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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad today assured overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families that the government's Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) for OFWs will be worth at least P100 million, as mandated by law.


He also said that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) agreed to submit an erratum to Congress to increase the government allocation for LAF in 2011 to P30 million, as mandated by the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, as amended (Republic Act No. 8042, as amended by R.A. No. 10022).


"Hindi po natin pinapabayaan ang ating mga bayaning OFW (We are not neglecting the needs of our OFW heroes). Contrary to earlier reports, our funds for legal support to our OFW in 2011 will be sufficient, and even more than required," he said.


He said the department projects that the total LAF for 2011 could at least be P129.96 million to as much as P217.76 million. He said this depends on how the 2010 balance will be used for the rest of the year, with the department assuming conservatively that half will be used.


Abad said that the department's record shows that only 6.7% or P14.5 million of the P135.518 million in LAF for 2010 has been used as of June 30. Furthermore, there is a fund balance of P52.63 million in 2009, which is carried-over due to the continuing nature of the fund.


The P2.7 million will come from the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund, also a continuing fund with current balances that could be used to augment the LAF. Additional funding could also come from balances of existing legal assistance or defense fund.


Under R.A. No. 10022, a LAF should be established in the amount of P100 million, to be sourced from the President's Contingent Fund (P50 million), the President's Social Fund (P20 million) and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Fund (P20 million).


The amended law mandates that an annual appropriation of not less than P30 million for LAF shall be provided in the national budget, with total LAF not being less than P100 million. LAF is treated as a Special Fund in the National Treasury, and its balances cannot revert back to the General Fund.     

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

OFW rights group re-iterates calls to address rampant contract substitution victimizing OFWs in the Middle-east



Press Release



Worried over the swelling up of contract substitutions cases victimizing OFWs deployed in the Middle East, an alliance of OFW rights group today calls on the Department of Labor and Employment and its Overseas labor offices to address the rampant cases of contract substitutions victimizing OFWs.


“Contract substitution has been a recurring problem encountered by OFWs especially those deployed in the Middle East, we wonder why until now the Labor Department and its Overseas Labor offices could not solve this,” asked John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.


Monterona said contract substitution occurs when the deployed OFW upon arrival to the job site will be forced to sign a new contract by his or her employer with different terms and conditions from the originally signed contract that was facilitated by the local recruitment agency in the Philippines.


“On our records of cases, 5 out of the average 8 cases recorded daily are about contract substitution and violation consciously committed by the employers, it is worsening because victims are now by group collectively complaining against their employer about contract substitution,” Monterona added.


Monterona said an OFW will feel bad if at the end of the month he would received a lower salary compared to what is stipulated on the original contract he has signed.


“Aside from a lowered the salary, OFWs victim of contract substitution normally complaints of non-payment of overtime work, no medicare or health card which is to be provided by the employer, some complained of unexplained salary deductions, among others,” Monterona added.


Monterona cited the recently reported case of the 84 OFWs who are working as cleaners in the United Arab Emirates after their employer abandoned them without food and water.

“The case of 84 Pinay cleaners in the UAE is in addition to the already long lists of contract violations we have monitored numbering to little less than 3,000 already from January to September of this year alone, aside from the lists of cases from previous years which some are not yet resolved,” Monterona claimed.


Monterona further said there is something wrong in the system of the deployment of OFWs from processing the required formalities between the recruitment agencies and the POEA and the Philippine overseas Labor office (POLO) that approved the job orders to actual deployment of OFWs.


“It appears from our initial investigation that the contract signed by the OFW while he is still in the Philippines is only for formality purposes -for his registration to the POEA as hired workers facilitated by the recruitment agency; the recruitment agency representing the prospective foreign employers,” Monterona added.


Monterona said the role of the recruitment agencies in contract substitution cases must be thoroughly investigated by the DoLE-POEA and by the Philippine Congress.

“The inept Labor attaché on contract substitution cases must also be investigated, because it is on his jurisdiction and duty to protect the labor rights of our deployed OFWs against the malpractices of the employer including contract substitution and violations,” Monterona added.


“For this purpose, we are calling the Senate Labor committee and the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation and in crafting appropriate measures or policy, so that this highly irregular, illegal contract substitution would be prevented,” Monterona ended. # # #



Migrant rights group welcomes Kuwait government scrapping of 'sponsor-ship' system





Press Release



Receiving reports from its local chapter in Kuwait, an alliance of Filipino migrant rights group in the Middle East today said the serious intention of the Kuwait government to abolish the sponsor-ship system, locally know as ‘kafeel’ system, is a good indication that Kuwait is geared towards respecting the rights and well being of expatriate workers in the former Iraqi-occupied country.


“We are glad to hear that Kuwait Minister of Social Affairs and Labor recognizes the need to abolish the sponsor-ship system in Kuwait as it would give leeway and freedom to expatriate workers in terms of travel and the opportunity to change and look for a better job within Kuwait, ,” said John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator for Migrante Middle East.


Yesterday, a local newspaper in Kuwait (Al-Rai newspaper) quoted Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Mohammed Al-Afasi as saying that the "kafeel" system will be scrapped when a public authority for the recruitment of foreign workers is established in February.


