Friday, July 29, 2016

OFW group wants list of gov't cash aid beneficiaries expanded

An OFW group has asked the government to expand its financial assistance program to cover more Filipino workers displaced by the oil crisis plaguing construction companies in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia.
In a statement Thursday, Marlon Gatdula of Migrante-KSA Western Region said the government must expand "the limited scope of beneficiaries" to OFWs whose employers felt the effects of the oil crisis but did not make it to the list made by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Gatdula said the cash assistance being offered by OWWA through its P500-million Relief Assistance Program must not be limited only to its members.
"It will be unfair and divisive to the OFWs and their families. Because of their stranded status, majority of them are undocumented (no iqamas) and therefore have been rendered stripped off their active OWWA memberships. If active OWWA membership is a pre-requisite, close to none will be able to avail," he said.
Under OWWA's Memorandum of Instruction, only OFWs formerly employed by the following companies may claim P20,000 and P6,000 for their families in the Philippines at the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah:
  • Saudi bin Laden Grup of Companies
  • Saudi Oger Ltd.
  • Mohammed al-Mojil Group
  • Mohammad Hameed Al-Bargash & Bros. Trading & Construction Co.
  • Alumco LLC
  • Rajeh H. Al Merri Contracting & Trading Co.
  • Fawzi Salah Al Nairani Contracting Co.
  • Arabtec Construction LLC
  • Real Estate Development & Investment Co.
Among the employers Migrante wishes to see on the list are SMASCO, Al-Aman Contracting and Alzeeme in Jeddah, SMACO in Al-Khobar and Fiberglass Factory in Rabigh.
The group also urged OWWA officials in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Khobar to immediately visit OFWs at their jobsites to inform them of the financial aid.
“We also reiterate that while the emergency financial assistance is a welcome development, it is only one of the demands put forth by stranded OFWs and their families,” Gatdula said.
The cash aid came a week after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III checked on the conditions of OFWs at the camps of Saudi Oger and Saudi bin Laden Group of Companies.
Prior to the visit, Bello sacked two labor attachés in Riyadh and Jeddah for their alleged neglect of some 11,000 OFWs affected by the massive retrenchments of construction companies. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Indonesian drug convict facing death row highlights risks to migrant workers —campaigners

JAKARTA - The case of an Indonesian woman expected to be executed this week for drug trafficking highlights the risk to migrant workers of being duped into becoming drug mules, human rights campaigners said.
Merri Utami, who was convicted in 2003 of smuggling 1.1 kgs of heroin into Indonesia, is believed to be among 14 drug convicts due to be executed this weekend.
The Indonesian government has not released the names of the 14 but Utami has been transferred to the execution site and activists said she is among those moved.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein called for Indonesia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty that was suspended in 2013, and not proceed with the reportedly imminent executions.
According to Indonesia's women's rights commission, a government-backed body that functions independently, Utami had gone to Taiwan to work as a maid to escape her abusive husband.
After divorcing him, she got involved with a man who took her to Nepal. Utami says that when the pair returned separately to Indonesia, the man gave her a bag to carry which contained heroin but she had not realised this.
Rights groups have compared Utami's case to that of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino maid found guilty of drug trafficking in Indonesia and due to face a firing squad last year.
Veloso was granted a last-minute reprieve following a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting drugs in her luggage, confessed to police in the Philippines.
Female migrant workers are the perfect targets for drug trafficking rings because they are often poor, with limited education but they hold passports, campaigners say.
"This has become a pattern and the modus operandi is always the same," said Azriana, chair of Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women, which carried out a survey of 16 Indonesian women sentenced to death over drug offences at home and abroad.
Azriana, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, urged Jakarta to investigate such cases.
Migrante International, a migrant workers' group in the Philippines that led the campaign to halt Veloso's execution, said there were many more women like her.
"Governments should consider (migrant workers) as people who are victimized by the drug trade, they are tricked into being mules—but they are the ones being punished for the crime," said Mic Catuira, Migrante International's deputy secretary-general by telephone from Manila.
Catuira told the Thomson Reuters Foundation her organization was handling other cases involving migrant workers convicted of drug trafficking, including a Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia.
Indonesia and the Philippines are two of Asia's main suppliers of migrant workers, with about 8.5 million such workers overseas, official data showed.
There are 205 Indonesians and 94 Filipino migrant workers on death row overseas, according to Indonesia's women's commission and Migrante International, citing figures from their respective foreign ministries.
The Indonesian women's commission has launched a last-ditch attempt to prevent Utami's execution by petitioning Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant her clemency.
Indonesia has declared a "drug emergency" and vowed no mercy for drug traffickers. —Thomson Reuters Foundation

