Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Congress urged to investigate DFA, OWWA funds

Congress urged to investigate DFA, OWWA funds in light of delays in repatriation

9 August 2010

Migrante International today called on Congress to investigate funds of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in light of the scandalous delays and lapses in the repatriation of remains of overseas Filipino workers.

Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, said that there is a need to thoroughly probe where the P50 million and P100 million allotted for repatriation from the DFA and OWWA, respectively, have gone.

“We have been receiving consistent complaints from families of OFWs that they have been asked to shoulder costs for their kin’s repatriation. Walang palya ito. Worse, when sought for assistance, they were informed that is the policy of Philippine embassies to collect autopsy and airfare costs from the families. Saan ngayon napunta ang mga P150 million?” he said.

Martinez said that according to Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant’s Act, it is the responsibility of the employer, the recruitment agency and, ultimately the DFA or OWWA, to shoulder costs for repatriation.

“More often than not, employers and recruitment agencies cannot be depended upon to fulfill this task as the government has no soundproof mechanism to ensure such. It is therefore mandated by the law that the DFA and OWWA are responsible,” said Martinez.

He said that the OWWA has collected an estimated $12 billion in 2010 from the mandatory $25 contributions from OFW members, of which a portion should be earmarked for emergency repatriation. “For undocumented cases, the OWWA forwards processing and implementation to the DFA which also has funds for this purpose.”

The OWWA funds have been subject to numerous cases of misuse of funds from abusive board members. The DFA, on the other hand, has been complaining of alleged lack of funds “but has failed to repatriate remains of OFWs and those in distress over the years”.

Martinez said that there is a need to counter-check if the allotted funds are trickling down to much-needed welfare services and assistance to OFWs. “We call on Congress to audit and investigate these funds in the coming budget deliberations. Lagi na lang itong napapalagpas at hindi napaparusahan ang mga humuhuthot sa pondong dapat ay para sa mga OFW.”

He cited the cases of Mark Lloyd Carmen who was killed in Iran and Marilou Sables who died of cardiac arrest in Taiwan. “Both the families of Carmen and Sables were asked to shoulder expenses for the repatriation of their remains.”

“While the DFA is claiming that costs for the return of Carmen’s remains were paid from its assistance-to-nationals fund, his mother attests that it was in fact a loan from the department and she was expected to pay them back,” he said.

Martinez added, “In Sables’ case, her ashes were brought home three months after she died. Philippine authorities in Taiwan finally exhumed her remains and brought her ashes home after series of protests from OFWs. Until now, however, she is yet to be united with her family in Iloilo because they are now being asked to shoulder shipping costs of her ashes from Manila to the province.”

He also asked the DFA to hasten the repatriation of unclaimed bodies of OFWs in Iraq. “Kung hindi pa iniulat ng kamag-anak sa amin, hindi pa malalaman ito ng DFA,” he said. ##


Garry Martinez,
Chairperson, 09393914418
Migrante International
#10 Banuyo St.Brgy.Amihan, Project 3, Quezon City
Telefax: 9114910

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Itigil ang dagdag-singil sa e-passport fee!

OFW group launches petition-drive vs. e-passport fee hike

04 August 2010

Migrante International, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers worldwide, today launched a petition-drive calling to put an immediate stop to the recent increase in e-passport fees.

The petition was launched in light of allegations that the contract entered into by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), headed by Secretary Alberto Romulo, for the procurement of the new e-passport is illegal and tainted with corruption.

Migrante launched the petition drive at the seafarers’ recruitment center in T.M. Kalaw at lunch time today. (Attached is the full text of the petition drive)

Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, said, “This petition drive will convey to the DFA and the government that Filipinos here and abroad are vehemently opposing this most recent fee imposition. Dagdag-pahirap ito sa ating mga OFWs at sa mamamayan.”

Martinez said that they will gather signatures from OFW communities and passport applicants converging in the POEA, OWWA and other passport application centers.

