‘Evil and crooked’: Councilor, employees unions condemn dismissal of 60 Bacolod employees

A Bacolod Councilor opposed the termination of 60 employees of the city’s water district, saying the move is a grave abuse of authority by the directors of the local water utility.

In a privileged speech Friday, January 8, Councilor Wilson Gamboa said the Board of Directors of the Bacolod City Water District (BACIWA) unjustly and illegally terminated the workers in collaboration with the private water utility company PrimeWater Infrastruture, Inc.

The local legislator was reacting to the Board’s decision to terminate the workers effective December 31 by declaring their positions “redundant” after the public water utility signed a controversial Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with PrimeWater.

PrimeWater is owned by the family of Senator Cynthia Villar.

Gamboa said the firing of the employees hammered the final nail of a total “takeover” of BACIWA by PrimeWater.

“These members of the BACIWA Board of Directors believed that they are the absolute authority by issuing arbitrary, capricious, and illegal resolutions and orders which completely gave PrimeWater total supervision and control over its management, operations, collections, and the trampling of employees’ rights. Now, they have evolved as the henchmen of PrimeWater,” Gamboa fumed.

Gamboa said the BACIWA Board could not declare the workers’ positions as redundant when PrimeWater would hire private employees as replacement, including the fired employees who would be “reabsorbed” should they take Option 2 of the proffered retirement package.

The legislator also said the “evil and crooked” BACIWA directors failed to conduct proper consultation with the affected employees.

“[The workers’] rights and tenure must be protected against an unjust, inhuman, and illegal order of the Board of Directors of BACIWA who acted as the corporate carpetbaggers and collaborators of PrimeWater,” Gamboa said.

First dismissed government employees of 2021

Employees union president Leny Espina, who was among those dismissed, said the affected workers were barred from entering the BACIWA premises since Monday, January 4.

Espina said the union will continue to stage actions in front of the BACIWA office every day along with other Bacolod City supporters in protest of their dismissal and the takeover of the public water utility.

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) and the Water System Employees Response (WATER) also launched a nationwide campaign to have the dismissed employees reinstated.

COURAGE National President Santiago Dasmariñas, Jr. said the dismissal violated the constitutional and legal rights of government employees to security of tenure.

He added that the dismissal was also meant to quell legitimate protests against the privatization of local water services.

“We ask the Duterte government to stop privatization of local water services and put laid off public sector workers back to work!” Dasmariñas said.

Ramir Corcolon, WATER secretary general, asked the government to put the welfare of people above business interests.

“Experience has shown that privatization of water only led to more expensive but still poor, or even poorer, water services. Greed should not reign over the right of the public to affordable and quality water services,” Corcolon said.

Water district unions and national agency employees unions all over the country also posted photos of solidarity activities in support of the BACIWA workers Thursday. #(Raymund B. Villanueva)

Veteran labor leader Manny Sarmiento dies in Austria

Former Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) leader and migrant rights advocate Manuel Sarmiento died in Vienna, Austria last Friday, December 11. He was 72 years old.

“Ka Manny” to the Philippine labor movement and the Filipino migrant community in Europe, Sarmiento was reported to have died “suddenly but peacefully.”

He served as KMU’s third secretary general and led the country’s premiere labor federation alongside iconic labor leaders Rolandia Olalia and Crispin Beltran from the federation’s founding in the 1980s.

Sarmiento worked as an accountant of the multinational corporation Nestle but resigned to work full time as labor organizer when he co-founded FILIPRO-Nestle Philippines, the union of the company’s sales force.

He was also president of the Drug, Food, and Allied Workers’ Federation, one of KMU’s founding organizations on May 1, 1980.

“Ka Manny was known as a silent worker, industrious and disciplined with time, especially at work and during meetings,” the KMU said in a statement paying tribute to one of its co-founders.

KMU said Sarmiento was kind and patient with the workers he came into contact with. He was also creative and frugal with resources.

KMU recalled that in response to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ General Order No. 5 prohibiting mass gatherings, Sarmiento organized the showing of the iconic film “Lion of the Desert” to militate workers against the draconian edict.

“It was actually an indoor rally by workers against Marcos’ order,” KMU said.

