Friday, June 30, 2017

DOLE offers P500,000 to seafarer with best business plan


The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is encouraging seafarers and their families to submit a business proposal, promising cash prize to the best one.
The annual nationwide business plan competition, now on its third year, is a project of DOLE-National Reintegration Center for OFWs, in partnership with the Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines (ISP), and is open to returning seafarers.
"We encourage our seafarers and their families who were not able to join in the past years to submit their business proposals,"  said NRCO Director Jeffrey Cortazar. "This is definitely their chance to join the competition."

The competition, dubbed  ‘From Seafarers to Entrepreneurs: The 2017 NRCO-ISP Business Plan Competition (Harnessing Seafarers’ Capacities for Business Enterprises Development), was launched on Wednesday in Manila.
Cortazar said unlike in the past two years where only agri-business inclined proposals were accepted, this year’s competition will accept all start-up business plan proposals.
The period of submission starts on June 14 and will last until September 8, 2017. The awarding ceremony is slated on November 10, 2017.
According to DOLE, the Top 10 winners will receive incentives and other consolation prizes, and the grand winner will get P500,000 cash prize, all to be put up by the ISP.

"This initiative is primarily designed to foster development of new businesses in the hometowns of seafarers and their families, thus contribute to the growth of jobs in their communities," Cortazar said. —KBK, GMA News

DOJ: Retention of Tier 1 status a challenge to do more in fight vs. human trafficking



Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Friday welcomed the retention of the Philippines' Tier 1 ranking in the United States Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, taking it as a challenge for the government to do more in the fight against modern day slavery.
"Here is to more Tier 1 rankings in the coming years.?Together, we can do more to end this evil," Aguirre said in a statement.
He said the retention of the Tier 1 status is proof of the country’s continuing "commitment to ending this heinous crime."
Being under Tier 1 status means that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complied with the minimum requirements set by the United States Trafficking Victims Prevention Act of 2000.
Data from the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) show that from July 2016 to June 2017, a total of 1,567 victims were served and 44 traffickers were put behind bars following their conviction in court.
"The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by convicting and punishing more traffickers, identifying more victims through proactive screening procedures, and expanding its efforts to prevent trafficking of Filipino migrant workers," the TIP Report said, which was released by the US State Department this month.
Still, the report disclosed that the Philippine government has failed to improve the quality of protection for trafficking victims, particularly the mental health care and services for male victims.
The government also allegedly failed to "vigorously investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking crimes or expand its pilot program to address the backlog of trafficking cases in the courts."
"We acknowledge that the Philippines, even in Tier 1, should do more to combat human trafficking and continue its intensified efforts. I always say, nobody has the right to profit from the deprivation of the freedom of others. When we dehumanize others, we dehumanize ourselves," Aguirre said.
The country first achieved Tier 1 status in 2016, after remaining in Tier 2 for five years from 2011-2015, and in the Tier 2 Watchlist before that.  
The Philippines was the first and the only Southeast Asian country to have achieved the status, sealing a regional leadership position in combating trafficking in persons. — RSJ/KVD, GMA News

DFA eyes pacts with overseas law firms to help Pinoys on death row


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is studying the feasibility of increasing its retainer agreements with law offices in other countries in order to immediately assist Filipinos with legal troubles, especially those facing death sentences.
"The DFA is studying to have more retainer agreements in law offices sa specific areas across the world na makakatulong sa ating OFWs," DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday.
According to Cayetano, President Rodrigo Duterte wants the DFA to work "double time" in assisting Filipinos on death row.
"Yung double time at one hundred percent effort gusto niya (Duterte)," said Cayetano, Duterte's running mate in the 2016 elections. "Preemptive o proactive, sa umpisa pa lang."
Cayetano said they are currently reviewing the cases of all Filipinos on death row in other countries, with the end view of appealing them before the relevant courts.
"We are going to appeal," he said. "We are reviewing everything, lahat ng nasa death row."
At present, there are 76 Filipinos on death row in other countries, most of them — or 25 — in Saudi Arabia.
The number does not include the nine Filipinos sentenced to death in Malaysia last week for the bloody attempt to retake Sabah in 2013 that left over 70 people dead.
Cayetano said he has instructed the Office of Public Diplomacy to go through the details of the case and prepare to file an appeal. —JP Soriano/KBK, GMA News

