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Monday, January 31, 2011

FW: Mass Repatriation in Bahrain


Migrante-Middle East statement on the mass repatriation of some 23 to 30 distress OFWs from Bahrain

24 January 2011


(Note: See attached letter from PH embassy in Bahrain)


"We welcome the mass repatriation of the distress & stranded OFWs staying at the Filipino Workers Resource Center in Manama, Bahrain. We do hope that the PH embassy will not just be contented on reactively repatriating distress and stranded but as well as pro-actively work for the inking of a bilateral agreement wit the Bahraini govt. on OFWs protection. 


We have to reiterates to the Aquino government and it Foreign Affairs department, if it has political will and could stand on equal footing with its counterpart OFW-host governments, to forge a bilateral pact providing concrete OFWs protection while working at the host country. In fact, this is clearly mandated in the newly amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act or RA10022, P-Noy has to implement the law.


Previous administration failed to do so because they lack genuine concern on the plight of OFWs and their dependents; by all indications, it seems that the Aquino government is following suit."

-John Leonard Monterona (signed)

Migrante-Middle East coordinator.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

'Why not invite us in the Congressional hearing?" migrant group asks Embassy officials, COWA chair

Upon knowing today that the members of the Congressional Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) headed by its chairman Akbayan Representative Walden Bello had arrived in Saudi Arabia, an alliance of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia said they have not received any invitation coming from the Philippine Embassy and from the COWA to attend on the said consultations.

On January 7, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello announced that from January 8 to 13, the COWA delegation will be going to Saudi Arabia “to look into the plight and conditions of overseas Filipino workers.”

COWA Congressmen is in Riyadh now, will go to Jeddah and Al-Khobar on January 11 and 12, respectively to meet the PHL embassy officials and OFWs and their organizations.

“We welcome the COWA members and its plan of conducting an investigation and consultations with OFWs and their organizations; but until now we have not received any invitation from the PHL embassy and from the COWA though we have known that they have already sent invitations to other OFWs organizations,” said Mario Ben, Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter chairperson.

Ben said like of the previous COWA hearing sometime on November 2009, Migrante chapters in Saudi Arabia have never been invited.

“But because we insisted and went directly to the PHL embassy where the visiting COWA congressmen were there, we have met them and submitted to them the numerous cases of abuse and maltreatment including labor malpractices,” the veteran OFW Ben recalled.

On Friday, Migrante chapters in Saudi Arabia kicked off the “Justice for murdered OFW Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez and other Victims” movement through press conferences and signature or petition campaign to press hard the Aquino government to provide on-site assistance and protection to OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

OFW Eroy-Ibanez was murdered on September 2 inside the house of her employer in Al-Khobar. She was rushed to the hospitals and an hour later was pronounced dead. No formal case has been filed against the culprit as per the information received by Migrante-Saudi Arabia.

“As of 9:00am today, KSA time, we have already gathered 200+ signatures on the on-line petition, plus about 300+ actual signatures and 22 OFWs organizations supporting us during the kicked off ‘Eroy-Ibanez & other victims’ justice’ campaign last Friday,” said Eric Jocson, chairperson of the Riyadh-based Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan, an affiliate organization of Migrante.

Jocson said his group, if invited, will present the signatures/petition campaign and the other pending and unsolved cases to the members of the COWA.

On his part, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator said the visiting COWA Congressmen and the PHL embassy ‘must be open and transparent of they really, honest-to-goodness, are investigating the worsening conditions of OFWs in Saudi Arabia,”.

“We warn them of issuing sugar-coated reports as the many cases of distress and abuse, run away and undocumented we are receiving averaging to 5-7 cases daily, are enough proof that our most of our fellow OFWs are in their deplorable conditions especially the majority’s domestic helpers and constructions workers,” Monterona added.

“We are hoping that the COWA investigation would lead a tangible result of a passage of a law that would provide genuine protection to OFWs and their families, and not just ‘pogi-points’ by pro-Aquino administration Congressmen like of Rep. Bello,” Monterona ended.




