Sunday, December 30, 2007

Justice, not whitewash for Filipina rape victim!

News Release
30 December 2007

Justice, not whitewash for Filipina rape victim!
OFW group urges newly-installed Jeddah Consul General

Justice and not whitewash, must be achieved for Marie (not her real name), a victim of multiple-rape last Christmas in Saudi Arabia.

This was the call made by Migrante Saudi Arabia Coordinator Andrew M. Ociones to newly-appointed Jeddah Consul General Ezzedin Tago after the group confirmed Marie's story which was first broadcast over a national radio station in Manila.

The multiple-rape incident came barely a day after ConGen Tago was sworn in on 24 December.

Whitewash feared

Marie was allegedly raped by three Saudi men from December 24-25 in an area surrounding Makkah, about an hour away from Jeddah. She arrived at the Welfare Center of the Philippine Consulate on Christmas Day.

However, until now the victim still has not gone through any medical examination - a standard procedure for rape cases anywhere else, thus Migrante Saudi's fears of a whitewash.

“Wala na pong ebidensya," Marie recounted to Migrante Saudi representative by telephone. But as to who gave her that idea, Marie chose not to elaborate.

“We believe either Marie was ill-advised or our welfare officers are not doing their jobs,” Ociones asserts. “Any medical practitioner worth his salt knows that evidence of rape is identifiable even months after the incident.”

Marie herself claims during the phone interview that “natulala na lang ako minsan,” an indication of trauma which is still not addressed until now.

Christmas rape

Her employer allegedly raped her on Christmas Eve and she escaped by running away the next day.

Another Saudi national allegedly picked her up and promised to bring her to the Philippine Consulate but took her in a nearby house and raped her instead. The second Saudi man allegedly brought another friend who became her third rapist.

She was allegedly saved from a possibly fourth rape attempt by another Saudi national after three dark-skinned men helped her and hailed the taxi that brought her to the Consulate grounds in Jeddah.

Marie was hired as a dressmaker and arrived in Saudi Arabia only on 10 November 2007 and deployed as a domestic helper. She claims she's only 32 years old but her passport indicates she's 37 after a typographical error on her birth certificate.

(Note: Other media reports identified her as "Ana." They are one and the same although there are two confirmed victims of rape currently under the custody of the Philippine Consulate's Welfare Center in Jeddah .)

# # #

Andrew M. Ociones
Coordinator, Migrante Saudi Arabia
Tel. No.: +966-56-679-3202

Multiple-Rape Victim sa Saudi Arabia


(Note: Tinukoy ang biktima bilang si “Ana” sa ibang mga report ng media.)

Dumating si Marie (hindi tunay na pangalan) sa Saudi Arabia noong 10 Nov. 2007. Ni-recruit sya bilang dressmaker (ayon sa kontrata na pinirmahan nya) pero ipinasok syang household service worker sa bahay ng isang nakilalang Mohammed Basara, Saudi national at nakatira malapit sa Makkah.

Sa passport ay 37 taong gulang na sya pero ang totoo 32 y/o lang dahil ang nasunod ay ang birth certificate na may typo-error. Mayroon syang asawa pero matagal na daw silang hiwalay at hindi na nabanggit kung mayroon syang anak.

Bago sya tumakas noong December 25, ginahasa na sya diumano ng kanyang amo kaya nakaisip syang tumakas na lang bandang 7AM.

Hindi sya kaagad nakasakay ng taxi paglabas nya ng bahay ng amo. May humintong sasakyan na minamaneho ng isang Saudi, tinukoy agad nito Saudi na takas sya sa amo kaya dadalhin daw sya sa Philippine Consulate. Dahil hindi pa sya nakakalayo sa bahay ng amo, naisip nyang sumama na. Nakiusap syang makigamit ng cellphone pero wala daw load ang telepono ng Saudi kaya dinala sya sa bahay ng isa nitong kaibigan. Doon ay ginahasa sya ng Saudi na nagsakay sa kanya.

Nang umalis ang ikalawang Saudi, nakitawag sya sa telepono ng may-ari ng bahay at nakausap ang mga tauhan ng Philippine Consulate. Sabi daw ng taga-Consulate, "bakit nandyan ka pa? lumabas ka na dyan."

Paalis na sana sya ulit nang bumalik ang ikalawang Saudi na may kasamang pangatlong Saudi at ginahasa din sya nito.

Binigyan sya ng ikalawang Saudi ng 5 riyal at ang sabi, ito daw ang ibabayad nya sa Saudi na maghahatid sa kanya sa Philippine Consulate.

Sumakay siya sa sasakyan ng ika-aapat na Saudi ngunit pinilit daw nito na makipag-sex muna sya bago ihatid. Kung hindi raw ay tatawag sya ng apat pa na gagahasa sa kanya.

