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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Order release of funds for airfares of stranded OFWs in Saudi, Aquino urged

 “Why prolong the agony and let the stranded OFWs, some with children, suffer so much staying in a crowded refuge center in Saudi Arabia?” thus asked today by Migrante-Middle East, a Filipino migrant watchdog.

 

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said President Benigno Simeon Aquino III should act decisively in approving the release of funds, as requested by Vice President Jejomar Binay, to buy air tickets for the more than 1,084 stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

 

On Sunday, Vice Pres. Binay, also presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affairs, requested Malacanang the release an amount of P-24-M to fund the repatriation of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

 

“Now that it was no less than the VP Binay made the request to the President, we are expecting that PNoy would act as soon as possible so that the long-overdue repatriation of the 1,084 stranded OFWs in Al-Mina hajj terminal, a temporary shelter rented by the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, and those at the deportation will be arrange as soon as possible,” Monterona added.

 

Monterona said the Aquino govt. committed a mistake when it slashed the assistance to the nationals and legal assistance funds for OFWs on the approved General appropriation Act or national budget of the government this year. “Budget cut for OFWs funds is a patent disservice to OFWs who are helping the economy afloat through their billions of dollar remittances sent yearly. We are hoping the Aquino govt. should learn lessons from this blunder,” Monterona

 

"But still, there is the OWWA fund amounting to P13-B, pooled from US$25 compulsory membership of OFWs to OWWA," he cited. 

 

Monterona said many of the stranded OFWs first have stayed in Khandera Bridge in Jeddah, but were later transferred in Al-Mina hajj terminal and some were endorsed inside the deportation center after Migrante and other OFWs organizations campaigned and demanded that they will be assisted by the PH consulate in Jeddah and look for a temporary shelter while their repatriation formalities are being attended.

 

“I was informed by the leaders of the stranded OFWs in Jeddah that many of them have already obtained exit clearances and travel documents; but they don’t know what’s delaying their repatriation,” said John Leonard Monterona, who had spoken yesterday to the leaders of stranded OFWs via mobile phone when the latter sought assistance to him.

 

Monterona said that he could well remember on March 3 he got a chance to speak with Labor attach├ę Vicente Cabe inquiring the status of the repatriation of the stranded OFWs. “Labatt Cabe confirmed that OFWs whose OWWA membership had already expired could not get airplane fare from OWWA, but instead they would get it from the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Monterona added.

 

Monterona said: “In such case, then DFA-OUMWA should immediately release the budget for the plane tickets of the majority of the stranded as they have been undocumented for more than 1 year and were not able to renew their OWWA membership.”

 

“We were told then that there are 200 plane tickets provided by OWWA for the stranded in Jeddah, but Labatt Cabe could not confirm it yet,” Monterona added.

 

Aside from the 1,000+ stranded OFWs in Jeddah, there also about 120 distress OFWs at the PH embassy-run Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh and about 30+ at POLO-OWWA shelter in the Eastern region.

 

Monterona added the repatriation of stranded and distress OFWs is a task the Aquino govt. through the DFA and PH embassy must concentrate and give priority.

 

“If the President is not convinced of the suffering and sacrifices of the stranded OFWs, many of them were victims of abuse and labor malpractices and exploitation of their employers and forced to run away, he himself should visit the stranded and distress OFWs in Saudi Arabia,” Monterona suggested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

FW: Press Release: Ochoa: Cimatu's term as Middle East envoy until June, OP respects Jalandoni's decision to resign, Palace welcomes Tingting Cojuangco's resignation from PPSC

Former Armed Forces chief Roy Cimatu will remain special envoy to the Middle East only until June 30, 2011, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Monday.

Ochoa told a radio interview that Cimatu’s appointment was for a “limited period of time,” and the creation of the Overseas Preparedness and Response Team (OPRT) under Executive Order No. 34 replaced the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Committee (PMEPC), which the former military general headed.

