Bleeding OFWs dry: Migrant group in HK hits POEA order on mandatory insurance

“The new POEA order on mandatory insurance is just another money-making scheme for the already burdened OFWs that can very well even cost us our job.”

This was declared by Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK), regarding the POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 04 that enforces a mandatory insurance for OFWs.

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“Mandatory insurance is just another state exaction by the Duterte government from us who are already burdened by the soaring prices of goods in the Philippines and the rapid weakening of the peso. Employers in Hong Kong are already required by law to get insurance for their domestic workers. If they don’t get one, and something happens to their worker, employers will be liable and must make sure that they will be responsible for the expenses. The new mandatory insurance order will just add to the list of expenses that employers are made to pay for and will merely increase friction between the employer and worker,” Balladares-Pelaez explained.

Under the POEA governing board resolution, all returning OFWs with the same employer, or have moved to another, must register with POEA, they must provide a passport valid for at least 6 months, a valid working visa, and a certificate of insurance coverage similar to that required of those leaving for their first job abroad.

In the guidelines, it said that all returning overseas Filipino workers who are household service workers with new or renewed contract are required to pay an insurance that will cost USD144 or HK$1,200, before being allowed to return to their work sites.

Though the resolution says that the employer must pay, in reality, it is the workers who will be paying the insurance to prevent arguments with their employer.  “There is no mechanism to ensure that the employer will pay for it. This new fee might even lead to domestic workers losing their jobs because of tension with their employers. We already take home so little of our pay, yet you want to take away the equivalent of almost 30% of a month’s salary for this superfluous fee?” Balladares-Pelaez remarked.

The mandatory insurance came out in time for the coming midterm elections, which is few months from now. According to Balladares-Pelaez, “We cannot help but think that this collection is one way to accumulate more money for the elections.”

Balladares-Pelaez continued, “The Duterte government and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III are responsible for this additional fee for overseas Filipinos. Duterte and Bello are bleeding us dry. The longer they are in power, the more miserable the lives of the Filipino people, and especially migrants, are.”

“But we will not take this sitting down. Expect that we will meet the POEA governing board resolution no. 04 with a protest. We will make sure that this exaction will not push through. We will continue to fight until the mandatory insurance is scrapped!” Balladares-Pelaez concluded.

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#BertizAlis: OFWs lodge complaints, want Bertiz out of Congress

As part of the #BertizAlis campaign initiated by Migrante, victims of ACTS OFW Partylist Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III filed their complaints today as the Committee on Ethics of the House of Representative probes on the congressman’s misconducts. OFWs Shiela Mabunga and Emmanuel Villanueva submitted their testimonies detailing their harsh encounters with Rep. Bertiz.

ByeJohn For Online Petition

In Mabunga’s written testimony, it was in 2013 when she applied as a cook for Dubai at Keys Placement, a recruitment firm owned by Bertiz’ wife, however at midpoint, Mabunga’s documents were transferred to Bertiz’ agency Global Asia Alliance Consultants Inc. (GAACI) for processing.

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On her written testimony, Mabunga recounted the contract violations of GAACI. Instead of being deployed in 2014 to her real employer, Mabunga was instead picked up at the airport by a different employer from whom she suffered abuse and maltreatment. When half of her body was paralyzed due to her ordeal, her family sought help from the agency countless times but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Fearing for Mabunga’s life, her father filed a request for repatriation at POEA in February 2015.

It took four months before Rep. Bertiz met with Mabunga to negotiate with her employer. She begged Bertiz to take her back with him to the Philippines but her supplication was not granted. Instead, Bertiz persuaded her to return to work for her employer until the end of Ramadan. Bertiz likewise cajoled Mabunga promising her repatriation and assistance for her college education on the condition that she abstains from filing a case against his agency GAACI and her employer. Upon returning back to her employer, Mabunga underwent even more abuse and severe exploitation.

Finally in August 2015, Mabunga was repatriated back to the Philippines but none of the commitments made by the agency was ever fulfilled and Bertiz did not even show up in any of their hearings at POEA.

In 2016, Mabunga decided to file a case against Bertiz and his recruitment agency at POEA and NLRC.

“Tumagal na ng dalawang taon ang kaso ko, nahalal na lamang ang kaniyang partylist at naging kongresista na siya, ngunit hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring linaw kung ano ang kahihinatnan ng aking kaso. Hanggang ngayon ay mailap pa rin sa akin ang hustisya.  Nakadadagdag sa aking hinagpis kapag nakikita ko siya sa telebisyon na umaastang maka-OFW at galit sa illegal recruiter dahil alam ko sa sarili ko na isa ako sa nabiktima ng kaniyang pagsasamantala sa OFW.  Na siya mismo ay sangkot sa illegal recruitment at isa sa mga taong hindi napapatawan ng kaparusahan sa kaniyang ginagawa,” Mabunga lamented.

