Gov’t pushing OFWs to commit suicide? – group

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today chided the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for “promoting the insurance provision for suicides in the mandatory insurance coverage as if it were another viable option for OFWs and their families.”

“How insensitive, brutal and tactlessly lacking in foresight for the government. They are virtually encouraging OFWs to commit suicide by assuring them that their families will be covered (by the insurance),” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez said that the government should practice more sensitivity especially after the recent spate of suicide incidences among OFWs, the latest was of an OFW who killed himself inside a lavatory of an airplane.

Una sa lahat, kalakhan ng ating mga OFW ay lumabas ng bansa dulot ng matinding desperasyon, hirap sa buhay at maraming binabayarang mga utang at iba pa. Kaya dumarami ang nagpapakamatay nating mga kababayan sa labas ng bansa ay dahil dumodoble ang kanilang desperasyon sa harap ng mga pasakit at pang-aabuso na dinaranasa nila. Ngayon, itong gobyerno naman natin, kung i-promote ang suicide insurance akala mo’y kung ano’ng klaseng promo, daig pa ang ‘buy-one-take-one’,” he said.

The newly-imposed mandatory health insurance for OFWs is stipulated in the amended Republic Act 10022 or the Migrants Act. Correspondingly, the POEA recently released Memorandum Circular No. 09 Series of 2010 last October 21, 2010 ordering the implementation of  “compulsory insurance coverage for agency-hired OFWs,” land-based or sea-based. The mandatory insurance will be covered by a private insurance provider duly-licensed and certified by the Insurance Commission.

Migrante International has already expressed opposition to the new policy saying that it would inevitably be passed on to OFWs. ###

 

OFW killed in accident was victim of illegal recruitment; Kin ask for prosecution of agency, gov’t support

An overseas Filipino worker who died in a vehicular accident in Saudi Arabia on November 1 was a victim of illegal recruitment and overcharging, according to global alliance of OFWs Migrante International.

Jose Bautista, a truck driver, died on the spot after he figured in a road accident while driving along Tabuk-Doba highway. He has been working in Saudi for two years and two months.

He was deployed to Saudi by PERT-CPM, a recruitment agency recently suspended by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) after almost 100 bus and truck drivers of the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) complained of overcharging, loans with onerous rates, collection of fees without issuance of receipts, misrepresentation and collusion of the agency with lending agencies.

As of present, there are still no updates against the OFWs’ complaints.

Bautista’s remains are still at the Tabuk morgue while his family awaits his repatriation.

According to Gina Esguerra, Secretary-General of Migrante International, “Napakasaklap ng sinapit ng ating kababayan, lalo pa’t bago siya mamatay ay wala pa ring hustisya sa kanilang kahilingan. At ngayon hanggang sa kanyang kamatayan, mabagal pa rin ang pag-usad ng serbisyo mula sa ating gobyerno.”

Esguerra called on the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to facilitate the immediate repatriation of Bautista’s remains and to give his family his insurance claims and after-death benefits.

As for the driver’s complaints against PERT-CPM and the lending agencies involved in overcharging, she said, “Kailan ba magagawan ng kaukulang aksyon ito? Kailangan pa bang mamatay muna ng ating mga OFW bago harapin ang kanilang kaso?” ###

OFWs support Pacquiao; ‘People’s Champ’ is also champion of OFWs’ fight

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today wished Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao victory in his upcoming boxing match against Mexican-American Antonio Margarito.

“For OFWs, Pacquiao is not only the ‘People’s Champ’ but also a champion of the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants. He is the pride of OFWs not only for his stellar performance in the ring,” said Gina Esguerra, Migrante International Secretary-General.

Pacquiao, who is also a representative of Saranggani Province in the 15th Congress, is a vocal advocate of anti-human trafficking.

He had expressed concern over the rising number of human trafficking cases especially from the Visayas and Mindanao regions and pushed for a higher budget allocation for the inter-agency committee in charge of handling trafficking cases. He had also announced that he would take part in the public awareness campaign to fight the crime.

