Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Salute to Rey Cayago

Kabayanihang hindi matatawaran at isang paghamon!
Pagpupugay sa kabayanihan
ni Rey Cayago ng Migrante International
26 Abril 2008
Migrante International - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter

Ipinapaabot ng Migrante International - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter ang maalab na pagpupugay sa pamilya at kaibigan ni Rey Cayago kaugnay ng kanyang pagbubuwis ng buhay para sa interes ng sambayanan.

Ang pag-aalay ng panahon, pawis at pagod ni Rey para sa interes ng migranteng Pilipino, una bilang kasapi ng Migrante International at kalaunan bilang organisador nito, ay hindi matatawaran. Ang kanyang paninindigan na magpatuloy sa pagkilos sa kabila ng kahirapan ay isang matibay na tanglaw upang magpatuloy ang bawat migrante na militanteng kumilos upang kalagin ang tanikala ng pagka-alipin.

Ang hanay ng migranteng Pilipino ay hindi insulado sa nagaganap na mga kabulukan, katiwalian at karahasan sa bansang iniwan. Ang pagbubuwis ni Rey ng buhay sa kamay ng pasistang militar ay isang patunay na walang sinisino ang karahasan.

Bilang mga Pilipinong itinaboy ng kahirapan at karahasan sa upang mangibang-bayan, nangangarap tayo (at hakbang-hakbang na lumilikha) ng isang lipunan kung saan makakapaghanap-buhay tayo at mamumuhay ng sagana nang hindi na kinakailangan pa ang mandayuhan.

Kung anuman ang ginagawa ni Rey sa Abra, kung anuman ang kanyang mga layunin sa pagtungo doon, maaring hindi na natin mauunawaan o malalaman kailanman. Marahil, sa kanyang paghahangad na baguhin ang abang kalagayan ng migrante, at ng sambayanan, nakasumpong si Rey ng kasagutan sa kanayunan.

Gayunman, ang pagbubuwis ni Rey ng buhay ay hindi isang estadistika lamang sa mahaba nang listahan ng karahasan ng estado.

Sa kabila ng pakikiramay (Beyond our condolences), ang pagbubuwis ni Rey ng buhay ay isang hamon sa hanay ng migranteng Pilipino upang aktibong lumahok sa pagbabago ng lipunan.

Mabuhay ang makabayan at militanteng kilusan ng migranteng Pilipino!

Sa migrante at sa bayan,

Migrante KSA
(Migrante International - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter)

For Reference:
Andrew M. Ociones
Tel. No.: +966-56-679-3202
Email: migrante_ksa@yahoo.com
URL: http://migrante-ksa.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Letter to OWWA for Lanuza

26 April 2008

The Board of Trustees
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration
7th Street Corner F. B. Harrison
Pasay City, Philippines
Tel (00632) 8917601
Fax (00632) 5516640/
Email: adminmdr@owwa.gov.ph

Through: The Honorable Marianito Roque
Secretary, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)

Dear Secretary Roque and the Board,
Greetings from Saudi Arabia !

The Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) of Riyadh , Saudi Arabia brings to your attention the case of Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza, who is in Dammam death row and on the brink of being beheaded. God forbids.

While we pray and push for the Philippine government to exert all efforts to save the life of Dondon, KGS would like to request the OWWA Board of Directors to exempt Dondon Lanuza from the OWWA Scholarship policy and allow his two children to avail of a special scholarship this coming school opening until they graduate a college bachelor degree or two-year vocational course.

Perhaps you all know that Dondon Lanuza is no longer an active OWWA member because he has not paid his OWWA membership fees but this is because he is in jail.

Prior to this, Dondon is an OWWA member. Actually his wife who is working as a nurse at King Fahad Military Medical Complex and earning only SR1,000 a month is an active member but according to an OWWA official, as stated in the attached news article published in Bulatlat.com, she is not entitled.

While in jail Dondon accepts some laundry work in order to help his wife who is also doubling as house help during her free time as part-time job to keep both ends meet to survive their children’s day-to-day expenses and education.

In our telephone conversation with Dondon, the father of two is very keen on getting his children’s education secured before he is executed. As a prisoner on death row, this is a very daunting task for an OFW, whose predicament was brought only by his instinct to survive against a sexual assault that happened eight years ago.

KGS believes that during the 2000 tragic incident, Dondon has defended himself from his aggressor that resulted on the untimely death of his attacker.

“PLEASE HELP ME FIND A PERSON PO NA MAGPI-FINANCE SA EDUCATION NG 2 KIDS KO." This was his appeal to the media that Dondon repeated several times when KGS talked to him recently.

With the present economic crises in the Philippines , it would be hard to find an individual who would help his children’s education. Except for OWWA.

With the kind approval of the Board we would like to request you to grant a special exemption to the children of Rodelio Lanuza.

During our annual general assembly held this month in Riyadh , KGS adapted the call of Dondon for his children’s education.

During that event, Labor Attaché Resty dela Fuente told our 24-year old organization that POLO Riyadh is one with KGS in our call to ask the OWWA Board to provide scholarship to Dondon Lanuza’s children in Cavite .

