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Badoy ‘heartless, shameless, irresponsible, despicable’ in red-tagging CNN Philippines amid calamity–NUJP

Despicable, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said of Lorraine Marie Badoy’s red-tagging of CNN Philippines during a calamity.

Reacting to the Cabinet undersecretary’s insinuation that alleged communist fronts exist inside the media company, the NUJP said Badoy “is totally irresponsible and endangers our colleagues in CNN, not to mention the members of LFS (League of Filipino Students) and our affiliate, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP).”

In a post on her Facebook account, Badoy takes CNN to task for retweeting an announcement from the League of Filipino Students, which she labels “a known front of the terrorist CPP NPA NDF,” that it is accepting donations for victims of typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.

She then asks: “Wassup, CNN? Is it true there is a LFS/CEGP cell inside CNN?”

Badoy, Presidential Communications Operations Office undersecretary for new media and spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, is among the Duterte government’s most notorious red-baiters.

Local and international human rights organizations have repeatedly warned the government that red-tagging often lead to unjust arrests or, worse, assassinations of government critics.

“By making baseless claims without any proof and casting blanket accusations against a media outfit and, yes, a youth organization, this unelected government official is, in fact, violating two basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution, due process and freedom of association,” the NUJP said in a statement Saturday.

The media group added Badoy actually vilified and practically seeks the criminalization of an act of charity at a time when millions of Filipinos desperately need all the help they can get.

“Such heartless behavior is a disgrace not only to her office but to the whole government she supposedly serves,” the NUJP said.

CNN Philippines did not take Badoy’s apparent slander sitting down, either, strongly objecting to her “misplaced and baseless allusion” that some of its employees have links to underground groups.

The company said in a statement that the LFS is just one of the many groups that have launched a relief drive for the victims of recent typhoons that include Caritas Manila, Kaya Natin PH, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, student organizations from UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Banos and Ateneo de Manila University, among others.

“We believe the back-to-back storms that ravaged our country serve as an opportunity to rise up from the ruins and practice the Filpino spirit of ‘Bayanihan’ in whatever capacity we can, rather than foray into red-tagging that will only sow disunity,” CNN Philippines said.

“We continue to update the list to give as many options for kindhearted individuals because we believe our suffering countrymen need all the help they can get in this time of calamities,” the company added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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Disclosure: Reporter is NUJP deputy secretary general and Kodao is a NUJP chapter.

As floods devastate Luzon, cellphone load becomes disaster relief

Experts urge effective communication programs as part of disaster management and relief.

Citizens have found a new and novel way of sending immediate aid to victims of the ongoing Luzon floods brought by Typhoon Ulysses: free cellphone load.

Michael Ramos Pagulayan offered to send Php50 worth of cellular load to those who need them in his home community of Auitan, San Pablo, Isabela.

Asked how much was he able to share so far, Pagulayan said he was able to send Php50 pesos each to his former elementary school classmates.

“I try to help because I have no way of going home because of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. I can’t fly home, I can’t drive. So I thought of sharing  mobile phone loads to flood victims who need to contact relatives here in Manila,” Pagulayan said.

Not many have taken up his offer, however, probably because they have ran out of batteries or have no mobile phone signals.

Auitan had been underwater for since Thursday in what many of its residents say is the worst flooding in decades.

Many victims in the community had been staying on their roofs as rescue efforts are frustrated by strong currents.

Anna Balasbas is a Pasay City resident who also gave Php30 to Php 100 cellular phone loads to 29 flood victims as of two o’clock Saturday afternoon.

Those who asked for load are from the Cagayan and Isabela provinces, Balasbas said.

Balasbas said she even talked to victim from Barangay Linao East in Tuguegarao City a few minutes past two o’clock who badly needed help, but their phone call got cut off.

“Her father suffered a heart attack. Her battery must have drained already,” Balasbas said.

Netizens had been storming social media sites demanding information on their families in severely flooded areas, especially in Cagayan Valley as well as in San Mateo and Rodriguez towns in Rizal and in Marikina City that were also hit by catastrophic flooding since Typhoon Ulysses hit Luzon Island on Wednesday.

