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Pagsasalaysay ni Mary Jane, nalalapit na

Muling dininig sa Regional Trial Court sa Baloc, Sto Domingo, Nueva Ecija ang dalawang kasong nakasampa sa dalawang illegal recruiter na sina Cristina Sergio at Julius Lacanilao para sa kasong Large Scale Illegal Recruitment na isinampa ng tatlong biktima na kapitbahay ng mga suspect, gayundin ang kasong isinampa naman ni Mary Jane Veloso na Illegal Recruitment, Human Trafficking at Estafa sa mga ito.

Sa darating na Enero 30, 2020 ay ang itinakdang promulgation o pagbaba ng hatol para sa kasong Large Scale Illegal Recruitment. Sa darating na Disyembre naman ang posibleng pagsasaayos ng pagtestigo ni Mary Jane para sa kaso na kanyang isinampa.

Hiling ng pamilya na huwag na sanang umapela pa ang mga defendant sa pagtestigo ni Mary Jane upang mapabilis na ang kaso. Panawagan na rin ng abogado sa gubyerno ng Indenesia na bigyan na ng amnestiya o pardon si Mary Jane upang makauwi na sa Pilipinas. (Bidyo ni Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)

Kaanak at tagasuporta, nanawagang payagang mag-testimonya si Mary Jane Veloso

Nagsagawa ng press conference ang mga kaanak, abugado at taga-suporta ni Mary Jane Veloso para magbigay ng update kaugnay sa deposition testimony niya sa Indonesia.

Kamakailan ay pinayagan ng Korte Suprema na magbigay ng deposition si Veloso mula sa kanyang piitan sa Indonesia. Ayon sa kanyang abugado, malaking bagay ang desisyon ng Korte Suprema para mapatunayang biktima ng human trafficiking si Veloso.

Nagpasalamat ang ama ni Mary Jane na si Cesar sa mga abugado at grupong patuloy na tumutulong sa kanyang anak. Hangad niya na makalaya na si Mary Jane at makapiling ang kanyang mga anak.

Nakatakda sa Oktubre 28 sa Cabanatuan RTC ang huling pagdinig ng prosekusyon laban sa mga illegal recruiter ni Veloso na sina Maria Kristina Sergio at Julius Lacanilao.

Si Veloso ay nakakulong sa Indonesia nang mahigit siyam na taon sa kasong pagpuslit ng ilegal na droga at nahatulan ng death penalty. Subalit noong 2015 ay ipinatigil ng gobyerno ng Indonesia ang pagbitay sa kanya matapos mahuli sa Pilipinas ang mga recruiter ni Veloso. (Music: News Background Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Hong Kong protests through the eyes of a Filipino migrant worker

By Mong Palatino

There are more than 130,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, a majority of whom are domestic workers. Every Sunday, many congregate in Central, the business and retail heart of Hong Kong, to spend their day off. This is also where the massive protests in the city have been taking place since June 2019. How have the rallies affected the lives of migrant workers? What are their thoughts about the protests?

Since June 2019, weekly protests in Hong Kong have brought together at least two million people demanding the scrapping of a bill that would allow the extradition of fugitives and other accused individuals to mainland China. Protesters say the bill could undermine democracy by allowing Beijing authorities to order the arrest of Hong Kong-based activists, dissenters, and even critical journalists. The bill has been withdrawn by the government but protests have continued to escalate as more people demand a probe into police violence, the release of arrested activists, and the granting of universal suffrage.

Through email, Global Voices interviewed Elena (not her real name), a migrant worker who has been living in Hong Kong for more than a decade. She is also a volunteer in several networks advocating for the rights of migrant workers.

Elena explains why most Filipino migrant workers are sympathetic to the protesters:

As most of the protesters are young people, many of them grew up in households where Filipino domestic workers took care of them when they were still very young.

The Filipino community also disagrees with the proposed bill. We have not seen anyone or any group publicly expressing support for it. Some Filipinos also joined peaceful marches from Victoria Park to Central.

While we are not prohibited to join the rallies, many are reluctant because of its possible implication to their work and visa status in Hong Kong.

The rallies have affected how Filipino migrant workers gather and interact every Sunday in several public areas. Elene shares how migrant workers have adjusted to the situation:

Some community groups have cancelled their scheduled events in Chater Road because of the protests.

Some workers reported that their rest days are no longer fixed on a Sunday and have become dependent on the schedule of protest actions. This also affects their ability to be with their friends and relatives during rest days. Other migrants just congregate from morning until 2:00 p.m. and will leave Central before 3:00 p.m. to avoid the protests and possible disruptions in the public transportation as well as potential police confrontations.

