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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)

Pahayag ng Migrante International kaugnay sa kaso ni Mary Jane Veloso

Nagbigay-pahayag si Joanna Concepcion, tagapangulo ng Migrante International kaugnay sa naging pinal na desisyon ng Korte Suprema na payagang makapagbigay testimonya si Mary Jane Veloso sa pamamagitan ng written deposition.

Tuluyang ibinasura ng Korte Suprema noong Agosto 15 ang apela ng mga rekruter ni Veloso na sina Ma. Cristina Sergio at Julius Lacanilao. Ito ay kaugnay sa kasong illegal recruitment, human trafficking at estafa.

Si Veloso ay kasalukuyang pa ring nakakulong sa Indonesia simula 2010 dahil sa kasong ilegal na droga.

OFW slapped, verbally abused inside PH Consulate in Jeddah; Consul admits to ‘hurtful words’

An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) accused a top Philippine diplomat in Jeddah of verbal abuse and other mission personnel of physical harm inside the Consulate General in Saudi Arabia last April 5.

Marvin Carnate Andigos, an out of work OFW in Jeddah since 2018, said Consul General Edgardo Badajos verbally abused him inside the Consulate’s conference room, a charge admitted to Kodao by the diplomat.

Badajos’s outburst came after two mission employees physically hurt him, Andigos said.

“He called me a son of a bitch many times after his (Badajos) driver and another employee slapped me on my left cheek and at the top of my head,” Andigos said.

“We’re sons of bitches? You are the son of a bitch!” Badajos reportedly shouted at the OFW several times in Filipino.

Andigos said he had been going to the Consulate since April 2018 to seek assistance for what he said was an unjust dismissal by his former Saudi employers at El Khayyat Gypsum Factories. He said he was fired for chronic absenteeism, a charge he denies.

He said he never received assistance from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Jeddah even after several trips to the mission and despite the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office in Manila already recommending assistance.

Andigos said he also inquired with the Consulate on whether he would be eligible for the US$200 assistance announced by the Philippine government to OFWs who lost jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, to no avail.

The Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where Marvin Agdigos claimed he was verbally and physically abused by officials. (Consulate photo)

Frustrated at the lack of help, Andigos said he posted a video online last April 4 where he questioned why the Consulate is not giving away aid meant for OFWs. In the short video, the distressed OFW used invectives and wished the people of the mission harm from the pandemic.  

“But those were not directed at any particular person,” he said.

The next day, he was fetched by leaders of a Filipino community organization in Jeddah who Andigos said did nothing to help him when he was being physically harmed and verbally abused inside the mission premises.

“It was as if I was set up by the so-called community leaders,” Andigos told Kodao.

‘Inadvertent harm’

Philippine Consul General to Jeddah, KSA Edgardo Badajos. (Consulate photo)

Asked to reply to the OFW’s allegations, Badajos said Andigos may have been accidentally harmed when the mission’s security personnel were restraining him from taking videos while inside the premises.

“It was probably in the course of trying to stop the man from taking videos that some force, with no deliberate intention to harm, was applied on him. Security personnel, in their attempt to stop him from further taking videos of the Consulate premises, tried to take away his phone, holding his arms and shoulders in the process,” Badajos said in an interview via email.

The diplomat said the security personnel concerned categorically deny using unnecessary force on Andigos but added that “administrative sanctions will be meted out, if warranted.”

Badajos also admitted that “some hurtful words may have been exchanged” but said there was no deliberate intent to malign Andigos.

The Consul General justified his outburst, saying the OFW was arguing loudly and was not conciliatory despite pleas for him to calm down.

Badajos added that he felt the Consulate’s integrity was “viciously and maliciously attacked” by the OFW in his April 4 video.

Nonetheless, the diplomat said he “immediately apologized to Mr. Andigos after the meeting for some unpleasant words that were uttered.”

Andigos, however, said he did not hear of any apology from Badajos, further accusing the mission chief of being “such a liar.”

He added that he does not believe the slaps were accidental, saying the blows were delivered with intent.