A measure seeking to regulate the carrying of firearms has been filed in the Senate, a move to address the increasing incidence of violence and crime in the country where the main weapon used to perpetrate the misdeed is a firearm.


Senator Franklin Drilon has filed Senate Bill No. 129 titled Firearms Regulation Act which mandates that the carrying of firearms shall be authorized only for those directly engaged in military, police and law enforcement functions.


“It is high time that Congress should pass a law that regulates the use of firearms because the growing incidence of violence in the country is very alarming,” Drilon said.


While the proposed legislation does not intend to prohibit ownership and possession of licensed firearms, it limits the circumstances under which a private individual may take his firearm outside of his residence.


Under the measure, no permit to carry firearms shall be issued to any person except members of the Armed Forces and the police, agents or officers of the National Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Investigation Service, Narcotics Command, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces, Sherriff’s Offices of various courts and other law enforcement agencies and regular agents or personnel of duly-licensed private security agencies or security forces of state agencies.


Any holder of a permit for a firearm shall carry the firearm covered by the said permit when he is in full uniform and engaged in the actual performance of his duty.


In the absence of a valid permit to carry firearms, it shall be unlawful for any person to carry the firearm, even if licensed, anywhere outside his camp, station, residence or sports facility. No permit to carry shall be issued, however, to any temporary or confidential agents or informers of the military, police or any law enforcement agency.


Likewise, no permit shall be issued to any person as a tool of any sport, game, sporting event or sports-related activity unless the applicant for the same is a regular member in good standing of a licensed and government-accredited shooting club and executes a verified undertaking to keep the firearm covered by permit only in his residence, office or sports facility.


Violators shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than six years and one day nor more than 10 years and a fine of not less than P20,000 nor more than P100,000.



FW: Desperate women in Jeddah cry repatriation




Some 40 desperate OFWs, most of them women including about 15 infants and children, are camped out again under Khandara Bridge in Jeddah hoping for a quick way home to the Philippines, despite the six-month window announced by the Saudi Arabia government to overstayers. 


“These women and children got so tired of waiting for that ‘amnesty’ and became so desperate as to brave the elements in order to go home through the only way they know,” Bob Fajarito, Migrante Jeddah Chairperson explains.


Jeddah has been reeling under a cold spell, with temperature ranging from 18 to 25 degrees and heavy rainfall (and therefore, flooding) since late December when the OFWs started to camp under the Bridge.


Thus, their health, especially of the children, aggravated by the apparent lack of food supplies, has been a major concern, according to Fajarito.


“In fact, they were forced to remain standing for the remainder of last night because their tents have been flooded (due to heavy rains),” reports Fajarito.


Mahabag naman kayo, (Have pity!)” Fajarito exclaimed thus in expressing empathy with the compatriots living under the tent and under the shadow of the Khandara overpass.


No presence


Wala pa (No one yet),” the women consensually answers when asked whether any representative from the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah has ever visited them.


Khandara Bridge has been the traditional area where various overstaying nationalities converge in order to go back to their original point-of-origin through the regular arrests and deportation made by the local Immigration Police.


Previous batches of ‘stranded’ ~ the general term referred to Filipinos who either ‘ran away’ from their abusive employers or pilgrims who overstayed their Umrah or Hajj visa, including ‘undocumented’ children in both cases ~ have camped out in the same manner and were repatriated.


“The problem this time, is that the Philippine Consulate seemed so oblivious to the fact,” Fajarito laments. “Bakit pinababayaan sila nang ganito? (Why are they being neglected like this?)"




According to Fajarito, Consul General Ezzedin Tago supposedly promised to send his staff and check the OFWs camped under Khandara during a conversation with Migrante Jeddah officials last Tuesday, 11 January 2011.