Fil-Ams raise P186,500 for Marawi evacuees through Zumba


Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News North America Bureau

GLENDALE, California - By dancing Zumba for an entire day, Filipino-Americans here raised at least $3,700 or about P186,500 for Marawi City residents displaced by continuing firefights in the once bustling urban center.
The fund, channeled through the La Salle Academy in Iligan City, will be used to buy basic necessities for Marawi evacuees who have been cramped in evacuation centers since the siege in the Islamic City erupted over a month ago.
"Although we're having fun, we're also thinking about the devastation that's been going on in the Philippines. We want to make sure that we do our part," Joy Quiza of the Alexis Louis Quiza Foundation told ABS-CBN News.
"We've seen all over the news the devastation of the Maute group, and again, this is a way of helping out our Filipino community in Marawi," Roncel Quiza said.
The fund-raising project for victims of clashes in Marawi was conceptualized as some members of the Filipino community here have Mindanaoan roots.
More than 200,000 residents have fled their homes since firefights between government troops and Islamic State-linked terror groups erupted on May 23. 
But hundreds are still trapped in the war zone as air strikes and ground assaults pounded the Islamic City. 
As of June 29, the battle for the control of the lakeside city has left 82 government troops and 44 civilians dead.
At least 303 terrorists were killed but dozens remain holed up in the city's inner enclaves.

Qatar considering WTO dispute in Gulf crisis


Reuters
Posted at Jun 30 2017 05:38 AM
GENEVA - Qatar is considering launching a complaint at the World Trade Organization against a "blockade" by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, its representative at the global trade body said on Thursday.
"We are exploring all possible legal avenues, including, but not limited to, the (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body," Ali Alwaleed al-Thani, director of Qatar's WTO office, told Reuters.
The feud erupted this month when the four countries severed diplomatic and travel links, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism and regional foe Iran. Qatar denies the accusations.
Al-Thani said the measures went against the fundamental principles of WTO laws, including agreements on trade in goods, services and intellectual property rights, as well as the WTO trade facilitation agreement, supposed to cut red tape at customs and speed cross-border trade.
"They were among the first countries to ratify this agreement and now the first to violate it," he said. "There are also issues regarding international maritime law and air transport rights."
The WTO dispute system can end with costly trade sanctions imposed on wrongdoers, but it normally takes at least two or three years and sometimes much longer.
"We work under the premise that these measures are going to be in place for a while. It’s not necessarily so, but we have to work under this premise," al-Thani said.
NATIONAL SECURITY
He expected the four countries to cite national security as a reason for the trade restrictions, an exemption permitted by the WTO but one that has never been used in its 22-year history. Trade experts refer to it as the "nuclear option" because of the potential systemic damage it might do to the WTO.
Such a defence could be challenged on the grounds of proportionality and necessity, al-Thani said. "What’s the national security value of limiting exports of milk to Qatar?"
On Wednesday, Britain's The Guardian newspaper published an interview with the UAE's ambassador to Russia, in which he said more economic sanctions could follow, including forcing other countries to choose between trading with Qatar or its accusers.
Al-Thani said that would violate WTO rules. "It would be unfathomable for a member to ask other members to choose their trading partners," he said.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are members with Qatar of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a trading club with a common customs border.
"The customs union is going through a tough time. Will it survive?" al-Thani said. "With regards to the actual trade effect, it would be relatively easy for us to readjust.
"We’re mostly a net importer from within the GCC, so it’s the countries that are imposing the blockade that stand to lose most," he said, adding Qatar was continuing to sell gas to the UAE via the Dolphin pipeline and directly by ship.
"It’s solving a headache by shooting yourself in the head, which is not necessarily the way political issues should be resolved," he said.
Qatar's main concern was imports of food and dairy products.
"We are finding alternatives, diversifying our supply and also expanding domestic production," he said.
Instead of using the UAE's Jebel Ali port, Qatar will expand shipping links with Oman, India and elsewhere beyond the GCC, he said. 