“We welcome his initiative and hope that he could work closer with us in advancing the cause. Aasahan naming tutuparin niya ang pangako niyang tumulong para ma-knock out ang human trafficking at iba pang krimen at pang-aabuso sa ating mga OFW,” she said. ###

OFW group troops to DOLE, demands recall of rude HK attache

Migrante International today trooped to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to demand the recall of Hong Kong Labor Attache Romulo Salud.

The protest action came in light of the deadline set by the agency after it formed a fact-finding committee to probe the abusive behavior of Salud towards Filipina domestic worker Agnes Tenorio. The fact finding went to Hong Kong yesterday to investigate and is set to forward their recommendations to DOLE today.

Salud received flak from overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong and around the world after his rude treatment of an OFW in distress. His verbal lashing was caught on audio recording by Filipina domestic helper Agnes Tenorio.

Tenorio, a first-time domestic worker in Hong Kong, sought the help of the Philippine Consulate General last September 29 after her contract was illegally terminated by her employer barely two hours after she arrived at her employer’s house. She was referred there to Salud. Confused and unaware of her options, her initial reaction to the experience was to go back home to the Philippines. Salud did not give her advice nor informed her of her rights and instead conveniently agreed to her kneejerk request.

She, however, learned afterwards from other OFWs that she is allowed under law to file claims for her unpaid wages at the HK Labor Department as well as complain her employer for illegal termination of contract. With these new knowledge at hand, Tenorio went back to see Salud on October. It was then the recording took place. Its release to the public has then caused a stir in the international Filipino community.

For her part, Migrante Secretary-General Gina Esguerra said that they supported calls to recall Salud. “We call on DOLE to do what is righteous and just. Our OFWs deserve the utmost respect especially from government officials.

“Let this serve as a lesson to all erring and negligent government officials. Walang karapatan itong si Salud o sinumang kawani ng gobyerno sa mga embahada na tanggihan, bastusin at pabayaan ang ating mga OFW, lalo na’t sila ay nangangailangan. They also have the responsibility to inform them of their rights and options at hindi iyang gumagalaw lang to their convenience.”

Esguerra said that cases like these are “not new.” “We have received numerous complaints against labor attaches and embassy officials and personnel but sadly none have been sanctioned. What they do when the complaints become resounding is either they transfer them back to the Philippines or to another post.” Salud was formerly an official of the MECO in Taiwan.

Esguerra said that they are studying possible charges to file against Salud and other erring and negligent embassy officials. ##

OFWs balk at new compulsory insurance policy

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today expressed strong opposition to the newly-imposed mandatory health insurance as stipulated in the amended Republic Act 10022 or the Migrants Act.

Accordingly, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) recently released Memorandum Circular No. 09 Series of 2010 last October 21, 2010 ordering the implementation of  “compulsory insurance coverage for agency-hired OFWs,” land-based or sea-based.

The mandatory insurance will be covered by a private insurance provider duly-licensed and certified by the Insurance Commission.

According to Migrante International Secretary-General Gina Esguerra, “We are opposed to this new scheme. Maganda nga sana kung gobyerno ang kakargo dito, kung manggagalingg mismo sa subsidyo ng gobyerno ang serbisyo. Ang kaso, negosyo na naman itong pinasok ng gobyerno na walang ibang huhuthutan ng kita kundi ang ating mga OFW.”

Esguerra said that while it is specified in the policy that it is the recruitment/manning agency or the foreign principal/employer who shall pay the cost of the insurance coverage, “there is no guarantee that the added cost will not be transferred to our OFWs via placement fees and other exactions.”

“Furthermore, how can the government compel employers to pay for this? What mechanism is at hand to thoroughly monitor its implementation and sanction those who will violate? Kung sweldo nga minsan hindi ibinibigay sa mga OFW ito pa kayang dagdag-bayarin din para sa mga employer?”

