Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Extend OAV listing

August 25, 2009

Migrante to COMELEC: Extend OAV listing

With only a week left before the deadline of overseas absentee voters’ (OAV) registration, the largest alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ groups appealed to the Commission on Elections to extend the ongoing OAV registration.

Migrante International, in a statement, said it is “very disappointed” with the COMELEC’s “snail-paced” approval of OAV registrants. The group said that out of 162,356 OAV applications so far, only 17,000 of them have been approved by the COMELEC’s Resident Election Registration Boards (RERB).

The Migrante leader explained that since the start of the OAV registration period last February, the RERBs have convened only twice, in March and in April this year.

OAV registration ends August 31, 2009.

“The COMELEC’s snail paced approval of OAV registrants is unforgivable. We are afraid that, because of this sad development, OFWs might deem the COMELEC insincere in its mandate to ensure our hard fought right to vote,” Martinez said.

“Migrante mobilized all of its chapters and members overseas to encourage Filipinos abroad to register, only to find out that the COMELEC has been sluggish in approving OAV applications,” he added, stressing that they have chapters in nine (9) of the ten (10) countries worldwide who topped OAV listing. ”The deafening clamor of OFWs around the world for an extension of the oav registration seems to be falling on deaf ears.”

Martinez disclosed that COMELEC Chairman Jose Melo wrote them a letter last month asking for help from Migrante chapters worldwide in the promotion of OAV registration.

“We challenge the COMELEC, under the leadership of Chairman Melo, to rise up to the occasion and prove that the right to suffrage of Filipinos overseas is their priority by extending the OAV registration until December 31, 2009; by working triple time in conducting more field registrations and information campaigns and by stepping up the approval process of pending OAV applications for registration,” Martinez concluded. ###

Garry Martinez, Chairperson

On Arroyo’s forthcoming trip to Saudi

Press Release
25 August 2009

On Arroyo’s forthcoming trip to Saudi
Is but another junket trip unless… she forge OFW protection agreement, legalization of undocumented, bring home the thousands distress and ran away OFWs in Saudi –Migrante-ME

Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations in the Middle East today said the forthcoming trip of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Saudi Arabia is just another junket trip which expenses are being charged from the public coffer without gain for the Filipino people and OFWs in particular.

“The ‘Queen of Junketeers’ is coming to Saudi Arabia only to sell cheap Filipino labor. As expected, her economic advisers will be drumming up that her visit is to lure investors and expand market for Philippine products, foremost is peddling OFWs in the Middle East sans concrete protection to OFWs,” said John Leonard Monterona Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo told local media yesterday that the President has accepted the invitation to make a state visit to Saudi Arabia as well as an invitation to speak before an international forum organized by the London-based magazine The Economist.

“Mrs. Arroyo’s scheduled visit to Saudi will coincide Eid Holidays after Ramadan expected to start on 19 – 25 of September. But we noticed her administration has been most brutal to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao with direct supervision of US military operatives in blatant violation of Philippine sovereignty and Constitution instead of pursuing peace talk with Muslim rebel groups,” Monterona added.

Monterona said after milking overseas-bound Filipino workers, her administration continue to neglect OFWs when victimized by cruel employers.

“While being laugh at her boasting that her government is a model for other labor-exporting countries in the protection of migrant workers, we challenge her to sign an agreement with the Saudi government to provide a free shelter for distressed migrant workers and to work and develop a mechanism that would legitimize so called undocumented migrant workers who have run away from their employers due to abuse and maltreatment,” Monterona added.

Migrante’s Monterona dares Mrs. Arroyo to ask the host government to develop a mechanism that would eradicate if not punish those employers that exploit migrant workers with contract substitution that result to salary reduction and requires long working hours.

“Instead of ordering her labor vendors headed by DoLE Sec. Marianito Roque to review work contracts of OFWs that is only targeted to exact fees from employers per contract reviews, why can’t she sign a contract with the host government that would protect Filipino workers from unscrupulous employers who substitute OFWs employment contract that are disadvantageous to OFWs,” Monterona averred.

