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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

OFW on death-row appeals to PNoy while criticizing PH post over wrong information, false assurances

An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who is on death row in Saudi Arabia asked to Migrante-Middle East (M-ME), a Filipino migrants rights group, to help convey his appeal to Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III to raise the needed 'blood money' in exchange of his freedom while assailing that the Philippine Embassy is "giving him wrong information and false assurances and is 'sleeping' on his case."


Migrante-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona confirms that Don Lanuza, on Monday, sent him text messages expressing his disgust to the PH embassy as the latter alleges that embassy officials are 'sleeping' on his case and providing him wrong information and false assurances.


"For info po, kausap ko lang now ang head ng Saudi Reconciliation Committee (SRC) informing me na wala daw dumalo sa meeting last night from our embassy. Four (4) months na akong napatawad ng aggrieved party on the promised na iaabot ang agreed amount of 'blood money'," Lanuza's text message to Migrante's Monterona.


In 2000, OFW Lanuza was convicted for killing a Saudi national, which he claimed was an act only to defend his self. Since then, he is incarcerated in Dammam Central jail, Dammam, eastern part of Saudi Arabia.


In 2003, the family of the aggrieved party issued an 'affidavit of desistance', which means they will issue 'forgiveness' to Lanuza in exchange of undisclosed amount of diyya or 'blood money', but this arraignment initially failed for unknown reason.


"OFW Lanuza informed me that sometime in February this year, the Saudi Reconciliation committee arranged a meeting with the family of the aggrieved party which was by PH embassy officials. During the said meeting, the aggrieved party agreed to issue 'forgiveness' to OFW Lanuza providing the diyya (blood money) will be produce in two months time," Monterona added after speaking with Lanuza over the phone.


Lanuza, speaking to Monterona, added: "Nangako din ang embassy sa SRC na within two months maiaabot nila ang 'blood money' to the aggrieved party pero 4 months na po ang nakalipas walang pang ginagawa ang embassy to help me raised the amount for blood money."


"OFW Lanuza expressed serious worries that the aggrieved party may suddenly change their mind as the agreed date to provide the 'blood money' already lapsed; thus he is pleading for assistance from the PH government through the DFA," Monterona added.


Monterona disclosed that he got a chance to talk with an official of the SRC yesterday.


"The SRC official told me that it took them 6 years to get the nod of the aggrieved family to issue 'forgiveness' in exchange of a diyya. He urged the PH govt. to help OFW Lanuza raised the amount as time is ticking fast," he continued.


Monterona asked Pres. Aquino III to provide assistance to OFW Lanuza and other OFWs in Saudi death-row.


"The President should take this opportunity to prove his critics wrong -that he is attending OFWs issues and concerns -and he is providing assistance to our OFWs especially distress, run away, and jailed," Monterona averred.


"We call on Pres. Aquino to instruct the DFA and other concerned government agencies to attend and get serious on its efforts to save the life of OFW Lanuza and others on death row," Monterona added.


On Sunday, Migrante-Middle East gave a failing grade to Pres. Aquino for his 'unsatisfactory' performance on his first year in office. The President assumed the presidency on June 30 last year.


"We are giving him a failing grade of 65 percent, 10 points below the 75-percent passing grade. During his inaugural address, PNoy made a marching order to all concerned government agencies to attend on various OFWs issues and concerns that fell short on the deaf ears of his officials. After that, we never heard of any orders and actions from him improving the plight of our OFWs and their dependents," Migrante-ME declared.


Monterona said he appreciates the President reaction to their criticism. "These are constructive criticisms, not to assail him personally," he said.


"If the President himself could claim that the DFA, embassy and labor officials abroad are not performing well and miserably failed to do their job and meet the expectations of the OFWs communities and groups, then he should not think twice to fire these inept officials," Monterona suggested.


Meanwhile, the OFWs communities in Saudi Arabia and around the world have initiated a fund-raising campaign to help OFW Don Lanuza raise the needed amount for the 'blood money'.


"On their own little way, OFWs groups and communities are now raising funds for the blood money of OFW Don Lanuza. We would like the Aquino govt. do its share," Monterona concluded.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Year one in the Presidency: Migrant group gives P-Noy failing grade


Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of progressive Filipino migrants' groups in the Middle East, today gives President Benigno Simeon Aquino III a failing grade in his 1st year in the Presidency after assuming the top post in the government on June 30 last year.


"After a thorough consultation and deliberation and assessment on what the Aquino presidency had done so far after a year, We, member-organizations of Migrante in the Middle East, declare that he failed to deliver what he had promised during presidential campaigns and policy pronouncements during his inaugural and public speeches. Thus, we are giving him a failing grade of 65%, 10% point below the 75% passing grade," declared by John Leonard Monterona, M-ME regional coordinator.


Monterona said his group's parameters in assessing the performance of President is based on what it promised to do, in the absence of a concrete plan for OFWs, and what it actually had done during his first year in the Presidency.


"During his inaugural address, P-Noy made a marching order to all concerned government agencies to attend on various OFWs issues and concerns that fell short on the deaf ears of his officials; after that we never heard any orders and actions improving the plight of our OFWs and their dependents," Monterona added.


Monterona added the OFWs and their families have seen from the Aquino III govt. were the following: 

-        - Patent criminal neglect and dilly-dally in repatriating and providing assistance to OFWs in war-torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa such as in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yeman, and Syria.


The Aquino govt. had been caught unprepared in repatriating OFWs in these worn-torn MENA countries and admitted that it can't do mass repatriation of affected OFWs; worse it even required vacationing OFWs to issue a 'waiver' in effect absolving the govt. of its responsibility to provide assistance and protection to returning OFWs.