“It’s a case by case assessment. In fact, that is the process when it comes to the appointment of all special envoys,” Ochoa explained. “It’s up to the President to determine later, when the appointment expires, to say whether or not he will reappoint or not appoint a special envoy,” he added.

EO 34 expanded the composition of the crisis team and the scope of its
responsibilities to allow the government to respond swiftly to the needs of overseas Filipino caught in political uncertainties and natural disasters in their host countries.

Cimatu will serve out his term until June 30 based on his reappointment by President Aquino III when the new administration took over.

Just like any other appointment, the renewal of Cimatu’s designation is subject to the assessment by the Office of the President. ###

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palace welcomes Tingting Cojuangco’s resignation from PPSC


Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Monday welcomed the
resignation of President Benigno Aquino III’s aunt, Margarita
“Tingting” Cojuangco, from the Philippine Public Safety College
(PPSC), as an affirmation of support for his campaign promise not to appoint a relative to any government post.

“The President is very strict in enforcing his policy na walang
kamag-anak sa kanyang stable ng mga opisyales sa paligid niya. And I think, Madame Tingting Cojuangco realized that,” Ochoa said in a radio interview.

Contrary to earlier reports, Ochoa said Cojuangco resigned on her own initiative and was not fired from her job.

In fact, Ochoa added, Cojuangco herself recommended former Upi, Maguindanao Mayor Ruben Platon as her replacement at PPSC.

Before he ran for mayor, Platon, a lawyer, served as administrative officer and legal officer of PPSC.

Cojuangco was appointed PPSC head in 2004 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. ###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OP respects Jalandoni’s decision to resign


Malacanang is respecting the decision of Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni to quit his job although the Office of the President has yet to receive his letter of resignation, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Monday.

“That’s his prerogative and we will respect his decision. We might as well accept his resignation, if indeed he has decided to resign,” Ochoa said in a radio interview.

“But I have not seen his letter of resignation.  Perhaps, if that’s true, his letter might reach our office only (within this week),” he added.

According to news reports, Jalandoni forwarded his resignation letter to Malacanang via registered mail last Friday.

Jalandoni was appointed deputy ombudsman for Luzon in March 2010 and prior to that he headed the Office of the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office.

Before joining the Office of the Ombudsman, he was state prosecutor of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and program director of the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Program under the DOJ, and once served as undersecretary of the Office of the Chief Presidential
Legal Counsel.

Last week, three complaints, including usurpation of authority, had been filed against Jalandoni with the Office of the President. ###

 

April 11, 2011

 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Migrant group deplores PH posts in UAE, Syria over neglect on OFWs who cry rape

Migrante chapter in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) deplores the Philippine
embassy and consular officials who failed to provide immediate assistance to
a woman OFW who was jailed and allegedly have been repeatedly rape by jail
personnel in Dubai.

OFW "Cristy, not her real name, 23, from Sta. Monica, San Pablo City,
Laguna was able to inform her mother that she was allegedly been held up
last December. She immediately complained to the local police but instead of
getting assistance from it, she was sent behind bars.

Cristy arrived in Dubai on July 2010 and works as a singer, according to
her mother.

Her mother sought assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs, but
until now they are still awaiting action from the DFA.

Cristy alleges that she has been repeatedly raped while inside jail; she
suspects that she was being pimped by jail personnel, said Nhel Morona,
Migrante-UAE secretary-general.


Morona reiterates calls on the PH post in UAE, amid plea from her parents to
the DFA in the Philippines, to provide immediate assistance to Cristy by
sending a consular team that would get her out of jail as she was a victim,
not only of hold up, but also of rape.

Morona said his group and the Gabriela chapter in UAE will be initiating a
case dialog with the PH post officials and would push them to act
immediately on her case.

"The PH post must conduct an investigation, no cover-ups, identify the
culprit and file charges against them," Morona added.

"We would not want to hear any excuses from the PH post for its failure to
immediately provide assistance to Cristy, because if it done so dispatching
a team to the jail, Cristy would not be repeatedly raped inside as she would
walked free out of jail," Morona ended.

