Thursday, December 29, 2016

SECURITY OF TENURE WRITES 30 UNDER DU30 ADMINISTRATION’S SUPPOSED NEW POLICY STILL LEGITIMIZES CONTRACTUALIZATION The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will likely promulgate next week a new department order amending the Department Order No. 18-A which implements Articles 106-109 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended. During the series of technical working group meetings among tripartite partners, it is apparent that the government is bent on adopting the so-called “win-win” solution being espoused by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The workers’ groups expressed its disappointment upon learning the demands from island-wide consultations to prohibit the practice of contractual employment regime were completely set aside. The trade union movement, regardless of ideologies and persuasions, strongly opposes the “win-win” solution being espoused by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines and the Philippine Association of Local Service Contractors (PALSCON) as it will not guarantee the security of tenure of workers despite the provisions stating that contractor’s employees shall be considered as regular. Upon reviewing the proposed order, however, it could not afford to provide security for the employees, regular or otherwise, once the service agreement has been terminated or pre-terminated. In fact, the new policy does not actually promote job creation but a formal and regulated mill of unstable, temporary and unsecured jobs that in the end of the production belt, workers be out of work, as an ultimate sacrifice lamb to the business, due to “termination of agreement”. In this instance, it still, albeit regulated, legitimizes contractual employment, in whatever status. The workers are now wondering what happened to campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte that he will end contractualization without compromise as it is “anti-worker” and even “anti-people”. The government’s supposed new policy on contractual employment merely reiterated the previous policies. In reality, there were no significant changes but sugar-coated declarations and phrases purportedly to appease the workers thus we completely rejected it. We therefore stand by with our time-honored position, and in solidarity with entire country’s workers’ movement, that all forms of contractualization and fixed-term employment should be prohibited. Our struggle will go on and we will not stop until such unfair employment regime has been abolished once and for all. We will continue the fight in the halls of Congress despite majority of whom are employers themselves and protectors of capitalists’ interests. Even then, we will still engage them until a new law that will regularize workers has been passed no matter how long it will take. For now, the workers will face years of uncertainy, as far as security of tenure is concern, as Duterte's campaign promise to end contractualization is just an electoral gimmick . Contact person: Edwin A. Bustillos Sectoral Representative National Anti-Poverty Commission Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sector Mobile No. +639178017309


ADMINISTRATION’S SUPPOSED NEW POLICY STILL LEGITIMIZES CONTRACTUALIZATION

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will likely promulgate next week a new department order amending the Department Order No. 18-A which implements Articles 106-109 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, as amended.
During the series of technical working group meetings among tripartite partners, it is apparent that the government is bent on adopting the so-called “win-win” solution being espoused by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The workers’ groups expressed its disappointment upon learning the demands from island-wide consultations to prohibit the practice of contractual employment regime were completely set aside.
The trade union movement, regardless of ideologies and persuasions, strongly opposes the “win-win” solution being espoused by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines and the Philippine Association of Local Service Contractors (PALSCON) as it will not guarantee the security of tenure of workers despite the provisions stating that contractor’s employees shall be considered as regular.  Upon reviewing the proposed order, however, it could not afford to provide security for the employees, regular or otherwise, once the service agreement has been terminated or pre-terminated. In fact, the new policy does not actually promote job creation but a formal and regulated mill of unstable, temporary and unsecured jobs that in the end of the production belt, workers be out of work, as an ultimate sacrifice lamb to the business, due to “termination of agreement”.  In this instance, it still, albeit regulated, legitimizes contractual employment, in whatever status.
The workers are now wondering what happened to campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte that he will end contractualization without compromise as it is “anti-worker” and even “anti-people”.  The government’s supposed new policy on contractual employment merely reiterated the previous policies. In reality, there were no significant changes but sugar-coated declarations and phrases purportedly to appease the workers thus we completely rejected it.
We therefore stand by with our time-honored position, and in solidarity with entire country’s workers’ movement, that all forms of contractualization and fixed-term employment should be prohibited.
Our struggle will go on and we will not stop until such unfair employment regime has been abolished once and for all.  We will continue the fight in the halls of Congress despite majority of whom are employers themselves and protectors of capitalists’ interests. Even then, we will still engage them until a new law that will regularize workers has been passed no matter how long it will take. 
For now, the workers will face years of uncertainy, as far as security of tenure is concern,  as Duterte's campaign promise to end contractualization is just an electoral gimmick .

