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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)

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 The bill has been withdrawn by the government but protests have continued to escalate as more people demand a probe into police violence, the release of arrested activists, and the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.)

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)

Changing face, fortunes of Filipinos in the UAE

By Angel L. Tesorero of Khaleej Times for Kodao Productions

DUBAI, UAE—Filipinos have helped shape the UAE for years now. A vital force in nation-building, their presence can be found across almost all industries – from the service sector to construction, health, education, media, entertainment, and so on.

As of last year, around 620,000 Filipinos were living and working in the UAE, up from 525,000 at the end of 2013. According to official figures provided by the Philippines Consulate in Dubai, around 12 to 15 per cent of Filipinos in Dubai and the northern emirates belong to the professional sectors. These include doctors, nurses, architects, engineers, accountants, and others.

Some 45 to 50 per cent are semi-skilled, working as office and administrative assistants, sales and retail personnel, hotel staff and in other related industries. The rest of the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in the UAE belong to the low-skilled category, such as household service workers, nannies, and cleaning personnel.

But the image of a migrant Filipino is constantly changing – from doing household chores to making their marks as competent professionals. Moreover, an increasing number of Filipinos are now running their own businesses. “A growing number of Filipinos are into the creative industries business. These include fashion designers, artists, musicians, web designers, animators, and the like,” Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes said.

“The growing number of Filipino professionals in the UAE is definitely a reflection of the trust and confidence of the UAE business community in their skills and expertise. Construction companies, trading offices, financial operations, and many other Dubai-based companies increasingly rely on the expertise and work ethic of the Filipino,” he adds.

Another growing segment is human resources professionals. The Filipino talent and skill in managing human resources is legendary, Cortes notes.

However, despite their large numbers here and their famous hardworking image, big establishments owned by Filipinos are a rarity in the UAE.

Filipino education consultant Dr Rex Bacarra says: “It is unfortunate that despite our talents and potential, we (Filipinos) are mostly related to and known for only the hospitality/service sectors. We are capable of becoming captains of the industry.”

One Filipino tech entrepreneur has shown that Filipinos are not only labour exporters. Mannix Pabalan, CEO of Hashtag Digital FZ LLC is a pioneer in digital commerce, one of fastest rising industries in the world, particularly in the Middle East.

He says: “There is an unprecedented growth of digital marketing in the region, but there are only a few professionals who can claim expertise in the wide spectrum of digital commerce, so we decided to penetrate the GCC market in 2014 and put up our digital marketing firm.”

Another burgeoning industry that Filipinos are making their mark in is education, according to Bacarra. “The Filipino diaspora make up a sizeable number of teachers and professors in the UAE,” he says.

“I can think of three reasons why Filipino educators are – or strive to be – excellent. Firstly, there is the drive to succeed. An innate desire to prove that being away from our own country means avoiding failure at all costs. As professors, we look at the classroom as the core and an extension of this desire to succeed, so we innovate in our teaching styles and find ways to connect with students.

“Secondly, we have very good foundations in the Philippines. We were taught that teaching is not just a profession, but a vocation. As educators, we went through rigorous trainings on the philosophy and principles of genuine education. We were taught that we are forming the young and we need heart to understand the full extent of that responsibility. Money is secondary; the genuine love for the future of the young generation is a priority.

“Thirdly, we are Filipinos, and we proudly wear that badge which we swore to uphold. We have values that we impart. In the Philippines, we consider students as our own children, and we impart to them the same values we give our own kids.”

Filipinos also love food. In fact, they have helped changed the gustatory landscape in Dubai, where we see many Filipino restaurants sprouting left and right.

One ‘hot’ Filipino restaurant right now is Hot Palayok in Karama, an area once dominated by Indian and Pakistani restaurants. It’s just one of the many Filipino restaurants in the area that are doing well.

“I think it’s not just for tastes of home or nostalgia that people come here, because we have customers from other nationalities as well,” says Hot Palayok chef de cuisine Michael delos Santos. “In fact, we have customers coming in from all over the UAE – from Abu Dhabi, Fujairah and Al Ain.

“Other nationalities are also now being introduced to Filipino cuisine and this is a big market,” he adds. # (Originally published in The Khaleej Times)

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)

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.