Archive for the ‘OFWs’ Category

Filipino-American Activist Freed, Two Companions Remain Missing

May 26, 2009

Roxas has been reunited with her family. The fate of her two companions — Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc – is unknown.

UPDATE: Melissa Roxas Moved to Philippines to Pursue Human-Rights Advocacy

MANILA – A Filipino-American activist abducted five days ago “was surfaced” Monday morning by her captors, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Melissa Roxas, 31, from Los Angeles, California, was freed at 6:30 a.m. Monday, said Bayan’s Renato Reyes Jr., but her two companions — Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc – remain missing.

The three, who worked as health volunteers, were abducted by eight armed and hooded men in a village in Tarlac province on May 19, the latest in a string of so-called enforced disappearances in the Philippines targeting mainly activists.

“We are relieved that she has been freed but we are still worried about her two companions,” Reyes said. “The circumstances of her release are still unknown to us, and there is concern for her safety as well even if she has been released.”

Roxas has been reunited with her family and could not yet make any statements to the press, Reyes said. He added that Roxas’s medical condition, or whether she was harmed by her captors, is not yet known.

Roxas, Carabeo and Handoc were abducted in sitio Bagong Sikat, barangay Kapanikian, La Paz town, in Tarlac, a province just north of Mnaila.

Bayan, in a press statement on Sunday, said Karapatan, the human-rights group, had reported that the three were taken at gunpoint by eight men wearing bonnets over their heads. The men used two motorcycles and a Besta van without license plates – a common modus operandi in several other similar abductions in the Philippines.

Reyes said his group is “outraged that these abductions continue despite repeated condemnation here and abroad.”

This is the first time that a Filipino-American activist has fallen victim to what looks like another case of enforced disappearance, one of the forms of human-rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas is a member of Bayan-USA and the cultural group Habi Arts based in Los Angeles, California.

According to human-rights groups, more than 200 Filipinos have been victims of enforced disappearance since 2001, the year President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took power. Aside from these abductions, the Arroyo regime and the military have been accused of murdering more than a thousand activists, peasants, workers, human-rights advocates and journalists in a campaign believed to be part of a dirty war against the communist insurgency.

Several investigations, most notably by the United Nations Human Rights Council, have pointed to the military as the main culprit in these atrocities. (

Satur seeks to amend law to expand legal services for OFW protection

February 21, 2009

QUEZON CITY — House Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna) wants to amend Republic Act No. 8042 otherwise known as the Migrants Act of 1995 that is the government benchmark for the protection of our overseas Filipino workers.

“Our OFWs keep our national economy afloat. Filipino migrant workers and immigrants have consistently sent remittances to the homeland that reached US$14.45 billion in 2007, with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) forecasting yearend remittances to hit more than US$16 billion for 2008. I find it only fair that government reciprocate these contributions in many ways such as immediately expanding the legal assistance it extends to migrant workers and overseas Filipinos, both documented and undocumented, in distressful situations abroad,” Ocampo said.

The militant solon filed House Bill 5657 (An Act Expanding Government Legal Services to Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos in Distress, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 8042 or the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995”) to expand the scope and upgrade the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) program to provide full legal assistance to our migrant workers and overseas Filipinos in distress.

“Republic Act 8042 was enacted to protect and promote the welfare of migrant workers, their families and overseas Filipinos in distress.  But more than a decade after its passage into law, R.A. 8042 urgently needs major improvements if it even were to uplift the 10 million Filipinos working and/or residing overseas,” Ocampo said.

House Bill 5657 also aims to establish a Legal Attaché Office in each country in the Middle East region under the direct supervision of the DFA. The office will be in charge of providing full and appropriate legal assistance to migrant workers and migrants in distress in the respective areas of responsibility of the post.

“The current law is riddled with loopholes that need to be plugged. Our bill aims to streamline and expand legal services to cover all documented and undocumented OFWs in distress facing any type of case on-site and in the pursuit of civil, administrative, criminal, labor and welfare cases against foreign and local recruitment principals and responsible government officials among others,” Ocampo said.

The OFW group Migrante International reports that more than 5,000 overseas Filipinos are languishing in jails worldwide while the DFA cites the particularly distressing situation of Filipinos incarcerated in the Middle East owing to their lack of access to Shariah lawyers among many other specific legal concerns. # Vincent Michael L. Borneo


Japan ignores appeal, sets to deport Filipino family

February 14, 2009

TOKYO: Japan on Friday ordered the parents of a 13-year-old Filipina to prepare to leave within two weeks, giving them a choice to leave their daughter behind or face deportation.

In a case closely followed by human rights activists, Noriko Calderon—who was born in Japan in 1995—has publicly appealed to authorities to let her family stay together.

Her parents entered Japan in the early 1990s with illegal passports and stayed in the country undetected until two years ago when her mother was arrested but later released.

Noriko has grown up speaking only Japanese and attending local schools. Japan, which imposes tight controls on immigration, is likely to allow her to stay to complete her studies.

“I have decided not to grant a special residential permit to the entire family,” Justice Minister Eisuke Mori, who oversees immigration, told reporters.

Friday was the deadline for the family’s temporary residential status.

Shogo Watanabe, a leading human rights lawyer handling the case, said the immigration bureau told the parents to decide by February 27 on the date to fly to the Philippines.

“We accept neither the deportation of the whole family nor sending back only the parents,” said Watanabe, who warned that the immigration authority could detain Noriko’s 36-year-old father if he refused to leave.

Out of options

The parents have refused to leave without their daughter but ran out of legal options when the Supreme Court in September last year rejected their appeal to stay in Japan.

“She is 13 years old,” the father, Arlan Cruz, Calderon told reporters. “She cannot survive or protect herself alone.”

Lawyer Watanabe said he would keep negotiating with the immigration authority to let the family stay at least until the girl graduates from middle or high school.

About 500 families were in the same situation as the Calderons, according to Watanabe, who has accused Japan of not respecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Japan, with a falling birth rate and shrinking population, is considering allowing more foreign workers but has long rejected wide-scale immigration.

P250-M pondo para OFW dapat isiwalat

February 5, 2009

Soliman A. Santos

Hiniling ng Migrante-Middle East sa gobyernong Arroyo na isiwalat kung sino ang makikinabang sa P250-M Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund na nagmula sa pondo ng OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration).

“Nais naming linawin sa administrasyong Arroyo kung sino ang makikinabang sa pondong ito, para makasiguro na ang pera ay mapupunta sa dapat nitong puntahan at hindi sa bulsa ng kurakot na mga opisyal,” ayon kay John Leonard Monterona, tagapag-ugnay ng Migrante-ME.

Ipinaliwanag pa ni Monterona na ang mga OFW ang tunay na may-ari ng pondo ng OWWA na kompulsrayong nagbabayad ng US$25 na membership fee. “Kaya karapatan ng mga OFW na malaman kung saan gagastusin ang pondong ito,” sabi niya.

Matatandaang pinirmahan ni Pangulong Arroyo ang Administrative Order No. 248 noong Disyembre 4, 2008 para bigyan ng kabuhayan ang umuwing mga OFW dahil sa pandaigdigang krisis pampinansya.

Ayon sa Migrante International, ilang OFW na pinauwi mula Taiwan ang inimbitahan ng Malakanyang noong nakaraang Disyembre at binigyan ng tseke. Gayunman, agad umano itong binawi matapos silang makuhanan ng litrato kasama ni Pangulong Arroyo.

Ani Monterona, niloko lamang ng gobyerno ang mga OFW para sa publisidad. Dagdag insulto rin umano ito sa nararamdaman ng napauwing mga OFW.

Nagbabala pa si Monterona na babantayan nila, kasama ng kanilang mga tsapter sa buong mundo ang pondo ng OWWA na gagastusin ng gobyernong Arroyo.

“Sa pagkakataong ito, gusto naming makasiguro na ang P250 milyong ito ay hindi mapupunta sa mga kurakot na opisyal ng administrasyong Arroyo,” ani Monterona.(PinoyWeekly)

President Arroyo’s Assistance Package a Hoax – Migrante

February 3, 2009

Migrante International together with retrenched OFWs from Taiwan today trooped down the office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to denounce the government’s failure to deliver its promises of assistance to OFWs who were laid off due to the global financial crisis.

“This Filipino Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund is a hoax. Just like the cheques that were handed down in Malacanang, the President’s assistance package has yet to be seen and felt by OFWs who were unjustly laid-off from Taiwan,” says Gina Gaborni, Deputy Secretary General of Migrante International.

Gaborni criticized the Government for its continued negligence of the retrenched OFWs. Ironically, this happened after President Arroyo issued Administrative Order 248 in December, 2008 – its supposed ‘payback’ to the heroic efforts of the Filipino workers.

“The Government allotted PhP250 million for this Program but so far, has not benefited any returned OFW. And to add insult to injury, the Government’s assistance package is actually a loan, which OFWs must repay to OWWA,” Gaborni insisted.

According to Migrante, only 10 percent or PhP5,000 of the allotted P50,000 for each expatriate worker is available, the rest are in goods. They also claimed that before anyone can benefit from the Program, one has to attend seminars, training activities, draw a feasibility study for a livelihood program plus other requirements.

“OFWs have to go through a lot of red tapes before the said Fund is availed of. The process was intentionally designed to actually discourage anyone to claim the said assistance package. This is utterly evil,” exclaims Gaborni.

Overcharging OFWs

Gaborni also slammed recruitment agencies for collecting overpriced placement fees from outbound OFWs and the POEA for tolerating such actions. Furthermore, she urged the Philippine Congress to probe on this matter.

Migrante documented most of the retrenched OFWs in Taiwan worked from three to eight months only against their supposedly two-year contracts.

“These OFWs want payment for the unexpired portion of their contracts because they paid PhP135,000 as placement fees, which is four times the allowable ceiling amount set by the Government,” Gaborni said.

One of the retrenched OFWs is Angelina Arroz, 28, who arrived in the country last January 5. She paid PhP135,000 as a placement fee to Forever Manpower Services Inc., which is now offering her only PhP10,000.

“This is not fair since I only stayed in Taiwan for eight months. During those months, I was not able to work everyday. I want payment for the remaining months in my signed contract,” Arroz said.

Arroz also paid PhP2,500 for a jacket, which bears the said Recruitment Agency’s name and PhP750 for her Identification Card aside from the placement fee.

In Taiwan OFWs also pay NT1,800 for their meal, NT1,200 for board and lodging and NT1,800 as a broker’s fee. These are paid even when there was no work provided.

“Right now, I’m still paying for a PhP60,000 loan, a part of the amount I paid for the placement fee,” Arroz said.

Migrante said the Government should not sit idly and do nothing for expatriate because more and more OFWs will come back to the country as a result of the global financial crisis.(PinoyPress)

Department of Foreign Affairs increases consular service fees

January 31, 2009

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday justified the increase in fees for consular services, saying it would help in the operating costs of Philippine diplomatic posts in other countries.

The DFA said the fee hike, which was imposed at the start of 2009, is based on prevailing economic conditions abroad.

The group Migrante scored the DFA for the move, saying it would affect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are already burdened by hard economic times abroad.

The group called for an investigation into the new service rates imposed in nine Philippine embassies and three consulates general across Europe despite the global financial downturn.

Starting January, the DFA mandated Philippine embassies in Greece, Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Vatican City and Philippine consulates general in Spain, Germany and Italy to increase the rate of euro to US dollar conversion by 25 percent.

Migrante said the increase in service fees which cover passport application and renewal amounting to 60 euros, is burdensome to OFWs already hard up due to the global crisis.   – Pia Lee-Brago


Photos: Week 2: Filipinos in NYC March for a Free Palestine; Condemn Corporate Media’s Distortion of Gaza Situation

January 16, 2009

Week 2: Filipinos in NYC March for a Free Palestine;
Condemn Corporate Media’s Distortion of Gaza Situation

New York City

January 11, 2000

News Release
January 11, 2009
Reference: Christina Hilo, Northeast Coordinator, BAYAN USA, email:

Week 2: Filipinos in NYC March for a Free Palestine;
Condemn Corporate Media’s Distortion of Gaza Situation

New York– For the second weekend in a row, Filipinos from New York City and neighboring Jersey City, under the alliance of BAYAN USA, marched with thousands of pro-Palestinian activists from Times Square to the New York offices of CNN and Time Warner to protest the continuing Israeli military invasion of the city of Gaza. BAYAN USA members organizations Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), and NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), comprised a strong and indignant Filipino contingent amidst a sea of Arab and non-Arab supporters for the Palestinian people of Gaza and the cause of the Palestinian people to end the Zionist occupation of their homeland.

News reports from various media outlets tally the Palestinian casualties to more than 800 dead and 3000 wounded in Gaza City, but pro-Palestinian protesters remain critical that facts reported in mainstream news are heavily distorted, and Palestinian victims, including women and children, are possibly under-counted. Pro-Palestinian activists marched from Times Square to the offices of media giants CNN and Time Warner near Central Park to denounce strong pro-Israel bias in mainstream news coverage of the Gaza situation.

“Today, we are all Palestinians!,” shouted 20-year old Anakbayan member Yves Nibungco for BAYAN USA from the rally main stage, met with thunderous applause. “We condemn the corporate media for their distortion of the facts in Gaza and puppetry to US interests. They continue to demonize the victims and praise the murderers….. We know the violence in Gaza is not escalating because of Hamas, the violence in Gaza is escalating because of Zionism!” Nibungco stated.

According to most news reports, Hamas’ so-called “terrorist activities” are projected as the main cause of the conflict, while Israel’s invasion is justified as a matter of self-defense. But BAYAN USA and the other protesters in New York, see the conflict within the historical context of the ongoing Palestinian resistance to the violent 60+ year old Zionist occupation of their ancestral lands assisted by financial support from the US government.

As the largest recipient of US economic aid in the world, Israel enjoys a pork barrel of $15 million a day, or an annual average of $6 billion, from US tax dollars. Nibungco further stated that the US government’s large financial investment in Israel ensures US government control over the vast deposits of oil and natural gas in the region.

Last week in Washington DC, both houses of US Congress unanimously passed resolutions in full support of Israel’s continued military offensive of Gaza. As stated in Senate Resolution 10 (S.R. 10), US lawmakers united under the framework that Israel has every right to exercise “non-restraint from targeting civilians.”

“Filipinos are concerned about Gaza and the liberation of Palestine because there are similarities in Philippine history and current affairs,” stated BAYAN USA Secretary-General Berna Ellorin. “US tax dollars fund and enable the Israeli military offensive in Gaza and violent occupation Palestinian soil, just as US tax dollars fund and enable the Philippine military to commit gross human rights violations against the Filipino people at an alarming rate.”

As a former direct colony of the US, the Philippines suffered a bloody colonization from the US military that led to the massacre of millions of Filipinos at a time when the US government was a fledgling superpower at the turn of the 20th century. Today, more subtle forms of US economic and political plunder still lord over Philippine national affairs, including a push from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for dangerous provisions to the 1987 Philippine Constitution that would allow 100% foreign ownership of the country’s vast natural resources, including oil, gold, and natural gas. Opposition to Arroyo’s Charter Change, or Cha-Cha, is another campaign of BAYAN USA.

While none from the BAYAN USA contingent was arrested, police officers brutalized protesters and arrested at least 10 from the march and rally. BAYAN USA, an overseas chapter of BAYAN Philippines and member of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), marched closely with allies from Nodutdol, a progressive Korean community organization based in Queens.

For more information on BAYAN USA, visit, or email ###

(Photos Courtesy of BAYAN-USA)

Arkibong Bayan

Photos: Hongkong multisectoral organizations condemn Israeli invasion of Gaza

January 15, 2009

Hongkong multisectoral organizations

condemn Israeli invasion of Gaza

January 8 2009

No More Bloodshed in Gaza! Stop the Invasion!
Hong Kong People Condemn Israeli Aggression, Vow More Protests
Solidarity broadened and strengthened for Palestine today.

Several organizations and individuals all over Hong Kong gathered in a picket protest today, January 8, at the Israeli Consulate General to condemn the ongoing and intensifying attacks by the Israeli Zionist government on the people of Gaza.

Led by the Asia Pacific Students and Youth Association (ASA, formerly known as the Asian Students Association), the picket gathered around 70 people from various local and regional platforms, with many of them joining the march to the U.S. Consulate.

The organizations who joined included the following: Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, HK Confederation of Trade Unions, Hong Kong Federation of Students, League of Social Democrats, Refugee Action Centre, Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, Mission For Migrant Workers (HK) Society, Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, United Filipinos in Hong Kong, Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong (ATKI-HK), Pakistani Islamic Welfare Union,

The Incorporated Trustees of The Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Hong Kong (BAYAN-HK), Asian Centre for the Progress of Peoples, International League of Peoples’ Struggle Hong Kong, Filipino Migrant Workers Union, Association for the Advancement of Feminism, Asian Human Rights Commission, Asian Monitor Resource Centre, April 5th Movement, World Student Christian Federation Asia Pacific, and Helpers for Islam.

Other known personalities present were Legislator Leung Kwok Hung (aka Long Hair), Dr. Rose Wu (former director of the HK Christian Institute), Father Franco Mella PIME, and Mufti Muhammad Arshad (Chief Imam Hong Kong).

Note-worthy are the many individuals, many of whom were students, who joined the action after learning about the invitation through SMS and Facebook.

At the Admiralty Centre

A strong sense of solidarity spirit engulfed the whole ground floor of the Admiralty Centre, the building where Israeli Consulate is situated.

Speeches were given as slogans like “No More Deaths! No More Bombings!” and “Stop the Aggression! Israel Out of Palestine Now!” were chanted right after every speech.

During the start of the program, a small delegation made up of Rey Asis (secretariat member of the ASA), Imam Arshad, Baseer Navid of AHRC, Long Hair and a representative from PIWU were planning to give the position paper signed by various groups and individuals to the Israeli Consulate.

However, they were stopped several times by the building security and finally refused entry to the lift going to the Israeli Consulate’s office. This created uproar and indignation both from the delegation and the people gathered outside the building.

Truly, such action from the Admiralty Centre security was shameful.

Marching to the US Consulate

After the program in Admiralty, the protesters marched to the US Consulate to continue the demonstration.

There, the protesters were not remiss in denouncing the US government’s continuous political and military support to the Israeli Zionist government’s invasion of Gaza and Palestine.

A moment of silence was observed towards the end of the program to remember the many women, children and innocent civilians who died from the Israeli assaults.

Solidarity was again expressed as the groups committed to follow up on the developments and take necessary actions. A solidarity network for Palestine is already in the offing.

Truly, today’s action proved that solidarity embraced all races, religions, ages and colors. It was a very meaningful and inspiring event.

Rey Perez Asis
Secretariat Member, Asia Pacific Students and Youth Association
Contact number: (852) 9588 9491

HongKong Legislator Leong Kwok Hung

Immam Muhammad Arshad of AHRC

Rey Asis of ASA

Elizabeth Tang of HKCTU

xHong Kong’s Expression of Solidarity with the People of Gaza Strip

What Israel is doing is not democracy. It is genocide. It is terrorism.

This we say as we condemn in the strongest possible terms the Israeli Zionist government for intensifying its military onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

It continues to hurl bombs through aerial attacks, fire artillery shelling through naval vessels as its tanks and troops invading Palestinian territory have been strifing at civilians, homes and even medical personnel.

It has the arrogance to admit and exhibit its military prowess at the expense of the Palestinian civilians as homes, hospitals and universities, mosques and prayer halls have been targeted and obliterated.

It has not shown any compunction in blockading medical, food and other forms of humanitarian aid from getting into the borders. It kills civilians and even targets those who are helping the wounded and attending to the distressed. Is this what the Israeli government calls defending itself as they collectively punish the people of Gaza?

By using military force disproportionately, placing civilians in harm’s way by deliberately aiming bombs at their homes or hospitals they have sought refuge in, by hindering humanitarian access, the Israeli Zionist government has not only violated international conventions but committed the foulest crimes against humanity.

No remorse, no logic, no shame

It is of no remorse, of no logic, of no shame as they vehemently deny the reality of devastation in Gaza and ignore the international outcry for an immediate ceasefire.

On the part of U.S. government, it has shed off any illusion of pretense and objectivity as it condones and virtually champions the Israel’s expression of “defending itself from the attacks of Hamas.”

As outgoing president George W. Bush rashly demands the Hamas to stop “its military offense”, the U.S. government continually implores its standing relations with Israel before making any categorical position on the current Middle East crisis.

What uncouth positioning of a government with diplomatic relationships taking more precedence over the protection of lives and rights of the civilian populace!

We will not forget

We will not forget how the people of Gaza have suffered from the brutal rule of the Israeli Zionist government from the period of the latter’s occupation of Gaza (1967-1994) to the present. The independence of the Palestinian people in 1994 is almost nothing when their land, air and sea bases remain under the control of the Israelis.

In recent years, we have seen how the Israeli Zionist government has attacked Gaza and continued to advance and occupy small land portions of the Palestinian territory, as what they did this November 2008.

The people of Gaza and of Palestine have been defending themselves from Israeli invasion for the longest time. Hamas, a legitimate government elected by the people of Gaza and recognized by the U.N. and various governments, only responds to defend Gaza’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Expression of defiance, of solidarity

We welcome the strong position that United Nation General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto has taken against the Israel attacks. We welcome and embrace greatly the strong positions and solidarity actions that many people all over the world have taken against the Israel attacks.

We exert strong pressure on the various governments in the Middle East to provide space for their people to express freely their position on the issue and allow them to extend support to the people of Gaza. We denounce those governments who cheer on the Israeli government for the latter’s wanton display of brute military violence.

We likewise call for the provision of full access to all journalists to the region.

We call for more expression of this solidarity as we not only hold protest actions but gather material and medical support for the people of Gaza. In the midst of the global financial crisis, the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip, have experienced hardship, poverty and denial at the most extreme sense AND today, they need our help more than ever.

All of us undersigned express our strongest solidarity with the people of Gaza and the whole of Palestine as we call for the immediate and complete halt to these attacks as well as the withdrawal of all Israeli military personnel from the Palestinian territory.

We are one with them and the people of the Middle East as well as the international community in resisting these attacks of the US-backed Israeli Zionist government.

Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants
Asia Pacific Students and Youth Association (ASA, formerly Asian Students Association)
Asian Centre for the Progress of Peoples
Association for the Advancement of Feminism
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Hong Kong (BAYAN HK)
Baseer Navid
Civil Human Rights Front
Hong Kong Christian Institute
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
International League of Peoples’ Struggle Hong Kong
League of Social Democrats
Leung Kwok Hung, HK Legislator
Pakistani Islamic Welfare Union
United Filipinos in Hong Kong
World Student Christian Federation-Asia Pacific
Wu Lo-sai, Rose

Reference: Rey Asis of Asia Pacific Students and Youth Association (9588 9491)

Photos: BAYAN – USA in Los Angeles joins protest against the US-backed Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza

January 14, 2009

BAYAN – USA in Los Angeles joins protest

against the US-backed Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza

IIn front of Israeli Consulate, Los Angeles, CA, USA

January 2 , 2009

Los Angeles, CA – January 2, 2008 – BAYAN-USA, a member of the International Migrants Alliance, stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Gaza is not alone! Solidarity in Greece

On Saturday 3 January a massive and combative demonstration took place in the center of Athens and marched towards the Zionist embassy. Thousands of people responded to the call of the Palestinian Community, of the Greek Social Forum and of the Left organizations (with the exception of the “Communist Party of Greece” – KKE). With slogans against the Zionist murderers and their accomplices, the USA, the EU and the so-called “international community”, and throwing stones, the people resisted for long time the attacks of the Police Special Forces. The Police attacked with chemicals in an attempt to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the embassy.

The spirit of the demonstration, one of the biggest of the last years, was characterized by outrage for the Zionist crimes, anger for the pro-US, pro-Israel stand of the Greek government, and by resolute spirit of solidarity. The main slogans scanded also by the block of the Communist Organization of Greece were:

“Bush-Olmert murderers! Victory to the Intifada! Freedom for Palestine!”
“The people does not want them here – Throw the Zionist embassy out of Greece”
“Solidarity is the peoples’ weapon – War against the imperialist war”
“Zionist pigs murderers: Gaza is not alone”
“Bush and Olmert kill, Karamanlis and Papandreou applaude”
“USA and EU, accomplices in the crime”
“No justice, No peace – Solidarity with Palestine”
“The real terrorists are in the embassies of USA and Israel”

Similar demonstrations took place also in Thessaloniki and other Greek cities. Today Sunday 4 January in the afternoon a new demonstration is called by the Palestinian Community, the Greek Social Forum, the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA), etc. Unfortunately, and despite the plea of the Palestinian Community to organize one common demonstration, the KKE refused and will organize its own separate “peaceful march” 1 hour earlier… The same happened in Thessaloniki.

The Communist Organization of Greece calls upon the Youth and the People of Greece to get into the streets, to take part in the mobilizations organized by the Palestinian Community and the Left, and to express their outrage for the Zionist criminal aggression and for the shameful complicity of the Greek government.

All out to the streets!
Throw out of Greece the embassy of the Zionist murderers!
Unconditional support to the Palestinian Resistance!

Communist Organization of Greece / Kommounistiki Organosi Elladas (KOE)
International Relations Department

Email: *
Web: * In English:

Post address: Newspaper “Left!” * Isaia Salonon 6 * 11475 Athens, Greece
Phone: +30 210 6441745 * Fax: +30 210 6430024

UN chief demands Gaza ceasefire

Ban Ki-Moon: ‘Civilians in Gaza are being subjected to massive trauma’

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate end to fighting in the Gaza Strip during a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

The US and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have backed a French-Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

Israel says it has agreed to set up a humanitarian corridor to allow aid into the Gaza Strip.

On the ground in Gaza, explosions were heard through the night. Israel says it carried out more than 30 air strikes.

Mr Ban criticised both Israel for its bombardment of Gaza and Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and urged Security Council members in New York to act “swiftly and decisively to put this crisis to an end”.


“We need urgently to achieve Palestinian unity and the reunification of Gaza with the West Bank within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority,” he added.

More than 600 Palestinians are now believed to have been killed since Israel began its offensive 11 days ago. Palestinian health ministry officials say at least 195 children are among those killed.

An Israeli attack on Tuesday on a school building, which Israel says was sheltering militants, left at least 30 people dead and 55 injured, UN officials say.

Israel, which has vowed to reduce rocket attacks from Gaza on its territory, has lost seven soldiers on the ground. Four people within Israel have been killed by rockets.

In another development, Venezuela ordered the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador in protest at the Gaza offensive and its “flagrant violations of international law”.

Support for truce

The ceasefire plan proposed jointly by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy would bring together all the main parties and take all measures to end the conflict in Gaza.

The plan envisages the resumption of the delivery of aid to Gaza and talks with Israel on border security, a key issue for Israel as it says Hamas smuggles its rockets into Gaza via the Egyptian border.

Welcoming the proposal, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a “ceasefire that can endure and that can bring real security”.

The contours of a possible diplomatic agreement are in place, the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan reports from the UN.


Smoke rises over Gaza (06/01/2009)

However, if Israel continues to control the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza and can choose to stop it at any time this seems unlikely to command the support of Hamas, she notes.

Thus frenetic diplomacy in New York and in the Middle East is likely to continue.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, did not say whether Israel would accept the proposal but said it would take it “very, very seriously”.

Israel has proposed suspending attacks in specified parts of Gaza to allow people to stock up on essential goods.

The military will open up “areas for limited periods of time, during which the population will be able to receive the aid”, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said.

Andrew Whitley of the UN relief agency told the BBC that any relief in the conditions of the people of Gaza could only be a good thing:

“People have been weakened by 18 months of blockade and siege. They’ve been getting very little food, electricity or heat for a long time, and so they are in a very weakened condition.”

School carnage

UN officials have said that the al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp was being used as a refuge for hundreds of people when it was hit by Israeli shell-fire.

The BBC’s Rushdi Abu Alouf reports from a UN school inside a Gaza refugee camp

The Israeli military said its soldiers had come under mortar fire from Hamas militants inside the school. A spokesman for Hamas denied there had been any hostile fire coming from the school.

In all, at least 70 Palestinians and five Israeli soldiers were killed on Tuesday.

Israel says its offensive is stopping militants firing rockets but at least five hit southern Israel on Tuesday, injuring a baby.

Casualty claims in Gaza cannot be independently verified. Israel is refusing to let international journalists into Gaza, despite a supreme court ruling to allow a limited number of reporters to enter the territory.

(Photos Courtesy of Bayan-USA)

Arkibong Bayan

21 Filipinos freed by Somali pirates

January 14, 2009

By Veronica Uy
First Posted 10:26:00 01/13/2009

Filed Under: Sea piracy

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Twenty-one Filipino seafarers from the M/V African Sanderling were released by suspected Somali pirates, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos said Tuesday.

The release of the 21 came two days after seven other Filipino sailors were freed.

M/V African Sanderling, which was hijacked October 16 last year, was released after the release of Saudi supertanker M/T Sirius Star Friday and of M/V Delight Saturday.

At a press conference, Conejos said 44 Filipinos on three ships are still being held by the pirates. These are the M/V Stolt Strength (with 23 Filipino seamen, captured November 10, 2008), F/B Tianyu #8 (with three Filipinos, captured November 14, 2008), and M/V Star Venus (with 18 Filipinos, captured November 16, 2008).

Conejos said all the Filipinos, both those released and still being held, are in good condition.

He said concerted international action against the pirates appear to be successful so far, as the last ship with Filipino seamen was hijacked November 17.

Last December 15, the United Nations made the strongest statement against piracy in the Gulf of Aden through a resolution allowing the Coalition of Naval Forces to undertake land-based military operations in Somalia.

The naval forces of NATO (Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization) have also started the convoy system among ships passing through the gulf that connects Asia and Europe.

“The international action has worked. The result speaks for itself,” Conejos said.

Somalia has been a failed state without a working government for almost two decades.

Since April last year, suspected Somali pirates have hijacked 17 ships with 208 Filipino seamen.

As of last count, 14 ships with 164 Filipino seamen have been released.

Photos: BAYAN-Canada in Toronto Denounces Israel’s Bombing of Gaza

January 13, 2009

BAYAN-Canada in Toronto
Denounces Israel’s Bombing of Gaza

Toronto, Canada

Janaury 3, 2009

More than 380 people were indiscriminately killed by cowardly air strikes and artillery fire unleashed by Israel on the Palestinian people in Gaza. Many of the victims are children, women and elderly. The targets have included hospitals, mosques, the Islamic university and other social institutions of the Palestinian people. People in Toronto respond to the international condemnation of this act by the state of Israel to the Palestinian people.

BAYAN-Canada in Toronto
Denounces Israel’s Bombing of Gaza

BAYAN-Toronto, the Toronto section of BAYAN-Philippines, the legal alliance of progressive Filipino organizations, condemns the state of Israel for its bombing and shelling of the Palestinian people in Gaza. As of this writing, 380 people have been killed, including many women and children, over 1000 injured and numerous properties destroyed. This outrage was preceded by many months of siege by Israel to deprive the Palestinian people of necessities like food and medicines in order to try to overthrow the legitimately elected government of Palestine. Its background has been almost 60 years of outrage by Israel against the Palestinian people: ethnic cleansing through wholesale terrorism, illegitimate seizure of Palestinian farms, homes and other properties, daily humiliations, state sponsored torture, collective punishment, racism and systemic discrimination against Arabs and other people of colour, and the turning of what little is left of the Palestinian homeland into a giant prison camp divided into apartheid style reserves or bantustans.

This horror has only been possible because the state of Israel has received yearly, without fail, billions of dollars of economic and military aid from the United States, and unfailing political support from the same and its co-imperialist allies. To its great shame, Canada has not been lacking in its support of Israel’s horrors against the Palestinian people. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has put the blame for the Israeli aggressions against the Palestinian people on the victims themselves. Shame!

Let us be crystal clear on the character of Israel. Israel is a settler colonial state imposed by European Zionists against the native people of Palestine through deprivation of Palestinian freedom, rights, property, peace, justice, institutions, safely and lives. Israel is a racist state that treats its Arab minority as second class and even mistreats coloured Jews. Israel is a theocracy that discriminates against people on the basis of religion. Israel is a fascist state that engages in systemic torture and collective punishment. This is a society that regularly contemplates in its mass media the utter liquidation of the Palestinian nation as a nation and its effacement from its homeland.

Those who call, therefore, for Israel’s right to self-defence are defending ethnic cleansing, state sponsored terrorism, collective punishment, state use of torture, harassment and humiliation, bulldozing of homes and people, the shooting of women and children, the destruction of infrastructure and all institutions required by the Palestinian people to exist. Shame on Cannon! Shame on Harper and the Conservatives! Shame on the Canadian government! Shame on the Canadian state!

We, Filipinos, are in profound solidarity with the Palestinian people. Though Palestine and the Philippines are on opposite sides of Asia, we have many things in common. Like the Palestinian people, millions of Filipinos are regularly deprived of decent wages, basic rights, and a humane livelihood: collective punishment, torture, imprisonment, exile from our homes, destruction of our economy, destruction of our culture, ethnic cleansing, etc. Some more in Palestine, others more in the Philippines! Though different in specifics, we are both oppressed nations under the boot of US imperialism, and its allies like Canadian imperialism. Whereas the US acts through a proxy settler state against the Palestinian people, its acts through a neocolonial state against the Filipino people. That is all. Now, our Filipino migrant workers in the West Bank too experience daily the racism of their Israeli bosses and other Israelis, on the one hand, and the friendship of Palestinians among whom Filipino migrant workers live, on the other hand.


3 January 2009

(Photo Courtesy: Al Calara and Jonathan Canchela)

Arkibong Bayan

Spare us from media gimmicks — Pinoy migrants

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — Local migrants group hit pronouncements over media that OFWs laid off due to the global financial crisis are being well assisted by the government. They assailed these as media gimmicks or a media blitz of the Arroyo administration to make up for their inability to protect Overseas Filipino Workers.

According to Flora Belinan of the Migrante-Cordillera, Igorot workers have not been spared from the retrenchments. She said she has met retrenched Taiwan workers who came home empty handed at Christmas time and attest to the uncertainty of government assistance.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in the region has yet to receive the returning OFWs who should come for assistance after the retrenchments. Regional Director Manuela Peña said no one has reported yet, that makes it difficult to account the number of Cordillerans affected.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said, “Contrary to the publicity stunt of President Arroyo, the retrenched OFWs from different countries have not received any relief from government and have spent their Christmas worrying how to pay their loans that they left behind.”

Martinez explained that the red carpet treatment at the airport and the assistance package being announced by government has not generated anything but certificates from government which they deemed useless to OFWs who were prematurely sacked from their jobs abroad.

“Instead of using returning OFWs as an opportunity to get a positive media image, Arroyo should heed the advice of its labor attaché in Taiwan, Rodolfo M. Sabulao, to go after recruitment agencies which excessively charged OFW applicants,” chided Martinez.

Sabulao reportedly wrote POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili on December 18 for government “to do something to ease the pain of the workers by requiring recruitment agencies which deployed the workers to Taiwan to refund the placement fee corresponding to the remaining period in the employment contract.”

Under RA 8042 or the Magna Carta for Overseas Filipinos, overcharging is tantamount to illegal recruitment. But instead of denouncing the illegal practice, however, POEA officials now serve as apologists for recruiters by persuading OFWs from Taiwan to accept P5,000 as settlement, out of the P95,000 they have paid for their placement fee, according to Martinez.

The group also claims that the Arroyo administration is in a state of denial when it announced that the Middle East region as a labor market for OFWs is insulated from the massive retrenchment due to the global economic crisis.

On Christmas Eve the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce stated that thousands of laid off construction workers have applied for visa cancellations.

“This does not include the 3,000 OFWs who were already laid off in UAE as admitted by Secretary Roque himself,” Martinez added.

Migrante also launched on December 28 its petition signing campaign calling for the sacking of Philippine labor officials in Qatar due to its failure to provide legal assistance to OFWs who were forced to beg from fellow countrymen in Corniche and fish market for their daily subsistence.

“The impact of the global crisis will be more severe by next year. With the Arroyo administration opting for media gimmicks instead of concretely responding to the immediate needs of OFWs is an alarming indication that more of our kababayans will be force to become beggars in different countries abroad,” Martinez concluded. # Northern Dispatch

OFWs to brace for harder times in 2009

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — A global alliance of Filipino migrant organizations warned Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) to anticipate more retrenchments, lower wages and worse working conditions abroad as the government targets to deploy two million Filipinos overseas by 2009.

“We will hold the Arroyo administration fully accountable for being hell-bent at exporting the most number of Filipinos abroad amidst the worsening global crisis,” exclaimed Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

The group explained that the series of government announcements of job openings abroad is in line with the 2007 state-of-the-nation-address of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo where she pledged to deploy two million OFWs before her term ends in 2010.

“Time and again, we say that labor exportation is neither a tool for development nor an answer to the present crisis. We agree with Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Angel Lagdameo when he lamented about the breakup of Filipino families because of parents working overseas,” added Martinez.

The head of the influential CBCP was quoted as saying he is sad that poverty forced parents to work overseas just to make ends meet, breaking up the family in the process.

Middle East worst destination

“Contrary to Arroyo’s claims, the Middle East region remains to be the worst destination for OFWs in terms of labor rights protection, especially now that it is also being hit hard by the global crisis,” said Martinez.

Migrante cited that in Dubai alone, labor complaints in the Ministry of Labor have tripled since November 2008. Most cases are of illegal termination and non-payment of salaries. The group said the situation is similar even in Saudi Arabia, the top destination country of OFWs in the region.

“It is gibberish for Arroyo to say that Middle East countries remain a haven for overseas employment just to cover up her administration’s inutility at addressing the crisis. The Ittefaq Steel Products Factory, the second largest steel manufacturer in Saudi Arabia, has announced it would send 80 % of its 2,145 workers on leave without salary for three months starting on New Year’s Day,” Martinez revealed.

Martinez added that in the UAE, not only are the real estate and construction industries affected by the present global economic downturn. Big multinational companies like General Electric, IBM and Jeffries International are likewise retrenching their workforce or are totally pulling out operations from the said gulf country.

Access to justice

Migrante urged the governent to concentrate on protecting the rights and welfare of OFWs instead of focusing only on its alleged aggressive marketing of OFWs abroad.

“In this time of crisis the main problem of OFWs is the lack of access to legal protection. Migrant workers are the first ones hit by this crisis and, more often than not, they do not have anyone to turn to in the event of labor disputes. It is unfortunate that our government remains callous to this problem,” Martinez said.

The group cited the case of retrenched OFWs from Taiwan who talked to POEA deputy administrator Hans Cacdac to complain. They alleged their recruiters are overcharging them. Migrante said they got information that POEA mediating officers are siding with the recruiters as they persuade the workers to accept P5,000 as settlement out of the P95,000 they have paid as placement fee.

“This only indicates that OFW victims of unfair labor practices will have no access to justice under the worsening exploitation and abuses brought about by the global economic crisis,” Martinez concluded.

“POEA records show that OFW deployment reached 1.221 million to more than 190 countries from January to November 2008,” said Martinez. # Northern Dispatch

20,000 local nurses needed in Middle East

January 3, 2009

At least 20,000 Filipino nurses are urgently needed in Middle East countries for work in military hospitals and other medical centers, the recruitment industry reported yesterday.

Lito Soriano, executive director of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, Inc. (FAME), said representatives from King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital arrived last Jan. 2 to recruit qualified Filipino nurses for vacancies in its medical facility in Jeddah.

“The estimated job vacancies by the industry for our nurses in the Middle East, mostly in Saudi Arabia also include those unfilled in 2008. Officials of King Fahd are already here to interview applicants,” he said in a phone interview.

Soriano, president of LBS-E Recruitment Solutions, said representatives from the Prince Sultan Cardiac Center-Riyadh and the King Khalid Military City Hospital—Hafr Al Batin in Saudi Arabia are scheduled to visit the country this January to recruit medical staff.

“Our nurses to be hired in Saudi Arabia will get an increase of 10 percent in their inflation allowance that would range from $ 600 to $ 1,000 a month of their salaries. They are entitled to free housing, travel costs, and yearly vacation,” he said.

Soriano said technical medical workers like X-ray technicians and respiratory technicians are also needed the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Oman.

He said that despite the worldwide financial crisis, salaries for skilled Filipino workers and professionals are expected to increase from $ 1,200 to $ 3,000 a month.

“Labor markets in Gulf economies have shown resiliency and it’s now experiencing a construction boom that led to the rising demand for foreign workers,” he said.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), however, released the list of “threats” to employment opportunities for Filipino workers in the Middle East in 2009.

On top of its list were nationalization policies, scrapping of the bids by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) for its P Station project, the Kingdom’s downstream joint ventures and the reduction of the costs of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest national oil company. (Raymund F. Antonio)(MB)

Migration will go on despite global economic crisis, says prelate

December 31, 2008

MANILA, December 30, 2008─ Exodus of Filipino workers will go on despite the global economic crisis, as requirements for highly-skilled workers still remain, says prelate.

CBCP Episcopal Commission for Migrant and Itinerant Peoples and Maasin Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, SDB said that while everybody will be affected by the so-called economic meltdown, overseas migration will continue because of poverty at home.

In an interview with CBCPNews, the prelate said the recent Global Forum on Migration and Development held in Manila during the last quarter of 2008 revealed that “migration has indeed become a significant factor in development.”

“Migration requires both national and international attention because it is an important issue considering human lives and dignity are concerned,” the prelate said.

He said Filipinos in the medical profession can easily find jobs in Europe and the Middle East.

Asked of the plight of Filipina domestic helpers in the Middle East and other highly developed countries, Cantillas said “the brokers and agents should be looked into by government and other concerned agencies because they don’t care about the domestic helpers conditions.”

He added these brokers and agents are least troubled of the domestic helpers’ qualifications and wages because they are simply concerned of their “cuts and commissions.”

The bishop said the Catholic Church will always be there to help migrant workers in their various needs.

“Just like a mother, looking after her children’s welfare, our mission goes beyond pastoral care,” he said.

He disclosed that as migrant workers continue to increase, the problems brought about by migration likewise increases. (Melo M. Acuna)

Laid off OFWs in Taiwan Duped by Malacañang

December 30, 2008

Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan went to Malacañang hoping to receive assistance from the government. Instead, they were used for Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s photo gimmicks, and went home empty handed.


On December 5, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration official Carmelita Dimson accompanied overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were laid off in Taiwan to Malacañang. They were hopeful that President Arroyo would give them financial assistance and would order the proper agencies to act on their case. But they were terribly disappointed.

In a press conference, Dec. 11, Cristina de Borja, one of the retrenched OFWs related, “We were expecting to meet and talk with the President. But the President only came when the cameras started rolling. While in front of the cameras, President [Gloria] Arroyo herself handed checks to four of our representatives.”

De Borja said that the checks worth P50,000 ($1,055.408 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.375) were turned over to the Technological Resource Center after the ceremony. The OFWs were told that the funds were for a livelihood program that the OFWs still have to apply for.

De Borja said, “We want President Arroyo to tell us that the Philippine government would do everything in its power to enforce our valid contracts…But she did not speak to us at all. After the photo gimmick, she left without a word…”

De Borja, 30, is from Angono, Rizal. Her contract is supposedly for two years but she was laid off after eight months of work due to the crisis.

De Borja said that their creditors have been running after them after seeing on television that Mrs. Arroyo handed to them P50,000 ($1,055) worth of checks. She said that each of them owe P85,000 to P120,000 ($1,794 to $2,532) and the amount increases due to the interest.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘assistance package’ given to the OFWs actually contained brochures of the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, flyers from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and referrals to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).

May Ruiz, another OFW from Taiwan lamented, “Dismayado kami sa naabutan namin sa OWWA lalo na sa Malacañang. Ang ine-expect po namin ay immediate action na ibibigay nila sa amin at hindi itong laman ng bayong na puro certificate, kasi pag- uwi po namin sa pamilya namin, hindi po ito magta-transform into cold cash para ipambili namin ng pagkain para sa pamilya namin.” (We are dismayed at what happened to us at the OWWA and especially at Malacañang. What we were expecting is immediate action to help us and not this bag, which is full of certificates. Because when we go home to our families, these could not be converted into cash to buy food for our families.)