Migrante’s chapters abroad will also be disseminating the petition campaign to OFWs and supporters. OFWs from China, Hong Kong, the Middle East, Canada, Australia, United States, Italy, United Kingdom and other regions have been complaining of the recent e-passport fee hikes.

Signatures gathered will then be submitted to the DFA on August 23, anniversary of the Cry of Pugadlawin.

The new e-passport now costs P950 to P1,200 from P550 to P750 in the Philippines, while e-passport costs have risen abroad to as much as thrice as the previous rates and approximately $6 (USD) more than the fee prescribed for e-passports in the Philippines. ###

Garry Martinez,
Chairperson, Migrante International
Tel. No.: +63-939-391418

(full text of petition drive)

Itigil ang dagdag-singil sa e-passport fee!
Imbestigahan si DFA Sec. Romulo sa maanomalyang e-passport contract!

Kami, mga mamamayang Pilipino sa loob at labas ng bansa, ay mariing tumututol sa di-makatwiran, maanomalya at walang-abat na pagtaas ng singil sa e-passport.

Ang pagtaas ng singil sa e-passport ay dagdag-pabigat, lalo na ngayong panahon ng krisis. Hindi ito makatwiran dahil pilit na ipinapasa sa mamamayan ang gastusing dapat lamang na karguhin ng gobyerno.

Naglaan ang gobyerno ng P1.4 bilyon sa DFA para sa implementasyon ng proyektong e-passport, labas pa sa P530 milyong inutang ni Romulo sa Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) na nakalaan diumano para sa pagpapagawa ng bagong gusali at mga pasilidad sa Mall of Asia para rito.

Bakit ngayon nagtaas ng singil para sa e-passport kung may nakalaan naman palang pondo ang gobyerno para rito?

Lalong hindi ito makatwiran dahil batbat ng katiwalian, “tongpats” at anomalya ang mismong kontratang pinasok ng Department of Foreign Affairs sa ilalim ni Sec. Alberto Romulo para sa panibagong e-passport. Tinatayang P120 milyon kada taong patong sa presyo ng laminates, o P50 kada laminate, para sa e-passport ang kinitang “tongpats” ni Romulo.

Kung gayon, lalong walang karapatan si Romulo at ang DFA na magtaas ng singil para sa e-passport gayong kinurakot na ang pondo para rito!

Malaking perwisyo rin para sa mga aplikante at mamamayan ang ubod ng bagal, walang sistema at mas pinahirap na proseso para sa application ng e-passport. Nasaan ngayon ang sinasabi ng DFA na para ito sa ikagiginhawa ng mamamayan?

Mariin ang panawagan ng Migrante International, sampu ng mga chapter nito sa loob at labas ng bansa, kasama na ang mamamayang nakapirma sa petisyong ito, na agad na ITIGIL ANG DAGDAG-SINGIL SA E-PASSPORT FEE at IMBESTIGAHAN AT PANAGUTIN SI ROMULO SA PANGUNGURAKOT SA BUWIS NG MAMAMAYAN SA E-PASSPORT CONTRACT. ###

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

OFWs triumph: Annasban and PERT/CPM, Now Blacklisted!

OFWs triumph over 2 abusive recruitment agencies
Let this serve as a warning to others - Migrante International

August 3, 2010

Migrante International Garry Martinez today commended the vigilance of at least 300 overseas Filipino workers who have been granted their petition demanding the suspension of two abusive recruitment agencies.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) released notices of suspension and resolutions dated April 10 and July 13, 2010 banning Annasban Manpower and PERT/CPM agencies, respectively, from participating in the overseas deployment program following complaints lodged against them by Migrante on behalf of the OFWs from the Middle East.

Since last year, more than 80 Annasban workers have complained of said agency’s breach of contract pertaining to their monthly salaries, benefits and job descriptions as stipulated in their contracts. These have resulted in the OFWs’ request for repatriation.