Dinala sya ng ikaapat na Saudi sa isang liblib na lugar pero nagsisigaw na daw sya ng nagsisigaw. Narinig sya ng tatlong "Negro" at tinulungan sya ng mga ito kaya hindi natuloy ang ikaapat na pagtatangka ng panggagahasa.

Pumara ng taxi ang nasabing tatlong "Negro," pinasakay sya at ipinahatid sa Philippine Consulate.

Naharang pa sila sa checkpoint pero pagkatapos na sabihin nyang wala syang iqama (residential work permit) dahil kakarating nya lang, pinalampas na sila ng pulis hanggang makarating sya sa Consulate, hapon ng 25 Dec at ibinayad nya ang hawak nyang Philippine money.

Sa Welfare Center ng Consulate, kinuhanan lang daw sya ng statement. Hindi pa sya ipina-medical hanggang ngayon (30 Dec).

Ayon pa sa kanya, ang gusto na lang nya ay makauwi at hindi na sya maghahabol ng kaso dahil ayon sa kanya, wala syang ebidensya. Tinanong ko kung sino ang nagsabing wala syang ebidensya, ang sagot "huwag na lang daw anuhin..."

Nung tanungin ko bakit hindi na sya nagpamedical, kasi nakapaligo na daw sya nung dumating sya sa welfare center. Pero sinabi din nyang hawak pa nya ang underwear nya at ang suot nyang pajama at hindi pa daw nya ito nilalabhan hanggang ngayon.

Minsan daw, natutulala na lang sya pag naaalala nya ang sinapit nya.

Hindi nya alam kung ano ang Migrante at sinabi nyang tinawagan na sya ng Secretary ni VP Noli. Taga-Cainta, Rizal daw sya at ang mayor nila ay si dating ABS-CBN reporter Mon Ilagan.

(Una itong lumabas bilang balita sa DZMM noong 29 December 2007 ng umaga at sinegundahan kinagabihan sa TV Patrol Sabado ng araw ding iyon at tinukoy ang biktima bilang si “Ana.”)

30 December 2007
Inihanda ng Migrante Saudi Arabia - Women's Committee

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Welcome, ConGen Tago!

Notes by A. M. Ociones
Migrante Saudi Arabia

The Philippine Consulate in Jeddah has a new Consul General with the recent appointment of Con Gen Ezzedin Tago who was sworn on 24 December.

Con Gen Tago served in Baghdad, Iraq during the hostage crisis of Angelo dela Cruz and Roberto Tarongoy, from 2004-2005 and as 2nd secretary in the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta from 2003 to 2005. He was also the 3rd secretary and later 2nd secretary at the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh from 1999 to 2003.

Any thing new is a breath of fresh air and thus we welcome Con Gen Tago to Jeddah. Cheers!

A news report said he was asking for the "full support from the staff and community, assuring that he was open to discussing with them issues and activities concerning the community."

Migrante members in Jeddah would certainly keep that in mind.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Balance the strong peso, scrap oil deregulation law!

News Release
by Migrante Saudi Arabia

A.M. Ociones
Coordinator, Migrante Saudi Arabia

Balance the strong peso, scrap oil deregulation law
DOF plan too late, not enough - Migrante Saudi Arabia

"Even as we welcome recent moves by the Department of Finance to balance the strong peso by adjusting the denomination of foreign loans, we believe it still wouldn't be enough as long as prices of basic commodities continue to rise fueled by the oil deregulation law."

Thus declared A. M. Ociones, Migrante Coordinator in Saudi Arabia after DOF Secretary Margarito Teves announced on Wednesday its plan to stem the strength of peso by increasing the share of peso-denominated foreign borrowings next year to 70% from 64 percent and by issuing additional P20 million government securities.

Teves also announced plans to pay dollar loans in advance to generate savings and to reduce remmittance charges.

Not Enough

"Any rate lower than the present would be a death sentence to overseas Filipinos and their families (OFFs)," Ociones asserts further. "Thus we welcome any moves to stabilize the peso to its current exchange rate."

The plan, however, would not be enough to cover the 20-30% of income already lost to the overseas Filipinos since last year.

Furthermore, according to Ociones, any gains for stabilizing the peso rate would be lost to continued increase in oil prices and its consequent impact on basic commodities, goods even services.

"Therefore, stabilizing the peso should be coupled with the scrapping of the oil deregulation law to have an impact to the livelihood of OFFs," Ociones claims.

Too Late

"Magagawa naman pala ito ng gobyerno, bakit ngayon lang? (The government can do it apparently, then why take action only now?)," Ociones asserts expressing the frustration of many OFs. "Why have they waited for overseas Filipinos to suffer first?"

Data from Migrante Saudi Arabia shows that in December 2006, one Saudi Riyal costs PhP14-15, but in December 2007, actual remmitance exchange rates is P10.80 per Saudi Riyal. This meant Filipinos in Saudi Arabia already lost as much as 30% of their income.