“The Philippine president should stop claiming international relations as the centerpiece of her political and economic reforms when she could not even forge agreements to protect and eliminate exploitation and discrimination of Filipino migrant workers whose billions of remittances keeping the economy afloat,” Monterona added.

The OFW leader said the next most important task of Mrs. Arroyo during her scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia is to work for the legalization of all undocumented and run away OFWs mostly victims of abuses and maltreatment, not only in Saudi but entire Middle East where an estimated 2-M OFWs have been deployed.

“To our conservative estimate there are about nearly 26,000 undocumented and run away OFWs in the Middle East mostly in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon,” Monterona ended. # # #

Migrante commends jailed officers

24 August 2009

Garry Martinez, Chairperson-09217229740
Ailyn Abdula, Media Officer, 09212708994

Migrante commends jailed officers:
Calls on embassy officials to emulate their heroism and sacrifice

The global alliance of OFWs is jubilant over the release of the officers of its chapter in Riyadh, the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS). The Saudi police decided to drop the cases against them. The group likewise called on Embassy officials and staff to follow the good example of helping distressed OFWs.

“We salute our officers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for being steadfast in their commitment to help our fellow kababayans in distress. Their readiness to face the risk that entails assisting OFWs who need help is a virtue worth emulating especially by our government officials,” says Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

Last August 14, eighteen (18) Officers and members of the KGS were apprehended in a raid conducted by religious police in the said city. The group was later charged with violating the cultural law of Saudi Arabia.

“We are glad that in the end, truth and justice have prevailed, running away from abuse is not a crime and those who help them are certainly not criminals. We advice our officers in Riyadh to take sometime to rest before embarking on their work in their organization.Tuloy ang Laban! Tuloy ang pagtulong sa ating mga kababayan! (Onward with the struggle! Let us continue to help our countrymen!),” Martinez concluded.

The group likewise thanked all those who helped in working for the release of the arrested Migrante officials including what they called enlightened government officials who recognizes the noble work of Migrante in Riyadh. ###

Solidarity Statement to KGS from Austria

Statement of Solidarity
Vienna, Austria
20 August 2009


We at PINAS FIRST* in Austria condemn the unwarranted police raid of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) safe house last Friday, 14th August, 2009.

We decry this unjustifiable crackdown as the KGS is an established legitimate organization committed to augmenting government efforts to provide temporary refuge, counselling on rights and welfare, and other forms of assistance to distressed and runaway OFWs who number in the
thousands in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone. The KGS has never been involved with any illegal or criminal activities.

We demand that the Saudi government immediate release the KGS officers/members/service workers and distressed OFWs apprehended during the raid to the custody of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh (and to immediately return any seized items of the KGS.))

We demand that the Philippine government work out with host countries a comprehensive program to support and protect the rights and welfare of OFWs. It should export labour only in countries where democracy and freedom are respected and the rights of every citizen are guaranteed.

It should demand assurance that citizens and legitimate organizations like the KGS:

  • - be free to perform their work and

  • - have access to avenues for complaints against the police in the manner envisaged by article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, where the government is obliged to ensure that the victim has an "effective" remedy determined by "competent" judicial, administrative or legislative authorities.
We demand that the Philippine government examine the economic and social aspects of its labour export policy. It is high time the government implement genuine industrialization and land reform that will generate jobs for the Filipinos in their own country.

* Pinoy in Austrian Society For Integrity, Reforms and Social Transformation

Case dismissed vs. KGS

Press Release
24 August 2009

Saudi police dropped case against detained KGS members
“Case dismissed.”

“This is the information we have received from Eric Jocson, Chairperson of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (Brotherhood in the Middle East), the local chapter of Migrante in Riyadh,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona said Jocson informed him yesterday that the “prostitution” case that is supposed to be filed by the Saudi police to 18 KGS members and run away distress OFWs arrested when the Saudi cultural police raided the KGS safe house last August 14during the group’s welfare case assistance meeting has not been filed and is now dropped by the Saudi police.

“The dropping of the case has also been confirmed to me by Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, saying that their case officers were able to convince the Police that there is no “prostitution” as those apprehended are members of legitimate OFW organization providing assistance to distress and run away OFWs,” Monterona added.