Another OFW calling for Bertiz’ expulsion from Congress is Emmanuel Villanueva, an OFW in Hong Kong and Secretary General of UNIFIL-Migrante. In January 2017, Villanueva had an intense confrontation with Bertiz during a dialogue with Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod. The dialogue was about the OFWs’ demand for the abolition of the overseas employment certificate (OEC). Despite being an uninvited guest, Bertiz took much of their time by lecturing on the need for the OEC and his proposed OFW ID which infuriated OFWs present at the meeting. Villanueva politely asked the lawmaker not to consume much of the time, only to be yelled at and accused of being an undocumented OFW.

Meanwhile, a petition for the removal of ACTS OFW Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III was launched yesterday by OFWs. The petition enumerated compelling reasons for his expulsion. Number one on the list is “conflict of interest” since Bertiz is not an OFW but a big time recruiter who should not be recognized as a legitimate representative of OFWs. The petition likewise cited the irregularities of his agency as well as his disrespectful behaviour towards OFWs and their leaders during a dialogue in Hong Kong.

Petitioners denounced the congressman’s involvement in a botched rescue mission in Kuwait which endangered the lives of many OFWs. His relentless justification of the OEC and the OFW ID despite denouncements from OFW communities was likewise pointed out.

“Dahil dito, walang moral na awtoridad si Rep. Aniceto “John” D. Bertiz III na maging kinatawan namin sa Kongreso. Wala na ring dahilan para siya ay manatili pa sa kanyang katungkulan sa Kongreso,” the petition stated

“Bertiz is a fake OFW representative and habitual abuser of authority”

Hong Kong migrants call for the removal of “OFW” lawmaker

“ACTS-OFW representative Aniceto ‘John’ D. Bertiz III is not even an OFW. He is in fact an owner of one of Philippines’ biggest recruitment agencies. He is arrogant and disrespectful even to the people he claims to represent. He is a habitual abuser of authority.”

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This was the reaction of Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) after a video of Rep. Bertiz scolding and confiscating the ID of a Manila airport security screener who called Bertiz’ attention for passing through the security scanner without removing his shoes, went viral.

“It was Bertiz who violated the airport security protocol, a security measure that only the Philippine president can be exempted. The least he could have done is to humbly apologize and go through the security screening again,” said Balladares-Pelaez.

“But no! His trapo ego was so hurt that even after ignoring the security personal, he still went back just to scold him and illegally confiscate the poor man’s ID. That is a totally unacceptable behavior for someone who wants to be addressed as an ‘Honorable’ congressman,” Balladares-Pelaez averred.

Balladares-Pelaez also recalled UNIFIL-MIGRANTE’s personal experience of Bertiz’ arrogance.

“In January 2017, we sought a dialogue with Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod who was visiting Hong Kong to discuss our demands particularly the abolition of the overseas employment certificate (OEC). To our surprise, Rep. Bertiz also came to the said dialogue uninvited, spoke for almost 20 minutes and lectured us on the need for the OEC and that only his proposed “OFW ID” can replace the OEC,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

Balladares-Pelaez narrated how Bertiz got mad and raised his voice to UNIFIL-MIGRANTE secretary General Eman Villanueva who politely raised his hand wanting to tell Bertiz to not take so much of their time with Usec Joel Maglungsod who was yet to respond to their appeal. “We were all shocked when he shouted at Eman and falsely accused him of being an undocumented migrant after Eman exposed him as a recruitment agency owner,” she added.

The video of the “shouting match” between Bertiz and Villanueva posted by HKPinoyTV also went viral in Facebook. Recently, another video of Bertiz speaking in a mass oath-taking of agricultural and biosystems engineers went viral after he said that those who do not know Bong Go (special assistance to the president) will not get their license. In July this year, Bertiz and his wife were also implicated by an employment agency owner in a Php6.8 million corruption and bribery scandal in DOLE.

“He is not worthy to represent our sector in Congress. He is only representing himself and his kind – recruitment agencies. He is a power tripper and he thinks he can get away with it because of his closeness to Philippine Pres. Duterte and his personal assistant Sec. Bong Go,” Balladares-Pelaez stressed.

“Bertiz has crossed the line so many times. He should be punished by the House of Representatives for disorderly behaviour and be expelled from Congress,” Balladares-Pelaez concluded.

UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK is an alliance of more than 30 OFW associations fighting for the rights and welfare of migrant workers in the territory for more than 30 years.