Lastly, Esguerra said that the new mandatory imposition is “redundant”.

Antemano, nagbabayad na ang mga OFW ng Philhealth at OWWA membership na pawang covered na dapat ang mga serbisyong covered din nitong bagong insurance na ito. Mayroon ding dapat na nakalaang pondo ang gobyerno para sa iba pang mga serbiyong covered nito, tulad ng repatriation, settlement claims at iba pa.”

“So we really do not see the rhyme and reason in this new mandatory policy apart from money-making and the government washing its hands off its responsibilities to our OFWs,” she said. ###

OFW groups converge in Mexico for 4th IAMR

Migrante International in solidarity with other migrant groups and organizations have converged in Mexico City to attend the 4th International Assembly for Migrants and  Refugees (IAMR).

The IAMR coincides yearly with the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) being hosted this year by the Mexican government.

The GFMD is an annual international conference on migration and development issues, following the High Level Dialogue on Migration organized by the United Nations (UN) in New York in September 2006.

The IAMR is a collaborative effort of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) and Migrante International, with the support of Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, IBON International, International League of Peoples’ Struggles, Bayan Philippines, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development – Task Force on Labor and Migration and CARAM Asia. The first IAMR was held in the Philippines in 2008

According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, the IAMR’s main thrust is to belie the GFMD’s claim that “migration is a tool for development”.

Martinez said, “The international gathering aims to develop awareness on the GFMD process, critically discuss and analyze the impact of neo-liberal globalization, and build process of attaining the migrant consensus as the legitimate and genuine platform of migrants to the GFMD, and help strengthen bonds among migrants, refugees and advocates.”

“We perceive the IAMR as the ‘genuine gathering of migrants and refugees from all over the world. It is here and not in the GFMD where migrants and refugees gather to dicuss our issues and concerns. It is where we speak of the horrors, struggles and tragedies that forced migration has caused us, our families and our societies.”

Martinez said that Migrante International and its affiliate organizations worldwide are attending the IAMR as “direct witnesses to the palpable elitism of the GFMD through its exclusion of millions of overseas Filipinos, as well as migrants of other nationalities”.

“We condemn the GFMD’s agenda of forcing migrants to bear the burden of keeping sagging economies like that of the Philippines afloat. It has no intention whatsoever to speak for the interests of migrants.”

“Instead of strengthening basic local industries to provide work for its citizens, the GFMD aims to pressure governments to encourage their citizens to work abroad,” he said. ##

 

OFWs to PNoy: Urge ASEAN to protect, respect rights of migrant workers; Show example, ‘clean own backyard’

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) urged President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to push for the completion of the regional instrument for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers  and “to have the moral and political ascendancy to do it” as he flew in to Hanoi, Vietnam to attend the 17th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit.

The ASEAN Committee for the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) has been drafting an Instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. The instrument will define the rights of migrant workers and outline the obligations of sending and receiving states to hold governments accountable.

The ACMW was formed after the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu in January 2007 agreed to a Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers which takes significant steps in moving ASEAN member states towards complying with existing universal conventions and treaties that many, including the Philippines, have ratified.

The drafting of the instrument has come to an impasse since 2009, however, after members of the committee, receiving countries Malaysia and Singapore, and Thailand (as then chair of the ASEAN), failed to agree with provisions proposed by committee members labor-sending countries Philippines and Indonesia.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, “We expect PNoy to bring up two main points for OFWs in the summit. First is to compel labor-receiving countries to abide by universal conventions and policies with respect to the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. Second is for him to announce his concrete action to fully implement such policies and laws in our own concerned government agencies.”

The Philippines is one of the top labor-sending countries in the world, only next to China and Mexico.

Yearly, Migrante International receives an average of 1,500 cases of abuse, exploitation, labor and human rights violations and complaints against erring and negligent government officials despite the enactment of Republic Act 10022 or the amended Migrant Workers’ Act and the RA 9208 or the Anti Trafficking in Persons Act, among others.