Assistance package’ inside “Bayong” given by Press. Arroyo at Malacañang during the visit of Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

Ruiz added, “Tinatawag nila kami na bagong bayani, ang katumbas na lang pala ng bagong bayani ay isang bayong ng mga papel.” (They call us modern-day heroes. But apparently modern-day heroes are just worth a bag full of paper.)

Ruiz, 23, was an employee of the Advanced Semiconductor Engineering in Taiwan. She is the breadwinner of the family.

A mother of another retrenched OFW who is sill in Taiwan, Annie Redelicia, 52, said that her daughter Reggie left for Taiwan on October 6 this year and lost her job as an electronics worker on November 20.

Annie said the company has ceased supplying food to her daughter since November 30. She said she does not know if her daughter has something to eat.

Annie also said that the P80,000 ($1,688) debt they had incurred from the agency continues to gain interest. By November, the money they owe has increased to P100,000 ($2,110) because of the interest. “Baka po idemanda na kami ng agency e wala po talaga kaming ibabayad sa kanila, kasi kakaalis lang po ng anak ko tapos nawalan na kaagad ng trabaho,” (The agency might sue as because we really do not have money to pay them. My daughter has just left and she is already out of work.) she said.

Elvira Dungca, 25, another OFW from Taiwan, said they were offered a ‘no work, no pay’ scheme. The company would just call them if their services are needed. She said, “Paano kami habang walang trabaho? Paano kami mabubuhay sa araw-araw?” (How would we survive while we are out of work? How would we survive each day?)

POEA response

After the December 11 press conference, the laid off OFWs, along with some Migrante International officials, went to the POEA and sought a dialogue with POEA officials.

Lawyer Hans Leo Cacdac, deputy administrator for licensing and adjudication, talked with the OFWs.

The OFWs told Cacdac their predicament.

Ruiz said that that she was made to pay P85,000 ($1,794) as placement fee to the recruitment agency but the amount written in the receipt was only P25,000 ($527).

Cacdac said the POEA only allows the charging of a maximum of P55,000 ($1,160) for placement fee.

Ruiz said that some OFWs owed a balance of P7,500 ($158) for their placement fee. When they arrived in Taiwan, the amount was converted to 7,500 NT or P10,771.69 ($227).

She related that when the retrenched OFWs insisted that the company pays the remaining amount stipulated in the contract, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) replied that they just have to follow their employer and abide by the law in Taiwan.

Borja said MECO told them that the government will talk with the lending agencies. When she arrived home, Borja asked OWWA about the matter and the OWWA referred her to the POEA.

Connie Bragas-Regalado, former chairperson of Migrante who also joined the dialogue asked the POEA to punish the agencies collecting more than P55,000 (($1,160) as placement fee.

Regalado also said that the contracts of the OFWs stipulate that the employer and/or the recruitment agency should pay for the ticket in case of retrenchment or repatriation. The retrenched OFWs said their employer only gave them P1,500 NT; the air ticket costs 5,500 NT.

Regalado said the employer should also pay the whole amount of the contract.

Nimfa D. de Guzman, officer in charge of the POEA Welfare and Employment Office said they could only offer to facilitate conciliation meetings between the recruitment agencies and the OFWs. She said the POEA will act as mediator.

Cacdac said the POEA could give the OFWs referral letters for possible employment in other countries. The OFWs retorted they would be referred to the same recruitment agencies they have been complaining about.

Cacdac said recruitment agencies that collect beyond the maximum amount allowed for placement fee could face cancellation of licenses.


De Borja said, “Ang hinihingi lang naman po naming ay ibigay yung rights naming mga OFWs.” (What are we are asking for is for them to give us what is due to us.)

She said the projects offered by the Arroyo government could not provide an immediate solution to their problems.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said the retrenched OFWs need a financial assistance package.

Martinez said, “Sabi ng gobyerno may inilabas na silang P250 million para sa mga na walan ng trabajong OFWs, saan yon napunta?” (The government said they have released P250 million [$5,277,044] for OFWs who would lose their jobs, where did the amount go?)

Martinez said some of the retrenched OFWs have been charged with estafa by lending agencies.

Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan ripped the papers that the government gave them as ‘assistance package’. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

He said that the December 5 incident in Malacañang only shows that the Arroyo government is not ready and not serious in dealing with the crisis. He criticized Malacañang for deceiving the OFWs amid the crisis.

Martinez said the OFWs are demanding for a reimbursement of their plane tickets, financial assistance, payment of the remaining amount of the contract, and the release of the P10 million OWWA ($211,081) funds to help the OFWs.

Observance of Migrants Day Focuses on Distressful OFW Conditions

December 30, 2008

The distressful plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) became the highlight of a gathering of families at the Itogon Training Center at Bua, in Barangay (village) Tuding here, as the event focused on five Benguet OFW families.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

ITOGON, Benguet (200 kms north of Manila) — The distressful plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) became the highlight of a gathering of families at the Itogon Training Center at Bua, in Barangay (village) Tuding here, as the event focused on five Benguet OFW families.

As the world remembers migrants, the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) here gathered on Dec. 17 some 100 families of OFWs in Benguet for its annual OWWA Day.

Town mayors were earlier enjoined to select at least six families to represent each of the 13 Benguet towns in the said affair, which also honored five families of migrants who are among the most distressed of such families.

“We bring them gifts, groceries, livelihood packages and some cash so that in a way these would ease some worries,” said Cordillera OWWA Director Manuela N. Peña in an interview with the press.

Similarly, in his welcome address, Itogon Mayor Mario W. Godio said he is looking forward to a time when there would be no more OWWA Day. In the same speech he emphasized the social costs of migration, like the unwanted breakups of family relationships, the behavioral problems in children arising from the absence of one or both parents, and the risks to job security and safety that OFW’s face while in the hands of their employers abroad.

Peña said she is not in favor of the so-called OFW phenomenon. “If possible I would not send any Filipino to work abroad,” she said, agreeing with Godio.

Sadness was evident in the faces of members of the families of OFWs from Tuba, Itogon, Kapangan, and Mankayan as they were called up the stage to receive additional cash incentives and prizes.

One of the OFWs worked for five years in South Korea – two years with legal employment, the rest as an illegal alien. On his fifth year, he met a vehicular accident that rendered him comatose for one year in a Korean hospital. Since his arrival in January, he has not been responding to communication despite continuous medication for a brain injury.

Another one has been missing since she went to Macau almost two years ago. Another died of an ectopic pregnancy while in Singapore. Others have been jobless since they returned.

Despite live entertainment from female impersonators, free five-minute calls and a free P25-load from a giant telecommunications network and offers of discounted prices from real estate companies, the migrants’ families did not seem to enjoy the fanfare.

“Each had a hesitant smile, waiting for a day when their loved one leaves them no more for a dreamt better-paying job abroad,” said Godio, who also hopes the government would give sufficient jobs to the unemployed here.

Last month, OWWA honored successful OFW families in ceremonies that glorified overseas employment. A family in Baguio City and another from Tabuk, Kalinga were then chosen as outstanding sea-based and land-based OFWs, respectively.

Meanwhile, OWWA is still at a loss as to the number of OFWs retrenched as a result of the global financial crisis. They (the OFWs) have not been reporting, according to Evelyn Laranang, chief of Programs and Services in OWWA-CAR. Recently, factories in Taiwan, South Korea and other Asian countries have been reportedly cutting down on manpower, thus the retrenchments. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (

OFWs in Hong Kong Protest vs Cha-cha

December 30, 2008

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Hong Kong held a picket protest in front of the Philippine Consulate General office to denounce renewed moves to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution.


Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Hong Kong held a picket protest in front of the Philippine Consulate General office to denounce renewed moves to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

In a statement, Dollores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) , said, “Our rejection of charter change is a rejection of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and all that she stands for – corruption, fascism, subservience to foreign power, all-out sale of Filipino migrants and criminal neglect and irresponsibility to the plight of Filipinos abroad.”

Balladares said Arroyo ‘has not given anything to OFWs but lies and obsession with photo-ops [photo opportunities].’

Balladares accused Arroyo of using their remittances, fees and taxes for her ‘self-serving ends, including efforts to change the Charter.’

The migrant leader said the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) Medicare funds have been transformed as ‘Arroyo’s election kitty bank.’

“She [Arroyo] has committed the worst sins in depriving OFWs of genuine services and protection since she came into power,” Balladares added.

The group said that the Arroyo government has ‘never provided enough medical assistance, legal assistance, repatriation funds, shelter services and assistance to victims of illegal recruitment and overcharging.’

Balladares said that amid the financial crisis, the Arroyo government has ‘nothing to offer but empty assurances of support.’

“Worse, they are not merely empty but blatant lies and media gimmickry as shown by what happened to laid off workers from Taiwan who were slyly used for GMA’s media projection,” she said.

Balladares said, “Filipinos abroad shall never support GMA’s [Arroyo’s initials] drive to continue her rule in perpetuity as aimed for by the Charter Change.”

Meanwhile, Norman Uy Carnay, coordinator of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) in Hong Kong criticized the proposals to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of land and public utilities. Carnay said these are tantamount to a sellout of the nation’s sovereignty and patrimony.

She said, “We, OFWs, join the rest of our people in calling for the junking of the charter change and the ouster of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo” “We fervently wish for a GMA-free 2009.”(

Migrant Workers Shall Suffer the Brunt of the Globalization-induced Crisis

December 28, 2008

Posted by Bulatlat

Neo-liberal globalization has forced us to migrate and become commodities for sale by sending countries and cheap laborers for the receiving ones. Now, as neoliberal policies induced another global recession, we are again made to carry the brunt of the crisis.

Slowly but surely, the crisis that started in the United States is spreading throughout the world. Considering the US’ position as the global economic master, it is understandable that many of the countries where migrants are working right now and countries where they come from are starting to feel the impacts of the crisis that is expected to intensify in the coming months.

The current recession is but an explosion of the crisis brewing for years. The crisis of overproduction inherent in the economy of the global centers–US, European Union and Japan–and hastened by neoliberal globalization policies, has become more uncontrollable than before. Concentration of finance capital through massive speculation has become more intense and made the crisis imminent.

Even the wars of aggression and occupation that the US led and joined in by many capitalist countries have failed to salvage the capitalist system from collapsing. In fact, these wars justified in the name of ‘anti-terror campaign’ have further aggravated the condition in the world as production and profit became more highly-concentrated while more and more people were displaced.

Now, various countries scramble to save their failing economies with whipped up solutions that are evidently targeted to save big businesses at the expense of the people and the workers who have long-been victims of the very roots of this crisis.

The oppressed and disadvantaged classes and sectors that include the migrants did not cause the global crunch and yet, will be forced into more hardships. Indeed, what is just and right has no place where imperialists rule.

Global crisis spells crisis for migrants’ rights

Job security and wage of migrants are the most immediate casualties of economic crunch. The more recent cases of these are as follows:

– More than 70 workers from Advanced Semi-Conductor Engineering Co. Ltd (ASE) in Taiwan were laid off. Reportedly, about 1,000 more are set to be sent home very soon.
– In Macau, 400 Filipinos have already been fired from their jobs in the construction industry while about 12,000 migrants working in casinos have been told that their contracts will not be renewed.
– In the property sector in the United Arab Emirates, about 500 migrants already lost their jobs while thousands more are set to lose theirs in the construction industry in various countries within the Gulf region.
-Member organizations of the IMA in Australia have reported that many temporary foreign workers are being made redundant.
– In Canada, 70 Mexican and Jamaican temporary foreign workers were fired by the Rol-Land Farms, a private industrial-agricultural corporation.
– In the US, immigrants are losing their jobs and the little properties they own. Who can forget June Reyno, a Filipino immigrant who tied herself to her house after being issued an eviction notice due to the property slump?

In addition to this, the wage of migrants shall surely again be attacked. This was exactly what happened during and after the 1997 Asian Financial crisis. Wage of migrants in Korea, for example, dropped from US$750 to US$300 while foreign domestic workers suffered two wage cuts US$25 in 1999 and US$52 in 2003.

But the impacts of the global economic problems are not restricted to the host countries. In fact, it may even be more severe in sending countries like Philippines and Indonesia whose economies are very dependent on the advanced capitalist countries like the US.

For sure, the governments of sending countries shall again turn its eye to the very profitable business of labor export.

This is not surprising considering that labor export bring in billions of US dollars worth of remittance these countries and billions more profit from government charges on top of curbing unemployment inside the country. Both the Philippine and Indonesian governments have already expressed their intention of doubling the target deployment of their nationals to other countries.

Just recently, the Philippine government has proposed to implement a mandatory psychiatric test. While hypocritically claiming that it is for the protection of Filipino migrants, the truth is that it shall only be an additional financial burden to them and its ultimate goal is to make Filipino migrant workers more attractive to foreign

Governments of sending countries have tried to placate the restlessness of their people by promising their readiness to face the crisis. This, however, is mere bravado as the economies of these countries are highly-dependent on the capitalist centers. Their so-called readiness will soon be revealed as nothing but readiness to impose more severe taxation to the people, drastic cuts in the budget for social services, even more wanton implementation of neo-liberal globalization and more aggressive exportation of labor. In fact, what these countries, like Philippines and Indonesia, are doing now is to forge more bilateral agreements with labor-receiving countries to ensure the continued sale of migrants as cheap laborers.

The way forward for the migrants

These developments and more that will surely come will be faced squarely by the organized grassroots migrants. The rights of migrants have never been respected. The second Global Forum on Migration and Development held last October in Manila showed the hypocrisy of sending and receiving countries as they tackle the so- called rights of migrants but are actually concretizing steps on how more income can be generated from migration and migrant labor.

The International Migrants Day is a most opportune time to expose the conditions and concerns of migrant workers.

The more than 100 members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) from 25 countries are gearing up for various actions that will highlight issues of migrants of various nationalities and as a sector.

In this light, the IMA calls on to its members and supporters to:

1. Launch actions that will highlight the issues of job security and wage of the migrants. Policies that make these rights vulnerable to attacks must be targeted while remaining vigilant over new ones that governments will cook up.

2. Conduct a massive education campaign among migrants on the roots and causes of the current global recession. Neoliberal globalization must be further exposed and concretized to the migrants to intensify our opposition against them.

3. Aggressively organize migrants in the grassroots. Only the collective will and actions of migrants can be our effective weapons against the onslaught of attacks to our rights that are sure to come.

4. Gather the broadest unity with other migrant organizations and advocates for the campaigns that we shall conduct.

5. Unite in solidarity with the local workers and other oppressed classes and sectors in host countries by establishing coalitions with their unions and federations that will serve as shields against neoliberal globalization’s attacks to our rights as workers and oppressed people in the host country.

6. Integrate our movement overseas with that in our respective home countries to advance the struggle against imperialism and for genuine democracy, human rights and social justice.

In the coming months, migrants are to face hardships never seen before. It will show how right the people are to oppose neoliberal globalization policies. It will show how imperative it is to do actions for social justice and human rights. It will show how migrants are part of the struggle for change.

Through militant struggles, we can overcome and build a world that we and our people deserve.(

Pagpaparusa sa opisyal na magpapabaya sa OFW suportado ng Migrante

December 14, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

Suportado ng Migrante Middle East ang isang panukalang batas na naglalayong maparusahan ang mga opisyal ng embahada, paggawa at serbisyong pangkalingan na tumanggi o hindi nakatulong sa mga (overseas Filipino workers).

Ang House Bill No. 5461 ay inihain ni Rep. Cynthia Villar sa Kamara dahil sa patuloy umanong pang-aabuso sa mga OFW dahil na rin sa kapabayaan ng mga opisyal.

Ayon kay John Leonard Monterona, coordinator ng Migrante-ME, suportado nila ang panukalang batas dahil para ito sa kagalingan ng mga OFW.

“Nanawagan kami sa mga kapwa-OFW na suportahan ang pagsasabatas ng HB-5461,” ani Monterona.

Nagpahayag naman ng tuwa si Monterona dahil kinikilala ni Villar ang lumalalang kalagayan ng mga OFW lalo na ang mga domestic helper at construction worker na patuloy na nagdurusa sa kamay ng mga abusadong employer, di makataong kalagayan sa paggawa at iba’t ibang paglabag sa kanilang karapatang pantao.

Sinabi pa ni Monterona na lalo lamang nakakainsulto sa mga OFW ang mga kapabayaan ng mga opsiyal ng embahada na dapat sanang tumutulong sa mga nagdurusang migrante.

Tinatayang mahigit sa isang libo nang mga kaso ng OFW ang nakarating sa tanggapan ng migrante sa taong ito.

Ayon pa kay Monterona, hihikayatin nila ang kanilang mga miyembro na sumulat sa mga kongresista para sa agarang pagpasa ng HB No. 5461.


Stranded na OFW sa Middle East dapat ding tulungan ng gobyerno

December 14, 2008

Nanawagan ang mga migrante sa Middle East sa agarang pagpapauwi sa mga OFW (overseas Filipino workers) na stranded at nangangailangan ng tulong sa naturang rehiyon.

Ito ang naging reaksiyon ng Migrante-Middle East sa utos ni Pangulong Arroyo na agad na pauwiin ang mga stranded na OFW sa Bangkok dahil sa pampulitikang kaguluhan doon.

Ayon sa grupo, bagamat natutuwa sila sa utos ng pangulo, nagtataka naman sila dahil hindi nito magawang utusan ang mga opisyal ng embahada para pauwiin na rin ang daan-daang stranded na OFW sa Middle East.

Sinabi pa ng grupo na lagi na lamang nilang ipinanawagan sa gobyernong Arroyo na tulungang makauwi ang mga OFW na nakakulong at nanunuluyan sa Filipino Resource Centers subalit hindi sila pinapakinggan.

Kinuwestiyon pa ng Migrante-ME kung bakit hindi nagpapalabas ng pondo ang Pangulo para makauwi, lalo ngayong panahon ng kapaskuhan, ang mga stranded na OFW.

Pinatutunayan lamang umano nito ang pagpapabaya ng gobyernong Arroyo sa mga OFW na ang tanging kasalanan ay lumayas sa kanilang abusadong employer para iligtas ang kanilang mga sarili.

Kriminalisasyon ng ‘ST 72’ binatikos ng kabataang Pinoy sa US

December 14, 2008

Mariing tinututulan ng kabataang Pinoy sa United States (US) ang umano’y ginagawang kriminalisasyon ng gobyernong Arroyo sa 72 aktibista mula Southern Tagalog o mas kilala bilang ST 72.

Ayon sa Anakbayan-USA, pagpapatuloy lamang ito sa pagtatangka ng gobyernong Arroyo na pahinain ang kilusang anti-Arroyo sa pamamagitan ng pagsampa ng gawa-gawang mga kaso laban sa mga aktibista at lider ng progresibong mga organisasyon.

Mula Oktubre 23 – Nobyembre 13, 2008, sinampahan ng kaso, inaresto at ikinulong ang ilang kasapi ng ST 72. Kabilang dito sina Atty. Remigio Saladero, chief legal counsel ng Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) at kolumnista ng Pinoy Weekly, Nestor San Jose ng Anakpawis Party-list at Crispin Zapanta ng Bayan Muna Party-list, Rogelio Galit ng Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite, Arnaldo Seminiano ng Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa-KMU at Emmanuel Dionida ng Labor Education Advocacy Development Response Services.

Kasalukuyan silang nakakulong sa Calapan City Jail sa kasong multiple murder at multiple frustrated murder kaugnay umano ng pananambang ng mga miyembro ng New People’s Army (NPA) sa Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental noong 2006. Isinampa ito laban sa 72 inbidibwal, mahigit 30 ay mga lider-aktibista sa Timog Katagalugan.

Sa hanay ng kabataan, kabilang sa mga inakusahan sina Pedro Santos Jr, Secretary-General ng Anakbayan Southern Tagalog, at mga dating tagapag-ugnay ng Anakabayan-Cavite na sina Karen Ortiz and Sheryll Villegas.

Isinisisi ng Anakbayan-USA kay Pangulong Arroyo at kina National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales at Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales na siyang namumuno sa Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), sa Armed Forces of the Philippines, at sa Philippine National Police ang panggigipit sa mga aktibistang kasapi ng mga organisasyong masa na pilit umanong iniuugnay ng gobyerno sa mga komunista.

Tiniyak naman ng Anakbayan-USA na patuloy nilang ilalantad ang anumang porma ng paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao at patuloy na makikibaka para sa katarungan sa mga biktima ng ‘walang katulad na brutalidad’ ng gobyernong Arroyo.


Cordi, Asian migrants in HK hit global confab

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Cordilleran migrant workers organizations based in Hong Kong (HK) in solidarity with other migrant workers organizations of Asia strongly criticized the objectives of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) held in Manila last week.

In an interview, Migrante Metro Baguio spokesperson Flora Belinan said that there are some eight thousand migrant workers from the Cordillera in HK. There are several specific Cordillera provincial and town organizations who are in solidarity with other asian migrant organizations.

These organizations through the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) have come together to collectively criticize the GFMD that has just concluded its second forum in Manila.

Before the HK Asian Migrants Assembly, Dolores Balladares, spokesperson of the AMCB said, “Asian migrants in Hong Kong say no to GFMD and the sellout of migrants. The GFMD is an anti-worker meeting of migrants’ rights violators.”

The HK Asian Migrants Assembly was participated in by more than a thousand protesters from organizations of Indonesians, Filipinos, Thais, Sri Lankans and Nepalese migrants joined by hundreds of Filipino members of the Bangon Pilipinas Movement – HK.

The action was held at Harcourt Garden near the office of the Philippine Consulate General in HK.

“This protest is our contribution to the parallel forum on the GFMD, the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR),” said Balladares. She added that the action was also a run up to the global Zero Remittance Day last October 29, the first day of the GFMD meeting.

The IAMR was also held in Manila, simultaneous to the Philippine government hosted GMFD meeting.

Balladares expounded that they see the GFMD as dangerous to migrants for as a forum, it is merely concerned with how migration can be a profitable industry for labor-sending governments, labor-receiving governments, banks, recruitment agencies and a host of other businesses related to migration and migration processes.

“Neoliberal globalization has already destroyed our lives and GFMD is but globalization schemes applied to migration. This will surely affect in a negative way our wages, job security, services and rights, especially now in the face of an unprecedented worldwide economic crisis,” Balladares said.

