Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bongbong supporters gather in Paris to protest Leni's victory

Over a hundred Filipino supporters of Sen. Bongbong Marcos gathered in Paris, France, to protest the proclamation of Vice President-elect Leni Robredo by Congress, a report on QRT said Monday.
The report quoted the group as saying that Robredo, the administration's vice presidential candidate in the May 9 elections, could win over Marcos only by cheating.
It also questioned the move by Smartmatic, the technology provider in the automated elections, to introduce a new script in the transparency server of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on election night.
Smartmatic has admitted to adjusting the script but only to fix an issue involving the "n" character that appeared as "?" on the names of some candidates.
Marcos' supporters in France, meanwhile, said they would support whatever action he would take to contest Robredo's victory.

Fil-Ams identifying more as Democrats –survey

The Filipino American Democratic Club of New York responded to poll results that show a record 30-point gain of FilAms who identify as Democrats since the last presidential election in 2012.
“Now more than ever, Filipino Americans are identifying with the Democratic Party’s vision of equality and opportunity for all Americans, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or who they love,” said Aries Dela Cruz, president of FADCNY.
“This vision involves making it easier for Filipino American working families, and indeed all Americans, to build a secure and prosperous life such as a higher minimum wage, comprehensive immigration reform, and increased access to affordable healthcare and education.”
After the release by AAPI Data, Asian Pacific Islander American Vote and Asian Americans Advancing Justice of the Spring 2016 Asian American Voter Survey, the FADCNY independently highlighted the survey’s valuable findings and implications for the Filipino American community.

“By every measure, from surveys like this, to our everyday experiences working with the Filipino American community, we encounter the rising potential of the Filipino American political community in the United States,” said FADCNY Vice President Steven Raga.
“This being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we are reminded of the hard-fought battles for recognition and progress that our community has faced, and the need for more of the kind of political organizing still needed to be done to secure the Filipino community’s place as a core part of the story of America.”
Other welcome news in the survey include Filipino Americans leading Asian Americans as being the top group to use social media to share political information.
“Filipino Americans have always been technological innovators and incredibly active on social media. The Philippines is known as the social networking capital of the world,” said FADCNY Communications Director Marian Guerra. “Here in the United States, we have been able to leverage social media platforms to start conversations about important issues and current events, and many of us have become digitally-savvy political organizers.”
Yet, FADCNY was reminded that more work needs to be done to turn this online political engagement into real concrete and material actions, as the data also showed that Filipino American respondents were the least likely among Asian Americans to have attended a political demonstration or rally.
Among the survey’s findings, the FADCNY would like to highlight the following key data points:
• There has been a 12-point increase in the proportion of Asian Americans who identify as Democrats from 2012 to 2016.
• An astonishing 54 percent of FilAm respondents identify as Democrats, compared with only 24 percent in 2012, a 30-point increase.
• Only 16 percent of FilAm respondents think of themselves as Republicans. It should not go without saying that four years ago that FilAms led the Asian American community as the most likely to identify as Republican (27 percent of FilAms in 2012). This is a 12-point drop in the GOP’s strength in the FilAm community.
• For FilAms who are independents or not affiliated with any political party or do not think in terms of political parties, 39 percent of these respondents think of themselves as closer to the Democratic Party. Only 8 percent said they were closer to the Republican Party.
• Only 31 percent of FilAm respondents had a favorable view of the Republican Party, compared to 64 percent of respondents who had a favorable view of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile 48 percent of FilAm respondents had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, compared to only 21 percent having an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party.
“Our analysis of the full report is that there is strong white-nativist and anti-immigrant stances with the GOP and Donald Trump in particular,” Dela Cruz told The FilAm. “The survey showed Filipino American voters strongly supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, as well as choosing another candidate if the candidate displayed anti-Muslim beliefs.”
Overall, within the Asian America community, added Dela Cruz, “Many analysts of the survey said that youth becoming voters is bringing the Asian community further to the left. Interestingly enough, gun control is something Filipinos tend to side with conservatives with, according to that poll.” —The FilAm

Monday, May 30, 2016

Fil-Am former Miss Washington Teen USA receives journalism scholarship

The Filipino-American who was crowned Miss Washington Teen USA 2014 received a scholarship from the Asian American Journalist Association for a prestigious annual journalism convention.
Starla Sampaco received the 2016 AAJA Seattle Founders Scholarship for the national AJAA convention in August, IExaminer reported on Thursday (US time).