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pinoys warned vs. trafficking syndicate promising jobs in China

Immigration agents have launched a manhunt operation for a Chinese woman allegedly working for a human trafficking syndicate operating in the Philippines.
The woman, whose identity was withheld so as not to preempt the operation, was accused of bringing a Filipina to China to work illegally and then abandoning her there.
The Filipina, who was arrested and detained for two months in Beijing, was recently deported. She recalled her ordeal to Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers, which led to the manhunt operation.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said based on the information shared by the victim, she and the suspect left for China on October 15 last year.
However, upon their arrival in China, the suspect left her and returned to Manila without securing a visa extension or working visa for her.
Because of this, she was subsequently arrested and detained by Chinese authorities for being an illegally staying alien.

After her release from detention, the victim sought the help of the Philippine Embassy in Beijing, which provided her with a travel document that she used in returning to the Philippines.

Morente said the Chinese woman is suspected to be a courier for a human trafficking syndicate based in Manila. —KBK, GMA News

PHL officials in Jeddah explain cash aid to displaced OFWs

OWWA Welfare Officer Angel Cruz meets with displaced OFWs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the process of releasing the financial assistance promised by the government last week. Ronaldo Concha

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Philippine officials in Jeddah have appealed for patience as they start the process of giving financial assistance to Filipino workers rendered jobless by the oil crisis plaguing Middle East-based construction companies.
Welfare Officer Angel Cruz said they've been meeting with the affected OFWs by batches to explain to them the process of releasing the P26,000 promised to them by the government.
Meeting the third batch of affected OFWs on Tuesday at the Philippine Consulate here, Cruz said they have yet to release the funds as they are still completing the list of beneficiaries, many of whom were retrenched OFWs from Saudi Oger and Saudi Binladen who've been waiting for their back pays for months.
Cruz said the list would serve as their basis in releasing the money.
He also said among their concerns is how to bring the money to the OFWs, who are staying in various accommodations, many of them far from the consulate. He noted the security risk of transporting big money to various locations.
Cruz said they have asked different OFW groups to assign a leader or a representative who will help in the distribution of the cash assistance.
For affected OFWs who are already in the Philippines, Cruz said they can claim their financial assistance from regional offices of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) once they start releasing it.
The financial assistance was promised by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III during his visit to Riyadh last week to check on the condition of retrenched OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
"Lahat ng mga na-displace at maging ang mga na-repatriate ay bibigyan [ng financial assistance]... kukuha po tayo ng kumpletong imbentaryo," Bello said.
Based on government estimates, there are at least 10,000 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia who were displaced when big construction companies started downsizing last year as a result of the drastic drop in oil prices.
Meanwhile, affected OFWs who are already in the Philippines but could not go home to their provinces due to budgetary constraints were encouraged to stay at OWWA halfway houses in Manila. —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News

Jobless OFWs troop to consulate in Jeddah for financial assistance

Hundreds of jobless OFWs have trooped to the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia since Sunday to claim the financial assistance the Labor department promised them.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III visited the consulate last Friday to see for himself the situation of the more than 10,000 retrenched OFWs in the Kingdom who reportedly have been forced to scavenge for food and sell their blood to survive.
Thousands of foreign workers lost their jobs due to the slump in the prices of petroleum products, forcing several firms of the oil-producing country to cut down on production and to retrench workers.
During his visit, Bello promised that the Philippine government would give each affected OFW P20,000, aside from the P 6,000 for each of their families in the Philippines.
Most of the OFWs who first trooped to the consulate to claim the promised assistance were from the firm Saudi Oger.
One of the OFWs told GMA News that in the last six or seven months their salaries have not been released.
“Ako po si Pacifico Lopez, 23-anyos, nang nagtatrabaho sa Saudi Oger at kami po ay dumaranas ngayon na financial crsis dahil hindi po nagpapasahod ang aming kumpanya ng 6 to 7 months.”
"Pumunta kami dito para i-verify kung paano namin makukuha yung financial assistance para sa amin," Lopez said, adding that many OFWs share the same problem they have at Saudi Oger.
Also, they called on the Philippine government to help in their repatriation.  — LBG, GMA News