Monterona said Vice Consul Reyes told him that the timely intervention of case officers Mr. Frias, Akrahman, and Harris resulted positively as they managed to convinced the Saudi police that nothing illegal happened or there is no commission of “prostitution” as alleged by the apprehending cultural police, locally called Muttawa.

“We commend embassy’s case officers Mr. Frias, Akrahman, and Harris under the direct guidance of Vice Consul Roussel Reyes for their timely intervention that lead to the dropping of the case against our members. We will not hesitate to laud the good job done by embassy’s case officers and officials for that matter so long as they will provide same assistance to all distress and run away OFWs not only to KGS and Migrante members,” Monterona added.

“Technically, there is no case filed yet against our KGS members; then came the information that Saudi police dropped the case against them. With this development, we are hoping that KGS Secretary-General Mike Garlan and member Rustico Marcos will be released any time from today who have been in jail for 11 days now,” Monterona added.

Monterona said Vice Consul Reyes told him that while those with Iqama (working permit) will be released immediately after the police received the noticed from the Prosecutor, those who have expired Iqama or run away will be deported.

According to Monterona, 2 of the 5 detained OFW women namely Sarah Gumansing and Elvira De Guzman have already been released in the custody of their respective employers; while run away OFWs Clemia Corpuz, Rosa Salazar, and Amauri Meriz will be deported.

Run away Reynaldo Balagtas who is only working for 2 months in Saudi had filed a labor case against his employer at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh assisted by KGS a day prior to the said raid, however his employer also filled a case against him at the Saudi labor office. Accordingly, he will be deported too.

“We are yet to see the release of still detained KGS official Mike Garlan and member Rustico Marcos, in which embassy’s case officers should closely follow as they are being told by the head prison guard that if they will not be taken into the custody of their sponsor, then they’ll be sent to deportation center too,” Monterona averred.

The OFW leader said the next most important task the RP Embassies in the Middle East should be doing is to work for the legalization of all undocumented and run away OFWs mostly victims of abuses and maltreatment.

“To our conservative estimate there are about nearly 26,000 undocumented and run away OFWs in the Middle East mostly in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon,” Monterona ended. # # #

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

Saturday, August 22, 2009

GMA Appointment, Threat to OWWA Funds

Press Release
20 August 2009

Arroyo’s appointment of her own “trusted man” in the OWWA-BoT threatens the 11.7-B OWWA fund;
OFW group urging fellow OFWs to oppose such high-handed political pay off

“It’s no surprise at all that Gloria MAcapagal-Arroyo will appoint her “trusted men” and will continue to appoint until her term ended or even beyond if her plans to remain in power succeeded paying off his loyal allies; even the welfare-based government agency like OWWA is not spared from her undemocratic political appointments,” thus declared today by John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

Migrante chapters in the Middle East is reacting to the “mid-night” appointment, devoid of democratic consultations from OFWs and their organizations, of Mr. Joselito “Jojo” Sapio as land-based representative to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration-Board of Trustee.

“This appointment made by Mrs. Arroyo is again hounded by controversies like many appointments she had made; it only spells out her undemocratic appointment of OFW representation to the OWWA, an government agency directly financed and funded by the millions of OFWs from their US$25 contribution,” Monterona added.

Monterona said appointing someone close to her and who had helped her cheat and win the 2004 Presidential elections threatens the 11.7-B OWWA funds held in thrust to the government.

“OFWs and their families should not forget that Mrs. Arroyo and her administration has a long list of alleged OWWA fund misuse and malversation devoid of consultations from OFWs stakeholders; thus we can’t simply give a nod to the appointment made a her “man” to the OWWA-BoT without giving OFWs the chance to be heard and consulted,” Monterona averred.

Migrante-ME said that it has been observed that the OWWA fund, a collection of $25 per OFW, has been misused not for the attainment of its own mandated purpose of providing welfare programs and services to OFWs and their families but becoming a “milking” fund by the past and the present administrations as revealed on the numerous cases of fund misused.