Photo courtesy of Starla Sampaco's Twitter account
Photo courtesy of Starla Sampaco's Twitter account

Sampaco told the IExaminer, “I am proud to be a first-generation American, and my experience as the daughter of Filipino immigrants influenced my passion for stories involving immigrants and underrepresented communities.”
Sampaco is double majoring Journalism and Law, Societies, and Justice at the University of Washington (UW) and will graduate in June 2017.
UW included Sampaco in the 2016 class of Husky 100, a list recognizing outstanding 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students from Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma.
She is also the recipient of various scholarships including a summer scholarship at the New York Film Academy in 2015.  Rie Takumi/VVP, GMA News

Pinoy on FBI’s most wanted list

A Filipino convicted of murder has been included on the list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.
The FBI posted a notice on their website calling on witnesses to submit information on Philip Patrick Policarpio, 39, wanted for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend Lauren Elaine Olguin and her unborn child.
Policarpio's name was added on the FBI's list last May 19, 2016.
A $100,000 reward was set for information leading to the arrest of Policarpio, who shot his pregnant girlfriend "at a party in the Rampart area of Los Angeles last month."
Los Angeles Fugitives Task Force member Special Agent Scott Garriola said Policarpio immediately went into hiding following the attack and violated his parole for his 2001 conviction in the process.
LA Times reported that the FBI described the suspect, whose aliases include Bugsy, as "mentally unstable and an illegal drug abuser."
Policarpio was said to have traveled to Las Vegas,  and that he "has ties to the Philippines."
"His pattern is one of violence, and he is always armed... He is the definition of a continuing threat to the community," Garriola told LA Times.
Policarpio is described as 5-foot-8, weighing 150 to 165 pounds with brown eyes, black hair, eyeglasses, and moles on his face. He has tattoos on his back, arms, left thigh, and chest.
In a YouTube video, Policarpio is named among FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive.  Rie Takumi/LBG, GMA News

Pinay attempts to use fake passport to bring adopted child to PHL

Officials from the Philippine Consulate in Dubai stopped a Filipina from returning to the Philippines after she tried to use a fake passport for her adopted child.
According to a report of Khaleej Times, the Filipina's husband allegedly bought the bogus passport in the Philippines for P75,000 (Dh5,900).
Consul Ferdinand Flores said the Filipina was unable to apply for a genuine Philippine passport as the whereabouts of the baby's biological parents were unknown.
Flores said the biological mother was an illegal resident in Dubai who left the child with the foster mother a year ago.
The foster mother claimed to have tried but failed to contact the biological mother by phone.
Flores said no case was filed against the foster mom but insists the consulate does not condone her actions.
The Khaleej report quoted Flores as saying, "fortunately they went first to the consulate before they traveled lest they be held up in the immigration and the mother will be possibly charged with human trafficking."
The child remains with the foster mom.
Other cases of 'fake passport'
Meanwhile, a report on Gulf News said an overseas Filipino worker used a fake passport as a guarantee to obtain a company loan. He reportedly even tapped his coworkers as guarantors before running away with the money.
Another case involved a Filipina who used a fake passport, fake immigration stamps, and even a fake Dubai visa.
In the report, Flores said all cases have been reported to the police and are under investigation.
He said they exposed the modus operandi of those using fake passports to serve as an eye-opener for Filipinos.  Rie Takumi/VVP, GMA News

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fil-Am's yellow truck wheels Pinoy food to NY boroughs

Manny Imperial (right) with Sisig City line cook Ben Acunin and cashier Arielle Crisostomo. The FilAm photo
In the indie film “Chef,” Jon Favreau’s character finds himself flipping Cuban sandwiches in a food truck after he quits his restaurant job as a head chef because of a disagreement with the crusty restaurant owner played by Dustin Hoffman.
Let’s just say that Manny Imperial is fortunate to have both: a sit-down eatery on Staten Island called Phil-Am Kusina and the Sisig City food truck that roams the five boroughs of New York. It is some kind of a juggling act for this young restaurateur with a business degree from Baruch College, but for now Sisig City gets the lion’s share of his attention.
“I waited several years to get a permit,” said Manny, 30, in an interview with The FilAm. “When I got it after so many years on the waitlist, I couldn’t believe it. Is this for real?”
Sisig City officially opened in January as the first Filipino food van in New York City. Its first stop: Woodside, Queens. Manny’s family pioneered in the Filipino grocery business around the East Coast, and its Phil-Am Grocery chain has an established footprint in Queens. That’s where Sisig City’s mustard yellow six-wheeler was first spotted by Filipinos who promptly posted photos on Facebook because of its novelty appeal. “I’ll post this because I did not get to eat Sisig after lining up for 30 minutes at the Sisig City food truck!,” writes Robert William Magat.