Mobile phones had been the most reliable way for families to exchange information during disasters in the Philippines that break down as power and communication services are shut down by strong winds and flooding.

Communication as disaster aid and relief

Even emergency responses by the government are affected by breakdowns in communication and information exchange, United States-based public safety expert Thomas Connelly said.

“As important as the flow of information into the managers of any disaster situation is the flow of information out to emergency responders, residents, search and evaluation teams, other emergency managers and management agencies is critical,” Connelly wrote

“Dissemination of timely and credible information can minimize the potential for loss of life and injury, help residents understand the extent of the emergency, simplify first responders’ tasks, accelerate the recovery phase and minimize the overall impact of the disaster event on the community,” Connelly, a retired police officer who developed Los Altos, California’s emergency and disaster response plan, said.

Quezon City Disaster Response and Relief Management Council officer Ares Gutierrez said communications is the most crucial yet oftentimes neglected area in disaster and emergency management.

“Communications bridges everything. Disaster managers need an efficient communications system to enable them to efficiently coordinate response efforts and save more lives,” Gutierrez told Kodao.

Ares Gutierrez being interviewed after a strong earthquake jolted Luzon in November 2016. (Photo from his Facebook account.)

Gutierrez said timely and frequent communication also prevents disinformation and assure the public that help is on its way.

Effective communications from the ground up will also enable decision-makers to determine whether response plans are working or needs calibration and now what type of further assistance is needed, he said.

“In times of disaster, the public wants to know how or where they can get help, what risks or dangers they face, and how they can protect themselves and their families,” Gutierrez added.

Gutierrez, a crisis and disaster risk management expert, said citizens offering mobile phone loads is a way of compensating for the perceived lack or breakdown of disaster communications.

“Humanity kicks in when you see people crying for help. You want to jump in and help. Sharing cellphone credit can be a lifesaver,” he said.

Gutierrez, however, warned that such gestures are useless if the phone network is totally down.

“A disaster-prone country like ours should have all types of communications platform in place so we don’t get cut off during crucial moments,” he said.

Gutierrez also urged the government, the private sector and the academe to act together to implement the many disaster preparedness and communication plans that languish on the drawing boards.

“Ondoy gave us a decade to prepare for Ulysses; Yolanda should have reminded us that we should get our acts done. The problem is, we easily forget,” Gutierrez said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Worst flooding in decades: Cagayan Valley’s turn to cry for help

It is Cagayan Valley’s turn to cry for help as the swollen Cagayan River submerged many barangays along its banks that led to the region’s worst flooding in decades.

As heavy rains brought by Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) inundated the region, Magat Dam has opened seven of its floodgates since Thursday, further swelling the country’s biggest river system and bringing near unprecedented flooding of communities from Central Isabela all the way to Aparri, Cagayan.

Infographic by PDRRMC Isabela

Hundreds of victims have spent days on their roofs, crying out to be rescued or be brought drinking water and food.

Local government units seemed overwhelmed and powerless, admitting they lack the equipment and personnel to deal with the crisis.

Even the region’s economic center, Tuguegarao City in Cagayan Province, is hard hit by the flooding with several of its barangays submerged in 15 feet of flood.

Water level reached as high as 13 meters at the city’s Buntun Bridge and the mighty river looked like the Pacific Ocean, Cagayan Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Office chief Ascio Macalan said on ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.

Cagayan Provincial Risk Reduction Management Management Council (PDRRMC) reported eight deaths, and five injuries due to the flooding as of Saturday morning.

In a separate radio interview, Cagayan governor Manuel Mamba said several portions of the Maharlika Highway are impassable, hampering rescue and relief operations on nearly all municipalities located along the banks of the Cagayan River.

The local executive said that aside from the excess water continuously being released by the Dam, all from the Sierra Madre, Caraballo and Cordillera mountain ranges drain into the Cagayan River, worsening the flooding.

Cagayan River was already swollen due to incessant rains since Supertyphoon Rolly, and Typhoons Sonia and Tonyo.

“It has been two weeks since this (flooding) started,” the governor said.