-       - During P-Noy's 1st year in office, three Filipinos were executed in China. 

-      - The numbers of OFWs on death row surge to 122 from 108 in various countries around the world. There are around 7,000 OFWs in various jails worldwide mostly in the Middle East. Every day, there are 6 to 10 OFWs arrived in coffins in several airports in the country. Many jobless would-be OFWs have fallen prey to human smugglers and drug traffickers. 

-       - In his first year in office, P-Noy did not seriously act providing protection to OFWs especially in the Middle East. Many still have been abused, mistreated, jailed, tortured, raped, murdered, and other with trumped-up charges, with no due process, much less indemnification from those who have done them wrong. 

-       - Amid numerous reports on misuses and corruption on OFWs trust fund and other government allocated funds for OFWs and their families, P-Noy failed to move for the criminal prosecution of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her erring officials. 

-       - Despite yearly increases in OFWs remittances keeping the local economy afloat, the Aquino III govt. failed to move in scrapping unnecessary government fees and charges that add to the burden of OFWs.   

-       - Instead of easing vacationing OFWs formalities to return for work, the POEA will be implementing a new procedure in getting an exit clearance which entails additional time and cost, an added burden to OFWs.

"We note that he (Pres. Aquino III) is just a year in office and that he has enough time left, 5 years more in his term, but 1 year is too long for an unproductive president as an empty stomach of our people couldn't wait. As days go by, poor Filipino people will be more disgruntled and will mass up in the streets to demand genuine change in the government and the society at large," Monterona ended.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


    Metro buses are now testing electronic monitoring systems, like global positioning satellite (GPS) technologies and electronic vehicle identification equipment to beef up their safety facilities and enhance preventive measures to avoid causes of accidents; like over speeding.  Through this remote or electronic monitoring, bus operators are now able to see and check in real time that their drivers drive safely and within the set speed limits.

1-UTAK Chairman, Atty. Vigor Mendoza II, said that this is one step in transforming the land transport sector to world class standards similar to what you have in Hong Kong, South Korea and other more developed Asian countries.

Mendoza further stated that this is just the beginning.  The use of an automated fare collection system similar to the octopus card in Hong Kong is now being studied, together with the bus management systems currently being utilized in South Korea.   Mendoza also mentioned that the transport sector is more than willing to switch to clean energy, such as CNG, LPG, ethanol and electricity.
"What we are merely awaiting is DOE's position on the matter.  We do not want to shift to LPG, then later on the price of auto LPG shoots up.  We are also now exploring importing CNG on our own and provide the necessary storage and distribution facilities for the transport sector.  We are just waiting for the cue from DOE and DOTC on this matter.  We are also discussing with government the tariff rates in the event all these services are brought on-line to ensure affordability of our transport system," Mendoza said.

Mendoza notes that transport fares in the Philippines is one of the lowest in Asia, with no subsidy coming from the government.  If we want all these to happen, we have to plan things properly in order to have the least impact to the riding public.

LTFRB Chairman Nelson Laluces said that we applaud the initiatives of the bus operators and we will support them in all their endeavors that promote safety and passenger convenience.  LTFRB is focused on the modernization of the transport sector by introducing clean energy and road worthy vehicles, automating the front line services of the agency and reforming the sector by making it more service oriented, commuter friendly and providing "just in time" service.\

POEA chief asked to reconsider new OFWs travel clearance procedure


"Hold consultations among OFWs groups"


After criticizing the new procedure in getting travel clearance for overseas Filipino workers saying that it will only cause an added burden, a Filipino migrants' rights group Friday urges Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Mr. Carlos Cao, Jr. to reconsider the new procedure and instead conduct a consultation with OFWs groups and their leaders.


On Thursday, POEA chief Carlos Cao, Jr. had been quoted by local reports saying the new procedure in getting an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) that serves as a travel clearance for all OFWs would "allow to efficiently manage OFWs time in securing travel exit clearance by adjusting the processing time in two phases."


 The new procedure will take effect on July 1, according to the POEA.


"If this new procedure will be implemented on July 1 amid OFWs protestations, then we will be up in arms, so to speak, to wage an international campaign against this burdensome and anti-OFW procedure," Monterona warned.


The new procedure entails two phases: one phase is submission of the required documents for verification and to be done on the first day, while the second phase for the second day -to be pre-scheduled by the POEA- is the paying of fee and issuance of the OEC.


"The POEA chief being new to his job, could better solicit bright and meaningful insights from the OFWs and their organizations whom I believed may contribute in its effort to unburden the OFWs from bureaucratic processes," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.


Monterona explained that not all OFWs are living within Metro Manila and nearby provinces. "In fact, most of our OFWs are coming from the provinces, thus the new procedure that entails a 2-day undertaking will only be an added burden, cost and time, to get exit clearance," he added.


Monterona said for one, the POEA could link-up with local government units (Cities/Municipalities and Provincial governments) to set up a processing section that will do the renewal and issuance of exit clearance for vacationing OFWs in their provinces.


"I'm certain, the Mayors and Governors will agree on this set-up as this is for the benefit of their OFWs constituents," Monterona added.


Monterona added that there may be more ideas to solicit from various OFWs groups in regards to decongesting the Balik-Mangagawa center in POEA main office in Pasig.


"The POEA chief should think that the foremost consideration is to unburden our OFWs, not only POEA employees," Monterona ended.



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Migrant group calls for transparency, accounting of govt. funds for OFWs

Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of various overseas Filipino workers' group in the Middle East, today urges the Aquino government to be transparent and immediately instruct to properly account all the concerned government agencies holding public funds intended for OFWs' welfare programs and services.