Sisig lovers, most of them Pinoys, make a beeline for the yellow truck. The FilAm photo
The truck is painted with images of a New York skyscraper, a Philippine flag, and a carabao. The blurb “Big Filipino Flavor” says it all. By Manny’s reckoning, the Sisig is sure to attract at least two kinds of demographics: Filipinos with a longing for their favorite comfort food, and non-Filipinos who are intrigued by this dish made of chopped pig parts and sautéed in onions. Others are simply about the food truck experience.
“We had a lot of food traffic on our first day in Queens,” he said. “But just to be sure, I also invited a lot of my friends and cousins. Turnout was great.”
Sisig City has been spotted around NYC, specifically in front of schools and hospitals, where Fil-Am students and nurses form the head of the line. The van offers four standard rice bowl dishes, although there can be other dishes on a given week. The Pork Sisig, Chicken Sisig, Grilled Liempo, and Lechon Kawali come with garlic rice and Pickled Achara for a fixed price of $9. Sisig Tacos and Sisig Nachos are also available. Dessert is a choice of Fried Turon and Buko Pandan.
“I notice that everyone loves to try Filipino food, and they want to know what Sisig is,” said Manny as he talked about his typical customers. “Others, when they see a new food truck, they say let’s go and try it.”
Sisig City stays in a particular location for about four hours, usually from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The schedule is posted on their Facebook page. The truck has a permit to park anywhere, except in certain high-traffic spots, like Times Square or Penn Station.
The food truck may seem like a straightforward operation but the cost can be discouraging to a fainthearted entrepreneur. A 2014 Forbes Magazine article says the NYC Department of Health “issued 5,100 mobile-food-vending permits, of which 500 belong to food trucks.” A permit can be anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 for two years.
Manny was tightlipped about the cost but detailed where expenses can hit the owner: permits, buying a used food truck, revamping the truck to set up a kitchen with a flat-top griddle, a fridge and a table, and designing the truck. “Since it’s an old truck I needed new engine,” he said. “Yeah, it’s (food truck business) expensive.”
The idea of a food truck has crossed Manny’s mind — and stayed there for years — when it became a foodie craze in California. He was not really obsessed with being the first in New York, but he has seen how the food business can be fickle and seasonal. The grocery business, for example, is experiencing a downturn because FilAms are seeing a generation that “does not cook anymore.” He thought why not try a different kind of food-related enterprise. The food truck spoke to a certain age demographics and the millennial lifestyle.
Manny remembered inviting his friends and classmates to his Staten Island restaurant to try Filipino food, but they would come up with all sorts of excuses like “too far” or “toll too expensive.”
With Sisig City, he can bring Filipino food closer to his friends “so they have no more excuse,” he said. —The Fil-Am

Korea opens center offering employment support to migrant teens

A center that will provide educational and employment support for migrant adolescents, including Filipinos, has been opened in South Korea through the help of the public, private and industrial sectors.
The center, called the Global Youth Dream Center, is a five-floor structure that has a gross floor area of 1,428 sqm and located in Suwon City in Gyeonggi Province, one hour south of Seoul. The center was formally opened on May 10.
"It is a miracle that a center for migrant adolescents, who in particular face many difficulties, was established with assistance and contributions from many individuals," said Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young during the opening ceremony.
According to Mayor Yeom, the number of foreign residents in the city has reached 55,000 in 2016, an 18.5 percent increase from last year. He called the growth "remarkable."
Philippine Ambassador to Korea Raul S. Hernandez attended the opening ceremony to express the Philippine Embassy's support to the project.
"I am happy to see local government, business and the church join hands here in Suwon to show their full support to the youth as they aspire to pursue personal development, contribute to the community and serve the larger population," Hernandez said in his congratulatory remarks.
In a news release, the embassy said the Global Youth Dream Center has its exterior decorated with shapes and colors that symbolize multiculturalism.
Managed by Father Choi Byeong-jo, the center contains a vocational skills development office, case management office and alternative school lecture hall for capacity building purposes.
There is also a book cafe, community hall, library and outdoor rest area, which will serve as "communication spaces" as they will be open to both the migrant adolescents and local residents.
The center will be offering a high school equivalency test class, together with the "Geuruteogi" volunteer team formed by Samsung Electronics researchers, for migrant adolescents and local residents who either cannot provide evidence of their academic background or dropped out of school for personal reasons. —KBK, GMA News

