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

By Angel L. Tesorero

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

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

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

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

PhP68.5M spent for tickets

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

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

Swab tests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assistance to OFWs

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

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

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

Livelihood assistance

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

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

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

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This report is original to Gulf News.

Coronavirus: Parents of premature babies face extra fight during COVID-19 pandemic

Unpaid leave and salary cuts compound issues for struggling parents.

By Angel L. Tesorero

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: They are little brave warriors born prematurely who are putting up a good fight to survive in a world that is also struggling against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Their parents meanwhile, on top of worrying for the health of their babies, have also been struggling with their jobs and source of income. Some were put on unpaid leave while others received salary cuts because of the slowdown in economic activities brought about by the pandemic.

The babies are COVID-free. Their eyes and faint smiles reveal a resilient spirit but they need financial or material support to carry on. Their parents are seeking help to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment.

The first little warrior is Baby Rain Kristoff, who is now seven months old. He has grown and gained weight – now 2.3-kg, up from a mere 490-grams when he was born prematurely in October last year.

Baby Rain Kristoff (Image Credit: Supplied)

Baby Rain has survived two surgeries in his tummy but still has to be treated for pulmonary hypertension, sleep apnea, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a breathing disorder because his lungs were not yet fully developed, his parents Kim Chester and Roselle de la Vega told Gulf News.

“Our baby turns blue whenever he cries excessively and to treat the hypertension, he needs a high flow oxygen therapy (HFOT) machine, which we could not afford to buy,” the de la Vega couple added.

“The doctor suggested to modify a ventilator but we still could not afford the cheapest one which is around Dh30,000,” they added.

The Filipino couple also has unpaid hospital bills amounting to Dh220,000, after using their savings and health insurance.

“We have been out of work for over two months now because of the pandemic. We reached out to Gulf News in the hope that some kind readers would be able to help us. We’re really struggling to raise the money and we’ve exhausted borrowing from friends and family,” they added.

“Our baby was very small, looking so weak and very fragile when he was born but he has proven his fighting spirit. He wanted to live and we hoped to give him the best medical care,” they continued, with high hopes that their plea will be heard by Good Samaritans.

Sri Lankan baby girl

Another premature baby whose parents are seeking help is Adrielle Naomi Fernando, born on May 7.

The father, Sri Lankan expat Luckwin Fernando, wrote to Gulf News: “My wife (Tharushanaa) delivered our baby a month premature on the May 7 at Thumbay Hospital in Ajman. Due to low birth weight, our baby was placed in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The per day charge was between Dh4,000 to Dh5000.

Adrielle Naomi Fernando (Image Credit: Supplied)

“Our baby is now home but our hospital bill has reached around Dh65,000. And on top of this, we also don’t know where to find money to pay for our house rent,” added Luckwin.

He continued: “I saved money to pay for a normal delivery but it was not enough for the emergency. Worse, I lost my job due to the pandemic and I have spent all my savings for the miscellaneous hospital expenses.”

Double bundle of joy

Another doting father has reached out to Gulf News to seek help for his twin bundles of joy.

Egyptian national Mahmoud Zakria Aid, 31, who is married to a Filipina, said their babies (Sabila and Saja) are now in the pink of health but their financial situation is in dire red.

Mahmoud said: “My wife (Filipina Ocampo, 33) gave birth one month early on March 2 and unfortunately I cannot pay the hospital bill after our health insurance expired.”

Twin sisters Saja and Sabila (Image Credit: Supplied)

Mahmoud said: “My wife (Filipina Ocampo, 33) gave birth one month early on March 2 and unfortunately I cannot pay the hospital bill after our health insurance expired.”

“Our babies are already at home after I issued a cheque for Dh28,000 that is due on June 7. Until now, I haven’t raised any money after I was put on unpaid leave and I don’t know when my company will advise me to go back to work” added Mahmoud, who is a graphic designer for an events company.

“The babies are healthy – thanks to God – but I don’t know what will happen in the coming days, weeks and months. There are no events and I’ve been out of work. Whatever savings I have, I used it to buy milk for my babies and food for me and my wife,” he added.