M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said his group prompted to issue the calls for transparency and proper accounting of all public funds intended for OFWs in the light of various misuses and illegal diversion of the funds by corrupt govt. officials who are supposed to protect the funds from misuses and corruption.


On Monday, the Office of the Ombudsman has recommended the filing of four counts of malversation of public funds against former PH ambassador to Nigeria Masaranga Umpa that steemed from an alleged misuse of the Assistance to the Nationals fund totaling to an amount of $96,856 (around P5-M) intended for the repatriation of undisclosed numbers of abducted OFWs in 2007.


Last month, former Solicitor General Atty. Cesar Chavez and Migrante Intl. filed a plunder suit against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria M. Arroyo and other 6 officials of her Cabinet for the illegal transfer of P551-M OFWs' trust fund to Philippine Health Insurance Corporations.


"The audit of the OWWA fund, for instance, had been promised by Pres. Aquino and had been in its 22-point labor and employment agenda he issued upon assumption to the presidency. What happened to this now?" Monterona averred.


Ten out of the 22-point agenda pertained to OFWs.


Monterona referred to item No. 11 on the agenda, which states: "Audit the OWWA to rationalize the management of its funds, in terms of the benefits provided as well as how the funds are invested."

Monterona added: "The OWWA funds come from the compulsory collection of $25 membership fees from all deployed OFWs. Under the regulations, the membership fee should be paid by the foreign employer, but OFWs often end up paying the fees prior to their departure."

Monterona noted the OWWA funds continuously grow as there are 3,500 OFWs deployed daily.

"Despite the accumulation of the OWWA funds, programs and welfare services to cater the needs of OFWs on-site and their dependents back home are still wanting."

"During the Arroyo regime, several OWWA programs and services were stopped when DoLE-OWWA implemented the OWWA Omnibus Policies," Monterona added.

Migrante-Middle East challenges Aquino to implement mechanisms that would protect govt. funds for OFWs and the OFWs funds held in trust to OWWA.

"If P-Noy is on the right track of his 'straight path', then he must ensure that government funds and the OFWs funds be safeguarded from misuses and corruption," Monterona added.

Monterona said the President should instruct the head of all concerned govt. agencies holding public funds for OFWs including DFA and DoLE-OWWA to ensure that OFWs funds will be spared from misuses and corruption.

"P-Noy talks a lot about graft and corruption; it is now time to stop the talking. What the Filipino people would like to see is concrete results," Monterona concluded.

Pinoy natagpuang patay sa South Korea


June 3, 2011 -- Natagpuan ang wala ng buhay na katawan ng 28 anyos na si Arnel Sigua. Si Arnel Sigua ay tubong San Agustin, Lubao, Pampanga at nagpunta sa South Korea upang maghanapbuhay. Siya ay isang legal na manggagawa sa Jamin Album Company sa Paju, Kyeonggido, South Korea sa ilalim ng iskemang Employment Permit System. Ito ang iskema ng ating gobyerno upang makapagtrabaho ng legal ang mga Pilipino sa South Korea.


Ayon sa mga kapulisan, isa itong pagpapakamatay base narin sa mga sulat na nakita sa kanyang kwarto at sa posisyon ng kanyang katawan. Nanawagan ang pamilya ng namatay sa embahada ng Pilipinas na tulungan silang maipauwi ang mga labi ni Sigua. Lalong nahirapan ang pamilya ni Sigua ng malamang hindi kakayanin ng employer ang pagpapauwi sa bangkay dahil hindi naman konektado ang pagkamatay ng huli sa kanyang trabaho.


Bilang miyembro ng OWWA, responsibilidad nito ang gumawa ng hakbang upang mabilis na maipauwi ang bangkay ni Sigua. Ngunit sa simula palang nakita na ang kalamigan sa pag-aasikaso ng POLO-OWWA kay Arnel. Wala man lang nagpunta na representante nila sa pinangyarihan ng aksidente. At tanging sa telepono lamang nakikipag ugnayan sa kanyang employer.


June 18, 2011, ibinalita ng Embahada ng Pilipinas na maipapauwi na ang mga labi ni Sigua. Sakay diumano ng Flight PR 469 na umalis ng Incheon sa ganap na 8:30 ng gabi at lumapag ng NAIA ng 11:40 ng gabi. Ngunit walang labi ni Arnel Sigua ang lumapag sa NAIA. Naghintay magdamag ang pamilya ni Sigua, nagbabaksakaling nakarating ito sa bansa. Umaasa at hawak lamang ang mga sinabi ng Embahada na naipauwi na ang bangkay ng kanilang mahal sa buhay.


Ang tanong ng pamilya ni Sigua, bakit hindi nakauwi ang bangkay niya? Ano ang maaring naging problema. Ngunit dahil sa pagwawalang bahala ng mga tauhan ng embahada at ng OWWA, wala ni isa sakanila ang  makasagot kung bakit hindi nakauwi ang bangkay ni Arnel Sigua noong gabing iyon.


Ayon kay  Pol Par, ang tagapanggulo ng Katipunan ng mga Samahang Migranteng Manggagawa sa Korea (KASAMMMA-KO), Ang kapalpakan ng embahada ang syang nag papatunay na walang maaasahan ang mga tinatawag na mga "bagong bayani" na serbisyng publiko na pinangangalandakan ng pamahalaan. Hindi ba't miyembro si Arnel Sigua ng OWWA? At ito'y nararapat lamang na mabigyan ng sapat na atensyon bilang miyembro o kasapi ng asosasyong ito? Ngunit ano ang nangyari? Hihintayin pa ba nating maulit ito ng isa o dalawa o tatlong beses pa?