14 Fil-Am students to receive university scholarships in Hawaii

Fourteen Filipino-American students in Hawaii will receive scholarships for their academic excellence and outstanding extra-curricular work in the community.
report on Maui Now said the students will receive $1,000 at the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce Foundation's annual Gintong Pamana Leadership & Scholarship Awards to be held at the Maui Beach Hotel on June 16.
Other recipients include re-elected San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez Scholarship and Maui Cozy Island Dental Scholarship grantees. They will receive the same amount as fellow MFCCF scholars.
Five students from Maui High School received the scholarship: Charwin Kenneth Andaya, Sherylynne Andrada,  Alssie Marie Jean Casayuran, Tara-Ann Marie Pacubas, and Alyssa Michiko Yoshimura.
Andaya (kinesiology), Andrada (biology), and Pacubas (biological engineering) will enter the University of Hawai‘i while Casayuran (biology) opted for Pacific University and Yoshimura (education) passed University of Portland.
St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School students Micah Leval, Nicole Kirsten Supnet Neilson, Joshua Kainoa Pulmano Schwartzlow were granted scholarships.
Leval will pursue political economy at University of Hawai‘i while Neilso takes business at Saint Martin’s University, where Schwartzlow will take his bachelor's degree.
Alyssa Hernandez Sumibcay (nursing) and Althea Mae Kaohu R. Pittman (computer science) from H.P. Baldwin High School will take their majors at University of Hawai‘i.
Seabury Hall student Thomas Takeo Macadangdang Hayashi will take environmental science and  philosophy at Santa Clara University while Maui Preparatory Academy graduate Jamie Advincula enters Brown University for business-entrepreneurship/marketing.
Lahainaluna High School seniors Kaylee K. Harmon (business management) and Dean Omura (mechanical engineering) will pursue their degrees at Western Oregon University and  University of Portland.
Jayford Agbayani, a graduate from Ilocos Norte College of Arts and Trades in 2005, will also receive $1,000 for his education at the Maui Culinary Arts Academy. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Starting June 1, no-show passport applicants to face 30-day ban

Starting June 1, those who will not show up on the date of their passport appointment will be barred from re-applying for 30 days, Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said on Thursday.
“If you don’t show up you’re not going be able to reserve for 30 days. So please take your reservations seriously,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Chief told ANC Channel’s Headstart program.
Almendras lamented that the practice of disregarding the schedule given to applicants by the DFA's consular division has resulted in a two-month waiting period for hundreds of applicants.
“People complain it takes two months to take a slot to be interviewed. Statistics showed that 47 percent of people who applied for appointment do not show up,” Almendras  said.
“They just apply now, they don’t show up again so starting June 1, if you do not show up for your appointment you’re gonna be put aside for at least a month. You are not going to apply for a new slot,” he said.
As there is no fee for passport application reservation, Almendras observed that many Filipinos take their slots for granted because they could easily apply for a new one.
Almendras admitted that he contemplated on imposing a fine for no-show passport applicants but was advised against it by the Commission on Audit because no service has been rendered yet.
The DFA receives at least 15,000 passport applications daily.
Long processing time
Meanwhile, apart from problems on passport reservation, Almendras acknowledged that the DFA was experiencing challenges in cutting down the processing time, which normally takes two and a half hours to complete.
Almendras appealed to the Filipinos for patience as the DFA is transitioning to a new system to accommodate the huge volume of passport applications.
“When you put in a new system there are always challenges but we acknowledge the fact that it has been bumpy,” he said.
Another cause of delay is the stringent security check that applicants have to go through due to thousands of cases of identity fraud encountered by the DFA.
“We have a lot more screening happening. We have to double check. We receive 15,000 applications per day and about 4,000 applications are bumped off. We have to investigate, we have to protect the integrity of the passport,” he said.
“The intention is to make the Philippine passport a really respectable identification and that means security check left and right.”
Amid all these concerns, Almendras vowed to reduce the processing time for application.
“The fastest we have done is 20 minutes and the longest is one hour and 42 minutes and I’m still targeting a one-hour turnaround time. From the time you enter our office it should be one hour’s time,” he said. — VVP, GMA News

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

“Time to act fast and vigorously on family planning” – Ben de Leon, The Forum

 “Time to act fast and vigorously on family planning” – Ben de Leon, The Forum

The Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc. (The Forum) supports the aggressive stance of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte in implementing the country’s reproductive health and family planning law that is also anchored on his new government’s economic agenda of eliminating inequality and poverty. The Forum commended President Duterte for his appointment of Dr. Ernesto Pernia as Secretary of Socio Economic Planning and Director General, NEDA. He will be a strong pillar to his Administration as he will craft economic policies that will benefit the country especially the poor. Pernia is a member of the Board of Trustee of The Forum.

Benjamin De Leon, president of The Forum, said he welcomes the fresh pronouncements of the incoming government as “sensible and well-timed especially now that the Philippines is experiencing a slowing population growth rate and Filipinos recognize the importance of family planning.”

“Enabling couples to phase the births and plan the number of children they want to have, to afford and to provide for by giving them free family planning methods that they want to use and educating them about the benefits of a well-planned family is an opportune moment to grasp,” said De Leon.

“The RPRH Law allows public health centers to provide family planning methods and contraceptives such as condoms and pills to couples and individuals who need them,” said De Leon. “The Law also allows the teaching of sex education in schools to make children and young people understand about sex, sexuality and reproductive health in a responsible manner that in the long term would influence them to make intelligent decisions later in life.”

