (Japan)."
Ishikawa said Japanese-Filipino kids, or Japinoys, like him find it difficult to create a cultural identity as their Japanese relatives—their tangible connection to Japan—refuse all attempts at communication.
Ishigawa is an active member of Batis-YOGHI (Youth Organization Gives Hope and Inspiration), an organization of children of Filipino women migrant workers in or from Japan. He made the statement during the historic state visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to the Philippines aimed at strengthening the relationship between the two countries.
Ishigawa explained that gaining recognition in Japan is still seen as a "family matter" by the Japanese government in spite of efforts in the past to support children of mixed race, including Filipinos.
Societal and financial sanctions also discourage fathers from acknowledging their children, he said.
"There's very real stigma against men who stray there. For one, the company they work for can slash their salaries and second, their children will have trouble finding good marriages," Ishikawa explained.
Second-generation Japinoys, according to separate reports by Japan Times and The Asahi Shimbun, seek recognition to complete their identity or to allow their children to work abroad. Those who work in Japan risk alienation, lower pay, and maltreatment.
Language and cultural barrier also play a role why Japinoys find it hard to assimilate in Japanese society.
The administrator of Malago.net, a forum for the Filipino-Japanese community in Japan, said Filipinos have a hard time integrating due to difficulties in basic communication. Lack of skills also makes them prone to abuses.
"Karamihan na naapi here is 'yung mga pumapasok na mga trainee na Pinoy under trainee visa at mga Pinay na meron anak na Japanese na nakapunta dito sa tulong ng mga underground community," the administrator, who refused to be identified, said.
He said for Filipinos, Japinoys included, knowing how to speak the language is key to making it in the Land of the Rising Sun.
"In finding work, medyo may kahirapan po yong mga can't read and write Japanese language po," he said.
The Japanese government has taken steps to address discrimination though legislation. In 2015, the National Diet—Japan's bicameral legislature—started deliberations on a bill banning racial discrimination.
Submitted in May, the bill seeks to outlaw "unjustifiable discrimination based on race" and would require the "central and local governments to form basic anti-discrimination policies and programs," according to a Japan Times report.
However, the bill does not have punitive measures against those committing racist acts. It also faces strong opposition from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which believes the bill may infringe freedom of speech. —KBK, GMA News

7 suspected trafficking victims stopped at Zamboanga port

Inspectors of the Bureau of Immigration stopped seven suspected human trafficking victims from leaving the international seaport in Zamboanga City last Jan. 11.
The victims, whose names were not disclosed, were set to go to Sandakan, Malaysia aboard a vessel when they were intercepted, Immigration Commisioner Ronaldo Geron said.
They were asked by members of the Immigration Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) to disembark from the vessel.
Because of the incident, Geron ordered BI officials at the port to be more vigilant to prevent a similar case from happening.
Geron also instructed Immigration personnel to be stricter in screening departing passengers. —KG, GMA News

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bataan farmer seeks help for 'TNT' wife in Dubai

A farmer in Bagac, Bataan, has appealed to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and their town mayor to help his wife—an OFW in the United Arab Emirates who left her employer five months ago—return to the Philippines.
According to Bernaldo Pelayo, his wife, Lani Jane Dalis, became a "TNT" or "tago nang tago" after leaving her allegedly abusive employer in Dubai.
"Minamaltrato raw ng amo kaya umalis ang asawa ko at nakikitira sa ibang overseas Filipino workers," Pelayo said in a report by GMA News stringer Ernie Esconde.
"Wala sa kanya passport dahil kinuha ng amo niya," he added. "Ang trabaho niya ngayon pa-jab-jab (freelancer)."
Dalis, who used to send P14,000 to her family until she left her employer, went to Dubai on February 1, 2014 to work as a babysitter. She and Pelayo have a four-year-old son who is living with him in a small unfinished house in Bagac.
"Ako po'y nananawagan sa Department of Foreign Affairs na kung maaari tulungan ang aking asawa na nagtatago sa ibang bansa," Pelayo said, adding his wife could not get out or go to the Philippine Embassy for fear that she will be arrested.
He said he has also asked Mayor Ramil del Rosario to help his wife return to the Philippines.
"Lumapit ako kay Mayor Ramil del Rosario upang ako'y tulungan tungkol sa asawa kong nasa ibang bansa na TNT na ngayon," Pelayo said. "Tulong para makauwi ng maayos ang aking asawa."
Del Rosario, meanwhile, promised to help Pelayo's wife return to Bagac. —KBK, GMA News