Contact person:
Edwin A. Bustillos
Sectoral Representative
National Anti-Poverty Commission
Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sector

Mobile No. +639178017309

152 undocumented Pinoys in Kuwait fly home

KUWAIT CITY - A total of 152 undocumented overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait were repatriated to the Philippines Monday afternoon.
Their return is part of the ongoing mass repatriation of overstaying Filipinos under the Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Program (AVRP) by the Kuwait government in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait. This is the biggest mass repatriation since the AVRP was implemented last year.
The AVRP, a mutual agreement signed between the Kuwait government and the Philippine embassy in Kuwait, seeks to address the rising number of illegal expatriates in Kuwait.
Of the 152 repatriates, 90 were facilitated by the Philippine embassy while the other 62 were from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA) shelter.
“We would like to thank the Ministry of Interior, the Kuwait Immigration Department for this continuing program and for helping the embassy in implementing this Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Program successfully,” stated Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa who was at the Kuwait International Airport to see off the repatriates.
Some of the 152 repatriates under the AVRP did not have to pass through the ‘Talha’ or deportation center, but were transported from the embassy shelter in Al Siddeeq area directly to the airport where they were accompanied by the embassy’s Assistance to Nationals Unit (ATNU) team led by the newly assigned Vice Consul to Kuwait Charleson Hermosura, Philippine Welfare Officer Nestor Burayag and Kuwait Immigration officials who assisted them at the airport check-in counter.
Most of the undocumented OFWs worked as Household Service Workers (HSWs) who left their employers after experiencing various forms of maltreatment such as physical, verbal or sexual abuse, non-payment of salaries, lack of food and overwork.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa Diyos na yong hiling ko na makauwi bago mag-Pasko ibinigay po sa akin,” said one of the repatriates, “Manang Gloria”. She has not gone home since 2009.
Other repatriates were relieved after their cases were cleared with the help of the Kuwait Ministry of Interior and the ATNU at the embassy.
The repatriates thanked the Kuwait government and the embassy for processing all their travel documents.
“Masaya ako kasi pinag-pray ko na hindi pa darating ang Pasko makauwi na ako,” stated another OFW, Lorna. Lorna was a victim of physical abuse.
The 152 undocumented OFWs were accompanied on their flight home by Philippine embassy ATNU Staff Jay Gaddi.
“The repatriation with no detention under the AVRP continues, hence, the Philippine embassy urged all undocumented OFWs in Kuwait to take advantage of this and go home to the Philippines. All those who want to go home may enlist at the embassy shelter in Al Siddeeq area for the processing of their travel documents and clearance and we will do all our best to help them,” stated Hermosura.
Currently, there are 240 wards at the POLO-OWWA shelter in Al Siddeeq area while over 140 wards are at the Kuwait government’s Migrant Workers Shelter in Jleeb Al Shuyoukh who are awaiting repatriation to the Philippines.

Shakey's to open stores in Kuwait

MANILA - Shakey's Pizza Asia Venture Inc. is set to pursue its first overseas venture in Kuwait, its president and chief executive Vicente Gregorio said.
The company signed on Thursday a franchise agreement with Kuwaiti partners to open 10 Shakeys stores in Kuwait over the next seven years, Gregorio said.
The first store in Kuwait is expected to open next year, he added.
Shakey's Pizza Asia Venture also owns perpetual rights to the Shakey's brand for the Middle East, Asia except Japan and Malaysia, China, Australia, and Oceania.
"We will be opportunistic for each of the markets because we need to find the right partner. If don't find the right partner then we don't want to rush it," the company's chairman Christoper Po said.
Shakey's plans to raise as much as P3.96 billion for its expansion plans from the sale of 351.9 million common shares at P11.26 per share.

Kuwait jails Filipina for joining Islamic State


Agence France-Presse
Posted at Dec 26 2016 07:59 PM

A Kuwaiti court on Monday sentenced a Filipino woman to 10 years in jail after convicting her of joining the Islamic State jihadist group and plotting attacks.
The ruling, which is not final, also calls for deporting the 32-year old after serving her term.
The woman was arrested in August, two months after arriving in the oil-rich Gulf state to work as a domestic helper.
At the time, the interior ministry said she had confessed to being a member of the Islamic State group and was plotting terrorist attacks in the emirate.
The woman told interrogators that her husband was an active fighter with IS in Libya and he had asked her to come to Kuwait from the Philippines as a domestic helper, according to the ministry.
An IS-affiliated group in the Philippines has conduced a string of bombings as well as kidnappings for ransom of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries in the country. 
Kuwaiti courts have sentenced to various jail terms a number of members, sympathizers and financiers of the IS group.
In October, Kuwait police arrested an Egyptian driver suspected of being a member of the IS, after he rammed a garbage truck into a pick-up carrying five Americans.
Authorities in July said they had dismantled three IS cells plotting attacks, including a suicide bombing against a Shiite mosque and against an interior ministry target.
An IS-linked suicide bomber killed 26 worshippers in June last year when he blew himself up in a mosque of Kuwait's Shiite minority, in the worst such attack in the Gulf state's history.