“Yet Friday came, and still nobody came,” Fajarito laments. “It’s just as frustrating as their ‘amnesty logbook,’” referring to the record book at the Philippine Consulate where ‘stranded’ Filipinos sign up to express their willingness to avail of the ‘amnesty’ program offered by the Saudi government.


“Those who signed up were told that they would just be called by telephone,” Fajarito explains, quoting the various OFWs who signed up for the ‘amnesty’.


“Unfortunately, nothing concrete has been announced until now and we are now becoming hopeless that the said ‘amnesty’ would just be a missed opportunity," Fajarito closed.





FW: Migrant group urges Congressional committee to conduct inquiry on unsolved cases of murdered OFWs


A chapter of Migrante-Middle East in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia today urges the Congressional committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) chaired by Representative Walden Bello to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation on the unsolved cases of murdered OFWs in Saudi Arabia and in other parts of the Middle East.


On January 12, the members of the COWA headed by Rep. Bellow held a marathon dialogue, before flying back to Manila, with OFWs leaders and the Filipino community at the International Philippine School in Al-Khobar as part of their itinerary to presumably get first hand information on the worsening condition of OFWs amid numerous complaints of abuses and maltreatment.


More than a hundred OFWs have attended the said consultation; many of them are victims of abuse, maltreated, run away and undocumented.


“We thought that the members of the COWA headed by its chair Rep. Bello would not only hear the numerous woes of OFWs but will himself take the initiative to investigate the case of murdered OFW Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez and other victims of abuse,” said Gerry De Guzman, Migrante-Saudi Arabia Vice-Chairperson for the Eastern region.


“Well, like the November 2009 Congressional visit, this recent visit is not worth spending government budget from tax payers’ money, as we doubt if the COWA could convince P-Noy and the concerned government agencies to ink a bilateral agreement with the host government providing protection to our OFWs here in Saudi Arabia and neighboring Arab states,” De Guzman averred.


De Guzman said his group presented to Rep. Bello a copy of the signature campaign initiated by Migrante chapters in Saudi Arabia demanding government’s action and intervention on the numbers of unsolved cases involving mysterious deaths and sexual abuse.


The petition highlights, among other OFWs mysterious deaths documented by Migrante on previous years,  the case of Al-Khobar based 22 year-old Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez who was found soaked with blood, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, then hours later was declared dead by attending doctors of the hospital.


As of yesterday, there are about 236 have signed in the petition online while there are 22 OFWs organizations supporting the petition aside from the 300+ actual signatures gathered by Migrante chapters , and still counting.


On his part, Abdulrahman Parcarey, lead convenor of the Al-Khobar based Muslim-Christian Alliance for Justice and Peace in the Philippines (MCA-JPP) said he is hoping that what the COWA congressmen have promised during the consultation to convey to President Aquino the issues and concerns of OFWs would be acted upon with sincerity and genuine service.


“Rep. Bello explained more about the programs of the Aquino government, but here in Saudi Arabia we didn’t feel or see any government action and program protecting our OFWs from abuse, maltreatment and labor malpractices by erring employers,” the Muslim leader added.


Even without invitation, Migrante officers and members were able to attend on the series of COWA consultations in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia.


The COWA congressmen have also conducted consultations with OFWs in Riyadh and Jeddah on the 9th and 11th January, respectively. They ended their 5-day Saudi visit and flew back to Manila on January 12.



FW: Ochoa appeals to law schools to improve legal education



Office of the President

of the Philippines




Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. has appealed to law schools to raise the quality of legal education in the country amid the declining number of Bar passers.

“Every year, the number of those who take the Bar Exams increases; from around 4,000 plus examinees five years ago, last year almost 7,000 took the Bar. Unfortunately, the passing rate has not improved,” Ochoa said at the inaugural dinner of the Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS) Tuesday night.

The low number of Bar passers, the Executive Secretary said, should prompt educators to closely examine “if the Bar Exams themselves are the reason for the dismal passing rates or the quality of legal education in the country.”

With no ample checks and balances in place to monitor the proliferation of law schools, Ochoa suggested that the first step to address this was self-regulation.

