Sunday, December 28, 2008

Please! Not another exaction scheme.

28 December 2008
News Release

Compulsary welfare insurance plan, another exaction scheme - Migrante KSA

Please! Not another exaction scheme.

Thus appealed Migrante Saudi Arabia Chairperson A.M. Ociones in response to Mindanao Representative Rufus Rodriguez' proposed compulsary welfare insurance plan for overseas Filipinos.

"While we welcome all efforts by our legislators to address the problems of migrants-in-distress, we believe this scheme would only aggravate the collection of all sorts of fees and fund-raising schemes from migrant workers," laments Ociones.

The bill, which promises a well-covered insurance plan also states that the premium would be paid by the recruitment agencies, a fee that Migrante Saudi Arabia expects would only be passed on to the would-be migrant worker.

"Thus we see only as an additional burden the $3 premium on top of the regular and already compulsary $ 25 Overseas Workers Welfare Adinistration (OWWA) fee and PhP 900 PhilHealth fee," Ociones asserted.

"Besides, where have all our OWWA funds gone?" Ociones asked, asserting further that all efforts should be exerted to maintain and protect the OWWA Funds coupled with a program to widen the benefits.

Instead of an independent insurance plan, Ociones proposed the following :

  1. Scrapping the OWWA Omnibus Policy implemented in 2004 which essentially
    cut-off the assistance benefits of OFWs and migrants-in- distress at the same
    time expanding its mandate to include the benefit package proposed under HB

  2. Returning the medical insurance coverage from PhilHealth to

  3. Once returned to OWWA, the medical insurance coverage should
    be expanded by lowering the age of beneficiaries and spreading its scope to
    include other family members (which is especially true to OFWs who are single
    and/or, single parents);

  4. Expanding the existing scholarship, entrepreneurship assistance and livelihood programs of OWWA;

  5. Expanding the mandate of OWWA to function as social security, complete with a retirement plan and wider package of benefits.

"Otherwise, everything would all boil down again to milking the migrants while freeing the government of its responsibility towards migrants-in-distress," the Migrante Saudi Chairperson averred.

Ociones believes "an independent insurance plan to be started from scratch aside from being more costly; would only exacerbate the chronic hands-off policy of the government" towards migrants-in-distress.

The Rodriguez Proposal was announced at the website of the House of Representatives (click here for the announcement) during Christmas. However, a complete copy of the bill is still not available online for a thorough study.

# # #

Reference: A.M. Ociones
Chairperson, Migrante KSA
(Migrante International - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter)
Tel. No.: +966-56-679-3202

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Letter to Rep. Rodriguez, about HB 5621

To Rep. Rufus Rodriguez
2nd District, Cagayan de Oro

Honorable Sir,

Warmest greetings of peace from the deserts of Saudi Arabia!

We, in Migrante Saudi Arabia would like to express our sentiments concerning House Bill 5621 calling for a compulsory welfare insurance plan for OFWs authored by the good legislator.

While we welcome the good legislator's effort to address the situation of OFWs, we believe that this proposal would only aggravate the collection of all sorts of fees and fund-raising schemes from migrant workers. As with most expenses, the recruitment agency would only pass payment of the premium on to the would-be migrant.

Thus, we see the $3 premium on top of the regular and already compulsary $ 25 OWWA* Fee and PhP 900 PhilHealth** fees only as an additional burden.

We believe further that another scheme independent of OWWA is no longer required. In turn, we urge the good legislator to focus his attention on overhauling the OFW benefits scheme system, by:

(1) Scrapping the OWWA Omnibus Policy implemented in 2004 which essentially cut-off the assistance benefits of OFWs and migrants-in- distress at the same time expanding its mandate to include the benefit package proposed under HB 5621;

(2) Returning the medical insurance coverage from PhilHealth to OWWA;

(3) Once returned to OWWA, the medical insurance coverage should be expanded by lowering the age of beneficiaries and spreading its scope to include other family members (which is especially true to OFWs who are single and/or, single parents);

(4) Expanding the existing scholarship, entrepreneurship assistance and livelihood programs of OWWA;

(5) Expanding the mandate of OWWA to function as social security, complete with a retirement plan and wider package of benefits.

The OWWA Fund has been bleeding OFWs dry but only a few has really benefitted from all that money. But it is not all.

We believe, it is high time we migrants benefit for every dollar that has kept the economy afloat these past few years.

Our sincerest thanks,
A.M. Ociones
Migrante KSA
(Migrante International - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter)
Tel. No.: +966-56-679- 3202
Email: migrante_ksa@
URL: http://migrante- ksa.blogspot. com

* OWWA is Overseas Workers Welfare Adinistration.
** PhilHealth is Philippine Health Insurance Corporation

Monday, December 22, 2008

Immediate repatriation is the most valuable gift

Press Release
22 December 2008

Immediate repatriation is the most valuable gift the Arroyo govt. could give to distress and stranded OFWs this Christmas

"The most valuable gift the Arroyo administration could give to distress and stranded OFWs in the Middle East is their immediate repatriation so that they could celebrate a Merry Christmas along with their loved ones and start a brand new life back home," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Migrante-ME said OWWA's Christmas treat with matching red carpet pagsalubong to returning OFWs is merely a traditional gimmick to show the public that the Arroyo administration "truly" cares for OFWs and their families, but in fact it is not.

Monterona said hundreds of distress OFWs in the Middle East are hoping that the Arroyo administration through concerned government agencies like DoLE, OWWA, and POLO could give them the most valuable Christmas they would receive – and that is their immediate repatriation.

This is exactly the Christmas wish of the 16 OFWs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia who have stopped their work in protest of their employer Annasban company who refuses to give them their normal vacation despite that they already have completed their 2-year work contract.

The 16 OFWs are Ruby Bumagat, Monalisa Nartatis, Melody Mercado, Marcela Candaba, Analisa Subagan, Joanne Velasco, Marygrace Fortalesa, Winifreda Santos, Josephine de Torres, Nhoormalah Dimaampo, Lorna Quizon, Ruth Gayadan, Fely Chicay, Jassie Sanson, Jeanette Belino, Claire Veloria.

"Some of them have been working for 3 straight years already without vacation", Monterona added.

Monterona said almost everyday the 16 OFWs are sending short messages to him through OFW Jeanette Belino, leader of the 16 distress OFWs, to re-iterate their plea to be home this Christmas, "Reading their SMS is really disheartening, because I knew that the Philippine Embassy, OWWA-POLO could not get them sent to be home this Christmas," Monterona averred.

Monterona said aside from the 16 distress OFWs, there are still 139 OFWs in different Filipino Resource Centers in the Middle East (see attached document in excel format).

This is an addition to the reported 163 distress OFWs in Kuwait. "If this has not been exposed by Migrante, distress OFWs in Kuwait would not be given due attention by the Arroyo administration," Monterona added.

Migrante-Kuwait will be closely following the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait to ensure that the 163 distress OFWs will be repatriated soon as promised by Vice-President Noli de Castro during interviews last week.

To the Arroyo administration, we echo the same OFWs Christmas wish: "Use the billions of OWWA fund and Assistance to the Nationals (ATN) fund so that the many distress and stranded OFWs in the Middle East will be repatriated without delay. A portion of the funds could be used to bail out those retrenched OFWs" Monterona ended. # # #

For reference:

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator,
Migrante Sectoral Party Vice-Chairperson
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Modernong Alipin

Artwork by Al Baleda, a Bicolano visual artist based in Al Khobar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Migrant workers shall suffer the brunt of globalization-induced crisis

Statement for the International Migrants Day
18 December 2008

Migrant workers shall suffer the brunt of globalization-induced crisis
Grassroots migrants shall be ready to intensify our struggle for our rights

Neo-liberal globalization has forced us to migrate and become commodities for sale by sending countries and cheap laborers for the receiving ones. Now, as neoliberal policies induced another global recession, we are again made to carry the brunt of the crisis.

Slowly but surely, the crisis that started in the United States is spreading throughout the world. Considering the US' position as the global economic master, it is understandable that many of the countries where migrants are working right now and countries where they come from are starting to feel the impacts of the crisis that are expected to intensify in the coming months.

The current recession is but an explosion of the crisis brewing for years. The crisis of overproduction inherent in the economy of the global centers – US, European Union and Japan – and hastened by neoliberal globalization policies, has become more uncontrollable than before. Concentration of finance capital to a few multinational banks and corporations through massive speculation has become more intense and made the crisis imminent.

Even the wars of aggression and occupation that the US led and joined in by many capitalist countries have failed to salvage the capitalist system from collapsing. In fact, these wars justified in the name of "anti-terror" have further aggravated the condition in the world as profit became more highly-concentrated while more and more people were displaced.

Now, various countries scramble to save their failing economies with whipped up solutions that are evidently targeted to save big businesses at the expense of the people and the workers who have long been victims of the very roots of this crisis.