Sarmiento, along with current KMU chairperson Elmer Labog and fellow veteran labor leader Leto Villar, led the negotiations when all Nestle unions affiliated with DFA-KMU held a company-wide strike in the 1980s.

Exemplary leader

As a labor leader, Sarmiento was neat and efficient, writer Ina Silverio recalled.

“[He was] always so neat and organized…ensuring that the central federation’s position and analysis are presented in meetings and press conferences,” Silverio wrote in her tribute to her former boss of six years.

“[He was] never late to meetings, and when [he] led them, everything ran like clockwork,” she said, adding that while Sarmiento was kind and considerate with others, he was “strict when it came to ensuring that the agenda of meetings were followed and completed.”

Silverio recalled that while Sarmiento sacrificed a well-paying white collar job, he totally embraced the activists’ mantra of “simple life, arduous struggle,” thinking nothing of eating giveaways from grateful workers even on a daily basis.

“[N]o matter how simple the food was, we enjoyed it together, always laughing and telling stories. Suman. Pansit. Pan de sal,” Silverio wrote.

“There should be more Manny Sarmientos—a shining example of proletarian leaders!” Silverio said.

In 2004, however, Sarmiento could no longer put off his promise to his family to follow them to Austria.

“I know how sad [he was] when [he] had to leave for Austria. [He] already put off leaving for years, and it was time to bring [his] small family together. He was a great loss to the local labor movement then,” Silverio added.

Ka Manny Sarmiento in a Migrante Austria forum (photo by Migrante Austria)

Migrant leader

But the labor movement’s loss in Sarmiento was the then budding migrant rights struggle’s gain, KMU said.

“He was key in the formation of PINAS FIRST, the Pinoy First in Austrian Society for Integrity and Social Transformation), an organization of Filipino migrants in Austria,” KMU said.

Sarmiento was also Migrante International’s Austria representative, and was elected president when Migrante Austria was formally founded in 2014.

“Up until his death, Ka Manny worked with a company offering mailing and printing services while organizing, mobilizing and issuing statements of concern regarding the issues of migrants and refugees, recently within the framework of the April 28 Coalition, of which he was a founding member,” Migrante Austria said in its tribute to Sarmiento.

“Ka Manny was a fervent advocate of democracy and human rights. We at Migrante Austria would like to express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the years of comradeship we have shared. It has been a privilege and an honor to work with Ka Manny,” the group added.

KMU said that Sarmiento exemplified genuine activists who find a thousand and one ways to advocate for just wages, jobs, rights and freedoms of the working class wherever they find themselves.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalist, 6 trade union organizers arrested in police raids on human rights day

[UPDATED] A journalist was among those arrested by the Philippine National Police in a wave of arrests today, International Human Rights Day.

Lady Ann Salem, editor of alternative news site Manila Today, was arrested by the police at 9AM at her residence in Mandaluyong City.

Salem inside an unmarked police car this morning. (Photo by a relative)

She was first taken to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headquarters in Quezon City but was whisked to a Pasig City police office just as her lawyer Kristina Conti arrived.

Conti and Manila Today staff followed the police van to Pasig City but were led to a chase that ended in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where Salem is now being detained.

Salem, a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP-CMC), co-founded the alternative media group Tudla and was among those who attended the founding assembly of the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) in 2010.

She is also a fellow of the Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop of UP-CMC.

Tudla and Manila Today are chapters of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Salem is also the communications officer of the global media group International Association of Women in Radio and Television.

Wave of arrests

Since 2AM this morning, the police had been raiding homes and arresting trade union organizers.

Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines was first to be arrested at their home in Lagro, Quezon city by the CIDG and was taken to Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District.

Like many other arrested activists, the police alleged that Velasco was in possession of guns and explosives.

In a Facebook Live post, Velasco’s wife Diane Zapata denied they were keeping such items at their home.

She in turn accused the police of planting them while they were ordered to lie face down for an hour and the police team had unhampered access to their house.

In a police report, the CIDG said it also arrested a Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Raiselle Astudillo, Jaymie Gregorio, and Joel Demate in a wave of arrests in Quezon City, Mandaluyong and Manila that netted several guns, explosives and ammunition.