Migrante’s records revealed some of the alleged anomalous misuse and malversation 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

• 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

Migrante-ME said aside from the aforementioned anomalous investments and misuse of OFWs fund, the OWWA Omnibus Policies was onerously implemented devoid of consultation from OFW-members that practically removed almost all welfare programs that were previously availed by OFWs and families such as the family assistance loan and medical assistance loan.

The OWWA as the main agency tasks to ensure the welfare of OFWs abroad, thousands in distress in the Middle East are hardly given an assistance who are begging for their immediate repatriation so that they could be re-united to their families back home.
Migrante-ME claimed that even the provision of giving airfare tickets for those who are ready for repatriation because they are sick and for humanitarian considerations, OWWA could not give the needed airfare tickets.

"Our OFWs are not beggars that every time they needed assistance to OWWA, they would repeatedly send request but leave un-responded and not acted upon by OWWA welfare officers abroad," Monterona added.

Monterona asked “where the fund is intended to be spent by the Arroyo administration?”

“The appointment of OFW land-based representation to OWWA-BoT is for political exigency; the President has given the freer hand to appoint. Obviously, this appointment became more political especially if the appointing power has the underlying hidden agenda to advance its political interests,” Monterona added.

Migrante’s Monterona further said to appoint someone whom Mrs. Arroyo could be trusted, that someone should be from her “political” company, a necessity for her political survival in the midst of her dwindling popularity and net-satisfaction ratings by the public who is more disappointed, enraged but are protesting her.

Migrante chapters in the Middle East are urging OFWs and organizations to join them to oppose Gloria Arroyo's appointment of his political operator Joselito "Jojo" Sapio to the OWWA Board of Trustee as land-based representative. Such appointment threatens the 11.7-B OWWA funds.

"Let us protect and safeguard the 11.7-B OWWA funds, a compulsory collection of US$25 from every departing OFWs," Monterona ended. # # #

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Use diplomacy effectively

Press Release
19 August 2009

OFW group to DFA, RP posts:
Take custody of detained KGS-Migrante members, use diplomacy effectively

“Philippine Embassies in the Middle East should use diplomacy as an effective tool to help thousands of distress and run away OFWs,” thus today said by John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

Monterona said as RP posts in the Middle East and around the world are headed by country’s top diplomats they should use their knowledge in diplomacy effectively and pro-actively to help the increasing numbers of distress and run away, abused and maltreated OFWs especially in the Middle East.

“The case of 4 KGS members who are still detained in Riyadh for 5 days now since arrest last Friday for violating Saudi’s customary laws whose only intention is to assist distress and run away OFWs abused and maltreated by their employers is a case in point where the Philippine Embassy could use diplomacy by asking the host government to release the detained KGS members and place them under its custody,” Monterona added.

Those who are still in jail are KGS officers and members Mario Ben, Mike Garlan, Ronilo Reyes, and Rustico Marcos.

While distressed and runaway workers who were arrested along with the KGS members are Rey Balagtas, Elvira De Guzman, Clemia Corpus, Sarah Gumansing, Rosa Salazar, and Amauri Meris.

Monterona said during several phone conversations with Embassy’s officials in Riyadh, he stressed the idea of taking custody of the detained KGS members so that they can be temporarily release and that they could report to their respective work.

“This is the same suggestion given to us by the Human Rights Society of Saudi Arabia, a non-governmental organization in Saudi Arabia advocating the promotion of human rights when we have asked their assistance so that KGS members will be released temporarily,” Monterona added.

“But we are disappointed to hear from our Riyadh-based Philippine Embassy officials that they can’t do it, for whatever reason they only knew,” Monterona averred.

The OFW leader said effective and pro-active diplomacy coupled with genuine desire to help could send back home the more than a hundred run away OFWs that stormed at the Philippine Consulate Offices in Jeddah yesterday.

“There will come a time that these thousands of run away and distress OFWs in Saudi or any country in the Middle East will stage the first ever protest rally of OFWs against their very own government’s continued neglect out of their desperation and discontent,” Monterona opined.