The oppressed and disadvantaged classes and sectors that include the migrants did not cause the global crunch and yet, will be forced into more hardships. Indeed, what is just and right has no place where imperialists rule.

Global crisis spells crisis for migrants' rights

Job security and wage of migrants are the most immediate casualties of the economic crunch.

The more recent cases of these are as follows:
  • More than 70 workers from Advanced Semi-Conductor Engineering Co. Ltd (ASE) in Taiwan were laid off. Reportedly, about 1,000 more are set to be sent home very soon.
  • In Macau, 400 Filipinos have already been fired from their jobs in the construction industry while about 12,000 migrants working in casinos have been told that their contracts will not be renewed.
  • In the property sector in the United Arab Emirates, about 500 migrants already lost their jobs while thousands more are set to lose theirs in the construction industry in various countries within the Gulf region.
  • Member organizations of the IMA in Australia have reported that many temporary foreign workers are being made redundant.
  • In Canada, 70 Mexican and Jamaican temporary foreign workers were fired by the Rol-Land Farms – a private industrial-agricult ural corporation.
  • In the US, immigrants are losing their jobs and the little properties they own. Who can forget June Reyno, a Filipino immigrant who tied herself to her house after being issued an eviction notice due to the property slump?

In addition to this, the wage of migrants shall surely again be attacked. This was exactly what happened during and after the 1997 Asian Financial crisis. Wage of migrants in Korea, for example, dropped from US$750 to US$300 while foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong suffered two wage cuts – US$25 in 1999 and US$52 in 2003.

Undocumented migrants shall also be gravely impacted by the recession. For the past years, many countries have conducted widespread and violent crackdowns such as in Malaysia and South Korea. The European Union is also poised to implement its return directive policy by next year that is expected to target tens of thousands of undocumented migrants in the region.

But the impacts of the global economic problems are not restricted to the host countries. In fact, it may even be more severe in sending countries like Philippines and Indonesia whose economies are very dependent on the advanced capitalist countries like the US.

For sure, the governments of sending countries shall again turn its eye to the very profitable business of labor export.

This is not surprising considering that labor export brings in billions of US dollars worth of remittance to these countries and billions more profit from government charges on top of curbing unemployment inside the country. Both the Philippine and Indonesian governments have already expressed their intention to double their target deployment of their nationals to other countries.

Just recently, the Philippine government has proposed to implement a mandatory psychiatric test. While hypocritically claiming that it's for protection of Filipino migrants, the truth is that it shall only be an additional financial burden to them and its ultimate goal is to make Filipino migrant workers more attractive to foreign businesses.

Governments of sending countries have tried to placate the restlessness of their people by promising their readiness to face the crisis. This, however, is mere bravado as the economies of these countries are highly-dependent to those of the capitalist centers. Their so-called readiness will soon be revealed as nothing but readiness to impose more severe taxation to the people, drastic cuts in the budget for social services, even more wanton implementation of neo-liberal globalization and more aggressive exportation of labor. In fact, what these countries, like Philippines and Indonesia, are doing now is to forge more bilateral agreements with labor-receiving countries to ensure the continued sale of migrants as cheap labourers.

The way forward for the migrants

These developments and more that will surely come will be faced squarely by the organized grassroots migrants.

The rights of migrants have never been respected. The second Global Forum on Migration and Development held last October in Manila, Philippines showed the hypocrisy of sending and receiving countries as they tackle the so-called rights of migrants but are actually concretizing steps on how more income can be generated from migration and migrant labor.

The International Migrants Day is a most opportune time to expose the condition and concerns of migrant workers. The more than 110 members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) from 25 countries are gearing up for various actions that will highlight issues of migrants of various nationalities as a sector.

In this light, the IMA calls on to its members and supporters to:

  1. Launch actions that will highlight the issues of job security and wage of the migrants. Policies that make these rights vulnerable to attacks must be targeted while remaining vigilant over new ones that governments will cook up. Give particular attention also to the plight of undocumented migrants.
  2. Conduct a massive education campaign among migrants on the roots and causes of the current global recession. Neoliberal globalization must be further exposed and concretized to the migrants to intensify our opposition against them.
  3. Aggressively organize migrants in the grassroots. Only the collective will and actions of the migrants can be our effective weapons against the onslaught of attacks to our rights that are sure to come.
  4. Gather the broadest unity with other migrant organizations and advocates for the campaigns that we shall conduct.
  5. Unite in solidarity with the local workers and other oppressed classes and sectors in host countries by establishing coalitions with their unions and federations that will serve as shields against neoliberal globalization' s attacks to our rights as workers and oppressed peoples in the host country.
  6. Integrate our movement overseas with that in our respective home countries to advance the struggle against imperialism and for genuine democracy, human rights and social justice.

In the coming months, migrants are to face hardships never seen before. It will show how right the people are to oppose neoliberal globalization policies. It will show how imperative it is to do actions for social justice and human rights. It will show how migrants are part of the struggle for change.

Through militant struggles, we can overcome and build a world that we and our people deserve.#

Note: Migrante KSA is among the founding members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Arroyo regime's continued neglect reaches new heights

As the world celebrates International Migrants Day,
Arroyo regime's continued neglect to OFWs and their families reaches new heights

Joint Statement of Various Chapters of
Migrante International in the Middle East
(Migrante KSA + Migrante UAE + Migrante Kuwait + Migrante Qatar)

On December 18, the world will celebrate the International Migrants Day.

It was on December 18, 1990 when the United Nations General Assembly represented by participating governments signed and adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

The signing of this international instrument providing protection to the rights of migrant workers and member of their families by the United Nations General Assembly paved the way to the adoption and ratification of some UN-member states including the Philippines.

The Philippine government is one of the signatories to this international instrument. Its adoption and ratification of this international instrument manifests its readiness to commit its very institutions to provide protection to the rights of migrant workers as well as members of their families.

The Philippines is one the countries sending huge numbers of migrant workers next only to Mexico and India. At present there are an estimated 10-M overseas Filipinos abroad. It is made possible to the credit of the Arroyo regime who promised to send more than 1 million overseas Filipino workers abroad yearly, wherever and whenever there are job opportunities offered by first world countries.

It was on the early 70's when the Philippine government through the Marcos administration started to sending Filipino workers abroad. Since then, the number of OFWs has increased and that thousands daily are forced to work overseas, it's clear there are more factors at play – apart from poverty or the lure of higher wages that push our people to work abroad.

The Labor Export Policy began in 1974 with the revision of the Labor Code, under then Labor Sec. Blas Ople. The LEP is a component of the structural adjustment program then imposed on the Philippines by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB).

Its aim is to offset the rising social unrest of the period, due to rising unemployment rates and an economic and political crisis and at the same time, its purpose is to earn dollar remittances badly needed by the Marcos administration to pay off its increasing foreign debts.

Initially, Marcos administration said it was a temporary stop-gap measure; but in reality, it was far from temporary and over the decades, the creation of institutions geared towards the export of labor entrenched the policy further – so that it frames many aspects of our economic, political and social systems – including the public psyche.

When Mrs. Arroyo announces its target of one million overseas workers per year, many could not even blink an eye! Because, it is contrary to her policy statements wherever she spoke during her State of the Nation's Address (SONA) that she is committed to create jobs locally so that no one will be forced to work abroad. But the fact tells us that almost every Filipino family has a member or relatives now working in abroad.

Massive deployments of Filipino workers have been observed under the Arroyo regime following Marcosian policy of labor export to earn billions of dollars remittances at the expense of OFWs rights, welfare, and even at the cost of their lives who are mostly maltreated, abused, harassed and victims of labor malpractice.

Not content with the huge remittances sent by OFWs abroad, the Arroyo regime never stopped to milking OFWs by imposing new and additional fees and charges. The double taxation scheme of documentary stamp tax imposed on every OFW remittance, the Balik Mangagawa program which is nothing but only to ensure OFWs re-payment of OWWA and Philhealth membership, are only the few among the many exorbitant fees and charges imposed by the Arroyo regime to struggling OFWs and their families.

And yet, government concerned agencies under the Arroyo administration have practically stop all benefits – social services and welfare programs for OFWs and their families when then Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Thomas illegally implemented, devoid of consultations among OFWs, the codified policies of OWWA called OWWA Omnibus policies. Even the most basic state responsibility of repatriation have been delegated to recruitment agencies which the recruiters passed on at the mercy of foreign employers.

Yearly, we have recorded an ever increasing numbers of OFW victims of their employers' cruelty. Migrante chapters in the Middle East are now receiving right and welfare cases to an average of 5 cases daily. Thousands still remain in the jails who suffer from cases which many of them did not actually committed. The numbers of distress and stranded OFWs in deportation centers and Filipino Resources Centers are growing.