We will also call other migrant organizations all over the world to join us in our request to the OWWA Board of Directors about this matter.

(Here) is the article written in bulatlat.com about Dondon Lanuza.

Thank you for your time reading our request and we look forward to your favorable reply on this matter.


(Signed) Edgar C. Cadano
Secretary General
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Cellphone number: (00966) 508186919

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DonDon Lanuza Appeal

Migrante Saudi Arabia issues the following appeal of our kababayan DonDon Lanuza (shown here) who is currently in death row here in Saudi Arabia, sent via SMS just today, 23 April 2008.

To Whom it May Concern

I'm so sorry for disturbance... Im begging your kindness.. PLEASE HELP... I would want to follow-up my Appeal to anyone...

May dalawang anak po ako, napahinto sa pag-aaral ng huling pasukan dahil po sa kapos sa pinansyal na di po kaya naming mag-asawang tustusan... Nakatali po ang Kamay at Paa ko, di po makakilos para maitaguyod po ang pamumuhay ng 2 anak ko...

Nasaan na po ang mga Programa ng ating Gobyerno para sa mga kapos-palad na mamamayan lalung-lalo na po sa isang OFW na katulad ko na isang PRESO sa Kaharian ng Saudia Arabiya? Di ba po na tinatawag ng Gobyerno na modern hero ang mga OFW dahil sa magandang ekonomiya ng ating bansa, ngayon po ang isang OFW po ay nananawagan sa Gobyerno na bigyang pansin ang masamang sitwasyon.. Malapit na po sumapit ang pasukan!

Ang Edukasyon po ang tanging pundasyon para po sa magandang kinabukasan ng kabataan. Nakaluhod po ako at nagmamakaawa sa inyo! PLEASE HELP US! Utang na loob, for God's sake.. PLEASE RESCUE MY FAMILY FROM HUNGER.....

Umaasa po ako sa pagtugon sa aking hinaing... PARANG AWA NA PO!! Attached existing file: I would like to request from your kindness some financial assistance which im having so difficulty of soliciting from others. I've been confined here in Dammam Central Jail, Saudi Arabia since August year 2000 and my resources has all turned their backs on me even my family, closest and considered friends which has helped me for the past years.

They cannot be blamed for they also have their own families to support of course... I decided to appeal to you as a Brother to facilitate my needs and at the same time to finance some of my families personal needs... Any substantial amount would really be a big help for me and my wife who is in really dire straits as of the moment...

Your kind help and utmost attention regarding this matter would really be highly appreciated... May Almighty God continue to bless you and your family...

Brotherly yours,

Rodelio 'Don2' and Meribeth Lanuza
Email: donlanuza@gmail.com
Mobile: +966551028601 and/or +966531181904

DST on OFW remittances Slammed!

News Release
April 23, 2008

For reference:
Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson

Migrante slams documentary stamp tax on OFW remittances

An alliance of organizations composed of OFWs and their families today slammed the planned collection of a documentary stamp tax on remittances through remittance companies as yet another Arroyo scheme to bleed OFWs dry.

According to a Western Union source in Dubai , cited by Migrante Middle East, the Arroyo government will soon collect a 0.15% documentary stamp tax (DST) on OFW remittances sent through remittance companies. Already, the Arroyo government collects a 0.15% DST from OFW families on remittances sent through local banks.

“It’s as if the knife the Arroyo government stabbed into our back just got deeper. Given that OFW families already reel from the lower dollar exchange rate as they try to grapple with rising food prices – it’s utterly unjust and immoral for them toadd this new ‘state exaction’. In fact, the intensifying economic crisis gripping the Filipino people merits the immediate scrapping of all service charges and fees against OFW remittances. And the first to go should be this documentary stamp tax,” says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chaiperson.

For every US$200 (or P8,320 at a P41.60 exchange) remittance, the OFW family will be charged P12.48 in DST. Considering OFW remittances average US$1 billion monthly, that means US$1.5 million (or P62 million) monthly in DST revenue.

“That means P62 million goes to the corrupt Arroyo government instead of to OFW families. Every peso an OFW family saves is another peso they can spend for food. Besides, given the Arroyo administration’s reprehensible track record for high-level corruption, we oppose all schemes designed to pour more funds into her coffers. For all we know, this collection is gearedtowards fattening the administration’s campaign kitty for 2010,” she added.

The OFW leader noted that the DST is in addition to the other service charges deducted by the remittance company. For example an IMF study states average remittance charges for the Philippines range from US$15 to US$26 for a US$200 remittance.

“The expansion and collection of these burdensome ‘state exactions’ or government fees is all the more offensive because of thisadministration’s track record of exporting, exploiting and criminally neglecting countless OFWs and their families. We demand the immediate scrapping of the DST on all OFW remittance transactions, through bank and non-bank channels, as a form of immediateeconomic relief,” concluded Bragas-Regalado. #

OFW Death in Rabigh

Press Release
April 23, 2008

PCG refusal to investigate death of OFW in Jeddah is condemanable;
DFA urge to conduct on-site investigation

Migrante Middle East, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations based in the Middle East today condemns the Phlippine Consulate General rejecting the plea of concerned OFWs to investigate the incident and circumstances that led to the death OFW in Jeddah last month.