Life terms for 9 Pinoys over 2013 Malaysia incursion

A Malaysian court sentenced nine Filipinos to life in prison on Tuesday over an armed incursion in 2013 that left scores dead and paralyzed a remote corner of Borneo for weeks, a defense lawyer said.
Eight others, including three Malaysians, received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 18 years, said the attorney, N. Sivananthan.
The bloody incursion by some 200 Islamic militants from the southern Philippines was inspired by a self-proclaimed Filipino sultanate's claims of historical dominion over the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island.
The assault, the most serious security crisis faced by Malaysia in years, led to a siege between the militants and Malaysian armed forces sent to root them out.
At least 70 people were killed, mostly militants, over the six-week ordeal.
Nine of the defendants had faced death for "waging war" against Malaysia's king, but were spared by the court in the Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu.
"They could have been sentenced to death but the judge decided on the lower penalty because there was no evidence they pulled the triggers or committed any murders," N. Sivananthan said.
The others had faced various terrorism-related charges.
Earlier, 12 other Filipinos had been acquitted.
Among those sentenced to life was 53-year-old Amir Bahar Hushin Kiram, son of self-styled Sulu sultan Esmail Kiram.
Esmail, who died in 2015, was among a series of claimants to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of the southern Philippines and part of Borneo.
The crisis embarrassed both Manila and Kuala Lumpur, shining a spotlight on weak Malaysian border protections, and lawlessness in the Philippines' predominantly Muslim south.
The episode eventually fizzled out when some of the militants fled the palm oil plantation where they had been holed up and returned to the Philippines. Scores were detained in Malaysia. —Agence France-Presse

Indonesian drug convict facing death row highlights risks to migrant workers —campaigners

JAKARTA - The case of an Indonesian woman expected to be executed this week for drug trafficking highlights the risk to migrant workers of being duped into becoming drug mules, human rights campaigners said.
Merri Utami, who was convicted in 2003 of smuggling 1.1 kgs of heroin into Indonesia, is believed to be among 14 drug convicts due to be executed this weekend.
The Indonesian government has not released the names of the 14 but Utami has been transferred to the execution site and activists said she is among those moved.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein called for Indonesia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty that was suspended in 2013, and not proceed with the reportedly imminent executions.
According to Indonesia's women's rights commission, a government-backed body that functions independently, Utami had gone to Taiwan to work as a maid to escape her abusive husband.
After divorcing him, she got involved with a man who took her to Nepal. Utami says that when the pair returned separately to Indonesia, the man gave her a bag to carry which contained heroin but she had not realised this.
Rights groups have compared Utami's case to that of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino maid found guilty of drug trafficking in Indonesia and due to face a firing squad last year.
Veloso was granted a last-minute reprieve following a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting drugs in her luggage, confessed to police in the Philippines.
Female migrant workers are the perfect targets for drug trafficking rings because they are often poor, with limited education but they hold passports, campaigners say.
"This has become a pattern and the modus operandi is always the same," said Azriana, chair of Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women, which carried out a survey of 16 Indonesian women sentenced to death over drug offences at home and abroad.
Azriana, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, urged Jakarta to investigate such cases.
Migrante International, a migrant workers' group in the Philippines that led the campaign to halt Veloso's execution, said there were many more women like her.
"Governments should consider (migrant workers) as people who are victimized by the drug trade, they are tricked into being mules—but they are the ones being punished for the crime," said Mic Catuira, Migrante International's deputy secretary-general by telephone from Manila.
Catuira told the Thomson Reuters Foundation her organization was handling other cases involving migrant workers convicted of drug trafficking, including a Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia.
Indonesia and the Philippines are two of Asia's main suppliers of migrant workers, with about 8.5 million such workers overseas, official data showed.
There are 205 Indonesians and 94 Filipino migrant workers on death row overseas, according to Indonesia's women's commission and Migrante International, citing figures from their respective foreign ministries.
The Indonesian women's commission has launched a last-ditch attempt to prevent Utami's execution by petitioning Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant her clemency.
Indonesia has declared a "drug emergency" and vowed no mercy for drug traffickers. —Thomson Reuters Foundation

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

OFWs laud Duterte's first SONA for being 'simple, straight to the point'