Pinoy in Hawaii arrested for allegedly killing wife

A Filipino war veteran in Hawaii was arrested by the police after allegedly stabbing his wife of 35 years in their home on the morning of January 18, reports said.
Isagani "Sonny" Fajotina, 65, is facing second-degree murder charges for allegedly stabbing his wife, Melita, at their Salt Lake home in Oahu, according to a report on Hawaii News Now.
separate report on khon2 quoted Lt. Phillip Lavarias of the Honolulu Police Department as saying that a woman was injured when she tried to intervene in the domestic violence. She is now reportedly in good condition.
Fajotina himself was rushed to the hospital for self-inflicted stab wounds. He was released pending further investigation, the khon2 report said.
A tenant in the couple's home said he heard the victim's sister-in-law screaming in Filipino during the early-morning commotion.
Honolulu News Now reported that detectives are looking into a possible case of murder-attempted suicide due to Fajotina's wounds.
Melita's sister Lilia told Hawaii News Now that her brother-in-law was taking anti-depressants before the incident.
"I ask him 'Why?' He said that's what your manong Melita wants me to take it. Then I ask him is that a doctor's order, and he said 'yes," Lilia was quoted as saying in the report.
Fajotina and his wife, a lung cancer survivor, moved to Hawaii from the Philippines. He and his wife retired after working at the Queen's Medical Center, where Melita worked as a certified nursing assistant.
The couple lived with their daughter, two grandchildren, and other family members at their Salt Lake home, and rented out rooms to tenants. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Pinoys caught off-guard by historic drop in HK temperature

HONG KONG — The historic drop in temperatures here has forced many Filipinos to cancel their activities and stay home rather than brave the freezing weather outside.
Fely Ovejera, 62, who has been working as a domestic helper for about 20 years, said this is the chilliest winter she has experienced in the territory.  Ovejera lives in her employer's house in Sha Tin, part of the New Territories in Hong Kong.
"Dati naranasan din namin ang 5 degrees [Celsius] pero sandali lang iyon at gabi o madaling araw lang. Noong Linggo, nasa 3.2 degrees [Celsius] lang dito tapos buong maghapon pa," she told GMA News Online in a telephone interview.
Owing to the cold, she said she told her employer that she would spend her rest day at home instead of meeting her friends in public parks as was her practice every Sunday.
"Dito sa bahay, naka-bonnet ako, naka-jacket at scarf pa. Naka-prepare naman ang mga gamit. Ang mga amo ko nga nagamit na din nila pang full winter clothes nila na dati nakatago lang," she said.
Caught by surprise
Katrina, a 31-year old editor at an events company in Central, said she did not pay attention to the warnings issued by the Hong Kong Observatory about the unusual freezing weather in the city. She has been working in Hong Kong since 2011.
"I didn't prepare at all. In-underestimate ko iyong warning ng HKO so I ended up doing last-minute preparations - I bought a new heater, I stocked up on food and water in case it gets too cold for me to buy outside," she said.
"I also brought out additional blankets and warmers," Katrina added.
On Sunday, when temperatures in the main island of Hong Kong dropped to below 4 degrees Celsius, she said she canceled her weekend appointment.
Thoughtful employer
Meanwhile, Ayrin Simbre, a 38-year-old domestic worker who lives in her employer's house in Chai Wan, said she was lucky to have a caring employer who would always update her about the weather conditions and warnings issued by the HKO.
"Nilabas ko lahat ng damit ko na makakapal at saka kumakain ako ng tama para di ako lamigin," she said in an email interview.
"Tapos updated ako ni amo sa weather kaya alam ko kung gaano at anong klaseng damit ang isusuot ko," Simbre added.
She said she did not need to buy more jackets as her employers and their children would often give her winter outfits.
"Dumating anak ni lola na pangalawa kahapon, may dala pa siyang sweater para daw isuot ko paglabas ko kasi super lamig at binigyan din ako ng adhesive heat pad. "More than enough na bigay sa akin ng mga amo ko...Napakabait nila sa akin," she said.
Simbre said she was still able to go out on Sunday and meet up with some of her friends.
Record-level low
A cold spell hit the city on Sunday as temperatures dropped to their chilliest in almost six decades, prompting authorities to warn residents against staying out too long in the cold.
"As Hong Kong is being affected by a cold winter monsoon, people are advised to put on warm clothes and to avoid adverse health effects due to the cold weather," the HKO in its official app said.
"If you must go out, please avoid prolonged exposure to wintry winds," it added.
A "frost warning" was also issued, advising farmers  that "ground frost is likely to occur overnight on high ground or in the northern part of the New Territories."
The nine-day forecast of the HKO is unlikely to bring relief as temperatures are estimated to range between 7 degrees celsius and 19 degrees celsius with several days of thunderstorms and heavy rains. —KBK, GMA News