The Arroyo administration failed to develop the local economy that could generate millions of jobs. These jobs are needed to absorb the new batches of graduate which adds up to the growing population of workers. But many of them ended desperately looking for available jobs with decent wages and benefits just enough to survive their families daily subsistence.

The Arroyo regime being a puppet-government is only too good to obey the wishes of its imperialist master's imposition – economic and indirect political and even military intervention.

In line with its imperialist master's neo-globalization policies, the Arroyo regime is press hard to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution to remove all its protectionist provisions allowing foreign capitalists to own more than the allowed ownership of land and business in the Philippines even if its means wanton disregard and disrespect to our national patrimony and sovereignty. And at the same time, Mrs. Arroyo and political cohorts sees an open opportunity in amending the Constitution to remain in power beyond its term limits.

The Filipino people and their mass organizations including the millions of OFWs and their families could not be mislead by the Arroyo regimes political spin-doctors by employing squid tactics and other forms of machinations to divert the real issue of amending the Constitution that will only serve the interest of the present occupant in Malacanang and its cohorts.

The Arroyo regime is the embodiment of lies, deceit, and machinations that is ready to use the oppressive state apparatus like the military and police ever ready to crash all oppositions even at the expense of our people's lives.

The Arroyo regime with the support of its allies in Congress disrespected the real sentiments of the people. It only showed that Arroyo allies in Congress who are supposed to represent the people that elected them in office are now acting without any accountability at all and just simply advancing their own selfish motives and interests along with Mrs. Arroyo.

Thus, it is only through the collective efforts of the people by launching massive protest actions in the streets that could put a halt to the vicious grand design of amending the Constitution by the Arroyo regime.

December 18 is a new day for the progressive organizations of Filipino migrant workers and their families to leading big waves of protest actions in various forms in different part of the world to put more pressure to the now more isolated Arroyo regime in the international community.

The progressive organizations of OFWs must unite all patriotic overseas Filipinos, reach their organizations, and form broad alliances opposing the Arroyo-engineered Cha-cha, and denounce its continued persecution in filling trump up charges against political activists, political killings, and disappearances.

Through massive people's resistance, Mrs. Arroyo will be forced to resign. Only then, she and her political cohorts will be made accountable to their crimes against the Filipino people. History has proven the people united will never be defeated!

# # #

Sunday, December 7, 2008

7 distress OFWs' wish: to be home this Christmas

Press Release
6 December 2008

7 distress OFWs' wish: to be home this Christmas

For OFWs continuously working straight for 36 months without vacation, though they have already completed 24-months employment contract, there is no other wish they have this Christmas- to be home and re-united again with their loved ones back home.

"To be home this Christmas is the simple wish we have heard from the seven (7) OFWs who have decided to stop their work last November 1," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle east regional coordinator.

Monterona said the seven (7) OFWs working for Annasban, a local out-sourcing company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, have sought assistance from the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), a member-organization of Migrante based in Riyadh as they have run out of money for their daily subsistence.

On his letter to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh, Mario Ben, KGS-Migrante Chairperson said the seven (7) OFWs have already completed their 24-months employment contract and in fact extended their work for 1 year.

"The seven (7) OFWs were forced to stop their work on November 1, as they've have realized that their company would not give them their vacation despite numerous requests," Mario Ben added.


Jeanette Belino, one of the seven OFWs, said she had already completed her 24-months contract last April 2008. Prior to completion of her contract, she had already informed her company that she will resign from work upon completion of her contract, but was not granted by the company and were forced to work until she had decided to stop working on November 1, 2008.

"I have spoken to OFW Belino over the phone and she confirmed that along with the other 6 distress OFWs, they are asking Migrante's assistance as they have no money at all for their daily subsistence," Monterona said.

Monterona said Migrante chapter in Riyadh could only provide little amount for the 7 distress OFWs' daily subsistence. "Their immediate repatriation would be the ultimate solution to their problem, after all they have already completed their contract," he added.

The OFW leader said entitlements such as the end of service fee or gratuity, free air fare tickets, and payment for their overtime work should be given to them by their employer.

"We don't see any reason at all that their immediate repatriation will be delayed because on the very provision of their contract they are entitled for a vacation upon completion of their contract, and the Saudi Labor law is very clear that entitlement such as end of service fee and free air fare tickets must be at the employer's cost," Monterona averred.

Mario Ben and Monterona are calling the POLO officials in Riyadh to immediately act on the problem of the 7 distress OFWs who are now staying on the company-provided accommodation in Jaradiyah, Riyadh.

Migrante-ME is also calling all the Local government units (LGUs) specifically the City government of Baguio through its Public Employment Services Office (PESO) to be wary of sending would-be OFWs to Annasban company or other company as many of OFWs deployed were having the same labor-related problems with Annasban.

"The Arroyo administration in conduit with the local government units should stop sending OFWs on a large scale without guarantee that OFWs rights and welfare will be protected and safeguarded abroad. Its labor export policy must be stopped and should give emphasis on creating jobs locally." Monterona added.

"Jobs creation locally with decent wages is the best solution to the problem of retrenchment of OFWs working abroad due to global economic recession. But Mrs. Arroyo's economic policies are subservient to imperialist's neo-liberal policies of globalization in which the interests of businesses and profit is given priority over the welfare and rights of the people," Monterona ended.

(Note: OFW Jeanette Belino, one of the 7 distress OFWs, mobile number is 00966 506726489 for interview).

For references:

OFW Jeanette Belino, one of the 7 distressed OFWs,
Mobile No.+966 506726489

Mario Ben
Chairperson, Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) Migrante chapter, Riyadh
Mobile No. 00966 502980129

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East Regional Coordinator,
Migrante Sectoral Party Vice-Chairperson
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Migrant group to lobby immediate approval of HB No. 5461

Press Release
30 November 2008

Migrant group said HB No. 5461 OK, to lobby its immediate approval in Congress

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers' organizations in the Middle East today said it will support House Bill No. 5461 authored by Rep. Cynthia Villar seeking to penalize inept government officials in consular, labor, and welfare services who fail or refuse to give assistance to Filipino migrant workers.

"The intent and wisdom of the bill is for the welfare and assistance of our fellow OFWs who are victims of their abusive employers. Thus, we urge fellow OFWs to extend support for the immediate passage of HB-5461 into law," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

The OFW leader said his group is glad to know that Rep. Cynthia Villar recognizes the worsening plight of our OFWs especially domestic helpers and construction workers who continue to suffer under their abusive employers, inhuman working conditions, and various human rights violations.

"The continued neglect and inaction by Philippine officials who are duty-bound to provide assistance to distress and run away OFWs adds an insult to the deplorable conditions of our OFWs who are usually forced to do dirty, dangerous and de-humanizing (3D) jobs to earn a living for their families back home," Monterona continued.

Monterona said with almost a thousand OFWs cases reported to their attention and assistance this year, the concerned government agencies must deploy additional trained support personnel to beef up its staff providing labor and welfare services.

Migrante-ME said part of its lobbying activities is to send letter to all members of the Congress, both in the Senate and Lower House, urging our solons to support and vote for the immediate passage of HB No. 5461.

"We will urge our members to send a letter to their respective Congressmen to lobby for the passage of HB No. 5461, while Migrante chapters' officers in the Middle East will send lobby letter to members of the Senate," Monterona explained.

Monterona said his group is hoping that it could get the support of members of the Congress as many as they could so that HB No. 5461 would become a law that would remind our govt. officials abroad to do their duty diligently, with pride and fulfillment in helping distress OFWs abroad.

"There is joy and fulfillment in helping others", Monterona averred.

Migrante-Middle East chapters are also preparing to launch a campaign dubbed as 'BANTAY EMBAHADA' to properly documents complaints and look after those inept consular, labor, and welfare officials who fail or refuse to give assistance to distress OFWs.

Migrante-ME ended saying if only the Arroyo administration is sincere in providing genuine welfare services and protection programs to OFW, while shifting its economic policies towards nationalization of basic industries and implementation of genuine agrarian reform program that will boost the Philippine economy capable of generating local jobs, no Filipino then will be forced to leave the country to earn a living for his family. # # #

For reference:

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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

OFW alliance hits reset of OAV list-up

November 28, 2008
Press Release

For Reference:
Gina Esguerra, Secretary General (0905-8361412)

OFW alliance hits reset of OAV list-up

The largest alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) groups worldwide slammed today the Commission on Elections' (COMELEC) order moving the resumption of the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) registration from December 1, 2008 to February 1, 2009.

The COMELEC on November 25 resolved to reset the OAV list-up two months later because many of the data capturing machines stationed in foreign posts, they said are either defective or in need of replacement.

"The rescheduling of the OAV registration is a deliberate move of the Arroyo regime to again disenfranchise overseas Filipino voters," says Gina Esguerra, newly elected Secretary General of Migrante International.