Mamba said he already asked the Provincial Board to be declared Cagayan under a state of calamity, admitting that its calamity fund has already been exhausted from its coronavirus pandemic operations and earlier floods.

In San Pablo, Isabela, Barangay Auitan residents report of the worst flooding since the early 1980s and complain of lack of rescue and relief operations.

Residents with single-storey houses have evacuated to houses with upper floors but many victims have remained on their roofs, neighbors with boats failing to rescue them due to strong currents.

Flooding in San Pablo, Isabela. (Photo by Ninz Khalifa Mesa)

Some victims have been wet and hungry for at least two days already.

Only two Magat Dam floodgates remain open as of Saturday morning and the flood has receded by three inches, relatives of victims said on Facebook.

#CagayanNeedsHelp and #IsabelaNeedsHelp have trended on Twitter, highlighting the desperation of victims and their worried relatives in Metro Manila.

Rescue and relief plans have yet to be announced by the national government, still busy with similar operations in the Bicol, Southern Tagalog (ST), Central Luzon and National Capital Region (NCR).

Typhoon Ulysses floods in Northern Rizal Province, Marikina, as well as parts of Bulacan Province and other NCR provinces have exceeded 2009’s Tropical Storm Ondoy, reports said, overstretching rescue and relief operations of both local and national governments.

Meanwhile, several church groups and activist organizations have begun their relief operations in affected areas in Bicol, ST and NCR on top of bringing relief to the victims of the massive fire in Bacoor, Cavite at the height of Super Typhoon Rolly. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Neri Colmenares wins international human rights award

Neri Colmenares, one of the country’s most prominent public interest lawyers, is this year’s awardee for outstanding contribution to human rights by the foremost organization for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies.

The International Bar Association (IBA) bestowed Colmenares the award for his “extensive contribution to human rights, and his continuing determination and advocacy, in the face of great adversity.”

IBA said Colmenares has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion, protection and advancement of the human rights of any group of people, particularly with respect to their right to live in a fair and just society under the rule of law.

The presentation was made on Monday, 9 November, during the online Section on Public and Professional Interest Awards ceremony as part of the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference.

Himself a victim of unrelenting red-baiting by military, police and government officials for his human rights advocacy and activism, Colmenares is a former three-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives and is currently the national chairperson of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).

He is also a leader of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties and adviser for advocacies of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Stellar academic career

Colmenares’ human rights advocacy began when he became the Western Visayas regional chairperson of the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines during martial law in the 1970s.

Neri Colmenares (Photo by Bong Magpayo from the Bedans for neri Colmenares Facebook page)

While campaigning for the return of student councils in schools ordered closed by then President Ferdinand Marcos, Colmenares was arrested and tortured by the military.

He spent four years in jail as one of martial law’s youngest political prisoners at 18.

After his release from prison, Colmenares earned his BA Economics degree from San Beda University (SBU), his law degree from the University of the Philippines and his Master of Laws degree from the University of Melbourne in Australia on scholarship.

Colmenares is an outstanding alumnus awardee of SBU.

Legal fighter

As a human rights lawyer, Colmenares has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court and championed causes in the legislature in support of marginalized sectors, including the following:

* The Party List Election Case in 2000, which led to the High Court ordering that 20 per cent of the seats in Congress be reserved for the marginalized and underrepresented poorer .

* The Pork Barrel Case during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration that led the Supreme Court to declare the Congressional practice as unconstitutional.

* In 2017 Mr Colmenares, alongside fellow human rights lawyers, constitutionalists and several law students, established Manlaban sa EJK that campaigns against the continuing extra judicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte.

* Colmenares is also acting as co-counsel in a complaint against President Duterte for crimes against humanity, filed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by families of extrajudicial killing victims.

* Colmenares is a counsel-complainant in one of the 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

As a parliamentarian, Colmenares advocated for the democratic rights of those with disabilities and the elderly, such as special election precincts to assist them in voting, as well as introducing the Early Voting Law for media personnel who would be covering the election on the day.

He also authored the law mandating the Philippine government to issue early warning to citizens during disasters and calamities as well as an increase of benefits given to social security system pensioners, among many other pieces of legislation.  