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pinoys in NYC rebound after massive blizzard

Many Filipinos in New York City spent their Sunday shoveling thick snow from their sidewalk, a day after a massive blizzard paralyzed much of the US East Coast.
"It's really bad, 'yung blizzard ngayon," said Boyet Loverita of the Bronx in an interview on "Balitanghali" on Monday (Manila Time).
Loverita said like everybody else in the area, he spent practically the whole Sunday clearing their car parks and sidewalks. Yet, in his case, the task was far from being completely done.
"I'm waiting for body pain to set in kasi I was shoveling kanina for the whole day," he told anchor Connie Sison. "Hindi pa nga tapos ngayon kasi 'yung sasakyan sa front ng bahay at saka sa likod natatabunan pa ng yelo."
"Everybody's in their house doing something," he said when asked on how the Filipinos in the area were doing after the blizzard.
Like Ondoy
"Parang Ondoy pero imbes ulan, snow. Saka lahat ng malapit sa shore ng Atlantic Ocean ang tinamaan… mga kotse, lumulutang," said Dennis Dimapilis, a lawyer who has taken a second career as a nurse in the US.
Rocel Felix, a former journalist in the Philippines who is now a teacher in Maryland, shared Dimapilis' comparison of the blizzard with Tropical Storm Ondoy.
"Close," she said when asked if the snowstorm's onslaught could be compared to Ondoy. "Ang tragedy dito yung mga namamatay dahil sa lamig at yung mga nababangga dahil madulas ang kalye."
Thirteen people were killed in weather-related car crashes in Arkansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia on Saturday, according to a Reuters report.
One person died in Maryland and three in New York while shoveling snow. Two died of hypothermia in Virginia, and one from carbon monoxide poisoning in Pennsylvania, the report added, citing officials.
Clearing ops
He said New York City residents have to shovel their own sidewalks after a snowstorm to prevent accidents. Failure to do so, he said, could result in a fine.
"Yung mga sidewalk kelangan i-clear kasi dito sa New York pag nagkaroon ng snowstorm, after four hours you have to clear your sidewalk, kasi kung hindi mumultahan ka ng city," Loverito said.
A Reuters report, citing the US National Weather Service said Sunday's blizzard was the second-biggest snowstorm in New York City history, with 26.8 inches of snow in Central Park by midnight on Saturday, just shy of the record 26.9 inches set in 2006.
Loverito said the recent blizzard was worse than the one in 2006.
"Yung average nitong snowstorm, bale 26.8 inches. Yung Feb 11, 2006, ang average ng snowstorm dito sa New York, 26.9, but then eto ngayon sobrang lakas ng hangin. Yun ang mas naka-grabe," he said.
Some Pinoys "excited"
Despite the panic buying that marked the hours before the snowstorm, Loverito said some Filipinos in the US still felt "excited" as evidenced by their posts on Facebook.
"'Yung mga Filipino dito, excited sila kasi we don't know kung ano talaga mangyayari sa storm," he said.
"Nababasa ko sa Facebook they were preparing something special for the storm, tapos nung nag-storm naglalabasan na sa Facebook yung mga niluto nila. Basta masaya sila," Loverito added. —KBK, GMA News