"This regime is scared stiff of the cast iron rejection the OFW sector would give Arroyo and her allies in 2010. It is no secret that compared to that of their rivals, this regime has zero credibility among OFWs and this is the reason why they moved to shorten the OAV registration period."

Migrante also dismissed as "doubletalk" the COMELEC's statement that they are targeting one million OAV voters for the 2010 elections.

"The COMELEC is in fact engaged in distasteful doubletalk. How can they register one million Filipino voters abroad if they lessened the registration period from 9 months to seven months? Who are they fooling?" she said.

The Migrante leader said they are now preparing a global petition to protest the COMELEC's resetting of the OAV list up, to call for a massive election information drive among OFWs and the setting up of satellite OAV registration sites even in the remotest areas where OFWs congregate.

"While we harbor no illusions that the current electoral system can deliver us from the horrendous conditions we suffer from abusive employers abroad and from this criminally negligent government, we vow to fight for our right to suffrage as overseas absentee voters so we can at least junk Arroyo and her allies by way of the ballot and beat them at their own game," Esguerra said.

Migrante said, a total of 361, 231 land based and sea based OFWs registered to vote for the 2004 elections. However, only 65% turned out and actually voted. For the 2007 polls, meanwhile; 503, 894 registered for the OAV but only had a miniscule 16% voters turn out. #

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shortened OAV registration will disenfranchise millions

Press Release
28 November 2008

For reference:
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator,
Migrante Sectoral Party Vice-Chairperson
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Shortened OAV registration will disenfranchise millions of OFWs – Migrante-ME

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers organizations in the Middle East today said the postponement of the Overseas Absentee Voters (OAV) registration for OFWs originally scheduled on December 2008 that was re-scheduled on February 2009 to end still on August 2009 will disenfranchise many OFWs.

"The postponement of the OAV registration that originally scheduled to start next month by the Commissions on Elections is without a valid reason, thus to shorten its duration from nine (9) months to seven (7) months is unreasonable and unjust and it may be unconstitutional as it will disenfranchise many OFW voters," said Saudi-based OFW and Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

On November 25, 2008 the Commission on Elections en banc passed a resolution on moving the starting date of the OAV registration two months later but ending on the same original date. The COMELEC reasoned that it is due to the late delivery of data capturing machines to some Philippine posts abroad.

Monterona said that the failure by the COMELEC to deliver the data capturing machine on time in different posts abroad should not be made an escape by the electoral body.

"COMELEC should not pass on the consequences of its own failure to OFWs such as the non-delivery of data capturing machines on time in different posts which will lead to the disenfranchisement of OFW-voters," Monterona added.

Monterona said that based on previous OAV registrations, the 9-months duration is not enough for our fellow OFWs to register themselves.

In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the almost 1.2-M OFWs are scattered in different distant locations.

"Previous OAV registrations where only held in Riyadh where the Philippine Embassy is located, and in Jeddah where the Philippine Consulate General office is stationed. But in fact, many OFWs are also concentrated in the Eastern part of Saudi Arabia like Dammam and Al Khobar. Many OFWs are also working in Jubail and Tabuk, northern part of Saudi Arabia," Monterona added.

Monterona said that previous OAV registrations during past elections when the OAV has first implemented, Migrante, OFWs and their families have called on the COMELEC to set up mobile or satellite registration areas where there are large concentrations of OFWs so that they could easily register. "But this demand from OFWs has not been heeded by the COMELEC," he continued.

"Setting-up of mobile or satellite registration centers should be coupled by a massive information dissemination campaign by concerned Philippine posts abroad. Otherwise, the essence of having an absentee voting will be defeated," Monterona added.

Monterona said the setting up of mobile or satellite registration centers and massive information dissemination on OAV registration could easily be funded by the government considering the huge earning that goes to the government from billions of OFWs remittances yearly.

Migrante-ME said if the Arroyo administration could afford to distribute funds for its allies in Congress and spent millions for the campaign of its self-engineered Cha-cha, for sure it could also afford to provide budget for the setting up of mobile or satellite OAV registration centers and stage a massive information dissemination campaign about the OAV registration and voters' education campaign among OFWs abroad.

"Migrante, OFWs and their families do not want to think that the COMELEC has intentionally shortened the OAV registration so that many would-be OFW-voters will be disenfranchised. The millions of OFWs and their families' votes are considered a swing vote that could get a seat for Senatorial candidate or even make one a President," Monterona added.

Migrante chapters in the Middle East are in consultation now and will be preparing to send a letter to the COMELEC to formally register its opposition, and thereby requesting the electoral body to re-consider its Nov.25 resolution.

"We will strongly state that the extension of OAV registration duration to be made exactly 1 year, not just 9 months," Monterona ended. # # #

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Impeachment case "killed" by pro-Arroyo Congressmen for P.5M

Press Release
26 November 2008

Impeachment case "killed" by pro-Arroyo Congressmen in exchange of alleged P.5M
A turning point for the people to again contemplate to exercise 'People power'

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers' organizations in the Middle East today said the impeachment case that was "killed" by pro-Arroyo Congressmen in exchange of P.5M to vote against it is a turning point for the Filipino people to once again exercise "People Power" with prudence against the anti-people, fascist, and oppressive Arroyo administration.

"Elected Congressmen, as they are legally called 'Representatives' of the populace they represents must be the voice of the people's sentiment. For so many times, allied Congressmen of the Arroyo administration demonstrated their greed and selfishness more than above the interests of the people they represent," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

The migrant workers' organizations based in the Middle East are reacting to the junking of the new impeachment case filed against Mrs. Arroyo by the pro-Arroyo Congressmen and members of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice where the impeachment case was referred to.

Migrante-ME said the Arroyo administration demonstrated again its invisible vicious hand maneuvering the outcome of the impeachment on its early stage; ensuring that it will be killed on the HOR justice committee dominated by her own allies and party-mates.

"The best way to hook a fish is to offer him food pellets; this is what Mrs. Arroyo's political spin-doctors have done on the alleged distribution of P.5-M at Linden Suites as reported by The Daily Tribune newspaper article titled "Gloria allies line up for P.5M impeach kill prize" (11/26/2008) a day before the HOR Justice Committee hearing on the impeachment," Monterona averred.

Migrante-ME said the Filipino people and OFWs and their families abroad are closely watching; the 42 votes from pro-Arroyo Congressmen that "killed" the impeachment case against Mrs. Arroyo allegedly in exchange of an amount did not clear anything the tainted name and negative perception by the people towards the anti-people, fascist, and pro-imperialist Arroyo regime.

Migrante-ME said the millions of OFWs abroad along with their families from their respective provinces and congressional districts will put an X on the name of their respective Congressman.

"Those 42 Congressmen and other members of the Congress who will succumb to the ill-wishes of the Arroyo regime do not anymore deserve another term of office in Congress. Migrante, OFWs and their families vow to vote-out them on the 2010 elections so that they will become X-Congressmen of their districts, while those Congressmen who will righteously stand for the impeachment to proceed will certainly get the explicit support from its constituents," the migrant leader continued.

"Migrante, OFWs and their families will campaign hard to frustrate the Arroyo regime self-engineered Cha-cha with vicious intent of extending her term beyond 2010 and take out 'protectionist' provisions of the Philippine Constitution to completely sell out our natural resources to the exploit of foreign monopoly-capitalist firms," Monterona added.

Migrante-ME ended saying "a fake, corrupt, fascist, and oppressive Arroyo regime has no business to remain in office and even beyond its term; the people must unite and with prudence exercise once again "People Power" as an effective collective efforts by the people." # # #

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Migrante denounce continued political persecution of activists

Dear Friends, Fellow OFWs and families, and Migrant rights Advocates:

We are urging you to sign in this petition as we denounce the continued and intensifying political persecution of Filipino activists. Kindly visit herein link to include your signature and/or your organization:

Your support by signing-in on this petition is of great worth in our efforts to free all illegally detained activists and labor rights activists.

Sincerely yours,
Migrante-Middle East

Migrante, OFWs and their families denounce continued political persecution of activists

We oppose and will act against the tyrannical hand of Arroyo regime victimizing activists, and warn the inclusion of migrant rights leaders and advocates to be victims of its tyrannical rule.

Overseas Filipino workers and their families cannot and could not remain silent in the midst of the continued repression and political persecution of peace-loving activists who have done nothing wrong but who have unselfishly offered their lives and time for the establishment of a just, democratic, and peaceful Philippines.

The series of reported cases of arbitrary arrest due to trumped up cases filed against activists from Southern Tagalog have reached to the information and concern of our overseas Filipino workers around the world.

We, OFWs along with our families, are duty-bound to raise our concerns and worries on the implications of the worsening political repression and persecution of freedom-loving Filipinos. The Filipino communities around the world are duty-bound to denounce, oppose and expose the continued political persecution and forced disappearances of those working for a just and democratic Philippines.

