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