Some expressed concern about losing their jobs:

While the migrant workers are trying to understand the Hong Kong people’s protest, there are of course fears among the Filipino community about their safety and job security as well.

There are also reports that some employers are taking advantage of the situation to deny their domestic workers their rest days.

Elena notes that migrant groups have rejected the proposal of the Philippine government to impose a temporary ban on the sending of workers to Hong Kong:

Filipino migrants are angered by the exaggeration of the Philippine government through the Department of Labor and Employment with their proposed “ban on deployment” of Filipinos to Hong Kong. We view this as overreacting and simply a PR stunt since the current situation does not merit such a drastic policy. This proposal, if implemented, does not make us safe and will only result in financial loss and deprive many of their livelihood and employment opportunity. In fact, many feel that the situation in the Philippines is more dangerous with the Martial Law in place in some regions and with ‘death squads’ roaming the country and targeting mainly poor communities and people’s rights defenders.

Elena observes that the protest movement this year got favorable media coverage compared to the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ in 2014. But she also notes some inconsistencies in reporting:

The coverage is highly focused on the confrontations between the protesters and the police. There is also too much projection given to the US and UK flag bearers in the protest making it appear that the people in general are supportive of the US and UK intervention when it is not really the case. The people are more angered by the HKSAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] government’s handling of the situation especially the police’s brutality and excessive use of force in dealing with the protesters.

Finally, Elena has advice for the protesters:

Take the initiative to mobilize ordinary workers by linking the struggle to address other pressing basic issues affecting the working peoples of Hong Kong such as low wages, extremely high housing rents, deteriorating social services especially in the health, education and elderly care sector. #

(This article was first published by Global Voices, an international and multilingual community of bloggers, journalists, translators, academics, and human rights activists. It is republished by Kodao as part of a content sharing agreement.)

Migrante asks UN to conduct investigations on killings in PH

Filipino migrants asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCRC) to look into extrajudicial killings in the country, accusing the Rodrigo Duterte government of committing “gross human rights violations committed against Filipino migrants.”

Migrante International submitted its Global Petition of Filipino Migrants UNHCRC Tuesday in support to the call of 11 UN Special Rapporteurs for an independent investigation into the increasing rights violations in the Philippines.

Migrante cited government neglect of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and the rampant extrajudicial killings in the country in its petition, also posted on the online petition platform change.org since last week.

Filipino migrants and families are not spared from extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations perpetrated by government forces, the group said.

Migrante recalled the killing of 17-year old Kian delos Santos in August 2017 by police operatives who collared the youngster, dragged him across a dark alley and summarily killed. The victim was the son of a Saudi-based domestic worker.

In August 2018, Manila police officers mugged OFW Allan Rafael and detained him until he died under police custody.

Rafael, a cancer patient, was arrested by the police on suspicion of being a drug addict based on his pale appearance, his family alleges. He was undergoing chemotherapy when accosted by the police.

Migrante’s petition likewise accused the government of sending cheap Filipino labor abroad instead of creating enough domestic jobs to end forced migration.

“Through the Duterte regime’s labor export program, the government has been imposing unjust state exactions as its way of subjecting OFWs to legalized robbery. A Filipino migrant worker already wallows in debt even before she is deployed overseas and whenever they get mistreated abroad, they are often left neglected or coerced by government agencies to keep silent and relinquish their demands for justice,” Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion said.

In its petition, Migrante also cited the case of 81 Filipino migrants currently on death rows as well as the numerous cases of unsolved deaths and detention of migrant Filipinos abroad.

International pressure

The Philippine government is facing mounting international pressure on widespread reports of continuing extrajudicial killings related to Duterte’s so-called anti-drug war.

Last Thursday, Iceland issued a draft resolution signed by 28 UN-member states asking the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to impose concrete actions on the killings.

Members of the Philippines’ official delegation to the 41st UNHRC meeting in Geneva, Switzerland reportedly walked out of the meeting in protest to suggestions that an official and impartial investigation be conducted in the Philippines.

Varied estimates from 6,000 to 30,000 victims killed have been reported by local and international groups.

“My only sin are the extrajudicial killings,” Duterte confessed at a gathering in the Presidential palace in September 2018.

In a speech in Malacañan last Monday, Duterte also said he prefers to be tried on his human rights record than being accused of corruption.  

“Well, extrajudicial killing is ok but not corruption,” Duterte said during the oath-taking of government officials at the Palace.

Human rights groups said that Duterte’s admissions add weight to the preliminary investigations conducted by the International Criminal Court last year. 