Martinez said, “How can we expect receiving countries to uphold and respect the rights of our OFWs when our very own government fails to do so?”

He cited the cases of Agnes Tenorio, the Jordan 100++ and Nancy (not her real name).

Yesterday, Filipina domestic worker Tenorio complained of the rude and neglectful behavior of Labor Attaché Romulo Salud in Hong Kong. Salud’s rude “scolding” was captured on audio recroding. OFWs in Hong Kong and Migrante International have called for the recall of Salud.

Almost 200 OFWs in Jordan, mostly women and minors, otherwise known as the Jordan 100++, have complained of ‘state-sponsored human trafficking’ after their employment certificates were authenticated by the POLO in Jordan despite of a deployment ban still in effect. They are presently languishing at the POLO in Jordan and awaiting repatriation.

Nancy (not her real name), an OFW who was drugged and raped by a Bangladeshi national in Saudi Arabia in 2009, has finished serving her jail sentence and received 50 lashes after her employer sent her to jail “for having an illicit affair”. She was set to be released when her rapist was caught and was just waiting for her ticket from the Department of Foreign Affairs last July. However, after a call from her mother, Migrante has recently learned that she is being sent back to Saudi Central Jail. When asked, the DFA could not point out her exact whereabouts.

“These are just some of the cases by which the government should be held directly accountable for the gross disregard and neglect of the welfare and lives of our OFWs. Pnoy should show a good example to the ASEAN by cleaning his own backyard. His administration must have the moral and political ascendancy to oblige receiving states to comply,” he said. ###

 

 

OFWs in Hong Kong want rude labor attaché fired

Hong Kong-based OFW groups United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-Migrante-HK) and the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) expressed anger and indignation over the rude treatment of a labor attaché towards an OFW in distress.

Agnes Tenorio, a first-time domestic worker in Hong Kong, sought the help of the Philippine Consulate Genneral last September 29 after her contract was illegally terminated by her employer barely two hours after she arrived at her employer’s house. She was referred there to Labor Attache Romulo Salud.

Confused and unaware of her options, her initial reaction to the experience was to go back home to the Philippines. Labatt Salud did not give her advice nor informed her of her rights and instead conveniently agreed to her kneejerk request.

She, however, learned afterwards from other OFWs and the MFMW that, under law, she is allowed to file claims for her unpaid wages at the HK Labor Department as well as complain her employer for illegal termination of contract. With these new knowledge at hand, Tenorio went back to see Labatt Salud on October.

Below is the full transcript:

Labatt Romy Salud: Ang ayaw ko sayo, ito ha… (inaudible) ang sarili mo. Nagpunta ka dito nagpaasikasong kang umuwi agad. Kaya ayaw kitang pagkatiwalaan, eh. Hindi sa ayaw kita ha? Ang ugali mo. Una, nagpunta ka… Hindi ba? Nagpunta ka dito, hindi ba? Gusto mo ng umuwi. [What I don’t like about you… You went here asking us to assist you in going home immediately. That’s why I don’t trust you. Not that I don’t… Your Attitude… First, you came here… You came here, right? You wanted to go home.]

Agnes Tenorio: Natatakot po… [I was afraid.]

RS: Inasikaso namin ang iyong … [We were fixing your…]

AT: Sir, me karapatan naman ako [Sir, I have a right.]

RS: Anong karapatan? Wag mong gagamitin sa akin ang karapatan. Ako, me karapatan din ako. Wag mong gagamitin ang salitang karapatan ha? [What right? Don’t use the word “right” to me. I also have rights. Don’t use the word “right”, ha?]

AT: Hindi po. Nung unang una… saklot ng takot ng una akong pumunta dito. [No. During my first visit, I was really afraid when I went here.]