Officers and members of Migrante chapters in the Middle East along with their families appeal to all fellow OFWs to denounce the Arroyo regime and its military and police elements that have unlawfully arrested and detained Ka Randy Ecahnis, Atty. Remegio Saladero, as well as the arbitrary arrest of 72 activists as a clear act crippling even the most basic human rights against warrant-less arrest as guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution's Bill or Rights.

Recently, 27 leader-activist including Atty. Remegio Saladero, a friend and a staunch defender of union workers and OFWs in distress; Bayani Cambonero, the founding member of Migrante-Southern Tagalog; and, Frances Tolentino, Southern Tagalog Coordinator for the Migrante Sectoral Party in 2004, were implicated in trumped up charges of arson, destruction of property and conspiracy to commit rebellion in connection with the alleged bombing and burning of a Globe cellsite in Lemery, Batangas last August 2, 2008.

The Arroyo regime has been widely and internationally criticized due to its worsening records of rights abuses, political killings of activists and journalists and numerous cases of disappearances.

Now as the people's discontent are growing and the mass movement taking a leap and ready to oust her, the Arroyo regime desperate enough to clinging in power resorted to a new type of political persecution by filling trump up cases against activists; and its military and police forces have gone berserk by arresting arbitrarily perceived political dissenters and those critical to its administration.

We also protests the connivance of Globe Telecommunications company with the Arroyo regime's police elements that provided distorted facts on its complaints pointing to detained activists the crime they did not commit or even do not know.

Migrante chapters in the entire Middle East are now contemplating and make ready to call our fellow 8 million OFWs all around the world and their families in the homeland to boycott the services and products of Globe, if it will not withdraw the trumped up charges it filed against innocent victims.

OFWs can't allow that the billions of their remittances as a source of government's fund would be used by the Arroyo regime against its own people.

To manifest our condemnation and as an act of defiance against the Arroyo regime and its cohorts in persecuting innocent activists, we invite the millions of OFWs around the world along with their families in the homeland to sign in this petition.

Free Ka Randy Echanis, Atty. Saladero and the other victims of political repression!

Denounce the continued political persecution of activists under the tyrannical US-Arroyo regime!

Stop political killings and forced disappearances of activists!

Friday, November 21, 2008

21 November 2008

For reference:
Garry Martinez, Chairperson,
Migrante International
Tel. No.: (0921-7229740)


"We are innocent. We have nothing to apologize for. We are ready to die fighting for the truth rather than to admit to crimes we did not commit." These were the messages by the Gonzales brothers to their sister Norie Gonzales in their last phone conversation two days ago.

OFWs Edison and Rolando Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla were convicted for the crime of murder and sentenced to death by beheading by the Lower Court in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The sentence was upheld by the Appellate Court in September 15, 2008.

Crescente R. Relacion, Executive Director of the Office of the Undersecretary on Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the DFA allegedly told the families of the three OFWs in death row to ask for apologies to the families of those who were murdered in Saudi Arabia. According to Norie they were also told that a blood money should be paid to the victims' families in order to complete the requirement for a clemency.

"This is outrageous! First and foremost, the three OFWs were tortured during interrogation. Why is the Arroyo administration trying to persuade them to admit to the crimes they have not committed?" exclaimed Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

The group claims that Relacion's action is a follow-up move after President Gloria Arroyo talked personally to Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud during the United Nations General Assembly in New York last November 13.

"The Arroyo administration is bungling this case from the very start. DFA officials were aware of the fact that the accused OFWs were tortured and they were even informed that Rolando Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla was hospitalized in the process of interrogation, " Martinez said.

Migrante also expressed their concern that the three OFWs will suffer the same fate like Jenifer Beduya who was beheaded last October 4 allegedly due to the criminal neglect of the government. Consul General Tago admitted during an interview that Beduya was only given an interpreter instead of a lawyer during preliminary court hearings.

'Bring them home before Christmas'

In a press conference held in front of the gates of the Department of Foreign Affairs building, Migrante together with families of OFWs in death row also launched their campaign called "Bring Them Home Before Christmas."

"The yuletide season is nearing and one of those who are praying hard to be with their love ones this Christmas are the families of distressed OFWs," Martinez explains.

The group claims that there are thousands of distressed OFWs who have ask to be repatriated back to the country yet were not being attended to by the government. Migrante cited that this clearly violates repatriation provisions of RA 8042 or the Magna Carta for Overseas Filipinos.

"The campaign will cover not only OFWs in death row but also those who are stranded abroad like OFWs in Kish Island in Iran among other places, Filipina domestic workers who are in welfare and deportation centers specifically in Jordan and Kuwait. And sadly, the campaign will also call for the repatriation of OFW remains such as Manuel Ocreto's, which have not been reunited with their loved ones even after months or even more than a year after their death," adds Martinez.

The group plans to drum beat their campaign up to the International Migrants Day on December 18. On that day, in 1990, the UN General Assembly adopted the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families of which the Philippines signed and ratified in July 2001. ###

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Revoke the license of Mafiosi-like GAMCA clinics

Press Release
13 November 2008

Revoke the license of Mafiosi-like GAMCA clinics
Arroyo govt., DOH must seriously implement issued order putting an end to "referral decking system"

Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers' organizations in the Middle East is calling the Arroyo administration thru the Department of Health (DoH) to seriously implement its administrative order putting an end to the so called "referral decking system" practiced by the member clinics of the Gulf Cooperation Council-(GCC) Accredited Medical Clinics Association (Gamca).

"DOH Administrative Order No. 167 was issued on August 2004 to put an end to the referral decking system which until now is being unlawfully practice by GAMCA-member clinics. The DOH should seriously implement, in full force, its order and punish those clinics that are defiant," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

Migrante-ME said in practice, GAMCA operates like a mafia; it ensures that all its member-clinics would be given enough allocation and share on exorbitant OFWs medical fees.

"The recruitment agency will refer the aspiring OFW to GAMCA, which in turn GAMCA will designate a member-clinic for the medical check-up and formalities of an aspiring OFWs only after paying hundreds of peso for the ''referral" made by GAMCA. This is a clear case of extortion," Monterona added.

Monterona added since 2001 when the referral decking system was implemented, GAMCA-member clinics have 'legalized' extortion till the present defying DOH order to halt its operation.

"Like a mafia, GAMCA-member clinics are usually conniving with each other by intentionally failing the medical test of would-be OFW and refer the OFW to other GAMCA-member clinic for another round of medical test," Monterona added.

Monterona further said even those who are healthy would be surprised to read if their medical test results would indicate that he or she has a spot on their lungs, or he or she should need to clean his teeth, or he needs to undergo an electro-cardio graph (ECG) test.

"All these entail additional fees and these are clear case of 'legalized' extortions perpetrated by GAMCA-member clinics," Monterona continued.

"What is worst is that if one challenges the medical test results or findings, GAMCA-member clinics will not give you for instance the negative film of your x-ray or other test results, this is what exactly I personally experienced to a GAMCA-member clinic," Monterona continued.

Monterona ended saying though the DOH under the executive branch is acting too late on this unlawful referral decking system practiced by GAMCA clinics; its seriousness to implement it's own administrative order will be tested if it commence revoking the license and accreditation of these GAMCA-clinics, not just mere issuance of warnings, against those that are still practicing the deceitful referral decking system. # # #

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Arroyo anew for neglect of OFWs

Press Release
29 October 2008

Reference: A. M. Ociones
Chairperson, Migrante KSA
Mobile: +966-56-679-3202

Migrant group in Saudi Arabia score Arroyo anew for neglect of OFWs
Cites lack of medical benefits

“Arroyo should call for better migrant protection in front of a mirror,” thus declared Migrante Saudi Arabia Chairperson A. M. Ociones in response to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's keynote speech Wednesday to the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Manila.

Ociones notes that while Arroyo called “to gather (the) collective will, joint resources, and common efforts” of “international organizations and global civil societies for the protection of migrant workers rights,” a Filipina confined at a hospital in Jeddah cannot be discharged due to ballooning hospitalization costs and the government's failure to provide assistance.

Aida Gutierrez, 41, a dressmaker from San Isidro, Nueva Ecija was hospitalized on October 2 due to diabetes mellitus and chronic renal failure.

As of October 25, Gutierrez bill at the Saudi German Hospital already costs SAR 118,838.70 (roughly PHP 1,564,383 at conversion rate of SAR 1 = PHP13.164).

Twice abandoned

Gutierrez' employer did not provide for any medical insurance coverage as mandated by local Saudi laws and has refused to shoulder her hospitalization from the very start.

“Her employer has already abandoned her fearing the high medical cost and now the government has abandoned Gutierrez by totally ignoring her needs," Ociones laments.

Quoting relatives in their documentation, Migrante KSA notes that the government representatives response to Gutierrez' case ranges from a 'non-committal' promise of “assistance… sa abot ng aming makakaya” from Consul General Ezzedin Tago to an outright “wala kaming pondo” by the local Welfare Officer.