He continued: “The babies are our bundle of joy – they are gifts from God – but, to be honest, there were times I felt helpless and I worried about the future of our babies. This is why I mustered enough courage to ask for help.” #

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This report was first published by Gulf News.

COVID-19 takes toll among Fil-Canadians

By Ysh Cabana

TORONTO, Canada–Several people were reported to have died from coronavirus in Canada, including Filipinos.

With the Canada death toll at 1,580 deaths, according to Public Health Agency of Canada as of April 19, the Filipino community is hard hit.

Many Filipino-Canadians are working in the health sector in roles including nurses, care aide, facility maintenance and as “front-line essential” workers during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Marie Christine Bacalocos Mandegarian, 54, succumbed to the virus on April 15 less than 24 hours after testing positive.

“I am a little bit scared, but duty calls,” she wrote on her Facebook account last month. “I can’t stay home, I’m a healthcare worker” she said. For 31 years, Mandegarian, worked as a personal support worker at Altamont Care Community, a long-term care center in Scarborough, Toronto.

Mandegarian was the first health worker in Toronto and second in the province of Ontario to die of COVID-19.

On April 9, Brampton Civic Hospital mourned the loss of their environmental services associate Ronald V. David. Uncle Ronald, 58, as he was fondly called, is believed to be the first known Ontario health-care worker to die after getting sick with the highly contagious respiratory disease.

Health-care staff make up about 11% of all reported COVID-19 cases in the province but make up only about three% of Ontario’s population.

The province is also reporting outbreaks of COVID-19 at long-term care homes where nearly half of total coronavirus-linked deaths in Canada happen according to chief public health officer Teresa Tam.

“We know that close to half of the deaths that we’re tracking are linked to long-term care facilities, but that ratio is actually different in different provinces,” Tam told reporters during her daily ministerial update on the virus.

Other Filipino victims of COVID-19 in Canada include Victoria Salvan, 64, who as a patient attendant. She immigrated to Canada from the Phillipines, and worked with senior citizens for 25 years.

Salvan, or Vicky to her colleagues, passed away April 17 just weeks away from retirement. She is survived by her husband and two children. One of Salvan’s sons said that she cared deeply for the elders in her care working overtime up to her final days of work at the understaffed Grace Dart Extended Care Centre, where nearly a quarter of the residents have been infected with COVID-19, according to public health records.

Warlito Valdez, 47, had been a residential worker at Pendleton House run by the Richmond Society for Community Living helping people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Valdez died April 5 despite being in self-isolation following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. According to a GoFundMe page that Valdez’s co-workers started, he was a “tireless provider” who worked multiple jobs. His wife Flozier Tabangin, who also works as a frontline care worker, described her husband as “a hero”

According to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the total number of COVID-19 cases among overseas Filipinos across 42 countries rose to 990. The number of overseas Filipino fatalities is now at 143 as of its April 20 report.

“The DFA remains committed to ensure the welfare of our people and stands ready to provide assistance to the COVID-19 positive Filipino nationals as needed,” it said.

A number of others continue to fight for their livelihood where Covid-19 is believed to have been on an outbreak making a hard job perilous.

In the province of Manitoba, the first presumptive case of COVID-19 is a woman in her 40s from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. The province says she was exposed to the virus through travel to the Philippines.

More than 850,00 people of Filipino descent are living in Canada, with settlement primarily in major urban areas, according to the 2016 census.

The country’s supply of health care workers is impacted by government’s reliance on immigration making the Filipino community one of the major sources of Canada’s health care providers who may be registered nurses or unregulated workers, such as nursing aides and orderlies.

Some Filipino workers, however, have raised concerns of being discriminated against and unprotected from the virus due to a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In the province of Alberta, Cargill Meat Processing Plant is vital to a bourgeoning immigrant community of Filipinos. Workers there tell Canadian media of poor working conditions and fears of viral transmission in an overcrowded “elbow-to-elbow” facility.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups, including Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society, Sulong UBC, and Migrante BC, have penned an open letter calling on all levels of the Canadian government for “increased and timely resources” to be available for Filipino workers.

