Kasaysayan ng gahasa, abuso ng tropang Kano sa Pilipinas

Habang inilulunsad ngayon sa isla ng Mindanao ang Balikatan US-RP Military Exercises na nilalahukan ng mahigit 6,000 sundalong Amerikano, isang malaking sampal sa pambansang dignidad ang balitang isang Pilipina ang kasama sa dalawang babaeng ginahasa ng mga sundalong Amerikano sa Okinawa, Japan kamakailan. Ngunit kung ang bansang Hapon sampu ng ilan sa kanilang liderato ay nagkakaisang nagpupuyos sa presensya ng mga tropang Kano sa kanilang bansa, tila tahimik naman sa isyu ang palasyo ng Malakanyang. 

Ang panibagong paglapastangan na ito ay nagbunsod sa Migrante International,  pandaigdigang samahan ng mga Pilipino sa ibayong dagat, na kundenahin ang nasabing insidente at batikusin ang pananahimik ni Pangulong Arroyo at ng Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). 

Ani Connie Bragas Regalado, taga-pangulo ng Migrante, sadyang mahirap sikmurain ang balitang mayroon tayong kababayan na dumanas ng abusong sekswal mula sa kamay ng sundalong Amerikano sa Japan habang libo-libong tropang Amerikano ang buong layang gumagala ngayon sa ating bansa sa tabing ng ehersisyong militar. Idinagdag pa niya, para daw tayong ginahasa ng dalawang ulit bilang isang bansa. 

Kaya naman nanawagan sila para sa hustisya sa ating kababayang biktima sa Japan, sa agarang pagpapalayas sa mga sundalong Amerikano na narito ngayon sa Pilipinas at sa pagbabasura sa makaisang panig na Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) na siyang tuntungang legal ng walang katapusang Balikatan exercises sa Pilipinas. 

Sa napabalitang panggagahasa sa Pinay sa Japan kamakailan, sinariwa nito ang kaso ni ‘Nicole,’ ang 22-anyos na Pilipinang pinagtulungang pagsamantalahan ng anim na US Marines noong Nubyembre 1, 2005.  Binalik din nito ang pait ng kawalan ng hustisya sa ating bansa, ang arogansya ng Estados Unidos at ang pagpapaka-tuta dito ng ating pamahalaan. Matatandaang, 25 araw matapos hatulang nagkasala si Lance Corporal Daniel Smith sa panggagahasa kay Nicole noong Disyembre 4, 2006, hinatid mismo ang rapist na si Smith ng mga operatiba ng Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) sa embahada ng Estados Unidos. 

Ang hakbang daw nila na ito ay sa bisa umano ng kasunduang nilagdaan nina DFA Sec. Alberto Romulo at US Ambassador Kristie Kenney na alinsunod rin sa mga itinatadhana ng VFA. Mula noon, naglaho na ang tsansang mabibigyan pa ng katarungan ang ginawang kahayupan kay ‘Nicole.’ 

‘Inmates of the den’

Lingid sa kaalaman ng marami, nakaugat na sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas ang paglapastangan ng mga tropang Amerikano sa ating mga kababaihan at mamayan. Bakas na ang kanilang kahayupan magmula pa noong unang tumapak sila sa ating kapuluan para tayo ay kolonyahin. 

Nakatala sa artikulong “The Crowning Infamy of Imperialism” ng  American League of Philadelphia noong 1900 na mayroong 200 casa (bahay) ng prostitusyon ang direktang kontrolado ng US Military Government sa lungsod ng Maynila pa lamang. At para makatiyak na walang nakakahawang sakit ang mga babaeng tinatawag nilang “inmates of the den,” regular na nag-iinspeksyon ang Department of Municipal Inspection, isang ahensya ng gubyernong militar, sa mga casa na ito. Napaulat ring nagpatayo ng tatlong casa ang US Military Government sa isla ng Jolo, isa para sa mga upisyal militar at ang dalawa naman para sa mga tropa.  Kumuha pa nga sila ng mga babae mula sa bansang Hapon para dito. 

Mula noon, naging kalakaran na ang pagkakaroon ng mga bahay aliwan malapit sa kung saan naroroon ang mga tropang Amerikano. Nang napaalis ng mamamayan ang base militar ng US sa Pilipinas noong 1991, mayroon nang 2,182 na mga bahay aliwan o mga ‘rest and recreation sites’  at tinatayang 50,000 hanggang 55,000 mga kababaihang nabitag sa prostitusyon sa mga syudad ng Angeles at Olongapo pa lamang. 