RS: Wala ako. Sinasabi naman sa yo eh. [I am telling you…]

AT: Hindi ko po alam yung may karapatan ko na magfile ng labor. [I did not know that I have a right to file a case at Labor (department)]

RS: Wag mong gagamitin yang karapatan. Dahil karapatan ko rin… kung tatanggapin kita o hindi. Wag mong pagdidiinan mo sa akin yang karapatan mo ha? Ang lahat ng karapatan ay me responsibilidad. Tandaan mo. [Don’t use the word “right”. Because it is also my right if I am going to accept you or not. Don’t use the word “right” on me, ha? All rights have responsibilities. Remember that.]

AT: Hindi ko naman din po kasi alam nung una yung pwede pala akong magfile ng labor. Karapatan ko rin naman siguro kahit papaano tignan yung karapatan kong makakuha kahit konti… [I did not know at first that I can file a case at Labor. I think it is also my right to get even a portion…]

RS: Karapatan ko ring magsabi sa yo kung ano ang dapat mong gawin o hindi. Karapatan ko rin kung magsabi dito…. [It is also my right to tell you what to do and what not to do. It is also my right to say here…]

Attached also herewith are the press releases and statements of UNIFIL-HK, MFMW and Tenorio and the OFWs’ letter addressed to Department of Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz.

For her part, Migrante Secretary-General Gina Esguerra supported calls to recall Salud. “Let this serve as a lesson to all erring and negligent government officials. Walang karapatan itong si Salud o sinumang kawani ng gobyerno sa mga embahada na tanggihan, bastusin at pabayaan ang ating mga OFW, lalo na’t sila ay nangangailangan. They also have the responsibility to inform them of their rights and options at hindi iyang gumagalaw lang to their convenience.”

Esguerra said that cases like these are “not new.” “We have received numerous complaints against labor attaches and embassy officials and personnel but sadly none have been sanctioned. What they do when the complaints become resounding is either they transfer them back to the Philippines or to another post.” Salud was formerly an official of the MECO in Taiwan.

Esguerra said that they are studying possible charges to file against Salud and other erring and negligent embassy officials. ##

 

 

 

 

 

OFW group slams ‘state-sponsored human trafficking’; Calls on Congress to investigate deployment bans, bilateral agreements on OFW deployment

Migrante International today sought the immediate investigation of what it called “state-sponsored human trafficking” of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Jordan.

According to Migrante International secretary-general, “There is an immediate and urgent need for the government to investigate the continuing recruitment of OFWs to Jordan despite the ongoing deployment ban issued by the Philippine government following cases of abuse from the region in 2007. We have verified with the POEA and they have affirmed that the ban is still in effect.”

If this were the case, Esguerra said, the Philippine government has to explain the most recent cases of OFWs in distress brought to Migrante International, who mostly have only arrived in Jordan within the last six months.

In a press conference, Migrante International presented to the media families and relatives of 20 OFWs in Jordan who recently staged a hunger strike to call on government posts and authorities to address their plight. Last month, a national public affairs television show also featured the miserable conditions of hundreds of OFWs languishing in deportation centers in Jordan.

The 20 OFWs were all victims of illegal and human trafficking and sought refuge in the POLO (Philippine Overseas Labor Offices) in Jordan after they escaped their employers due to maltreatment, non-payment of salaries, sexual and physical harassment and slave-like conditions. They are seeking immediate repatriation and the waiver of deployment costs that they are being charged with.

Esguerra said that according to accounts by the OFWs and their families, most of them were able to enter Jordan via HongKong and Dubai and then later had their employment contracts authenticated by the POLO in Jordan.

“POLO, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) has some serious explaining to do. POLO’s main responsibility, in compliance with the ban, is to immediately assume that any Filipino national they may encounter is a victim of human trafficking and therefore exhaust all efforts to send them home. Bakit nila ina-authenticate ang employment contract? Kung gayon, hindi ba’t nangangahulugan ito ng human trafficking na may basbas mismo ng gobyerno?”