Human rights and media groups are organizing an online rally at 7PM tonight to demand for Salem and the trade union organizers’ freedom.

Indignation rallies are also scheduled Friday morning at Camp Karingal, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court and Camp Crame. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KMU: Police in industrial zones violate labor rights

Labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemned the creation of police offices in Central Luzon industrial zones, saying the move violates the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to form and join organizations.

The KMU blasted Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region III and the Rodrigo Duterte government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as the agencies announced the creation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) to prevent militant labor groups from organizing unions in the region.

“The creation of the JIPCO is a direct attack on workers’ basic right to form unions –our legitimate means to collectively fight for our basic interests and welfare as workers. The JIPCO is meant to stifle not the so-called ‘radical labor infiltration’ but the workers’ very right to exercise self-organization and union work,” KMU Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

PNP Central Luzon director Police General Rhodel Sermonia last Wednesday, January 22, led JIPCO’s launch at the Clark Freeport Zone in Zambales Province “to act as the first line of defense from radical labor infiltration of the labor force and the industrial zones in support of ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict).”

With Sermonia as guests of honor and speakers were presidential adviser on the peace process Secretary Carlito Galvez, newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) Direcor General Archie Francisco Gamboa, and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director Charito Plaza. 

The KMU however said there can be no peace anywhere in the Philippines if the PNP, known for criminal and deadly practices such as “ninja cops” and “Oplan Tokhang”, are tasked to prevent unionism in factories and workplaces.

The group also noted that both the PNP and Philippine Army have repeatedly accused militant labor unions of being supporters of the underground communist movement in the Philippines. The creation of a JIPCO is precisely aimed to prevent organizing of unions which will affect the entire labor sector, it added.

“The [NTF-ELCAC] has been weaponized to the extent of violating fundamental rights of workers to form unions, which are clearly provided in the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution, as well as International Conventions. The JIPCO in effect bans the existence of any union and all unions in Central Luzon,” said KMU’s Labog.

The militant labor group charged that the JIPCO is a project of the National Task Force- End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which was created through Executive Order No. 70.

“That the JIPCO is a mechanism to defend industrial zones from radical labor in support of the ELCAC is all rhetoric for crushing legitimate people’s organizations carrying legitimate demands, such as unions calling for higher wages, regular work and implementation of labor standards, especially in Economic Zones which are not regulated by the Labor Department,” Labog said.

The labor leader also added that “only the few big capitalists stand to benefit from the eradication of unions in the economic zones.”

The KMU Chairman asked workers and the people to launch actions and engage all institutions to stop JIPCO even as it looks for possible legal actions against the PNP and PEZA. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Welga inilunsad ng mga manggagawa ng Super 8

Inilunsad ng mga manggagawa ng Super 8 Warehouse ang kanilang welga sa Axis Road, Brgy. Kalawaan sa Pasig City noong Agosto 6 laban sa malawakang tanggalan sa kanilang kumpanya.

Itinayo nila ang welga dakong 7:00 ng umaga at lumahok ang 88 manggagawa.

Mariin nilang binatikos ang management na Matapat Service Cooperative na siyang pwersahang nagtanggal sa mga manggagawa.

Bukod dito, tinututulan din nila ang mahigpit na pamamalakad ng Agency, panggigipit at pangwawasak ng unyon.

Nagtungo sila sa Pasig City Hall kung saan kinausap sila ng bagong mayor ng syudad na si Vico Sotto.

Hiling nila na maibalik sila sa trabaho, maibigay ang kanilang mga naudlot na benepisyo at kilalanin ang bagong tayong unyon. Nasa 200 kontraktwal na mga manggagawa ang nasa Super 8 Warehouse sa Pasig.

Ito ay pagmamay-ari ni Alvin Lim, founder at CEO ng Super 8 Retail System at sister company din ng Suy Sing Commercial Corporation. (Music: News background Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Si Jimmy at mga manggagawa ng PEPMACO

Si Jimmy Sioson ay isang kontraktwal na manggagawa sa Peerless Producers Manufacturing Corporation o PEPMACO na sumali sa welga simula noong Hunyo 24 sa Canlubang, Laguna.