According to her, the GFMD is more interested in how to use the more than US$200 billion remittances than the rights of migrants. For the group, any talks of rights in GFMD will be empty for attending states are known human rights violators of migrants and refugees.

After the program, the protesters marched to the Hong Kong Central Government Office to urge the HK government to not follow the GFMD design and instead address the issues of migrants in HK such as a legislated minimum wage, job security and discrimination.

Belinan also said the Migrante Metro-Baguio, the organization of migrant workers and their families, agree and are one with what Balladares said – “our stand against the GFMD is a stand for our rights and our future. We will continue to resist infringements to our rights and well being that the GFMD shall surely come up with.” # Kathleen T. Okubo (NorDis)

Labor Migration in the Philippines: A Dangerous Doctrine

November 12, 2008

The more the economy is stagnant, the less its ability to create jobs, the more dependent government becomes on overseas labor deployment.

By the Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA) Program  |  Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg)

If the state policy making and legislative agenda do not change course, the whole nation will wake up one day to find that remittances accumulated through off-shore migration or labor exportation have become government’s No. 1 pillar of economic sustainability. Right now, foreign trade and investment – steered by neo-liberal globalization – and reliance on overseas development assistance are the first two pillars, followed by the export of Filipino labor. The state policy of globalization as specified by privatization, liberalization, deregulation, and labor-only contracting binds the three major pillars together.

Labor migration has become the safety valve to the country’s unemployment crisis and a major source of foreign exchange: It has surged way past the domestic job market as the remaining option for many Filipinos. In 2000 alone, more than 800,000 Filipinos were deployed abroad while only less than 200,000 were effectively added to the domestic labor market.(1) As unemployment has worsened under the Arroyo administration compared to the past 50 years some 3,000 Filipinos leave the country every day for overseas jobs – or a total of more than 1 million every year. With remittances growing by the year – 14.4 billion US dollars in 2007 constituting 10 percent of the country’s GDP – the government target is to increase labor migration to 2 million by 2010.(2) And the government is determined to meet the target: From January to April this year there were 516,466 migrant workers deployed thus raising the daily departure to 4,314 from last year’s 3,000.

In fact remittances sent by overseas Filipinos have outstripped both foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development assistance (ODA) which have declined in the past several years. FDI was 2.93 billion US dollars in 2007 but minus payments to loans the actual investment inflows fell by 69.3 percent to only 341 million US dollars. Last year’s 14.4 billion US dollars remittances is equal to 25 percent of the total ODA received by the Philippines – that is, in 20 years or from 1986-2006 (39.9 billion US dollars).

In general, last year global foreign remittances already totaled thrice the amount of aid given by donor countries to developing nations: 300 billion US dollars against 104 billion US dollars . No wonder labor migration is now being trumpeted by the United Nations and other multilateral organizations as a centerpiece program for developing economies.

For a government whose economic policy is subordinated to bitter policy prescriptions of the IMF and WB and adherence to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Arroyo regime’s agenda to make labor migration as a major source of government income received a boost from no less than UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. Speaking before the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) on Oct. 29 in Manila, Ban Ki-moon, who is also South Korea’s former foreign minister, hailed migration as “a tool to help lift us out the (current global) economic crisis …(where) countries can draw the greatest possible development benefits.”

A model for migration

Organizers of GFMD chose Manila as the forum venue on account of the Philippines’ being a role model for labor migration among developing countries and chiefly because of the remittances accruing from foreign employment. Of some 8.2 million Filipinos(3) living and working in more than 193 countries/territories around the world, 43 percent are permanent immigrants while the rest or 4.7 million are temporary or contract workers. The Philippines is one of the leading sources of migrant labor in the world market. But it tops in the deployment of caregivers and domestics, 90 percent of them women, as well as in nurses, seafarers (30 percent of the world supply), and other medical workers and professionals.

Hypocritically since the Marcos years, the government denies the existence of a labor export policy. What it cannot hide however is the existence of a government infrastructure developed since the Marcos years that gives prime attention to the export of Filipino workers and professionals. This infrastructure promotes and processes out-migration, exacts – extorts, if you will – various exorbitant fees from outgoing OFWs, accredits recruitment agencies, provides skills training and immigration lectures, and supposedly earmarks benefits for the migrant workers and their families. This bureaucracy, which is headed by the President, includes the labor department’s Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Technical Education and Skills Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) with its office of migrant affairs and various Philippine Labor Offices (POLOS) based in many countries.

The government also sends several high-level missions every year to market Filipino labor abroad while job fairs for overseas employment are constantly held at home. Before it hosted the GFMD, Arroyo officials joined the first annual Transatlantic Forum on Migration and Integration (TFMI) held last July in Germany. Last month, President Gloria M. Arroyo signed into law the controversial Japan Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) which increases the number of Filipino nurses and caregivers deployable to Japan in exchange for relaxing restrictions to the latter’s exports and investments in the country.

No domestic economy

The promotion of labor out-migration is driven by the fact that the country does not have a viable domestic economy to speak of – an economy that generates adequate jobs to its people. Despite government land reform, 70 percent of agricultural land remains in the hands of landlords leaving the country’s millions of farmers unproductive and without a stable income. Instead of basic industries, what the country has are globally-integrated assembly lines or repackaging plants that exploit labor with low wages and lack of job security because of government’s labor contracting policy.

Moreover, labor wages are frozen low in order to attract foreign investment. It is the same policy that government promotes abroad to market Filipino skills in the form of caregivers, construction workers, and other workers. Filipino seafarers are preferred by international shipping companies because the government tolerates the low wages paid them even if monthly benchmark salaries are higher.

Attribute all these to government’s adherence to neo-colonial and now neo-liberal policies which open the country’s weak economy to unrestricted foreign trade and investment threatening not only the productive livelihoods of many Filipinos but also resulting in the shutdown of small industries. Neo-liberal policies exacerbate poverty and unemployment and are generally counter-productive in terms of building a self-sustaining economy and giving jobs.

Epic proportions

With some 4 million jobless Filipinos and another 12 percent underemployed, unemployment under Arroyo has worsened – in epic proportions since the last 50 years. Thus out-migration is a safety valve to the unemployed, including thousands of professionals – the last exit from a country that is about to implode in a social unrest. Labor out-migration has also become a political tool of sorts used by the regime to arrest a growing restlessness – if not discontent – among the people against a corrupt and weak government for its inability to provide jobs and a better future for its people. Yet while its economic management increasingly relies on foreign remittances the government has not seriously taken steps to safeguard the rights of OFWs and improve their labor conditions. For instance, of 193 destination countries for Filipino workers the country has only a handful of bilateral labor agreements.

The more the economy is stagnant, the less its ability to create jobs, the more dependent government becomes on overseas labor deployment. What government cannot provide it sells in the world market to help sustain the economies of advanced countries – that bear constant crisis anyway – and the domestic needs of their ageing populations. But this is dangerous, and not only because even before the government would take this extreme option the whole economy would have collapsed. It will erode the urgency for drastic policy reform and new governance and it will calm the people into complacency and defeatism. Or it can be used by the government to evade comprehensive policy reform that would make the economy more responsive to the basic social and economic rights of the people.

But in the first place what can we expect from a government that persists in the doctrine established by previous regimes embedding economic policies to global, transnational business perspectives? Instructive at this point is a critique of the GFMD by the parallel International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR)(4) last week: The GFMD and the UN secretary general’s pro-migration declaration “arose in the midst of the worsening world economic crisis – where far more advanced…countries are fighting their way out of this crisis even as they retain their…control and power, while poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment continue to aggravate the lives of peoples of Third World countries.”


End notes

(1) S.P. Go, “Remittances and International Labor Migration: Impact on the Philippines,” Metropolis Inter-Conference Seminar on Immigration and Homeland, May 9-12, 2002, Dubrovnik.

(2) Migrant labor remittances do not include those brought home directly by vacationing Filipinos or by door-to-door transactions, thus the total remittances could be more. In 2007, it is estimated to be as much as $18 billion.

(3) According to the government Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO, 2008). Other estimates put the number at 10 million in nearly 197 countries.

(4) Held also in Manila on Oct. 28-30, 2008, the IAMR was organized by Migrante International together with the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), IBON Foundation, and other groups.

Kuwentong Halaw*: Pinoy deportees sa Sabah

October 21, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

Moro ang karamihan sa mga pinadeport na Pinoy sa Sabah (Soliman A. Santos)

Moro ang karamihan sa mga pinadeport na Pinoy sa Sabah (Soliman A. Santos)

PATULOY pa rin ang mala-impiyernong nararanasan ng di-dokumentadong mga migranteng Pilipino sa gitna ng crackdown na isinasagawa ng gobyerno ng Malaysia. Sa kabila ito ng pagkakaroon ng RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers na itinatag noon pang 2005 para pangalagaan ang karapatan ng mga migranteng ito.

Ito ang natuklasan ng Migrante International sa isinagawa nilang Fact Finding Mission kasama ng Gabriela Women’s Party, EnGendeRights at Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia noong Oktubre 2 hanggang Oktubre 5.

Ayon kay Connie Bragas-Regalado, tagapangulo ng Migrante, “palabas” lamang ang itinayong grupo ng mga gobyerno ng Pilipinas at Malaysia dahil sa patuloy na pagpapabaya ng mga awtoridad sa kalagayan ng mga halaw o mga deportee.

Kasaysayan ng pagtaboy

Noong Agosto 2002, umabot sa 8,838 Pilipino ang dumating mula sa Sabah. Isang linggo bago ang malawakang deportasyon, nireyd ng pulis-Malaysia ang 300 kabahayan ng mahihirap na Pilipino sa Kampong Karansangan. Dinala ang di-dokumentadong mga Pilipino sa kulungan. Walang sapat na pagkain at tubig, natutulog sila nang walang sapin sa malamig na semento.

Sumunod na naglunsad ng crackdown ang gobyerno ng Malaysia noong 2005. Pagkatapos ng ilang buwang pang-aaresto, napuno ng halos 30,000 di-dokumentadong migrante ang mga kulungan sa Sabah.

Nabalita sa buong mundo ang malupit na pagtrato ng mga awtoridad ng Malaysia sa di-dokumentadong mga migrante. Nagpahayag ng pagkondena ang internasyunal na mga kinatawan tulad ng United Nations High Commission on Refugees, UN Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, International Committee of the Red Cross, at iba pa. Binatikos ng mga ito ang gobyerno ng Pilipinas dahil sa pagpapabaya at kabiguang solusyonan ang malawakang pangingibang-bayan ng mga Pilipino sa Mindanao.

Para mapahupa ang internasyunal na pagngangalit, itinayo ng mga gobyerno ng Pilipinas at Malaysia ang RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers noong 2005. Pero kahit pa rito sa Pilipinas isinagawa noong Hulyo ngayong taon ang ikalimang pulong ng working group, hindi nito napigilan ang mga pang-aabuso sa mga Pilipinong migrante.

Noong Agosto, muling inianunsiyo ng gobyerno ng Malaysia ang crackdown sa mga di-dokumentadong migrante. Sa tala ng Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) sa Zamboanga City, mayroon nang 35,000 halaw galing sa Sabah sa unang walong buwan ng taong ito. Inaasahang aabot ito sa mahigit 200,000 sa katapusan ng taon.


Sa panayam sa mga halaw sa Bahay-Silungan, ang pansamantalang tirahan ng mga deportee sa Zamboanga City, nakapagtala ng iba’t ibang kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao ang ang mga delegado ng FFM. Naganap ang mga ito mula sa pag-aresto sa Sabah, sa pagbilanggo sa kanila, hanggang sa pagdadala sa kanila sa piyer para tuluyang pabalikin sa Pilipinas.

Halimbawa na lamang ang pag-aresto kay Saidah Amautara, 57, kasama ng kanyang tatlong anak. Ayon kay Saidah, nireyd ng mga opsiyal ng imigrasyon ng Malaysia ang kanilang bahay noong 2006. Hinuli sila at isinakay sa isang trak kasama ang tinatayang 100 pang nadakip at dinala sa kulungan sa Prasi, Kota Kinabalu. Samantala’y naiwan ang kanyang asawa at tatlo pang anak.

Sa kulungan, tinatayang 500 silang ibilanggo doon na pawang mga babae at mga bata. Hiwalay na nakakulong ang mga lalaki.

Bagama’t pinakakain sila tatlong beses isang araw, ayon kay Saidah, parang pagkain ng pusa ang ibinibigay sa kanila. Nirarasyunan din lang sila ng kaunting tubig para sa kanilang inumin. Himutok niya, wala man lamang opisyal ng emabahada ng Pilipinas na bumisita sa kanila habang sila’y nakakulong.

Inabot sila ng isang buwan sa Prasi bago inilipat sa Sandakan at tuluyang pauwiin sa Pilipinas. Isang linggo rin silang nanatili sa kulungan sa Sandakan. Ayon kay Saidah, binibigyan sila doon ng 15 minuto para maligo, kumain at gawin ang iba pang personal na ritwal. Kapag sumobra sa oras, sinisipa sila o tinatadyakan ng bantay sa bilangguan. At minsan, nakatanggap nito si Saidah.

Natutulog din sila sa semento nang walang kahit anong sapin. Sa isang pagkakataon, may nakita pa si Saidah ng isang babaing nagsisilang ng sanggol sa loob ng kulungan. Walang doktor na tumitingin sa kanilang kalusugan.

Pagdating nila sa piyer ng Zamboanga, dumating ang mga opisyal ng pamahalaan. Inanunsiyo nila na bibigyan nila ng pasaporte ang sinumang gustong bumalik sa Sabah. Bibigyan naman ng libreng sakay pauwi sa kanilang bahay ang sinumang nais manatili sa Pilipinas.

Pagpapabaya sa Bahay Silungan

Mula sa piyer, dinala sila sa Bahay Silungan kung nasaan ang One Stop Processing Center (OSPC) na pinatatakbo ng Department of Foreign Affairs. Pinakain sila doon. Ininterbyu at tinanong kung gusto pa nilang bumalik sa Sabah. Kung hindi, bibigyan sila ng pamasahe pauwi.

Gustong bumalik ni Saidah sa Sabah dahil nandoon pa ang kanyang asawa at tatlong anak. Agad niyang inihanda ang mga kailangang dokumento. Sa OSPC, nagbayad siya ng P200 para sa kanyang birth certificate, P150 para sa NBI clearance, P100 para sa passport ID, at P30 para sa sertipikasyon mula sa Office of Muslim Affairs. Buong akala niya, libre ang mga iyon batay sa inianunsiyo ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan.

Dahil naubusan ng pambayad sa mga dokumento ng dalawa pa niyang anak, napilitan siyang bumalik na lamang sa kanyang tahanan. Wala rin palang libreng pamasahe. Naglakad siya pauwi mula sa Bahay Silungan.

Sa kasalukuyan, walang pinagkakakitaan ang pamilya ni Saidah maliban sa kaunting kinikita ng mga anak na nagtitinda ng supot sa palengke. Hindi rin regular ang pagpapadala ng pera ng kanyang asawa mula sa Sabah. Naibenta na ang kanilang bahay at ilang kagamitan sa Sabah. Hindi naman makapagtrabaho ang dalawa niyang anak na babaing na-deport ngayong taon dahil naninibago pa ang mga ito sa bago nilang tinitirhan. (Tingnan ang kaugnay na istorya)

Inutil na kasunduan?

Ayon kay Regalado, inutil ang kasunduang pinirmahan ng mga gobyerno ng Malaysia at Pilipinas. Nilikha lamang umano ang RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers para mapahupa ang galit ng mga tao. Sa aktuwal, wala itong nagawa para protektahan ang mga migrante habang sila’y dinadakip o nasa kulungan sa Sabah. Natuklasan ng FFM na ni walang dokumentasyon ang DSWD ng mga paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao ng deportees.

“Ang totoo, ginagamit pa nga ng gobyernong Arroyo ang working group para patuloy na ipatupad ang programa sa labor export. Isipin na lang na ang unang itinatanong ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan ay kung babalik ba ang mga deportee sa Sabah para muling magtrabaho,” ani Regalado.

Hindi rin umano sinisiguro ng gobyerno na may uuwian at trabahong naghihintay sa kanila. “Tandaan natin na ang kalakhan ng mga lumilikas papunta sa Sabah ay nagmula sa Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao kung saan nagpapatuloy ang giyera,” sabi ng lider-migrante.

Ihahapag ng Migrante International sa Kongreso ang resulta ng FFM para agarang aksiyunan ng pamahalaan ang kalagayan ng mga halaw. Magsasampa rin ang grupo ng reklamo kay United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrant Workers Jorge Bustamante na darating sa bansa ngayong buwan, gayundin sa UN Human Rights Council sa Geneva, Switzerland.

Dadalhin din ng Migrante ang mga kaso sa International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), isang pagtitipon ng mga migrante at bakwit na gaganapin sa Maynila sa Oktubre 28 hanggang 30. Ito ang pantapat na porum ng mga migrante bilang protesta sa sa Global Forum on Migration and Development na pangangasiwaan ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas.

*Salitang Tausug para sa deportee. Literal na nangangahulugang itinaboy o itinapon.

Kapag pinarurusahan maging ang paglalaro

MAGKASAMANG nagtatrabaho sa Yusup Kare-Kare House sa Sabah, Malaysia ang magkapatid na Nuhrin, 18, at Nurhida, 16.

Noong Agosto 21, habang may nagkakapeng mga pulis sa pinapasukang karinderya nina Nurin at Nurhida, nagwalis ang isang kasama nila sa trabaho. Sinita siya ng mga pulis. Kinabukasan, bandang 3:30 ng madaling araw, bumalik ang mga pulis at ininteroga ang mga Pilipinong nagtatrabaho sa naturang karinderya. Hinanapan sila ng pass. Walang naipakita sina Nurin at Nurhida dahil naiwan nila ito sa bahay. Dahil dito, isinama sila ng mga pulis sa Balay-KK, isang bilangguan.

Kinabukasan, dinala naman sila Gumamera, ang kulungan ng mga Pilipinong ide-deport pabalik sa Pilipinas.

Ayon sa magkapatid, ikinulong sila sa isang selda na parang isang malaking bahay. Tinatayang 190 silang kabataan na nakakulong sa seldang iyon na binabantayan ng dalawang pulis. Siksikan silang nahihiga sa gabi nang walang sapin. Dalawang beses silang pinapakain ng isda at kanin – isa tuwing alas-dose ng tanghali at isa tuwing alas-sais ng gabi. Ayon sa magkapatid, kakarampot ang ibinibigay sa kanila at kadalasa’y parang panis at nilalangaw pa. Nirarasyunan naman sila ng dalawang balde ng inuming tubig sa bawat araw. Tubig-ulan ang kanilang ginagamit na panligo at panglaba.

Mahigpit ang mga bantay sa kanilang selda. Pinarurusahan ang sinumang di sumunod sa mga alituntunin. Nang mahuli si Nurin ng guwardiya na naglalaro ng baseball, pinag-pumping siya ng 20 beses.

Noong Setyembre 9, dinala sila sa Sandakan kasama ng iba pang halaw o deportees. Dalawampu’t isa silang babae, 44 naman ang lalaki. May posas ang mga lalaki dahil baka tumakas umano ang mga ito habang nasa byahe. Mula sa Sandakan, isinakay na sila sa isang ferry papunta ng Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. Ibinaba ang mga halaw na taga-roon at dinala ang mga natira sa Zamboanga City. Pagdating sa Zamboanga, dinala sila sa DSWD center. Ininterbyu sila at kinuhaan ng litrato, saka pinauwi sa kani-kanilang bahay.

Sa kasalukuyan, umuupa sila ng bahay kasama ng kanilang ina na isang halaw din. Wala silang makuhang trabaho sa Zamboanga. Ang dalawa nilang nakababatang kapatid na lalaki ay nagtitinda ng plastik sa piyer at palenke para sila may makain. Ang kanilang ama ay naiwan sa Sabah at nagtatrabaho sa konstruksiyon.

Soliman A. Santos

Gobyernong Arroyo makupad sa pagsaklolo sa binitay na Pinoy sa KSA – Migrante

October 21, 2008

DAPAT sisihin ang pamahalaang Arroyo sa “makupad” na pagsaklolo nito sa binitay na Pinoy sa Saudi Arabia na si Jenifer Bidoya.

Binatikos ng Migrante sa Middle East ang anila’y “kakarampot at mabagal” na pagtugon sa kaso ni Bidoya at ng iba pang Pilipino na nasa death row ngayon sa Saudi.

“Hindi nakausap ng administrasyong Arroyo sa pamamagitan ng DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] at Philippine Consulat sa Jeddah ang pamilya ng biktima sa pamamagitan ng paghingi ng tulong sa kilalang mga lider-Muslim para kumbinsihin ang pamilya na patawarin si Bidoya at tanggapin ang blood money,” ayon kay John Monterona, regional coordinator ng Migrante sa Middle East.

Binatikos pa ni Monterona si Pangulong Arroyo na, aniya’y nagkasya na lamang sa pagsulat sa hari ng Saudi hinggil sa kaso ni Bidoya sa halip na aktibong ikampanya ang buhay ng naturang OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker).

Kakatwa umanong pangangasiwaan ng gobyernong Arroyo ang ikalawang Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) sa Manila samantalang hindi nga nito magawang pangalagaan ang kapakanan ng mga tulad ni Bidoya.

Nanawagan ang Migrante-Middle East sa mga kapwa OFW na gawing araw ng pagluluksa ang Oktubre 17 para sa alaala ng binitay na kapwa migrante.

“Hinihimok namin ang mga kapwa OFW at mga kaanak namin sa Saudi at sa buong Middle East na makiisa sa pagsuot ng itim na mga damit o itim na ribbon sa Biyernes, Oktubre 17 laban sa pabayang administrasyong Arroyo,” deklara ni Monterona.

Inanunsiyo ni DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos ang pagkabitay kay Bidoya alas-10 ng umaga noong Oktubre 14 sa Jeddah.