Hindi lamang mga Amerikanong sundalo ang namumugad sa mga bahay aliwan na ito, pati mga sexually transmitted diseases (STD), kriminalidad at karahasan sa mga kababaihan ay talamak rin. 

Ayon sa IMA Foundation, tinatayang 30% sa 10,000 kababaihang nasa prostitusyon sa Angeles, Pampanga ang nagkaroon ng sakit na gonorrhea at syphilis. Noong 1983, 18 menor-de-edad ang nahawaan ng AIDS matapos ibenta ang kanilang laman sa mga tropang Amerikano sa Subic. Mas masahol pa, isang 18 buwang gulang na sanggol ang nadiskubreng mayroong gonorrhea (sakit na nakukuha lamang sa pakikipagtalik) noong Enero 1990. Tatlo sa mga pangunahing suspek sa karumaldumal na krimen na ito ay mga sundalong Amerikano na noon ay kasama ng sanggol at ng kaniyang ina sa kanilang tinutuluyang apartment. 

Mula taong 1981 hanggang 1988, 3,274 na kaso ng karahasan at pang-aabuso ang isinampa laban sa mga tropang Kano na naka-istasyon sa Subic at sa Clark. Nakatala rin sa records ng Olongapo City Prosecutors Office na 15 sa mga kasong isinampa laban sa mga Amerikano noong 1981 hanggang 1988 ay kinasangkutan ng mga kabataang edad 11 hanggang 16. Pawang walang kinahinatnan ang mga kaso. 

Balikatan?

Bukod sa prostitusyong militar at pagsasamantala sa ating mga kababaihan, hindi rin nakalagpas ang mamamayang Pilipino sa samu’t-saring mga atraso at pang-aabuso ng mga tropang Amerikano. 

Idinetalye ni Sittie Rajabia Sundang, Secretary-General ng Kawagib Moro Human Rights, ang mga patong-patong na mga kasalanan ng mga Amerikano simula ng tumapak sila sa Katimugang bahagi ng bansa noong 2002 para sa sunod-sunod na mga Balikatan.

Kabilang aniya sa mga ito ay ang pamamaril sa magsasakang si Buyung-Buyung Isnijal ni Sgt. Reggie Lane noong Hulyo 27, 2002 sa Tuburan, Basilan at ang pagkakasugat dahil rin sa pamamaril kay Arsid Bajarun habang nagsasanay ang mga Amerikano sa Zamboanga City noong 2004. 

Ang pagkamatay dahil sa atake sa puso dala ng matinding takot ni Sardiya Abu Calderon nang lumapag ang isang helicopter na may lulang dalawang sundalong Amerikano sa kaniyang lupain noong Agosto 2004. At nito lamang Pebrero 2008, sinalaysay ni Sandrawina Wahid na kabilang ang mga sundalong Amerikano sa mga tropang nangmasaker ng walong sibilyan sa Maimbung, Sulu. 

Ikinagalit rin ng direktor ng isang ospital sa Panamao, Sulu ang pangingi-alam sa kanilang operasyon at pananakot ng mga tropang Amerikano. Ayon kay Dr. Silak Lakkian ng Panamao District Hospital, noong Nubyembre 30, 2007 isang Master Sgt. Ronburg umano ang nagbanta sa kaniyang mga staff na papuputukan sila ng baril kung hindi sila magsasara ng alas-sais ng hapon. 

Paglabag sa soberanya

Para kay Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, na kasama sa libo-libong nagprotesta sa pormal na pagbubukas ng Balikatan 2008 sa Mindanao kamakailan, ang nagpapatuloy na presensya ng mga tropang Amerikano sa ating bansa ay malinaw na paglabag sa natitira pang soberanya ng Pilipinas. Ayon sa kaniya, pambabastos din ito sa ating Konstitusyon na ipinagbabawal ang pagtapak ng mga dayong tropa sa bansa.

“The US is circumventing the country’s Constitutional ban on foreign troops,” ayon kay Ocampo. “This trampling upon our sovereignty by the US has been made possible with the subservient consent of the Arroyo administration.”

Dagdag pa niya, sa loob lamang ng pitong taon, nagkaroon ng 24 na ehersisyong militar sa bansa at ang karamihan dito ay inilunsad sa mga aktuwal na ‘combat areas’ sa Mindanao. Ang lahat ng ito aniya ay nakakalusot dahil na rin sa mga maka-Amerikanong Mutual Defense Treaty at VFA. 