 

For reference:

Dolores Balladares-Pelaez

Chairperson

UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK

 

Migrante challenges Duterte gov’t to back the call of domestic helpers in Hong Kong for HK$5,500 minimum wage

Migrante challenged the Duterte government to intercede on behalf of Hong Kong based Filipino household workers in their calls for a $5,500 minimum wage and a $2,500 monthly food allowance which were turned down by the Hong Kong government this week.

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“Dito tunay na masusukat ang malasakit ni Duterte sa mga OFW. The wage increase has long been overdue especially at a time when their families back home are reeling from the peso depreciation and inflation.  Kung hindi pa sa sama-samang pagkilos at pagigiit ng mga DH sa Hong Kong, napako na sana ang kanilang sahod sa US$400 na itinakda sa ilalim ng ‘Supermaid’ program ni Gloria Arroyo noong October 2006,” Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando said.

Way back in 2016, Migrant groups in Hong Kong submitted to the Duterte administration their “Hongkong Migrants Agenda” which laid out their collective demands including the call for wage increase but there has never been any considerable action on the part of President Duterte, Hernando lamented.

In 2007, the minimum allowable wage in Hong Kong was only at HK$3,480. Since then, it has only been going up at a yearly average of less than HK$100 as “meager adjustments” made by the HK government to inflation and as their “token response” to the clamor of domestic workers, according to Migrante.

Starting today, the new minimum allowable wage is at HK$4,520 while the monthly food allowance goes up by HK$22 to HK$1,075 a month. These amounts are still far from the HK$5,500 minimum wage and the HK$2,500 monthly food allowance demanded by domestic workers in Hong Kong. They were hopeful that the approval of the HK$5,500 amount will make their minimum wage at least reasonably closer to Hong Kong’s living wage of HK$9,828.

Yesterday, different migrant groups in Hong Kong castigated the $110 monthly wage increase and the measly additional $22 food allowance for foreign domestic workers, calling it an “insult.”

Eman Villanueva of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body said, “It’s because the government keeps insisting on making ‘affordability’ (or the capability of an employer to hire a domestic helper) a factor in determining how much we should make in a month. But what about the migrant worker’s right to earn a living wage?”

Migrante vowed to heighten its actions in pushing the Philippine government to address their call to end the imposition of “slave wage” rates to Filipino domestic workers worldwide.

On the deployment ban on Micronesia

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While we acknowledge that POEA’s deployment ban to Micronesia might seem to prevent further abuse, Migrante sees that it may result in the increased vulnerability of Filipino workers to human trafficking and illegal recruitment like what happened to numerous domestic helpers during the deployment ban in Kuwait and the UAE. Abuses continue even after the ban was lifted.

POEA’s instant recommendation to affected workers that they may still apply for jobs in the UK, Saudi Arabia or Japan indicates the government’s unpreparedness to absorb even a small OFW community of 2,000 workers in our local labour market at a time when a greater crisis in the Middle East is already on-going.

As the main enforcer of the Duterte administration’s labour export program, POEA’s pursuit of extracting income from maltreated and unpaid OFWs from Micronesia by driving them away to other countries for deployment is truly lamentable.

Domestic Helpers mula sa Middle East iginiit sa DOLE ang taas sahod

Naghain ng petisyon para sa pagtaas ng sahod ang Samahan ng mga Domestic Helper sa Gitnang Silangan (SANDIGAN) sa Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) sa Intramuros, Manila ngayong Biyernes. Iginiggiit ng grupo na gawing $700 mula sa kasalukuyang $400 ang buwanang minimum na sahod ng mga Household Service Workers (HSW) sa Middle East. 

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Ayon sa petisyon ng grupo, bumaba na ng 35% ang halaga ng sahod ng mga HSW dahil sa tuloy-tuloy na inflation mula pa noong 2006. Ayon sa kanilang pag-aaral, kung ibabatay sa komputasyon ng Purchasing Power of the Peso ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, ang USD$400 o Php20,000 noong 2006 ay nagkakahalaga na lamang ng Php13,000 noong Hunyo 2018. Lalo pa pa daw itong bumagsak dahil sa higit pang pagsirit ng mga presyo laluna ng mga pagkain nitong mga buwan ng Hulyo at Agosto dahil sa TRAIN Law.

Oktubre 2006 nang ipatupad ng pamahalaan ang POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 5 Series of 2006 (Increasing the entry level minimum salary of all household workers deployed overseas to US$400.00) bilang bahagi ng HSW Reform Package o programang ‘Supermaid’ ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Mula noon ay napako na ang sahod ng mga domestic helper sa Middle East sa $400/buwan.