“The general feedback we are getting from our community is the lack of accessible information regarding the pandemic in Filipino languages. While we are doing our best as a community to translate and offer support to each other at this difficult time, we would like to ensure that Filipinos in Canada are getting direct and accurate information from the proper health authorities,” the groups said in the letter. #

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This report also appeared on The Philippine Reporter.

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)

Pinoy undocumented workers bear brunt of France’s lockdown

By Macel Ingles

OSLO, Norway– Filipino undocumented workers are hardest hit by the French lockdown brought by the coronavirus pandemic. This, according to the Nagkakaisang Pillipino sa Pransya (NPSP), a Filipino migrant organisation based in Paris.

“Since the start of the lockdown last March 17, the Filipino undocumented workers found themselves in a no work, no pay situation,” NPSP wrote in an online interview on the situation of Filipinos in France.

“The struggle of being undocumented and not declared at work doubles the vulnerability and burden of our compatriots gaining no benefits and aid both from France and especially the Philippine government,” the organization added.

Undocumented workers are considered as “invisible workers” in France because they are not covered by existing labor laws. The state tends to neglect this sector of workers making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse from their employers and to inhuman working conditions.

The NPSP had been monitoring the situation of Filipinos in France since the French lockdown and has started a fundraiser to help the undocumented kababayans, who because of their status, cannot access social services from the government of France. The fundraiser hopes to collect enough money to buy 20€ relief packages for those who may need assistance.

“Napakahirap po ng kalagayan sa Paris. Isa, dahil sa Covid bawal lumabas. Sa usaping sahod, ay nasa amo ho sa katulad kong illegal worker. May among magbabayad at may among namang hindi,” part-time nanny told Acee Catahan Pinoy Portal Europe on an online interview.

She also worries about her financial situation and has asked her family in the Philippines for understanding if she won’t be able to send them money in the meantime. “Kako sa pamilya ko ay mas kailangan namin dine ang financial. Sila naman ay may halaman at kahit papaano’y may pantawid gutom doon sa Laguna,” she added.

Undocumented workers like Catahan fear police controls that ask for their identification cards and work permits when they venture outside their homes during the lockdown. Fear of being caught stops them from going out to work.

Some of the concerns of Pinoy during the lockdown in Paris include worries about employment for those who still work, and issues on payment of salaries despite the lockdown.

Some Filipino workers were also elated by news that the French government has assured workers that they will be paid but this policy only applies to “declared” workers. A worker is considered “declared” if the employer registers their employment to the government. Some declared workers do not have work permits.

“Sa aming mga nanny na declared ang work, 80% ang sahod ang ibibigay ng amo. Sa ibang part- timer wala siguro silang sahod/pero yung iba pasasahurin sila,” Irene Carlos revealed. She is lucky to have an employer who is complying with the government policy despite the fact that she has no work permit.

Some of the workers have no choice but to work despite fears for their safety.

“Ako naman live-in sa amo, tuloy ang trabaho mahirap din pagod sa pag-asikaso sa kanila araw araw, nalabas ako na bumili ng food. Ingat na lang wala akong magagawa kahit bawal lumabas,” live-in domestic worker Marsha Bascar said.

She also said that she is unable to send money at this time as most of the establishments are closed.

Senior Chef Fourmi Fumante shared the uncertainties and difficulties of some Pinoys in being able to send some money to their families in the Philippines due to the restrictions.

“Dahil sa lockdown medyo pahirapan lumabas kasi pahigpit ng pahigpit ang rules, hindi natin alam kung madelay ang sahod or ano,” Fumante noted. He also said that , “ang mga undeclared dito natatakot din lumabas di lang sa virus kundi pag nasita need nila pakita ng ID.”

“Bukas naman ang mga Pinoy at Arab stores kung saan ka puwedeng magpadala ng pero ang tanong ay kung may ipapadala pa,” he added.