Ibinahagi niya na bukod sa pagiging kontraktwal, masahol ang kanilang kalagayan sa pagawaan. Walang safety procedure at napakainit ng sabon na kanilang niluluto. Bukod pa rito, 12 oras sila kung magtrabaho, at kahit holiday a pinapapasok pa sila nang walong oras.

Nang buwagin ang isa nilang picketline noong Hunyo 28, isa si Jimmy sa malubhang nasugatan. Bukod sa tinamaan ng bato ang kanyang ulo, pinagpapalo pa siya ng mga gwardya at binomba ng tubig.

Hiling niya na pansamantala munang i-boykot ang mga produkto ng PEPMACO at humarap ang may-ari para matugunan ang kanilang mga hinaing. Ang PEPMACO ay pagmamay-ari ng kapitalistang si Simeon Tiu. Ang kanilang mga produkto ay ang sabon na Champion, detergent powder na Calla, Hana shampoo at Systema toothpaste. (Background Music: Tangerine Dream-Valley of Sun Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Ang Sagupaan sa PEPMACO

(Bahagi ng Isang TulaSerye)
ni R.B.Abiva

“Ate, bakit lagi nang ginagabi si Nanay?”
tanong ni Hana sa kapatid
habang nakaharap sa isang palanggana
na puno ng maruming labahin
na binabaran ng pulbos ng Champion.

“Eh paano, inaabot na ng dose oras
ang ating ina sa pagawaan ng sabon,”
tugon ni Calla habang abala ito sa paghuhugas
ng pinagkainan nilang mag-anak.

“Hindi po ba labag ‘yun sa batas Ate?
Ang alam ko kasi ay walong oras lang dapat
ang trabaho ng mga manggagawa.
‘Yun din kasi ang sabi ng titser ko,”
wika ni Hana habang nakakunot
ang noo. Nahihiwagaan. Naguguluhan.

“Labag ‘yun! Sinabihan ko na nga dati
si Inay na umalis na sa kanyang trabaho
kasi maglilimang-taon na siyang
tagasako ng sabon ay kontraktwal pa rin siya.
Kaya nga hindi rin natin siya masisi
kung bakit pilit niya tayong pinagkakasya
sa barung-barong na tinitirhan natin ngayon
na ‘di hamak na mas maganda pa ‘ata
ang bahay ng alagang aso ni Simeon Tiu,
at mahal pa ang mga bilihin sa palengke,”
mabigat at padabog na sagot ni Calla.

“Nagkakasakit na nga rin si Inay.
Noong nakaraang linggo’y sinamahan ko siya
sa Pagamutang Bayan, paano ba naman kasi’y
mahigit isang linggo na ang kanyang ubo
at parang kinulam siya kasi nagbabalat
ang kanyang kamay na parang may galis
na ‘di mo malaman. Ang sabi ng doktor,
baka nakuha niya sa pagawaan.
Niresetahan naman siya
ng gamot ni Dok Isko,
kaso ang mamamahal.
Sinabihan pa niya si Inay na kailangan niyang magpahinga,
kaso, tahimik lang na tumango si Inay na para bang
may malalim na iniisip,” ‘ika ni Hana habang pinipiga
ang hawak-hawak na damit.

“Naku, asa ka pa eh nung Mother’s Day nga ay
ni hindi sila pinagpahinga. Sayang daw kasi ang kita
sabi ng boss nila. Kaya baka sa darating na panahon
ay magising na lamang tayo isang umaga na
matigas nang bangkay si Inay dahil daig pa
ang kalabaw kung kumayod sa pagawaan,”
sagot ni Calla habang isa-isang inaayos
ang mga tinidor, kutsara, plato, at mangkok.

“Ay! Ay! Ate! Kanginong damit ito
at bakit may bahid ng dugo!
Sa iyo ba ito?!
Ay! Ay! Bakit damit ito ni Inay!
Anong nangyari sa kanya?!” nang gulat-naghuhumiyaw
na si Hana.