In 2005, Colmenares helped organize the Counsels for the Defense against Attacks on Lawyers, a group of lawyers and law students advocating against the unlawful killings and arrests of their colleagues under then President Arroyo.

Colmenares (second from left) denouncing extra-judicial killings. (Photo from Neri Colmenares’s Facebook account)

‘Exceptional lawyer’

In bestowing him the award, IBA Human Rights Law Committee co-chairperson Federica D’Alessandra said Colmenares has drawn on every tool in the legal toolbox, from legislation, to litigation, to advocacy in order to advance human rights and the rule of law for the protection of the Filipino people.

“With this award the IBA recognizes [Colmenares’] incredible accomplishments, and celebrates his great resolve as he continues to fight for media freedom, and stand against extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and unlawful detention in the Philippines,” D’Alessandra said.

“Mr Colmenares is truly an exceptional human rights lawyer, and has contributed hugely to increasing respect for the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights. His advocacy is all the more remarkable given the relentless persecution in the Philippines of individuals speaking out against human rights abuses. His continuing determination and courage make him an exceptional awardee,” she added.

No better time

The NUPL said it is humbled by the International Bar Association’s choice of Colmenares as the recipient of the prestigious award.

“It could not have come at a better time than now that human rights lawyers and defenders in the Philippines are under attack especially in the form of vicious vilification commonly referred to as red-tagging,” the NUPL said.

The group said this is the first time that a Filipino has won the award bestowed by IBA’s

80,000 member-lawyers from 190 Bar Associations in 160 countries worldwide.

“We share the elation of our colleagues, clients and friends and see this latest award on yet another prominent progressive leader not only as a distinct and well-deserved honor but also as a tribute to all others who rage against injustice despite the great odds and risks and as a clear repudiation of the ongoing demonization of human rights defenders and social activists in the country,” the NUPL said.

The group also asked the global legal community to continue monitoring the human rights situation in the Philippines and support their campaign for human rights as well as the call to stop the attacks against lawyers, judges and human rights defenders.

“We hope that message sinks in on those forces who peddle lies, spins and crap against us who continue to push back and stand ground against brazen attacks on rights and freedom,” the NUPL said.

Added reason to continue human rights work

Colmenares said the award is both an honor and an inspiration to human rights lawyers like them to continue their work with the people despite the threats and difficulties.

He said awards from established international institutions like the IBA serves as a mantle of protection to threatened lawyers worldwide.

“Fifty (50) lawyers and judges have been killed in the Philippines since 2016 and this award will also provide a mantle of protection for human rights lawyers like me,” Colmenares said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gunmen shoot Pangasinan reporter dead

A journalist who survived an assassination attempt in November 2016 was shot dead at his home in Villasis, Pangasinan this morning, November 10.

Virgilio “Vir” Maganes, a reporter of local newspaper Northern Watch and commentator of local radio station DWPR, was shot at 6:30 AM in front of his residence at Sitio Licsab, Barangay San Blas.

A police spot report said Maganes was about to enter their residential compound when the killers fired at him six times, killing him immediately.

Maganes was hit on the head and other parts of the body.

In 2016, Maganes survived a gun attack while on board a tricycle and was wounded on his torso.

He played dead as the tricycle careened on the side of the road but saw his assailant put a hand-written placard near him accusing him of being a drug personality.

The placard read: “Drug pusher huwag pamarisan”, in what the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said may be seen as an attempt to divert attention from the real motive for the slay try.

Maganes denied ever being involved in illegal drugs.

The victim was a known critic of local politicians he accused in his reports and radio programs of being illegal gambling operators.

In its alert, the NUJP said Maganes would be the 18th journalist murdered during the Rodrigo Duterte administration and the 190th since 1986.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security told Kodao that it has dispatched investigators to Pangasinan to look into Maganes’ killing.

The victim turned 62 years old last November 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

More rights violations with Sinas as top cop, groups warn

A farmers’ group and a human rights organization warned that more rights abuses will follow National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) commander Major General Debold Sinas’s appointment as the next Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

Following the announcement by Malacanan Palace that the controversial officer is the country’s next top cop, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Sinas’ record is enough proof that the police would be further tainted with more human rights violations once he assumes command.