“You all know that there are many schools that offer law but cannot produce graduates who pass the bar. Accreditation and strict monitoring among your ranks will help ensure that the hard-earned money being invested by aspiring lawyers in their legal education will be rewarded,” said Ochoa, a lawyer himself who joined the Bar in 1986.

“I do ask that you help aspiring lawyers achieve their dreams by helping your peers improve the quality of legal education so that more individuals can earn the title ‘attorney,’” he added.

According to data from PALS, a total of 118 law schools participated in the 2009 Bar Examinations. Of the 118 law schools, 63 had a Bar passing average lower than 24 per cent, while 20 law schools got a zero passing rate. Only 24.58 per cent of those who took the 2009 Bar passed the exams.

In the same occasion attended by some members of the judiciary, Ochoa asked lawyers to support the Aquino Administration despite disagreements over legal points of view.

He said: “Along the way, of course, we may have disagreements over points of law, especially with our counterparts in the judiciary, but that is the essence of democracy… But the important thing is, at the end of the day, it works because it ensures that government uses—and not abuses—its power to serve the people.”

“The bottomline, however, is that this administration, which I have promised to unequivocally support, is honest and transparent… This administration’s leaders will not use their position to enrich themselves and will never serve special interests at the expense of our people’s welfare,” Ochoa said.

FW: 'Unsolicited advice' to a customer sends 2 OFWs behind bars



Unaware of what will be the outcome of giving ‘unsolicited advice’ to a prospective customer, 2 OFWs who work as a mechanic for an auto shop in Saudi’s capital Riyadh, have been sent to jail by their employer who filed charges against them.


OFWs Rene (not his real name), 45, from Novaliches, Quezon City and Mario (not his real name), 31, from Cabuyao, Laguna, Philippines have been arrested on August 25 last year when their employer accused them of 'selling' auto parts to a customer cheaper from its original selling price. The two OFWs are detained at the Malaz central jail in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for more than 5 months now.


Both are working as auto mechanic for Al Odib Company which auto shop is located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


According to the wife of OFW Rene, who sought assistance from Migrante International-Rights and Welfare committee, her husband’s fellow OFW and co-worker Mario advised a customer on how he could save money in purchasing auto parts which was overheard and misinterpreted by their supervisor selling auto parts cheaper from its original price.


“The supervisor wrongly construed that the 2 are cheating the company by selling auto part on a cheaper price, this prompted the employer to file a case against the two,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.


Monterona said he already officially endorsed and communicated to the PHL embassy-Assistance to the Nationals section asking for an update on the status of their case.


“Based on the circumstances of their case, we are not sure what crime the two have committed; merely advising a customer how he could save does not constitute a crime, however if the jailed OFWs steal the auto parts and sell it to the customer outside the official transaction of the company, then it is another story,” Monterona added.


Monterona, however, said that the PHL embassy must hire a local lawyer for their defense. “It was known that there is no lawyer hired to defend the two in court,” the OFW leader added.


Monterona revealed that there are about 200 OFWs still languishing at the Malaz Central jail in Riyadh, many of them committed petty crimes such as illegal possession of alcohol, ‘mixed’ crowd, gambling, and illicit relationship with fellow women OFWs.


There are un-undisclosed numbers of jailed OFWs who are staying in jail despite that they have already completed their respected sentences.


“Again for the nth time now, we reiterates our call to PHL embassy officials to attend on the jailed OFWs cases with prompt intervention and provide legal assistance especially those who are still detained but have already completed their jail term and arrange for their immediate repatriation,” Monterona ended.




Mga panukalang batas na kasama sa legis agenda ni P-Noy nasala na ng mga miyembro ng gabinete


Office of the President

of the Philippines





INIHAYAG noong Martes ni Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. na natukoy na ng Gabinete ang 32 panukalang batas na ipapasa kay Pangulong Noynoy Aquino bago ang nakatakdang pulong ng Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) sa katapusan ng buwan.