"This, unfortunately, is the mantra of the current government- to let people suffer long in agony before taking any action," Ociones laments further. "They have done it with Marilou, they have done it with the entire overseas Filipinos."

It should be recalled that Marilou Ranario, the domestic helper sentenced to death for killing her abusive employer in Kuwait waited for more than three months in jail before a lawyer was provided by the Philippine government.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pushing for Luck vs Migrants' Triple Whammy

Notes by A.M. Ociones
Coordinator, Migrante-Saudi Arabia

First, the meager of income of overseas Filipinos (OFs) especially in Saudi Arabia was cut by as much as 25-30% because of the strong peso, now running close to P40 against the dollar.

Data from Migrante Saudi Arabia shows that in December 2006, one Saudi Riyal costs PhP14-15, but in December 2007, actual remittance exchange rate is P10.80 per Saudi Riyal, meaning Filipinos in Saudi Arabia lost as much as 30% of our income.

Then, despite enchanting inflation statistics by the government and the strong peso (it takes fewer peso to purchase crude oil), the oil prices continue to surge and dragging with it, the prices of basic commodities.

And even as we toil under extreme woking conditions, salaries abroad remain fixed as stated in the contracts we have shackled (signed, may be an understatement) into. In fact, first timers now get lower rates compared to first-timers five years ago.

Overseas Filipinos therefore, confront static wages, yet actual income gets slashed by the strong peso and the families' budget gets saddled by unforgiving rise in prices of commodities, goods and services.

This is the triple whammy of overseas Filipinos and their families (OFFs).

Thus, we welcome with wide open arms, the recent government plan to balance the strong peso by adjusting the denomination of incoming foreign loans next year, as announced by Department of Finance Secretary Margarito Teves.

According to Teves, the government would increase to 70% the share of foreign borrowings in peso currency by issuing additional P20 billion peso-denominated government securities.

The plan (which we heard first not from Teves but from Senator Mar Roxas) they hope, as we hope, would stabilize the peso at its current exchange rate.

Frankly, any rate below the present rate of P40 would be a "death sentence" worse than Ranario's because it would mean death to whole already-suffering families.

But wait, Teves said the DoF would seek the approval of inter-agency Development Budget Coordinating Council first to implement the plan.

So knowing this government's penchant for enchanting, PR slogans - like the government's frequent mouthing of a "strong peso, strong economy" while most kababayans, including OFFs, reels in poverty - nothing is really certain.

And that is why, I said, OFs are pushing for luck.

Because in the end, it may all that we could hope for from such a government as Gloria's.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Migrante slams Gloria's inaction over effects of rising peso

News Release by Migrante International
07 December 2007

Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson
Tel. No.: 0927-215-7392

An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families today slammed Gloria's inaction over the devastating effect of the rising peso on their sector. At the same time, Migrante International explained that lower prices for basic goods and services can help alleviate the plight of their sector.

“It's the height of inutility for her to stand idly by while OFWs and their families are in a state of calamity from the blows of the rising peso to their stomachs. This is like an intensifying wage cut for OFWs because the value of their remittances keeps dwindling,” says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson.

“It's also a big lie for Gloria to proclaim that the 'strong peso' means a 'strong economy'. If that were the case, why aren't the prices of food and other items going down? The real problem here is the fact that while their earnings are dwindling, the prices of goods and services keep increasing,” she added.

"The price of oil increases almost weekly and as we approach Christmas, everything else also keeps getting more expensive. For starters, the Arroyo administration can scrap the oil deregulation law to stem the succesive oil price hikes,” says Bragas-Regalado.

Migrante estimates OFWs are losing about 20% of their earnings monthly. As such, an OFW's US$200 monthly remittance went down from about P10,000 to P8,000.

“The P2000 difference is equivalent to one cavan of rice or maybe even the utility bill for an entire month,” noted Bragas-Regalado.

The Migrante leader added that to compensate for their diminishing remittances, OFWs are forced to take loans at high interest rates, work overtime or find second jobs to ensure they are sending home the same amount of pesos.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Introducing Pinoy International

Finally! The long wait is over. We are now launching the official maiden issue of Pinoy International (heretofore be known as P.I.). The second issue will be distributed before Christmas.

As we aim to reaching the biggest number of Filipinos globally, we encourage you to share copies of this issue by cross-posting P.I. to your networks and friends or distribute them to your respective Filipino communities. You may also subscribe by sending us a note that you would like to receive P.I. regularly. Hurry! The subscription is FREE!