He added that enabling the country’s enormous youth population of making more sensible life decisions will have longstanding effects on the country’s social and economic development.

De Leon said it is an opportune time to increase the momentum of the country’s family planning and reproductive health program by providing education and services to a wider segment of the population.

“From the very start, the welfare of Filipinos, whatever beliefs they have and faiths that they practice, is foremost in the goals of the country’s family planning and reproductive health program,” he said.

Court sends fraudulent SSS claimant to jail for faking tuberculosis

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has sentenced a Social Security System (SSS) claimant to imprisonment of about seven years and eight months up to ten years and nine months for attempting to defraud SSS of disability benefits for pulmonary tuberculosis using spurious documents.

SSS Chief Legal Counsel and Senior Vice President for Legal Services Division Voltaire P. Agas said that Julieta S. Panganiban was convicted for two criminal cases – one for false statement or misrepresentation when she submitted fake documents, and another for receipt of the P42,953.99 disability benefit even if she wasn’t qualified.
"The court ordered Panganiban to serve a jail term one year, eight months and 21 days as minimum to four years, nine months and 10 days as maximum and to pay a fine of P5,000 for violation of Section 28 (a) of the Social Security Law. She would also serve another jail term of six years and one day and pay a fine of P5,000 for violation of Section 28 (b)," Agas said.
According to the joint decision by Judge Madonna C. Echiverri of RTC Branch 81, the medical certificate signed by a certain Dr. James Bernard Wong and the X-ray report issued by St. Joseph Diagnostic Center submitted by Panganiban did not come from any legitimate doctor or diagnostic center.
The SSS Medical Program Department discovered the fraudulent claim when it conducted an audit of medical benefits filed with the pension fund. Panganiban’s case was immediately referred to the SSS Anti-Fraud Department for proper investigation.
Panganiban admitted during the trial that the medical certificate and other documents she submitted to SSS were from a certain "Rocky." The entries in her disability claim application were also prepared by “Rocky,” who afterwards gave her instructions on how to proceed with her SSS application.
Prior to filing the fraudulent claim, Panganiban applied for a disability benefit on the basis of her asthma which was denied by SSS. After receiving SSS’ denial of her claim, she resorted to accepting the offer made by "Rocky."
The court noted that even if Panganiban acted in good faith when she accepted the offer of "Rocky," it is not a valid defense for escaping criminal responsibility. In cases such as this, the only inquiry is whether the law has been breached, the decision said.
"Panganiban cannot claim that she only accepted Rocky's offer in good faith, thinking that that he only wanted to help facilitate her application. Her full knowledge and involvement in submitting the falsified documents and making untruthful statements were enough for the court to find her guilty," Agas said.
Under the law, the SSS can only file a complaint against the filer or the individual who signed the application forms and directly submitted the claims with SSS. Those who have been victimized by persons such as “Rocky” can file a separate case against these fixers.
"We strongly advise members not to accept any help from people they don't know personally. If they need assistance with their benefit claims, they can always approach any of our employees or visit the nearest SSS branch. Engaging the services of fixers may lead to granting of their claims which would result in stiffer penalties once discovered by SSS," said Agas.
At present, Panganiban has not appealed the decision of the lower court and has already started serving her sentence. Atty. Franco E. Bustamante, the SSS lawyer handling the Panganiban case, scored a court conviction last year against Orlando P. Tabadero, who filed a fraudulent disability claim for pulmonary tuberculosis allegedly also with the help of a man named "Rocky."

Upgraded Pag-IBIG savings for Deped RO V

Teachers and non-teaching staff of the Department of Education Regional Office No. 5 (DepEd-RO V) may now conveniently increase their savings with Pag-IBIG Fund through salary deduction. This was made possible through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed on March 1, 2016 at The Concourse Convention Center in Legazpi City, by DepEd-RO V Regional Director Ramon Fiel G. Abcede, and Pag-IBIG Fund Legazpi Branch Head Mr. Roberto A. Salvosa and Area Head Ms. Ma. Luisa P. Barcebal. The increase in savings may be done through the Fund's Upgraded Savings Program, which allows PagIBIG members to save over and above the mandatory monthly savings of P100, or through savings in the Modified Pag-IBIG II (MP2) Program of the Fund – an additional savings facility which yields higher annual dividends than Pag-IBIG 1 savings and has a fixed maturity period of five years. "We are happy to enter into this partnership with DepEd-RO V as this will enable our teachers and other DepEd personnel in the Bicol Region to save for their future," Ms. Barcebal said. Under the MOA, availment of the programs will allow employees to effect the increase of their savings through salary deduction. Director Abcede lauded the said undertaking, saying "this would re-awaken and re-integrate the culture of savings amongst its personnel." He immediately issued Regional Memorandum Circular No. 29 (s.2016), instructing all DepEd divisions under the Bicol Region to allow the conduct of Benefits Orientation by Pag-IBIG Fund during Management Committee Meetings of Division officials. DepEd Bicol Region has, at present, under its employ more than 50,000 personnel including teachers. In response, Pag-IBIG Fund Legazpi committed to conduct financial literacy briefings highlighting the savings products of Pag-IBIG. Pag-IBIG Fund President & CEO Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe congratulated both parties for their efforts in promoting saving for the DepEd personnel and teachers, who are all Pag-IBIG members. "The savings program of the Fund is designed to help Pag-IBIG members prepare for their future. PagIBIG savings are government guaranteed, have higher yield than other savings instruments, and the yield is tax free" Atty. Berberabe said. In 2015, Pag-IBIG declared its highest-ever dividends amounting to P14.24 Billion, with a dividend rate of 4.83%. In the past five years, the annual dividend rate of the Fund has not gone down below the 4% level. Meanwhile, Pag-IBIG records show that from 2013 to 2015, 457 DepEd personnel in the Bicol Region availed of Pag-IBIG housing loans worth P253.043 Million. Over the same period, 11,449 DepEd personnel nationwide availed of housing loans with a loan value of P7.58 Billion