“We condemn the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah for refusing the plea of concerned OFWs and fellow workers to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of OFW Domingo Hidalgo,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante regional coordinator.

According to the reports received by Migrante chapter in Jeddah, OFW Domingo Higaldo is working as a painter for Aramco-Petro Rabigh under the Contractor A.A. Turki Corporation (ATCO). OFW Domingo Hidalgo is from Olongapo City, with two (2) children but separated from wife.

Based on the reports received by Migrante from OFW Hidalgo’s companions and co-workers, on the day sometime on the second week of March before OFW Hidalgo died, he was prepairing and going ready to ride on thier company’s bus service going to their site of work and while on thier way to work he is complaining of chest pain and thus was rushed to Al Nakheel National Clinic in Rabigh, Jeddah.

While on the said clinic, OFW Hidalgo is told to wait for his turn to come so that he will be given treatment only after physical tests and examinations.

A number of Filipino nurses working at the said clinic could attest that OFW Hidalgo’s case was not treated by the clinic that requires immediate attention despite complaints from him of chest pain and having difficulty to breath. That time, his compnions who have brought him to the clinic suspect that he is suffering a “heart attack”.

“OFW Hidalgo’s co-workers explained that he should have been brought by the Clinic staff, as they could not give him immediate relief, to Rabigh General Hospital for his confinement and immediate treatment,” said Andrew Ociones, Chairperson of Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter.

Ociones said that OFW Domingo Hidalgo’s death has been properly conveyed to PCG more than a month ago and was requested to conduct an on-site investigation at the clinic where OFW Hidalgo was rushed and sad to say died at the said clinic without relief given to him at that very urgent situation.

“Companions of OFW Hidalgo called up again at PCG to follow this case but a certain Mr. Rico Silva, a PCG staff, has put the blame on them instead and reasoned out that they have a lot of cases to attend, thus they don’t have enough time to investigate the death of OFW Hidalgo,” Ociones added.

Despite the standing request for the PCG to conduct an on-site investigation establishing delinquency on the part of the clinic that failed to provide immediate assistance and relief to OFW Hidalgo, the PCG paid no attention and just relied on the information that has been sent via fax machine by the said Clinic.

“We are quite sure that PCG’s report on this incident is but a xerox copy of the report given to them by the said Clinic, thus it will not surely established the facts leading to OFW Hidalgo’s death,” Ociones said.

“We are not even sure if the PCG has sent its representative during the conduct of autopsy or if there is already an autopsy report,” Ociones added.

Migrante’s Monterona and Ociones both lambasted the PCG for sleeping on the death of OFW Hidalgo, whose remains has been at the Rabigh General Hospital for a month now.

Both said that this is typical denial of assistance due to victim OFWs as well as to the growing numbers of ran away and distress OFWs in Jeddah deportation center is but a reflection of Congen Tago’s poor performance, if not lip-service to OFWs.

“We are calling the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), and OWWA to arange to send a team that will conduct a thorough on-site investigation on the death of OFW Domingo Hidalgo and to immediately arrange the repatriation of his remains. Congen Tago and the rest of his Staff should be recalled as this is the nth time where cases of OFW death have been remiss by the PCG, so that they should be investigated too and be made accountable on thier neglectful attitude towards OFWs in distress and ran away.”


Andrew M. Ociones
Migrante-Saudi Arabia Chapter
Mobile No.: 00966 50...

John Leonard Monterona
Regional Coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Additional Burden

Press Release:
April 17, 2008

Proposed compulsory OFW-membership to Pag-IBIG
It’s nothing but an additional scheme burdening OFWs and families;
OFWs and families vow to oppose it– Migrante ME

“Stop the idea of OFWs’ inclusion from mandatory coverage in the Pag-IBIG Fund! OFWs should not be likened to a “deep well” of funds that every time there is bankruptcy or perceived shortage of funds in the government or any government-controll ed institutions, the Arroyo administration, like previous administrations, through its allies in the Congress could easily fetch funds by simply passing on the burden of fund shortage, thus pooling funds from OFWs in the pretext of public service,’” thus said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante ME regional coordinator.

Migrante’s Monterona is reacting on the bills filed in the Lower House by 3 pro-administration Congressmen namely Eduardo Zialcita , Emil Ong and Rodolfo Valencia , where the consolidation of the 3 bills is being studied.

Specifically , House Bill No. 1097 authored by Cong. Emil Ong suggested the mandatory coverage of OFWs , among others.

Monterona said the mandatory coverage of OFWs is no more needed as there is already an existing program called the Pag-IBIG Overseas Program (POP) , which is a voluntary savings program that aims to provide Filipino overseas contract workers , immigrants and naturalized citizens the opportunity to save for their future and the chance to avail of a housing loan of as much as P 2,000,000.00

“Voluntary, not compulsory, membership to Pag-IBIG would give leeway to OFW families to choose between getting an aching housing loan or simply build-their- own home at low cost,” Monterona explained.