Furthermore, we value your insights and opinions. We encourage you and all our compatriots abroad to contribute articles to P.I. Fresh news, commentaries or feature articles are most welcome while articles illustrating the life and struggle of Filipinos abroad would be most appreciated. Please attach corresponding pictures on your articles and send it to

We aim for P.I. to become the best newspaper illustrating the life of undocumented workers, entertainers, or other stories of the basic Filipino masses abroad. Yes, we want success stories. We want success stories that are measured not only through financial triumphs but also demonstrate selflessness, perseverance and camaraderie.

We anticipate to receive your e-mails and include you to our directory.

Mabuhay ang Pinoy International!

Roy Anunciacion

Saturday, December 1, 2007

No Remit Days

Ang sumusunod ay pahayag ng Migrants Association in Saudi Arabia (MASA), isa sa mga kasaping organisasyon ng Migrante Saudi Arabia.

Ipaglaban ang Kabuhayan ng Migranteng Pilipino!
No Remit sa a-1 hanggang a-5 ng bawat buwan!

Laging sinasabi ng gobyerno na gumaganda ang ekonomiya ng Pilipinas. Patunay daw nito ang pagtaas ng reserbang dolyar ng bansa, pagliit ng depisit sa kalakalan (trade) at badyet; pagbalik ng tiwala ng mga investor sa ekonomiya at higit sa lahat, ang patuloy na pagtaas ng halaga ng piso kontra dolyar.

Noong 2006, ang palitan ng dolyar sa piso ay naglalaro sa P56 hanggang P48. Ngayong 2007, tumaas pa ito hanggang umabot sa kasalukuyang palitan na P44.00 (28 Okt 2007). Sa tantya mismo ng gobyerno, aabot pa daw ito ng P40 hanggang mag-Disyembre.

Mismong si GMA din ang laging nagsasabi na ang pagganda ng ekonomya ay dahil sa remittance ng mga OFW na umabot na ng $12.8 bilyong dolyar noong 2006 at $9.3B na ngayong Agosto pa lamang, ang pinakamataas sa kasaysayan.

Tulad ng dati, ang mga OFW na naman ang bayani. Pero bakit nalulubog at nahihirapan ngayon ang mga OFW?

Krisis ng Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW)

Sa Saudi, ang palit ng 1000 riyal ay P15,000 noong 2006 pero ngayon ay P11,784 na lang (1SAR=PhP11.7841). Ibig sabihin 8% hanggang 21% agad ang nawala sa kita dahil hindi naman nadadagdagan ang sahod ng bawat Pinoy sa Saudi Arabia.

Idagdag pa dito ang tuluy-tuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin, sunod-sunod na pagtaas ng produktong petrolyo, pagtaas ng matrikula, pamasahe at serbisyong pangkalusugan, maging bayarin sa koryente-tubig.

Ayon sa Ibon Foundation, P560 bawat araw (o P680 kung nasa Metro Manila) ang kailangan ng isang pamilya na may 6 katao noong Abril 2007. Ibig sabihin, ang bawat isang OFW ay kailangang magpadala ng P20,400 bawat buwan (o $443) para mabuhay ng sapat ang kanyang pamilya (kumpara sa P18,494 nong 2005, at P19,969.00 noong 2006).

Ngunit ang karaniwang kita ng skilled worker sa Saudi Arabia ay $400 lang kada buwan at $260 naman sa service sector. Sa pagliit ng halaga ng dolyar kontra piso, kailangang magdagdag ng ipapadala ang OFW para makuha ang dating badyet ng kaniyang pamilya.

Pero ang sahod ng OFW sa Saudi ay hindi naman nadadagdagan at tumataas din ang bilihin, dito kaya paano pa nga ba magkakasya ang kita ng OFW?

Remittance: Pang-salba o Pang-lunod

Dahil laging sinasabi na ang remittance ang dahilan ng paglobo ng halaga ng piso kontra dolyar, maaaring mapigilan ito kapag nabawasan ang kabuuang padala sa Pilipinas. Magagawa ito sa pamamagitan ng pagtatakda ng ilang araw na hindi magpapadala (No Remit Days), at pag-iwas sa mga bangko at remmitance center.

Gayunman, upang magtagumpay ang ganitong klaseng kampanya, kinakailangan ang mahigpit na koordinasyon at pinakamalawak na partisipasyon ng pinakamaraming OFW.

Kinakailangan din na gawin ito nang sustinido (ibig sabihin, gawin ng regular sa mga susunod na ilang buwan) upang ganap na maramdaman ang epekto sa palitan ng piso kontra dolyar.

Hinihingi din ng sitwasyon ang sakripisyo sa mga kapamilya kaya't mahalaga na maunawaan ng pamilya ng bawat OFW kung bakit made-delay ang pagpapadala.

Migrante, Magkaisa!
Ipaglaban ang Kabuhayan, Kagalingan at Karapatan ng OFW!
No Remit sa a-1 hanggang a-5 ng bawat buwan.

Migrants Association in Saudi Arabia (MASA)
Oktubre 2007

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