In the Case Profile prepared by Migrante KSA, Jeddah Labor Attache Buliok Nilong apparently admitted to the victim's sister that they cannot do anything by saying “wala tayong magagawa dyan... Walang batas na pwedeng magpwersa sa employer na sagutin ang pagpapagamot.”

“These responses is totally reflective the government's de facto policy of reneging on their mandate to serve migrant Filipinos, ” Ociones adds.


On the other hand, OFW groups in Saudi Arabia, including Migrante, are now all busy raising funds for the hospitalization cost of Aida, but Migrante KSA feels it would not be enough.

“OWWA has billions in its coffers but nothing for situations like these! Where does all our money go?” Ociones asks citing the admission of Welfare Officer Romeo Pablo that OWWA has no funds and that he will ask other community organizations to start raising money.

“Surely, OWWA do have the funds, but no, they expect that the cost be shouldered again by the virtuous charity of OFWs,” Ociones adds blasting Arroyo at the same time for her policy to pull out the medical coverage from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and transferring it to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in 2004.

Migrante asserts that the transfer of OWWA Medicare coupled with the implementation of the OWWA Omnibus Policy in September 2004 effectively denied OFWs with proper medical coverage.

PhilHealth, according to Migrante and by own admission of OWWA staff here in Jeddah, can only own up to 20% of total hospitalization cost which can only be reimbursed in the Philippines.

“In a way, Arroyo is right,” Ociones concludes. “Arroyo's government is noteworthy for passing the burden of protecting and ensuring the rights and welfare of migrant workers on people other than themselves who was mandated by the Constitution.”

Arroyo made the call to the GFMD in the context of current global financial crisis which, Migrante asserts affects Filipino migrant workers in more ways than one.

“That employers are abandoning their workers like Aida Gutierrez is a direct result of the global economic crunch,” Ociones concludes. “And we expect more of these happening with the intensification of labor-export under the GFMD.”

* * *

Case Profile: Aida Gutierrez

Case Profile:
(Based on personal interviews with relatives and concerned individuals conducted by Migrante KSA on October 27 and October 29; and emails from various sources.)

Victim Name: Aida Palmones Gutierrez
Age: 41
Occupation: Dressmaker
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Residence in Philippines: San Isidro, Nueva Ecija


01 October ~ Co-workers at the workplace reported to her sister Precy that Aida dropped unconscious after complaining of “panghihina.” Aida was then admitted at the Saudi German Hospital and was diagnosed with “disturbed conscious level, diabetes mellitus and renal failure” and was instantly sent to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Aida was not covered by any medical insurance, a legal requirement for foreign workers. Precy immediately went to Aida’s employer to seek assistance but the employer refused.

For the next few days, Precy repeatedly went to Aida’s employer but this would not relent, insisting instead that, (1) Precy shoulder all medical expense since she (and not the employer) sent Aida to the hospital and (2) she should ask fellow Filipinos to raise funds for the hospitalization costs. The employer even told her not to sleep so she could raise the money.

05 October ~ Precy and a friend went to the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah where she was referred to Labor Attache Buliok Nilong. Nilong reportedly said: “wala tayong magagawa dyan. Walang batas na pwedeng magpwersa sa employer na sagutin ang pagpapagamot (kay Aida).”

Nilong then referred her to OWWA, but OWWA staff referred her back to POLO.

At the same time, OWWA insisted that Aida was not covered by Phil Health since her payment was not up-to-date and told her that “ang PhilHealth sa Pilipinas lang makukuha.”

06 October ~ Precy and her friend went to meet Nilong again the next day, and reportedly repeated only what the Labor Attache said the other day. Nilong dismissed Precy by handing her a SAR 100 bill and saying: “Heto, abuloy ko na lang sa kapatid mo.”

Again, people in the Consulate referred her back and forth between POLO and OWWA.

Later in the day, Precy was accompanied to the hospital by Asst. Labor Attache Adam Musa, Welfare Officer Romeo Pablo and Dr. Romualdo Exmundo. The representatives were non-committal (this is our conclusion) but promised Precy they will take action.

08 October ~ Aida was discharged from the Intensive Care Unit.

11 October ~ Aida was returned to the Intensive Care Unit but was released to the ward the next day.

12 October ~ Aida’s hospital bill reached almost SAR 100,000.

Exact date unknown (between 12 Oct. and 25 Oct) ~ A concerned citizen asked the staff of a senator (Senator’s name withheld by documentor) for assistance. The senator’s staff reportedly said that they can only give USD 200.

Aida’s family in the Philippines paid her Phil Health premium to keep her up-to-date.

Consul General Ezzedin Tago and Consul Leo Tito Asuan personally visited Aida in the hospital. ConGen Tago handed Precy some money (exact amount unknown) to help cover the hospital expenses. At the same time, Tago promised “assistance… sa abot ng aming makakaya.”

25 October ~ Total hospital bill reached SAR 118,838.70.

27 October ~ Precy went to the Philippine Consulate and was able to talk to ConGen Tago again. He showed her a fax dated October 21 (or 23, the source was not sure of the date) from DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos urging the OWWA Administrator to “ayusin ang kaso” (Precy’s words).

Precy asked OWWA staff later about the certain fax from the DFA but she was told: “wala kaming natatanggap.”

Going back, ConGen Tago reportedly admitted to Precy: “alam mo ang mga tao dito, parang pako, kung hindi mo pukpukin, hindi babaon.” Tago also promised to look into the matter personally and at the same time, gave her some amount (amount withheld by documentor) to help cover their expenses.

Ambassador Antonio Villamor, in an email circulating among OFs reportedly told a local community leader: "It doesn’t matter now if she is an OWWA member or not. What is important is to get Aida out of the Hospital (because of the huge running bill) and send her home to her family."

29 October ~ A concerned relative called Pablo Singco, supposed Presidential Adviser for Oveseas Filipinos under Vice President Noli De Castro’s office who admitted Aida was (or should be) covered by OWWA.

The same concerned relative also called Jeddah Welfare Officer Romeo Pablo who reportedly said: “wala kaming maibibigay na pondo, kundi tatawag sa Biyernes ng mga charity para makalikom ng pondo.”


1. Abandonment by employer.

The employer clearly abandoned their responsibility for the hospitalization of Aida Gutierez.

2. Abandonment by concerned government agencies.

Government POLO/OWWA staff definitely reneged on their responsibility even with written proof from the OWWA National Office that her case be taken care of and personal assurances from Consul General Ezzedin Tago and Ambassador Antonio Villamor.


1. Mobilize concerned community groups to help raise funds for the hospitalization cost and other expenses. Support other related initiatives.

2. Appeal to the OWWA National Office and other concerned government agencies to release funds for the hospitalization expense, taking note that the longer she stays in the hospital the higher the fees get (fees increase by approximately SAR 500 per day).

3. After resolving issue of hospitalization fees, appeal to concerned government agencies for immediate repatriation and further medical attention in the Philippines.

4. Determine culpability of OWWA / POLO staff and request immediate appropriate action.

5. Initiate dialogues with concerned government agencies to determine proper course of action towards certain cases of abandonment by employers.

6. Call for the return of medical coverage from Phil Health to OWWA; Phil Health only as an optional alternative to OWWA Medical program (similar to the SSS coverage for OFWs); expansion of benefits for overseas Filipinos; and, the scrapping of the OWWA Omnibus Policies implemented in September 2004 which restricted the services beneficial to OFWs.

Documentation by:
Committee of Rights and Welfare (CRAW)
Migrante International – Jeddah (KSA) Chapter
Last update: 29 October 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pagpupugay sa Migrante Ras Al Khaimah (UAE)

Magkaisa at Sumulong!
Mensahe ng Pagpupugay at Pakikiisa
sa Asembliya ng Pagtatatag ng Migrante – Ras Al Khaima (UAE)
23 Oktubre 2008

Ipinapaabot ng Migrante Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter ang aming malugod na pagpupugay at pakikiisa sa inyong paninindigan na itatag ang balangay ng Migrante International sa Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates (UAE) sa 30-31 Oktubre 2008.

Hindi na talaga matatawaran ang kontribusyon ng OFWs sa lipunang Pilipino. Mismong ang gobyerno na ang umaamin na 10% na ng gross domestic product, ang kabuuang halagang nalilikha ng lipunan, ang mula sa perang padala ng migrante. Sinasabi ngang aabot na sa 40% ng populasyon sa bansa ang umaasa sa kinikita ng higit sa 8 milyong OFW na nakakalat sa 162 bansa.