Tinipon ni Ochoa kamakalawa ang mga miyembro ng Gabinete para sa isang palihan na idinisenyo para tukuyin ang mahahalagang panukalang batas na isasama sa Priority Legislative Agenda ng administrasyon.


“The priority legislative measures we have crafted are consistent with the President’s social contract with the Filipino people,” ani Ochoa. “We want to ensure that this administration succeed in addressing this with the help of Congress.”

Ang mga layunin ng priority legislative agenda ay ang mga sumusunod:


·         Pagsugpo sa kahirapan at pagkakaroon ng malusog, edukado, at makapangyarihang mamamayan;

·         Pagsusulong ng produktibidad, pangangalap ng empleyo, at pagtiyak na mayroong sapat na pagkain;   

·         Paghikayat para sa pagkakaroon ng mas maraming public-private partnership at pag-iral ng isangcompetitive policy environment;

·         Pagtatanggol sa ating kalayaan, pagtiyak sa seguridad, at pagsunod sa batas; at

·         Pagpapalakas sa kapasidad ng burukrasya na makapamahala.


Ayon sa Executive secretary, 139 panukalang batas ang inihain ng mga miyembro ng Gabinete sa palihan at 41 naman ang ipinasa ng Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines.


Ang mga naturang panukalang batas ay nakabatay sa limang cluster na ang bawat isa ay kumakatawan sa isang critical area, ani Ochoa.

Ang mga pinuno ng limang cluster ay sina Vice President Jejomar Binay, Human Development; Economic Secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr., Economic Development; Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Infrastructure Development; Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, Rule of Law; at Ochoa, Good Governance.


Kanyang sinabi na ang Office of the Executive Secretary, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, at iba pang ahensiya ng gobyerno ay magsasagawa ng pagrepaso sa mga panukalang  batas at bibigyan nila ng konsiderasyon ang rekomendasyon ni Budget Secretary Butch Abad na pag-aralan kung ano ang magiging epekto nito sa pondo ng gobyerno.


“Once this study is done and the President goes over the proposed measures and approves them, we will make the necessary preparations for the first LEDAC meeting together with NEDA (National Economic Development Authority), the LEDAC Secretariat, as well as make public the specific measures that will make up our Priority Legislative Agenda,” ang paliwanag ni Ochoa.


Idinagdag ng Executive Secretary na naniniwala ang administrasyon na sa tulong ng Kongreso ay madaragdagan o di kaya ay mas mapapahusay pa ang mga panukalang batas na ipapasa rin naman sa mga mambabatas.

Palace prepares for first LEDAC meeting


Office of the President

of the Philippines





Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Tuesday the Cabinet had identified 32 bills that would be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III ahead of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting to be held before the end of the month.

Ochoa convened the other day members of the Cabinet for a workshop designed to identify key legislative measures which will be included in the administration’s Priority Legislative Agenda.

“The priority legislative measures we have crafted are consistent with the President’s social contract with the Filipino people,” Ochoa said. “We want to ensure that this administration succeed in addressing this with the help of Congress.”

The objectives of the priority legislative agenda are the following:

• address poverty and promote a healthy, educated, and empowered citizenry
• promote productivity, generate employment and promote food sufficiency
• encourage more public-private partnerships and promote a competitive policy environment
• protect our sovereignty, ensure security and promote the rule of law
• strengthen the capacity of the bureaucracy to govern

According to the Executive Secretary, 139 proposed bills were put forward by Cabinet members during the workshop and another 41 were submitted by the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines.

At the workshop, these proposed legislative measures were processed, integrated and prioritized by five clusters, each representing a critical area, Ochoa said.

The heads of the five clusters are Vice President Jejomar Binay, Human Development; Economic Secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr., Economic Development; Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Infrastructure Development; Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, Rule of Law; and Ochoa, Good Governance.