"This will be our gift to foreign workers on the anniversary of Kuwait's liberation," from seven months of Iraqi occupation in 1991,” the minister said as he is quoted in Al-Rai newspaper.

The sponsorship system serves as the legal basis for one’s residency and employment in Kuwait and in other Gulf States.

Monterona said expatriates cannot enter, work, change jobs or leave the country until they have permission from their sponsor, usually a GCC citizen, company or ministry officials.

“The sponsorship system requires that an expatriate can work only for the sponsor and is entirely dependent on the contract in order to remain in the country,” Monterona explained.


Monterona added usually the laborer’s employer is the one who issues the visa invitation letter which requires the employee to work only for the original employer, who is also called the employee’s ‘sponsor’.


“In essence and in practice, sponsorship system is but an indentured servitude; a person under sponsorship simply called as bonded laborer who is under contract of the employer in exchange for an extension to the period of indenture, which could thereby continue indefinitely,” Monterona continued.


He further said that in the very nature of the prevailing system of sponsorship as practiced in the Gulf States, migrant workers as indentured servants were subject to abuses at the hands of their employers in the homes or fields in which they worked.


“That is why we often encounter cases where migrant workers have not been given a vacation despite they have already been completed their 2-year contract and other labor malpractices and abuses committed by the employers against the bonded laborer,” the OFW leader continued.


Sponsor-ship system emanates from the old social system of slavery whereby slaves are considered a private property.


Monterona said Migrante as an organization of OFWs recognizes the need to lead the formation of a broader lobby group along with other migrant workers in the Gulf States supportive to the call made by the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR) in Saudi Arabia and same entities in any Gulf States.


“This lobby group to be composed of migrant workers’ organizations in the Gulf States would be a special formation that is committed to lobby from host governments to ultimately decide to abolish the sponsorship system. This lobby group will likewise urge its respective governments to lobby the same to its counterpart host governments,” Monterona added.


Aside from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, calls for the abolishment of sponsorship system got widespread supports in Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates amongst expatriates and nationals of those states.


"We are urging other host governments in the Gulf States to follow the same step taken by the Kuwaiti government in abolishing the sponsorship system,” Monterona added.


Migrante's Monterona however noted that OFWs and their families are disappointed to their own government the Aquino administration which failed to craft a clear and genuine program for the protection of OFWs as cases of abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices continue to swell up.


Monterona said that host governments in the Gulf States like Kuwait are in fact have shown their willingness to cooperate with labor-sending government like the Philippines in terms of protecting the rights and well being of Filipino migrants.


"Nearly 100 days in office, we have noticed the Aquino administration’s reluctance in pushing and concluding OFWs rights protection pact with host governments; the Aquino administration unwillingness is a manifestation of its lip service to the sector keeping the Philippine economy afloat," Monterona ended. # # #


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fw: 09.09.10; I was told to Pass to Filipinos I know so here

Note: A forwarded message

To the Hongkong and PRC People:
You hate the Filipino people for the hostage fiasco that unfortunate incident that went out of control at the end. This was a hostage situation that was under control and which netted 7 Chinese tourists to be released upon the efforts of our policemen.
You appear and sound sanctimonious and have even stepped upon our sovereignty.
You have demanded apology, the moon and the heavens. You hate the Filipino people as if we wanted this unfortunate incident to happen. First and foremost, we offer our condolences to the families of the 8 that were killed in this incident. Secondly, we are sorry for the bungled handling of this hostage taking. It was unfortunate, it was an accident, we never planned it that way. Is it fair to blame a whole nation for a situation that was never planned?
Let me ask you this question, "Should we hate you also for the lead poisoning caused by the paint you used in your baby furniture and toys for the children of the world, Should we hate you also for the use of cardboard in the "siopao"
that you sell to tourists? Should we hate you also for the melamine contamination wherein not 8, but hundreds, maybe even thousands have suffered and some even died?
Or, let us talk of Filipino casualties. A few years ago, 3 Filipino tourists, all surnamed Madrigal, a family of 5 were walking on Tienemen Square and Beijing . One Chinese stabbed the father and two of his children, killing all three. Were you even sorry for what this one Chinese did? Did the Filipino people even demand that China apologize for this unfortunate incident. This was PRE-MEDITATED MURDER.
Just as the use of lead, cardboard, melamine was pre-meditated - used because they were cheaper materials, in order to generate PROFITS for the Chinese businessman. Did you pay damages the same way you are demanding damages from the Filipino nation and people.
Where was the anger of the Chinese and Hongkong people? Did you even apologize to the world? My God in the case of melanine, you even kept this information from the world, until you were exposed for what you are!!!
Enough! We symphatize but don't blame the Filipino people.
So you want to send our OFWs home, that take care of your children? They play an important part in your lives. Both spouses are able to work, earn money because of the tender loving care being heaped on your children by Filipino maids and yayas/amahs. While you pay our OFWs for the work they do, you earn more for the love and care they bestow on your children. Go ahead, send our OFWs home. Let us see how that will affect your family incomes.
Enough! is Enough!!!!
Pass this to all Filipinos you know. If you love your country, perhaps you'll send this.
May God Bless Us All.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Aquino's US trip, Aquino, like Arroyo, will continue to peddle unprotected OFWs abroad


Press Release

20 September 2010


On Aquino’s US trip

Aquino, like Arroyo, will continue to peddle unprotected OFWs abroad -migrant group


Reacting on the first foreign trip of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in the US, an alliance of Filipino migrant rights group today said, like Arroyo, Aquino is likely to continue to peddle Overseas Filipino workers abroad without protection.