Au pair Mau de Guzman was lucky enough to have been able to send money to her family in the Philippines before the lockdown and she said that her employer has assured her that she will continue to receive her allowance.

Aside from the fundraiser, the NPSP has also urged the Philippine embassy in France to help Filipinos who have lost jobs but are not qualified to claim unemployment benefits. It also appealed to the embassy to include France in the priority countries in the Department of Labor and Employment’s USD200 AKAP Financial Assistance Program for OFWs who lost their jobs due to Covid-19 crisis.

The group estimates that there are now around 65,000 Filipinos in Frances and are mostly living in the cities of Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

It also said that most Filipinos in France work as domestic workers, childcare workers, maintenance workers, hotel and restaurant employees and embassy staff. Majority of these workers are undocumented and female.

Since the lockdown, the labor department had confirmed that a total of 400,000 businesses had been affected by the coronavirus crisis and that 1 out of 4 workers in France has lost their jobs. #

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If you want to help kababayans in France, this is the link to the fundraiser.

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This article originally appeared on Pinoy Portal Europe.

Terminated UAE OFWs told to ask return tickets from employers

By Angel L. Tesorero

Dubai: The Philippine missions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) told overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) wanting repatriation to demand from their employers return tickets to the Philippines.

In an advisory issued Monday, April 13, the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Philippine Consulate in Dubai told terminated OFWs due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19) it is the obligation of their employers to purchase their return ticket to the Philippines.

“This is pursuant to the UAE labor laws,” the advisory reads.

Addressing the employers, the two missions said: “We are calling on the employers for their understanding and cooperation.”

The employer can book a flight via Emirates of Etihad Airlines, which have been permitted to fly to the Philippines, the diplomatic posts said.

A travel agent confirmed there is a special Emirates repatriation flight available on April 15 and 16. A one-way flight to Manila starts from Php13,800 (Emirates Dirham2,550).

“There is no need to call the Embassy or Consulate on this because they have been given special flights permission to land in Manila despite the lockdown in Metro Manila and Luzon,” the advisory adds.

A joint advisory from the Philippine Embassy and Consulate in Dubai. (Photo by Gulf News)

 The missions clarified however that only documented OFWs may avail of the benefit while “undocumented” ones may need to seek the help of their family, friends or their travel agencies.

 “If you have no employer or job contract and has arrived to the UAE to look for a job through the help of family and friends or through a sponsoring travel agency, you need to get their assistance to buy a ticket,” the advisory says.

“For those with no employer, relative or friend to help them and would like to go home for good, they should get in touch with the Embassy or Consulate to help assess their situation,” it adds.

The Embassy or Consulate will ask the Philippine government to purchase the return ticket for an undocumented OFW “if there is an available fund.”

Philippine consul general Paul Raymond Cortes. (Photo by Gulf News)

Fund is available

Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes said the total budget of the Philippine government for its Assistance to Nationals (ATN) is PhP 1 billion pesos annually for overseas Filipinos globally.

Cortes noted the ATN fund was instrumental in helping overstaying Filipinos in the UAE during the 2018 Amnesty Repatriation programme.

“Philippine authorities shouldered not just the airfare of amnesty seekers, but also their out-pass clearances and other administrative fees,” Cortes pointed out.

“We will facilitate your return to the Philippines,” the advisory notes. “(We are) ready to assist our compatriots and will do everything possible to help them weather this crisis,” it adds. #

Coronavirus effect: Hundreds of Filipinos in the UAE want to go back home

By Angel L. Tesorero

Dubai: A few hundred Filipino expats are seeking to be repatriated soon, a source within the Filipino diplomatic community said Saturday, March 11.

Flights to Manila from this city, however, are still suspended, following the Philippine government’s directive on extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) and budget airline, Cebu Pacific – have also extended the suspension of all flight operations between Dubai and Manila until April 30.

Moreover, the decision to suspend passenger and transit flights to and from the UAE – as a preventive measure to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) – is still in effect.

Meanwhile, around 200 seafarers have been repatriated to the Philippines on Saturday.