President Rodrigo Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) has received positive response from many OFWs, with migrant rights advocate Susan Ople even describing the overall reaction as "overwhelming."
"The President's heart is definitely in the right place," Ople said in a statement Tuesday, as she expressed optimism that Duterte will be able to deliver his promises to OFWs that he stated in his SONA.
Among Duterte's pro-OFW promises were the creation of a separate government agency that would cater exclusively to the OFWs' needs, the extension of the validity of the passport from five years to 10, and a crackdown on illegal recruiters.
Orders, not promises
Vergel Oliver Braza Coronel, 36 and an accountant in Qatar, lauded Duterte for sending a direct and heartfelt message to the public, and for giving "orders and not promises" during his SONA.
"Direktang mensahe na maaabot ng tao. May damdamin at hindi basta binasa lamang. Hindi lamang pangako kundi kautusan agad para sundin ng kagawaran," he told GMA News Online via email.
The observation was shared by Ma. Luisa Capila, a nursery teacher in Qatar. She described Duterte's SONA as "simple and straight to the point yet still informative enough for the people to understand his plans."
For Edgar Cabalu, a staff nurse in the United Arab Emirates, what struck him in Duterte's SONA are his "plans on the peace process, computerization, government service improvement, ‘one-stop’ document application, improved transportation, drug war, magna carta for women, corruption hotline, and lowering of taxes."
But Cabalu was not all praise. “I just wish for a stop to extrajudicial killings," he said, referring to the spate of killings of suspected drug users that human rights advocates are blaming on Duterte's tough stance against illegal drugs.
No blame game
The OFWs also said it was a breath of fresh air that Duterte did not blame past administrations for the country's current troubles.
"It is a good decision for [President] Duterte to not give any remark about the previous administrations. This strategy allowed the current president to have more time in discussing his plans for the country and the welfare of its citizens,” said Capila.
Even Duterte's appeal to the attendees and VIPs to wear business attire instead of the traditional long gowns and expensive Barong Tagalog was welcomed by the OFWs interviewed by GMA News Online.
"Over the past years, the State of the Nation Address focused more on the attires of the politicians and the real essence of the event was ignored," said Coronel.
"Sang-ayon ako sa pagsusuot lang ng business attires. Hindi agaw-eksena ang mga kasuotan or anupaman meron sa mga dadalo kase kaya sila anduon eh para sa mensahe ng pangulo at mga gagawin sa darating na taon," he added.
Coronel also noted that for the first time, the rally held by militants outside the Batasan Pambansa Complex was peaceful.
"Unang pagkakataon eto na wala sinunog [na effigy] at wala magulong protesta sa labas ng Batasan. Bagkus, inayudahan pa ng pulis ang raliyista at binigyan pa ice candy. Nagpapakita lamang [ito] na tanggap ng tao ang mga plano at pagkatao ng pangulo. Sigurado din ako na panatag lamang ang pangulo sa kanyang seguridad," he said. —KBK, GMA News

'Big-time' illegal recruiter falls in QC sting operation

An alleged big-time illegal recruiter was arrested Monday in an entrapment operation in a mall in Quezon City, the police said Tuesday.
Antonio Garate Toca Jr. was arrested by agents from the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Anti-Transnational Crime Unit (CIDG-ATCU) upon receiving the marked money from the complainant.
Toca, 49, has been allegedly luring prospective OFWs with job offers in Canada.
"However, it turned out that the suspect is not authorized to recruit," said Police Chief Inspector Roque Merdegia Jr., officer in charge of CIDG-ATCU.
The police said the sting operation was launched after it received a letter-request from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, which has received a dozen complaints against the suspect.
According to information reaching the police, Toca would ask for money from his victims for the processing of travel documents for their employment in Canada.
Recovered from the suspect were the marked money composed of four P500 bills.
Toca is facing cases large-scale illegal recruitment and estafa. He underwent inquest proceedings at the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday morning. —KBK, GMA News