On another separate incident, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East
regional coordinator, endorsed to the PH embassy another rape case involving
an OFW-domestic helper working in Syria.

On his letter dated 5 April 2011 to the PH embassy-Assistance to the
National section in Damascus, Syria, Monterona said:=94Kindly be informed
that I have received a message from a friend and fellow OFW of 'Janet' (not
her real name), who is working as a domestic worker in Syria. The subject
OFW claimed that she has been sexually abused."

Monterona added the victim had already sought assistance to a certain PH
embassy officials identified as Mr. Ben Espinosa and a certain Ma'am Tina,
but until now no assistance provided to the OFW victim.

"Again, this is a clear disservice to a distress and abuse OFW who needs our
PH embassy officials assistance; if these officials could not be of help
then they must be fired from their job," Monterona averred.

An OFW Rape Victim

 

The Philippine Embassy

Damascus, Syria

 

Attn: Mr. Dennis John Briones

 

Dear Vice Consul Briones,

 

This is a follow up regarding the case of subject OFW and refers to your attached letter ref. no. MIS-68-2011 dated 6 April 2011.

 

It seems that the content of your letter is like you are lying through your teeth! And vainly attempting to cover up and save the thick faces of your staff who have neglected an OFW rape victim.

 

I was able to talk to OFW Jane Soriano after she had missed call me and I called her back. Indeed, she confirmed to me that an embassy staff called her and trying to convince her to deny her allegation. She relayed to me that she suspected that the conversation had been recorded thus she cut short the call from the embassy.

 

For your information here is what she sent me after I have talked to her over the phone (for clarity, I will spell her message correctly): Noong nangyari sa akin, hindi ako kagad naka-report gawa ng kalagayan sa madam. So naka report ako sa embassy mga 5 months bago ako magsumbong. Sabi nila matagal na raw nangyari iyon. Iyon ang reason nila until sa pangako ng agency na uuwi ako ng August, pero hindi nila ako pina-uwi. Hiindi lang ako ang nag-iisang biktima dito. Mahirap magtiwala sa Embassy kaya tiniis ko na lang tulad nila. Wala kami boses dito.

 

Now, Mr. Briones, tell me to whom we are going to believe? On your reply to us or the the OFW victim pleading for help? The Embassy didn't even bother to help her since 5 months ago!

 

If you can't provide assistance to the OFW victim, then you all should be recalled!

 

We condemned this disservice to OFW victim!

 

For OFWs rights and welfare,

 

John Leonard Monterona

Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator

 

 

The source of our information is her friend named Shally who have sent us the below message.

 

Instead, we are urging you to investigate this alleged sexual abuse by their agency in Syria.

The PH embassy should not easily dismissed this information as the safety, not only of OFW Jane Soriano, but as well as others OFWs under their agency is at great risk.

 

We hope that the PH embassy should not cover up this reports as it is serious one.

 

 

For OFWs rights and welfare,

 

John Leonard Monterona

Migrante-Middle East

 

 

 

 

Shally-Marr Cruz April 5 at 5:16pm Report

Lm nyo po,2mwg ndn d2 samin ang embahada,name nya Ben espin0sa,c Mam tina@ung Angel B0rja...alam po nla ung ctwasy0n ng mga pinay d2,ang ndi lng namin alm kung bkt gnun ang gngwa nla...nkpgdebte n nga po ky Ben espin0sa ung frnd q n narape,peo ang sv lng nya pgmimitngan dw nla.eh dmi ng gn0ng kaso d2@bkt nung pmunta ang pres.d2 nung jan.cnv nyng 400 tlg@2yrs.lng ang k0ntrta,wla pdng kming nt2nggp n gnun s mga am0 nmin@ang mskit bkt ngpdla pa ang pres.d2 ng sundlo pra lng 2lungan ang pres.d2 eh ndi nya b nb2sa mga gnwang kahayupan ng mga tao d2 sa mga pinay??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Stop collecting advance contribution of OFWs to PAG-IBIG -migrant group

An alliance of Filipino migrant rights group in the Middle East has asked
the Home Development Mutual Fund or PAG-IBIG to stop imposing an advance
contribution to OFWs, new hires or re-hires.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator prompted
to raised again the issue after receiving complaints from OFWs that the POEA
had been collecting PAG-IBIG premium to returning OFWs or Balik-Mangagawa
who are not yet PAG-IBIG member.