Pag-IBIG Fund housing for NBI employees

Pag-IBIG Fund housing for NBI employees Pag-IBIG Fund President and CEO Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe (third from left) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Atty. Virgilio L. Mendez (fourth from left) signed an understanding to cater to NBI employees’ housing needs. Joining them are (from left): PagIBIG Fund Manager Nanette Gerarda T. Abilay and Senior Vice President Engr. Juanito V. Eje; NBI Assistant Director Atty. Medardo G. de Lemos; NBI Employees Association (NBIEA) President Arch. Domingo LL. Tablizo, Jr., and NBIEA Vice President Rolando M. Alimboyong. Pag-IBIG Fund and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recently sealed their partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will assist NBI employees in their housing needs. Pag-IBIG Fund President and CEO Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe, NBI Director Atty. Virgilio L. Mendez, and NBI Employees Association (NBIEA) President Arch. Domingo LL. Tablizo, Jr.led the signing event. “Atty. Chito Cruz, Chairman of the Housing and Urban

Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and Pag-IBIG Chairman of the Board of Trustees, has directed for our proactive coordination with National Government Agencies (NGAs) to bring Pag-IBIG programs and services closer to government employees. Since we launched our Institutional Housing Program in 2013, Pag-IBIG has touched base with various NGAs to offer our housing programs and services. We are now looking into two housing projects in Cavite for NBI employees, one in Bacoor and the other one in Tanza,” Atty. Berberabe said. Through the MOU, home ownership will be made more accessible to the NBI employees wishing to avail of housing units from the bureau’s proposed housing projects. Atty. Berberabe also mentioned that NBI employees can also be assisted in acquiring their preferred housing unit outside the proposed housing projects or be home-matched if they wish to avail of a house from the inventories of accredited developers. NBIEA President Arch. Tablizo was grateful that the forged partnership with Pag-IBIG has finally turned into reality. “When I assumed office as the President of NBIEA, I dreamed that someday, NBI would have its own shelter program, particularly for rank and file employees. With high hopes, inspiration, and ultimate goal to help our colleagues in the bureau to provide decent and affordable housing, we met with people and entities that are willing to help us in this endeavor. The rest was history,” he said. NBI Director Melendez thanked Pag-IBIG Fund for this opportunity, saying, “We are so happy and joyful that in the near future, the employees of NBI will have a house of their own through Pag-IBIG Fund.” To date, Pag-IBIG Fund has forged partnerships with 11 NGAs nationwide.

PhilHealth Regional Office V’s Music for Unity Caravan

OFW spared from death row returns to PH

Raoul Esperas

FREE AT LAST. OFW Jonard Langamin is reunited with his parents upon arrival at NAIA Terminal 2 after serving 8 years in prison for killing a fellow OFW. His parents were accompanied by Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. Photo by Raoul Esperas
MANILA –After being spared from the death sentence and serving eight years in prison, overseas Filipino worker Jonard Langamin is now reunited with his family in Manila.
Langamin, 32-years old, arrived Wednesday morning on board a Philippine Airlines flight PR 683 from Damman, Saudi Arabia.
Langamin was met at the airport by his parents Edith and Clemente Langamin who were accompanied by Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. His parents had not seen him for 10 years.
The Ople Center said the OFW was meted the death penalty by the Saudi Government in 2008 after being found guilty of killing fellow Pinoy Robertson Mendoza.
FREE AT LAST. OFW Jonard Langamin is reunited with his parents upon arrival at NAIA Terminal 2 after serving 8 years in prison for killing a fellow OFW. His parents were accompanied by Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. Photo by Raoul Esperas
He was spared from beheadings in 2012 after the family of Mendoza signed a "tanazul" or affidavit of forgiveness.
Langamin extended his gratitude to all who personally assisted him in his case until he was pardoned.
Ople said Vice President Jejomar Binay helped process the financial assistance in raising the blood money, as required under the Sharia law.