The group said Sinas is accountable for Oplan Sauron in Negros it blames for the deaths,   arrests, and detention of farmers and activists during his stint as Central Visayas Regional Police Office chief.

“Sinas is also behind the arrests of Manila-based activists including Reina Mae Nasino. Sinas is also on the hook for the still unresolved brutal killing of peasant leader and peace consultant Randy Echanis last August 10,” the KMP said in a statement.

Sinas, described by the KMP as an “attack dog” of President Rodrigo Duterte, will replace outgoing PNP Chief Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan.

The police general also courted widespread condemnation by celebrating his birthday last March with a party at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City despite a government-imposed ban on gatherings.

The KMP said that with Sinas at the PNP’s helm the public must expect for the worst from the police and remain vigilant at all times.

“The PNP only serves at the pleasure of the President who terrorizes the people on a daily basis,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said it is not surprised at Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief as Duterte has a clear penchant for rewarding the most notorious of human rights violators with rank promotions.

Karapatan warned that with Sinas’s appointment, ”a bloody party of human rights violations” is sure to follow.

“Duterte’s most rabid and murderous lapdogs are given freer rein to merrily kill, kill, and kill with wanton impunity,” the group said in a statement.

Karapatan said it fears Sinas will continue the Duterte government’s “sham and bloody drug war and the repression of critics and activists.”

The group recalled that the Commission on Human Rights reported the increase of drug-related killings in Central Visayas from July 2018 to October 2019 when he was police chief in the region.

“Karapatan has nothing but indignation and disgust for Sinas’ appointment. The messages being sent are clear as day: follow the president’s orders and you will be protected and promoted,” Karapatan said.

“[T]his fascist regime is gearing up for an intensified crackdown on dissent and assault on human rights by appointing one of its most loyal butchers as the country’s top cop,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

OFWs demand increased budget for protection and welfare amid Covid-19

An organization of migrants called on the Philippine government to ensure social protection and welfare services for overseas Filipino workers (OFW), Filipino migrants and their families by increasing funding for these programs in the proposed 2021 National Budget. 

In an online petition on change.org, Migrante International pointed out that in the proposal, only Php 8.6 Billion from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is allotted to fund programs that seek to assist and support OFWs and migrants in distress. 

The group said that despite the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Filipinos abroad, the proposed 2021 budget of Php1.2B for the DFA’s Assistance to Nationals Program (ATN) and Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) is only the same as in the 2020 budget.

It also said that while the proposed budget for OWWA has significantly increased to Php7.4B, the amount will still be inadequate to serve the thousands of OFWs who remain stranded overseas and awaiting repatriation due to the pandemic.

Migrante International said there are thousands of OFWs who lost their jobs who have yet to receive any financial assistance from the government.

Under the AKAP program, the financial assistance for displaced land-based and sea-based Filipino workers program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), only 280,000 OFWs were granted financial assistance out of the estimated 1 million OFWs who were displaced in the past seven months. 

“The proposed budget does not take into account the increased support needed for the millions of Filipino migrants who have been displaced and severely affected by the COVID19 pandemic and who are in need of financial and livelihood assistance, welfare support, repatriation assistance and comprehensive health services,” Migrante International said.

“[T]he proposed budget will potentially leave hundreds of Filipino migrants every year who are victims of labor exploitation, human trafficking, illegal recruitment, gender-based violence, and discrimination neglected for lack of adequate funds to support their cases,” the group added.

The group also asked the government to provide immediate financial assistance in the amount of Php10,000 to all Filipino migrants, OFWs and their families affected by the pandemic by allotting an additional Php 7.2B to the DOLE AKAP Program. 

Migrante International said additional funds are also needed for hiring more personnel, legal advocates, interpreters, and other critical resources to effectively improve services and social welfare and protection for vulnerable migrants. 

The group also demanded that the government fully subsidize OWWA services and programs and stop the collection of OWWA membership dues from OFWs.