Ngunit ito lang ang magandang mukha ng migrasyon. Ang kabilang mukha nito ay ang mahihirap na sitwasyong sinusuong ng isang migrante upang makapagpadala ng dolyares: patuloy na binubusabos na pasahod; mahabang oras ng pagtatrabaho; hindi makatwirang mga kaltas; atbp. Idagdag pa rito ang pagturing na parang alipin na nagbubunsod ng mga hindi makataong patakaran, katulad ng crackdown, visa trade, at mas malala, human trafficking at prostitusyon.

Mula sa pawis at dugo ng migranteng manggagawa, ang kung anu-ano pang porma ng pagkatas ng kita, hindi lang ng employer, bagkus pati mga recruitment at travel agency, bangko at mismong ng ating pamahalaan sa porma ng iba’t-ibang bayarin.

Sinusuong ng migrante ang kalungkutan ng mawalay sa pamilya ngunit ang kapalit nito ay kawalan ng serbisyo at benepisyo, kriminal na pagpapabaya ng pamahalaan, at dagdag na mga pasanin at singilin.

Ngunit may pag-asa pa. Ilang ulit nang pinatunayan na sa pagkakaisa at pagkilos ng migrante ay makakamit ang mga pagbabago at maisusulong, mapoprotektahan at maipagtatanggol ang ating mga karapatan, kapakanan at interes.

Nasaksihan natin na sa sama-samang pagkilos, natugunan ang problemang kinakaharap ng libu-libong stranded sa UAE dahil sa biglaang pagpapataw ng patakaran sa visa; maging ang pagtatanggol sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa sa Princess House sa Dubai.

Sa ganitong sitwasyon, wala tayong aasahan kundi ang ating sariling lakas. Ang pagbubuo ng isang bagong balangay ng Migrante International sa inyong lokalidad ay pangunang hakbang tungo sa pagsusulong ng interes, kapakanan at kagalingan ng OFWs.
Magkaisa at sumulong!
Ipaglaban ang sahod, karapatan, kabuhayan at kagalingan ng migranteng Pilipino!


A. M. Ociones
Chairperson, Migrante KSA
(Migrante International - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter)
Tel. No.: +966-56-679- 3202
Email: migrante_ksa@
URL: http://migrante- ksa.blogspot. com

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Justice for Ladion

Negligible DFA officials:

Press Release
19 October 2008

Negligible DFA officials:
Conejos, Tago criminally liable to the gloomy fate of OFW Jenifer Bidoya;
their 'heads must roll' – Migrante-ME

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers' organizations today said the Arroyo administration; Vice-President Noli de Castro, DFA Officials Undersecretary Conejos and Consul General Tago are all criminally liable to the death of OFW Jenifer Bidoya who was executed in Saudi Arabia last week.

"The relatives of OFW Jenifer Bidoya who are now openly speaking to the media how the Arroyo administration abandoned and neglected OFW Jenifer Bidoya during his trial by not providing legal assistance by hiring a defense lawyer is much truthful and reliable than those earlier pronouncement by the BIG LIARS in Malacanang and DFA. They've lied to the family of OFW Bidoya; they've lied to the public to cover their ass. This is condemnable!" said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona noted the admission of the DFA officials' guilt are coming from their very own mouth when Philippine Consul General Ezzadin Tago himself during Vice-President Noli de Castro's radio program interview on Friday admitted that PCG only provided an interpreter to OFW Bidoya and the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) hired a lawyer only when the case was elevated to the Saudi Court of Appeals.

"This is what we have said earlier: the negligible Arroyo administration acted too late with little efforts to save OFW Jenifer Bidoya. Worst, the DFA even gagged the family of Bidoya by telling them not to reveal Bidoya's case to the media but only gave false promises to the family. Again, this is condemnable in the strongest term possible!" Monterona added.

The DFA officials who have lied to OFW Bidoya's family and to the public, to mention Undersecretary Conejos and Congen Tago, Migrante-ME said to Mrs. Arroyo "their heads must also roll".

Migrante-ME said that an anonymous insider in the PCG volunteered to provide relevant information on the incident how OFW Bidoya fought back in defense of himself who was being gang rape by a number of Arab nationals who were believed high on drugs.

"Now, these pieces of information coming from Bidoya's relatives and from concerned PCG-insider would lead to the conclusion that OFW Bidoya was not at fault because it is on defense of his life when he unfortunately killed one of the Arabs who are trying to gang rape him. The PCG-insider told us that since all the police reports and documents that were signed by Bidoya are all in Arabic, it certainly put Bidoya's life at much stake," Monterona averred.

"We have known from this PCG-insider that OFW Bidoya is only 17 years old when he worked abroad who has to fake his passport and documents so that he could help support his struggling family. He was only 23 years old when he was executed last week," Monterona added.

Migrante-ME said that unless the mass exodus of Filipinos will be stopped, many OFWs will fall victims of their own government criminal neglect and abandonment.

"But, the Arroyo administration is hell bent to selling cheap its own people, that is why it is hosting the most anti-migrant confab, the 2nd Global Forum on Migration on Development to further commodify its own people and corner their huge remittances but neglecting their well-being, rights and welfare," Monterona added.

Migrante chapters in the Middle East coming from United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will actively participate by sending its own delegation in the upcoming International Alliance of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), a gathering of migrant grass roots and refugees organizations around the world to expose and oppose the 2nd GFMD in Manila on October 28-30 and to bring their condemnation to the criminally negligible Arroyo government in the international community.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Victim's kin gagged! Conejos lying

Press Release
18 October 2008

Victim's kin gagged:
Conejos lying through his teeth -- Migrante

Migrante International today lambasted DFA Undersecretary for Migrants Affairs Esteban Conejos for lying to his teeth regarding the case of OFW Jenifer Beduya a.k.a. Venancio Ladion who was beheaded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last October 14, 2008.

"Conejos, up to this moment, is saying that they did all their best to save the life of Jenifer but the victim's family is saying otherwise," according to Migrante spokesperson Garry Martinez.

Martinez said Jenifer told his uncle Eleno Torejas before he was executed that he never had a lawyer to defend him and attend to his legal needs.

Martinez also slammed the DFA and a certain case officer Atty. Ruel Garcia for gagging the family to seek assistance from the media and/or any migrants' organization.

Torejas said that in 2006, Garcia told them that 'everything is under control and nothing to worry about' the case of Jenifer.

"Sinabihan niya kami na matagal pa ang proseso ng pagbitay sa pamangkin ko, aabutin daw ng lima o sampung taon pa. Sila daw ang bahala, basta huwag kami lalapit sa media o sa Migrante," Torejas said.

But on Tuesday Torejas and his relatives were shocked after hearing that Jenifer was executed. Jenifer was sentenced to death for killing his employer but Torejas said it was in self-defense.

"Ang akala namin, sila ang bahala. Kampante kami tapos ganito pala ang mangyayari" said Torejas.

"Obviously, the government's storyline on its efforts to save the life of Beduya is a fiction. And the same can happen to other OFWs on death row like the Gonzales brothers also in Jeddah and Armia Panaglima in Taiwan," Martinez said.

Kin of Panaglima believe she was not given due process before she was sentenced to death. Panaglima was sentenced to death by firing squad for killing a Taiwan national in 2006. But she never admitted the crime and said she was framed-up.

Her sister Rosalinda Armia Pisueña believed Panaglima did not kill anybody.

"Hindi niya ho iyon magagawa. Mabait ho iyan at takot na gumawa ng anumang kasalanan lalo na at nandoon pa siya sa ibang bansa," she added.

"Enough is enough. Conejos must resign," said Martinez.

Martinez said Migrante together with families of all OFW victims will hold a prayer gathering on Sunday to pray for justice for all victims of criminal neglect of the Arroyo government to the migrants of criminal neglect of the Arroyo government to the migrants.

For Reference:
Garry Martinez, Spokesperson
Migrante International
Tel No.: 0921-7229740

Monday, October 13, 2008

PMEPC: a waste of taxpayer's money

Press Release

13 October 2008

Funding the extended operation of PMEPC is just a waste of taxpayer's money

Extending the operation of the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Committee (PMEPC) up to December 31, 2008 and funding its extended operations amounting to Php.3-million is just a waste of taxpayer's money," today said by Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of OFW organizations based in the Middle East as a reaction to the extension of the operations of the PMEPC under the Office of the President.

"The Php.3 million is of better use if it will be spent on the airfare tickets of thousands stranded and distress OFWs in the Middle East waiting for their repatriation so that they could be re-united with their loved ones this Christmas," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

On September 19, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in behalf of the President, has signed Executive Order No. 752 extending the duration of operation of the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Committee (PMEPC) to December 31, 2008.

Migrante-ME said the Arroyo administration is funding the extended operations of PMEPC that has been idle for a long time and which very existence is not anymore needed and sought.

Migrante-ME is questioning the justification cited EO 752: "in view of volatile political situation in the Middle East", thus it is saying there is a need to extend the operations of PMEPC.