Art gallery explores domestic workers' plight in HK

HONG KONG – Some works of Filipino artists are featured in an exhibit exploring issues of race, labor, discrimination and migrant domestic workers here.
Among them was a video presentation of Poklong Anading, whose mother worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 11 years and who died of cancer shortly after she returned to the Philippines.
According to Cosmin Costinas, executive director and curator of Para Site, which is running the exhibition "Afterwork," when Anading first went to Hong Kong, he chose to go to the places in the photographs of his mother when she was here.
"Afterwork," which started in March, will run until May 9 in Quarry Bay in Hong Kong island. So far, the exhibit, Costinas said, has attracted some 6,000 to 7,000 visitors, including two lawmakers.

On Sunday, Hong Kong lawmaker Emily Lau brought with her to the exhibit 15 domestic helpers from Enrich and Helpers for Domestic Helpers on a tour guided by Costinas.
The group visited the exhibition ahead of the May 24 debate on the new Draft Code of Practice for Employment Agencies by the Panel on Manpower of the Legislative Council.
In an open discussion after the tour, Lau said the Hong Kong government must be more pro-active in fostering a safer work environment for migrant domestic workers in the city.
"The government needs to set up a mechanism to handle complaints," said Lau. "They need to improve the existing system to handle disputes between the employees, employers and agencies. Employers also need better education on labour code compliance. 
‘We must also continue to push the Philippines and Indonesian governments to do more for their people, and to defend the rights of domestic helpers," Lau said.
Another lawmaker, Fernando Cheung, who also joined the tour, said he believes the young people of Hong Kong will pave the way for a city that would be friendlier to domestic workers.
"More cultural exchange is needed to help improve communication. This exhibit helps us understand each other as human beings and not just as domestic helpers or employers," he said. —KBK, GMA News

Fil-Canadian businesswoman gets jail time for exploiting workers

A Filipino-Canadian businesswoman has been sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment for exploiting some 70 foreign workers, including Filipinos, reports said.
Jennilyn Morris, 46, was also ordered to pay back the unpaid wages of 13 of her victims amounting to $22,000, according to a report on CBC News.
The report said the sentence was handed down by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Kenneth Nielsen on Friday, four months after Morris pleaded guilty to two charges under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
It added Nielsen thumbed down the defense's request for a conditional discharge or house arrest for Morris, citing how her actions affected her victims who told the court how they suffered stress and depression, among others, under Morris.
One victim, Teodora Bautista, a 42-year-old single mother from the Philippines, said she experienced blackouts and once even collapsed from sheer exhaustion after being forced to work for long hours.
Others also complained of being forced to work long hours every day, and of being treated like second-class citizens.
separate report on Edmonton Journal said Morris moved to Canada from the Philippines in 1998 as a live-in caregiver who married a Canadian and built two successful businesses, a restaurant and a company involved in commercial and residential cleaning. She was also a cancer survivor.
The CBC News report said Morris showed no expression as the sheriffs led her from the courtroom.
Edmonton Journal quoted Crown prosecutor Michelle Ferguson as saying that it’s the first time anyone in Alberta has gone to prison for exploiting foreign workers. —KBK, GMA News

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The odds of an OFW nurse as PHL First Lady? Fil-Am nurses weigh in