Ayon kay Conejos, sinentensiyahan ng kamatayan si Bidoya noong Abril 2007 sa pagpatay sa isang national guard ng Saudi sa Mecca. (PinoyWeekly)

(Pinoy Weekly Editorial) Migrante ang bulnerable

October 21, 2008

KAKAIBANG takot ang kumakabog sa dibdib ng bawat migranteng Pilipino na nagtatrabaho nang parang mga alipin sa halos lahat ng sulok ng daigdig. Ngayong unti-unting lumalatag ang pang-ekonomiyang resesyon sa bawat bansa, maunlad man o atrasado, na apektado ng pagbagsak ng malalaking bangko at pampinansiyang institusyon sa US, ibayong panghihigpit at kahirapan ang nakaamba sa lahat ng mga mamamayan lalo ang nasa pinakamabababang saray ng lipunan.

Sa kategoryang ito ang ating mga kababayang OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). Kahit pa hikayatin ni Pangulong Arroyo, sa talumpati sa paglulunsad ng kampanya para sa Global Forum on Migration and Development o GFMD, na tawaging expatriate ang mga OFW na may magiginhawa diumanong buhay sa ibang bansa, maisasampal sa kanyang mukha ang baliktad na reyalidad.

Isa sa bawat tatlong Pilipino ang unskilled worker, ayon sa 2007 Survey on Overseas Filipinos ng National Statistics Office. Nakatatanggap lamang sila ng average na sahod na $200 hanggang $300 o maliit pa sa P10,000 hanggang P15,000 kada buwan. Milyun-milyong OFW pa ang di-dokumentado – patagu-tago, walang kaseguruhan sa trabaho at mga benepisyo, at bulnerable sa pang-aabuso.

Sa kabila ng kaliwa’t kanang horror story ng pagsasamantala at pang-aabuso sa mga OFW na lumalabas sa midya (at ginawa na ngang salalayan ng kampanya ng isang senador na may ambisyon para sa 2010), hanggang ngayon pilit pa ring niloloko ni Arroyo ang bayan na mabuti ang ani ng polisiyang labor-export ng gobyerno. Na masaya ang mga migranteng “bayani” na isinasalba ang naghihingalong ekonomiya ng bansa sa pamamagitan ng pagpapadala ng bilyun-bilyong remitans. Ito’y dahil simula’t sapul, kalakal lamang, at hindi tao, ang turing sa kanila.

Pampakalma ni Diwa Gunigundo, deputy governor ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, makakatulong ang mga OFW remitans na mabawasan ang tindi ng hagupit ng pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya sa ekonomiya ng bansa. Pag-aalala naman ni Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, kapag natuloy ang resesyon, babagsak maging ang mga remitans na ipinapadala ng mga migranteng Pilipino. Pero positibo pa rin si Dureza. “Patuloy ang pag-eempleyo sa Gitnang Silangan at hindi ito apektado ng krisis sa US. Kahit papaano magpapatuloy ito; ito ang magiging salalayan natin kahit may pandaigdigang krisis. Maaasahan ang ating mga OFW. Sila ang ating mga bayani,” aniya.

Anu’t anuman, ipinakikita ng mga pahayag ng nasabing mga opisyal kung saan nakatingin ang gobyerno – sa remitans, at hindi sa kapakanan ng mga OFW at ng lipunang Pilipino. Tanda itong magpapatuloy ang palpak na neoliberal na mga polisiya ng liberalisasyon, deregulasyon, at pribatisasyon na nagbansot sa lokal na ekonomiya at kakayahan nitong lumikha ng disenteng mga trabaho. Tanda itong magpapatuloy ang pang-eenganyo ng pagluluwas ng paggawa, kalimutan na ang mga kabayaran gaya ng pagkawasak ng mga pamilya at paghuthot ng lakas at talino ng bayan.

Ayon sa International Migrants Alliance o IMA, tiyak ang paglala ng sitwasyon ng mga OFW. Gagamitin ng mga employer ang krisis at kaakibat nitong desperasyon ng mga migrante na makapagtrabaho para tapyasin ang mga sahod, ipagkait ang mga benepisyo, at maging mapang-abuso. Ibayong diskriminasyon at rasismo ang daranasin ng ating mga kababayan na aakusahang “nagnanakaw” ng trabaho, lalo’t tataas ang disempleyo sa ibang bansa. Para protektahan ang sariling merkado sa lakas-paggawa, maghihigpit ang mga bansa sa mga patakaran sa migrante at titindi ang pagtugis sa mga di-dokumentado.

Ano ang tugon ni Pangulong Arroyo? Safety nets umano at programa sa alternatibong kabuhayan na wala pang hugis. Magkahugis man, hindi pa rin nito napapawi ang uhaw ng ating mga kababayan para sa disenteng trabaho sa sariling bansa. Pero mas malamang, nagwiwika lamang siya ng pagkabahala sa mga OFW para magpapogi sa nalalapit na GFMD, isang porum na inisponsor ng United Nations. Dito inaasahang ibibida ni Arroyo ang polisiyang labor-export para tularan ng ibang bansa (na tutuusi’y wala nang ibang matutularan sa gobyernong itong walang kredibilidad sa pandaigdigang komunidad). Dito inaasahang pagtitibayin ang tiwaling konsepto na nagdudulot ang migrasyon ng pag-unlad.

Kokontrahin ang GFMD ng International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees o IAMR. Ang IAMR ang “tunay na boses” ng mga migrante, ayon sa IMA na organisador nito. Kaiba sa GFMD na kasangkapan ng kanilang pagsasamantala’t pagpapakaalipin, malayang maipapahayag ng mga OFW sa IAMR ang takot na kumakabog sa kanilang dibdib dahil sila ang pinakabulnerable sa lumalalang sitwasyong pang-ekonomiya saanmang panig ng daigdig. Malaya rin silang makapagpapahayag ng galit sa isang pangulong may kapal-ng-mukhang magsalita sa kanilang pangalan, gayong matagal nang umaakto laban sa kanilang tunay na interes. (IDQ)

Itinutulak sa kanilang kamatayan

October 21, 2008

SA pamumuno ni Eni Lestari ng IMA, nagdeklara ang mga migrante sa rali sa Maynila na di muna sila magpapadala ng remitans sa kanilang kaanak sa Oktubre 29 bilang protesta sa Global Forum on Migration and Development. (KR Guda)

SA pamumuno ng Indones na lider-migranteng si Eni Lestari (harap, nakaputing damit) ng International Migrants Alliance (IMA), nanawagan ang mga migranteng Pilipino at iba pang lahi sa mga kapwa migrante sa mundo na huwag munang magpadala ng remitans sa kanilang mga kaanak sa Oktubre 29 bilang protesta sa Global Forum on Migration and Development. (KR Guda)

“NAKAKATAKOT para sa mga OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker),” ayon sa grupong Migrante International, ang tila pagiging bulag ng mga opisyal ng DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) sa nangyayari sa mga migranteng nakahanay sa death row.

Gaya na lamang ng magkapatid na sina Rolando at Edison Gonzales at Eduardo Arcilla na sinentensiyahan ng kamatayan sa Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) noong 2007 dahil sa pagpatay umano sa kapwa-Pilipino.

Noong Oktubre 10, itinanggi ni Cresencio Relacion, executive director ng Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) sa kaanak nina Gonzales na ipinagtibay na ng Court of Appeals ang hatol sa tatlo. Sa isang press conference kinabukasan, ibinulgar ng Migrante na kinumpirma ni DFA undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., sa isang sulat noon pang Setyembre 24, ang nasabing desisyon ng korte.

“Ayusin nila ang trabaho nila. Iisa lang ang departamento nila pero magkakaiba sila ng statement. Buhay ng mga kababayan natin ang nakataya rito…Baka magulat na lang tayo sa darating na mga araw may pinatay na sa ating mga OFW,” sabi ni Garry Martinez, tagapagsalita ng Migrante International.

Pagkaraan ng dalawang araw, noong Okt. 13, pinugutan ng ulo sa Jeddah, KSA ang 27-taong-gulang na si Jenifer Bidoya a.k.a. Venancio Ladion.


“Sorpresa ang ginawa sa amin. Walang impormasyong dumating. Nalaman na lang namin, napugutan na ng ulo,” mangiyak-ngiyak na kuwento sa PINOY WEEKLY ni Dennis Torejas, tiyo ni Bidoya.

Masama ang loob ng mga kaanak ni Bidoya dahil nang una silang lumapit sa DFA, sinabihan sila ng mga opisyal ng ahensiya na “sila na ang bahala” sa kaso. Hinatulan ng kamatayan si Bidoya, waiter sa isang restawran, para sa pagpatay sa isang Saudi national noong Disyembre 6, 2005.

Kapalit ng pag-aasikaso ng kaso, pinapirma ni Atty. Ruel Garcia, legal counsel ng DFA, ang pamilya ng isang katunayan na hindi ito dudulog sa midya o sa mga organisasyong pangmigrante.

Ayon sa dokumentong may petsang Dis. 9, 2005, ipinangako ni Leila Catalina, tiya ni Bidoya na kumatawan sa pamilya, ang mga sumusunod: “1. Not divulge the confidential information provided to me by the DFA; 2. To keep in strict confidentiality the information I received from the DFA; 3. To coordinate any information I may receive from other sources with the DFA; at 3. Be accountable to whatever acts I may do in violation with the strict confidentiality of the case.”

“Buo ang tiwala at respeto namin sa DFA. ‘Yumpala magsasawalang-bahala lang sila. Sana noon pa kami lumapit sa midya o sa Migrante,” himutok ni Torejas.

Sinasabi ng Malakanyang na ginawa ng gobyerno ang lahat ng makakaya nito para sagipin ang buhay ni Bidoya. Dalawang beses humingi si Pangulong Arroyo kay King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz Al-Saud ng clemency para sa nahatulang OFW, noong Dis. 6, 2007 at Hulyo 7, 2008. Ayon kay Conejos, tumanggi ang pamilya ng umano’y biktima ni Bidoya na tanggapin ang blood money o danyos kapalit ng pagpapababa ng sentensiya nito.

Pero ayon kay Martinez, malinaw na nagpabaya ang DFA sa kaso. Inamin mismo ni Philippine Consul General Ezzedin Tago na sa mga pagdinig sa mababang korte, walang abogado si Bidoya at sinasamahan lamang ng isang translator. Umano’y nakapagbigay lamang ang konsulado ng abogado nang dinidinig na ang kaso sa Court of Appeals.

Tubong Zamboanga, 17 taong gulang pa lamang ang hayskul gradweyt na si Bidoya nang mangibang-bansa. Ayon sa kanyang kaanak, sa gabi ng insidente, dinala siya ng kanyang kaibigang guwardiya sa isang lugar at doon tinangkang pagsamantalahan.

Batay sa mga ulat, sinaksak ni Bidoya ang biktimang lalaki sa leeg, sinakal, at kinagat ang ari nito.

Naninindigan ang kaanak ni Bidoya na nakapatay lamang siya para sagipin ang sarili (self-defense). Pero tila iba ang paniniwala ni Bise-Presidente Noli de Castro, tagapamahala ng Malakanyang sa mga usaping OFW. Sa isang panayam sa radyo, nagbigay pa ito ng babala sa mga migranteng Pilipino na “mag-ingat” dahil ipinagbabawal ang mga aktong homosexual sa Gitnang Silangan.

Si Bidoya ang ika-72 na ginawaran ng parusang kamatayan sa KSA, na tinanggihan ang hiling ng United Nations na moratorium sa death penalty noong nakaraang taon.

Ayon sa ulat ng grupong pangkarapatang pantao na Amnesty International (AI), karamihan ng mga pinarusahan ay migranteng mga manggagawa mula sa mahihirap na bansa at hindi nakatatanggap ng tulong ligal. Sinabi ni Malcolm Smart, direktor para sa Middle East ng AI, na “sikreto” at “di-makatarungan” ang mga pagdinig. Nakakabahala, ayon pa sa AI, na pinapayagan ng hudikatura na gamitin ang mga pag-amin (confession) na nakuha sa pamamagitan ng tortyur.

Umano’y tinortyur ang magkapatid na Gonzales at si Arcilla, mga OFW na tubong Pampanga, para aminin ang pagpatay sa tatlong kapwa-Pilipino, ayon sa Migrante. Wala ring abogado ang mga akusado sa mga pagdinig at noong una silang hinatulan ng kamatayan noong Hulyo 23, 2007.

Iba pang nasa death row

Pangamba ng Migrante, pinalala ng pagpugot ng ulo ni Bidoya ang depresyon at takot ng kaanak ng 29 pang OFW na nasa death row. May pitong OFW na ang pinarusahan ng kamatayan sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo.

“Bakit po nangyayari ang ganito? Di na namin alam kung saan lalapit. Nahihirapan na ang loob namin,” sabi ni Norie Gonzales, kapatid nina Rolando, 47, at Edison, 29.

Sa isang press conference, nanawagan din ng hustisya ang kaanak ng 47-anyos na si Cecilia Armia-Alcaraz a.k.a. Nemencia Armia, OFW sa Taiwan na hinatulan ng Kaohsiung District Court ng parusang kamatayan sa pamamagitan ng firing squad noong Setyembre 30, 2008 para sa kasong murder at robbery.

Hindi umamin si Alcaraz sa krimen, umano’y idinawit lamang siya. Itinuturo niya ang dalawang Taiwanese national na siya umanong pumatay noong nakaraang taon sa isang broker na sinaksak bago ilagay sa garbage bag ang katawan.

“Hindi niya ho iyon magagawa. Mabait ho iyan at takot na gumawa ng anumang kasalanan lalo na at nandoon pa siya sa ibang bansa,” ayon kay Rosalinda Armia Pisueña, kapatid ni Alcaraz, sa isang press conference ng Migrante noong Okt. 18.

Hinanakit ni Pisueña, nakatanggap lamang sila ng text message mula sa Manila Economic Cultural Office (Meco) sa Taipei, Taiwan na nahatulan na si Alcaraz. Hindi pa rin nabibigyan ang pamilya ng kahit anong opisyal na dokumento hinggil sa kaso. Aniya pa, nang idinulog niya ang kaso kay de Castro, binigyan lamang siya ng form, at nang i-follow up ito ay wala nang sumasagot sa opisina.

May tatlong anak si Alcaraz na naiwan sa Liliw, Laguna. Ayon sa ibinigay niyang card para sa kaarawan ng 14-anyos na anak na si Jerome, “Wag niyo akong ikahiya, wala akong ginawang masama. Hindi ko ginawa yung ibinintang sa akin.”

Abala sa GFMD

Binatikos ng Migrante ang DFA na umano’y “mas abala” sa paghahanda para sa nalalapit na Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) kaysa sa pag-aasikaso sa mga kaso ng mga OFW sa death row.

Sa isang diyalogo sa Pampanga noong nakaraang linggo, inamin ni Atty. Junaib Ali ng OUMWA na 40 empleyado ng DFA ang itinalaga para mag-pokus sa GFMD, isang multilateral na diyalogo mula Okt. 29 hanggang 30. Tinututulan ng Migrante at International Migrants Alliance, pinakamalaking alyansa ng 112 organisasyong pang-migrante sa daigdig, ang GFMD.

Ayon kay Martinez, “Hindi dapat magyabang si Conejos na host ang Pilipinas ng GFMD. Ibig sabihin, host tayo ng mga bansang nagsasagawa ng crackdown laban sa di-dokumentadong migranteng Pilipino, di-makataong deportasyon ng mga refugee, pagtortyur sa kanila para aminin ang mga krimeng hindi nila ginawa, at iba pang paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng mga OFW.”

Ibinulgar pa ng grupo na gagastos ang porum ng P15.9-M kada araw para lamang sa accommodation sa hotel ng mga dadalo sa GFMD. “Habang gagastos ang GFMD ng P150-M sa kabuuan, walang natatanggap na tulong pinansiyal ang mga kapamilya ng mga OFW sa death row, na wala nang natatanggap na mga remitans. Nananawagan kami sa gobyerno na ipangtustos na pagtulong sa mga pamilya ng mga OFW ang gagastusin para sa GFMD,” dagdag pa niya.

Pangamba ng Migrante, mas maraming mga OFW ang uuwi nang bangkay dahil sa pagpapatindi sa labor-export policy ng gobyernong Arroyo na isinusulong ng GFMD. Sa Okt. 24 ang susunod na pagdinig ng kaso ni Alcaraz. Ang magkapatid na Gonzales at si Arcilla, maaaring mapugutan ng ulo anumang oras.

Ani Martinez, hindi malayong mangyari na habang ipinagmamalaki ni Pangulong Arroyo sa internasyunal na komunidad ang Pilipinas bilang modelo ng migrasyon, isa na namang OFW ang makikitlan ng buhay at magpamumukha ng madugong kabayaran ng polisiyang ito.

Storm on OFW horizon Fund readied for returnees

October 16, 2008


PRESIDENT Arroyo yesterday said the government is setting up an Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund for overseas Filipino workers who might be displaced by the global financial crisis.

She said the support fund is part of the contingency measures that the labor department and the government’s economic managers have crafted to cushion the impact of a feared global economic recession.

“It can serve as a counterpart fund for returning expats’ livelihood progress,” she said.

The contingency plan was presented in the Cabinet meeting Tuesday in Malacañang. Its details would be made public at the Philippine Business Forum on October 22, she said.

During the Cabinet meeting, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque allayed fears of a reduced demand for Filipino workers abroad. He also dismissed reports that more OFWs stand to lose their jobs especially in the United States.

He said if there are returning OFWs, the reason is that either their contracts have expired or they have been terminated.

The United Opposition on Tuesday challenged the government to move as it said it was not ready to provide jobs and other means of livelihood to OFWs who may be displaced by the financial crunch affecting not only the United States but also Europe and major cities of Asia, all major importers of Filipino workers.

About eight million Filipinos are working abroad.

UNO said until now, the government has not come up with a comprehensive reintegration program when the country has been deploying Filipino workers abroad since the ‘70s.

Eighty OFWs returned in the past two days, 52 of them from Romania.

The returning workers from Romania are sewers at a garment factory called Mundo Star, an exporter of high-quality coats, blazers, tuxedos, and trousers to the US.

“Heto po ako, nasawing palad,” said Mirasol Sacarias, 48, of Taytay, Rizal. “Isa po ako sa mga nabigo ang pangarap.”

She said she had planned to work five years abroad but her employment was cut short to five months.

Zacarias left April 30 with a contract of $400 a month for the next two years. Because of bad business, her salary was slashed to $164 a month, she said.

Juliana Cunanan, 40, of Antipolo City, said their salaries were cut because of poor exports. She said they resigned en masse after the owner refused to give them the agreed on salary.

Exporters are among the hardest hit by the crises because of declining demand from businesses in the US and elsewhere.

Albert Valenciano, director of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the OFWs were repatriated as a preventive measure.

“Inilikas namin sila para din na magtagal at maghirap pa doon,” he said.

While in the country, the OFWs can avail of vocational training that can be provided by OWWA in computers and other technical courses, he said.

Valenciano, who accompanied the workers from Europe, said he could not say what other businesses employing large numbers of OFWs would lay off workers or cut back on overhead.

Local recruiters, encouraged by Roque’s statements, told Filipinos planning to seek work abroad to do do.

Emmanuel Geslani agreed with Roque in saying there are more than enough jobs available in the international market.

“Apply lang ng apply… They should just push with their dreams of working abroad. There is more than enough demand for jobs for them,” Geslani said.

He said the Western market, which is the most affected by the crisis, accounts for only a small portion of the OFW sector.

“The Middle East market is really a very big market for OFWs and it can actually accommodate even those who might be affected by the recession,” Geslani said.

Arroyo said her economic managers have come up with other measures to cushion the impact of the feared recession in the US. These include pump priming the economy, expanding social services, and upgrading infrastructure.

On infrastructure, the government will accelerate spending by government financial institutions, government-owned and -controlled corporations, the private sector, and local government units.

Financing for the increased infrastructure spending would be sourced from both public and private sector sources like the annual budget, official development assistance, corporate funds, and proceeds mandated by law like the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

It will also be funded through public-private partnership or joint ventures and through a national government-local government unit cost sharing.

Arroyo said her government will continue investing on programs designed to address poverty and hunger, which she said are the best defense against the global crisis.

Sen. Loren Legarda asked OWWA to make a categorical statement on what support OFWs can expect from the agency in case they are laid off.

Legarda said that government as a whole must put into effect tangible reintegration and livelihood generation programs for the affected OFWs.

Otherwise, it would be seen as merely paying lip-service to them in calling them “bagong bayani” or new heroes, she said. With Jay Chua, Gerard Naval and JP Lopez (Malaya)

Jobs of Filipinos in US at risk–groups

October 13, 2008

Remittances may slide by half

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:04:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The global financial slump is snatching away not only jobs from Filipino construction workers abroad, but also the remittances for their families back home, international labor groups warned.

The male-dominated construction industry in the US, where many Filipino laborers work, has been badly hit and as the number of available jobs shrink, the number of undocumented Filipinos abroad could rise, according to Ambet Yuson, regional representative of the Building and Wood Workers’ International.

“The bigger problem is since they will not have jobs here in the Philippines, those who will lose their jobs would rather stay there undocumented instead of going home,” Yuson said Monday.

Their families should also tighten belts this holiday season as remittances would most likely shrink by half, he added.

“We have talked to some workers and they told us that they would only send half of their salaries to their families. Prices of commodities in the US also went up,” Yuson explained.

They have also monitored some Filipino workers who had already gone home after losing their jobs. “Their families will have a sad Christmas, with probably less Christmas lights,” he said.

Filipino nurses in the US have been affected too, Public Service International vice president Annie Geron said. There are many Filipino health workers in the US. In New Jersey, for instance, 60 percent of health workers are Filipinos, Geron said.

“Those in the health sector are very vulnerable now. If they lose their present jobs, competition for the remaining jobs is tighter and Americans will be prioritized,” Geron added.

Those who would choose to stay as undocumented migrants instead of going home would be vulnerable to exploitation, Geron warned.

She warned of the country’s lack of a plan for this kind of crisis.

Yuson said the government should draw up a plan to accommodate overseas workers returning home. “We cannot forever rely on migration for development,” he said.

The earlier announcement of 10,000 jobs available for Filipinos in Canada is now in doubt, as the financial crisis could slow down recruitment, while the jobs of those who flew there are now at risk, according to Yuson.

Rights of Filipino Deportees from Sabah Neglected – Mission

October 12, 2008


A fact-finding mission said the Philippine government failed to protect the rights of Filipino deportees from Sabah, Malaysia.