“We demand an end to the violation of our collective human rights and hold the Duterte government accountable. We urgently plead with the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into the human rights violations committed by the Philippine Duterte government,” Migrante’s petition said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

OFWs in peril in Saudi-Yemen war, Migrante warns

A Filipino migrant group warned that thousands of Filipinos are facing danger after Yemeni Houthi fighters fired missiles at an airport in Abha, Saudi Arabia earlier this week.

Migrante International said that it may already be unsafe for close to 36,000 overseas Filipino workers to be airlifted to safety after Houthi fighters again targeted Abha’s Najran airport with missiles.

Migrante International photo.

Migrante said the Rodrigo Duterte government in the Philippines failed to put in place contingency measures to assist OFWs working in southwest Saudi Arabia close to the Yemeni border.

“Now that airports and control towers are being targeted, it will no longer be safe for Filipinos to be airlifted to safety from these regions,” Migrante said in a statement Thursday.

Migrante said that the Philippine consulate in Jeddah lists about 15,000 Filipinos work in Jizan and 7,850 are in Najran.

It added that in the Asir region, there are 13,000 OFWs in the city of Khamis Mushayt alone.

The city is close to the King Khalid Air Base which earlier suffered airstrikes from Yemeni fighters.

“We are outraged that the Duterte administration remains stone-deaf in hearing our calls to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia as the Philippine government displays the same ineptitude it has shown during the previous outbreak of armed conflict in Libya, Iraq and Syria,” Migrante said in its statement.

The group accused the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs of merely re-echoing “almost the same consulate advisory issued by its office in Jeddah last month.”

“In light of reports from Saudi authorities on the interception of two alleged Houthi ballistic missiles over Taif, one heading toward Makkah and the other toward Jeddah, on Monday morning, 20 May 2019, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wishes to advise our kababayans in the city and its neighboring areas to remain calm but vigilant for any eventualities,” the Consulate said in its Public Advisory No. 44.

“Will the government wait once more for thousands of Filipinos to be caught up in the deadliest last minute before it even lifts a finger?” Migrante asked.

The group said signs of escalation in the fighting have been clear but the Duterte government “wasted several weeks” in merely campaigning for its senatorial candidates in the region.

“This vile apathy demonstrates how much weight the Duterte government places on its lust for power than looking after the welfare of imperilled OFWs,” Migrante said.

Migrante again called on the Duterte government to ensure that concrete actions are already in place to readily assist OFWs in need of immediate evacuation in all locations of Saudi Arabia within missile range.

“It should draw lessons from similar periods in the past when it only responded upon the moment when lives have already been lost,” it said.

The fighting in the Arabian Peninsula escalated March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states intervened and backed the Yemeni government against the Shiite Houthis, bitter rivals of the Saudi Sunnis.

The United Nations earlier said that as many as 50,000 may have already been killed in the Saudi-led and US-backed war in Yemen in the past four years.

Recently, however, Houthis had been firing ballistic missiles deep into Saudi territory that signify the escalation of conflict where tens of thousands of OFWs are stationed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Trafficked Pinoys hope for more protection in UAE

Dubai, UAE–Thirty-three-year old Filipina Sheila Endong heard stories of happy lives in the UAE and was lured by a friend to come here to work as a domestic worker. She arrived in the country in November last year but it was not the promised life that greeted her.

Sheila was a victim of human trafficking. Her case has been told many times over. Her ordeal started from her country of origin and when she was offered a free airline ticket and paid-for tourist visa.

Sheila said she left Zamboanga Sibugay in Southern Philippines to find a job and provide a good life for her 10-year-old son. Her friend told her that a job was waiting for her in the UAE and her travel papers were immediately processed. She did not pay anything except for her medical test.

She said she breezed through the immigration check-in from Manila because she was ‘escorted’ by a Philippine immigration staff. A kabayan (compatriot) picked her up at the Dubai International Airport and she was immediately brought to an accommodation in Ajman.

She was not allowed to leave the flat and she learned she was offered to prospective employers at a cost of Dh17,000. Employers had to bite the bullet because of the dearth in the supply of available household service workers.

With no regulation and proper monitoring in place, Sheila had at least three different employers in the past 10 months. At one point, she suffered physical abuse from her employer which prompted her to run away.

Philippine labour officials in the UAE said Sheila’s case is just one of the many cases they’ve handled because of the lack of transparency in recruitment and because many Filipinos come to the UAE using a tourist visa to find work.

This will soon come to an end, according to Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello, who recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Labour Cooperation with UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) Saqr bin Ghobash Saeed Ghobash.

“The MoU enhances existing friendly relations between the UAE and the Philippines, through labour cooperation to promote mutual benefits and provide adequate protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs),” he said.