OFWs in HK still spend day off outdoors despite cold snap

The historic cold snap currently being experienced in Hong Kong did not stop Filipino domestic helpers there from enjoying their Sunday day off outdoors.
A report by GMA News stringer Corazon Amaya-Cañete said despite temperature dropping to as low as 3 degrees Celsius, many Filipinos,  including those who are in Hong Kong for a vacation, still chose to spend the day in Central.
One OFW who has been working in Hong Kong for 20 years said it was the first time she experienced such weather there.
"In [my] 20 years sa Hong Kong ngayon ko lang naranasan ang 3 degrees sa Hong Kong," she told Amaya-Cañeta. "Sobrang lamig, grabe."
She said she copes by wearing gloves, bonnet, and four layers of clothing.
Filipino domestic helpers who were hanging out in parks brought with them coffee, ginger tea and red wine to keep them warm, Amaya-Cañete's report said. Some also brought food and blankets.
According to a report on South China Morning Post, average temperatures in Hong Kong dropped to 3.1 degrees on Sunday, prompting schools to suspend classes on Monday.
The Hong Kong Observatory said Sunday's temperature was the lowest since 1957.
The South China Morning Post said as of 6 p.m. on Sunday, 111 people had been injured and 45 were hospitalized, some with hypothermia.
The cold spell is expected to last until Wednesday. —KBK, GMA News

Monday, January 25, 2016

Pinoys tag US winterstorm as 'parang Ondoy'


 
“Para siyang Ondoy, yun nga lang yelo.”

This was how Filipinos residing in the US East Coast described the blizzard that paralyzed most parts of the region over the weekend.
Winter storm Jonas reportedly buried a wide area from Washington D.C. to New York City with more than two feet of snow, forcing authorities to close roads, bridges and tunnels until Sunday morning.
In all, there were at least 19 deaths in several states related to the storm. It ranked No. 2 in terms of snowfall accumulation in New York City history with 26.8 inches (68 cm) by midnight, just short of the record set in 2006, the US National Weather Service (NWS) said. It was among Washington's biggest ever snowstorms too.
Thirteen people were killed in weather-related car crashes in Arkansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. One person died in Maryland and three in New York City while shoveling snow. Two died of hypothermia in Virginia, officials said.
On the New Jersey Shore, a region hard-hit in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, the storm drove high tides causing flooding in several towns.
After dumping about two feet (60 cm) of snow on the Washington area overnight, the storm unexpectedly gathered strength as it spun northward and headed into the New York metropolitan area, home to about 20 million people.
Dennis Dimapilis, a lawyer who has taken a second career as a nurse in the US, was marooned in a ski resort northwest of Philadelphia when the snowstorm struck.
“Pahina na snow. Makapal, almost 18 inches. Sa Philly area stable na. Sa New Jersey and Delaware coast, bumabaha,” he told GMA News Online.
“Pinahirapan kami kasi takot kami mawalan ng kuryente dahil malamig. Saka stuck ka sa bahay. Mahirap maglinis ng driveway. Saka mahirap kapag natunaw ang yelo kasi madulas,” he added.
Dimapilis added that the high tide and the accumulation of snow worsened the situation.
“Parang Ondoy pero imbes ulan, snow. Saka lahat ng malapit sa shore ng Atlantic Ocean ang tinamaan … mga kotse, lumulutang,” he narrated
Dimapilis was referring to Tropical Storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana), the second most devastating tropical cyclone in 2009. Ondoy was the most devastating typhoon to hit Metro Manila and parts of Luzon with at least 464 reported killed. Ondoy’s flood water levels reached a record 20 feet in rural areas.
“Much bigger daw ito than the 1996 storm pero parang mas malakas yung 2009 storm kaso mas matagal ito kasi Friday to Sunday noon ito.
Yung 2009 storm, mas malakas siya in terms of snow volume kaso lang Friday until Saturday night lang yun. According to reports Jonas is about two inches per hour. Yung 2009 parang four inches per 30 minutes,” Dimapilis said.
He said they're still expecting heavy snowfall between Sunday night and Monday noon.
He said they have stocked up on eggs, milk and bread good for 2 to 3 days.
“Bukas naman mga supermarkets pero maaga magsara … depende sa kalsada kung mabilis malinis,” Dimapilis said