"As far as I know, the collection of advance premium to PAG-IBIG covering
OFWs had been suspended since last year," Monterona said.

On August last year, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who chairs the PAG-IBIG
Board of Trustees, directed the Home Development Mutual Fund or PAG-IBIG and
the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to suspend the
implementation of collecting a six-month advance contribution of OFWs to the
housing fund after *OFWs organizations led by Migrante protested the what it
called "broad daylight hold-up" exploiting OFWs.

"What got the ire of OFWs over the 6-month advance contribution is that it
never went through a process of consultation, PAG-IBIG just imposed this
unilaterally; worst is that one could not be given an Overseas Employment
Certificate (OEC) without paying first an advance contribution," Monterona
added.

Monterona added though the amended PAG-IBIG law requires a mandatory
membership of OFWs, which had been opposed by Migrante saying it should be
voluntary not mandatory, collecting advance contribution is only added
burden to the already struggling OFWs and aspiring overseas workers.

Monterona calls on Vice President Binay to look into this report that
alleges continued collection of advance contribution at POEA's processing
centers.

He added: "PAG-IBIG membership premium must not be made a pre-requisite in
obtaining OEC; give OFWs some flexibility, and not so much burden."

"PAG-IBIG would be having a hard time convincing OFWs to be members or
paying their monthly contribution if rampant fraudulent transactions still
persist such as its highly anomalous transaction with Globe Asiatic and
Legacy Group," Monterona averred.

Aviation firm to pour $40-M investment in Clark, ES Ochoa: Steps being taken to address security problems in Mindanao

A leading business aviation firm in Asia is putting up a $40-million maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Clark, sending a strong signal to the international community that the Philippines is ready to play a central role in the global aviation industry.

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. said on Tuesday that Metrojet, which owns a fleet of 26 aircraft of various types and capacities, will set up the facility in a three-hectare property inside the Clark Airport Complex, citing a report by Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose P. De Jesus to President Benigno Aquino III.

Metrojet, a part of Kadoorie Group which owns China Light and Power Company and the Peninsula Hotel Chain, is scheduled to begin construction of the project in June and commence operations by the end of the year in Clark, a former air base of the United States which is now home to commercial, industrial and hotel businesses.

It will offer a range of services such as aircraft charter, comprehensive aircraft management, maintenance, co-ownership programs, aircraft acquisition and sales. The aviation firm’s proposed heavy maintenance for Clark will also include avionics upgrade and exterior paint work for aircraft.

“The President has announced that the country is open for business, and the decision of Metrojet to set up a shop in Clark is proof that foreign investors are listening,” Ochoa said.

Total investment for the entire project of Metrojet is $40 million, with an initial investment of $4 million.

In his report to the President, De Jesus said that Metrojet announced its plan to develop the aviation repair and maintenance facility in the strategically located Clark Airport Complex during the Asian Aerospace Conference in Hong Kong last March.

“Our government is focused on assuring investors that we are serious about undertaking reforms that will make it attractive for them to invest in the country. These include efforts to provide a level playing field for businessmen and guaranteeing them a government that is consistent with its policies and is faithful to the rule of law,” Ochoa explained.

“This is a welcome development that underscores the inroads we are making in the area of Economic and Infrastructure Development, one of the four clusters this Administration is focused on,” he added. The other three clusters are Human Development, Good Governance, and Security, Sovereignty and the Rule of Law. ###

 

 



ES OCHOA: STEPS BEING TAKEN TO ADDRESS SECURITY PROBLEMS IN MINDANAO

 

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa on Monday said that steps were being taken to address the peace and order situation in Mindanao as he assured that the kidnapping incident in Agusan del Sur was an isolated case.  