Monterona ended saying “there could be no other form of actions to take for desperate and discontented OFWs and their families than to collectively protest, protest, and protest the criminal neglect of the Arroyo administration to the so called “Modern Heroes” (read: Modern Slaves). # # #

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

OFWs in Qatar denounces arrest

Press Statement
16th August 2009

OFWs in Qatar denounces arrest of Migrante leaders in KSA

The Organizing Committee of Migrante-Qatar strongly denounces the arrest of 10 members and officers of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) and three service workers in Riyadh , Kingdom of Saudi Arabia . Among those arrested were women and OFWs seeking advice for their problems.

The arrests happened after the KSA police raided the KGS safehouse at about 3:00 pm last Friday while the KGS was conducting its regular weekly case dialogue and counseling to distressed women OFWs who ran away from abusive situation with their employers. As reported by Migrante Middle East Regional Coordinator John Leonard Monterona, majority of those arrested are still awaiting for their release after the KGS asserted that it is a legitimate group conducting welfare services to those in need.

Migrante members in Qatar are saddened to know that most of our OFWs are experiencing maltreatment and abuse from their employers. Many are left with no options except to run away and seek immediate support to organizations such as the KGS.

The Middle East region that includes Qatar is a major destination for Filipinos who have been forced by the dire situation in our country to go abroad. Unfortunately, it is also a hotbed of problems as countless OFWs experience various types of abuses in their workplaces.

What happened to the KGS leaders and members is alarming for it threatens to further tighten the already limited recourse for assistance for OFWs in need. The incident does not bring any solace either to KGS, whose pursuit is to help alleviate the agony of distressed OFWs, or to OFWs with problems whose hope is to voice out their sufferings and avail the justice that is due to them.

If “running away” from employers due to unbearable maltreatment and abuse is somewhat a criminal offense in the host country, then how do they categorize or name an act of abuse committed by the employer towards their employees?

Migrante Organizing Committee in Qatar calls on to Philippine officials to do their utmost to facilitate the release of the arrested OFWs and do their best to prevent such an incident from happening again.

We also call for the support of the Filipino communities not only in KSA but to the rest of the Filipino communities in the entire Middle East countries to be more vigilant and help in promoting the best welfare of Filipino OFW’s. Each one of us should do our share to uphold and protect our human rights and safeguard our dignity as a person and as Filipinos.


Roberto Beltran


Migrante Organizing Committee in Qatar

Mobile no. 00974 7552305

Statement on the Arrest of KGS-Migrante Leaders

Official Statement
17 August 2009

Statement on the Arrest of KGS-Migrante Leaders

Migrante Saudi Arabia expresses disappointment over the arrest of its leaders and members in Riyadh. While we respect the laws and legal processes of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we believe the arrest exposes the limitations of its rules concerning 'private gatherings', contact with 'absconders', and what constitutes prostitution.

We do not hope that the Saudi authorities would offer any reprieve soon for organized communities who deal with the exposed symptoms rather than the cause. That, we believe is reserved only for the government of Saudi Arabia to identify and cure.

It is unthinkable, however, for the organized communities such as KGS and Migrante not to provide assistance to compatriots in various distress situations because that would mean absconding to man's inherent humanity. Should we turn a blind eye to anybody calling for help? This incident only requires any concerned individual or group to be more discreet in its mission of providing help whenever and wherever its needed.

As an organization, Migrante KSA and its members normally provide absconders with food whenever needed, monitor their health and safety, usually document their grievances then ultimately refer them to the Philippine government representatives at the Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate in Jeddah.

Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS-Migrante, or KGS/M) has been the foremost overseas Filipino organization since the 1980s, supporting democratic and national aspirations at the homefront while catering to the needs of compatriots-in-distress in the Kingdom. Even when it lost one of its key leaders to a deranged compatriot in 2000, the group never faltered in its mission. The recent arrest therefore, is only a small glitch in its commitment.

Migrante KSA also releases the following photo of former Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS-Migrante) Chairperson Mario Ben (left) and Mike Garlan, KGS/M Secretary-General (right). At the center is Bidang, KGS/M Committee on Rights and Welfare (CRAW) officerKapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan

The three were among the 18 Filipinos arrested on August 14 in Riyadh in what local media termed a 'mixed gathering.' The group was in fact documenting the cases of runaway OFWs before they are turned over to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, part of Migrante's standard operating procedure in handling such cases.