Keep 'Sunday Beauty Queen' in cinemas, MMFF urged

MANILA - A coalition of several pro-OFW (overseas Filipino workers) groups have written an open letter to the organizers of this year's Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), urging them to ensure that the documentary "Sunday Beauty Queen," one of the eight entries, is shown in more cinemas.
The letter warns that the film, about the private lives of OFWs living in Hong Kong, is in danger of "extinction" as theater owners opt to fill cinemas with the "usual star-studded, commercial movies."
It also said that the Baby Ruth Villarama-directed feature, the first documentary to be chosen to be part of the so-called "Magic 8" of the annual film festival, is a "must-see" for families of OFWs as it is "replete with lessons that may also serve as a wake-up call to those aspiring to work abroad."
The letter was written by ACTS OFW party-list, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, Migrant NGO Forum, Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group, OFW Family Advocates, Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino, Inc., and the Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak at Migrante Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc.
The groups want the organizers to convince theater owners to give "Sunday Beauty Queen" a chance, even if it is not one of the top grossers among the entries, according to early ticket sales. The film is currently being shown in only 45 theaters nationwide, the letter furthered.
"Here is our appeal: Please help convince our theater owners to give ''Sunday Beauty Queen'' a fighting chance. Considering the overall contribution of the OFW sector to our national and regional economies, certainly this appeal deserves some consideration," the letter read.
"Already, we are receiving requests from OFW families to be able to see the film in their home provinces. They want to see the film but can’t find the nearest theaters to view it in."
"To the theater owners, we ask: Can you devote a single cinema with special screening hours for the OFW families that have been patronizing your malls and theaters the whole year round?"

Strong earthquake hits Japan, no tsunami warning




TOKYO - An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit eastern Japan on Wednesday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, adding no tsunami warning was issued.
There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries but the quake, which occurred at around 09:38 p.m. (1238 GMT), shook buildings in the capital, Tokyo.
Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc said there were no irregularities at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where one of the world's worst nuclear accidents unfolded after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The 2011 quake of magnitude 9 was the strongest ever recorded in Japan, and it generated a tsunami that knocked out the cooling function at the Fukushima plant.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said no nuclear facilities in Japan were showing signs of abnormalities following Wednesday's quake and no power outages were reported.  Reuters

105.75 Million Filipinos by end of 2017

The Philippine population will continue to increase in 2017 and is projected to reach 105,758,850 by December 31, 2017, based on projections made by the Commission on Population (POPCOM) using data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Included in the projection are 27,293,422 women of reproductive age (aged 15- 49).

 These women are usually the beneficiaries of Reproductive Health services under the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law. Adolescent girls 10-19 years old will also increase to 10,080,824 next year. Based on the most recent data from the PSA (2014), it is expected that over 200,000 adolescent girls will give birth in 2017. The figures for women of reproductive age and adolescent girls continue to be the highest numbers on record.

This trend is expected to continue up to 2022 when the numbers of women of reproductive age are expected to peak at 29.1 million and adolescent girls at 11.3 million. “The continuing increase in population is due to relatively high fertility rates of Filipino women which is 3 children on average; however, 11 of the 17 regions show higher fertility rates than the national average.

ARMM, Bicol and Western Visayas continue to have rates ranging from 3.8 in Western Visayas to 4.1 in Bicol and 4.2 in ARMM,” Executive Director Juan A. Perez III of POPCOM noted. Other population trends being tracked by POPCOM for 2017 are number of schoolchildren which are expected to rise to 31.5 million, labor force of 66.7 million and population over 65 years old at 5.2 million.

 Based on the number of births in 2014 reported by PSA, there were 3.33 Filipinos born every minute that year. More males than females were born with 1.02 males born for every female. Based on PSA projections of 1,691,897 births in 2017, the number of Filipinos born per minute will go down to 3.22 births per minute next year.