Monterona recounts that if one could visit in most provinces in the Philippines, one will often notice and see a bungalow-type house under construction and just try to ask from its neighbor who owns the under-construction house, the neighbor will reply “ah the owner of that house is an OFW’’.

On his part, Nhel Morona, Migrante-UAE chapter Secretary-General said that OFWs have their own OWWA fund, where individual OFWs is required to pay US$25.0 on a yearly basis to maintain its membership to OWWA, presumably so that an OFW can avail OWWA welfare programs and benefits.

“Unfortunately , the OWWA fund , amounting now to an estimated Php.10-B held in trust in the government through OWWA diminished its welfare programs and benefits to OFWs and families when OWWA passed the anti-OFW OWWA Omnibus Policies in 2002 ,” Morona averred.

Morona further said that the 10-B OWWA fund could in fact be used for housing loan similar to what Pag-IBIG fund is intended for.

“To spare the OWWA fund from the Arroyo administration or political allies in the government of its possible misuse , the OWWA fund should be converted to a more meaningful and easy-to-avail housing loan for millions OFWs who are mostly do not have home of their own including me ,” Morona said.

Morona said that the government, if it has a political will, not merely politicking, to advance the welfare of its people could in fact give preferential treatment to OFWs as well as to urban poor by prioritizing them to avail its low-cost housing programs.

Monterona and Morona both said that most of the members of the Congress , like the Arroyo administration that considers OFWs an “exhaust valve’’ , have wrongly conceived that OFWs are earning much , thus it is but acceptable to them imposing additional government exactions.

“Majority of the OFWs are working as domestic helpers and construction workers or at the service sector who are only receiving a meager salary ranging from US$250 to US400 monthly; that is barely Php. 10,250 to Php. 16,400, not even enough to survive their family in time of continuing price increases of basic commodities and rice ,” Monterona added.

“We would like to remind the proponent of the bill requiring compulsory membership of OFWs to Pag-IBIG and other pro-Arroyo members of the House Representatives to stop thinking like their boss in Malacanang that OFWs is a source of “easy money” for the government for pooling funds just to ensure the coming of funds for Pag-IBIG ,” said Monterona.

“Certainly , we , OFWs and families will not give our avowed ‘’pag-ibig” (love) to our respective Congressman who will support this proposed consolidated bill requiring OFW membership to Pag-IBIG mandatory as it is only an additional burden to us who are in dire need and much poorer than before which forced us no other option but to work abroad despite being aware of the costs of our migration ,” Monterona ended. # # #

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

Nhel Morona
Sec.General - Migrante UAE

Trash House Bill 1097

Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
News Release
April 17, 2008

"No way! House Bill 1097 should automatically be trashed" -
KGS-Migrante Riyadh

"Drafting a bill that would hold us to pay a mandatory Pag-Ibig fee at this most exacting time is most revolting. No way! House Bill 1097 should automatically be trashed," thus said Edgar Cadano, secretary general of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), the Riyadh-based organization working with Migrante International for the rights and welfare protection of migrant Filipinos.

"The House of Representatives should know better our real situation. Enough of state exactions especially these days when rice, bread, gas and oil prices are going up while the value of our remittances are diving low like the credibility of the present Philippine president," added Cadano.

The timing is very dubious especially that the bill is intended, as the bill author stated, "to ensure that it will continually grow and generate a poolof savings" for of the Home Mutual Development Fund headed by a known presidential runner this coming 2010.

Instead of drafting such bills that would impose more state exactions topublic and private employees as well as overseas Filipino workers, KGS said that the House of Representatives should draft a law that would provide low-cost homes for all Filipinos such as those that Gawad Kalinga is doing.

"If private groups can do it without exacting money from the homeless and poor Filipinos like the majority of the overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia , then the author should be ashamed of his acts in filing this bill," Cadano added further.

"While we would love to have our own dream homes when we finally go home and settle with our beloved families that we have been physically detached in the Philippines , the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities disables us to save nor go home. Instead, the gentlemen of the House that are eyeing for a share of our hard-earned money are overruled by the OFWs.

"Go draft another bill. Trash this House Bill 1097," the Riyadh-based OFW group said in a statement.

For Reference:
Edgar Crisostomo Cadano, Secretary General
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan, Riyadh-Saudi Arabia
Cellphone: 00966-508186919

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Disregard to OFWs rights and welfare

Migrante Middle East
Press Release:
April 16, 2008

Disregard to OFWs rights and welfare a main factor in the increasing numbers of OFW victims– Migrante ME

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East has said that the Arroyo administration’ s labor export program signifies a complete disregard in upholding and protecting migrant rights and a key factor to increasing numbers of OFW victims in the Middle East .

“The increasing numbers of violations to OFWs’ rights throughout the Middle East and Asia Pacific region should serve a wake up call for the Arroyo administration, which has long been negligent to protecting OFWs rights and welfare,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante ME regional coordinator.