“To recover from the pandemic, the people, especially overseas and local workers, farmers and the poor need an expenditure program that heals and unites,” Migrante International said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Some 50,000 Filipinos left Dubai since June amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Angel L. Tesorero

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Around 50,000 Filipinos from Dubai and the Northern Emirates have left for home since June for various reasons brought about by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Philippine consul general to this city Paul Raymund Cortes said during a press briefing on Monday.

Cortes added the Philippine Consulate in Dubai has also provided free tickets and assistance to more than 2,600 distressed Filipinos, including 143 Filipinos who were repatriated on Saturday (October 31).

“Repatriation started in June and the Philippine Consulate has facilitated the return of Filipino workers and their families who were affected by the pandemic. Most of them returned home after they lost their jobs or were asked by the employers to go on a long furlough. Some decided to go home for good — after spending several years in Dubai — while others were stranded Filipino tourists and some took advantage of the amnesty programme by the UAE,” Cortes said.

The Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi have yet to provide the number of Filipinos who have left the UAE since the outbreak of the pandemic.

PhP68.5M spent for tickets

Cortes recalled three repatriation flights were chartered by the Philippine government back in June and August while majority returned home via commercial flights by Emirates, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.

According to Cortes, the Philippine Consulate has spent around PhP68.5 million (Emirati Dirham 5.2M) for the tickets of over 2,600 Filipinos who went back home. The money was sourced from the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) funds of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

Swab tests

Philippine Labor Attaché Felicitas Bay said returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families were given free COVID-19 swab test upon arrival in Manila.

Bay clarified the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) did not discriminate whether or not returning Filipinos were members of OWWA.

“They (OFWs) were just asked to show a proof of employment or their working visa,” Bay explained.

Those who were not employed as migrant workers were required to pay for the swab test.

Aside from the free swab test, returning OFWs and their families were also provided free hotel stay and meals during the quarantine period while they were waiting for the COVID test result. Those who had to return to the provinces were also given free transportation.

Speaking during a virtual forum in Manila on Monday, OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac Sadi: “We want to emphasise that the swab test being conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard at the airport is free. The specimen being brought to government laboratories is also free. The OFWs who are there (airport) need not pay anything.”

He advised arriving OFWs not to patronize those offering swab testing at the airport in exchange for a fee. “We advised our OFWs not to engage the offer at the airport to pay for the test,” he added.

According to Philippine media reports, returning OFWs were being charged up to Php20,000 for the immediate release of their test results. Cacdac said there are still 5,200 OFWs who are still in hotel quarantine accommodations while waiting for their swab test results.

Left to right Melvin Caseda, welfare officer; Renato Duenas, deputy consul-general; Paul Raymund Cortes, Philippine consul general; Felicitas Bay, Philippine labour Attache (supplied photo)

Assistance to OFWs

Meanwhile, Bay said the Philippine Labor Office in Dubai (POLO-Dubai) has disbursed a total of PhP208.2M (Dh15.8) as cash aid to 21,625 Filipinos in Dubai whose jobs were affected by COVID-19.

The cash assistance is part of DOLE-AKAP (Department of Labor and Employment-Abot Kamay Ang Pagtulong), a one-time financial assistance amounting to Dh730 for each Filipino benefeciary.

Bay noted around 98,000 Filipinos have applied for the cash aid since April 10. Her office is still evaluating some of the application but Philippine government has allotted a budget for only 22,000 recipients, she added.

Livelihood assistance

Bay added OWWA members who have returned to the Philippines for good can avail of a livelihood assistance program amounting to maximum of P20,000 (Dh1,520) while non-OWWA members who were lost their job can also avail of the National Re-Integration Center for OFWs program that can provide cash assistance up to P10,000 (Dh760). “They just need to show their displacement/ termination letter,” Bay noted.

Meanwhile, Cortes advised Filipino expats who lost their jobs “to work closely with their respective HR (human resources) personnel to ensure that they will get their end of service benefits (EOSB).

“Due diligence must be done by the workers and they must make arrangements with their HR. They (OFWs), may, however, avail of free legal consultation from the Philippine Consulate,” Cortes added. #

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This report is original to Gulf News.