Meanwhile, 189 SAPTCO bus drivers filed a complaint last April before the Philippine Embassy Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA) in Saudi against recruitment agency PERT/CPM which they accused of conniving with lending agencies. They also complained of overcharging of placement fees, loans with onerous rates, collection of fees without issuance of receipts, false information on employment and compensation and the harassment of their families by the lending agencies.

“The suspensions are a very welcome development and an initial victory for OFWs. These could not have happened if not for the unity and assertion of our OFWs of their rights and demands,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez, however, said that the agencies are yet to give the OFWs their rightful monetary claims. “Hindi pa tapos ang laban. The agencies still have to pay our OFWs the monetary claims to which they are entitled.”

The Annasban workers are demanding that they be paid their back wages amounting to an average of P300,000 each, while the SAPTCO bus drivers are demanding a refund of their overcharged deployment fees amounting to at least P80,000 each, among others.

“Let this be a warning to other and all abusive recruitment agencies that our OFWs will not tolerate injustices and abuses. The next step now is to ensure that the POEA effectively and decisively implements the bans,” Martinez said. ###

Garry Martinez
Chairperson, Migrante International

Tutulan ang compulsory membership ng mga OFWs sa PAG-IBIG!

Pahayag sa Media
2 Agosto 2010

Migrante kay P-Noy: Walang mahirap kung walang nagpapahirap
Tutulan ang compulsory membership ng mga OFWs sa PAG-IBIG!

Nakabatay sa makaturungan at rasonableng dahilan ang pagtutol ng Migrante at ng OFWs at kanilang pamilya sa sapilitang pagpapasapi ng mga OFWs sa PAG-IBIG.

Una, matagal ng may housing loan facility program ang Home Development Mutual Fund o kilala sa tawag na PAG-IBIG, para sa mga OFWs. Ito ay optional. Ibig sabihin, nasa desisyon ng OFW at ng kanyang pamilya kung gusto nitong mag-avail ng nasabing housing loan. Nasa desisyon ng OFW at ng kanyang pamilya kung ito ba ay praktikal, mas makakatipid at mas magaan sa bulsa na nakabatay sa kung anuman ang prayoridad ng pamilya. Marami sa mga OFWs ang nagsisikap sa paunti-unting ipon nakakapagtayo ng bahay sa kanilang mga probinsya.

Sa paglabas ng POEA Memorandum No.06, Series of 2010 nitong 1 Agosto lamang, iniutos ang sapilitang pagpapasapi sa mga OFWs sa PAG-IBIG, inalis nito ang karapatang mamili kung ano ang mas angkop base sa pangangailangan ng pamilyang OFW. Akala ba namin ay demokrasya? Demokrasya ba itong walang malaganap na kunsultasyon tapos pipilitin kami?

Pangalawa, sapilitan nga ito dahil sa ikinabit ang bayarin sa pagkuha ng Overseas Employment Certificate or OEC. Kailangan ang OEC, sa katunayan resibo ito kung ano ang mga kaakibat na bayarin at siningil ng gubyerno sa OFWs, para makaalis ang OFW papunta sa bansang destinasyon para ‘magbanat ng buto’.

Kung walang OEC, ibig sabihin kung hindi ka nagbayad ng P1,164 OWWA membership, P900 Philheath, at P100 para sa processing fee at idinagdag na ang P600 para sa paunang 6 buwan PAG-IBIG coverage, hindi makakalis ng bansa ang OFW para magtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Hindi ba ito paglabag sa karapatan namin na mabuhay at maghanap buhay? Ginagawa na kaming parang bagay na pinagtutubuan at pinagkakakitaan. Tao kami hindi kalakal na pinapatungan ng mga buwis o taripa sa porma ng mga sapilitang fees.

Pangatlo, ang compulsory coverage sa PAG-IBIG ay maituturing na buwis na dagdag pahirap lamang sa mga OFWs sa kabila ng marami nang mga singilin at bayarin na ipinitaw ang gubyerno, sa kabila ng patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin. Lumalabas na dagdag na buwis ito dahil sa ginawa itong compulsory at di-makatuwirang ikinabit sa pagkuha ng OEC.