“P-Noy’s first trip abroad spells out a more intensified labor exportation program as it only re-affirms his economic programs based on the US government imposed neo-liberal policies of globalization such as liberalization, deregulation, and privatization that is pushing our people in dire poverty,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.


 Monterona said because of the RP government, past and present administrations’ blind adherence to neo-liberal policies of globalization, the socio-economic conditions of the Filipino masses becomes more deplorable.


“The Filipino masses –majority are workers and farmers, and even professionals, have no options left because the government is forcing them to find 3D (dirty, dangerous and dehumanizing) jobs abroad amid the scarcity of local jobs and rising cost of living and prices of basic goods and services,” Monterona added.


Monterona said that the labor export program is a conscious labor policy implemented by the Marcos regime when the country is pleading for foreign aid from IMF-WB and other foreign financial institutions and in order to ensure the in-flow of dollar reserves as a guarantee to foreign debt payments and more loans to in the future.


 “Thus, labor export program (read: peddling human labor) has now been institutionalized as a government’s ‘viable’ labor policy as part of the structural adjustment program, an imposition by the US-led IMF-WB and other foreign financial institutions,” Monterona added.


Monterona said since P-Noy’s US trip primary objective is to meet with US investors for his administration’s public-private partnership (PPP) projects, and witness the formal signing of a US$434-million compact grant agreement under the US government’s Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), and thereby hoping to avail financial assistance from MCA, then it is apparent that he would, like previous administrations, be willing to succumb to the wishes (read: impositions) of the US government.


“Adherence to neo-liberal policies of globalization (liberalization, deregulation, privatization) would lead to the intensification of labor export program by the government to ensure dollar reserves for debt payments, P-Noy therefore would continue to peddle unprotected OFWs abroad, who are sending billions of remittances yearly,” Monterona averred.


The Saudi-based OFW leader ended saying “The Filipino masses must expose and oppose the continued and blind adherence of the RP government on US neo-liberal policies of globalization, and must defend their socio-economic and political rights against the attacks of imperialists countries led by the US government. (end) # # #



Friday, September 10, 2010

Filipino migrant rights group pushes thorough, transparent auditing of OFWs trust fund

Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of various Filipino migrant groups advocating OFWs rights and welfare, today pushes the conduct of a thorough and transparent auditing of OFWs trust fund held in trust to the government.


John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said the call for a thorough and transparent auditing of OFWs trust fund held in trust to the government through its primary welfare agency, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), an adjunct agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), is based on the 22-point labor and employment agenda set-out by President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III upon his assumption to the Presidency.


Monterona cited item No.11 of the 22-point Labor and employment agenda of the Aquino administration, which states “Audit the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to rationalize the management of its funds, in terms of the benefits provided as well as how the funds are invested.”


The OWWA trust fund is a compulsory collection of US$25 membership fee charge to every deployed OFWs.   Membership fee to OWWA should be paid by foreign employers but was later charge solely to OFWs.


“Barely more than a month ‘til his 100 days in office, we have not heard anything from Aquino’s labor honchos  about the status of the above-cited labor agenda which is of particular interest to us -the millions of OFWs abroad, amid the scarcity or practically inadequate programs and welfare services to OFWs and their dependents,” Monterona added.


Monterona further said despite of the fact that the OFWs trust fund is immensely growing proportional to the 3,800 OFWs deployed daily based on government own records, the fund is believed to have reached 12.8-B now and still growing relative to the growing numbers of OFWs deployed yearly.


“Logically, if the trust fund is growing merely due to the membership contribution of OFWs, OWWA should have come up sufficient programs and welfare services to cater the needs of OFWs on-site and their dependents back home; sad to say numerous OWWA’s programs and services have been stopped when the OWWA Omnibus Policies has been implemented on 2004 under the anti-OFW Arroyo administration,” according to Monterona.


Monterona said his group would also welcome if the auditing of the OWWA trust funds should be joined and witnessed by representatives of various OFWs groups in the name of transparency.


“Open disclosure of the status of the OWWA funds, owned by the OFWs themselves, is also demanded,” the Saudi-based OFW leader added.

“In line of the memorandum recently issued by the President instructing government agencies to develop their respective Medium-term development economic programs, we will welcome if our group and various OFWs organizations will be consulted as it is necessary so that a more responsive and doable programs and services could be crafted based on OFWs actual and prevailing needs and concerns, or else, we would not expect at all to the Aquino administration coming up more responsive programs and welfare services to OFWs and their dependents,” Monterona ended. # # #