In a statement, Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante International slammed the inter-agency committee (IAC) for not monitoring the cases of Filipino deportees.

The IAC was created by the Arroyo government through Administrative Order 116. Its mandate is to ensure the implementation of the RP –Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers.

“The IAC doesn’t have a report on how these deportees are arrested, jailed and deported to the Philippines, it means that it is the least of their concerns, said Regalado.

Regalado, along with other members of the Fact-Finding Mission met with representatives of the IAC, Oct. 3 in Zamboanga City.

She said the government agencies are ‘only concerned if the deportees can still work abroad.’ “How about their human rights? Regalado asked.

Regalado said the IAC does not include women and children in Sabah who do not have legal status.

She maintained that the work of Bahay-Silungan (Shelter), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) center for deportees, is ‘very palliative and very cosmetic.’ “They don’t even monitor if these children and women are physically, emotionally or psychologically fit,” said Regalado.

Meanwhile, Arleen Alonzo of the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia said that children in Sabah are deprived of their rights to education and development. “Even more in the time of crackdown, they are deprived of their basic rights like food,” Alonzo said.

Alonzo held the Philippine government responsible for the violations of children’s rights, saying that the government is a signatory to the United Nations Charter for the Rights of Children. She said that she saw five or six minors in the DSWD center, contrary to official reports of the DSWD that there are no minors in its center.

Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda Ilagan, also part of the mission, deemed that the Commission on Human Rights should be included in the IAC to look into the human rights of the deportees.

Regalado said they will present the findings of their mission to United Nations Special Rapporteur on Migration who will be in the Philippines to attend the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees organized by Migrante International and International Migrants Alliance.

The IAMR will coincide with the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development to be hosted by the Philippine government from October 28 to 30. (

Deportees from Sabah Endure Inhumane Treatment

October 12, 2008

A fact-finding mission in Zamboanga City documented the inhumane treatment experienced by Filipino deportees from Sabah, Malaysia.


A fact-finding mission led by Migrante International was held Oct. 2 to 5 to look into the conditions of Filipino deportees from Sabah. Participants in the mission included Gabriela Women’s Party, EnGendeRights and the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia.

Members of the mission interviewed several deportees. The mission report reveals the sorry state of the deportees.

Inhumane treatment

Immigration officers in Sabah arrested migrants from their houses, in their work places and even in public places like plazas.

They were harassed, humiliated and maltreated. Those arrested in their homes were herded into lorries, which were used to carry goods and materials.

At detention centers, 200 to 500 deportees occupied one cell. They were made to sleep on the floor, made of either wood or cement, without any mattress.

They were given food but not enough to feed all of them. Sometimes the food served to them were rotten and teeming with maggots. The rice were often not cooked. Their lunch was served late at 2 p.m. and their dinner at 9 p.m..

Detainees numbering from 200 to 500 shared one pail of potable water. They depended on the rain for bathing and washing their clothes.

Children and adults who got sick while inside detention cells did not receive any medical attention or treatment.

A Filipino family deported from Sabah. (Photo by courtesy of Migrante)

The children were also deprived of their basic right to education because they did not have any legal document such as birth certificates. Before their family was arrested, some of the children were even employed in different jobs in Malaysia, using fake documents to conceal their age and status.

Some detainees suffered undue punishment such as being kicked or slapped by jail guards.

Like criminals

Their personal belongings, money, and even the food and personal items brought by their visitors were confiscated.

The deportees said they were treated like criminals. From their cells, they were loaded into overcrowded buses and handcuffed while being brought to the pier. At the pier they were ordered to sit down for the head count. They were deported batch by batch in a ferry from Sabah to the Philippines via Bongao in Tawi-tawi and finally to Zamboanga City.

They said that even when they were already at the Zamboanga pier, Philippine government officials from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) treated them the same way. The only difference was that they were not handcuffed.

A recurring problem

In Sabah alone, there are more than half a million Filipino migrant workers. In August 2002, there were 8,838 refugees from Sabah. In 2005, 30,000 undocumented workers and refugees were deported.

The DSWD in Zamboanga City said there are currently 35,000 Sabah deportees and the number is expected to increase to 200,000 by the end of the year.

A Filipino child deported from Sabah. (Photo by courtesy of Migrante)

Migrante International said that despite having a working group created by Philippine and Malaysian governments, human rights violations against the deportees continue. Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante International and secretary-general of the International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA) said the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) for the RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers practically does not exist.

“The IAC, instead of addressing the plight of our deportees from Sabah are busy processing travel documents so that the deportees can go back to work in Malaysia,” said Regalado.

Regalado said that the RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers exists only in press releases to cover up the violence occurring during crackdowns being conducted by the Malaysian government against undocumented migrant workers.

The migrant leader said that most deportees came from war-torn areas in Mindanao. She said that 44 percent are from Tawi-tawi (3,068), 26 percent from Sulu (2,212), 12 percent from Region IX (1,961), ten percent from Basilan (1,565). Eight percent came from other places.

Members of the mission said they would seek congressional hearings and investigations to look into the plight of deportees from Sabah. They would also submit their report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and file a complaint at the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Jorge Bustamante. Bustamante would be going to Manila in time for the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) from October 28 to 30. The IAMR is being held by migrants’ groups to parallel the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development to be hosted by Arroyo government. (

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Benguet farmers add to OFWs

October 5, 2008

BUGUIAS, Benguet — This town that claims to produce 80% of all temperate vegetables in Benguet, has been sending its farmers for greener pastures in foreign countries, the municipal agriculture officer (MAO) divulged Thursday.

Many Buguias gardeners go to work in farms in North America, Europe and Asia, according to MAO Asano Aban, mentioning Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan as among the favorite destinations for local gardeners.

In Japan they usually work as trainees for three to six months. “As trainees, they earn much more than their local earnings here,” Aban told Nordis. He added farmers also learn new farming techniques, especially in areas of agricultural technology, which they apply when they come home.

Many get recommendations from him, being an authority to certify the applicants have experience in growing temperate vegetables. He said the OFW phenomenon in Buguias has been lingering for years.

He said farmers opt for employment abroad to ease the financial hardships in Benguet’s temperate vegetable industry.

No Elf for the local farmer

Aban attributes the capability of farmers to acquire delivery trucks or build concrete houses to their incomes as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“Apay kabaelan ti ordinaryo a gardener to gumatang ti Elf?” (Can an ordinary farmer buy an Elf?) he asked referring to a popular brand of light delivery trucks.

According to Aban, the law of demand and supply and the impositions of international trade have greatly affected Benguet farmers’ income. He said imported vegetables are far cheaper than locally grown vegetables because farmers in foreign countries have government subsidy to lean back on when market and natural disasters strike against their produce.

“Palalo daytoy umayan ti imported a nateng,” (Vegetable importation has adverse impacts on our farmers) Aban said referring to liberalization in agriculture born with the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade of the World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

Fighting the law of supply and demand

Besides importation, farmers’ income tend to dwindle with the law of supply and demand. There are times when there is too much cabbage in the market that farmers just leave them in the fields to rot, causing them more losses.

“The local farmers really look up to the plan to look into the planting calendar,” Aban said, as he clarified the town is getting ready with its report for the said plan in line with the program of the provincial government of Benguet to come up with the provincial vegetable profiling project.

Benguet Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan initiated a plan to regulate the planting calendar so as not to flood the market with just one kind of vegetable at any given time. The project got some P400,000 in government funds in March when Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited Benguet.

Meanwhile, Aban initially estimated the typhoon Nina damage to crops at P3.2 million. # Lyn V. Ramo (NorDis)

Editorial Cartoon: (OFWs) Floater

October 3, 2008

With a big pabigat!

Pagbaybay sa karapatan ng mga marino

October 3, 2008

NITONG nakaraang Linggo ng Mandaragat o Maritime Week, dinagsa ang T.M. Kalaw sa Maynila ng mga nag-aasam na makasakay ng barko para makahanap ng posibleng kabuhayan sa pagmamarino. Doon naghihintay ang ilang kumpanya na bigyan sila ng puwang.

Ngunit alam kaya ng mga nag-aasam na pumalaot ang sasapitin nila sa gitna ng karagatan?

Nagsagawa ng isang seminar ang Centerfils (Center for Filipino Seafarers), ISAC (International Seafarers Action Center), at FSM (Filipino Seafarers Movement) noong Setyembre 25 para talakayin ang karapatan ng mga mandaragat. Dumalo sa seminar ang mga maybahay ng mga mandaragat at mga beterano at baguhang seafarer.

Nagbigay ng paunang salita si Bishop Ephraime Fajutagana ng Iglesia Filipina Independiyente, miyembro ng Centerfils. Aniya, mahalagang malinawan ang mga mandaragat sa kanilang mga karapatan–laluna’t samu’t saring trahedya ang sinasapit ng ating mga kababayang mandaragat, tulad na lamang ng mga na-hostage sa Somalia ilang linggo pa lang ang nakalilipas.

Kasaysayan ng pandaragat

Ipinaliwanag ni Jeremy Cajiuat, project coordinator ng ISAC, ang kahalagahan ng pandaragat.

Aniya, isa sa pinakaluma at pinakaimportanteng industriya ang pagbabarko. “Sabi nga ng International Shipping Federation, kung walang barko, kung walang maritime industry, mamamatay ang kalakalan sa buong mundo,” saad ni Cajiuat.

Dinadala ng mahigit-kumulang 50,000 barko ang 90% ng mga kalakal sa buong mundo. Bagaman hindi lumilikha ng produkto ang pagbabarko tulad ng manufacturing, bahagi ito ng linya ng produsiyon bilang tagapaghatid ng raw at finished products. Aniya, “kung hindi maihahatid ang mga produkto kung saan ito maibebenta, walang value ang mga produktong ito.”

Sa kabuuan, kumakamal ng US$ 380 Bilyon ang industriya ng pagbabarko kada taon. Kontrolado ng iilang maritime power ang nasabing kita, na kumakatawan sa 5% ng kabuuang pandaigdigang kalakalan.

Noong dekada 50, kabilang ang Magsaysay Shipping sa mga maritime power na namayagpag sa industriya ng pagbabarko. Pero humina na ang lokal na kumpanyang ito. Sa kasalukuyan, kilala na lamang ang Pilipinas sa pagluluwas ng mga mandaragat.

Numero-unong pinagmumulan ng mga marino ang Pilipinas. Sa kabuuang 1.2 milyong nakasakay sa barko, 20% o isa sa lima ang Pilipino.

Repleksiyon ang dami ng bilang ng mga nais pumalaot ng kawalan ng disenteng hanapbuhay dito sa Pilipinas, dagdag ni Cajiuat.

Karapatan ng mga marino

Sa kalagayang maraming Pilipino ang nagbebenta ng kanilang cheap labor o murang paggawa, mainam na magtanong kung anu-ano nga ba ang kanilang karapatan at pribilehiyo.

Pinuna ni Atty. Joseph Entero, pangkalahatang kalihim ng ISAC, ang SEC o Standard Employee Contract ng POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency). Unang-una, aniya, “Paano maiintindihan ang SEC kung hindi ito mabasa dahil napakaliit ng pagkakasulat?”

Dapat tumatayo ang SEC bilang kasunduan sa pagitan ng employer at employee o ng manning agency at ng seafarer. Pero sa kalakaran, wala umanong boses sa SEC ang empleyado.

Kinuwestiyon din ni Entero ang hindi pagpirma ng POEA sa kontrata gayong ito mismo ang nagpapatibay ng mga nakasaad dito. Aniya, mahalagang malaman ng publiko na dapat nagsasagawa ng “tripartite consultation” o makalahatang panig na konsultasyon ang POEA.

Inihayag ni Entero ang ilang batayang karapatan ng mga manggagawa. Kasama rito ang karapatang maghabol sa kanilang mga manning agency kung, halimbawa, hindi sila nakasakay sa naitalang barko. Isa pang karapatan ang pagsasaad ng wastong kondisyong medikal. Mahalaga rin, aniya, ang pagbibigay ng manning agency ng kanilang cash advance. Dapat ding walang placement fee na sisingilin mula sa mga sasakay ng barko.

Sa kabilang banda, inilahad din ni Entero kung paano maaaring magamit ng mga manggagawa ang SEC para igiit ang kanilang mga karapatan.

Madalas umanong magmula ang mga kalituhan at anomalya sa maling interpretasyon sa SEC. Kaya dapat wasto, halimbawa, ang pagkakaintindi sa kung kailan ang umpisa ng kontrata. Paano nga naman kung magkaroon ng aberya ang isang nakapirma na ng kontrata bago pa man siya sumakay ng barko? Ang kontrata, ani Entero, ay nagsisimula “upon departure from port” o sa daungang pinagpirmahan mismo ng empleyado.

Ipinaliwanag din niya ang tinatawag na “contract substitution” na ilegal na praktika ng mga manning agency. Isang ehemplo nito ang pagpapalit ng barkong sasakyan ng manggagawa nang hindi nakasaad sa kanyang unang pinirmahang kontrata.

Maling praktika

Isa pang mahalagang karapatan ang pakikipaglaban hinggil sa maaaring maging disability o kapansanan ng mandaragat dahil sa pagtatrabaho. Ayon sa SEC, maaaring maging fit to work pa rin ang isang manggagawa depende sa klase ng pinsalang natanggap nito sa katawan.

Pero sinasandigan ng ISAC ang naunang desisyon ng Korte Suprema na hindi sa grado ng pinsala humihina ang paggawa ng isang empleyado kundi sa kabuuang epekto nito sa kanyang pagkilos. Para kina Entero, hindi sapat na sabihing fit to work pa rin ang manggagawang nawalan kahit na isang daliri lamang.

Kasama rin sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa ang wastong pangangalaga ng kumpanya sa kanilang kalusugan. Nakasaad sa SEC na dapat mabigyan ng lunas ang manggagawa sa pinakamalapit na pagamutan sakaling mapinsala ito. Ngunit sa praktika, naghahanap pa ang manning agency ng pinakamurang pasilidad bago ipagamot ang marino.

Isinaad ni Entero bilang halimbawa ang paghahabol ng isang napinsalang marino. Sa tulong ng ITF o International Transport Federation, nakapag-claim siya ng mahigit US $1 Milyon para sa damages at pagpapagamot sa Europa. Kung hindi pa itinulak ng grupo, aniya’y baka pinauwi na lamang sa Pilipinas ang seafarer at lumala ang kanyang pinsala.

Mahalaga ring malaman ng publiko na mayroong Contract Bargaining Agreement o CBA sa pagbabarko, na “armas ng mga maggagawa sa paghahabol sa ilan pa niyang mga karapatan at benepisyo,” ani Entero.

Sa isang industriyang may limpak-limpak na nakakamal mula sa lakas-paggawa ng milyong manggagawa nito, marapat lamang na malaman ng ating mga kababayan na nangangarap kumita bilang isang mandaragat ang kanilang mga karapatan sa laot.

Pinoy deportees mula Sabah aabot ng 200,000

October 3, 2008

MAAARING umabot sa 200,000 ang di-dokumentadong Pilipinong deportees mula sa Sabah, Malaysia ngayong taon, ayon sa DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).

Ito ang datos na inihayag ng Migrante International na maglulunsad ng ikatlong National Fact-Finding Mission sa Oktubre 2 – 6 sa Zamboanga City para alamin ang sitwasyon ng mga migrante na umano’y “tumakas mula sa kahirapan at giyera sa Mindanao.”

Sa unang walong buwan ng 2008, may 35,000 deportees na ang naitala ng DSWD. Marami sa mga ito ang hindi makauwi sa kani-kanilang mga probinsya at pumupuslit pabalik sa Sabah.

Pangamba ni Connie Bragas-Regalado, tagapangulo ng Migrante International at secretary-general ng International Migrants Alliance, lalong dadami ang di-dokumentadong mga migrante sa Sabah dahil sa pag-igting ng mga opensibang militar sa Mindanao.

Umano’y walang ginawa si Pangulong Arroyo para sa mga migrante mula Sabah “maliban sa panandaliang tulong na ginamit para lamang para sa pagpapaganda ng imahe sa midya.”

Nagsagawa ng crackdown ang gobyerno ng Malaysia sa libu-libong di-dokumentadong mga migranteng Pilipino noong 2005 at 2005. Naiulat ang pang-aabuso sa kababaihang OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) sa mga bilangguan at pagkamatay ng mga sanggol dahil sa malnutrisyon. Naalarma maging ang United Nations at Amnesty International sa sitwasyon.

Nagtayo ang mga gobyerno ng Pilipinas at Malaysia ng RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers. Pero ayon sa Migrante International, hindi epektibong napangalagaan ng grupo ang kapakanan ng mga OFW sa Sabah.

Batay sa mga resulta ng NFFM, gagawa ng mga rekomendasyon ang Migrante International na ihahapag sa International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees o IAMR.

Ang IAMR ay pagtitipon ng mga migrante mula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng daigdig na ipantatapat bilang protesta sa ikalawang Global Forum on Migration and Development o GFMD.

Gaganapin sa Maynila sa Okt. 29 – 30 ang GFMD, pinangunahan ng United Nations at inisponsor ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas ngayong taon para talakayin ang pagpapaunlad pa ng mga polisiya sa labor export at migrasyon.

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

OFWs dadami dahil sa krisis pampinansiya –POEA

October 3, 2008

BAGUIO CITY—Inaasahang dadami ang mga Pilipinong mangingibang-bansa dahil sa kawalang segurahan sa bansa dulot ng pagbagsak ng global stock market, ayon kay Jennifer Manalili, bagong talagang administrador ng POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency).

Sinabi ni Manalili sa isang talumpati sa Baguio Convention Center na may 1.3 milyong Pilipino na nais mangibang-bansa sa susunod na taon, mas mataas nang 300,000 sa 1 milyong taunang target ng POEA.

Noong 2007, may 1.2 milyong Pilipino ang nangibang-bansa.

Kaya naman sinabi ni Manalili na dapat paigtingin ang kampanya laban sa illegal recruitment dahil tiyak na sasamantalahin ng ilang indibidwal ang kagustuhan ng mga Pilipino na mag-abroad.

Sinabi ni Atty. Melchor Dizon, POEA Licensing and Regulation Officer, na inaaasahan nilang bababa ang bilang ng mga kaso ng illegal recruitment ng 10% sa katapusan ng 2008.

Ipinroseso ng ahensiya ang 4,208 kaso ng illegal recruitment, karamihan sa Metro Manila, ngayong taon.

Ariston Valle

Canada has 30,000 jobs for Pinoys

October 2, 2008

By Mayen Jaymalin
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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About 30,000 jobs are awaiting skilled Filipino workers in Canada, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported yesterday.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said most of the workers needed in Alberta, Canada are professionals for the oil and gas industry as well as construction workers for various infrastructure projects.

Aside from the oil and gas workers, Alberta would also require workers for its food counters such as food attendants, food processors and butchers as well as nurses and care givers.

“Initially 10,000 Filipinos may immediately qualify for this recruitment program, but Alberta said they have a shortage of 30,000 workers for their oil and gas,” Roque disclosed.

Roque and Alberta Ministry of Employment and Immigration chief Hector Goudreau forged an agreement yesterday for the recruitment and deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in one of Canada’s largest provinces.

DOLE previously forged similar agreements with Canadian provinces Manitoba, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, where a combined 30,000 to 40,000 OFWs are needed.

Roque expressed hope that the country would be able to fill Canada’s job orders.

He said a monthly salary of 6,000 Canadian dollars will be provided for highly skilled welders, C$3,800 for the pipe fitters. The salaries are much higher than the monthly pay of welders and pipe fitters in Saudi Arabia.

Aside from the agreement, Roque said, DOLE is also negotiating to set up training for Filipinos to be deployed in Canada.

He said the implementing rules and regulations for the skills upgrade have been drafted and will be reviewed by both parties.

TESDA is likely to implement the upgrade and training skills but it will also be implemented in selected schools that will be identified by the parties.

More OFWs

The number of Filipinos wanting to work abroad will continue to rise because of domestic uncertainties following the global plunge in stocks, according to newly designated Philippine Overseas Employment Administrator (POEA) Jennifer Manalili.

Speaking at the opening of the Baguio City Charter Day Jobs Fair at the Baguio Convention Center, Manalili said some 1.3 million Filipinos want to work abroad next year, surpassing the 1 million POEA yearly deployment target.

In 2007, some 1.2 million Filipinos went abroad for work.

Manalili said this is the time to be on guard against illegal recruitment because unscrupulous individuals will certainly seize the opportunity to deceive people.

“We need to see to the welfare of Filipino job seekers, and involving local government officials up to the barangays is part of the preventive mechanism,” she said.

The POEA administrator urged local government units to inform jobseekers how to detect illegal recruiters.

“There is a need to intensify this campaign,” Manalili said after forging ties with Baguio officials to fight illegal recruitment.

Lawyer Melchor Dizon, POEA Licensing and Regulation Officer, said there had been a decrease in illegal recruitment incidents since last year because of the intensive campaign of government agencies.

“There was a seven-percent decrease of illegal recruitment cases last year and maybe a 10-percent decrease by the end of 2008,” Dizon said.

He added POEA already “processed” some 4,208 cases this year, with Metro Manila still the hotspot of illegal recruitment in the country.

Manalili and Baguio City mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. signed a Memorandum of Understanding in an effort to free Baguio of illegal recruitment in the future.

The Baguio MOU is the 94th MOU forged by the POEA with cities around the country. – With Artemio Dumlao (PStar)

6,000 OFWs stranded on Oman-UAE border

September 28, 2008

By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:15:00 09/28/2008

THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN Affairs Saturday ordered its embassies in the Middle East to extend assistance to some 6,000 overseas Filipino workers stranded on the border of Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Acting Foreign Secretary Esteban Conejos Jr. said the OFWs were stranded on the border because of recent changes in the UAE’s visa rules which took effect on July 29.

The new policy directs previous holders of visas to the UAE to reapply as tourists, resulting in the rejection of thousands of visa applications from Filipinos.

“The Filipinos had been warned since March (about the new rule),” said Conejos.

Nevetheless, he said, the DFA would appeal to the UAE government not to drive them away.

At any rate, the DFA would first coordinate with UAE officials before deciding whether or not to repatriate the Filipinos, Conejos said.

He stressed repatriation would be a last resort considering the big number of OFWs involved.