Monterona said there is a need for the Philippine Government to give utmost priority to upholding migrant rights and welfare in lieu of the continuing saga of migrant rights violations in the Middle East and other part of the Asia pacific region.

Migrante has been documenting the numerous cases of runaway and stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia as well as other countries in the Middle East to include Lebanon, Jordan, and Kuwait who where hundreds of OFWs are in the deportation centers and shelter run by Philippine Embassies and Philippine Consulates, and a hundreds who are also languishing in jails.

Migrante chapters in the Middle East through its Migrant Rights and Welfare Assistance Committee have been receiving calls and emails from distress OFWs in a rate of 3 cases a day.

“To date, we are reaching to almost 500 OFWs in distress and runaways in Saudi Arabia alone, both inside the deportation centers, shelters and in the houses of fellow OFWs to seek refuge as these OFWs are not willing to “surrender” or submit themselves or even ask assistance from Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and Consulate in Jeddah due to fear of returning them to their abusive employers,” Monterona added.

“In Jordan and Lebanon, we are receiving reports direct from OFW-victims inside the shelter managed by the Philippine Embassy that there are almost 200 OFWs, respectively who are there now for more than 3 to 6 months already, while Embassy officials just keep on promising them for repatriation,” Monterona revealed.

Migrante said that the real numbers of OFWs in distress in the mentioned middle eastern countries have been kept by the Philippine Embassies and Consulates away from the knowledge of the press and OFW organizations like Migrante because if it will be exposed it will surely fall back on them and it will denote one thing: the Arroyo administration is sleeping on its responsibility to assist distress overseas Filipino workers on these countries.

“The increasing numbers of OFWs in distress speaks for itself that the Arroyo administration poorly performed its responsibility to OFWs in distress; the increasing numbers of distress OFWs is due to Arroyo administration’ s complete disregard to upholding and protecting migrant rights and welfare,” Monterona averred.

Monterona said that if the Arroyo administration is really sincere in upholding and promoting OFWs rights and welfare, it will not only pronounce that OFWs right and welfare will be a matter of foreign policy but also work or lobby for it to the governments of host countries.

“Upholding migrant rights and by promoting it, it should be set as an utmost foreign policy by the Arroyo administration or any post-Arroyo government and it could be done, for instance, by steadfast lobbying to host government to come up with a bilateral agreement respecting the rights and welfare of migrant workers,” Monterona explained.

“By having such mutual agreement with the host government on respecting OFWs rights and welfare, the Department of Foreign Affairs through its Philippine Embassies and Consulates abroad could require aspiring foreign employers to undergo “migrant rights and welfare” course seminars to inculcate into the minds of these employers that migrant or OFWs have rights too as they are humans like them,” Monterona added.

Monterona further said that a proviso in the supposed agreement between the Philippine Government and host government placing a mechanism where an employer should immediate issued an exit visa or exit permit to its OFW-employee if the latter decides to leave his/her employer or due to violation of its contractual obligations, thus wavering its right as sponsor to employed OFWs.

“The Philippine Government could do a lot more to upholding and promoting OFWs rights and welfare, only if the government is sincerely recognizing its responsibility to the sector that is keeping the Philippine economy afloat for quite sometime now and OFWs will continue to be of help to the sagging economy as the Arroyo administration failed to generate local jobs with decent income enough to survive a family who are getting poor in the advent of price increases of basic commodities including rice,” Monterona explained.

Monterona laments that OFWs and families have observed instead the insincerity and neglect of the Arroyo administration to upholding and protecting migrant rights and welfare.

Migrante ME said that the International Labor Organization and the International Organization on Migration would not commend the Arroyo administration for handling well the situation of migration if they are well aware of the worsening plight of OFWs in the Middle East .

“Thus, in no way its labor export program can be a model to other countries; no pro-migrant government would allow its overseas worker to be degraded, abused and harassed and be treated like commodity where their labor is being sold cheap in the labor market; no pro-migrant government would allow to see its people being hanged to death; no pro-migrant government would allow to see at least 10 cadaver of OFWs daily arrived in NAIA and other Philippine Airports. One can only see the above in the Philippines,” Monterona lamented.

Migrante ME’s Monterona ended saying “The International Labor Organization and the International Organization on Migration would not commend the Arroyo administration for handling well the situation of migration if only they are well aware of the worsening plight of OFWs in the Middle East, if only they could hear the plea and cries of distress and stranded OFWs and could see the long lists of OFW victims; then ILO and IOM may say the Arroyo administration is the worst and most-anti OFW government the Philippines ever has.” # # #

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

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pagpupugay kay Venencio “Ka Nessy” Lizarda

Pagpupugay kay Venencio “Ka Nessy” Lizarda
12 Abril 2008

Ipinapaabot ng pamilyang Migrante sa Jeddah ang marubdob na pakikiramay sa pamilyang naulila sa biglaang pagpanaw ni Venencio “Ka Nessy” Lizarda noong Abril 11, dahil sa kumplikasyon sa puso sa edad na 62.