 

Malaca├▒ang is continuously monitoring the situation to ensure a peaceful end to the stand-off between authorities and abductors of 16 teachers and students in Prosperidad town, Agusan del Sur, Ochoa told a radio interview.

 

“We are monitoring what’s on the ground and we believe this can be resolved,” Ochoa said.

 

According to the Executive Secretary, the present administration is firm in its determination to put an end to kidnapping activities and other security problems in Mindanao.

 

These security concerns, Ochoa said, highlight the need for the government to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and strengthen the crime prevention policy of the Philippine National Police.

 

He added that crime prevention will remain a policy of the government on top of crime solution. “Of course, if a crime is committed we have to solve it; but crime prevention is more important, more than anything else. Our focus is on crime prevention,” Ochoa said.

 

Crime prevention is any initiative or policy which reduces or eliminates the aggregate level of victimization or the risk of individual criminal participation.

 

It includes government and community-based programs to reduce the incidents of risk factors related with criminal participation and the rate of victimization, as well as efforts to change perceptions.

 

 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Visit us, too, and send us home -jailed OFWs

Sixty-two jailed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have expressed hope upon
hearing news reports that 25 distress OFWs from Doha, Qatar would soon be
repatriated after Vice President Jejomar Binay interceded, during his March
30-31 visit to Doha, by asking the host government to allow them to be
repatriated, in effect waiving the immigration requirements imposed by the
host government to run away and stranded OFWs.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said
he received calls from some of the 62 detained OFWs in Bahrain asking for
assistance to inform VP Binay that they too are still languishing
in Bahrain and that have been pleading from the PH embassy in Manama,
Bahrain for their repatriation.

Monterona said he was not surprised at all upon receiving calls from
distress and jailed OFWs asking for assistance.

"It won't be a normal day if I have not received calls from our fellow OFWs
but distress asking for help, but what surprised him is that there are 62 of
them detained in various jails in Bahrain. This is a significant number," he
added.

"I have known that there are about 50 distress OFWs at the Filipino
workers resource center managed by the PH embassy in Manama, but it was
disturbing to receive information, direct from the detained OFWs, that there
are 62 of them," Monterona lamented.

Monterona said according to the jailed OFW, who requested not to be named
and whom he had spoken over the phone yesterday, "some of them have been
languishing more than the jail term imposed by the jail authorities."

"Most of them are 'absconders', who were forced to run away from their
employers due to abuse and maltreatment; while others were charged of
immorality, theft, and other petty crimes," Monterona revealed.

"We will be formally informing VP Binay about the plea of the 62 jailed
OFWs in Bahrain especially their request to visit them and intercede, on
their behalf, with the host government for their repatriation. He could work
an amnesty grant for jailed OFWs," Monterona added.

Monterona is also urging VP Binay to consider visiting Bahrain and to
personally look on the situation of distress, stranded, and jailed OFWs.

"He has been hopping from one Arab state to another, and getting fruitful
results in attending various issues and concerns and even the repatriation
of OFWs, then the VP is urged to include on his Arab working tour going to
Bahrain, and maybe include Jordan and Lebanon as there are distress OFWs in
these countries, too," Monterona said.

No PH envoys in UAE and Saudi Arabia, two Arab nations with huge OFWs concentrations

An alliance of Filipino migrant rights group Monday said there is no
Philippine envoy in two Arab states where there are huge concentrations of
overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East coordinator, citing report from
its Migrante chapter, said there is no envoy from the Philippines in the
United Arab Emirate (UAE) after Ambassador Grace Relucion-Princesa
reportedly had been recalled last January 15.

"We are not privy to the reason why she had been recalled and we don't know
if she will be coming back and perform her job as PH envoy to UAE," Nhel
Morona, Migrante-UAE secretary-general.