Embassy officials in Muscat, Tehran and Abu Dhabi, as well as the Philippine consulate in Dubai, have been mobilized to deal with the problem.

“(The decision to repatriate the OFWs) will depend on how the UAE government responds to our request for leniency,” Conejos said.

Conejos said that since Sept. 23, a four-man consular team from the embassy in Muscat has been going to various hotels in Al Buraimi, along the border with Oman.

Nearly 1,000 OFWs were reportedly holed up at the Al Buraimi Hotel alone.

The stranded OFWs said they were being asked by the hotels to deposit their passports upon checking in.

The OFWs who exited from Al Ain in the UAE as a result of the change in visa policy entered Oman using three-day tourist visas issued by Omani authorities. However, their visas expired before they could get fresh UAE visit visas to enter UAE.

Starting Aug. 1 this year, Oman also stopped the practice of issuing visas to regular exit visitors.

Aminah Marduen, the coordinator at the embassy in Oman, said that Filipinos and many other foreign nationals entered Oman without being aware of the new Omani immigration law.

Pag-uwi ng 40 OFW mula Kuwait inaantala ng opisyal ng embahada?

September 24, 2008

Kinondena ng Migrante-Middle East ang mga opisyal ng Pilipinas sa Kuwait dahil inaantala umano ng mga ito ang pagpapauwi sa 40 OFW na nakakulong sa naturang bansa.

Ayon kay John Leonard Monterona, coordinator ng Migrante-ME, nasa kamay na ng 40 OFW ang kanilang tiket at pasaporte ngunit wala ni isa man mula sa Embahada ng Pilipinas ang dumating upang asikasuhin ang kanilang mga dokumento sa pag-alis.

Humingi umano ng tulong ang 40 OFW sa tsapter ng Migrante sa Kuwait para sa agaran nilang pagpapauwi.

Ang 29 sa 40 OFW na nakatanggap ng tulong mula sa Migrante ay sina Canora O. Paloma, Marites C. Ravidas, Sittie R.Edon , Marieta C.Dizon, Wida P.Kaguilak, Ana Redoblo, Marilyn Ilagan, Jojie Diadema, Maricar Barrios, Noor Seda Asem Ampong, Marivic Dayhop, Sameda Ahmad, Rosa Laseras, Fatima Dait Ciervo, Rosalie Junio, Citie Rakma Ebo, Mariannes S. Parailag, Mumina Makalay, Imelda Generalao, Rayhana Ismael, Sahra Makid, Lanoel Cornelio, Elisa Zamora, Aisa Labawan, Nur-aiza Barahim Taaral, Jessica Carillo, Bibiana Lubay, Nifma Nilo, at Allen Legason.

“Sigurado kami na alam na ni Ambasador Ricardo Endaya at Vice Consul Rea Oreta ang tungkol sa 40 OFW na nag-aantay ng pagpapauwi sa kanila, ngunit hanggang sa ngayon wala pa ring aksiyong ginagawa ang mga opisyal para sila’y makauwi,” ani Monterona.

Kadalasan, idinadahilan umano ng embahada ng Pilipinas ang pagkaantala sa pagpapauwi sa mga OFW dahil hindi nila kayang akuin ang gastos sa pag-alis ng mga ito. Pero sa kasong ito, ang ilan sa mga mga OFW ay hawak na ang kanilang tiket at pasaporte pero ano pa ang dahilan sa pagpapanatili sa kanila sa kulungan kung saan ang ilan ay umabot na hanggang anim na buwan, dagdag ni Monterona.

Dagdag pa ni Monterona, ang 40 OFW na patuloy pa rin sa pag-aantay ay dagdag na naman sa mahabang listahan ng milyong OFW na patuloy na binabalewla ng administrasyong Arroyo. “Ang rehimeng Arroyo ay hindi talaga nag-aalala sa mga OFW. Ang pananatili sa kulungan ay parang impiyerno lalo na kung wala ka namang ginawang masama,” sabi pa ni Monterona.

Jean Campos (PinoyWeekly)

‘Bagong merkado’ para sa OFW, binatikos

September 24, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

HINILING ng Migrante-Middle East sa Kongreso ng Pilipinas ang pagrepaso sa polisiya ng administrasyong Arroyo hinggil sa patuloy na paghahanap nito ng mga ‘bagong merkado’ para sa mga OFW (overseas Filipino workers) sa pamamagitan ng DoLE (Department of Labor and Employment).

Ayon sa Migrante-ME, nagmumukhang ipokrito ang administrasyong Arroyo dahil sa naunang pahayag nitong lilikha ng milyong trabaho sa loob ng bansa para hindi na mangibang-bansa ang milyun-milyong Pilipinong walang trabaho.

Sinabi ni John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator ng Migrante-ME, parang inamin na rin ng gobyerno ang patuloy na pagsusulong ng labor export policy nang sabihin ng DoLE sa isang pagdinig sa Kongreso kamakailan na nakikipag-usap ito sa mga kagawaran ng paggawa ng ibang bansa sa paghahanap ng mga ‘bagong merkado’.

Dagdag ni Monterona, patunay lamang ito ng ‘pagkabigo’ ng gobyerno na lumikha ng trabaho para sa Pilipinong walang trabaho na umaabot na sa 2.9 milyon.

Nagpahayag din ng pangamba ang Migrante-ME na sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo, hindi tiyak ang batayang karapatan ng migranteng manggagawa dahil sa masamang rekord nito ng pagpapabaya sa mga OFW.(PinoyWeekly)

Lider-OFW sa Kuwait ginigipit ng embahada?

September 24, 2008

Manuela Sanchez

KINONDENA ng Migrante International ang mga opisyal ng embahada sa Kuwait dahil sa umano’y panghihimasok ng mga ito sa pagkatanggal sa trabaho at pagpapauwi sa isang lider-OFW sa naturang bansa.

Kinilala ang biktima bilang si Gil Lebria, isang warehouse keeper at regional coordinator ng Migrante sa Kuwait.

Ayon sa pahayag ni Lebria, nakatanggap siya ng tawag noong nakaraang Setyembre 3, 2008 mula sa sekretarya ng kanyang kompanyang Al Kharafi National, na nagsasabing tanggal na siya sa trabaho.

Nang tanungin ni Lebria kung bakit siya tinanggal, sinabi ng manedsment na nagbabawas ito ng mga tauhan.

Pinabulaanan naman ito ni Lebria dahil noong isang buwan lamang 300 manggagawa mula sa Pilipinas ang kinuha ng kompanya.

Naniniwala ang Migrante na bahagi lamang ito ng panggigipit ng mga opisyal ng embahada kay Lebria dahil sa pagtataguyod niya ng mga karapatan ng OFW sa Kuwait habang pinagtatakpan naman ng embahada ang kanilang pagpapabaya sa mga kaso ng OFW sa naturang bansa.

Noong Setyembre, 2007, nakatanggap na rin ng balita si Lebria mula sa kanyang ahensiyang Globus Manpower na pinauuwi na siya sa Pilipinas sa utos ng POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency). Subalit hindi siya pinauwi ng Kharafi dahil na rin sa maganda niyang ipinakikita sa kanyang trabaho.

Binatikos ng Migrante ang mga opisyal ng embahada hindi lamang sa umano’y kriminal na pagpapabaya sa mga OFW kundi pati na rin sa panggigipit sa mga OFW na tumutulong lamang sa kanilang mga kababayan. (Pinoy Weekly)

‘Mukhang remitans’ si Gloria

September 24, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

REMITANS, PABIGAT SA OFW. Sang-ayon si Sen. Mar Roxas sa pagbasura sa mga dagdag-bayarin sa mga migrante tulad ng documentary stamp tax. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

REMITANS, PABIGAT SA OFW. Sang-ayon si Sen. Mar Roxas sa pagbasura sa mga dagdag-bayarin sa mga migrante tulad ng documentary stamp tax. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

GAANO kalahaga ang mga OFW (overseas Filipino workers), o mas tamang sabihin, ang kanilang remitans nila, para sa gobyerno?

Sa isang forum hinggil sa migrasyon at remitans noong Setyembre 18 sa Trinity University of Asia, potensiyal na mga OFW ang tingin ng kinatawan ng BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) sa mga odyens na pawang mga estudyante ng nursing sa naturang pamantasan.

Mahihinuha sa mga pahayag na ito ang pagtingin at polisiya ng gobyerno hinggil sa pangingibang bansa. Pinapayagan nito o hinihimok pa nga ang mga kabataang estudyante para magtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Ang dahilan: Ang limpak-limpak na salaping ipinadadala ng mga migranteng Pilipino ang sumusuhay sa naghihingalong ekonomiya ng bansa.

Bakit nga hindi uudyukan ng gobyerno ang kabataan na mangibang bansa? Sa ulat ni Direktor Iluminada Sicat ng Department of Economic Statistics ng BSP, $14.5 Bilyon ang isinampang remitans ng mga OFW. Inaasahan pang tataas ito ngayong taon dahil sa unang hati pa lamang ng taon, umabot na ito sa $9.6-B.

Pakinabang ng remitans

Katumbas ito ng 10% ng GDP (gross domestic product) ng bansa at halos apat na beses na mas malaki sa foreign direct investments, pagmamalaki ni Sicat.

Para lalong gatasan ang mga OFW, target ng BSP na himukin ang lalong pagpasok ng remitans. Dapat din daw pondohan ng mga OFW ang anila’y produktibong mga aktibidad tulad ng pagpapaunlad ng akses sa serbisyong pampinansiya. Kailangan din daw gastusan ang pagpapataas ng antas ng kaalaman ng mga kaanak ng mga OFW sa “tamang” paggastos ng tinatanggap nilang remitans.

Sa usapin ng remittance charges ng mga bangko na inirereklamo ng mga migrante, sinabi ni Sicat na nakalagay ang listahan ng mga ito sa website ng BSP. “Puwede silang mag-shopping para sa pinakamamabang rates,” aniya.

Ayon kay Sicat, nagbubunga ng trabaho ang remitans ng mga OFW. Sa pamamagitan ng ipinadadalang remitans sa kanilang pamilya, tumataas umano ang pangangailangan sa mga pangunahing bilihin at serbisyo kaya magreresulta sa pagtatayo ng mga pabrika para sa mga pangangailangang ito.

At kapag may pabrika, natural, may trabaho.

Kung mag-iipon naman sa bangko ang mga OFW, magagamit ng mga bangko ang kanilang pera sa pagpapautang na magagamit sa pamumuhunan ng mga kompanya na magreresulta rin sa trabaho.

Bukod dito, malaking tulong ang dolyar na ipinadadala ng mga OFW dahil ginagamit ito ng gobyerno sa pagbili ng mga imported na produkto tulad ng langis at iba pa.

Bagong bayaning binubuwisan

Pero, tanong naman ng mga OFW, kung malaking tulong ang remitans nila sa bansa, bakit binubuwisan pa at pinapatungan pa ng iba’t ibang bayarin ang pagpapadala nila ng remitans?

Daing ni Benedicta Tee, kaanak ng isang OFW sa Hong Kong, kulang na kulang na ang ipinadadalang $200 o halos P10,000 sa kanila dahil sa patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin at serbisyo sa bansa.

“Nauubos na ito sa kuryente, tubig, at iba pang bilihin tulad ng pang-araw-araw na pagkain. Isama pa ang pag-aaral ng mga bata. Wala talagang matitira kaya imposibleng makaipon ang isang pamilya ng OFW na katulad namin,” ani Tee.

Aniya pa, kung tatanggalin ang mga dagdag na bayarin sa remitans, katumbas ito ng pamasahe ng mga bata sa isang buwan o kalahating kaban ng bigas para sa isang pamilya.

“Malaking ginhawa na rin ito kahit paano kaya nanawagan kami sa gobyerno na tanggalin na ang mga bayaring ito,” sabi pa ni Tee.

Ayon naman kay Connie Bragas-Regalado, tagapangulo ng Migrante, bagamat maliit na ginhawa, kailangang-kailangan na ito ng mga migranteng Pilipino.”Kumikita ang gobyerno ng halos P62Milyon kada buwan sa remitans ng mga OFW. Habang $1-B ang tinutubo ng mga bangko, bakit hindi magawang pagbigyan ng gobyernong Arroyo ang aming panawagan?” tanong ni Regalado.

Nagbabayad ng 0.15% ang mga OFW sa gobyerno kada pagpapadala ng remitans sa pamamagitan ng DST o documentary stamp tax samantalang $15-$20 naman ang singil ng mga bangko sa tuwing magpapadala ang mga OFW na tinatayang aabot na sa sampung milyon.

“Bukod pa ito sa mga samu’t saring bayarin na sinisingil sa mga OFW bago pa man sila makaalis sa bansa,” dagdag ni Regalado.

Pabor din si Sen. Mar Roxas sa pagtanggal ng DST at inihain ang Senate Bill 2479 para sa panukala. “Kung mapupunta lang ang pera sa kung saan-saan sa gobyerno, mas mabuti pang maiwan na lang ito sa kamay at bulsa ng mga pamilya na siyang tatanggap nitong pera,” aniya.

Mukhang remitans lang ang tingin ng gobyernong Arroyo sa mga OFW, ani Regalado. Samantala, hindi naman nito natutugunan ang mga suliranin ng mga OFW sa ibang bansa.

Sa dokumentasyon ng Migrante, 5,000 Pilipino ang nakakulong sa iba’t ibang bansa sa daigdig, at kalakhan nito’y walang legal na tulong mula sa mga embahada.

Dalawampu’t siyam sa mga ito ang nakahanay sa death row.
“Hinahayaan lang ng gobyerno na mamatay ang itinuturing nitong mga ‘bagong bayani’. Sa ilang bansa, sa Middle East, hinahatulan ng kamatayan ang mga OFW sa pamamagitan ng pagbato hanggang siya ay mamamatay. Paano ito pinalalampas ng gobyerno?” sabi pa ni Regalado.

Baligtad na kaunlaran

Samantala baligtad naman ang tingin ng Ibon Foundation sa kaunlarang idinudulot ng migrasyon.

“Unang-una, hindi produktibo ang isinasampa ng remitans. Pambayad lang ito sa serbisyong kinokonsumo ng pamilya ng OFW. Household welfare lamang ito. At ang household ay hindi ang ekonomiya,” paliwanag ni Sonny Africa, punong tagapagsaliksik ng Ibon.

Hindi rin umano ito dapat ihalintulad sa GDP o FDI dahil ang mga ito ay “malinis” na puhunan o pera. Ibig sabihin, puhunan ito na magagamit sa produksiyon habang ang remitans ay ginagamit na kaagad ng mga pamilya ng OFW.

Ayon pa kay Africa, sinasaid ng migrasyon ang lakas-paggawa, mental o pisikal, ng bansa. “Ang mauunlad na bansa ang nakikinabang sa ating lakas-paggawa. Kaya mapapansin natin na ang mga kursong iniaalok ngayon ng mga eskuwelahan ay nakatuon na sa nursing, engineering at iba pa dahil ito ang kinakailngan ng pandaigdigang merkado,” ani Africa.

Nagagamit pa umano ng gobyerno ang migrasyon para pagtakpan ang mga kakulangan nito sa pagpapaunlad ng ekonomiya.

“Halimbawa, umaabot na sa apat na milyong Pilipino ang walang trabaho sa bansa. Kung idagdag natin ang halos 10 milyong OFW, na napilitang mangibang-bansa dahil wala ngang maibigay na trabaho ang gobyerno, lalabas na 14 milyong Pilipino ang walang trabaho. Bukod pa ito sa walong milyon na hindi sapat ang kinikita o ‘yung mga underemployed,” sabi pa ni Africa.

Patuloy ang panawagan ng Migrante International sa pagpapatanggal ng mga bayarin sa remitans.

“Sa katunayan, ituturing naming “Zero Remittance Day” ang darating na Oktubre 29, para iparating an gaming hinaing at bilang protesta na rin sa unang araw ng ikalawang GFMD (Global Forum on Migration and Development) na gaganapin dito sa Pilipinas,” sabi ni Regalado.

Nakatakdang magpulong ang mga lider ng ilang bansa sa GFMD, mula Oktubre 29-31 para talakayin ang umano’y kaunlarang dulot ng migrasyon.

Tutol naman dito ang Migrante kasama ng iba pang organisasyong pang-migrante. Kasabay ng GFMD ilulunsad naman nila ang International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees.

“Tatapatan naming mga migrante ang forum na pangangasiwaan ng gobyernong Arroyo at ilalantad sa buong mundo ang tunay na mukha ng migrasyon; kahirapan, pang-aabuso at gatasang-baka, taliwas sa kaunlarang gustong ipangalandakan ng postergirl ng GFMD na si Ginang Arroyo,” pagtatapos ni Regalado.

Editorial Cartoon: Super Hero

September 23, 2008

And abused

The Global Forum on Migration and Development and the Need to Confront the Real Issues

September 19, 2008

Apparently, the purpose of the Forum is not so much to promote and protect the rights of migrants and overseas contract workers but to serve as a venue for dialogue between developed countries, which are concerned with the uncontrolled influx of migrants, and developing countries that are dependent on the export of labor.

VOL VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008

On September 14-16, 2006, a High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development was held under the auspices of the UN General Assembly.  Representatives from 140 countries met and discussed the “global implications of international migration” and the  “mutually beneficial interaction between migration and development”. This led to the formation of the Global Forum on Migration and Development.  The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is described as a “voluntary, intergovernmental, non-binding, consultative process”.

It identifies three objectives: 1. to address, in a transparent manner, the multidimensional aspects, opportunities and challenges related to international migration and its interlinkages with development; 2. to bring together government expertise from all regions to enhance dialogue, cooperation and partnership in the areas of migration and development and; 3. to foster practical and action-oriented outcomes at the national, regional and global levels.

The Forum’s first meeting was held in Belgium July 9-11, 2007 focusing on human capital and labour mobility; remittances and diaspora, and institutional and policy coherence. It was organized in eight sessions: a) Highly skilled migration: balancing interests and responsibilities and tackling brain drain; b) How can circular migration and sustainable return benefit development?; c) Strategies for building diaspora/ migrant organisations’ capacity for development; d) The value of the “migration and development” nexus and migration out of choice versus migration out of necessity; e) Temporary labour migration as a contribution to development: Low skilled migration and measures to combat irregular migration; f) Measures to increase the development value of remittances: Formalisation and reduction of transfer costs and ways to enhance the micro-impact of remittances on development to the benefit of the wider community; g) Looking ahead: Developing strategies and partnerships to work on “migration and development” issues; and h) Enhancing policy coherence and strengthening coordination at global level.

While the forum tackled a number of issues including the impact of migration on countries of origin, in terms of brain drain especially in the critical sectors of health and education and the positive contributions of remittances, and what migrants contribute to host countries in terms of supplying the need for labor and the protection of migrants’ rights, the bias seems to be on legal immigration rather than temporary labor, such as overseas contract work. This reflects the concern of developed countries about the continuous influx of migrants and overstaying tourists who seek work opportunities while remaining in the shadows to elude immigration authorities.

Thus, concepts such as circular migration – of immigrants returning to their country of origin; and diaspora/migrants capacity building to enable them to contribute to the development of their country of origin are being introduced.  Likewise the need for coherence in development strategies and policies, such as in poverty reduction, of the host country, country of origin, and diaspora/migrants associations to address the root causes of migration from the country of origin is being emphasized to stem the tide of migration flows.

Temporary and low-skilled labor is tackled in terms of the need to ensure that it passes through legal channels, the advantages of entering into bilateral agreements in matching needs of host countries to the supply of labor from sending countries, and the responsibility of sending countries in ensuring that the stay of their citizens are temporary.

Models of “good practices” are presented for emulation such as the efforts of Malawi to address the extreme shortage of health professionals in the country, which was brought about by the migration of doctors to developed countries; the UK Code of Practice for the Ethical Recruitment of international health professionals; bilateral agreements regarding the hiring of agricultural labor entered into by Spain with Morocco and Colombia among others;  the temporary agricultural workers programs entered into between Guatemala and Canada;  the “standard contracts” required by the Philippines and Sri Lanka; and the licensing and management of recruitment agencies by the Philippines, as well as its pegging of recruitment fees, one-stop processing centers, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) loan fund, which was built from the compulsory membership fee of $25 imposed on Filipinos working abroad.

Inherent limitations

Being a voluntary, intergovernmental body, the Forum has its inherent limitations. Participating nations would, expectedly, be diplomatic with each other and avoid controversial issues. Added to this, its consultative, non-binding nature does not give teeth to its resolutions.

But its biggest flaw is the exclusion of the main stakeholders, the migrants themselves, in the forum.

Thus, problematic realities of abuses, murders of migrant workers, and official cover-ups, of women falling prey to the the flesh trade, of slave-like working conditions, contract-substitution, and non-payment of wages are hardly mentioned and recognized, much less discussed for resolution.

Apparently, the purpose of the Forum is not so much to promote and protect the rights of migrants and overseas contract workers but to serve as a venue for dialogue between developed countries, which are concerned with the uncontrolled influx of migrants, and developing countries that are dependent on the export of labor.

According to the report of the first meeting of the Forum, “The real challenge lies in how best to structure a policy that allows for proper enforcement of immigration laws while letting immigration continue as a positive force for economic prosperity.”

That is why the Philippines, which has so efficiently processed and profited from the export of labor, is touted as a model.  In fact, the Philippines would host the second meeting of the Forum, which would be held this year.

A week ago, ABS-CBN news came out with a story regarding the oversupply of nursing graduates.  It talked about newly-installed nurses having to compete for the opportunity to work in hospitals to gain the number of years of work experience required to be able to work abroad. Worse, they work with no salaries and even have to pay the hospital to be accepted as ‘trainees.’ Others have to work as call center agents or at whatever jobs available while waiting for opportunities to work in hospitals here then abroad. These are because the US and UK, the two top destinations of nurses who desire to work abroad, have reportedly slowed down, if not temporarily stopped the hiring of foreign nurses while tens of thousands of students graduate in nursing courses every year.