Rocel Felix, a former journalist in the Philippines who is now a teacher in Maryland, shares Dimapilis’ comparison of Winter Storm Jonas with Tropical Storm Ondoy.
“Close,” her reply when asked if Jonas’ onslaught could be compared to Ondoy.
“Ang tragedy dito yung mga namamatay dahil sa lamig at yung mga nababangga dahil madulas ang kalye,” she said.
“Ako nga yung 40 mph (speed limit), I had to slow down to 20 mph kasi poor visibility tapos madulas.”
Describing her footage which she posted on Facebook, Felix said, “Kalsada yun sa labas ng house. Wala akong nakitang dumaan maghapon. kasi ang taas ng snow tapos yung road e hilly so kahit na all-wheel pa mahihirapan.”

“Humupa na. Yung kuha ko kanina yun ang kasagsagan mga 4 pm yun. may snowfall pa rin although yung wind humina na …. sa area namin umabot ng 25 inches ang snow,” she said.
Elmer Maximo, a former airline executive in the Philippines who is now a senior managing director of an I.T. company in New Jersey, said they were expecting 30-36 inches of snow.
“Called off ang work and transport were suspended too. There are no cars sa streets. Most of the roads are not passable. Stay home mga tao,” he said.
To ride out the snowstorm, Maximo invited his friends over to his house where he cooked Pinoy-style merienda like lugaw and turon.

Philippine-based broadcast journalist Mike Cohen who is visiting his children in Buffalo, New York, said things are normal in upstate New York.
“The storm is to the south of us. But snow here is very normal sa upstate New York,” he told GMA News Online.
“So what they're going through is just a little stronger than our normal. They normally don't get that much 19 inches. Kami mga 5 to 8 inches almost every other day so sanay na kami dito. It's just part of daily life parang 'pag tag-ulan sa atin at taga Malabon ka.”
Consulate warning
The Philippine Consulate in New York earlier issued a blizzard warning to all Filipinos residing in the state.
Consul-General Mario de Leon said aside from New York, Filipinos in the states of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts should also take the necessary precautions by avoiding unnecessary travels and to monitor weather updates.
New York, New Jersey, Boston, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have been placed under a state of emergency due to the snow storm. —with a Reuters report

DOLE tiniyak ang pangangalaga sa mga OFW laban sa 'tanim bala'

Ipinahayag ni Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz na patuloy ang pamahalaan sa pagseseguro sa kaligtasan at pangangalaga sa mga Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) laban sa pinaghihinalaang sindikatong sangkot sa tanim-bala.
“Nagsagawa na ng ilang hakbang ang Inter-Agency Committee upang tiyakin na nabibigyan ng nararapat at agarang tulong ang mga OFW na mahuhuling may baril o bala sa mga paliparan sa Pilipinas,” ani Baldoz sa isang pahayag na inilathala online ng Official Gazette.
  