Pang-apat, may alinlangan tayo sa patakarang compulsory coverage ng OFWs sa PAG-IBIG dahil sa batbat ng alegasyon ng kurapsyon at misuses at mis-alokasyon ng pundo ang PAG-IBIG. Hindi naman basta-basta na ipapa-ubaya natin ang ating pinaghirapan sa mga kamay lang ng kung sinung kurap na opisyal ng PAG-IBIG. Silang mga opisyal ng PAG-IBIG na nagpapasasa sa ating kontribusyon na tumatanggap ng malalaking sahod at sobrang benepisyo. Walang kasegurauhan na bumalik sa atin ang ating perang pinaghirapan! Sabi nga ng marami pagnag-loan ka, ikaw pa ngayon ang nagka-utang eh samantalang kontribusyon mo ito. Di ba’t pag-gisa nga ito sa sariling mantika, wika nga.

Sa hirap ng buhay sa ngayon, dapat maging wais na tayo!

Wais tayo dahil sama-sama nating tututulan ang anumang dagdag na bayarin na pilit sinisingil sa atin ng gubyerno, sa kabila ng salat o wala namang mainam na serbisyo at program para sa ating mga OFWs at pamilya.

Wais na ang OFWs na nagsasabing “Walang mahirap kung walang nagpapahirap!”

Tutulan ang compulsory coverage ng mga OFWs sa PAG-IBIG!
Tutulan ang dagdag na singil sa Pasaporte!
Tutulan ang mga di makatarungan bayarin at singilin na ipinapataw ng gubyerno sa OFWs !
Serbisyo hindi perwisyo!

-Migrante-Middle East at mga kasaping balangay nito
2 Agosto 2010

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator
Mobile No. 00966 564 978012

Monday, June 28, 2010

HK OFWs present ten-point demands

Aquino admin urged to undo anti-migrant policies of GMA regime
HK OFWs present ten-point demands

Press Release
27 June 2010

For reference:
Dolores T. Balladares
Chairperson, Tel. No.: 97472986

“Undo Arroyo’s regime of neglect and extortion.”

This was the challenge posed by Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE HK) to soon-to-be installed President Noynoy Aquino who is scheduled to get inducted to the highest office in the country this Wednesday.

The statement was issued in a press conference held at Chater Road, Central conducted by the group together with other alliances and organizations to make public the ten-point agenda of Filipino migrants in Hong Kong “President-elect Noynoy Aquino can start fulfilling his promise for positive change by, first and foremost, scrapping Arroyo’s policies to OFWs that transformed us as cash cows of her corrupt regime and made concrete services to us mere pipe-dreams,” Balladares said.

One of the foremost demands that the OFWs called for President-elect Aquino to act on is the “overpriced” e-passport issued in Hong Kong. Balladares said that said passport is three times the price as that in the Philippines.

“Why should passports here be ridiculously more expensive than back home? Passport price is the prerogative of the president and Aquino can very well set it if he wishes to,” she remarked.

Aside from this, Balladares also mentioned the OWWA Omnibus Policies, implemented in 2001, as another policy that worsens the condition of OFWs. She reported that said policy further constricted the benefits that OFWs can avail of from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) through the General Financial Assistance Program.

“For more than nine years, the Arroyo regime has given nothing but misery to the OFWs. Arroyo abused her executive power using the billions of pesos OWWA funds as her piggy bank. To achieve this, she put in position her own people to ensure the smooth flow of money to finance her own interests,” Balladares-Pelaez stressed.

Balladares also hit the POEA Guidelines for Hiring Filipino Household Service Workers that she said removed placement fees to recruitment agencies while allowing for even bigger fees through the training it has imposed to new overseas Filipino domestic workers. The Arroyo government further subjected OFWs to the whims of recruitment agencies through the ban on direct hiring it implemented last year.

“It is time to correct the sins committed by the Arroyo regime! President-elect Noynoy can set the tone of his promised humane and just governance,” Balladares-Pelaez stated.