Gov't ready to help OFWs affected by Qatar diplomatic row


The Department of Labor and Employment reminds OFWs that the transfer from one employer to another should undergo a formal hiring process for easier documentation
Published 2:10 PM, June 19, 2017
Updated 7:19 PM, June 19, 2017
FOREIGN WORKERS. This file photo taken on October 03, 2013 shows migrant laborers working on a construction site on October 3, 2013 in Doha in Qatar.  Karim Jaafar/AFP

FOREIGN WORKERS. This file photo taken on October 03, 2013 shows migrant laborers working on a construction site on October 3, 2013 in Doha in Qatar. Karim Jaafar/AFP
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) assured overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Qatar that they will get help finding new employers in case they become unemployed due to the country’s diplomatic row with several of its Middle East neighbors.
“Part of the assistance is finding opportunities within other countries but it has to pass through the process, they can’t [do it] on their own,” Labor Assistant Secretary Amuerfina Reyes said Monday, June 19.
Reyes reminded Filipino migrant workers that proper hiring processes must be observed to properly document the transfer of workers for better tracking.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier imposed a deployment moratorium on OFWs bound for Qatar after countries Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Egypt cut their ties with the Gulf nation. Qatar has been accused of supporting terrorists, something it has denied.
DOLE lifted the moratorium last June 15, explaining that the Philippine Overseas Employment Office (POLO) in Doha said the situation there is back to normal.
They are also coordinating with Qatari authorities on assisting distressed OFWs there, like household workers whose non-Qatari employers would be forced to leave the country.
Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain have told their citizens to leave Qatar after the cutting of diplomatic ties last June 5, and gave Qatar nationals in their countries 14 days to leave. The deadline falls this Monday.
OFW advocate Susan Ople said domestic workers there fear abandonment once their employers leave.
The Qatar government, she said, has informed OFWs and other foreign nationals that they will be allowed to transfer to another employer as long as they have their legal documents and permanent IDs.
Asked about intervention for undocumented Filipino workers there, Reyes said they too will be given assistance but they are encouraged to go to the embassies or the POLOs.
“Those undocumented or irregular migrants that we mentioned earlier, they go to our POLO. And we encourage them to go to our POLOs for assistance or at the embassy,” said Reyes in a mix of English and Filipino.
“If you are documented, it is lot easier for the government to track you, to trace you in case [of] need and to provide you the necessary intervention,” she added.
According to the DOLE executive, POLOs in the Middle East region are coordinating with each other as they expect this particular crisis to happen.
So far, Reyes said they haven’t received reports on the transfer of OFWs from one country to another.
As of 2016, there are around 245,806 OFWs in Qatar. Data from teh Overseas Workers Welfare Administration puts the number of newly hired domestic workers who flew to Qatar at 22,877. (READ: FAST FACTS: How big is the Filipino community in Qatar?– Rappler.com

Success Against the Child Abusers Online


Fr. Shay Cullen
23 June 2017


The year 2017 is a good year for the campaign and the fight against child sexual abuse online. Hundreds of men in Europe and America and Asia have been arrested. Police have gathered evidence of their illegal actions viewing and sharing images of children being sexually abused. They are the customers of these images and other pedophiles and criminals are actually abusing children and selling or sharing the images of the abuse.

The number of reports of child abuse is pouring in to the police in the developed countries. Interpol and the FBI recently arrested 870 pedophiles caught online connected to an international pedophile ring. They saved hundreds of children in one of the most important operations of investigating child sexual abuse online. After cracking the world’s biggest child pornography website run by a Florida-based 58-year old criminal Stephen Chase, the police got him 30 years in jail and many of 870 caught will receive similar sentences, we hope. His website promoting child abuse had 150,000 users.

He alone had that huge number of subscribers. How many more online abusers are still out there and how many are travelling abroad to abuse the children? For every image of an abused child, a child has been raped. When the images are shared, the child is abused again. The images encourage and induce men to abuse children in their own countries and to travel to countries abroad to actually abuse children. That’s why the human rights organization Preda Foundation based in Olongapo City, Philippines (www.preda.org) is supporting and encouraging the new proposed law banning the travelling abroad of convicted pedophiles in every country worldwide.

The police cracking the encryption used by the online abusers are highly trained as code breaking specialists cracking the codes and layers of protection on the “dark web” used by pedophiles. Soon they will have nowhere to hide. Every time a pedophile opens his computer to view the images of child abuse he is committing a crime and he does not know that the police is monitoring him. They all should be worried that the police are gathering evidence against him or against his contacts and fellow child abusers that will lead back to him.

It’s now a dangerous world for these child abusers as the police are using powerful anti-encryption software to break into the online accounts of the abusers. Some critics say the CIA developed the encryption methods and spread them free online, attributed the creation of them to another person. Now law enforcement can actually see what is being encrypted because they have the codes. They wrote them, it is conjectured.

In England one police official has asked the judiciary to look for another way to punish low-level offenders who view illegal images of children being sexually assaulted without court proceedings. The police, he says, are overwhelmed with the increasing number of reports of child sexual abuse and they are investigating many hundreds of reports. They are overwhelmed and need to focus on saving the victims being abused in the real world, he says.