 ### Contact: Information Management and Communications Division – Commission on Population Tel.: (02) 531-6978 Cell Phone: 0916-707-0379 Email: imcdcentral@gmail.com Website: www.popcom.gov.ph

2 Pinays jailed in Saudi for employer’s gruesome death

Two overseas Filipino workers (OFW) were jailed in Saudi Arabia for the death of their female employer last November.
Vice Consul Alex Estomo, head of the Assistant to National Section of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, said one of the two jailed OFWs admitted killing their employer.
The OFW, identified only as Rina, claimed that her employer attacked her with a knife and killed her on self defense.
Estomo said that according to Saudi authorities, the female employer sustained 14 stab wounds in the body.
He said that Rina admitted to Saudi prosecutors that she killed her employer, but insisted that her Filipina co-worker was innocent.
Estomo said that with Rina's testimony, they are hoping the other Filipina will be released next week.
“Nung iniimbestigahan ng prosekusyon si Rina ay inamin din naman niya doon na siya lang ang gumawa ng krimen at wala pong kinalaman ang kanyang kasama kaya inaasahan natin na sana sa mga susunod na araw o linggo ay ma-release na ang isa kung talagang mapatunayan na wala syang kinalaman sa pagpatay na ito,” he said.
Estomo added that based on the other arrested Filipina's testimony, she ran and locked herself in the bathroom during the attack.
She went out of the room when the Saudi police arrived, Estomo added.
Estomo said that Rina could have been a victim of maltreatment, which led to the killing.
The embassy official, meanwhile, said that Rina was underaged when she was employed in Saudi Arabia, which is against the rules and regulations of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
He said that they have informed the POEA of Rina's case and sanctions are expected against the agency that processed her employment. —report from Ronaldo Concha/ALG, GMA News

Stranded OFWs celebrate Christmas with get-together in Jeddah


Christmas spirit reached some 200 stranded OFWs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia over the weekend in the form a little get-together organized by Philippine officials there and food gifts from generous Saudi nationals.
The OFWs and officials and staff of the Philippine Consulate General and Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA) shared a meal on Sunday, with food donated by several Saudi nationals.
The OFWs were employees of Saudi Oger, one of the large Saudi companies affected by the drastic slump in oil prices. As much as 9,000 to 11,000 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia alone lost their jobs as a result of the crisis.
According to the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, there are only about 200 OFWs working in Saudi Oger who remained stranded in Saudi Arabia, and they are expected to be repatriated by January 2017.
The Consulate said these OFWs are just waiting for their exit visas.
Consul General Imelda Panolong said assistance to these OFWs are ongoing. —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News

Theater owners urged to give 'Sunday Beauty Queen' a chance

Various OFW groups, including a party-list organization, have endorsed "Sunday Beauty Queen," an indie documentary with Filipino domestic helpers as its main stars, and are calling for its prolonged screening in theaters nationwide.
"Unfortunately, as of last count, only 45 theaters nationwide are showing 'Sunday Beauty Queen'. It is in danger of theater extinction as more theater owners in Metro Manila and in other provinces opt for the usual star-studded, commercial movies," noted ACTS OFW party-list Rep. Aniceto Bertiz in a statement Wednesday.
The documentary, directed by Babyruth Villarama and one of the participants in this year's Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), follows a group of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong as they prepare to take part in an annual beauty contest for a cause. From Monday to Saturday, these women work as domestic helpers. Then, on Sunday, they trade in their work clothes for colorful, bejewelled gowns and participate in weekly beauty pageants.
ACTS OFW and six other groups wrote a letter to the Metro Manila Development Authority, which is in charge of the MMFF, urging it to "help convince our theater owners to give 'Sunday Beauty Queen' a fighting chance."
The petitioners described the film as a "unique as it has real-life OFWs as main actors, as they generously share their private lives including their intricate relationships with their Chinese employers."
"The film is replete with lessons that may also serve as a wake-up call to those aspiring to work abroad," they added. "It shows that an OFW’s life, especially an overseas domestic worker, is difficult but may also have its own rewards, not only financially but also in terms of relationships built over time."
Aside from ACTS OFW, those who joined the petition were the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, Migrant NGO Forum, Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group (FMWG), OFW Family Advocates, Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino, Inc. (KAMPI), and the Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak at Migrante Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc (KAKAMMPI). —KBK, GMA News