The question of who should be First Lady to incoming Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte rakes up a lot of historic ‘firsts.’
It will be the first time a politician will be taking office as president separated from his wife. It is likely to be the first time he will be publicly seen with a common-law wife, if the recent campaign is any indication.
Cielito “Honeylet” Avancena, 46, who has been Duterte’s domestic partner for 20 years, has been front and center during the election campaign and is largely acknowledged as his low-key comrade in political combat. Time and shifting social folkways will determine if she will eventually assume the position of First Lady, and if she does, it will be the first time that the title will be bestowed not on a woman with the status of a stylized society-page socialite. (Duterte has said his daughter Sara will be his First Lady)
Honeylet, who met Duterte while she was a nurse in the US, comes from the ranks of overseas Filipino workers (OFW). She’s been described as a behind-the-scenes, uncomplicated woman, who all of a sudden finds herself in the spotlight of a contentious political campaign when Duterte aspired for the presidency.
“Alalay lang,” she would tell reporters, understating her role in his life as simply that of an aide.
Not much else is known about Honeylet except what has been often reported that she worked for four years in California. For some Filipino American nurses, her closeness to the president makes her an influential health care policy adviser, or if the country, for instance, were to examine the quality of nursing education in the Philippines.
“The fact of her being in a position close to the incumbent president, somehow she becomes an advocate to give importance and elevate the nursing profession,” said Menchu de Luna, a Neonatal ICU Clinical Nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Another RN who believes a nurse who has overseas experience would make a good First lady is Belinda Rosales, Assistant Director of Nursing at the Henry J. Carter Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility.
She said, “I like the idea of a First Lady who is more attuned to the needs of the people, who has seen how the people live in the Philippines, and in a developed country like the U.S. It will be a good basis for comparison of our way of lives, and how to improve it.” As a Registered Nurse who had experience working in the U.S., Honeylet can have a “significant impact” on healthcare issues, such as Filipino children’s nutritional status.
“I remember the ‘nutribun’ that we ate in elementary school in the 1970s. With 28 million people living in poverty in the Philippines, children’s nutrition can be an issue that might be given attention (by a First Lady who is a nurse),” she said.
Avancena downplays her role as ‘just an aide.’
Avancena downplays her role as ‘just an aide.’
There are actually a myriad of issues a First Lady can take on, continued Rosales. “Since Duterte is big on drugs and reducing crime rates, maybe she can start an anti-drug campaign in school. Or maybe she can revamp our sex education campaign in the middle school and high schools, make the tweens and teenagers more aware of how HIV+ and sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented.”
But one does not have to be proclaimed First Lady to be able to do all these things, she said. It takes an “enlightened” woman behind a powerful man to be “up to the challenge.”
Ethel Cantor Constantino, who is currently reviewing for her NCLEX exams, said Honeylet has been a great support for Duterte not only as a partner but as a personal nurse.
“She is taking care of his health and his diet,” she said. “During the grueling campaign, she was there to make sure he is healthy and eating good. As an experienced nurse, Honeylet will make sure the next president is healthy and capable to serve the public.”
Maritess Dela Cruz, a nurse for Centers Plan for Healthy Living, said having a nurse for a partner, or ultimately a First Lady, is “great” because the partnership can “focus on the rapidly changing health needs of the Filipino people.”
However, she raises a preamble in the Nursing Code of Ethics which, she said, puts a premium on high level of morality.
“Nurses are leaders, we should set good examples, we owe it to the public,” she said. Honeylet, she stressed, is not the wife.
Retired RN Marissa Torres Langseth said a Filipino nurse who has worked in the US is “exposed to different people from all walks of life and culture, is open-minded and uses critical thinking in her decisions.” This should make Honeylet, if and when she becomes First Lady, a true health care advocate.
“Nurses are mostly humanists, mixing science with caring,” she said. “They take care of other people more than themselves. They work long hours, watching people die, seeing the reality of life and death. They are there when you are born and comfort you at the end. OFW nurses leave their families behind to work abroad for a better future. Filipino nurses are good ambassadors for the country.” —The FilAm

Monday, May 23, 2016

11 OFWs win $15.3-M lawsuit vs. LA bakery owners

Eleven Filipino workers allegedly forced to work under abusive conditions won a $15.3-million lawsuit against their employers, according to a report on the LA Times.
Named respondents in the lawsuit filed March 2015 were Analiza and Goncalo Moitinho de Almeida, owners of L'Amande French Bakery who were accused of labor and wage violation.
The decision was handed down by US District Judge Fernando Olguin on May 2, the report said.
Christopher Lapinig, the OFWs lawyer, said in a statement that the ruling will hopefully make clear to "exploitative employers" who resort to "unlawful activity to escape accountability for their labor abuses" that they may "no longer act with impunity".
report on the Daily Breeze said the couple must pay the following:
• More than $3.7 million in compensatory damages for human trafficking and $1.25 million for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
• More than $3.7 million in punitive damages for human trafficking and $1.25 million for FEHA violations.
• More than $1 million in statutory damages for wage and hour law violations;
• $200,000 for statutory damages for violation of California’s whistleblower and retaliation law.
• More than $1.2 million for damages under the RICO Act.
• More than $2.8 million in attorneys’ fees.
It added that the judge also voided the couple's transfer of their home.
According to the workers, the couple promised them work as "skilled bakery chefs and managers" but were put into “oppressive and discriminatory conditions as domestic servants, physical laborers engaged in landscaping and building maintenance" instead.
The 11 Filipino plaintiffs said they worked14-hour workdays on a rate of $3 per hour with no days off at the two branches of L'Amande.
The couple also allegedly ordered a reimbursement of $11,000 for their travel and E-2 visa fees unless they commit to working for three years.
Analiza, earlier identified by the Daily Breeze as Ana Santos, initially denied the "blatant lies" told by their Filipino workers.
She added, "I have treated them like family, shouldering many of their financial needs including educational, medical, dental, disaster relief, clothing and housing needs, for decades." Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

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