“Rolly” is now a super typhoon with gusts of 310kph

[UPDATED: 8:30 am]

The Philippine weather bureau has categorized tropical cyclone Rolly (international name: Goni) as a super typhoon with maximum sustained winds of 225 km/h near the center and gusts of up to 310 km/h.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration-Department of Science and Technology (PAGASA-DOST) said in its 5 am advisory that Rolly made landfall over Bato, Catanduanes at 4:50 this morning.

Rolly made its second landfall at Tiwi, Albay at 7:20 this morning, PAGASA added in its 8 am advisory.

The super typhoon is expected to bring catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall over Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norter, Albay, northern parts of Sorsogon and the central and southern parts of Quezon.

“This a particularly dangerous situation for these areas,” the bureau said.

PAGASA said  that Rolly’s center will be heading towards CALABARZON and is forecast to exit the mainland Luzon landmass and emerge over the Philippine Sea tomorrow early morning.

The typhoon will bring heavy to intense with at times torrential rains over Bicol Region, CALABARZON, Metro Manila, Marinduque, Romblon, Mindoro Provinces, Bataan, Bulacan, Aurora, Northern Samar, Samar, Eastern Samar, Biliran, and the eastern portions of mainland Cagayan and Isabela, the agency announced.

It added that very destructive to devastating typhoon-force winds will be experienced in areas under Tropical Cyclone Wind Signals (TCWS) #4 and #5, destructive typhoon-force winds in areas under TCWS #3, damaging gale- to storm-force winds in areas under TCWS #2, and strong breeze to near gale conditions in areas under TCWS #1.

In the next 24 hours, there is a high risk of storm surge of more than 3.0 m over the coastal areas of Catanduanes and Camarines Norte and the northern coastal areas of Quezon including Polillo Islands and Camarines Sur.

Coastal areas of Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, the southeastern coastal area of Batangas (facing Tayabas Bay), and most of the southern coastal areas of Quezon may also experience sorm surges of up to three meters.

Coastal areas of Marinduque, Lubang Island, Albay, Masbate (including Ticao and Burias Islands), Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar and the remaining coastal areas of Quezon, Camarines Sur, and Batangas will likewise experience storm surges of up to two meters, PAGASA said.

The lakes of Laguna de Bay and Taal may also experience life-threatening coastal inundations, it added.

Supertyphoon Rolly is moving west-southwestward at 25 km/h and is expected to exit between Cavite and the Bataan Peninsula towards the West Philippine Sea by Monday. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Rouge Gallery’: Men wear red lipstick vs red-tagging

Men took up actor Angel Locsin’s red lipstick challenge in protest of Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. General Antonio Parlade Jr.’s latest red-tagging spree against government critics.

In response to Parlade’s newest accusation that Locsin, sister Angela Colmenares and cousin Neri Colmenares are either Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) members or New People’s Army fighters, Locsin took to social media platforms to ask those against red tagging to wear red lipstick.

The “challenge”, with the hashtags #NoToRedTagging and #YesToRedLipstick, went viral.

Parlade’s latest red-baiting binge also attacked actors Lisa Soberano and 2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray who spoke on online women’s rights forums organized by Gabriela Youth.

Gabriela Youth is one of many organizations the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict repeatedly red-tags as a CPP front.

Red-baiting had been condemned as dangerous to its victims, many of whom are later assassinated by suspected military agents.

It is not only the womenfolk who took up Locsin’s challenge; men did too.

Singers

Chickoy Pura
Danny Fabella

Teachers

Former Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) national president Benjie Valbuena
Former ACT secretary general Fabian Hallig
Ateneo de Manila history professor Francis Gealogo

Journalists

Mindanao Gold Star Daily associate editor Cong B. Corrales
LicasNews reporter Joel Pablo Salud
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines national chairperson Nonoy Espina

Overseas Filipino Workers

OFW in Italy Gardo Banzon
OFW ih Italy Kat Leya

Civil Servant

Bayan Muna Representative Karlos Zarate

Filmmaker

Ron Magbuhos Papag

Activist

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Roberto de Castro

Church Worker

National Council of Churches of the Philippines’ Mervin Toquero

(By Raymund B. Villanueva / All photos taken from the subjects’ respective Facebook accounts / Featured image editing by Alyssa Mae Clarin)