Cash prizes, TV sets, gift bags greet vacationing OFWs

A P50,000 cash prize was not what some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were expecting waiting for them upon their return to the Philippines for the holidays.
But three OFWs lucked out in the raffle during the traditional OFW Salubong at NAIA Terminal 1 on Wednesday.
During the event, dubbed New Year's OFW Salubong, over a thousand Filipino workers were given a surprise welcome and tokens of appreciation by the government upon their arrival at the airport.
OFWs coming from Taipei, Qatar, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, and Kuwait were greeted with gift bags and prizes.
Aside from the P50,000 cash prize, 32-inch television sets were claimed by another set of winners, while 40 other OFWs were given gift baskets.
Rafael Dela Cruz Marasigan, who works as a cashier in Abu Dhabi, said he was surprised and grateful for the cash prize he received.
"Napakasaya, hindi ko akalain... sa Abu Dhabi sabi nila ako ang napili pero hindi nila sinabi kung ano ang mangyayari dito," he told GMA News Online.
Marasigan is back in the country for an emergency vacation after his mother passed away.

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

OFWs were given a warm welcome by OWWA and DOLE at the NAIA Terminal 1 on Wednesday.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello handed gift bags to the OFWs who just arrived.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

A child accepts a gift bag from Bello
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

The OFWs were pleasantly surprised by the surprise greeting and gifts.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

They accepted the gift bags with wide smiles.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

The OWWA welcoming committee enthusiastically greeted the OFWs.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

OFWs thanked and shook the hands of OWWA and DOLE officials.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

1,500 gift bags were given away to OFWs who arrived from five different countries.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

A band serenaded the OFWs who have returned to the Philippines.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

Dirty ice cream also awaited passengers who just arrived in the country.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, along with Bello, was part of the welcome committee.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

Bello personally greeted the winners of OWWA's raffle.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

The six winners of the major raffle prizes
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

Three OFWs won P50,000 in cash, while another three won television sets.
Jessica Bartolome

OFWs treated to a surprise welcome by OWWA, DOLE

40 OFWs also won gift baskets.
Jessica Bartolome
The event was hosted by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to express their appreciation for the hard work of OFWs.
"Sabay sa pagsalubong sa Bagong Taon, salubong din sa ating nanunumbalik na mahal na OFWs," said OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac. "Para mahandugan ng mga tokens of appreciation, gestures of appreciation 'yung mga nanunumbalik na OFWs."
This year's theme was special because rather than the traditional Christmas "salubong," OWWA chose to set it before the New Year.
"Imbis na usual pamaskong salubong ay gagawin nating New Year... Paparamdaman talaga natin with a bang yung ating malasakit at pagsasaalang-alang sa kapakanan ng ating mahal na OFWs," Cacdac said.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello was present to personally greet the OFWs and award them the prizes.
OWWA said it started to meet and greet returning OFWs as early as December 19.  —KBK, GMA News

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Stranded OFWs celebrate Christmas with get-together in Jeddah



Christmas spirit reached some 200 stranded OFWs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia over the weekend in the form a little get-together organized by Philippine officials there and food gifts from generous Saudi nationals.
The OFWs and officials and staff of the Philippine Consulate General and Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA) shared a meal on Sunday, with food donated by several Saudi nationals.
The OFWs were employees of Saudi Oger, one of the large Saudi companies affected by the drastic slump in oil prices. As much as 9,000 to 11,000 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia alone lost their jobs as a result of the crisis.
According to the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, there are only about 200 OFWs working in Saudi Oger who remained stranded in Saudi Arabia, and they are expected to be repatriated by January 2017.
The Consulate said these OFWs are just waiting for their exit visas.
Consul General Imelda Panolong said assistance to these OFWs are ongoing. —Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News