The OFW challenged Badajos to produce the closed circuit television footage of the incident to prove who was telling the truth.

Asking for repatriation

Marvin Andigos. (Screengrab from video sent to Kodao)

Since being fired from his job in 2018, Andigos said he had been living on temporary and menial jobs as well as the kindness of compatriots to survive.

Andigos said he had to beg around for fare money in order to repeatedly follow up on his unjust dismissal complaint with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office holding office inside the Consulate, but has been merely given the run-around.

His precarious situation finally led him to his outburst on video last April 4, he said.

In another video, this time delivered in Ilocano, Andigos directly sought the help of labor secretary Silvestre Bello III who is an Ilagan City, Isabela town mate.

He said he wishes to be repatriated to the Philippines and be given his benefits as an OFW unjustly fired from his job.

Andigos said he dreams of finally holding her three-year old daughter in his arms. He left for Saudi Arabia while her newly-wed wife was pregnant with their child. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

COVID: Distressed OFWs in Saudi Arabia seek PH gov’t help

A group of distressed female overseas Filipino workers in Damman, Saudi Arabia is seeking the Philippine government’s help to be repatriated after their employer stopped paying for their salaries since the corona virus lockdown has been imposed in the Kingdom last March 17.

In a video sent to Kodao by a Migrante International member, the workers also asked for food and other relief items as they grapple with what they described as “very difficult conditions.”

In an online interview, the group said that since they have posted their first video online, their employer got angry with them and even tried to block donations of personal hygiene items sent them by concerned individuals.

The OFWs said they have been kept within the confines of their dormitory since the lockdown started.

The group said they were recruited in the Philippines by Mission Way Manpower Agency that said they would be working for the Al-Ajeer Recruitment Company that in turn deployed them to Noura Foundation for house-school-hospital cleaning duties.

They added that they also worry for their families in the Philippines who rely on their remittances especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

The distressed OFWs call on the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for help.

“We are no longer safe here,” the group told Kodao. # (Report by Raymund B. Villanueva/Video subtitling by Jek Alcaraz/Video by the OFWs)

INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS WHO WISH TO HELP AND CONTACT THE GROUP MAY CALL ANNALYN LABANON (0542588065) OR MARY JANE MARFIL (0591511439)

OFWs in Europe press gov’t for assistance and mass testing for all Filipinos

By Ian Dexter R. Marquez

PARIS, France – Various organizations throughout Europe are urging the Philippine government to provide social assistance and mass testing to all Filipinos, including overseas workers.

A number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) throughout Europe may have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic and need assistance from the Philippine government, Migrante International chapter Nagkakaisang Pilipino sa Pransya (NPSP) said. 

“Filipinos in Europe are also largely affected by this pandemic,” NPSP spokesperson Seyra Rico said, pointing out that so-called undocumented OFWs are most vulnerable during the crisis that has also hit the world’s most prosperous region. 

“Most of them (undocumented OFWs) do not qualify for social welfare due to the nature and status of their work,” Rico said. 

Aside from fears of deportation, undocumented Filipinos have no access to health services and financial assistance from their European host countries, she explained

The organizations urge the Philippine embassies and consulates to provide financial assistance to nationals without access to health care and social services in their host countries.

They also appeal to host countries to provide health care for undocumented Filipinos and to ensure the safety of Filipino health workers in foreign hospitals.

In France, NPSP said there are an estimated 65,000 Filipinos, 60% of whom are undocumented. 

About 106,200 persons have already been infected by the virus in the Western European country with 17,167 deaths, including seven Filipinos. 

Weekly noise barrages

To demand immediate action and highlight the plight of compatriots throughout the continent, Filipino organizations in Europe will hold weekly noise barrages starting on April 18.

The weekly protests, held in Filipino homes across Europe, are scheduled every Saturday at 12 noon central Europe time (6 PM in the Philippines) and will culminate on May 1.

NPSP poster

The culmination will coincide with International Worker’s Day as a tribute to all Filipino migrant workers and front-liners at home and abroad, the Filipino organizations announced.