Migrante-ME noted that it is in fact the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) that is considering to recommend to the President the lifting of deployment ban in Iraq and Lebanon as its "peace and order situation is becoming more stable", but said it still waiting for the official advise from the Department of Foreign Affairs based on its assessment on the political situation in Iraq and Lebanon.

"It shows that the DFA could not come up with an objective assessment on the political situations in Iraq and Lebanon; not actually on the whole Middle East", Monterona added.

Migrante-Middle East said EO 752 allows the PMEPC to ask "additional financial requirements that it may be needed" which shall be sourced out by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) from available funds of the concerned PMEPC member-agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment and other government-agencies attached to it.

"We are raising serious apprehension on the wordings of EO 752 allowing PMEPC to ask additional financial requirements it may be needed which the DBM is task to source out the available funds. In such wordings, the Php.10-billion OWWA trust fund, a US$25 compulsory membership of OFWs to OWWA, is not safe for the use of PMEPC," Monterona claimed.

Migrante-ME noted that during the U.S. "war of aggression" to Iraq, the Arroyo administration has funded the PMEPC an amount of US$293,500 intended for the repatriation of OFWs that never took placed. The said amount was taken from OWWA trust fund which until now remained un-audited.

Migrante-ME ended saying "The migrant-sending and receiving governments that have unanimously selected the Arroyo administration to host the Manila 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development on October 28, 2008, made the right choice: the Arroyo administration as a clear example of a negligible government remiss on its state responsibility to OFWs who are keeping the Philippine economy afloat." # # #

For reference:

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

Monday, October 6, 2008


Migrante KSA reaffirms its commitment to serve the migrants in holding its Second General Assembly last 1-2 October 2008. Results of the said Assembly will be published soon.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Arroyo's men should undergo psych test first

Press Release – 05 October 2008
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Arroyo's labor honchos urge to undergo psych test first before OFWs,
KGS-Migrante willing to shoulder costs

"OFWs and their families are challenging Mrs. Arroyo's labor officials such as DFA Undersecretary Conejos, DoLE Sec. Roque, POEA Administrator Manalili, OWWA Administrator Dimzon, to undergo psych test after having been on a 3-months on-the-job-training for domestic works before making it compulsory to OFWs. We will campaign to all OFWs to contribute for their psych test fees," said by a member-organization of Migrante International on a statement sent from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Mario Ben, working for 20 years in Saudi Arabia and Chairperson of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan-Migrante (KGS-Migrante) based in Riyadh, said to make it fair for OFWs and since the psych tests proposal came from Mrs. Arroyo's labor honchos, it is but reasonable that they should be first to undergo a psych test after they have completed a 3-months on-the-job-training either in Saudi Arabia or in Kuwait.

"We are much willing to pay for the cost of their psych test. We should be checking our labor officials' capacity to think rationally and sensibly so that they could come up concrete pro-active measures protecting OFWs rights and well-being," Ben averred.

Ben continued that OFWs and aspiring alike are alarmed if this compulsory psych test will be implemented as this maybe the reason why aspiring OFWs could not be given a fair chance to find a job abroad. "

Compulsory psych test is discriminatory and violative of one's right," he continued. He added that unreasonable and senseless measures such as psych test and AIDS test could not deter OFWs not to commit crimes against their employer.

Numerous cases revealed that OFWs are the usual victims of their abusive employers and not the other way around; thus they were only forced to commit crimes in defense of their life and their beings.

"Contrary to the claim of the DFA Undersecretary Conejos that the government provides "swift, prompt and decisive", psych test is clearly a reactionary measure because it does not provide a direct solution to the real problem of abuses and maltreatment of our household service workers and construction workers," Ben averred.

KGS-Migrante in Riyadh will be writing to the National Center for Mental Health and other Clinics in Metro Manila how much it will costs for all Arroyo labor honchos to undergo a psych tests so that his group could raise the necessary amount.

KGS-Migrante will be writing as well to lobby to members of the Congress to consider filling a bill making it compulsory to all appointive cabinet members to undergo a psych test and AIDS test before their appointment will be concurred.

"We are certain that Arroyo's labor officials will be laughed at by their counterparts from other participating government during the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development in Manila on October 29-30 for requiring its own migrant workers to undergo compulsory psych test as it is idiotic and reactionary measure," Ben ended. # # #

For reference:

Mario Ben
KGS-Migrante Chairperson
Mobile Phone No.: 00966 502 98 0129

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mensahe mula sa Hong Kong

Mensahe ng Pakikiisa
sa Ikalawang Pangkalahatang Asembliya

Mainit na pagbati sa lahat.

Nakiisa ang United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) sa buong kasapian, sa lahat ng mga organisasyon, grupo at advocates na nakibahagi sa inyong pangalawang pangkalahatang asembliya.

Sa kasaysayan ng migrasyong Pilipino, ang KSA ang isa sa pinaka-unang bansa kung saan dumagsa ang mga kababayan natin na itinulak magngibang-bayan ng papalalang krisis at kahirapan sa bansa. Hanggang sa ngayon, ang KSA ang pangunahin pa ring destinasyon ng mga OFWs.

Ngunit mas mahalaga, ang KSA din ang isa sa mga unang bansa kung saan nagbuo ng organisasyon ang ating mga kababayan para sa karapatan at kagalingan ng migrante at pamilya. Sa kabila ng mabibigat na limitasyon at restriksyon, hindi nagpatinag ang mga aktibistang migrante at lubusang sinuong ang hamon sa pagtataguyod ng progresibong kilusan ng mga Pilipino sa ibayong dagat.

Saludo kami sa inyong pagpapatuloy ng gawaing ito.

Talamak ang problema ng mga migrante sa KSA. Hindi lamang iilan na sa ating mga kababayan ang nabiktima ng sari-saring mga pang-aabuso at pagsasamantala habang patuloy namang nagiging inutil ang gobyerno natin at mga kinatawan nila dyan para ipagtanggol ang mga migrante.

Sa kabila ng mga atake ng gobyernong Arroyo, hindi kayo nagpatinag na lantarang kundenahin at papanagutin ang gobyernong Arroyo sa kanyang malupit na mga patakaran at kapabayaan sa mga migranteng Pilipino.

Sa kasakukuyan, nagtutulak na naman ang gobyernong Arroyo ng isang programa na kanyang pagkakakitaan, nais nitong magpatupad ng pschological test upang maging fit to work daw ang mga OFWs. Bahagi pa rin ito ng todo-largang pagluluwas ng lakas-paggawa ng mga Pilipino na ipagmamayabang tiyak ng gobyerno sa nalalapit na Second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).

Patuloy na lumalala ang kalagayan ng mga migrante, Inaasahan namin na ang buong kasapian ng MIGRANTE KSA ay mananatiling malakas at magkakamit ng mga tagumpay sa mga laban na inyong isusulong.

Kasama ng iba pang mga OFWs , patuloy tayong manindigan para sa tunay na interes, karapatan at proteksyon ng bawat migranteng Pilipino.

Mabuhay kayong lahat!
Mabuhay ang Sambayanang Pilipino

United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK), Migrante Sectoral Party – HK, Gabriela Women’s Party – HK, Association of Concerned Filipinos, Association of Filpino Women Migrants, Filipino Migrants Association, Friends of Bethune House, Filipino Friends, Pinatud a Saleng ti Umili

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mensahe mula sa Migrante International

ISANG maalab na pagbati sa ating mga kapatid sa Migrante Saudi Arabia sa kanilang ikalawang kongreso.

Hindi matutumbasan ng papuri ang ginagawa ng ating mga kapatid dito sa gitnang silangan kung ang pag-uusapan din lang ay pagtulong sa kapwa migrante.

Kami dito sa National Office ay humahanga sa katapangan at katatagan ng ating mga kasama na gumampan ng karampatang serbisyo para sa ating mga kababayan, itinataya pati kanilang hanap buhay masagip lang ang isang kababayan na nanganganib ang buhay o puri.

Hindi miminsang sila ay sumusugod sa Embahada ng Pilipinas sa Kingdom of Saudi Arabia upang ipaggiitan ang karapatan at kagalingan ng migranteng nangangailangan ng tulong.

Hindi miminsang sila ay naparatangang gumagawa lamang ng istorya at ang kanilang sinasabi sa mga pahayagan ay kasinungalingan.

Habang iginigiit nila ang mga karapatan ng mga migrante sa KSA; tuloy-tuloy silang tumutuligsa at tumututol ng mga panukala ng gobyerno ni Gloria Macapagal Arroyo na mapanupil at mapagsamantala.

Kaya sa pagkakataong ito, hayaan niyo kaming magbigay ng mataas na pagpupugay at pasasalamat sa mga kinatawan at kasapi ng Kapatiran ng Gitnang Silangan.

Kayo ay mga tunay at tapat na mga anak ng bayan!


Migrante International
Executive Committee

27 September 2008