Give donation to Consortium

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Absentee voting book still good read amid charter change bids


QUEZON CITY--WHAT’S blue and nearing obsolescence but still worth reading?It’s the book entitled “Overseas Absentee Voting: The Philippine Experience,” whose author is preventing the issue from dying amid renewed efforts to change the country’s constitution.
Not that author and lawyer Henry Rojas is bothered over potential revenue loss from his book’s sale—at P250 or just under US$5 each from publisher and nonprofit group Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA)-Philippines; Rojas is afraid overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may again miss out on the deal.“If charter change pushes through, the right to vote of overseas Filipinos might be taken away again,” Rojas told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
He said opposing moves to change the 10-year-old Philippine Constitution is a “logical option.”
The book offers keen insight on an instrument of suffrage that dates back to a hundred years when Australians first enacted overseas voting under its Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1902.The 225-page “blue book,” printed with money from the OFW Journalism Consortium’s partner Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, shows the nuts and bolts of Republic Act 9189, or the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003.
While the book is a strain to read, full of legalese speak and lacking literary flair, it provides an astute look on the circuitous law and its application in the 2004 elections. Rojas offered this reason for getting through the quagmire of legalese: “Active participation in elections is one of the many ways we contribute to nation building. Thus, the right and opportunity to vote as an absentee voter are too important to be treated lightly.”
The books is designed to help overseas Filipinos and NGOs in their advocacy efforts for reforms in the enacted law and in Philippine elections, and to help them grasp the complexity of the country’s immediate electoral history. (

OFWs: Pirates from the Caribbean?


MANILA--SOME overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may resemble Johnny Depp, but unlike the esteemed pirate, they are regarded as "unwitting" couriers of bootleg videos to and from the Philippines, experts told the OFW Journalism Consortium.An official of the Association of Video Distributors of the Philippines (AvidPhil) said the government should look into this.
AvidPhil, a national trade association promoting the video industry, made the call after the United States Trade Representative removed the Philippines from the priority list of governments that American firms accuse of allowing intellectual property theft.
The USTR placed the Philippines under the Priority Watch List of countries that could be placed under trade sanctions due to "rampant" IP rights infringements including optical media piracy, copyright and trademark violations of all types, importation of counterfeit merchandise, software piracy of all types, and bootleg cable television.
The PWL is a step above a US trade sanction and below the Ordinary Watch List.According to the Philippine IP office, upgrading the Philippines to the status of OWL –four days before President Gloria Arroyo declared a state of emergency– effectively removes the threat of US trade sanctions against the country.
A negative finding from the USTR, the IP Office added could have affected the country's export relations to the US. According to a recent International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) report, the Philippines has to satisfy the USTR's discretionary criteria, which include providing "adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights" to qualify for unilaterally granted trade preferences.
The Philippines participates in the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, offering duty-free imports of certain products into the US.From January to November 2005, nearly US$936-million worth of Philippine goods, or 11.1 percent of the country's total exports to the US, entered the US duty-free under the GSP program, the IIPA said in its report dated February 13, 2006.
The Philippines should not continue to expect such favorable treatment at this level when it fails to meet the discretionary criteria, the IIPA said before the USTR decided to upgrade the country into the OWL. The threat to be downgraded back to the PWL remains, according to AvidPhil."Authorities should look into the products that are being brought by the OFWs into the country as well as those being brought abroad because some of these are pirated materials," said AvidPhil executive director Eduardo Sazon.
A member of the Intellectual Property Coalition (IPC), AvidPhil has been fighting piracy in the country since it expanded its members last year to include distributors of non-motion picture videograms such as karaoke and music videos. "They (OFWs) are unwittingly becoming tools in carrying pirated materials," Sazon added without giving statistics or details supporting his views. (

DAWN rising on growth pains in Japanese-Filipino children advocacy


MANILA--THEY were just a bunch of moms and their kids going through the perky but amateur motions of a performance typical of school programs. They flailed, they warbled, they minced through skits brick-heavy with slogans and lessons and meaning.
They could have been treated to indulgent applause but instead, an audience composed of embassy officials and legislators, journalists and development sector workers struggled to hold back their tears. The performers, after all, were former migrant women from Japan and their Japanese-Filipino children.
Called Teatro Akebono, they embodied the grim—and hopeful—purpose of the day: marking the tenth anniversary of the Development Action for Women Network or DAWN through a conference aimed at shining a brighter light on the issues of migration and trafficking.DAWN is an NGO that focuses on assisting returning distressed migrant women from Japan and their Japanese-Filipino children who “need to regain and strengthen their sense of dignity and self-worth and reclaim their wholeness,” according to executive director Carmelita Nuqui.
Nuqui’s presentation cited that for a decade, DAWN has handled about 350 cases involving women and 440 involving Japanese-Filipino children.These cases, she said, include work contract violations, abuse and harassment in the work place, abandonment of Japanese husband and other marital concerns, children’s right to paternal recognition and support, as well as the citizenship of the children.
“The number of women and children seeking assistance from DAWN increases everyday,” Nuqui added.
The increase comes from referrals from the Embassy of Japan in Manila, Philippine government agencies, “as well as those who have read about us in the papers and heard about DAWN from radio and television programs that have featured the organization,” Nuqui said.With Japan’s imposition of stricter immigration laws last year, DAWN could expect a further rise in these cases. (

Recruiters warn Japan's migration law forcing entertainers to go illegal


MANILA - CONSTRICTIVE labor processing to Japan has displaced Filipino entertainers who, according to their promoters and recruiters, are forced to engage in illegal activities to ensure they can still work in that country.
"Arranged or fixed marriages become rampant now. While they (OPAs) are still in Japan, they are already paying much amount of money to their prospective husband to marry them in the Philippines so that they can go back there to work," said Cristy Gatchialian, president of the Philippine Entertainment Exporters and Promoters Association (Peepa).
Gatchialian and other leaders of the Confederated Association of Licensed Entertainment Agencies (Calea) that groups Peepa, the Philippine Association of Recruitment Agencies Deploying Artists (Parada), and the Reliable Entertainment Promoters Association Inc. (REPA), said more overseas performing artists (OPAs) have entered in arranged marriages with the Japanese or falsified their documents in order to go back to Japan.
Gatchialian, who is also vice president of Calea, added an entertainer who wants to ensure her return to Japan pays as much as 300,000 yen under a payment scheme.
"The problem worsened," said Parada and Calea president Lorenzo Langomez.Gatchialian called the problem "a form of human trafficking".Gatchialian and leaders of promoters and recruiters' organizations spoke a year after the Japanese government tightened immigration policy against foreign entertainers, specifically OPAs. The move, formally began March 15, 2005, was the Japanese government's response to a United States State Department report that tagged Tokyo two years ago as one of the countries where human trafficking was rampant.Washington 's State Department placed Japan in the Tier 2 Watch List of the 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report.The US government said it believes most OPAs in Japan were exploited and ended up in flesh trade.Ironically, according to Gatchialian, this experience that Washington wants to avoid occurs among Filipino women entertainers, a year after the Japanese toed the US line.Now, if we follow provisions of the new law, a Filipino woman "married" to a Japanese "can legally work in Japan," according to Gatchialian."She can sit down with the customers and go out with them without the fear of being penalized if caught," Gatchialian said, adding that the club owner could not be punished. (