The repatriation of the stranded Filipino crew members, who are not UAE residents, was coordinated with UAE authorities who allowed them to disembark and take a chartered flight arranged by their employers through local manning agencies.

In an earlier Gulf News report, Marford Angeles, Consul-General and Deputy Head of Mission at the Philippine Embassy, said they have been working on the repatriation of Filipino crew members stranded in various ports in the UAE.

The Filipino diplomat also clarified, as per POLO-OWWA (Philippine Overseas Labor Office – Overseas Workers Welfare Administration), “employers are responsible for their employees’ repatriation, based on their contract.”

Angeles added the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi has been closely coordinating with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs on cases of stranded Filipino nationals. “These cases are subject to compliance with both Philippine and UAE laws and regulations, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in the Philippines being coordinated with the Philippine Department of Health and OWWA,” he earlier told Gulf News.

Angeles also clarified the Embassy’s programme of repatriating those with visa problems and immigration offences and victims illegal recruitment is still on hold due to the suspension of exit pass processing and suspension of UAE flights.

“This programme is also subject to availability of funds. Those who need help with their exit pass processing may call +971508584968 or +971508963089, or email atn.abudhabi@gmail.com for proper advice,” he added. #

(This article originally appeared on Gulf News.)

‘Rape is part of culture’


“[For those] working as slaves [overseas], rape [comes with] the territory. Kasali sa kultura (It’s part of the culture).”–President Rodrigo Duterte (Masbate City/11 January 2019)

MidEast OFWs react to Duterte’s 2nd SONA

DUBAI–Filipinos in the UAE gave a mixed bag of reactions on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Manila Monday.

Some praised him for his straightforward speech while others criticized his bloody war on illegal drugs; others gave him high marks while some gave him a satisfactory grade, and yet others have raised concerns over the continuing war between government troops and Daesh-inspired Maute Group as well as the extension of martial law in Mindanao, in southern Philippines.

Solid Duterte supporters have expectedly shown their complete trust to President Duterte.

“I trust him in whatever action of government he wants to make,” Dubai resident Mosh Lafuente said. “I fully support him. His campaign on peace and order, including his war against illegal drugs, is really very tough but that is precisely what the Philippines needs,” he said.

Milo Torres added: I’m very happy to see him and hear him speaking from his heart with no hesitation to what he wanted to say. Martial law in Mindanao is really necessary and his call for the re-imposition of death penalty is the answer for those who committed heinous crimes.

“Duterte is not perfect and I give a satisfactory rating on his first year in office. He has done a good job on his war against drugs and, as a matter of fact, I never felt safer during my last vacation in our hometown,” added Darwin Grafil.

But many criticized Duterte’s martial law and the many extrajudicial killings in his year-old presidency.

“In his SONA, President Duterte said martial law is needed until the last terrorist is taken out of Mindanao,” Sahron Roy Tamano, former MarCom (Maranao Community) president, said. “But the war between government troops and Daesh-inspired Maute Group has been going on for more than two months and there is still no end in aerial bombings in Marawi and other rebel-occupied communities,” she said.

Tamano added: “I speak on behalf of Maranaos (people of Marawi) in the UAE and I can say that we are not entirely against the extension of martial law to quell the terrorists but what we are afraid of is what will happen next after this war. We are afraid that the military might abuse their authority. Some of us might be picked up on mere suspicion that we have relatives connected with the Mautes,” she said.

“Duterte has to keep his promise to end this armed conflict in Marawi soon because every day that this war is dragging on, more people – particularly the civilians – will die,” Tamano underlined.

Nhel Morona, Migrante Middle East coordinator, added: “The extension of martial law in Mindanao could lead to a military takeover of the government. Duterte is now showing that he is leaning to the Right and such move could pave the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide.”

“As proven in history, martial law does not bring peace and stability and can only lead to human rights violations,” he explained.

Morona also criticised Duterte for pulling the plug on the peace negotiations with the communists.