Si Ka Nessy ay matagal nang organisador ng mga kababayang ‘stranded’ at nagkaroon ng mahalagang papel sa pagkakatatag ng Migrate Sectoral Party (MSP) sa Jeddah. Sa katunayan, nahalal pa sya bilang Tagapangulo ng MSP-Jeddah noong 2004.

Noong 2006, dahil pa rin sa kagustuhang makapaglingkod sa mga kababayan, pinangunahan ni Ka Nessy ang pagtatayo ng Kapisanan ng Migranteng Pilipino (KMP) at nahalal bilang Pangalawang Tagapangulo nito.

Ang kanyang hindi inaasahang pagpanaw ay isang malaking kawalan sa samahang Migrante sa Jeddah sa panahon ng walang katulad na hamon sa komunidad na inaasam nitong paglingkuran ~ ang mga ‘stranded,’ mga tumakas, nasa mahirap na kalagayan, nakakulong at nakabimbin.

Tunay na ang kanyang paninindigan na maglingkod ay nagsisilbing matibay na inspirasyon para sa KMP at sa buong samahang Migrante sa Jeddah na magpunyagi sa paglilingkod sa ating mga kababayan.

Migrante International - Jeddah Chapter
Kapisanan ng Migranteng Pilipino (KMP)
Migrants Association in Saudi Arabia (MASA)
Migrant Womens’ Committee
Migrante Rights and Welfare Committee

Salute to Venencio “Ka Nessy” Lizarda

Salute to Venencio “Ka Nessy” Lizarda
12 April 2008

The Migrante family in Jeddah wishes to express our deepest condolences to the family bereaved by the sudden demise of Venencio “Ka Nessy” Lizarda on 11 April 2008 due to heart complications. He was 62 years old.

Ka Nessy was a long-time organizer of ‘stranded’ Filipinos and was instrumental in the organizing of Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP) in Jeddah. He was in fact elected as Chapter Chairperson of MSP-Jeddah in 2004.

In 2006, fueled by his commitment to serve his compatriots, Ka Nessy spearheaded the formation of Kapisanan ng Migranteng Pilipino (KMP) and was elected its Vice-Chairperson.

His untimely demise is a compound loss to the Migrante family in Jeddah at a time of great challenges to the community it wishes to serve ~ those ‘stranded’, runaways, in distress, jailed and detained.

Surely, his commitment to serving other compatriots in Jeddah serves as an inspiration to us in KMP, and the Migrante family in Jeddah, to persevere in serving our kababayans.

Migrante International - Jeddah Chapter
Kapisanan ng Migranteng Pilipino (KMP)
Migrants Association in Saudi Arabia (MASA)
Migrant Womens’ Committee
Migrante Rights and Welfare Committee

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A slap on Arroyo’s lip service to OFWs

Press Release
April 12, 2008

Complaints of deported 14 OFWs a slap on Arroyo Administration’ s lip service to OFWs - Migrante ME

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers organizations based in the Middle East has lambasted the Arroyo administration as the recently arrived 14 OFWs from Saudi Arabia have issued their statement when interviewed by the media complaining that the Arroyo administration failed to help them.

“The statement issued by the 14 OFWs who have just arrived today complaining that the Arroyo administration through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Embassy and Philippine Consular General and Department of Labor and Employment and its attached agencies such as Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, all has failed to help them thus its promised of immediate repatriation has been long delayed,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

Migrante chapter in Riyadh have talked to an embassy official, whose name we could not reveal to protect his person, who acknowledge that pressuring the Arroyo government to repatriate the stranded workers in Jeddah and Riyadh is a big help and without doing this, Embassy and Consular officials will not act with exigency and efficiency.

“We are used to hearing series of pronouncements from the Arroyo administration that stranded OFWs will be home soon. The fact is, the Arroyo administration, DoLE and OWWA were only pressured to an effort primarily because Migrante International and Migrante ME along with Migrante chapters around the world have intensify its campaign for the immediate repatriation of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia especially those seeking refuge in Kandera Bridge in Jeddah,” Monterona added.

Migrante immediately commenced their collective actions, launched several dialogs, picket and rallies in the DFA Main Office in Manila, issued statement of condemnation and possible filing of an appropriate case in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Migrant Rights against the Arroyo Administration’ s continued neglect to their worsening plight; all these actions undertaken by Migrante forced the inutile Arroyo Administration to “exert an effort” as per Mr. Roque’s pronouncement, to assist Filipino workers that are in distress abroad and want to go home.

“We would like to remind the Arroyo administration, DoLE and OWWA that there are still less than 500 OFWs in the deportation center in Jeddah and as per our Migrante-Jeddah reports they are seeing several OFWs who are now in the Kandera Bridge .

Those OFWs in Kandera Bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia are runways who can’t anymore afford to stay working with their errant and abusive employers; they are the runaway OFWs who are often manhandled by their employer, who are often harassed sexually, who are often not paid for their labor, who often their being degraded. They are our fellow OFWs working as domestic helpers and constructions workers.