The protests are spearheaded by Migrante International, Anakbayan Europa, European Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines and International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. 

In France, NPSP shall lead the protests, “in solidarity with our compatriots in the Philippines and abroad,” Rico said. 

Rico said the noise barrages shall also call for an end to the autocratic and “dictator-like” tactics of the government in implementing its lockdown in the Philippines.

They also demand social assistance and food distribution for the Philippines’ most vulnerable sectors, instead of military actions and state violence. 

“Since President Rodrigo Dutere placed Luzon under lockdown in March, millions of workers have been displaced and out of work; communities left in need of assistance; medical workers dying from lack of PPEs; and government critics muzzled, arrested, or even killed,” Rico said. 

Rico said that the government response against the virus, including the Php 285-billion package announced by Duterte, has proven to be grossly inadequate to sustain the needs of families in Luzon affected by the lockdown. #

2 detained babies and their mothers arrive back in PH

The two babies detained by Malaysian immigration officers in Kuala Lumpur arrived back in the Philippines with their mothers Wednesday night, ending nearly three weeks of ordeal in a foreign jail.

Arriving at the Manila International Airport on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH804 at 9:40 in the evening the babies, both of whom are under two years old, looked exhausted, Migrante International said in a statement.

“After spending weeks trembling in fear and torment, they are relieved to finally get back home and be reunited with their loved ones. The four children were clearly gripped by exhaustion,” Migrante reported

With them are two other toddlers, both under five years old, and their mothers, who were also detained at the Bukit Jalil Jail in the Malaysian capital, the group added.

Migrante said the four mother-child pairs appeared unsure after stepping out of the airport terminal and were relieved when approached by their staff and Churches Witnessing With Migrants (CWWM) volunteers who introduced themselves as colleagues of Malaysian migrant center Tenaganita that campaigned for their release.

“With almost all of their belongings looted by wardens and immigration officers at Bukit Jalil, they only managed to carry with them small shoulder bags,” Migrante said in a statement.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: Malaysian immigration holds 2 Pinoy babies ‘under tormenting conditions’

The mothers and their children upon arrival at the NAIA late Wednesday night. (Migrante International photo)

Horrific ordeal

The deported mothers revealed they suffered humiliation under the hands of their Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre custodians.

Ralyn (not her real name) said they underwent routine inspections every five minutes by “barking detention wardens and spiteful immigration officers” from 7AM to 12AM midnight the next day everyday.

Detainees were fed with “stale and burnt food good for swines,” she told Migrante.  

Enny and Anita (real names withheld) also told Migrante that their cells were “cramped and filthy.”

The detainees said they were made to lie down on the cold floor surface and nobody was allowed to use any sleeping mats.

Detainees had only one set of clothes which they had to wash and wear every other day, the mothers told Migrante.

“Our rights as humans were violated! The female wardens acted as if they are not mothers themselves. They were vile and mean, treated us like animals. All the children always get terrified when they’re around,” Raly told Migrante.  

The mothers complained that non-married or single detainees are constantly in handcuffs and any detainee inside the facility that is seen by immigration wardens as misbehaving is dealt with severely.

They recalled how a female detainee from Kenya who has been showing signs of psychosis was tied to the wall with both hands and was made to stand the whole day. 

Even the children are not spared from verbal abuse by growling wardens and immigration officers, the detainees said, adding many of the young detainees were in need of medical attention.

“Almost all of the detainees are from poor countries,” Anita told Migrante.

According to Ralyn, most of their fellow detainees are from countries like Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Kenya and Nigeria. 

Malaysian Immigration Department director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud, for his part, said his office provided “basic facilities” for the children detained at the centre and showed Malaysian reporters of children playing at the detention centre’s nursery.

Successful campaign

The Filipinos homecoming was started by Tenaganita whose press statements triggered an outcry for the release of the babies.

“[Our] press statement triggered a blast of anger and outrage from the Malaysian Public, Member of Parliaments and some Ministers who are our allies in the New Government,” Tenaganita executive director Glorene Dass told Kodao.