 Sumalamin ang kapalpakan ng Pamahalaang Aquino sa lahat ng ahensya ng ating lipunan subalit kahit na ano ang panawagan natin sa tunay na matuwid na daan hindi ito magaganap dahil ang mismong nakaupo ay nagbibingi bingihan sa daing ng maraming Pilipino.


OFWs implicated in drug trafficking case received ‘not guilty’ verdict

Update: 10:19 Mid-East time

We are still verifying the reports if OFW Rhodora Guisinga, who was primarily accused of drug possession, will be freed today. While a confirmed report from our Migrante-UAE said Empleo & Jabate was pronounced not guilty for the charge as accessories to the crime. -John L.C. Monterona  


The three Dubai-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) implicated in a drug-related case today received a 'not guilty' verdict from the Dubai court, according to the father of one of the OFWs.


"Good morning Sir. I was informed by my daughter Crizelda today during case hearing that they were found not guilty on the charge of illegal drugs possession and that they'll be freed," conveyed by Mr. Athelo Empleo, the Saudi-based OFW father of Crizelda Empleo, one of the accused, to Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.


On November 10, 2010, Dubai-based OFWs Crizelda Empleo with a friend, Jackielou Jabate, and housemate Rhodora Guisinga, were nabbed by Dubai police for alleged drug possession.


"While having a leisurely walk inside the mall, Guisinga told her two companions that she'll be going out. Without the knowledge of her two companions, she met a certain Mohamed Ali, an Egyptian, who handed her a plastic bag, when suddenly Dubai operatives apprehended them including my daughter Crizelda and Jackielou," Mr. Athelo narrated.


"What's in the plastic bag are pain relievers according to Guisinga," Mr. Empleo said when he had a talked to her daughter Crizelda over the phone sometime on November.


Monterona said the Empleo and Jabate families have sought assistance to Migrante-Middle East and its chapter in Dubai, UAE after their plea for legal assistance by hiring a local lawyer to defend them in court had been initially rejected by the PH consulate in Dubai.


"We and the families of the accused have campaigned hard and done lots of interfacing with the concerned PH consulate and DFA officials, requesting for providing a local-hired lawyer," Monterona added.


Monterona added that the accused OFWs were eventually given a lawyer by the PH consulate on May 10, the supposed date of promulgation. "The May 10 promulgation was suspended by the judge to give the accused OFWs time to file their manifestations and motions," Monterona added.


At around 9:00 a.m. (Dubai time) today, the judge declared that the 3 accused OFWs should be freed as there is no convincing evidence to implicate them on the charges.


"Mr. Athelo Empleo and Mrs. Gloria Jabate, father and mother of Crizelda and Jackielou, respectively, would like to convey their profuse thanks to Migrante-ME officers specifically Yuri Cipriano, Migrante-UAE chairperson who never failed to attend the hearings and officials who have helped their children gain their freedom from malicious and baseless accusations," Monterona added.


Monterona noted that it was not a surprised at all that there is no PH consulate staff attended the case promulgation today as they also failed to attend during previous case hearings.


"This is a clear victory for us, OFWs and their parents, who have campaigned hard to free them as we believed they are innocent, but have been victims of govt. neglect and circumstances," Monterona concluded. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Convention on Domestic Workers a tough test to Mid-east host governments

Migrante-Middle East (M-ME), a migrants rights groups' alliance in the Middle East, today said the recent adoption by the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the Convention on Domestic Workers is like a 'litmus' test to middle-eastern governments hosting about 25-M domestic workers mostly from Asian countries.

M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona cited for instance most of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC) member-countries have reservations in recognizing domestic workers' alienable rights as a worker and a human being citing 'customary practices and traditions'.

"Kuwait for example opposes the granting of day-off and specific the working hours for domestic workers," Monterona added.

On June 9, an official of Kuwait's social affairs ministry had been quoted by Al-Qabas newspaper saying the granting of day-off and specific working hours to domestic workers "does not suit the habits, traditions and public ethics of Kuwait". The Kuwaiti official added a maid during her day-off going to a place unknown to her sponsor is considered an offense to Kuwait's public ethics.

"It has been known that other GCC countries and non-GCC governments also cited 'preserving tradition and modesty of maids' as reasons to restrict domestic workers freedom of movement and giving them day-off, among others," Monterona noted.

Monterona said the rights of domestic workers should not be viewed as a 'threat to host-countries tradition and customary laws." "This could be harmonized by passing local laws that guarantees domestic workers rights while respecting the habits and traditions of the host country," the Filipino migrant leader added.

"The slave-like outlook about domestic workers in the Middle East must be changed, first and foremost. This is what the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers had told the host governments including that in the Mid-east –that domestic workers have rights too, rights that governments must recognize, guarantee and protect," Monterona added.

"The passage of local legislation or policy recognizing domestic workers' rights and welfare in the national level by the host governments must follow suit," Monterona concluded.

Amid surge in Saudi’s executions: Aquino govt. urged to intensify efforts to save OFWs on death row

A migrants' rights group closely following and campaigning to save the lives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row in Saudi Arabia today conveys serious apprehension on the latter's fate amid surge in numbers of executed prisoners in the oil-rich Kingdom.


Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said the situation of the 8 OFWs on death row in Saudi is like "waiting, in an unknown date and time, the sword to fall on each head."


On June 10, Amnesty International issued a statement saying there were at least 27 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, almost the same numbers of people executed in 2010. 'Fifteen people were executed in May 2011 alone," it added.


On Saturday, local reports quoted interior ministry that an Indonesian domestic worker was executed by sword after being convicted of murdering a Saudi woman.