Batay sa ulat ni DOLE Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III, sinabi ni Baldoz na nakipagpulong ang DOLE sa mga opisyales ng Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Department of Justice (DOJ), Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Office for Transportation Security (OTS), Aviation Security Group (Avsegroup), National Prosecution Service (NPS), at sa Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) kung saan napagkasunduan ang pagbalangkas ng alituntunin at koordinasyon sa imbestigasyon ng mga OFW na may dala umanong baril o bala sa mga paliparan ng Pilipinas.
Sa ginanap na pagpupulong, nagkasundo ang DOTC, OTS, at Avsegroup sa mga sumusunod:
Agad na ipagbibigay-alam ng OTS sa Labor Assistance Center ng POEA/OWWA-Repatriation and Assistance Division (RAD) kung may OFW na makikitaan ng baril o bala sa kanilang ginagawang security screening.
Maaaring hilingin ng OTS mula sa OFW ang kanyang an Overseas Employment Certificate at agarang magbibigay ang POEA at OWWA ng karagdagang impormasyon kung kinakailangan.
Kailangang isaalang-alang ng OTS ang personal na kalagayan at ang employment record ng OFW sa pag-iimbestiga ng kanyang kaso.
Ang bagahe ng babaing OFW ay dapat inspeksiyunin ng babaeng OTS officer sa harap ng kinatawan mula sa OWWA/POEA/PAO. Hindi rin dapat magsagawa ng karagdagang inspeksiyon sa isang tagong silid.
Hindi rin dapat posasan ang OFW maliban na lamang kung ito ay nagpakita ng hindi naaayong pagkilos o tamang pag-uugali.
Sumang-ayon naman ang PAO sa pagbibigay ng agarang tulong-legal sa OFW na sasailalim sa imbestigasyon.  Agad namang ipagbibigay-alam ng POEA/OWWA sa PAO matapos silang abisuhan ng OTS ng nasabing insidente.
Idinagdag ni Baldoz na iminungkahi ng DOLE na magkaroon ng Memorandum of Understanding para sa pagtatatag ng alituntunin at koordinasyon sa pagsasagawa ng imbestigasyon, gayundin sa pagbibigay ng nararapat na tulong sa mga OFWs na umano’y may dalang baril o bala. — APG, GMA News

US tightens visa waiver rules for visitors after Paris attacks

WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday began implementing restrictions to its Visa Waiver Program under a law passed after last year's Paris attacks that makes it harder for citizens of some countries to visit.
Several of the Islamic State attackers who killed 130 people in France held European passports that would have allowed them to easily enter the United States under the former system.
Citizens of the 38, mainly European, countries in the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), who were previously able to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa, must now obtain one if they have visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria since March 1, 2011.
They must also obtain a visa if they are dual Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian nationals, the US State Department said.
Citizens from the 38 nations are required to obtain a travel authorization through the so-called Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before coming to the United States.
The State Department said that as of Thursday it would revoke the ESTA travel authorizations held by citizens from the 38 Visa Waiver Program countries if they are dual Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian citizens.
However, it noted that under the new law the US secretary of homeland security has the authority to issue waivers to the restrictions on law enforcement or national security grounds.
People who could be eligible for a waiver include those who visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of international organizations or humanitarian groups, or journalists who carried out reporting in the four countries.
They may also include people who traveled for legitimate business reasons to Iraq or to Iran following the July 14, 2015 nuclear agreement.
The Visa Waiver Program nations are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and United Kingdom. Reuters

Friday, January 22, 2016

Indonesia confirms commitment to help PHL prosecute Mary Jane Veloso's recruiters