Hong Kong Filipinos cast their vote of confidence and trust in Noynoy in the recent national elections placing him number one here. It is incumbent for Aquino, she remarked, to respond to the demands of HK OFWs.

The HK OFWs’ ten-point agenda:

  1. Scrapping of the OWWA Omnibus Policies;
  2. Scrapping of the Ban on direct hiring;
  3. Scrapping of the POEA Guidelines;
  4. Reduce the cost of passport to the amount similar to the cost in the Philippines;
  5. OEC should be given free of charge;
  6. Reduce the cost of employment contract processing, remove the authentication fee;
  7. Provide free medical and legal services on site;
  8. Release the COMELEC Voter’s ID;
  9. Stop overcharging/illegal collection of recruitment agencies; and
  10. No examination fee for teachers, nurses and midwives abroad.
“We keep watch for the approval of these demands. President-elect Noynoy’s time starts now,” Balladares-Pelaez concluded.

The Secretariat
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
2/F., New Hall, St. John's Cathedral,
4 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong SAR
Tel. (852) 31562447 Fax. (852) 25262894
E-mail: secretariat@unifil.org.hk
Website: http://www.unifil.org.hk
Blog: compatriots.blogspot.com
YouTube: www.youtube.com/unifilhk

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

15 Years since Flor Contemplacion’s Death

OFWs plight worsened under Arroyo regime

Joint Statement of Migrante Chapters in the Middle East
March 16, 2010

Migrante, OFWs and their families will be commemorating the 15th year death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, with much vigor and persistence defending OFWs well-being, rights and welfare.

March 17 is considered by many OFWs and their organizations a significant historical event depicting the real plight of overseas Filipino workers that undeniably becomes worst under the Arroyo administration due to its continued neglect and unparalleled disservice to OFWs despite being hailed as ‘Modern Heroes’.

Migrant workers’ contribution in keeping the local economy afloat can’t be denied as their remittances keep on hitting new record of US$ 17.3-B last year that greatly contributed to our country’s dollar reserves -that makes OFWs ‘Modern Heroes’ unto the eyes and minds of the past administrations including the present most anti-OFW Arroyo administration.

Calling OFWs as “Modern Heroes” does not make sense to OFWs and families where the present Arroyo administration continuously neglecting and committing disservice to OFWs by failing to implement genuine policies and programs that would advance and protect OFWs well-being, rights and welfare.

What OFWs and their families got from the Arroyo administration are anti-OFW policies such as the implementation of a codified OWWA Omnibus policies that phased out almost all welfare programs previously availed by OFWs and families including the Family loan assistance; the POEA Memorandum Circular 04 prescribing rules on direct hiring that was challenged by Migrante, OFWs and families; the guidelines on Land-based recruitment and Household service Workers (HSWs) placing OFWs and aspiring alike at the hands of unscrupulous recruitment agencies collecting from OFWs higher fees amounting to P35thousand – P45 thousand each and other additional payments.”

The Arroyo administration failed to develop our local economy that would absorb the increasing numbers of unemployed whose only option now is to find work abroad; it has intensified its labor export program sending some 3,300 daily Filipino workers abroad and is targeting to send 2-M OFWs yearly; and to ensure intensified labor export, it issued Administrative Order No. 247 ordering POEA to focus on marketing and finding markets for

OFWs and have allotted an increased budget of nearly P500,000 for its marketing activities in its effort to boost exporting cheap labor abroad.

Intensified Labor Export at OFWs Expense

So long as this present administration remains to be subservient to the US-dictated policies of globalization (liberalization, deregulation, and privatization) as opposed to nationalization of basic Industries and implementation of genuine agrarian reform, it will miserably fail to develop our local economy and can’t get out of this vicious cycle of economic reliance on foreign loans and labor export at the expense of our Overseas Filipino Workers.

We kept on saying that migrant workers are not commodities but humans whose rights and well-being should be respected and guarded; their welfare should be given foremost importance and consideration by our own government first, setting an example to the host receiving governments.