KGS, is the local chapter of Migrante International in Riyadh.

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

Helping OFWs is not a Crime

17 August 2009

Garry Martinez, Chairperson, 09217229740
Ailyn Abdula, Media Officer, 09212708994

Helping our Fellow Kababayans Abroad is not a Crime!-Migrante

The largest alliance of Filipino migrants organizations today raised concern over the arrest of some of the officers and members of Migrante-Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) by Saudi Arabian authorities on August 14. Migrante International also called on the Philippine government to do everything it can for the release of the remaining detainees, including the runaway OFWs Migrante-KGS was counseling.

“The defense and protection of the rights of migrant Filipinos have been sorely lacking that our officers and members in Saudi Arabia have been forced to risk their lives and their safety so they are able to help OFW victims of maltreatment and abuse in Saudi Arabia,” Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, declared. “While we appreciate the efforts that embassy officials have made to work for the release of the detainees, we would like to call on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to ensure the release of all our officers and guarantee their safety.”

The KGS officers were arrested in a safehouse where the organization provided for OFW runaways. They were conducting their regular weekly case dialogs and counseling to OFW victims of maltreatment and abuses who ran away from their employers.

According to John Monterona, Migrante Middle East Coordinator, Migrante’s Saudi chapter has been receiving an average of five cases daily. The number of cases has significantly increased since the Philippine government intensified its labor export policy as its response to the global financial and economic crisis.

Martinez continued, “Our KGS chapter is a trailblazer in providing emergency assistance to OFWs in distress in Saudi Arabia. Since its inception, KGS has rescued or facilitated the rescue of thousands of our kababayans in Saudi Arabia. It has also been at the forefront of the campaign for the defense and protection of migrant areas in the region. Our officers and members deserve all the guarantees of protection and defense the Philippine government can offer.”

Migrante International together with its chapters abroad has its program in providing service through a very responsive move on the welfare needs of OFWs in distress. “If this kind of advocacy is a criminal act, who among our kababayans will give attention on the increasing numbers of distressed OFWs given the fact that the Philippine embassies are inutile most of the time in giving immediate action on the problems of OFWs?”, Martinez added.

Martinez called on the Philippine government to decisively address the problem of migrant rights violations in Saudi Arabia which are increasingly becoming more serious in number and in intensity.

“And to our kababayans, given the repressive situation we have, Migrante will not stop in giving attention on your issues to continuously promote the rights and welfare of OFWs”. “We must ensure our Filipino communities abroad to insist our rights to Philippine embassy officials to hear our clamors and demands”, Martinez ended.

On the other hand, Migrante Europe strongly condemns this assault on a sanctuary for Filipino migrants in distress. The assault by the Saudi authorities is another mockery of those whose rights have already been abused and violated. The Philippine government should strongly protest this assault.###

Sunday, August 16, 2009

APMM on arrest of Migrante leaders

Press Statement
16 August 2009

For reference:
Aaron Ceradoy
Program Coordinator
Tel. No.: (852) 92706460

To escape from abuses is not a crime and those who help victims are not criminals
HK group expresses concern on arrest of Migrante leaders in KSA

The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) expresses our gravest concern on the arrest of several leaders and members of Migrante in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia together with OFWs in distress. They were taken after a raid on their safehouse last Friday where they were conducting their weekly case dialog and providing advices to OFWs who ran away from their abusive employers.

We maintain that escaping from an abusive situation is not a crime and those who offer helpful advises to them on what they can do should not also be treated as criminals. To do so condones maltreatment, exploitation and injustice to migrant workers.

According to reports that reached our HK office, members of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), the Riyadh chapter of Migrante, just met with about five OFWs who ran away from their employers in order to advise them on the best courses of action they can take for their problems. However, the police swooped down into the place of their meeting and arrested everyone.

Criminalization of those who abscond and thereby become undocumented migrants is already an unjust policy. Such becomes even more unjust and unreasonable when even those whose only purpose is to offer assistance that they can give are also charged with criminal acts. When has it become a crime to advise others who are in need?