Amnesty Intl. also stated that at least 158 people, including 76 foreign nationals, were executed by the Saudi Arabian authorities in 2007, while some 102 people, including almost 40 foreign nationals, were executed in 2008.


Monterona said the surge in the numbers of executions shows the host govt. serious resolve in implementing death sentence by execution using sword, though it has been criticized by the international community as the only country using such a 'cruel' death sentence. 

"Thus, we are raising serious concerns on the status of our 8 OFWs in Saudi death row on the fact that even the OFWs' respective families have not been advise on the efforts of the government in saving their lives," Monterona added.


Monterona said they're closely following the cases of Don Lanuza, brothers Rolando and Edison Gonzales, Eduardo Arcilla, Joselito Zapanta, Carlito Lana, Ryan Tolen, and Edgar Maligaya.


All, except Ryan Tolen and Edgar Maligaya whose respective case is being heard, have received court verdict.


OFWs Lanuza, Zapanta, and Lana said they have unintentionally killed their attackers in self defense. OFWs Maligaya and brothers Gonzales have been 'wrongly' implicated on the crimes, while Tolen stabbed and killed a fellow worker during heated argument.


On March 30, days after the execution of 3 Pinoys in China, Migrante-Middle East called on Vice President Jejomar Binay, also presidential adviser on OFWs concerns, to intercede in behalf of the 8 OFWs in Saudi death row.


Monterona suggested the formation of a high-level inter-agency task force that would find ways, diplomatically or otherwise, in the commutation of death sentences and eventually spare the OFWs from execution.


Migrante-ME calls on Pres. Aquino III to intensify govt. efforts to save the lives of OFWs on death row.


"The Aquino govt. should act now, not later. On our part, we will intensify our advocacy and campaign to save the lives of OFWs on death row who have been victim of poverty and joblessness that forced them to look for better paid jobs but ended as prisoners in foreign land," Monterona concluded.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

OFW inmate accused of killing a fellow OFW cries ‘heavy beating’ inside jail


An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) implicated on the killing of a fellow OFW in Saudi Arabia sometime in July of last year, conveyed to an official of Migrante-Middle East, a migrant rights group, that he has been 'heavily beaten' inside his cell in a police station during investigation.


John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said OFW Edgar Maligaya, 38 years old, from Batangas province, claimed that he had been beaten by police authorities at the Olaya Police station, Olaya district, Riyadh.


"OFW Maligaya was implicated on the 'mysterious' death of a fellow OFW driver named Andy Miclat Dimakali sometime in July based on the initial finding that his text message last appeared to the victim's mobile phone on the day OFW Dimacali's reported killing," Monterona added.


Migrante-Middle East, citing a letter dated June 1, 2011 from the PH embassy, the Death Notification issued by the Saudi Ministry of Health on July 20, 2011 submitted to the embassy, stated that "OFW Dimacali died outside the hospital with wounds in the head, cracked ribs, and was bleeding from the nose."


"The family of OFW Dimacali is still awaiting the repatriation of his remains after being informed by the DFA only last month about his death. The Dimacali family believed there is foul play surrounding the death of their kin and that OFW Edgar Maligaya is not involved in the crime," Monterona added.


Monterona said he is closely following Dimacali's 'mysterious' death with the PH embassy in Riyadh and had asked a copy of the police report as per the family's request. The embassy replied that the Olaya Police station and the Prosecutor's office declined to provide a copy of the police report. "The document in question is confidential in nature and, as such, could not be provided," the embassy stated on its letter dated June 1, 2011.


"As the content of the police report on the killing of OFW Dimacali is not bared, we have reasons to suspect that there is something 'wrong' and needs to be kept away from the family of the OFW victim," Monterona added.


Monterona said studying the facts and information gathered by his group, he believed OFW Edgar Maligaya is a 'fall guy', wrongly implicated and accused on the killing of OFW Dimacali.


Monterona added, in regards to the beating incident, the PH embassy on its letter dated 14 June 2011 stated it has already sent a Note Verbal to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and letters to the Saudi authorities condemning the act of the police authorities.


"This matter must be thoroughly investigated by the PH embassy," Monterona concluded.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Migrant rights group welcomes Saudi’s alternative punishments

 Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of Filipino migrants rights providing assistance to distress, run away, stranded and jailed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) said it lauded the plan by the Saudi government in crafting alternative punishments for crime offen


Citing local reports, Migrante-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said on Tuesday a spokesman of Saudi's Prison department had been quoted saying the judicial and security authorities are discussing alternative punishments.


The Saudi's prison dept. wanted to reduce the suffering of prisoners and their families and cut down the numbers of prisoners in various Saudi jails, a report in Arab News stated.


"We are more than happy to hear the announcement on Saudi's plan in crafting alternative punishments especially if it will include migrants or expatriate workers who have only committed petty crimes in violation of the customary laws of the host government," Monterona added.


He seconded that alternative punishments such as fines, social or community services, and other corrective measures could instead be imposed on petty crime offenders with no private rights liability involve.


"A number of our fellow Filipino compatriots and migrants of other Asian nationalities working in Saudi have been charged of petty offenses such as 'mixed crowd', possession of liquor, gambling, and absconding which are punishable by 6 to 1 year imprisonment plus a hundred of lashes," Monterona averred.


Monterona said the so called 'alternative punishments' could instead be imposed which commensurate to the degree of the offense committed such that of petty crimes.


"Alternative punishments can be considered as 'more humane punishment, corrective and rehabilitative without degrading the being of the person," Monterona opined.