Life terms for 9 Pinoys over 2013 Malaysia incursion

A Malaysian court sentenced nine Filipinos to life in prison on Tuesday over an armed incursion in 2013 that left scores dead and paralyzed a remote corner of Borneo for weeks, a defense lawyer said.
Eight others, including three Malaysians, received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 18 years, said the attorney, N. Sivananthan.
The bloody incursion by some 200 Islamic militants from the southern Philippines was inspired by a self-proclaimed Filipino sultanate's claims of historical dominion over the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island.
The assault, the most serious security crisis faced by Malaysia in years, led to a siege between the militants and Malaysian armed forces sent to root them out.
At least 70 people were killed, mostly militants, over the six-week ordeal.
Nine of the defendants had faced death for "waging war" against Malaysia's king, but were spared by the court in the Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu.
"They could have been sentenced to death but the judge decided on the lower penalty because there was no evidence they pulled the triggers or committed any murders," N. Sivananthan said.
The others had faced various terrorism-related charges.
Earlier, 12 other Filipinos had been acquitted.
Among those sentenced to life was 53-year-old Amir Bahar Hushin Kiram, son of self-styled Sulu sultan Esmail Kiram.
Esmail, who died in 2015, was among a series of claimants to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of the southern Philippines and part of Borneo.
The crisis embarrassed both Manila and Kuala Lumpur, shining a spotlight on weak Malaysian border protections, and lawlessness in the Philippines' predominantly Muslim south.
The episode eventually fizzled out when some of the militants fled the palm oil plantation where they had been holed up and returned to the Philippines. Scores were detained in Malaysia. —Agence France-Presse

Jobless OFWs troop to consulate in Jeddah for financial assistance

Hundreds of jobless OFWs have trooped to the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia since Sunday to claim the financial assistance the Labor department promised them.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III visited the consulate last Friday to see for himself the situation of the more than 10,000 retrenched OFW in the Kingdom who reportedly have been forced to scavenge for food and sell their blood to survive.
Thousands of foreign workers lost their jobs due to the slump in the prices of petroleum products, forcing several firms of the oil-producing country to cut down on production and to retrench workers.
During his visit, Bello promised that the Philippine government would give each affected OFW P20,000, aside from the P 6,000 for each of their families in the Philippines.
Most of the OFWs who first trooped to the consulate to claim the promised assistance were from the firm Saudi Oger.
One of the OFWs told GMA News that in the last six or seven months their salaries have not been released.
“Ako po si Pacifico Lopez, 23-anyos, nang nagtatrabaho sa Saudi Oger at kami po ay dumaranas ngayon na financial crsis dahil hindi po nagpapasahod ang aming kumpanya ng 6 to 7 months.”
"Pumunta kami dito para i-verify kung paano namin makukuha yung financial assistance para sa amin," Lopez said, adding that many OFWs share the same problem they have at Saudi Oger.
Also, they called on the Philippine government to help in their repatriation. process. — LBG, GMA News

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pro-OFW group issues 'wish list' ahead of Duterte's first SONA

Hours before President Rodrigo Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, an OFW group laid down its wish list in the hopes that the new administration would come up with better actions for migrant workers.
In a statement, Migrante International said the Duterte administration should have a "comprehensive" program for returning OFWs, particularly those rendered jobless by drastic plunge in oil prices in the Middle East.
"What awaits tens of thousands of OFWs in the event of their emergency return? Definitely there are not enough domestic jobs available," said Migrante chairperson Garry Martinez, adding that past administrations' reintegration programs were nothing but "meager dole-outs and band-aid solutions." 
Aside from a reintegration program, Migrante also called Duterte's attention on the following:
  • the case of Mary Jane Veloso who remains on death row in Indonesia, and others like her who have been victimized by drug traffickers and illegal recruitment syndicates but have received no legal assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA);
  • the immediate recall of all notorious abusive and erring embassy officials;
  • the quick resolution of illegal recruitment and trafficking cases filed by countless OFW victims at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC); and,
  • the scrapping of unnecessary fees that are viewed by our OFWs as nothing but “legalized kotong”, such as Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), among others

Ultimately, the group also urged Duterte to expound in his first SONA how he plans to decisively deviate from the labor export policy and instead focus on creating decent and sustainable local jobs to end the cycle of forced migration.
"It is high time the government reviews past governments’ recourse to chronically seek job markets abroad in exchange for remittances despite the ongoing global crisis and to the detriment of OFWs and their families," Martinez said. —KBK, GMA News

Embassy to Pinoy World Youth Day pilgrims: 'No overstaying'