It is also only in the Philippines where doctors study to be nurses to be able to work abroad. But the most disturbing sign of desperation is seeing returning Filipino workers who have experienced abuse and traumatic situations opting to return to work abroad rather than die of hunger and poverty in the Philippines. And the Arroyo government is more than happy to oblige because it is dependent on remittances to prop up the economy.  This is the reality of migrant labor that is hardly reflected in the Global Forum for Migration and Development.  Bulatlat

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Study Shows Foreign Nurses, Caregivers Face Exploitative Work Conditions in Japan

September 17, 2008

While proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) claim that the pact will create more opportunities for local nurses by allowing them to enter the Japanese market, a study by a Japanese university shows that foreign nurses in Japan face exploitative work conditions and even discrimination.

Posted by Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 32, September 14-20, 2008

While proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) claim that the pact will create more opportunities for local nurses by allowing them to enter the Japanese market, a study by a Japanese university shows that foreign nurses in Japan face exploitative work conditions and even discrimination.

A study by the University of Kitakyushu in Japan found out that employment programs involving foreign nurses and caregivers have resulted in trainees being forced to work long hours. The Japanese government has also refused to guarantee minimum wage levels, while exorbitant fees of at least 58,000 yen (approximately P23, 200 or US $495) are deducted from the nurses’ salaries every month.

Exploitation of foreign workers on training programs has also been prevalent. Indonesian trainees in Japan, for instance, have reportedly experienced physical abuse and been forced to render unpaid overtime, while others have been denied such basic rights as freedom of movement. Meanwhile, non-Japanese in the bigger cities are reportedly subject to racial profiling by being asked to produce their foreign registration cards or passports, which must be carried at all times.

Part of government’s hype is that with the JPEPA, 400 Filipino nurses and 600 caregivers will be allowed to enter Japan for training for over two years. However, the receiving scheme for health workers states that they must work as trainees in designated institutions, undergo six months of Japanese language training and pass the national certification tests before they can qualify as nurse or caregiver. Although they would already be working during the training period they will be receiving pay only as a non-licensed worker or trainee or candidate, or as nurse’s aides and caregiver’s assistants.

Senators debating on the JPEPA should see that the inclusion of nurses in the JPEPA is a deceptive provision that offers uncertain benefits, made only to sweeten the blatantly one-sided, pro-Japan deal. Using Filipino nurses as a justification for approving JPEPA highlights how the Philippine government is willing to sacrifice the welfare of its citizens as well as to cover up for its severe failure in generating jobs and supporting the country’s health system. Posted by Bulatlat

Misteryosong pagkamatay ng OFW sa Middle East pinaiimbestigahan

September 8, 2008

NANAWAGAN NG masusing imbestigasyon ang Migrante-Middle East sa sirkumstansiya ng pagkamatay ng mga OFW (overseas Filipino workers) na napaulat na nagpatiwakal sa UAE (United Arab Emirates) para bigyang liwanag ang pagdududa ng mga pamilya ng mga biktima.

Kinumpirma ng Migrante-Dubai noong Agosto 28 ang pagkamatay ng OFW na si Evelyn Milo na tumalon diumano mula sa isang gusali sa Abu Dhabi noong Agosto 10, 2008.

Nauna na ring ibinalita ng Migrante-Dubai ang pagkamatay ng mga OFW na pawang ‘nagpakamatay’ din umano. Kinabibilangan ito nina Roderick Miranda, Norayda Ayuman Jeffrey Alberto So, Mitos Vergara at Myrna Baylosis.

Maliban sa mga nabanggit, kinukumpirma pa umano ng Migrante-UAE ang napaulat na ‘pagpapakamatay’ ng tatlo pang OFW sa Abu Dhabi.

Kinondena ng Migrante ang anila’y ‘kriminal na pagpapabaya’ ng mga opisyal at konsular ng Embahada ng Pilipinas sa UAE na nagdeklarang ‘nagpakamatay’ nga ang ilan sa mga nabanggit na OFW kahit wala pang masusing imbestigasyon.

Hindi umano binubusisi ng mga opsiyal ang mga naturang pagkamatay at nakukuntento na lamang sa lokal na ulat ng pulisya.

Nanawagan ang Migrante sa Department of Foreign Affairs sa Maynila na turuang mag-imbestiga ang kanilang mga opisyal sa UAE at asikasuhin ang awtopsiya ng mga biktima para mabigyan ng liwanag ang mga kaanak ng mga ito sa tunay na dahilan ng kanilang pagkamatay.

Nanawagan rin sa Kongreso ang Migrante para magpatawag ng imbestigasyon hinggil sa mga naturang pagpapakamatay.

“At kung lumabas sa awtopsiya na may foul play, dapat sibakin agad sa puwesto ang opisyal na mapapatunayang sangkot sa cover-up sa ganitong mga kaso,” ayon pa sa grupo.

Manuela Sanchez (PinoyWeekly)

Psych test iskema sa pagbebenta sa OFW – Migrante

September 8, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

MULING IGINIIT ng Migrante International ang kanilang pagtutol sa panukalang mandatory psychiatric test sa mga aalis na OFW (overseas Filipino workers) dahil bahagi lamang umano ito ng iskema ng gobyerno para madaling maibenta ang mga OFW sa internasyunal na merkado ng paggawa.

Kamakailan lamang, sinabi ni DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) spokesperson Claro Cristobal na layunin lamang ng psychiatric test na protekatahan ang mga OFW.

Subalit sinabi ni Migrante Chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado na bukod sa pagiging discriminatory at pagiging dagdag bayarin, hindi mapoprotektahan ng panukala ang mga OFW sa kanilang trabaho.

“Ang panukalang psychiatric test ay isang parte lamang ng iskema ng labor export policy ng gobyerno. Lalo na ngayon na sa Pilipinas gaganapin ang ikalawang Global Forum on Migration and Development o GFMD sa Oktubre,” sabi ni Regalado.

Muling lumutang panukala matapos makabalik sa bansa ang 37 OFW na umano’y tumakas sa kanilang mga amo dahil sa pang-aabuso. Dalawa sa kanila ang dumaranas ng delusyon, ayon sa DFA.

Sinabi pa ng DFA na mula noong 2002, nakakatanggap na sila ng rekomendasyon mula sa Middle East na isailalim sa psychological test ang mga Pilipinong domestic worker.

“Ipinakikita lamang nito na sumusunod lamang ang DFA sa rekomendasyon ng mga bansang tumatanggap ng OFW tulad ng Middle East at hindi nagpoprotekta sa mga OFW. Ipinakikita rin nito na ‘kalakal na pang-eksport’ ang tingin sa amin ng gobyerno at hindi mga tao,” sabi pa ni Regalado.

Idinagdag ni Regalado na dapat malaman ng DFA ang teribleng kondisyon ng paggawa sa ibang bansa ang dahilan kung bakit tinatakasan ng bait ang mga OFW.

Tinawag ng Migrante ang panukalang psychiatric test bilang isang ‘baliw’ na solusyon at iginiit na ang mga opisyal ng DFA ang dapat magpatingin ng kanilang mga ulo. (PinoyWeekly)

Another Pinay Worker in Dubai Arrives Home Dead

September 2, 2008

Another overseas Filipino worker in Dubai died mysteriously.

Evelyn Milo, 24, is said to have committed suicide. Her aunt, however, said she had stab wounds and bruises. Evelyn even had strangulation marks on her neck.

Volume VIII, Number 30, August 31 – September 6, 2008

Another overseas Filipino worker in Dubai came home dead last August 19. Her employer and recruitment agency claimed that Evelyn Milo, 24, committed suicide.

Evelyn Milo or Ebang to her family and friends went to Dubai in October 2005 to work as a sales clerk. She came back to the Philippines to visit her family after more than two years, on February 15, 2008. evelyn milo, mysterious deaths

After a week though, she returned to Dubai to work again. Her aunt Anita Milo Macalintal recalled what Evelyn said before she left, “Dito sa Pilipinas, mahirap lalo na pag walang trabaho.” (Life here in the Philippines is hard, especially if you do not have a job.)

Anita said Evelyn wanted to have her own house and help them in their needs.

On August 5, Evelyn called and informed her that she would go back home to visit and would spend her birthday with them on August 15.

To their surprise, after four days, Evelyn’s employer, a certain Hashir, called up and said that Evelyn committed suicide. They were told that Evelyn jumped off from the ninth floor of the building where she was residing in Dubai.

Hashir also told Anita that Evelyn was undergoing dialysis.  Anita told Bulatlat she does not believe that Evelyn was sick. “How could she leave the country if she was sick when she had to go through a medical checkup?” she asked.

Anita related that they immediately went to the office of the employment agency. A certain Victoria, the owner the agency, confirmed that Evelyn committed suicide. “Nagulat talaga kami, wala kaming nagawa kundi umiyak ng umiyak,” (We were shocked, we could not do anything but cry.) she said.

She then asked about the arrival of Evelyn’s body. Victoria told them it could take three to four months.

Anita said, “We cannot wait that long so I decided to go to the office of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).”

An officer of the OWWA called up the agency. She overhead the officer saying, “Anong nangyari? May kaso ka pala bakit hindi mo sinasabi? May namatay ka palang employee, heto nagrereklamo iyong kaanak.” (What happened? Why did you not inform us that you have a case? So one of your employees died and a relative is now here complaining.)

Anita said that because the phone’s speaker was on, she heard Victoria answer, “Hindi naman ‘yan nagpakamatay, pinatay ‘yan” (The employee did not commit suicide; she was killed.)

Anita said that they were asked to go back to the agency. Victoria told her, “Wag ka muna magpunta kung saan-saan.” (Don’t go anywhere else.) Victoria then gave her the contact number of Evelyn’s employer Hashir.

She then called up Hashir and pleaded for the return of Evelyn’s body. The next day, Hashir called back and informed them about the full details of the arrival of Evelyn’s body. Anita said Hashir promised to pay the expenses for the burial and to send Evelyn’s last salary. “Until now, we have not received anything from him,” said Anita.

Anita, together with Evelyn’s mother and another sister, went to the agency. Victoria told them, “Wala kaming pakialam sa bangkay kasi hindi naman namatay yun dun nagpakamatay sya.” (We have nothing to do with the body, she was not killed there, she committed suicide.)

Victoria told Evelyn’s mother, who was then hysterical, to stop crying. Probably because there were many applicants at the office, Anita said. They were then told to leave. Victoria gave them P300 ($6.53 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.925).

Evelyn’s mother asked, “Three hundred pesos lang ba ang katumbas ng buhay ng anak ko?” (Is my daughter’s life worth only three hundred pesos?)

At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), they were asked to pay P200 ($4.35) for the quarantine fee. They only had P100 ($2.177) left from the money the agency gave them. The OWWA personnel came and paid for the fee.

When they reached the funeral, they requested to see Evelyn’s body. Anita said while crying, “Pagkakita namin sa bangka, nasindak kami kasi yung bibig nya may suntok tapos yung mga ipin nya ay basag-basag. Iyong leeg niya may bakas ng sakal, may saksak ang paa tapos maraming pasa sa katawan.” (When we saw her body, we were shocked. Her teeth were broken. Her neck had strangulation marks. She had stab wounds on her feet and had many bruises all over her body.)

As of press time, the autopsy is not yet available.

Anita said, “We want justice for Evelyn. We are asking the help of every one who could help us attain justice.”

She said they already sought the help of Senate President Manny Villar. “He promised us that he would ask the authorities to conduct an investigation,” said Anita.

Migrante International prepared a tribute for Evelyn, August 29. Families of victims of mysterious deaths also joined them. Together, they demand justice for their loved ones. Bulatlat

Tunay na mukha ng migrasyon

August 25, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

ABANG KALAGAYAN. Piket ng naistranded na mga migranteng Pilipino sa Saudi Arabia (Arkibong Bayan)

ABANG KALAGAYAN. Piket ng naistranded na mga
migranteng Pilipino sa Saudi Arabia (Arkibong Bayan)

TALIWAS sa inaasahang ginhawang hatid ng pangingibang-bayan, bangkay ng kanyang kapatid ang sinalubong ni Lilybeth Garcia at ng kanyang pamilya sa Ninoy Aquino International Airport noong Hunyo 12, 2008.

Halos hindi sila makapaniwala nang masilayan ang katawan ng kapamilyang si Eugenia Baja, isang domestic helper sa Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, na ayon sa mga awtoridad ay nagpakamatay.

Pero iba ang paniwala nina Lilybeth sa tunay na dahilan ng pagkamatay ng kapatid. Lalong hindi sila makapaniwala rito nang makita nila ang bangkay ni Baja sa airport. Ayon kay Lilybeth, may mga pasa at bugbog sa iba’t ibang parte ng katawan ang bangkay. Mayroon din itong saksak ng kutsilyo sa tagiliran na lalong nagpatingkad sa kanilang hinala na hindi nagpatiwakal si Baja.

Itinulak ng kahirapan

Umalis si Eugenia sa Pilipinas papuntang Riyadh noong Mayo 6, 2007. Kuwento ni Lilybeth, masayang-masaya ang kanyang kapatid bago ito nangibang-bayan. Sa wakas, matutupad ang pangarap nitong makatulong sa kabuhayan ng mga magulang. Plano rin niyang pag-aralin ang tatlong nakababatang kapatid na lalaki.

Desidido si Genia – palayaw ni Eugenia sa mga kapatid – sa pakikipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa para makatulong sa kabuhayan ng pamilya. Una siyang nagtangka noong 2005. Magtatrabaho sana siya bilang domestic helper sa Lebanon pero nagkaroon ng giyera kaya hindi siya natuloy. Bago ito, nagtrabaho rin siya bilang serbidora sa isang burger chain at pumasok ring katulong.

Magsasaka ang pamilya ni Genia. At gaya ng mayorya ng mga magsasaka sa bansa, hindi nila pag-aari ang lupang sinasaka. Ni wala silang kalabaw na ginagamit sa pagbubungkal. Kaya nang unang magpadala ng pera si Genia mula sa Riyadh, ibinilin niya sa mga magulang na kalabaw ang unang bilhin ng mga ito.

Katuwang ng kanyang mga magulang sa pagsasaka ang anim niyang kapatid. Huminto na noon sa pag-aaral ang tatlong lalaking sumunod kay Genia pero dahil sa pagpipilit niyang makatapos ang mga ito, muli silang nag-aral sa suporta na rin ng dalaga.

Misteryosong pagkamatay

Noon pa ma’y nagdududa na sina Lilybeth sa tunay na dahilan ng pagkamatay ng kanyang kapatid. Ikatlong buwan ni Genia sa Riyadh nang sabihin nito kina Lilybeth na lagi siyang nagugutom dahil tinapay lang ang ipinakakain sa kanya. Tinawagan ni Lilybeth ang ahensiya ni Genia, ang sabi ng mga ito sa kanya wala siyang dapat ipag-alala. Baka raw homesick lang.

Pero nagpatuloy ang pagdaing ni Genia sa tuwing siya’y tatawag. Nang sumunod na mga buwan, sinabi naman nitong pinagbubuhat siya ng mabigat ng kanyang amo kahit tinapay pa rin ang kinakain niya. Hirap na hirap na umano siya kanyang kinalalagyan.

Noong Enero 2008, tumawag muli si Genia at nagsabing gusto na niyang umuwi. Sa isang text nito sa pamilya, humihingi ito ng tulong. Parang nawawala na umano siya sa sarili at hindi na alam ang ginagawa. Ayon kay Lilybeth, sinabi ni Genia na may naaamoy siyang mabahong usok sa kanyang kinalalagyan at para na siyang nababaliw. Hindi niya na rin alam ang ginagawa sa kanya ng kanyang amo.

Sa Department of Foreign Affairs naman lumapit sina Lilybeth. Tugon ng mga opisyal ng ahensiya, baka homesick lang si Genia. Pinagbintangan pa ng mga ito na baka gumagawa lang ng istorya ang dalaga. Wala raw silang natatanggap na masamang balita tungkol sa isang OFW sa Riyadh.

Dahil walang maasahan sa mga ahensiya ng gobyerno, nagpunta si Lilybeth sa tanggapan ng Migrante International. May isang kaibigan na nagsabi sa kanya na puntahan ang Migrante para magpatulong sa pag-alam sa kalagayan ni Genia sa Saudi Arabia. Sinamahan naman siya ng Migrante sa DFA at tumulong sa pagkalampag sa naturang ahensiya.

Hanggang noong Pebrero 27, ibinalita ng DFA na patay na si Genia. Tatlong araw na raw itong patay. Ayon sa DFA, nagkulong ito ng tatlong araw at inumpog ang ulo sa pader. Pero nang makuha nina Lilybeth ang awtopsiyang ipinadala ng awtoridad ng Saudi Arabia, nakasaad doon na namatay si Genia dahil sa ospital dahil sa ulcer.

Hindi katanggap-tanggap para kina Lilybeth ang sinapit ng kapatid. Halos hindi nila nakilala ang bangkay ni Genia dahil tatlong buwan na itong nakaimbak. Naiuwi lamang ang bangkay ng dalaga sa pakikipagtulungan ng Migrante sa tanggapan ni Senador Manny Villar.


Hindi rin sila naniniwala na nagpakamatay ito. Pinatutunayan ito ng pinagsususpetsahan nilang mga marka ng pagmaltrato rito bago pa man ito namatay. Nais nila ng hustiya para sa pagkamatay ni Genia. Nakatakda nilang ipahukay at muling ipaawtopsiya ang katawan ng dalaga.

“Ayaw na nga ng nanay ko na ipahukay pa, pero iba na ang habol namin dito. Katarungan para sa pagkamatay ng aking kapatid,” ani Lilybeth.

Sa ngayon, isa si Lilybeth sa mga nangunguna sa pagkilos ng Migrante sa paghahanap ng katarungan sa marami pang biktima ng misteryosong pagkamatay ng mga OFW.

Patuloy naman ang pagsuporta ng Migrante sa mga katulad ng pamilya ni Genia.

Binatikos ng Migrante ang DFA at mga opisyal ng mga embahada ng Pilipinas sa iba’t ibang bansa sa pagkainutil na protektahan ang mga OFW. Ipinakikita umano nito ang pagkasunud-sunuran ng mga ito sa mga dayuhang gobyerno habang nagbubulag-bulagan sa katotohanan, at ipinagpapalit ang mga kapakanan ng mga biktima para lamang makapag-luwas ng murang paggawa at kumita mula sa remitans ng mga OFW.

Dumaraming kaso

Sa talaan ng Migrante, 23 kaso ng misteryosong pagkamatay ang naitala nila sa ilalim ng administrasyong Arroyo.

Ibinigay na halimbawa ng Migrante ang mga kaso ng umano’y pagpapakamatay nina Maria Mitos Vergara at Jefrey Alberto So, sa Dubai noong Hunyo 24 at ni Gilbert Angeles, na natagpuang patay sa kanyang apartment sa Singapore noong Hunyo 30.

Samantala, nagpahayag ng pagkabahala ang mga migrante sa United Arab Emirates sa tumataas na bilang ng ‘pagpapakamatay’ ng mga OFW lalo na’t walang ginagawang aksiyon ang mga opisyal ng Pilipinas sa naurang bansa.

“Naaalarma kami sa tumataas na ulat ng ‘pagpapakamatay’ ng mga OFW sa UAE. Ang aming tsapter sa Dubai ay nakapagtala na ng pitong kaso,” ayon kay Nhel Morona, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Migrante-UAE.

Sinabi pa ni Morona na nalalaman ng kanilang tsapter ang mga kaso ng ‘pagpapakamatay’ dahil na rin sa paghingi ng tulong mga kaanak ng mga biktima sa Migrante.

“Nagulat kami hindi lamang dahil sa biglang pagtaas ng bilang ng mga kaso ng ‘pagpapakamatay’ kundi dahil sa walang ginagawa ang mga opisyal ng embahada sa mga kasong ito kundi ideklarang ito’y mga ‘pagpapakamatay’ nang hindi man lamang iniimbestigahan,” ani Morona.

Nasa ibaba ang listahan ng Migrante-ME ng mga napaulat na ‘pagpapakamatay’ sa UAE:

Roderick Miranda – diumano’y nagbigti noong Peb. 4 2008

Norayda Ayuman – tumalon mula sa ikapitong palapag ng gusali noong Peb. 6, 2008

Jeffrey Alberto So – tumalon mula sa ikatlong palapag ng gusali noong Hun. 13, 2008

Mitos Vergara – tumalon mula sa gusali Hun. 24 2008

Myrna Baylosis –tumalon mula sa ikaapat na palag ng gusali Hul. 8, 2008

Remedios Waayan – iniuwi sa Pilipinas noong Hul. 24, 2008

Evelyn Lilo – napaulat na tumalon mula sa gusali Agosto 10, 2008.

Maliban rito, kinukumpirma pa ng Migrante-UAE ang napaulat na dalawang kaso ng isang lalaki at isang babae, na parehong nakabase sa Abu Dhabi.

Kaugnay nito, nanawagan ang Migrante sa Department of Foreign Affairs na atasan ang mga opisyal nito sa UAE na masusing imbestigahan ang mga naitalang kaso at magsagawa ng pag-awtopsiya at imbitahan ang mga pamilya ng mga biktima para maliwanagan ang mga ito sa sirkumstansiya ng pagkamatay ng kanilang kaanak.

“At kung lumabas sa awtopsiya na may ‘foul play’ sa pagkamatay, dapat lamang magsampa ng kaso ang mga opisyal ng embahada laban sa mga may kagagawan nito,” giit ni Morona.

Binatikos naman ng Migrante si Pangulong Arroyo sa pagsasabi nito noong nakaraang SONA na “pinangangalagaan niya ang mga OFW”, habang maraming Eugenia Baja pa ang humihingi ng katarungan. Ipinakikita lamang umano ng mga pagkamatay na ito ang “tunay na mukha” ng migrasyon taliwas sa nais na ipakita ng gobyerno.

Asambleya ng mga migrante

“Ang mga misteryosong pagkamatay na ito at iba pang isyu pang-migrante ang tatalakayin ng mga migrante sa International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees na gaganapin sa darating na Oktubre,” ayon kay Regalado.

Ang IAMR ang tugon ng mga migrante sa Global Forum on Migration and Development na gaganapin sa Pilipinas sa Oktubre 28-30. Kakaiba sa GFMD na ayon sa Migrante ay nagbebenta ng mga OFW sa mayayamang bansa, ang IAMR ang venue ng mga migrante para talakayin at solusyonan ang suliranin ng migrasyon.(PinoyWeekly)