"We have noticed the host government is now gearing towards the humanization of its legal and judicial system in terms of imposing penalties and treatment to prisoners and petty crimes offenders. We welcome this plan," Monterona concluded.

Palace orders top LLDA officials to explain extortion allegation


Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Wednesday said that top officials of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) have been ordered to explain why they should not face administrative disciplinary proceedings following allegations of extortion.

Ochoa said a show-cause order had been issued on Monday against LLDA General Manager Rodrigo Cabrera, Engineering Division Chief Donato Rivera Jr. and Lake Management Division Head Jacqueline Dabu based on the accusation of fish pen owner Dr. Charlie Tan that the three tried to extort money from him.

Tan alleged that Cabrera and two other LLDA officials demanded "P300,000.00 in exchange for the approval of his request to transfer the locations of his fish pens" – a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act (RA 3019) and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713).

The three were given five days from the receipt of the show cause order to submit their comment to the Office of the Executive Secretary.

The Office of the President exercises jurisdiction over Cabrera, who is a presidential appointee. Rivera and Dabu, while not presidential appointees, are covered by the order "for having allegedly acted in conspiracy" with Cabrera.

Last Friday, Cabrera took a 60-day leave from office in order to give the Office of the President "a free hand in the conduct of a fair and unprejudiced investigation."

Jobs termination in Saudi worries OFWs

The recent announcement made by the Saudi labor ministry implementing the Nitaqat system that categorizes private companies into three based on the numbers of Saudis employed are now on its first stage of implementation.


John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said the categorization of private companies into three coded color under the Nitaqat program is now being implemented.


Companies, local and foreign, will be classified into three categories: Green, if the company complies the minimum 10% of the total numbers of staff hired are Saudis; Yellow category if it employed Saudi below 10%, and Red if the company does not employ any single local Saudi.


The coding of companies is expected to boost the implementation of the Saudization scheme implemented years ago but failed because of the refusal of many local and foreign companies to commit and follow the policy.


Monterona noted that it has been clarified by the Saudi ministry that expats employed by "Red" companies, mostly private, based on the assessment of the labor ministry will be subjected to 6-yr. work permit limit unless their company complies of the Saudization requirement -that is hiring Saudis of at least 10% of its total work force.


Companies in "Yellow" category will be told to comply strictly the Saudization requirement otherwise their expat will be subjected to 6-yr. work permit cap.


The coded color category of a company can be known by visiting the Ministry of Labor's website (


"The clarification issued by the Saudi ministry of labor does not lessen the worries of our fellow OFWs and migrant workers of other nationalities, but those working in 'Red' and 'Yellow' companies are not totally 'safe'," Monterona added.


Monterona revealed that he has been receiving reports that there are a number of OFWs recently been terminated from their respective jobs as an effect of the Nitaqat system.


He cited for instance a consultancy firm that hires more than 50% of its staff are Filipinos had recently terminated 12 Filipino engineers and more to follow in its bid to categorize the company to 'Green' from 'Yellow'.


"Owners of the companies will have to reduce the numbers of its expatriate workers in order to increase the percentage of the numbers of its local hired Saudis. And this is as expected," Monterona added.


Migrante-ME estimated that if the Nitaqat system is fully implemented, there will be around 350,000 OFWs who will be affected.

"The Aquino govt. should ready its reintegration and jobs transfer program as it will be facing hundreds of terminated OFWs coming home as an effect of the shrinking of the labor market in Saudi and other mid-east countries as millions of Arab peoples are jobless and demanding jobs from their governments," Monterona added.


On the top of expat communities in Saudi Arabia in terms of population are the Pakistanis whose numbers are estimated to reached 1.8-M, the Indian expats of about 1.5, Egyptians of about 1.3 and OFWs estimated to have reached 1.2-M.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mother seeks assistance for pregnant OFW daughter detained in Saudi jail


The mother of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who was apprehended by local police due to 'mixed crowd' with male Indian nationals and is currently detained in Malaz Central jail in Riyadh, seeks assistance to Migrante-Middle East.

Sometime in February, a composite team of local police raided a villa in Diriyah district in Riyadh where they nabbed OFWs Leonora and Sophia (not their real names) along with three  male Indian nationals. Both OFWs were charged of 'mixed crowd', a petty crime as per the host government customary laws.

"Please help my daughter, she already served her sentence and completed it on May 24," according to Mrs. Delia, mother of 'Leonora' (not her real name), through text messages sent to Migrante's regional director John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona said he had been receiving text messages from Mrs. Delia pleading for help for her daughter. "She claimed that her daughter is 7-month pregnant, and that she had been pardoned but still awaiting her flight booking," Monterona said.

Monterona said he talked to the PH embassy officer-in-charge of Leonora's case and it denies her mother's claim that she is pregnant. "The PH embassy case officer did not notice during jail visit last March that she is pregnant," Monterona averred.

However, Monterona said if OFW 'Leonora' is in constant communication with her mother by sending text messages and tells her real condition then we are of the opinion that she should be visited by the PH embassy at her cell in Malaz central jail women's section to ascertain her present condition.

"If she is indeed pregnant, the PH embassy must give priority attending her deportation by interfacing with the jail and the Saudi immigration authorities and immediately arrange to get a flight booking for her," Monterona added.

Monterona added Leonora's present condition may complicate her repatriation. "But it could be cited as a ground for humanitarian consideration by the jail and immigration authorities so that she will be repatriated as soon as possible."

"The PH embassy confirmed that she had served her jail term and in fact she's one of those pardoned by virtue of the Royal pardon granted by the Saudi King announced on February. So what's delaying her repatriation?" Monterona asked.