Filipinos who will be attending this year's World Youth Day in Poland have been advised not to stay beyond the period their Schengen visa allows them to.
In an advisory, the Philippine Embassy in Warsaw said a holder of Schengen visa is entitled  to enter and move within the territory of Poland and of other Schengen member-states for a duration not exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period.
It said visa extensions are only allowed for humanitarian reasons, such as in the case of someone who falls ill on or right before the end of the 90-day stay, or due to "force majeur," or natural or man-made disasters beyond the control of the visa holder.
The embassy also reminded Filipinos to safeguard their passports and to take with them only a copy of their passport data page and Schengen visa when going around Krakow to attend World Youth Day activities.
In the event that a Filipino loses his or her passport in Krakow during the event, the Philippine Embassy will issue the concerned Filipino national an emergency travel document that would enable him or her to return to the Philippines.
Some 1,500 Filipinos are expected to troop to Krakow in Poland for the 2016 World Youth Day to be held from July 25-31.
For guide, Filipino pilgrims and visitors to Krakow are encouraged to download the krakow.pl application on their smartphones or to visit the website at www.krakow.pl/en, which contains helpful information on Krakow such as on public transportation and available accommodations.
This year's celebration will mark the 30th anniversary of when St. John Paul II, the former archbishop of Krakow, invited bishops all over the world to hold an annual event for youths in their dioceses.
Pope Francis is expected to arrive for the event. —KBK, GMA News

Mary Jane Veloso won’t be in Indonesia’s next round of executions – official

JAKARTA - Mary Jane Veloso, convicted in Indonesia for drug smuggling and sentenced to death, will not be among the first round of executions carried out when capital punishment is resumed after a lull, the attorney general said on Friday.
Indonesia imposed a moratorium on executions for five years before resuming them in 2013. It provoked international outrage in April last year with the execution of eight drug traffickers, seven of them foreigners. 
After the outcry, authorities said they were postponing executions while the government focussed on reviving he economy. But President Joko Widodo's administration has this year pledged to resume executions by firing squad.
Veloso got a last-minute reprieve last year, following a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting drugs in her luggage, gave herself up to police in the Philippines.
"Not yet," Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo told reporters when asked about Veloso.
"We are still waiting on the legal process in the Philippines, which we have to respect."
Prasetyo has said 16 prisoners will be executed this year, including nationals from Nigeria and Zimbabwe, but has declined to give a specific time frame. That number will be more than doubled next year, he said.
Indonesia has declared a "drug emergency" and vowed no mercy for drug traffickers.
Authorities have not given a breakdown of the numbers of foreigners on death row but citizens of France, Britain and the Philippines are known to be among them.  Reuters

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mary Jane Veloso won’t be in Indonesia’s next round of executions – official

JAKARTA - Mary Jane Veloso, convicted in Indonesia for drug smuggling and sentenced to death, will not be among the first round of executions carried out when capital punishment is resumed after a lull, the attorney general said on Friday.
Indonesia imposed a moratorium on executions for five years before resuming them in 2013. It provoked international outrage in April last year with the execution of eight drug traffickers, seven of them foreigners. 
After the outcry, authorities said they were postponing executions while the government focussed on reviving he economy. But President Joko Widodo's administration has this year pledged to resume executions by firing squad.
Veloso got a last-minute reprieve last year, following a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting drugs in her luggage, gave herself up to police in the Philippines.
"Not yet," Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo told reporters when asked about Veloso.
"We are still waiting on the legal process in the Philippines, which we have to respect."
Prasetyo has said 16 prisoners will be executed this year, including nationals from Nigeria and Zimbabwe, but has declined to give a specific time frame. That number will be more than doubled next year, he said.
Indonesia has declared a "drug emergency" and vowed no mercy for drug traffickers.
Authorities have not given a breakdown of the numbers of foreigners on death row but citizens of France, Britain and the Philippines are known to be among them.  Reuters