“They are the majority of OFW population in the Middle East . Unfortunately, many of them were also abused and harassed,” Monterona explained.

Some hundred OFWs in distress are also at Philippine Embassy’s Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh , Saudi Arabia .

The above figures does not include the more than 200 OFWS in distressed in Jordan including the Domingo Sisters, who were pressured to pay for their placement and airfare costs as they were directly hired by the principal agent who is a friend to a certain Enrico Garcia and Alexander Maestrado of the Philippine Embassy’s ATN (Assistant to the Nationals) in Jordan. Worst, ATN Garcia is pressuring the Domingo sisters to pay US$1,500 plus airfare costs of Php40,000 as per their short messages sent to their father and was confirmed by Migrante ME during a short talked to one of the sisters on April 5.

There are more to add: the more than 30 OFWs in distress in Kuwait and more than 20 in Dubai , UAE including the distressed OFWs working for Princess House party organizers.

DoLE Acting Secretary and OWWA Administrator Marianito Roque pronouncement that repatriation is part of government’s effort, (please note: he used the term “effort” instead of “responsibility”) is issued so that they can claim before the very eyes of the public that Mrs. Arroyo’s administration is doing good for the protection and welfare of OFWs.

“But his claim is negated by the 14 deported OFWs who just arrived today with their complaints of the failure of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to help them. It’s like a big slap on their face,” Monterona said.

Migrante demand the Arroyo administration not just to exert an effort, but to perform its state responsibility of providing assistance to all OFWs in distressed and runaways in the entire Middle East. What we have mentioned above are only a few of the thousand OFWs in deportation centers, shelters and jails in the entire Middle East .

“Protecting OFWs, in distress or runaways, is a state responsibility. It is inherent to every government; government has an obligation to protect its people especially those who are working abroad not only to survive their own families but above all contributing much to keep its nation’s economy afloat,” Monterona averred.

Migrante’s Monterona said that the numerous neglect of the Arroyo administration to OFWs is tantamount to criminal negligence and is exhausting OFWs and families of repeatedly reminding her administration of its responsibility to OFWs and families.

The Arroyo’s administration does not deserve even a single “thank you” from OFWs and families for its effort to assist OFWs in distressed who are long been neglected and who suffered a lot under her seven (7) years in office.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Monterona ended. # # #

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

13 Years since Flor Contemplacion’ s Death

Press Release
16 March 2008

13 Years since Flor Contemplacion’ s Death,
OFWs remain marginalized and neglected despite hail as ‘Modern Heroes’;
Migrante ME vows to resolutely advance, defend and uphold migrant workers rights and welfare.

(A Joint Statement by Migrante Chapters and member-organization s in the Middle East commemorating the 13th year death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, a domestic helper from Laguna who was hanged to death in Singapore in 1995)

Migrante, OFWs and their families, aptly commemorating every 17th day of March every year the death of Flor Contemplacion as this date is considered a significant historical event depicting the real plight of our fellow overseas Filipino workers undeniably continue to worsen due to Arroyo’s administration’ s neglect and unparalleled disservice to our sector despite being hailed as ‘Modern Heroes’.

Migrant workers’ contribution in keeping the local economy afloat can’t be denied as their remittances keep on hitting new record of US$ 14.4-B last year that greatly contributed to our country’s dollar reserves; that makes OFWs ‘Modern Heroes’ into the eyes and minds of the past administrations including the present most-corrupt and most anti-OFW Arroyo administration.

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

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

We have noticed a sort of a ‘business plan’ in every program or policies of the Arroyo administration such is clearly manifested in its selling of bonds for OFWs which the government considered timely for its revenue-generation efforts hence, the Department of Finance considers this OFW bonds would help complete the government’s borrowing program for 2008.

With such pronouncement from the Department of Finance; the Arroyo administration is making OFWs as collateral for its foreign borrowing necessary for the granting of loan by foreign financial institutions such as the IMF-WB and Asian Development Bank. Intensified labor export, sending more OFWs suggest continued pouring of dollars for loan payments.

The Arroyo administration, which failed to develop our local economy that would absorb the increasing numbers of unemployed whose only option is to find work abroad, has intensified its labor export program sending some 10-million Filipino workers abroad and is predicted to increase in the coming years; and to ensure intensified labor export, POEA have allotted an increased budget of nearly P500,000 for its marketing activities in its effort to boost exporting cheap labor abroad.

Intensified Labor Export at OFWs Expense

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

We kept on saying that migrant workers are not commodities but humans whose rights should be respected and guarded and our welfare should be given foremost importance and consideration by our own government first and by the host governments as well.

The numerous cases of distressed OFWs due to maltreatment, unfair labor practices, and sexual abuses; the recorded several mysterious death of OFWs in the Middle East recently a reported OFW who was found dead hanging at her employer’s room in Kuwait; the increasing numbers of runaways at Khandera Bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Philippine Consulate now numbering to more than 200; the reported 30 OFWs in Kuwait who survived scrounging trash looking for food; the increasing numbers of jailed OFWs to include the 26 OFWs facing death in the Middle East; all these tell us one thing: Arroyo administration’ s gross disregard to protect OFWs is tantamount to criminal neglect!