Migrante-Middle East calls on the PH embassy to attend on OFW Leonora's predicament and promptly conduct a jail visit and make proper representation to Saudi authorities so that she will be repatriated without further delay.

Delays on passport production: Group urges DFA to impose fine to passport contractor

A migrant rights group today urges the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to re-examine the terms and conditions of its contract with Oberthur Technologies, the foreign equipment provider in the production of passport booklets.


On Thursday, the DFA issued a statement confirming that 'the delay is caused by an unexpected malfunction of the mainframe program which has prevented the printing of passport booklets".


"The instant effect of the mainframe program glitch is obviously a delay in the printing of passport booklets aside from the inconvenience to passport applicants. But more than this, the terms and conditions of the contract must be revisited as there maybe corresponding penalty imposed to the contractor in cases it hampered the production of passport booklets resulting to failure to deliver its commitment," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.


Monterona said the passport services are not merely a business transaction between the DFA and its foreign contractor; "It is also a delivery of public service to those who are longing to get a passport, new or renewal," he added.


'With an increase schedule of rates in getting passport as implemented by the DFA last year, the public is expecting better services such as fast and prompt application process and releases of passports," Monterona averred.


Monterona expressed serious concern that the passport machine glitch will also affect the production or passport booklets for OFWs who have applied in various PH posts abroad.


"We have been told during Embassy-on-Wheels (EOW) passporting, the passport applications from abroad will be sent to DFA consular office in Manila for production and printing, but since there was a machine glitch then obviously its production will be delayed too," Monterona added.


Passport renewal fee being collected by various PH posts abroad is about tripled higher than that in the DFA Consular office which got the ire of OFWs.


"Passport renewal for instance in Saudi Arabia will cost an OFW 240 Saudi riyals equivalent to P2,760 (1:11.5 riyal-peso current conversion); while if one would intend to renew passport in DFA Consular office in Manila, it's only about P950 or a little more," Monterona noted.

SSS Photo Release: Rizal exhibit at SSS

The Social Security System (SSS) has opened a historical exhibit on the life of Jose Rizal at the SSS Museum and Library at the basement of the SSS headquarters in Diliman, Quezon City to commemorate the national hero's 150th birth anniversary on June 19. The exhibit, which carries the theme "Rizal @ 150: Haligi ng Bayan," is open to members and the general public on Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. until August 12. SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. (3rd from left) and National Historical Commission of the Philippines Architect Wilkie Delumen (2nd from right) cut the ribbon during ceremonies on June 8. Also present were (from left) SSS Vice President for Public Affairs and Special Events Marissu Bugante, Philippine Information Agency Staff Director Betty Lou Peñera, Department of Social Welfare and Development Director Prescila Villa, Social Security Commission member Ibarra Malonzo (right) and Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares (inset).


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wanted: PH Labor attaché in Saudi


There is no labor attaché in the Philippine Overseas Labor office (POLO) in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia for more than two weeks now, thus said today by a migrant rights group.


John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said Labor Attache David Des Dicang was transferred to Kuwait more than two weeks ago after DoLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz ordered the recall of a labor attaché assigned in Kuwait allegedly involved in human trafficking of distress and run away OFWs seeking refuge at the Filipino Workers Resource center.


"A week after he left Saudi Arabia, I was able to talk with Labatt Dicang and he confirmed that he will be officially transferred to Kuwait. I asked him who will be his replacement, he replied that he is not privy to who will be deployed as PH labor attaché covering the Saudi's eastern region," Monterona added.


Monterona said more than two weeks now since Labatt Dicang left to Kuwait, "there is no labor attaché in Al-Khobar amid the numerous labor cases and request for assistance to the POLO-Eastern region."


Yesterday, officers of Migrante-Al Khobar arranged a case dialog with OWWA welfare officers, but no officials from the POLO-ERO attended. Several labor cases such as contract substitution, salary down grading, illegal salary deductions to illegal termination and non-issuance of exit clearance have been discussed without the presence of a labor attaché, who usually is giving direction and guidance being head of the POLO.


"Today, I was informed by distress OFW Julius Tormis, et. al. that despite the promised by the POLO-OWWA to send an interpreter in today's case hearing, no POLO staff assisted them," Monterona added.


"How could the POLO-ERO serve the needs of the OFWs especially distress and those who have labor cases when there is no labor attaché who is heading and directing it?" Monterona asked.


Monterona calls on DoLE Sec. Baldoz to immediately appoint and deploy a labor attaché in its office in Al-Khobar whose jurisdiction covers the entire eastern region of Saudi Arabia.


There are around 350,000 OFWs working in Saudi's eastern region including Al-Khobar and Dammam.




Thursday, June 09, 2011

Tax evasion cases vs Benguet Electric Cooperative and New Canary Photo filed by BIR




Photo release2

KAMANAVA CONDUCTS MEETING WITH LGUs. DPWH-KAMANAVA Area Flood Control and Drainage System Improvement Project Director Macariola S. Bartolo explains to project stakeholders particularly among the concern local government unit (LGU) heads their responsibility in ensuring effective operation of the constructed flood control facilities during a coordination meeting with LGU, representatives of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) held at Bangkulasi Pumping Station along R-10, Navotas City.  The recurrence of informal settlers and rampant throwing of garbage are among the possible problems that would hamper the effectiveness of the flood control project. 


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Migrant groups hail adoption of Domestic workers Convention



An alliance of overseas Filipino workers rights group today hails the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention saying that it is 'a landmark international instrument that would pave the way to protecting domestic workers' well being, rights and welfare."