WS Bello sacks two labor attachés in Saudi Arabia

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Thursday said he has recalled the Philippine labor attachés in Riyadh and Jeddah over their alleged inaction on the plight of stranded and retrenched Filipino workers there.
Interviewed hours before he flew to Riyadh to personally see the situation of distressed OFWs there, Bello said he was disappointed with how the two officials addressed the plight of some 11,000 OFWs stranded either because their iqamas had expired or they are waiting for their unpaid wages from their former employers.
"In cases like this, immediate assistance should be extended. Walang mga keme-keme, mga requirements, pera nila yan and they need it very badly," said Bello.
Bello said he'd go to Saudi Arabia to see the situation there "first hand" and extend necessary assistance. "I want to go personally at the same time extend short-term assistance like food and medical," he said.
Bello did not identify the two labor attachés.
No inaction
But according to Jun Rasul, Philippine labor attaché in Jeddah, he is ready to follow Bello's order and end his tour of duty there. He, however, denied that he was remiss in his duties.
Atoy Esguerra, vice chairman of Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group, also belied Bello's allegation of inaction on the part of Philippine officials there.
"Parang hindi ako makapaniwala na nangyari ang ganon kasi ako mismo ay nakaka-witness sa ginagawa ng mga officials dito at kasa-kasama kami sa pagbisita at pagdala ng mga pagkain sa mga kababayan natin," he said.
Rasul, meanwhile, said he welcomes Bello's decision to visit Saudi Arabia. He said he himself will go to Riyadh for Bello's arrival.
"We welcome the decision of Secretary Bello visit to KSA to meet his counterpart and we hope he can do something to resolve the problems of our kababayan in the kingdom," he said.
Repatriation
Bello, in Manila, said he had already spoken with Overseas Workers Welfare Administration officials to check specific financial assistance they can immediately disperse to assist the affected OFWs.
Bello said he will speak with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay to discuss possible arrangements with the concerned companies in Saudi Arabia so that OFWs with expired iqamas can be sent home while their unpaid wages and benefits can be given at the same time.
Although Bello said it will take some time to solve all of the concerns that is expected to be raised in his visit, he said one of his primary goals is to repatriate as many OFWs in Saudi Arabia as possible.
"Yun ang pupuntahan ko na dun, how soon we can repatriate them. With respect to those who insist on staying we have to just consider how we can help them while we continue to stay there and wait for a possible re employment," he said. —with Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News

Friday, July 22, 2016

Some stranded OFWs in Jeddah turn to trash for food

Foreign workers including Filipinos who were retrenched from their work in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, have resorted to picking discarded food items from a grocery store for their next meal.

http://images.gmanews.tv/webpics/2016/07/640_ofwpulot_2016_07_21_20_30_52.jpg

The Filipinos, who refused to return to the Philippines until they received their unpaid salaries and end-of-service benefits from their former employers, said they've been doing this for months now.
Together with other retrenched foreign workers, the Filipinos would pick vegetables, chicken parts and fish that have been discarded or have fallen during deliveries to the grocery store. Some food items were given to them by the delivery boys.
The Filipinos are appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to have a dialogue with the King of Saudi Arabia to discuss their plight.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III was set to fly to Saudi Arabia on Thursday night to personally assess the situation of the stranded OFWs there.
According to pro-OFW group Migrante International, some 11,000 OFWs have been retrenched and are currently stranded in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia-based companies, particularly those involved in construction, have been downsizing since last year due to a slump in oil prices.

 —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News

Thursday, July 21, 2016

DOLE eyes creation of one-stop shop for OFWs

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will establish a one-stop shop where overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can secure the requirements they need for their jobs abroad.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said this is in accordance with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to make it easier for OFWs to avail the services of the government.
"The one-stop shop is part of the efforts of the Department to realize the directives of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to make the services of government agencies accessible to Filipinos who are currently working or planning to work overseas," he said in a statement Wednesday.
Bello did not say when the one-stop shop will be established, but said it will include facilitative services that aim to make the issuance and validation process of documentary requirements easier and more convenient for OFWs, especially for returning migrant workers.

Bello said Filipino workers applying for work overseas should be able to get all the clearances they need, including those required by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the police authorities, and health services, in just one place.

Aside from shortening the time to process their documents, Bello said the one-stop shop will also reduce the expenses of OFWs since the services of concerned government agencies can already be availed of in just one location.

Aside from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the one-stop shop will also include other government agencies, such as the DFA and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). —KBK, GMA News

Pinoy bands, artists rock Dubai in free concert

Twelve Filipino bands, three teen groups, and three guest artists shared the stage in a musical event hosted by the Sessions DXB at The Fridge in Dubai last Friday.

Sessions DXB

Zarahross
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Sessions DXB has been promoting Filipino talents in the United Arab Emirates since April 2015. Last Friday’s event was its fourth event. —Lucky Mae F. Quilao/KBK, GMA News

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