The MoU is a result of many consultations, which began when the UAE Cabinet tasked the ministry to oversee the domestic workers sector in the country, he added.

Human trafficking will be curbed because, under the MoU, the recruitment office is tasked with sending the job offer to the employee in their home country and listing the obligations of the labour contract. The contract will be signed by the employer and employee upon the arrival of the latter to the UAE Only recruitment agencies registered with the MoHRE are able to offer recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers that have been submitted by employers.

Awareness and guidance programmes will also be organised for the employer, and the employee before exiting the Philippines. Moreover, the programmes will inform contractual parties about their rights and obligations towards each other.

Bello also noted that the MoU on Labour Cooperation includes an annex called Protocol on Domestic Workers. He said the Protocol highlights recruitment and admission of Filipino domestic workers to the UAE in accordance with the protective Philippine and UAE laws.

The Philippine Labour Secretary said: “Among the rights to be guaranteed under the Protocol, through a standard employment contract under the newly-approved UAE Law on Domestic Workers, are the following: a) Treatment of the worker that preserves personal dignity and physical safety; b) Due payment and non-withholding of wages; c) Twelve hours of daily rest; d) One full day of weekly rest; e) Decent accommodation; f) Medical treatment; g) Retention of identity documents, such as passports; h) Non-payment of costs and fees on recruitment and deployment; and i) Non-payment of costs for repatriation.

At a recent town hall meeting with Filipino community leaders in Abu Dhabi, Bello praised the MoU as a big step for the protection of OFWs. Sheila, who was in the audience, is optimistic that her rights are now protected. # (Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times)

This story was first published here.

OFW ID is not free after all

By Angel L. Tesorero of Khaleej Times for Kodao Productions

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Filipino expats were disappointed to discover that the OFW (overseas Filipino worker) ID, touted as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘best gift’ to millions of OFWs, is not actually free, as earlier announced.

Duterte led the soft launching of the OFW ID on Wednesday in Manila. The ID, also called iDOLE (ID of the Department of Labor and Employment), is set to replace the OEC (overseas employment certificate), a travel document or exit pass that is required for any OFW leaving the Philippines and returning to the country of his/ her employment.

Some Filipino expats tried to apply for the OFW card by accessing the iDOLE portal https://ofw.idole.ph/ and were surprised to discover that they will be charged with 501 pesos to get the card, aside from the delivery fee.

Sharjah resident and Migrante Middle East coordinator, Nhel Morona, who tried to acquire the ID on Thursday night, told Khaleej Times: “At the onset, we already had doubts that this ID is totally free. After I encoded my personal and employment details, I was asked to pay 501 pesos and another 200 pesos  to have it delivered at my hometown.”

Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier announced that the OFW ID is free of cost. “All we need is to conduct an inventory of all the bonafide OFWs based on the list of the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), in conjunction with DOLE, then we will start processing the IDs,” he said.

Bello, who described the OFW ID as the “best gift’ that President Duterte is giving to millions of OFWs for matters concerning their overseas employment,” added that “all the unique IDs will be delivered to them, whether they are in the Philippines or overseas.”

Labour undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III told Khaleej Times on Wednesday that OFWs will not pay anything to get the unique card.

“Walang babayaran ang OFWs (OFWs will not pay anything), Lagunzad said in Filipino. “Recruitment agencies will pay on behalf of employers. This will be enforced by POEA. Because POEA issued a governing board resolution authorising and imposing fees.”

“The amount will be set by POEA based on charges by three government offices – DBP Philpost and APO. Validity is term of contract but ID number is same. The ID will be updated every time there is new contract.

“The POEA will process the contract and OEC then send to DOLE the names and other details of the processed OFW then have the ID printed by APO Printing (the same company that prints Philippine passports). Then Philpost will deliver the ID to the forwarding address of the OFW,” Lagunzad added.

“The processing of the iDOLE would be shouldered by the employers; hence, OFWs need not pay for the cost of the ID,” according to a DOLE statement.

But Dubai resident Jun Cargullo said: “The (Philippine) government earlier announced that employers or recruitment agencies will shoulder the cost of the ID. But this ID is only relevant to domestic transactions and has nothing to do with our employment abroad. This is not like the Emirates ID or UAE health card.”

“At the end of the day, it is us, OFWs, who will have to pay for the card,” Cargullo added. “The OFW ID is actually more expensive than the OEC. We used to pay only 100 pesos to acquire an OEC every time we travel and we go back home at least once every year. So it will take at least five travels or five years before we can recoup the same expense of getting an OEC five times,” he explained.