Esguerra also expressed concern over the deadline set by the government for overseas posts to submit to the DFA certification that their respective countries of responsibility are safe for deployment. The deadline has been set on November 20, as mandated by the amended Republic Act 10022 or the Migrants’ Act. “The Philippine embassy, POLO and ambassador in Jordan have no basis to certify the country safe for deployment in light of the recent cases.”

Countries that had recently submitted certification to and were declared safe by the DFA are Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Kuwait, Laos, Myanmar, Ireland, Saipan, Norway, Syria, and Vietnam. Of these, Migrante International has recorded cases of human rights violations and abuses from Syria and Kuwait.

Esguerra urged Congress to investigate the strict implementation of deployment bans, as well as seek a review and evaluation of existing bilateral agreements between the Philippine government and countries of destination of OFWs.

The Philippines is said to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Jordan government on the protection of OFWs but its substance has not been made known to the public. She added that it is up to now unclear if the MoU has indeed been signed by both parties.

The DOLE reported to Congress recently that the Philippines has more than 100 bilateral agreements with different countries concerning OFW deployment and the protection of Filipino migrant workers. ###

“100 days not a honeymoon but a nightmare for OFWs”; OFWs worldwide join protests on 100 days of PNoy

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) all over the globe today joined protests on Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s 100th day in office. Members of Migrante from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States launched internationally-coordinated protests against budget cuts on assistance to nationals (ATN) and legal assistance funds (LAF) for OFWs in the 2011 national budget.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, “For OFWs worldwide, Aquino’s first 100 days in office was more of a nightmare than a honeymoon period.”

“The president himself admitted the budget cuts on his first 100 days report yesterday, despite attempts by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) to cover-up the big, bad and brutal budget cuts,” he said.

Migrante International earlier slammed the DBM’s “spin” to cover-up OFW budget cuts by padding it with so-called cash balances in the 2009 and 2010 LAF. “Palusot lang ito at matagumpay na nailantad ng ating mga bagong bayani. Mukhang kahit si Presidente ay hindi kinayang panindigan ang panlilito at pagpapaikot-ikot ng DBM para pagtakpan ang malaking kaltas sa budget ng mga OFW.”

Martinez also specifically criticized Aquino for the government’s failure to peacefully resolve the Manila hostage tragedy, which affected the lives, safety and job security of tens of thousands of OFWs in Hong Kong.

OFWs in Saudi Arabia shaved their heads in protest, while OFWs from other countries trooped to Philippine embassies or held in-door activities in solidarity with fellow kababayans in their respective countries. Filipinos in Hong Kong, meanwhile, are set to converge in a big protest rally on Sunday.

Here in the Philippines, returned and visiting OFWs, OFW victims, families and advocates joined the BAYAN-led multi-sectoral rally in Mendiola.

According to Martinez, Aquino failed to fulfill his promise to “direct the DFA, POEA and OWWA” to provide protection and welfare services for Filipino nationals abroad.

In Aquino’s first 100 days, he said, no urgent action has been done to address the cases of 108 OFWs in death row, 7,000 in jail and thousands stranded and awaiting repatriation. “Sa halip, binawasan pa ang budget sa kabila ng milyong dolyar na kinikita ng gobyerno mula sa mga OFW remittance at sa milyon pang nakokotong nito mula sa ating mga OFW.”

“The Aquino administration’s budget framework alone contradicts his declaration to curb forced migration by providing sufficient decent jobs at home. Instead, there is not much difference from previous administrations’ framework of deregulation, liberalization and privatization, thus further intensifying labor export at the expense of genuine national development,” he said.

Para sa mga OFW, ‘zero’ ang grado ni PNoy sa unang 100 araw niya sa pwesto. Kung hindi reresolbahan ni PNoy ang hinaing at mga pangangailangan ng ating mga OFW, hindi malayong maglunsad ng isang ‘zero remittance day’ ang mga kababayan natin bilang pangtapat sa bokya niyang grado,” Martinez said. ###