Indonesia has confirmed its earlier commitment to respond to the Philippines' request for assistance in prosecuting the people responsible for bringing Mary Jane Veloso to Indonesia, where she is on death row for drug trafficking.
This occured during a recent meeting between Yogyakarta Chief Prosecutor Tony Spontana and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Veloso's Indonesian lawyers.
"At that meeting, the two sides confirmed their respective government’s commitment to work together in responding to the Philippine Government’s request for mutual legal assistance in relation to the prosecution of those responsible for bringing Mary Jane to Indonesia," the DFA said in a statement Thursday.
Veloso, a 31-year-old single mother who was looking for overseas employment, was sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking.
Her execution was put on hold on the last minute last year after the Indonesian government granted the Philippines' request to have her testify in the case against her alleged recruiters.
Veloso was arrested in 2010 at the Yogyakarta Airport after authorities found two kilograms of heroin in her bag. She has accused her recruiters, Maria Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, of duping her into bringing the drug-laden suitcase to Indonesia.
Sergio and Lacanilao are currently being tried in a court in Nueva Ecija for estafa and qualified trafficking.
Visit
DFA officials were in Indonesia last week to accompany Veloso's parents and two children in visiting her to celebrate her 31st birthday. The visit took place at the Wirongunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta from January 12 to 15.
According to the DFA, a simple celebration inside the prison's social hall was arranged by the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta to celebrate Veloso's birthday.
"A cake and the children’s favorite fried chicken were brought inside the prison for the celebration," the DFA said. "Her family gifted her with clothing, books, and greeting cards/letters from her friends and relatives."

It said Veloso requested her favorite durian and some clothing for her use during sports activities organized for inmates.
"These requests were favorably accommodated by officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and were given to her during the course of the 4-day visit," the DFA said.
A modest welfare assistance was also provided to Veloso by the visiting DFA officials for her purchase of personal necessities from the prison store. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Pinoy maids in Singapore get $50 salary raise —report

Filipino domestic helpers in Singapore are set to receive a SGD$50 increase in their monthly salary starting January, the Straits Times reported Thursday.
Minimum wage for Filipino domestic helpers in Singapore was originally set by the Philippine government at $400.
Singaporean agencies agreed to increase the wages to SGD$500 following an agreement between the Association of Employment Agencies Singapore (AEAS) and the Philippine Embassy three years ago.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz told GMA News Online through a text message that the increase to SGD$550 brought wages of Filipino maids closer to the Philippine minimum wage of $400.
 
"I think (SGD$550) is almost equal to $400. If that is so, the Singapore market will be compliant for Filipino DH minimum salary," Baldoz said.
 
"There is no minimum wage for domestic helpers. It is our Philippine minimum wage of $400 that we follow," she added.
 
The agreement was reached to avoid exchange rate fluctuations, the report said.
AEAS president K. Jayaprema told The Straits Times that the increase in salary — the first for Filipino maids in three years — was "a natural progression" over time and was partly influenced by the stronger US dollar.
Jayaprema noted that some caregivers were already being paid above SGD$600 for having better qualifications.
An earlier report by The Straits Times quoted Philippine Labor Attache Vicente Cabe as saying that a new cap has been placed on the number of Filipino maids coming to Singapore.
"The plan is to bring down the total number of Filipino domestic workers in Singapore by about 20 per cent in the next two years," Cabe said.
Estimates by the Philippine Embassy state that 70,000 of 227,100 domestic helpers in Singapore are Filipinos. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Pinay jailed in Singapore for stealing jewelry from employer

A Filipino domestic helper in Singapore was sentenced to jail for stealing expensive pieces of jewelry from her Filipino employer reportedly to fund her gambling habit.
A district court sentenced 48-year-old Mary Jane Importante Escalona to two and a half years in jail for stealing almost $400,000 worth of jewelry, including diamond rings and earrings, from Jose Isidro Navato Camacho, her 60-year-old employer.
report on Straits Times said Escalona, who faced 37 charges, pawned the stolen items and used the money to gamble in casinos. She reportedly pleaded guilty to 12 counts of theft as a servant.
The theft reportedly happened between 2014 and October last year. It was revealed when Camacho reported the incident to the police on October 18 last year and accused Escalona of doing it.
The remaining 25 charges filed against Escalona, including theft of cash and a shopping voucher totaling about $19,000, were taken into consideration, the report said. —KBK, GMA News