But that is not the way to go. Every online abuser must be held accountable because the more people view the images, the more children are actually abused. If the judiciary treated drug users as patients and not criminals, it would unburden the police and the courts and they could focus on catching the child abusers and jailing them. The growing success of the police these years indicates extent of child abuse online and in the real world. It supports the long held estimate that one in every three girls are victims of sexual abuse and one in six boys are victims too.

This is an terrible indictment of the human species, the one with the big brains, intelligence and massive organized technological society ever to inhabit the planet earth, the one that routinely sexually abuses their own offspring and vulnerable children. I have not seen report where the other creatures on the planet do this.

In this generation the world is only awaking and confronting this terrible crime against children. In 1989 the UN Convention of the Rights of the  Child was first proposed and passed by majority of the nations in 1990. Only then were the rights of the children formally proclaimed. National laws followed.

Sexual abuse of child has long-term effects. It damages the human person for life and leads to many psychological problems, addiction, dependency, self-harm and suicides. We need to know that emotionally disturbed people should not be judged as psychologically unbalanced, mentally sick but understood as carrying unbearable burdens and are in need of support and help.

The spread of harmful drug abuse with youth and adults can be linked to childhood abuse and it is just desperate self-medication to ease the pain, the suffering and the fear. They need help to forget the abuse and the anger and hatred that they carry with them.

Many know that the many victims need a cure and emotional expression therapy is a great help. It is successful when the victim is sharing the deepest feelings about the abuse with another understanding, supportive trusted person and unburdening themselves. It is not always a hopeless situation of the abused person. This is a path to recovery and a more balanced life with inner freedom from the tension and pressure of the buried pain.

Take action today and join the Preda Keypoard Advoacy Project. Download articles like this one at www.preda.org and share it with your contacts, friends and politicians. Join the campaign to have laws that ban convicted pedophiles from traveling abroad. You can save hundreds of children from abuse.



Pinoys among illegal migrants 'missing' after London tower fire –UK newspaper


Undocumented migrants, including a "whole load of Filipinos," may have "deliberately disappeared" following the deadly fire incident that hit Grenfell Tower in London, according to a report on Independent, citing sources.
The report said a local volunteer claimed to have heard from other Grenfell residents about Filipinos who have never been seen in the area since last week's fire incident.
Volunteers suspect these illegal migrants either fled the area for fear of immigration authorities or have died from the fire.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it could not confirm details of the report.
Philippine Consul General Senen Mangalile, in a June 14 interview on Balitanghali, said the 24-storey Grenfell Tower was home to families of various nationalities, although the embassy has no exact figure of Filipinos living there.
Sonny Laragan, GMA News' stringer in London, told Balitanghali in a June 19 interview that the tower was also home to subtenants, as residents are known to sublet the rooms. He described the tower as a "virtual squatters' house."
The Independent report, citing a government source, said police are not inclined to assist victims of the fire who are illegally staying in the United Kingdom.
London police said at least 79 people are dead or missing and presumed dead following the devastating blaze, among them a 60-year-old Filipina identified as Ligaya Moore.
"The Embassy has the sad task to announce that despite our diligent search made in coordination with the Metropolitan Police and the Filipino Community in London, Mrs. Ligaya Moore has not been found," the Philippine Embassy said in a June 18 post on Facebook.
"She has now been included by the MetPolice as among those presumed to have perished in the Grenfell Tower tragedy." —KBK, GMA News

Pinoy sentenced in New Jersey for $9M credit card fraud


A Filipino man received a five-year prison sentence and two years of supervised release from a federal court judge in Newark, New Jersey, USA, for committing bank fraud through a $9-million (over P400 million) stolen credit and debit card ring.
Angelo Virtucio, who hails from Quezon City, Philippines, was proven guilty of purchasing stolen debit and credit card numbers from computer hackers.
The 31-year-old used the stolen data and encoded it to new cards,  New Jersey Real Time News reported.
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Authorities also confirmed that Virtucio used several skimming devices on ATMs (automated teller machines) to obtain sensitive information from clueless victims.
He also partnered with a “global network of cashers” to commit unauthorized purchases and ATM withdrawals, the report said.
Virtucio was on the run from the law a few years back and was arrested in South Florida in January last year, where he was extradited back to New Jersey.
The now convicted felon pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in July last year.  Khristian Ibarrola /ra/rga