Migrante-KGS since its establishment has been known even by Philippine officials in KSA to be responsive to the welfare needs of OFWs in distress. This reputation of Migrante-KGS has made them one of the first groups to be approached by OFWs who experience various kinds of problems with their employment.

Many times in the past, the group was even the first one to know of instances of abuses and pointed them out to the Philippine Embassy there in order for them to respond accordingly.

During this period of crisis, we anticipate even harsher actions against runaways and undocumented migrants. The support mechanism that the Filipino migrant’s community provides to those who will encounter problems shall be even more crucial to ensure that the rights of migrants are promoted and justice can be had for those who have been abused.

Instead of criminalizing victims and those who help them, the roots causes why there are numerous migrants are forced to run away must be addressed.

We call on the Philippine Embassy in KSA to immediately act for the release of all the KGS leaders and members. It must ensure that no further prosecution will be done against them and any other organization which provides immediate assistance to distressed OFWs before they are turned over to the Philippine authorities.

Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
Address: No.2 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Tel. no.: (852) 2723-7536
Fax no.: (852) 2735-4559
General E-mail: apmm@hknet.com

Other Email Addresses:
Managing Director : director@apmigrants.org
Women's Program : women@apmigrants.org
Advocacy Program : advocacy@apmigrants.org
Research and Publication: publications@apmigrants.org

Note: Kindly cc the general email (apmm@hknet.com) for all email correspondence

WEBSITE: www.apmigrants.org

"We dream of a society where families are not broken up by the urgent need for survival.
We dream and will actively work for a homeland where there is opportunity for everyone to live a decent and humane life." *********************************************************************************

KGS raided

Press Release
16 August 2009

OFW group’s safe house for distress workers raided by Police;
Migrante-ME working for their release

Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations based in the Middle East today confirmed that one of its pioneering member-organization , the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) safe house was raided by the Saudi Police last Friday, 14th August, 2009.

“We confirm that the safe house of KGS, a member organization of Migrante, where distress and run away OFWs are temporarily seeking refuge was raided by the local police last Friday at about 3:00 p.m.,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

Monterona said KGS was conducting its regular weekly case dialogs and counseling to OFW victims of maltreatment and abuses who ran away from their employers.

Monterona said ten (10) of its officers and member, and 3 service workers have been sent to Bahdiya Police Station in Riyadh for investigation. While the (5) distress OFW women were brought to Malaz Jail.

“KGS Officers and members have been giving advises to run away and distress OFWs before they will be formally endorse to POLO-OWWA as part of its rights and welfare assistance program (RWAP),” Monterona added.

Monterona said KGS with a long running tradition of helping and providing assistance to abused and maltreated OFWs since its founding way back 1980 has members and officers committed to provide assistance to distress and run away OFWs that it can’t simply turn its back to abused and maltreated OFWs seeking its help despite restrictions imposed by the host country.

“KGS and Migrante chapters in the Middle East continuously extend assistance to abused and maltreated OFWs because we need to, because daily we have been receiving an average of 5 cases, because there is no protection on their well-being, rights and welfare; this is the call of the time –to provide help to the thousands of abused and maltreated OFWs,” Monterona added.

Monterona said one of its leaders had already been released yesterday evening as the group was able to prove to the apprehending Police that it is a legitimate OFW organization providing assistance to distress OFWs.

“We are closely coordinating with our Embassy Officials for the release of other KGS officers and members as well as those apprehended distress OFWs,” Monterona confirmed.

“We would like to make it clear that we fully understand the implications of “harboring absconders” that’s why we have made arrangement like having temporary safe houses for ran away and distress OFWs until we formally endorse them to POLO-OWWA for their appropriate action, because POLO-OWWA and our RP posts can’t attend these numerous cases, a reason for us to do our discrete share helping our fellow OFWs especially abused and maltreated who have run away from their employers,” Monterona explained.

Monterona said even POLO-OWWA offices maintain their own safe houses for distress and run away OFWs.

Monterona said it is high time for the RP government to pro-actively do its part and not to set aside the need to have a more comprehensive approach to rights and welfare cases involving abused and maltreated run away OFWs in agreement with the host government.

“Keeping in mind that distress and run away OFWs are victims here, not criminals,” Monterona ended.

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