Misuse of OWWA Fund

OWWA fund is a trust fund, the Arroyo administration has attempted and it succeeded to a few to divert the use of these funds in a form of investments and creation of task forces presumably to help distressed OFWs abroad during emergency situation and war for OFWs immediate evacuations.

Migrante’s records revealed some of the alleged anomalous investments and misuse of OFW funds under Arroyo administration:
  • Transfer of P4B OFW Medicare Fund from OWWA to Philippine Health and Insurance Corporation by virtue of a secret issuance of Executive Order 182 devoid of consultations from OFWs as stakeholders of these funds
  • The P260M bogus claims exposed by then OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo himself just to justify OWWA Medicare fund transfer to Philhealth under the present Arroyo Administration
  • The un-audited US$293,500 for the Middle East Preparedness Team headed by General Roy Cimatu during the US war of aggression to Iraq where repatriation of OFWs never took placed anyway under the present Arroyo administration.
  • POEA’s alleged illegally granting of P40 million incentives and allowances to its officials and employees for the past three years since 2002 and allowing its Executives and employees who were issued mobile phones to download about P796,000.00 worth of games, tones and picture messages and other unauthorized items.
The Arroyo administration, not contented to the misused of OFWs US$10-B fund at OWWA, has successfully secure overpriced deals of government projects such as the anomalous ZTE broadband project and the alleged South Rail Project and the controversial sell out of Philippine marine resources through the joint marine seismic undertaking (JMSU) with China and Vietnam.

OFWs Act of Civil Disobedience

Migrante’s file of the Arroyo administration ‘sins’ to OFWs and families are becoming populated, and OFWs and families will not allow to inflict more injustice and disservice to our marginalized and neglected sector, thus our “NO REMITTANCE” campaign, even only a day every month until Mrs. Arroyo resigned or ousted, will be intensified as an act of civil disobedience that is necessary, legitimate and fair.

We will also intensify our campaign urging fellow OFWs not to send their remittances through formal channels like bank but instead through a “door-to-door” services and the like.

As we commemorate today the 13th year death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion that symbolizes OFWs persistent struggle to advance forward its welfare and aspiration, Migrante chapters and member-organization s in the Middle East vow to reach out more OFWs and families for them to be organized and will closely join with the other sectors: farmers, workers, professionals, government employees, students, laymen and Church workers, all together calling persistently for Mrs. Arroyo resignation or ouster so that a more democratic, with real sectoral representations, pro-people post-Arroyo government could be immediately established.

# # #

This Joint statement is issued by Migrante Middle East Chapters and Member-Organizations, namely:

Migrante-Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan-Migrante- Riyadh , Saudi Arabia
Migrante-United Arab Emirates
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan-Migrante- Al Jouf, Saudi Arabia

For reference:
John Leonard Monterona - Regional Coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Thursday, April 3, 2008

'Partial' repatriation of stranded in KSA, hit

News Release
02 April 2008

For reference:
Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson
Migrante International

Migrante hits "partial" repatriation of stranded OFWs in KSA, elsewhere

An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families today criticized the Arroyo government's partial repatriation of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia and other countries.

According to Migrante International, government announcements about the number of OFWs to be repatriated cover less than half of all those possibly detained in Saudi Arabia's inhuman deportation centers and an even smaller percentage of all OFWs stranded in other countries.

"The number of stranded OFWs climb every day. Reports received by our office now indicate that the number of OFWs in Saudi Arabia's deportation centers may have swelled to as much as 500, including around 200 women and some children. These numbers far exceed the less than 200 OFWs the Arroyo government said it would repatriate," says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson during her group's picket-dialogue this morning in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City .

Joining Migrante International were recently repatriated OFWs and relatives of those still stranded in the Kingdom.

Bragas-Regalado added that it is also incumbent for the Arroyo government to immediately reimburse the stranded OFWs who were compelled to purchase their own plane tickets home.

"To date, not all of the OFWs who paid for their own tickets have received commitments from the DFA or the OWWA that their approximately P20,000 plane tickets will be refunded," she added.

"In addition to those in Saudi Arabia , we're here to demand the swift repatriation of other OFWs also 'stranded' in other countries. In the other countries, many of these OFWs are Filipina domestic workers forced to run-away from abusive employers. In some cases, along with the lack of funds for repatriation -- they are being 'hostaged' by their recruitment agency, employer or host government in exchange for onerous fees for their release," she added, noting that among the biggest concentrations of stranded Filipina domestic workers are in Jordan (numbering about 200) and possibly in Kuwait.

According to the Migrante leader, the onerous fees are either for heavy fines imposed on 'run-away' migrants or allegedly for costs incurred by the recruiter or employer in hiring the migrant worker.

To conclude, Bragas-Regalado said the Arroyo government's criminal neglect of stranded OFWs around the world will be among the issues Migrante International will expose during the Global Forum on Migration and Development that will be held in the Philippines this October. #