According to Monterona, it is not good that the Department of Foreign
Affairs (DFA) did not even bother to provide an explanation why she was
recalled that left the PH post in UAE without a chief of mission or even
charge de affaires.*

Morona said there are about 500,000 OFWs in the entire Emirates including
undocumented or overstaying OFWs.


"Without a ambassador in Abu Dhabi, certainly there are diplomatic tasks and
services to OFWs that would be affected; we have been hearing that she was
allegedly recalled due to infighting between her and the two consul
generals," Monterona added.

Migrante-ME is asking the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to clarify
this for the benefit of OFWs who are demanding honest-to-goodness and
efficient service from their embassy.

In Saudi Arabia, there is no PH envoy until now after Amb. Antonio Villamor
had ended his tour of duty and the position has been vacant since October
2010.

"The Aquino government must realize the need to fill in these positions
immediately; ambassador performs an important role in foreign policy
directions and implementation and in attending the numerous concerns and
issues of our OFWs," Monterona added.*


"A vehicle running without a driver is too dangerous to ride! -this is the
case now of Philippine embassies in Saudi and UAE," Monterona said.

Filipino groups suggest getting the services of former envoy to deal cases of OFWs in Saudi death row

Believing that there could be no other person who could best deal the cases
of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row in Saudi Arabia, several
Filipino migrants group suggested that former ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Antonio Villamor's services should be tapped instead by the PH government.

"Amb. Villamor's outstanding service records, during 4-year stint as
Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia, speak for what he had done in the
service of OFWs in the oil-rich Kingdom," said Michael Pacheco of the head
of the Alpha Phi Omega Riyadh Alumni Association (APORAA).

Pacheco said that includes what he said *=93his tireless efforts in saving
the lives of OFWs on death row.

He cited, as an example, the case of OFW Sarah Dematera, who was sentenced
to death after killing her employer on 1992. However, Dematera had been
spared from execution when the family of the aggrieved Saudi family agreed
to show mercy for her in exchange of for blood money amounting to SR.2.5
million.

"If not of the timely intercession of Ambassador Villamor by cautiously
talking with the aggrieved party for settlement, then probably OFW Dematera
had been hanged to death," Pacheco averred.


Francisco Naval, chairperson of the United OFWs, shares the same
observations and seconded saying: "Tapping the services of a seasoned
diplomat like of Amb. Villamor, in efforts of saving the lives of OFWs on
death row in Saudi, is a good idea."

Naval said it was under Amb. Villamor's watch that OFWs Idan Tejano and
Marjanna Sakilan, both were charged of homicide and robbery for the death of
Tejano's pregnant lady employer on May 2001.

"Because of the gravity of the crime they had committed, many Shariah
experts believed that a death penalty will be meted out; but due to the
timely assistance of Amb. Villamor pleading their clemency to the Saudi
King, the penalty has been reduced to 12 years imprisonment plus 1,200
lashes each," Naval added.

On Thursday, migrant rights group Migrante Middle East has called on
Philippines Vice President Jejomar Binay to urge Saudia Arabia's government
to show mercy to Filipinos on death row in the Kingdom.

"Vice President Jejomar Binay arrives on Friday to discuss with Saudi
officials the ban on hiring new Filipino domestic helpers. But we will also
ask him to plead with the Saudi government on behalf of eight Filipinos who
are on death row," John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional
coordinator.

He said the Filipinos on death row include Don Lanuza, Rolando and Edison
Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla.

He added that the Philippine government must hold talks with the Saudi
government urgently after Filipinos in China were executed on Wednesday
after being convicted of smuggling drugs.

Monterona lamented the fact that nobody knows what action the Philippine
government has taken so far on behalf of the eight workers on death row in
the Kingdom.

Last week, on the day of the three Filipinos execution in China, Monterona
had suggested the formation of a high-level inter-agency task force to find
ways to have death sentences commuted instead.