Morona added that the cost of the OFW ID can probably be imposed on recruitment agencies which are deploying new OFWs. “But how about those who are already employed abroad? Who will pay for the OFW ID? I don’t think we can charge it to our employers,” he asked

Morona also made his own calculations. “The OFW ID will mean a windfall profit for the (Philippine) government,” he said. “Imagine there are 10 million Filipinos working abroad, if all of us will get an OFW ID that can easily translate to 5.01 billion pesos (Dh365m).

Portal goes offline

Meanwhile, the Department of Labour and Employment has yet to issue the guidelines on how OFWs can avail of the OFW card. The iDOLE portal also went offline for few hours on Friday and when it went back live with a note that reads: “This website is for testing purposes only. To our beloved OFWs, please wait for the official launching, rest assured that the OFW card is 100 per cent free of charge to the OFW.” (angel@khaleejtimes.com)

OEC is gone, but UAE Filipinos have to wait for new OFW IDs

By Angel L. Tesorero / Repost from Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arad Emirates–Filipino expats in the UAE will have to wait for a couple of months before they can avail of the eagerly anticipated OFW (overseas Filipino workers) ID launched in Manila today.

Felicitas Bay, Philippine Labour Attaché to Dubai and northern emirates, told Khaleej Times: “We have not received any instructions or operational guidelines yet from the main office” (in Manila) regarding the OFW ID that will replace the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

An OEC is a travel document or exit pass that has to be presented at international ports of exit in the Philippines before an OFW can return to the country of his/ her employment. The OFW ID, also called iDOLE (ID of the Department of Labor and Employment), is set to replace the OEC starting July 12.

No less than Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is expected to grace the launch event on Wednesday.

Aside from serving as an ID for migrant Filipinos, the OFW ID can also be used in lieu of other Philippine government IDs, including Social Security System, Pag-IBIG Fund, and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation cards. Eventually, Filipino expats can also use the OFW ID for other government transactions like getting a police clearance or  as an ATM or debit card to send money back home via the proposed OFW Bank.

Philippine Labour Minister Silvestre Bello III announced last week that the OFW is free of cost. “All we need is to conduct an inventory of all the bonafide OFWs based on the list of the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), in conjunction with the Department of Labor, then we will start processing the IDs,” he said.

Filipino expats in the UAE welcomed the move by the Philippine government. “Replacing the OEC with an OFW ID is good news,” former FilCom (Filipino Community) president Alan Bacason said. “It will be an all-in-one ID, much like the Emirates ID. It is also a good way to properly monitor the OFWs not just in the UAE but around the world.” (OFWs worldwide number around 10 million, according to Philippine official records).

“In the meantime, for those who will take a break or will attend to some concerns in the Philippines and will return to the same employer (in the UAE), you may wish to apply online for your OEC as this will facilitate your exit from the Philippines,” Bay told Khaleej Times.

Bay also advised her kababayans (countrymen) to regularly check www.polodubaiportal.org for updates on the OFW ID.

“Should there be any official pronouncement/ guidelines, we will post them at the POLO-Dubai (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) portal,” she noted. # (angel@khaleejtimes.com)

OFWs in Italy condemn ‘inhumane’ dispersal of IPs in Manila

ROME, ITALY- Members of Umangat-Migrante, ICHRP-Rome and the Comitato di Amicizia Italo-Filippino (Italy-Philippine Friendship Association) held a candle light protest in front of the Philippine Embassy last night to condemn the recent dispersals of mass actions in the Philippines.

Calling the dispersals “violent and inhumane,” Luciano Seller of the Comitato di Amicizia Italo-Filippino urged the Philippine government to look into the incident.

“Indigenous people in the Philippines have suffered enough with military occupation in their communities, only to meet more ruthlessness and violence from the Manila police when they are holding a peaceful protest,” Seller said.

Alex Reyes, Secretary General of Umangat-Migrante expressed anger at how the police continue to act as “lapdogs of the US’ while President Duterte himself is calling for an independent foreign policy.

“It is time that the Philippine police learn to protect and serve the Filipino people instead of protecting US interests,” Reyes said. # (Pom Cahilog-Villanueva)

Migrant workers storm OWWA office

Migrant workers and their families led by Migrante stormed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office last March 16 to protest the agency’s inaction on the plight of stranded Filipinos abroad.

Migrante says that OWWA forces them to pay for so-called protection funds for Filipino workers abroad but does nothing when needed.

At the moment, hundreds of migrant workers are stranded in Saudi Arabia alone but are not being repatriated by the Aquino government.

Migrante demands that the government use their welfare funds to help stranded Filipino workers abroad.

The protesters are also demanding that assistance claims must be given to OFWs as well as an accounting of the 18 billion peso OWWA fund.