But the numerous cases of distressed OFWs due to maltreatment, unfair labor practices, and sexual abuses; the recorded 8 mysterious deaths of OFWs in the Middle East early this year, the increasing numbers of runaways at Khandera Bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and various Filipino Workers Resource Centers (FWRCs) in the Middle East run and managed by different RP post now numbering to about 3,000; the increasing numbers of jailed OFWs and the 26 OFWs facing death in the Middle East; all these tell us one thing: Arroyo administration’s gross disregard to protect OFWs tantamount to criminal neglect!

Misuse of OWWA Fund

OWWA fund is a trust fund pooled from OFWs US$25 membership fee. The Arroyo administration has attempted and it succeeded to a few to divert the use of these funds in a form of investments and creation of task forces presumably to help distressed OFWs abroad during emergency situations and war for OFWs immediate evacuations.

Migrante’s records revealed some of the alleged anomalous investments and misuse of OFW funds under Arroyo administration:
· Transfer of P4B OFW Medicare Fund from OWWA to Philippine Health and Insurance Corporation by virtue of a secret issuance of Executive Order 182 devoid of consultations from OFWs as stakeholders of these funds
· The P260M bogus claims exposed by then OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo himself just to justify OWWA Medicare fund transfer to Philhealth under the present Arroyo Administration
· The un-audited US$293,500 for the Middle East Preparedness Team headed by General Roy Cimatu during the US war of aggression to Iraq where repatriation of OFWs never took placed anyway under the present Arroyo administration.
· POEA’s alleged illegally granting of P40 million incentives and allowances to its officials and employees for the past three years since 2002 and allowing its Executives and employees who were issued mobile phones to download about P796,000.00 worth of games, tones and picture messages and other unauthorized items.
· Misallocation of P1-B OWWA funds to its bogus Filipino Expatriate livelihood support program through the issuance of Administrative Order No. 248

OFWs and families at the forefront of defending their rights and welfare

Migrante’s file of the Arroyo administration ‘sins’ to OFWs and families are becoming populated; but OFWs and families will not allow this regime to inflict more injustice and disservice to them.

We will also intensify our campaign urging fellow OFWs to join us in various forms of protests to show our disgusts and discontent to the most anti-OFW Arroyo regime.

Today, we have urged our families and relatives to join the march protest tomorrow, March 17, headed by Migrante International and allied organizations.

As we commemorate the 15th year death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion which symbolizes OFWs persistent struggle advancing its welfare and protect OFWs rights, Migrante chapters and member-organizations in the Middle East vow to reach out more OFWs and families for them to be organized and closely join with the other sectors-- farmers, workers, professionals, government employees, students, laymen and Church workers, and all together will be persistent, once more, in frustrating the Arroyo administration’s evil plans to stay in power beyond her term.

Uphold and defend Migrant rights!

Migrante, OFWs and families keep on struggling for national independence and democracy so that we could live and work decently at home.

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Saturday, March 13, 2010

OWWA: no ‘word of honor’

OWWA does not have ‘word of honor,’ says Annasban workers

12 March 2010

One week after ending their camp-out in front of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers from the Annasban Group of Companies today trooped back to picket at the agency’s doorsteps, after the OWWA yet again reneged on most of its promises to the migrant workers.

Of the five demands that were granted by OWWA officials led by administrator Carmelita Dimzon in a negotiation with the Annasban workers and Migrante International last March 5, only the P10,000 financial assistance have been given to the OFWs. From Monday to Wednesday this week, the OFWs tried to claim the promised transportation fare back to the provinces, but they were told by Ms. Cynthia Lamban, head of the Repatriation Assistance Department, that they were not to be given cash (which was requested by the OFWs so that they can schedule their own trips) and that a priority list still had to be drawn up. They also tried to claim the promised free medical assistance, espcially for OFW Florabel Blanca, who fell extremely sick that week. However, OWWA Dir. Saul De Vries said that there are still no guidelines on how to implement the rest of the agreement, and merely advised Blanca to pay for the laboratory tests and medicines out of her own pocket.