He said the Office of the Executive Secretary, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office and other concerned agencies will undertake another review of the proposed bills and take into consideration the recommendation of Budget Secretary Butch Abad to study their impact on the budget.

“Once this study is done and the President goes over the proposed measures and approves them, we will make the necessary preparations for the first LEDAC meeting together with NEDA (National Economic Development Authority), the LEDAC Secretariat, as well as make public the specific measures that will make up our Priority Legislative Agenda,” Ochoa explained.

The Executive Secretary added that the administration was optimistic that with the help of Congress, “we can add or maybe improve the legislation we will be submitting to them.”

Thursday, January 06, 2011

After serving term in prison and granted exit clearance, OFW still detained

New Year:  New hope?, New life?


Repeatedly making discrete calls from prison cell, a sick OFW pleads again for his deportation, today said a Filipino migrant rights group providing assistance to distress, run away, and jailed OFWs in Saudi Arabia and in other Mid-east countries.


OFW Vicente Juan Niegos, 41 years old, from Ramon, Isabela province, again called Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona yesterday from his prison cell at the Malaz Central jail, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


“Parang awa nyo na po Sir, tulungan nyo akong maka-laya na dahil tapos ko na ang sentensya ko at pardoned din ako pero hanggang ngayon naka-kulong pa rin ako,” Niegos told Monterona during yesterday’s phone conversation.


“He’s begging for his immediate deportation since he said he had already completed serving his time in jail and was among those who have been granted an executive clemency last December 2009 by the Saudi King,” said Monterona.


OFW Niegos was arrested last October 10, 2009 and was charged with ‘immorality’.

He already served his jail term of 8 months plus 70 lashes. He is still detained in Riyadh’s Malaz Central jail for 14 months now.


Monterona said he could recall well that he had formally endorsed OFW Niegos case to the Philippine Embassy-Assistance to the Nationals section (ANS) for assistance as he had suffered a stroke and had requested to attend on his case sometime on April this year.


On April 5, the PHL embassy-ANS replied to Migrante-ME confirming that he had suffered a stroke and was attended by an embassy staff with the jail’s in-house doctor who found out, after examinations that OFW Niegos is suffering from accelerated hypertension with partial paralysis on the left side of his body. On the same day, he was brought to the Sumiesi General Hospital for proper medical assistance.


On the same letter (see attached), the PHL embassy confirmed that OFW Niegos exit clearance is under process by jail authorities.


“On October 27, OFW Niegos called me to follow his case and deportation, saying he’s not getting better from stroke he suffered resulting to partial paralysis of his left-side body,” Monterona added.


On the same day, Monterona said he sent a follow up letter to the PHL embassy asking for update and status of OFW Niegos release and deportation. “He (OFW Niegos) said he had signed a clearance right after Ramadan and though that he would be repatriated soon, but to his dismay until now he is still staying in jail despite that he had already completed his sentence,” Monterona on his October 27 follow-up letter sent to the PHL embassy.


“I was surprised to receive a call from OFW Niegos yesterday, still from prison; I thought he had been released and deported. He is crying and begging for his immediate deportation,” Monterona averred.


Yesterday, Monterona added he had sent again a follow-up letter to the PHL embassy to inquire the status of OFW Niegos release and deportation. “The embassy acknowledged my email and said OFW Niegos has already issued an exit clearance but they are still awaiting his air ticket after the PHL embassy sent a request to the DFA-OUMWA main office in Pasay City.


“Again and again, we are calling the DFA-OUMWA officials to promptly attend on OFW Niegos case by releasing the air fare ticket request which is about 1,800 Saudi riyals (P20,700) amid the 62-M assistance funds, from the combined balances for 2009 and 2010, in the DFA,” Monteorna averred.


“There are other OFWs in similar situation who have already completed jail term and awaiting their deportation; they longed to be home and start a brand new life with their families in the Philippines,” Monterona added.


Monterona said there are about 200 jailed OFWs in Malaz Central jail awaiting assistance and update of their respective cases from the embassy. # # #