Qatar considering WTO dispute in Gulf crisis

Reuters
Posted at Jun 30 2017 05:38 AM
GENEVA - Qatar is considering launching a complaint at the World Trade Organization against a "blockade" by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, its representative at the global trade body said on Thursday.
"We are exploring all possible legal avenues, including, but not limited to, the (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body," Ali Alwaleed al-Thani, director of Qatar's WTO office, told Reuters.
The feud erupted this month when the four countries severed diplomatic and travel links, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism and regional foe Iran. Qatar denies the accusations.
Al-Thani said the measures went against the fundamental principles of WTO laws, including agreements on trade in goods, services and intellectual property rights, as well as the WTO trade facilitation agreement, supposed to cut red tape at customs and speed cross-border trade.
"They were among the first countries to ratify this agreement and now the first to violate it," he said. "There are also issues regarding international maritime law and air transport rights."
The WTO dispute system can end with costly trade sanctions imposed on wrongdoers, but it normally takes at least two or three years and sometimes much longer.
"We work under the premise that these measures are going to be in place for a while. It’s not necessarily so, but we have to work under this premise," al-Thani said.
NATIONAL SECURITY
He expected the four countries to cite national security as a reason for the trade restrictions, an exemption permitted by the WTO but one that has never been used in its 22-year history. Trade experts refer to it as the "nuclear option" because of the potential systemic damage it might do to the WTO.
Such a defence could be challenged on the grounds of proportionality and necessity, al-Thani said. "What’s the national security value of limiting exports of milk to Qatar?"
On Wednesday, Britain's The Guardian newspaper published an interview with the UAE's ambassador to Russia, in which he said more economic sanctions could follow, including forcing other countries to choose between trading with Qatar or its accusers.
Al-Thani said that would violate WTO rules. "It would be unfathomable for a member to ask other members to choose their trading partners," he said.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are members with Qatar of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a trading club with a common customs border.
"The customs union is going through a tough time. Will it survive?" al-Thani said. "With regards to the actual trade effect, it would be relatively easy for us to readjust.
"We’re mostly a net importer from within the GCC, so it’s the countries that are imposing the blockade that stand to lose most," he said, adding Qatar was continuing to sell gas to the UAE via the Dolphin pipeline and directly by ship.
"It’s solving a headache by shooting yourself in the head, which is not necessarily the way political issues should be resolved," he said.
Qatar's main concern was imports of food and dairy products.
"We are finding alternatives, diversifying our supply and also expanding domestic production," he said.
Instead of using the UAE's Jebel Ali port, Qatar will expand shipping links with Oman, India and elsewhere beyond the GCC, he said. 

Husband to fly to Jeddah to probe OFW wife's suspicious death



The widower of the Filipino worker who supposedly committed suicide in Saudi Arabia will fly to Jeddah as soon as his visa is issued to learn more about the circumstances behind his wife's death.
John Paul Reyes has earlier expressed doubt that his wife, Jenny Reyes, jumped to her death as claimed by her employer.
"Hinihintay na lang namin ma-release 'yung visa para makapunta 'yung asawa sa Jeddah," said Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Center during a forum at the Kamuning Bakery in Quezon City on Thursday.
"From there, 'yung ating Philippine Consulate will assist him kasi ang gusto nung asawa makita yung remains ni Jenny Rose, makausap din yung mga Filipino na nagbibigay ng impormasyon, and hopefully makausap din yung Saudi recruitment agency na may contact dun sa employer," she added.
The Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Center is a group that assists OFWs and their families.
Reyes' accommodations and transportation for his three-day trip will be paid for by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) while the Philippine recruitment agency that deployed his wife will pay for his flight.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will also lend assistance through scholarship grants for the Reyes' children.
"Hopefully, within the next two weeks, sana, depende 'yan sa pag-issue ng visa," Ople said. "Pero handa na yung pamilya, handa na yung asawa, and I think magpapaalam rin siya sa trabaho niya para lang makapunta dun."
"Pero ang sabi nga nung pamilya ni Jenny Rose, ang mahalaga ay mapanatag yung kaluluwa ni Jenny Rose kasi nagpaparamdam sa kanila eh. Gusto nila mapanatag ang kaluluwa ni Jenny Rose kaya ginagawa ng pamilya ang lahat para malaman kung pano ba namatay," Ople said.
Because of the ongoing investigation by police, Jenny Reyes' body will remain in Saudi Arabia for the time being. Her belongings, however, may be returned to her family.
"Normally, it would take one to three months yung repatriation. Ngayon, kung may police investigation, baka tumagal pa. Alam 'yun ng asawa," Ople explained.
"May commitment si DFA Undersecretary Jesse Yabes na they will assign a lawyer, magbibigay ng legal assistance ang ating DFA," Ople said. —KBK, GMA News