“Kasama si Inay sa mga walang-awang sinaktan
ng mga eskirol ng pagawaan. Ayon sa kuwento
ni Aling Igmeng Panot ay nahampas ng batuta sa ulo
si Inay. Buti nga sa ulo raw ang tama ng ating Ina
kaysa sa asawa ni Asiong Bingi na bali raw ang ilong
at kahit na babae’y pinagtatadyakan pa daw sa tiyan
at dibdib at mukha. Kaya nga halos pumutok ang butsi
ng kanyang asawa sapagkat dinugo ito sa mismong barikada
nilang mga manggagawa. Nakakakilabot daw ang eksenang iyon
na parang sa pelikula lang daw nakikita,” nanginginig na sagot ni Calla
habang nakakuyom ang kanyang basang kamao.

“Bakit hindi ko ito alam Ate?!
Bakit ‘di mo agad sinabi?!”
tugon ng nakatayo’t naghihimutok
sa galit na si Hana.

“Paano ba naman kasi’y lagi kang abala sa inyong eskwelahan
at kung umuwi ka’y libro at pagbabasa ang iyong unang inaatupag,”
nang parang naniningil na tinig ni Hana.

“Eh nasaan na si Inay?” dagling bigkas ni Calla.

“Wala siya rito, pagkatapos mag-agaha’y pumunta sa pagawaan,
sa may barikada ng gaya niyang manggagawa,” maikling sagot ni Hana
habang nakayungyong ang ulo sa lupa na para bang uhay
ng palay na kay bibigat ang pasang butil.

Pagkarinig sa paliwanag ng kapatid
ay animo’y kidlat na kumaripas ng takbo si Calla
patungo sa barikada kung nasaan ang kanyang Ina
at iba pang mga Ama at Ina
na nakikibaka.
At nang mga sandaling yaon
ay nakabukas ang kanilang telebisyon
may mahinhin-malambing na tinig,
at boses ni Susan Roces iyon,
habang isa-isang lumalabas
ang imahe ng mga magkakaparis-
mag-asawa ang mga iyon
na nakasuot ng puting dami
na ang bawat paglabas nila’y sinasabayan
ng islogang “ Mula Noon, Ngayon At Magpakailanman,
Ang Champion Ay Tapat Sa Inyo.”

Hunyo 28, 2019
Lungsod ng Quezon, Maynila

KMU blames Duterte for intensified attacks in Compostela

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno in Southern Mindanao (KMU-SMR) blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for “intensifying attacks on union workers” after two Sumifru Packing Plant union leaders survived separate assaults within a week.

KMU-SMR said in a statement Victor Ageas, Board of Director of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU), was ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen Tuesday, September 4, at about 6:30 am while he was bound for work at Sumifru Packing Plant 340 at Purok Uno, Barangay Osmeña in Compostela town.

The unidentified assailants fired at the labor leader six times but Aegas was able to escape, the group said.

The attack came a day after Sumifru workers staged a protest action against the company for refusing to recognize them as regular employees.

KMU said that, in July 26, two masked men also went to Aegas’ house and asked for his whereabouts but left when told their target was not around.

Another union leader, Melodina Gumanoy, Secretary of NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU, was also tailed by motorcycle-riding men last Thursday, August 30, KMU said.

Gumanoy was on on her way to work in Packing Plant 250 of Sumifru at Purok 8, Brgy. Osmeña, Compostela when she realized she was being tailed by her attackers.

She hid in a nearby house to evade her attackers.

The attacks on workers-unionists intensified in Compostela Valley after President Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) a “terrorist” organization and subsequently tagged KMU and other progressive organizations as legal fronts of the underground group, KMU said.

Farmers are also being attacked in Compostela, the labor center said.

Peasant couple Gilbert and Jean Labial, members of Compostela Farmers Association, were gunned down last August 19, 2018 in Bango, Compostela, after attending the wake of Rolly Panebio, a fellow CFA member and security personnel of the Salugpongan Learning Center in Bango.

“KMU holds the Armed Forces of the Philippines President Duterte accountable for these blatant violation of the workers’ economic and political rights. KMU believes that these attacks are the Duterte government’s move to protect the business interests of Sumifru and mining companies in the area,” KMU said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

152 OFWs get Dubai exit pass; 88 home by August 15

By Angel Tesorero in Dubai / Raymund B. Villanueva in Manila

Dubai, UAE – A total of 152 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were given an exit pass in the first three working days (August 1, 2 and 5) of the 90-day immigration amnesty program, Philippine consul-general to Dubai Paul Raymund Cortes said Tuesday.