A report from Mr. Eman Villanueva, vice chairperson of the Filipino Migrant workers' Union in Hong Kong and a representative of the Asian Migrant Coordinating Body (AMCB) to the 100th International Labor Conference in Geneva, stated that a Committee chairman had hit the gavel and declared the adoption of the text of the convention on domestic workers. "And so the Domestic Workers Convention in its entirety is hereby adopted, and so it is adopted." declared by the Committee chairman.


The declaration of adoption has been followed by a loud and lengthy applause from the representatives of various domestic workers unions and associations, non-government organizations and advocates, according to Villanueva.


Villanueva added with the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, domestic work will now be recognize as work and 'where domestic workers should be treated no less than any other workers is now a reality.'


"Despite the repeated attempts of the representatives of the EU governments to dilute the text of the convention, the persistence of the workers and their effective lobbying and pressuring of their respective governments prevailed," Villanueva revealed.


On his part, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention is very important to his group advocacy and campaign in providing protection to women migrant domestic workers in the Middle East.


"With the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, it give us momentum to lobby and urge host governments to signify and ratify this international instrument recognizing the rights and welfare of around 30-million women migrant domestic workers in the Middle East," Monterona added.


Monterona said Migrante chapters in the Middle East continuously receiving an average of 7 – 10 cases of abuses and maltreatment involving mostly domestic workers. "Many of them were forced to run away from their erring employers and became undocumented," he added.


"We are hoping with the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention during the International Labor Conference in Geneva, Mid-east governments hosting millions of domestic workers will signify and ratify the said convention. And by doing so, the host governments will be ready to pass laws or local legislations that would concretely guarantee domestic workers rights and welfare in accordance to the newly adopted Domestic Workers Convention," Monterona concluded. # #

Monday, June 06, 2011



Senator Franklin Drilon on Monday lauded President Benigno C. Aquino III's signing into law of the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 that seeks to reform the operations of state-owned enterprises and curbing the abuses particularly on excessive bonuses and allowances.


"This will set the framework for reforms in a major sector of our economy. We are confident that we can harness GOCCs to perform effectively and efficiently to contribute to national development," Drilon, principal author and sponsor of the measure, said.


"We must exact transparency and accountability from our public officials, who have not faithfully discharged their duties as managers of public enterprises designed to contribute to national progress," he added, noting that the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 is the first major reform law that this Congress had approved.


The newly approved legislation largely tracks President Aquino's reform agenda and anti-corruption campaign, with the chief executive exposing during his State of the Nation Address the scandalously high compensation equivalent to 36 months provided by the Arroyo administration to its officials at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System despite a dismal performance in the recent years.


Drilon had taken concrete steps to improve the operations of state firms, starting at exposing the unconscionable perks received by directors, trustees and employees of GOCCs and finding ways to instill transparency and discipline among government corporations.


The bill creates a Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) which shall be composed of five members—chairman with the rank of Cabinet secretary and two members with the rank of undersecretary to be appointed by the President—and the Budget and Finance secretaries as ex-officio members. The commission shall develop a new position and classification system that will apply to all officers and employees of GOCCs, whether covered by the Salary Standardization Law or exempt from it.


Members of the board of directors or trustees and officers of state firms have the legal obligation to act in good faith in all the dealings with the property and monies of the GOCC. Any board member or officer found to have benefited from the GOCC excess benefit or profit shall be subject to restitution without prejudice to any administrative, civil or criminal case.


Drilon expects the law to become effective 15 days after its publication or by July 1, 2011.

Labor official confirms death of OFW inside the Bahay-Kalinga


An official of the Philippine Overseas Labor office (POLO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia confirms the reported death of a distress overseas Filipino worker (OFW) inside the Bahay Kalinga (BK), a refuge center for distress women OFWs, according to Migrante-Middle East.


John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said he got a chance to talk with a labor official (who requested not to be named) amid several calls yesterday morning, confirming the report about a distress OFW who was found dead at one of the toilets in the Bahay Kalinga.


"We can't divulge her name as the family in the Philippines is yet to be informed. She is a distress OFW, 44 years old, and was admitted to the Bahay Kalinga months ago. She was sick and the possible cause of her death is cardiac arrest," said Monterona.


Monterona said yesterday morning, report reaching him from distress OFWs in the Bahay Kalinga, the subject OFW was found inside the toilet, without any indication of life.


Amid repeated calls to the concerned officials but to no avail, Monterona issued a statement calling the attention of the post officials saying his group had been receiving reports from inside the Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh that there is a distress OFW who was found dead


Monterona added that Eric Jocson, chairperson of the Kapatiran sa Gitang Silangan (KGS), Migrante affiliate in Riyadh, also conveyed that he received the same reports.


"The report has been confirmed by no less than a POLO official. But we want this incident be investigated," Monterona added.


Monterona said this is not the first time a sick distress OFW died inside the Bahay Kalinga. "Sometime in February, we have received confirmed report of a distress OFW died at the Bahay Kalinga," he added.


"The confirmation that there were OFWs dying inside the BK is also a confirmation that our POLO-OWWA officials in Riyadh are not taking care of our distress and sick women OFWs," Monterona averred.


"If our OFWs are dying inside the BK without care from our POLO-OWWA officials, then these inept officials must be sacked form their jobs," Monterona added.


Monterona noted that they have been receiving previous reports from the distress OFWs that if they're sick, they were not given proper medication, no medicines given despite plea to POLO-OWWA officials.


Bahay Kalinga is managed by the Philippine overseas labor office and OWWA in Riyadh. It serves as a refuge for distress women OFW who have run away from their employers due to abuse and maltreatment.


At present there are about 120 distress OFWs at the Bahay Kalinga including 7 women OFWs with children.