“We are fuming mad. We are going back to protest the OWWA because it does not have palabra de honor (word of honor). It is not merely inept; it is deliberately making a fool out of us OFWs. They refused to protect us when we were nearly dying abroad. It seems like they want us to die at the doorsteps of this inutile government agency,” said Joy Flancia, one of the Annasban workers. The OFWs, victims of contract substitution, staged a series of hunger strikes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from August last year until February this year.

Other OFWs neglected by OWWA, some of which have several years worth of pending claims, afterwards joined the Annasban workers in their protest. “In the course of our struggle, we met so many OFWs who are like us, and their stories broke our hearts. It made us ever more convinced that this OWWA is an agency merely for the collection of our money, and not for the protection of our welfare. Give us our money back!!!” said Flancia.

The Annasban workers and Migrante International also submitted a letter of complaint to Labor Secretary and OWWA Board of Trustees chairperson Marianito Roque. “We hope that this letter is sufficient enough to the realization of the agreement. Let us settle this in the most diplomatic way or else the OFWs will be again forced to resort to extra-legal means to claim their rightful demands,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante chairperson, in the letter to Roque.

“The case of the Annasban workers has opened a can of worms. More and more victims of OWWA neglect will beseige the agency until the government scraps the OWWA Omnibus Policies. These policies, which since 2003 has severely restricted the assistance the agency gives to OFWs, have been a convenient excuse for OWWA to turn its back on our workers. It is about time to address this problem squarely: scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies!!!” said Martinez.###

Garry Martinez, Chairperson, 09393914418
Ailyn Abdula, Media Officer, 09212708994

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On Morong 43:

Migrant workers group assails CA ruling on 43 health workers, says the victims should be freed

Press Release
10 March 2010

An alliance of Migrant workers group in the Middle East today assails the unfavorable ruling rendered by the Court of Appeals on the habeas corpus petition filed by the 43 health workers and their relatives.

“It seems that even the Court of Appeals is now also afflicted by the prevailing culture of impunity fostered by the Arroyo regime which cited a martial law-old Supreme Court doctrine in justifying its ruling junking the habeas corpus petition filed by the 43 illegally arrested and detained health workers and their relatives,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona said many legal experts are one in saying that the manner of arrest and continued detention of the 43 health workers is patently illegal and constitute violations on the Constitutional provisions in effecting arrest and detention in respect to the supreme law of the land’s Bill of Rights.

“The junking of the habeas corpus petition is a big blow to the justice system especially in times when the Court’s impartial ruling is needed most, in time where the civil rights and freedom of the people is under attacked by the most anti-people, brutal, and fascist regime,” Monterona added.

“The grim face of the 1972 martial law imposition could easily depicted from the case of the 43 health workers aside from the fact the political repression and persecution among social and political activists unabatedly continues,” Monterona observed.

Monterona said Migrante chapters and other OFW groups and Filipino communities sympathetic to the plight of the 43 health workers are closely watching on the development of their case and their continued illegal detention.

“We are preparing for a massive campaign to get help from the different Filipino communities to demand the release of the 43 health workers and call upon the international community to press hard the Arroyo administration to release the 43 health workers,” Monterona ended. # # #

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

GMA solidifies political infrastructure

Gloria solidifies political infrastructure base with the appointment of new AFP Chief, says Migrant group

Press Release
10 March 2010

An alliance of overseas Filipino migrant workers group in the Middle East today said Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who will be ending her 9-year term in the Presidency on July 2010, is observe to be solidifying, in a slowly-but-surely manner, a political infrastructure base that would eventually favor her continued stay in power.

“Because she is the de facto and incumbent President, Mrs. Arroyo with the help of her political spin-doctors, is strengthening the needed political infrastructure base in order to remain in power even beyond her term,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona said by cleverly exercising her presidential power to appoint, she is now putting in-place officials that are loyal to her, such is the recent appointment of one of her most trusted military officials as AFP Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit.