An estimated hundreds of thousand dirhams of overstaying fines were waived by the UAE government while the Philippine Consulate paid for the exit permits, including the Dh221 for an outpass and Dh521 fee for lifting of the absconding case to clear the name of the overstaying expat from the immigration list and letting the person return to the UAE without travel ban.

The Philippine Consulate also booked one-way tickets (DXB-MNL) for the returning Filipinos.

“Out of the 152 amnesty-seekers, 93 were given free tickets; the rest were not aware that we are providing them with free tickets. Some of them have both tickets a month before. Unfortunately, we cannot refund the fare due to restrictions in the Philippine government auditing rules,” Cortes said.

He explained that booking should be done by the Philippine Consulate.

OFW Fernando Pacheho holding his UAE exit pass. (Photo by Angel L. Tesorero)

Cortes added that out of the 93 who were given free tickets, five are minors who will travel with their respective guardians and the travel expenses of the guardians will also be shouldered by the Philippine government.

The first batch of 88 returning Filipinos will fly out of Dubai on August 15 via Philippine Airlines flight PR 659 which will take off from DXB Terminal 1 at 7:35pm and arrive 8.15am the following day (Manila time) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2, where they will be met by officials from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Cortes pegged the cost of sending home an overstaying Filipino at Dh2,200 each, including the cost of air fare and exit permits.

Dubai newspaper Khaleej Times earlier reported that, according to a source at the Philippine Consulate, around 5,000 overstaying Filipinos are expected to avail of the amnesty program and would probably go back home.

At a cost of Dh2,200 (fees and plane ticket) per person, the Philippine government is set to shell out at least Dh11m, which will be taken from the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) funds.

Cortes added that an undisclosed amount of welfare assistance will be provided to the returning Filipinos while the DFA officials in Manila will assist them in their travel from the airport to their respective hometowns or provinces.

“We are glad that the first of batch of Filipinos are finally going home and will be reunited with their loved ones and respective families. We are very happy that the UAE government has given them a chance to return to the Philippines through the amnesty program by waiving the overstaying fees. We at the Philippine Consulate are also happy to be part of bringing our kababayans (compatriots) back home through the DFA funding,” Cortes said.

He added: “We want to assure our kababayans that all assistance will be given to them to the fullest extent. And for those who will prefer to stay in the country and rectify their residency status, we will also provide them with utmost assistance in the documentation of their papers. But we would like to remind them to fulfill the necessary documents such as birth certificate to get a passport.”

PH government welcomes amnesty

In Manila, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) claimed 100,000 overseas Filipino workers would benefit from UAE’s amnesty declaration for overstaying foreign workers.

An expected 87,706 undocumented and overstaying Filipino workers are expected to apply for amnesty in Abu Dhabi and around 14,400 in Dubai, DOLE reported.

The amnesty program is effective from August to the end of October.

Those who wish to rectify their illegal status may be given assistance at the Philippine Embassy in the UAE as well as at Philippine Overseas Labor Offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, DOLE said.

DOLE said there are 646,258 documented OFWs in UAE, 224,572 of whom are in Abu Dhabi while 421,686 are in Dubai.

In light with this, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III called on overstaying as well as beleaguered OFWs to rectify their status in the Emirates or seek voluntary repatriation back to the Philippines.

“Our government is ready to help them if they wish to go back home,” Bello said.

OFWs who will seek voluntary repatriation will receive assistance from Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), including airport at cash assistance as well as overseas or local employment referral, livelihood assistance, legal at conciliation service, competency assessment at training assistance under DOLE’s Assist WELL (Welfare, Employment, Legal and Livelihood) Program. # (Photo by AL Tesorero)

Freed activist fulfills promise to fellow inmates

Anakbayan secretary general Einstein Recedes were among the 19 NutriAsia workers, supporters and journalists jailed by the Meycauayan police last July 30.

A few hours after their release last Wednesday, Recedes narrated to wellwishers and reporters about a promise he made with hundreds of fellow inmates at the Meycauayan police station. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)