Pinay miraculously survives after being hit by speeding car in Kurdistan



A Filipina has miraculously survived after being hit by a speeding car in Iraqi Kurdistan, GMA News' Emil Sumangil reported on Unang Balita on Thursday.
The incident, which occurred in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan, was caught on CCTV, the report said.
Through the help of the Filipino community, the victim was identified as Susan Puso.
According to Puso, she just came from a grocery store with her employer when she was hit by the speeding car while at the parking lot.
"It's impossible talaga na buhay pa ako sa nakita kong video. Lahat-lahat sabi ko, thanks to God talaga na binigyan pa niya ako ng second life," she said.
Puso, who still could not walk properly as a result of the accident, is still recuperating in a hospital.
"Hindi pa ako makalakad sa ngayon," she said. "Ayaw ng boss ko na lumabas ako sa ospital hangga't hindi ako nakakalakad."
The driver of the speeding car was arrested but was released after five days of detention, the report said.
Puso, meanwhile, told her relatives in the Philippines not to worry about her as she is being assisted by her employer and the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad.
"'Yung nanay ko po mahal na mahal ko, 'yung kapatid ko po na pinapaaral ko sana matapos na po siya, okay po 'yung p

Over 5,000 Pinoys sent home as Saudi amnesty ends

A total of 5,176 undocumented Filipinos have returned home after availing of the 90-day amnesty program offered by the Saudi Arabian government, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.
The Saudi Arabian government started the amnesty program last March 29 to allow undocumented foreigners, including Filipinos, to return to their home countries without fines or jail sentences.
According to the DFA, some 12,000 Filipinos - having trouble with residency and labor regulations in Saudi Arabia - managed to register for deportation before the deadline for the amnesty expired on Sunday.
The DFA deployed two response teams to  Riyadh and Jeddah to register and issue travel documents to Filipinos who wished to return to the Philippines.
"The teams also coordinated with Saudi immigration officials and the airlines to ensure a smooth and efficient repatriation process," it said.
Saudi Immigration had not yet announced an extension, but those who wish to have their exit documents processed are advised by the DFA to settle their commercial and private debts before the application.
Repatriated OFWs can avail of livelihood and other socio-economic support programs provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. —Margaret Claire Layug/KBK/KVD, GMA News

Husband doubts OFW wife committed suicide in Saudi Arabia


The family of Jenny Reyes, the Filipina domestic helper who allegedly committed suicide in Saudi Arabia, is seeking justice as they expressed doubt that she took her own life as claimed by her employer.
John Paul Reyes, Jenny's widower, said in a report by GMA News' JP Soriano on Balitanghali on Wednesday that he believes his wife was already dead when she fell from the seventh floor of her employer's flat last May 28.
"Feeling po namin patay na po siya, hinulog po siya dun kasi sabi ng mga kalapit kwarto niya dun may naamoy na daw po sila sa labas ng bahay na may kakaiba daw po," Reyes said.
His suspicion was fueled by his last conversation with his wife, when it seemed like she wanted to tell him about an urgent matter but was held back by circumstances.
"Saka na lang po siya magkukwento. Parang may gusto po siyang sabihin na hindi niya po masabi kasi nakikigamit lang daw po siya ng cellphone," he said.
Susan Ople, who heads the pro-OFW group Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, questioned the claim that Jenny jumped to her death, as the OFW had only been working in Saudi Arabia for two weeks and showed no problems beforehand.
"Dun ako parang nahihiwagaan. Kasi two weeks, parang kumbaga adjustment. Halos kararating mo pa lang. Ano 'yung mag-uudyok sa 'yo na tumakas, kung tumakas man 'yun?" Ople said.
Jenny's family, with the help of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute, is calling for the arrest of her employer, identified as Mona Ali Sadek based on the records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
In response, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has ordered the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to conduct its own investigation into Jenny's death.
"Embassy lawyers are now investigating the case with police and forensic investigators and looking into all angles of the case," the DFA stated.
GMA News attempted to contact Jenny's employer through the contact details provided by the POEA, but it could not get a response. Rie Takumi/KBK/KVD, GMA News