“She has to take continued control of the AFP, her administration is also seen to be very eager to appoint the next Chief Justice to replace the current and retiring Chief Justice Puno, she is also running in Congress along with other Arroyos, her former Cabinet members are also vying seat in Congress that even the party-lists system they now consider a playing field. This is directed for a single vicious scheme -to take control of the entire government’s bureaucracy,” Monterona observed.

Monterona added this is something our people must be worried about.

“Even peace-loving and patriotic OWFs working abroad seems to notice the ‘ugly’ political developments back home which would turn to be nasty that would lead to political uncertainties and instability especially that the election time comes closer. This scenario would favor Mrs. Arroyo to remain in power,” Monterona added.

Monterona said only a vigilant and well-informed citizenry could avert the vicious scheme of the present administration.

“But how vigilant and informed our people for them to be ready and collectively act to prevent and eventually avert an evil scheme being crafted by the ruling administration? Everyone should take the responsibility of informing others,” Monterona ended. # # #

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Support for Annasban Workers Struggle!

6 March 2010

Government failure to permanently ban abusive recruitment agencies means that many more OFWs will suffer what the Annasban caregivers went through.

As fellow OFWs celebrate the victory gained by Annasban OFWs who staged a three-day protest camp-out in front of the office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Manila this week, Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand joined their calls for the Philippine government to permanently blacklist their recruitment agencies for their track record of labor contract violations.

While we rejoice that their camp-out forced OWWA to heed some of their demands for compensation, we support their demand for the government to permanently blacklist their recruitment agencies from deploying Filipinos abroad. It must exert all efforts to repatriate the 5 women caregivers who are still in Saudi Arabia .

Migrante Aotearoa also calls to task the Philippine government to strictly monitor and blacklist all other recruitment agencies that collect exorbitant fees and engage in contract substitution. Some nurses who came to work as caregivers in New Zealand complained of such schemes of recruitment agencies that placed them in resthomes with difficult conditions.

Low wages, 12-hour working day, child labor and inhuman working conditions — these were the main reasons why millions of women around the world held protests and why International Women’s Day is officially commemorated every March 8. The plight of the 67 female caregivers who had no days off and were made to work for 12 hours or more daily in Saudi Arabia is a grim testament that under the Philippine government’s labor export thrust, migrant workers especially women are very vulnerable to exploitative working conditions. Their recruitment agencies left them broke as they suffered contract substitution, delayed salaries, illegal deductions and non-payment of overtime pay and other benefits stipulated in their contracts.

We further demand government to scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies that limit government assistance. Instead of assisting ALL OFWs in need, government agencies neglect those who could not afford to pay OWWA dues. Even for OWWA members, it is deplorable that OFWs hardly get support such as the Annasban OFWs who almost starved to death before they were repatriated. They paid OWWA dues and were qualified for assistance, yet they were forced to stage hunger strike abroad to call government attention.

OFWs around the world who became flat broke after losing jobs have the same tales of government neglect. Those who cannot claim OWWA assistance desperately find ways to afford a plane ticket back home. Isn’t it enough that OFWs and their families have been paying taxes to the government all these years? Why can’t the government at least ensure free air tickets for all distressed OFWs wanting to go home? There are thousands of undocumented non-OWWA members needing urgent assistance, will the government wait for them to be dead before they get any support?

We challenge the next administration ensure decent jobs at home and provide immediate assistance and compensation for distressed OFWs. This March 8, let the voices of Annasban OFWs and all exploited migrants be heard: Proteksyon, hindi koleksyon! Serbisyo, hindi negosyo! Scrap OWWA Omnibus Policies!

Dennis Maga
National Coordinator, Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
Migrante Aotearoa | 34 Titirangi Rd, New Lynn , Auckland 1007
+64 9 8276059 |migrante@xtra.co.nz | http://migrante-aotearoa.org.nz/
"Advancing the rights and welfare of Filipinos and other migrants in Aotearoa"