Theater owners urged to give 'Sunday Beauty Queen' a chance


Various OFW groups, including a party-list organization, have endorsed "Sunday Beauty Queen," an indie documentary with Filipino domestic helpers as its main stars, and are calling for its prolonged screening in theaters nationwide.
"Unfortunately, as of last count, only 45 theaters nationwide are showing 'Sunday Beauty Queen'. It is in danger of theater extinction as more theater owners in Metro Manila and in other provinces opt for the usual star-studded, commercial movies," noted ACTS OFW party-list Rep. Aniceto Bertiz in a statement Wednesday.
The documentary, directed by Babyruth Villarama and one of the participants in this year's Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), follows a group of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong as they prepare to take part in an annual beauty contest for a cause. From Monday to Saturday, these women work as domestic helpers. Then, on Sunday, they trade in their work clothes for colorful, bejewelled gowns and participate in weekly beauty pageants.
ACTS OFW and six other groups wrote a letter to the Metro Manila Development Authority, which is in charge of the MMFF, urging it to "help convince our theater owners to give 'Sunday Beauty Queen' a fighting chance."
The petitioners described the film as a "unique as it has real-life OFWs as main actors, as they generously share their private lives including their intricate relationships with their Chinese employers."
"The film is replete with lessons that may also serve as a wake-up call to those aspiring to work abroad," they added. "It shows that an OFW’s life, especially an overseas domestic worker, is difficult but may also have its own rewards, not only financially but also in terms of relationships built over time."
Aside from ACTS OFW, those who joined the petition were the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, Migrant NGO Forum, Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group (FMWG), OFW Family Advocates, Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino, Inc. (KAMPI), and the Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak at Migrante Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc (KAKAMMPI). —KBK, GMA News

540 Pinoy students to undergo 11-month agri training in Israel

Over 500 Filipino students are currently in Israel to undergo 11 months of academic learning and practical work, according to a statement from the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv.
The 540 students arrived in Israel on December 19 and immediately underwent a post-arrival orientation seminar at the three different academic centers where they were separately enrolled.
Apart from a cultural overview of Israel, students were oriented on its history, society, security situation, and the state of its bilateral relations with the Philippines.
The students were also educated on their rights as student-trainees, as they will work at Israeli farms to experience the latest agro-based technology and techniques in the classroom and apply concepts they will learn in the classroom.
They were also invited to participate in the Embassy's Filipino events such as the Community Christmas events, Flores de Mayo and Independence Day celebrations.
This year's batch is the 12th batch of Filipino students who participated in Israel's Agrostudies On-the-Job Training Program.

Fil-Ams turn to social media in search for missing Pinay in Atlanta

Filipino-Americans in Atlanta are turning to Facebook to find leads for the disappearance of Cecilia Bustamante, a Filipina who has been missing for months already before authorities were informed about it last week.
Willy Blanco of the Filipino-American Association of Atlanta told WSB-TV 2 on Monday that they have asked the Atlanta Pinoy Facebook page's thousands of followers to share any information that would lead to Bustamante, who went missing on October 28.
"Just reach out to all of your friends out there. People in social media groups, anybody who may know anything about her. They don’t have to be Filipino, it can be people from work, from Willy’s Mexican restaurant. She may have confided in them," Blanco said.
In a report on December 21, WSB-TV 2 said friends called 911 around December 2 after Bustamante, 42, failed to show up for Thanksgiving.
Bustamante's husband, who was not identified in the report, refused to speak to the press and the police investigating her disappearance. He reportedly showed no concern for the whereabouts of his wife.
Chamblee police Capt. Ernesto Ford said, "He didn’t report her missing No. 1, and No. 2, when I interviewed him, he showed a total lack of concern for his wife and the mother of his child."
Ford told Fox 5 Atlanta that Bustamante may have "disappeared against her own free will" as she had "no money, no credit cards, no passport."
No charges have been laid against Bustamante's husband, now the sole caretaker of their seven-year-old son Alex.
“Something horrible has happened to Cecilia. I cannot imagine her walking away from Alex,” Mary Kemzura, a friend of Bustamante's, told Channel 2.
WTOC report described the Filipina as 5'3" in height and weighing 120 lbs. She was last seen leaving her job on Peachtree Street, Atlanta around 11:40 on October 28. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Convicted Pinay IS member in Kuwait to get legal assistance –DFA

A Filipino woman convicted by a Kuwaiti court for joining the Islamic State jihadist group will get legal assistance from the Philippine government, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the DFA is still verifying the report of the Filipino’s conviction, but assured that she will still be provided assistance since she is a Filipino citizen.
“Our embassy is prepared to extend legal and consular assistance to the overseas Filipino worker and make sure that she gets due process and her rights are not violated,” Jose said in a text message to GMA News Online.
The court ruling on the Filipino, who was found guilty on Monday for joining the IS and of plotting attacks in the Gulf state, is not yet final and may still be appealed.
Kuwait officials said she had confessed to being a member of the Islamic State group and of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in the emirate.
She also reportedly told investigators that her husband, who asked her to come to Kuwait to work as a housemaid, was an active fighter with IS in Libya.
Dozens of Filipinos have been reported in the past to have been recruited by the IS, while some have been undergoing training in the militant group’s camps.
However, the Philippine military said it has not received any intelligence report supporting such claims. —KBK, GMA News
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