De Lima urges gov’t: Assess impact of Qatar diplomatic crisis to OFWs


Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Saturday urged the government to assess its readiness to respond to any possible negative impact on Filipinos in the Middle East, arising from the continued diplomatic row between Qatar and neighboring countries.
“In view of the diplomatic tension, there is a need to look into the preparedness of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), including the embassies and consulates abroad, to provide assistance to OFWs in the event that the diplomatic crisis worsens and compromises the safety of OFWs and their families,” De Lima said in filling Senate Resolution No. 406.
The senator noted the urgency to anticipate any worst-case scenario should tension drags on indefinitely, including the possible repatriation of OFWs deployed in the Arabian peninsula.
Earlier in June, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. 
Economists predicted that a protracted diplomatic spat among and between member-states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) could result in serious economic and political problems in the region, which may affect an estimated 250,000 OFWs in Qatar.
Qatar is one of the top destinations for OFWs, considered as the fourth biggest and fastest growing group of foreign workers, De Lima said.
According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, there is a strong demand for OFWs in Qatar, notably in the field of construction as the Arabian country prepares its hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
De Lima said the DOLE and DFA should now be put to task to provide support to OFWs in Qatar, including finding possible employment opportunities once they decide to return to the country.
“The DOLE and DFA must also provide constant assessments of the existing situations through the country’s embassies and consulates with a great sense of urgency and be ready to implement contingency measures, including possible repatriation and reintegration,” she said.  Ted Cordero/LBG, GMA News

Pinoy seafarer killed in four-storey fall on board Malta ship


A Filipino seafarer fell to his death while his crew was preparing to refuel his ship at Malta Freeport, reports said.
report on Times of Malta said the seafarer fell from four decks at 4:45 a.m. as he and other crew members were preparing the container ship Ravenna for refueling from a bunkering vessel at Malta Freeport.
Emergency services were called but the Filipino was pronounced dead on the spot.
report on Malta Independent said Magistrate Dr. Grazio Mercieca is conducting an inquiry into the unnamed Filipino's death.
Malta Freeport CEO Alex Montebello sent his condolences to the crew member's family, friends, and colleagues and explained that the port's crew did their best to have medical services on the ship as "quickly as possible."
"Although Malta Freeport was not involved in the refueling operation, our duty manager was informed immediately and reacted promptly to ensure medical services were on the scene as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, however, nothing could be done to save the crew member’s life," Montebello said. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

SUICIDE? Mystery surrounds Pinay's death in Saudi Arabia




By RIE TAKUMI, GMA News
A migrant rights group on Thursday urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to conduct an investigation into what it believes is the suspicious death of a domestic helper who allegedly committed suicide in Saudi Arabia.
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center said Jennifer Ross Acuna-Reyes, who had been working in Saudi Arabia for only two weeks, fell from the seventh floor flat of her employer in Jeddah last May 28.
Susan Ople, who heads the center, urged the DFA and the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia to conduct an investigation into Reyes' "mysterious" death due to conflicting claims by witnesses, the victim's family, and her employer.
"The family is convinced that their daughter did not commit suicide," Ople said. "Her employer is claiming otherwise."
"Suicide is never presumed"
Sought for comment, Charmaine Aviquivil from the DFA's Office of Public Diplomacy Executive Director said embassy lawyers are now investigating the case with Saudi authorities "because suicide is never presumed."
"The investigation will be extremely thorough especially because of the allegations that she died in her employer's flat, where she is supposed to be safe," she told GMA News Online.
"The embassy will continue to monitor the case and provide updates as soon as available."
Suspicious death
Reyes' death was deemed suspicious by the policy center as she was able to speak with her husband, hotel worker John Paul Reyes, four days prior to the incident, and that she had told him that she was fine.
Cleaners who worked in the same building claimed foul smell emanating from the employer's flat prior to the recovery of Jenny's body, the group said, adding witnesses supposedly saw very little blood in the area where the body was found.
“According to Filipinos living near the building, there was hardly any blood found on the site where she allegedly fell from the 7th floor and landed with her face down on the grass,” Larry Acuna, Sr., the OFW’s father, said.
Ople also called for the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Philippine Embassy to blacklist the OFW’s foreign employer.
Meanwhile, Reyes' Philippine recruitment agency, Sphinx Group Manpower Provider, Inc., was called on to provide the OFW's family their full assistance in the repatriation of her body and obtaining her full benefits from the employer.
The Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration has already pledged to provide Reyes' family other forms of assistance in addition to her death benefits. —KBK, GMA News

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Human Trafficking a Crime Against Children


Fr. Shay Cullen
16 June 2017
 
 
Human trafficking is a horrific crime against millions of people, fisher-folks, agricultural workers and especially against women and children and it is increasing in the Philippines. There are 4.5 million people victimized by human traffickers annually around the world. But it could be much more since it is a hidden crime. It is the modern slavery and a crime against humanity. The legal age of a child is 18 years old and below.
 