No Pinoy hurt in Pakistan university attack –DFA

No Filipinos were hurt in the armed assault on a university in Pakistan, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.
"There is no report of any Filipino casualty in the incident," the DFA said in a statement condemning "in the strongest terms" the attack on Bacha Khan University.
The DFA said the attack, which left at least 21 students dead, "is a cowardly and reprehensible act."
"As we extend our most heartfelt sympathies to those who lost their loved ones in this tragic incident, the Philippines expresses the hope that the perpetrators will be identified and held responsible," it added.
The number of dead rose rapidly after armed men stormed the Bacha Khan university in Charsadda, about 50 kilometers from the city of Peshawar, in the latest outrage to hit the militant-infested region.
Police, soldiers and special forces swarmed the university from the ground and the air in a bid to shut down the assault, as television images showed female students running for their lives.
Military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said on Twitter that four attackers had been killed. 
The DFA said the embassy in Islamabad will continue to monitor the situation and "is prepared to provide assistance to Filipino nationals affected by the incident." —with Agence France-Presse/KBK, GMA News

US immigration case could set limits on presidential power

WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court challenge to President Barack Obama's immigration policies could have an impact far beyond determining whether millions of undocumented immigrants can remain in the country. The case has the potential to constrain the power of Obama's successor to bypass Congress and act alone.
Should Obama's order blocking deportations for certain immigrants be invalidated by the justices, the decision could hamper future presidents' ability to craft policy through executive fiat, legal experts told Reuters.
"The question is not the merits of the immigration issue," said T. Gerald Treece, a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. "The question is what the president's power is."
The high court said Tuesday it would hear the lawsuit brought by 26 states that seeks to overturn Obama's 2014 executive order that shields more than 4 million immigrants in the country illegally from deportation proceedings.
The Democratic Obama White House, vexed by a hostile, Republican-controlled Congress, has employed the president's executive authority with increasing frequency.
In addition to the executive order on deportations, Obama has acted alone to alter provisions of the Affordable Care Act, limit carbon emissions to combat climate change and toughen the requirements on firearms merchants.
Should Obama lose before the Supreme Court, the case could tie the hands of a future president to act in similar ways.
The immigration case likely will be argued before the Supreme Court in April, with a decision handed down at the end of June, guaranteeing that presidential power will be a front-burner issue as the race for the White House intensifies.
In taking the case, the justices indicated they will consider whether Obama violated not just federal immigration statutes but the Constitution as well, raising the possibility that the court could articulate a forward-looking principle that limits the reach of a president's executive authority - particularly with regard to domestic issues. Presidents historically enjoy more freedom to act unilaterally when it comes to foreign affairs.
"If the Supreme Court rules against the administration on that ground, that would have a more positive impact on the limits of the president's power on domestic policy," said Todd Gaziano, a constitutional law expert with the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation and a former Justice Department lawyer.
The justices' decision to allow a constitutional challenge to Obama's actions was seized upon by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination.
Cruz, the former top advocate for the state of Texas before the Supreme Court, published an article last year in a Harvard Law School journal condemning what he termed the administration's "lawlessness."
On the stump, however, Cruz has promised to roll back the Affordable Care Act as well as unilaterally terminate the Obama administration's nuclear pact with Iran, both examples of aggressive presidential action.
Presidents tend to favor a generous reading of their authority and resist any court-imposed limitations, said Kenneth Mayer, an executive power scholar at the University of Wisconsin.
Indeed, in 2008, Obama ran for president criticizing President George W. Bush's expansive use of executive power, which included a warrantless wiretapping program and indefinite detention of terror suspects. Once in office, Obama continued many of Bush's counterterrorism policies and has zealously guarded presidential power.
During his second term, Obama declared a "Year of Action" and vowed to use his "pen and phone" to issue policy directives in the face of congressional inaction. The immigration order came soon thereafter.
Cruz could experience a similar conversion should he reach the White House. "The world looks very different from the Oval Office than it does from the campaign trail," Mayer said.
Mayer predicts the court will not go as far as to set limits on a president's executive power, and will instead likely narrowly tailor its ruling to the immigration issue in question. Still, he concedes with conservatives holding a 5-4 majority "it's possible the court will impose some constraints." Reuters

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