“President Duterte previously bragged that he’s a leftist president, but what happened? Peace talks are not just about the cessation of hostilities. At the negotiating table, both parties talk about the root causes of armed conflict and discuss fundamental social change. Now, the president has thrown this down the drain and he is on war footing,” Morona underlined.

On Duterte’s war on drugs, Filipino tech-entrepreneur Mannix Pabalan said: “The Duterte administration anchored its campaign to the presidency to clean up the country with illegal drugs. So far out of thousands killed already, we still have to see a drug lord get their day in justice. It is unfortunate that we still hear news that drug lords are feasting inside jail while they manufacture and operate their drug syndicates behind bars with the help of the men in uniform themselves,” Pabalan said. # (Angel L. Tesorero)

An earlier version of this report was published in The Khaleej Times (http://www.khaleejtimes.com/international/philippines/filipino-expats-reactions-on-dutertes-speech)

 

OFWs worry about families in Mindanao evacuation camps

By Angel L. Tesorero, Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Two months on and fighting in Marawi City in southern Philippines between government troops and a Daesh-inspired group is still ongoing. Death toll is rising and many Filipino expats are worried about their relatives staying at various evacuation camps.

Sharjah resident and former MarCom (Maranao Community) president Roy Tamano said: “The forces of Maute group have dissipated – they are now playing hide-and-seek with the government. But there are still sporadic clashes and it is still not safe for Marawi residents to return home.

“Thousands of families have been staying in different evacuation centres since the fighting erupted before the start of Ramadan on May 23. Many people have died not because they were caught in the crossfire but because of the poor condition at evacuation centres,” Tamano told Khaleej Times.

The fighting in Marawi has resulted in Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in the entire province of Mindanao to stem terrorism and restore order.

“They (Marawi evacuees) are down both physically and psychologically. The (Philippine) government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development is doing its best to help the refugees but they can only do so much as the sheer volume of needs by the evacuees is too much.”

Luckily for Tamano, his immediate relatives were the part of the first wave of evacuees and they are now safe at the homes of their relatives in nearby provinces.

“But many ran away with nothing but a few valuable possessions. Now, they only rely on the kindness of socio-civic groups and charity organisations,” Tamano said.

“The fighting has not only wrecked havoc on their livelihood but also on their morale. Maranaos (residents of Marawi) are a proud people and now they had to swallow their pride and accept ‘donations’ just to survive,” he underlined.

Tamano added that the number of casualties reported by the government is very conservative.

According to a recent report by the military, around 507 people have died – of this number, 379 were terrorists ; 89 were soldiers and 39 were civilian residents.

“Many cadavers are not yet collected,” Tamano said. “Only after the war has concluded and a thorough clearing operation is conducted can we ascertain the number of casualties,” he explained.

Even the body of the husband of Tamano’s cousin, Aleem Saipodin Gato, an Islamic preacher and former councillor of Marawi City, who is believed to have been killed by the Mautes is still not recovered.

For Hanifah Ampatuah, she is worried that her family and relatives have nothing left of their properties when they go back home.

“Our rice fields were burned and our source of income were destroyed. Even our ancestral home, which was built in the 1950s and has withstood the test of time, was razed to the ground,” she said.

“We fervently hope and pray that the fighting will stop and we can start rebuilding our beautiful Islamic City of Marawi,” she concluded.

Filipino community holds prayer for peace

Muslim and Christian Filipino expats recently held an ecumenical Prayer for Peace in Marawi at St. Francis Church in Jebel Ali. Vice-consuls Marianne Bringas and Elizabeth Ramos were present as well as some leaders of the Filipino community.

In Abu Dhabi, the Philippine Embassy collected letters of support from students and sent them to the Philippines.

“We were enjoined by the Department of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the participation of overseas Filipinos in UAE in this campaign. Of course, we are more than willing to do as our little contribution to the efforts of our brave soldiers in fighting terrorists. We hope that through these messages of support, the whole armed forces would feel that they are alone in their noble mission,” Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil, third secretary and vice consul at the Philippine Embassy, told Khaleej Times. #

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