The most vulnerable are young women and minors who are lured or forced into the sex trade by human traffickers and sex bar owners and pimps. It is a dehumanizing experience for all victims especially the child victims most of whom are 15 to 17 years of age. It is estimated that 33 percent of the 4.5 million victims are minors. Once they fall into the hands and the control of the traffickers, they are powerless. They become captives. They are taken from villages and cash loans given to their parents to be repaid from the earning of the child in promised jobs.
 
However the jobs turns out to be sex work in sex bars where they are raped and abused and made into sex workers with many customers a night. It’s a living nightmare, a cruel existence with no escape. The young women and children are forever in debt. They are bonded labor, never able to leave and living in fear of being jailed for non-payment of debt. They pay for food and lodging and then for drugs when they are addicted.   
 
Almost 70 percent of trafficked and sexually abused children and young girls begin their vulnerability as victims of domestic sexual abuse from as young as 13 and 14 years of age. Their abusers are relatives or neighbors, live-in partners of the mothers, their biological fathers, uncles or grandfathers. The children cannot endure the abuse. They are threatened with harm if they tell anyone and are frightened to report the sexual abuse to anyone. Then some run away unable to endure the abuse and live on the street and are taken by human traffickers.
 
 Eventually some do tell their trusted teacher or a friend or relative. They tell someone they trust usually a teacher, a school friend or their older sister or mother. However not all mothers will believe the child or choose not to as the man, a live-in partner, or her husband, is providing her with money. Then the child victims run away from home. They are vulnerable wandering alone on the streets or in public parks. They are picked up by pimps and traffickers who offer them food and shelter. It is estimated that one hundred thousand children under 18 of age are trafficked into the sex business yearly in the Philippines, according to UNICEF. Many more are sexually abused on live-cam on the internet.
 
The sex industry thrives also on young girls recruited by human traffickers who take them from their villages and sell them into the thriving and ever increasing sex bars and brothels. This goes on right before the eyes of the authorities and every sex bar operates with a mayor’s permit wherever it is. It might be said the state approves the industry even though prostitution itself is illegal and it’s a crime under Republic Act  7610 to have a minor in a sex bar. Proving the child is underage is the challenge for those who would save them. The government authorities don’t screen the sex workers except for infectious diseases. They are forced to go to a social hygiene clinic and at times forced to have abortions. This is illegal but the authorities turn a blind eye to these crimes as it is in their interest to have a thriving sex industry from which some benefit.  
 
The victims of human trafficking are traumatized, abused, and trapped.  After months of abuse and enslavement she is dependent on drugs for which she has to pay. This adds to her debts and she comes to accept her fate as it is. The drugs keep her submissive, cooperative and docile when being abused by customers. She is forever in debt. The minors are trained to have a “loyalty” to their pimp or “master.” Contrary to what one might expect, not all the girls trafficked want to be “rescued’ or saved from the sex bars. The bar owners convince them that it is their life job and the only thing they are fit for and if they get saved they have to pay back their debts. They have been conditioned and coerced and threatened. It is common that they have a low self-esteem and accept their fate as inevitable.
 
The root causes of human trafficking that allow it to thrive is that it is not seen as a serious issue or as a “real” crime even though the Philippine law says it is. The law in the Philippines is usually what the authorities choose it to be.
 
People in general give little value to children that are not their own. The street children are seen as petty criminals and expendable. The minors are not considered victims by the police if found in sex bars but are considered guilty of a crime and fall into police power are then sexually exploited by the corrupt police. They are threatened with criminal charges into giving sexual favors in some cases.
 
The Philippine Anti-Child Pornography Law of 2009 mandates Internet service providers (ISPs) to block child porn online. The Philippine National Telecommunications Commission has to implement the law. Foreign governments must ban convicted pedophiles from travelling abroad where they can abuse women and children- girls and boys- with impunity. This is something we can do. Write your government today.
 
shaycullen@gmail.com
www.preda.org
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