Dass said that both mainstream and alternative journalists in Malaysia, some of whom are Filipinos, picked up the story and published Tenaganita’s articles on the plight of the young detainees.

They also kept calling the immigrations authorities for statements, she said.

The social media scene was also lit up by the campaign “that helped tremendously,” Dass added.

Tenaganita, Migrante International and CWWM are active members of the International Migrants Alliance.

Uncertain future

When asked for their future plans, the mothers told Migrante that going back overseas is still in the offing since they are not expecting to get decent paying jobs in the Philippines. 

“Coming back to the Philippines presents the same problems of instability and peril to returning OFWs and migrant children,” Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion said. 

Migrante said the all but one of the mothers and their children boarded provincial buses headed to their respective hometowns in Bataan and Laguna.

Ralyn chose to stay overnight in Manila at a place offered to her by CWWM before travelling to Bulacan this morning, Migrante said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Malaysian immigration holds 2 Pinoy babies ‘under tormenting conditions’

Two Filipino children, both under the age of two, are being held under “tormenting conditions” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia since June 14 when they were seized from relatives, Migrante International reported.

The babies have been languishing in detention since Malaysian immigration officers conducted a raid at Plaza Indah Apartment Kajang, the group said, adding that while they are “undocumented” their mothers possessed valid visas.

The mothers were not at home when the children were taken into custody.

Migrante expressed alarm that children subjected to such ordeal are certainly susceptible to psychological stress and emotional trauma which can lead to life-long behavioral consequences.

“In this view, we reject state policies that countenance the detention and separation of children from their parents for immigration reasons. Not only is this a manifestation of heartlessness and severe cruelty but we feel petrified that such laws even exist,” Migrante said in a statement.

Malaysian migrant center Tenaganita confirmed in a separate statement that the two babies are being held at Bukit Jalil Immigration Detention Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

Tenaganita added that Malaysian authorities have refused to release the babies to their mothers despite interventions by the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and YB Hannah Yeoh of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.

“Tenaganita would like to point out that holding children and babies at detention centres violates the spirit of the Convention On The Rights of the Child (Article 37 b, c.) to which Malaysia is a party. The convention requires that the best interests of the child are given paramount importance,” the group said.

“The continued detention of the toddlers/babies has also violated the (Malaysian) Child Act 2001 that recognizes the right to protection and assistance in all situation to children regardless of race, color, gender, language and religion,” it added.

Tenaganita said the babies have been deprived of the care of their mothers and held in less than hospitable conditions for the last 20 days with no end in sight to their plight.

“We would therefore urge that this matter be treated with urgency and that the babies be handed over to the custody of their mothers or any shelters which is better equipped to care for the toddlers/babies until the immigration department is able to provide the necessary documents for the babies to be deported,” Tenaganita said.

Tenaganita stressed that babies and toddlers should not be kept in any detention or holding centres and demanded their immediate release.

Due for release

Malaysian Immigration Department Director-General Khairul Dzaimee Daud, however, said Tuesday that the two Filipino babies will be released and deported back to the Philippines today.

“The babies will be released and deported to their country by tomorrow, July 3, 2019,” Khairul told Malaysian news outfit Malay Mail.

The official assured Malay Mail that basic facilities are provided for the babies and shared several photos of children playing in the nursery room at the centre.

Tenaganita executive director Glorene Dass, however, lamented that the detention centre officers claimed to have no knowledge of such a deportation order that as of Tuesday afternoon.

“This lack of communication and coordination between the different units in the Immigration Department, either intentionally or because of internal procedures, is distressing,” Dass told Malaysian journalists.

Dass told Malay Mail Dass said that the mothers of the two babies are distraught as they have been given no access to see their children for 20 days.

Migrante said undocumented migrant children come from families who have fled from socio-economic hardships in the Philippines and are vulnerable to experience rights violations from traffickers, immigration officers and even States.

Migrante reminded that Malaysia and the Philippines are state parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that mandates countries to protect children against all forms of punishment even on the basis of status. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)