“Malayong malayo na ang halaga ng aming sahod sa P45,000/buwan na kinakailangang ng bawat pamilya para mabuhay ayon mismo sa NEDA. Bilang mga breadwinner, alam naming hirap na hirap na sa pagba-budget ang aming mga pamilya kahit pa may iba pa kaming kabuhayan. Kung may trabaho man ang aming asawa o ibang myembro ng pamilya, hindi rin ito sapat dahil iregular din ang kanilang kabuhayan o kontraktwal sa paggawa,” ayon sa petisyon.

Inilinaw ni Pinky Alamo, Tagapagsalita ng SANDIGAN, na “hindi man papantay sa itinakdang nakabubuhay na sahod, malaking ginhawa na ang maibibigay ng hinihiling naming $700 minimum na sahod. Isang hakbang ito para sa aming paglaya mula sa sahod-alipin na kalagayan sa Middle East.”

Iginiit din ng SANDIGAN, kasama ang Migrante International, ang pagrepaso sa HSW Reform Package at palitan ito ng programang “tunay na nagsusulong ng karapatan at kagalingan” ng mga domestic helper.

“Sa higit na sampung taon mula nang nailunsad ang HSW Reform Package, hindi na muling nabalikan at napag-aralan ang mga polisiya para protektahan at pangalagaan ang aming kapakanan at karapatan. Dahil na rin dito, nagpatuloy lang ang pagluwal ng Pilipinas ng milyong domestic workers nang hindi napapaunlad ang mga programa ditto,” ayon pa sa inihaing petisyon.

OFWs dismayado sa tulong ng OWWA para sa mga nasalanta ni Ompong, Migrante humirit na dagdagan ang P100 million pondo

Umuwing luhaan at dismayado ang libo-libong OFW at pamilya na nagtungo sa Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Field Office sa Ilagan, Isabela para kumuha ng tulong pinansyal para sa mga nasalanta ng bagyong Ompong.

 

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Ayon kay Chris Pacis Fiel, residente ng Brgy. Marana 1, Isabela at Provincial Coordinator ng grupong Migrante, ilang araw na silang nagpapabalik-balik sa OWWA subalit application form pa lamang ang naibibigay sa kanila ng tanggapan.

“Perwisyo lamang ang inabot namin. Agarang tulong ang kailangan namin subalit gutom lang din ang ibinigay nila. Para sa halagang P3,000 pababalik-balikin kami. Pagagastusin din. Ito ba ang kanilang iniyayabang na pagmamalasakit?” ani ni Fiel.

Si Fiel at ang mahigit isangdaan kasamahan mula sa iba’t ibang bayan sa Isabela ay nagsimulang magtungo sa OWWA noon pang Martes. Aniya, halos mawalan na ng ulirat ang ilang mga aplikante dahil sa dami ng tao at kawalan ng maayos na sistema.

Ayon pa kay Fiel, kung maipasa man nila ang aplikasyon, wala daw linaw kung kailan ibibigay ang cash assistance dahil wala pa daw pondo. Hindi rin malinaw kung lahat ba ay tatanggap ng P3,000 dahil may mga sinasabi ang mga nasa tanggapan na ang iba ay tatanggap lamang ng P1,500 kung hindi na “active member” ng OWWA.

Noong September 16 ay ipinamalita ng OWWAna naglaan ito ng P100 million pondo sa ilalim ng Welfare Assistance Program (WAP) para sa mga pamilya ng OFWs na nasalanta ng bagyong Ompong.

Ayon sa grupong Migrante, “halatang hindi pinag-isipan ng husto ng pamahalaan ang pagtulong sa mga nasalanta. Inuuna ang pagpapa-pogi kaysa aksyunan ang kagyat na pangangailangan ng OFWs at pamilya.”

Humirit ang grupong Migrante na dagdagan ang pondo dahil 30,000 lang ang kayang mabiyayaan ng calamity assistance sa pondo na P100 million. Ipinunto nila na kapos na kapos ito dahil sa lawak ng apektadong lugar. Region II at Cordillera Admistrative Region ang naiuulat na pinakanasalanta ni Ompong.

Ayon sa datos ng OWWA, noong taong 2016 ay may 146, 335 OFW members ito. Pinakamalaki sa Isabela na may 64, 424, sunod ang Cagayan na may 53, 309.

Maliban sa dagdag pondo, hinamon din ng Migrante ang OWWA na isapubliko ang implementing rules  at maging transparent sa paggastos ng naturang pondo dahil pondo ito ng mga OFW.

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Watch the coverage of Bombo Radyo at the OWWA Regional Office at Tugegarao, Cagayan: https://web.facebook.com/pbsdzgr/videos/1358607977608288/