Kaya naman, nanawagan ang militanteng Congressman ng agarang pagpapalayas sa mga tropang Amerikano sa bansa at sa pagbabasura sa VFA at iba pang mga maka-isang panig na kasunduang militar sa pagitan ng US at Pilipinas. ###

 

Sources: The Social Cost of US Military Presence, Emmi A. De Jesus – 09 Dec 2006; Gabriela; Migrante International; Philippine Daily Inquirer; Bulatlat.com; Kawagib Moro Human Rights organization .

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE WITH PANCIT CANTON

Pam Pangilinan

I grew up eating rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We always had lakatan, mangoes or whatever fruit it is in season for merienda. During the rainy season, my mother would boil camote that we would all generously dip in muscovado. Even toasting cashew nuts has become a family affair that I always look forward to. Food for us is whatever a small inherited land offers.

Family matters are discussed over sumang balinghoy, failing grades and misbehavior would mean grinding corn that would later be pulvoron. I never got to grind corn because of failing grades, but boy, see how my biceps grew.

This is how the romance between food and the misbehaving probinsyana blossomed. I took interest on how mother would patiently boil, squash and strain sampalok for sinigang. At an early age I took pride of my knifing skills. I could easily grate 10 ears of corn without injuring any of my ten fingers. The most important lessons in life, I have learned in the kitchen. Patience, hard work, perseverance, frugality. Where my mother’s rod failed in teaching me, the kitchen succeeded.

My nanay told me that food always should be prepared and served with love. You could serve tuyo and boiled camote tops and your loved ones will enjoy the meal. But morcon and menudo will taste like paper if prepared by a wounded heart.

Now who can blame me for being shocked when this charming man whom I have chosen to spend my life with turns out to be a hotdog fed, “what’s-the-point-in-eating fruit”, and “will-eat-because-I’m-hungry” kind of guy.

Not to be discouraged, I slaved my self cooking my best recipes so that he will realize that sunny side up egg is not the most complicated, most challenging dish to prepare.

Refusing to take any shortcuts, I hunted for sampalok so I could cook sinigang for him the way my mother prepared it for us. The gata of my ginataang manok did not come from a tetrapak. Expecting rave reviews for my meticulously prepared meals he just ate them and said it was “okay”.

Demanding a reaction, I purposely did not put vinegar to the adobo. I asked him how it was and he said that it was “okay”. I surrender. Why this man who can write a news head line out of smelly socks but cannot make a decent comment on what is served to him is beyond me.

So one day I asked him, “What is your favorite food”. Silently pledging that whatever it may be, I, to the best of my culinary abilities will cook for him. Guess what his answer was. “Wala. Pare-pareho lang ang mga pag-kain.” And that was the last ditch. I may need to find another way to his heart because his stomach is impassable. I would have to take the road less traveled by.

Sensing that I was growing tired of his indifference to my personal crusade, he told me, ‘kahit pancit canton na lang”. I could have jumped with glee. Finally. But the pancit canton he was referring to is instant pancit canton. Oh no, I won’t let him eat food that has anything on it that I can’t spell. And I refuse to take part of him injecting himself with carcinogens.

But hey, he wants it. That is what he is going to get. I cooked instant pancit canton and he ate it with gusto. So much for home cooked meals.

Reflecting on this, I’ve realized that I’ve got a man who is not hard to please. Will eat anything that I serve him. Because it is instant, it is easy to cook (if you may want to call boiling water, cooking), easy to prepare. I am not too tired to enjoy dinner with him. And most importantly I have realized that he needs me not in the kitchen.

It is honestly quite hard to admit but one of the things that I enjoy doing is eating pancit canton with him. I am still dreaming for the day to come that he will tell me that it is my old-fashioned sinigang that he craves for. But for the time being, I might as well enjoy my chemical romance with instant pancit canton. And savor the feeling of how this doe-eyed man found his way to my heart with monosodium glutamate.

PINOY INTERNATIONAL

Sa wakas, narito na ang pahayagan na sasalamin sa tunay na tinig, diwa at damdamin ng ating mga kababayan sa ibayong dagat.

Ang Pinoy International ay naglalayong maipaabot sa pinakamalawak na mambabasa ang buhay ng mga Pilipino sa ibang bansa, gayundin ng kanilang mga mahal sa buhay na naiwan sa Pilipinas; maikwento ang kanilang paglalakbay, sampu ng kanilang mga kabiguan at tagumpay; maisalarawan ang kanilang kasiyahan, pighati at maging ang kanilang mga pakikipaglaban.

Sa kabilang banda, bubusisiin din ng Pinoy International ang mga mahalagang batas at patakaran na may kaugnayan sa pangingibang bayan ng mamamayan; mga asuntong kinakaharap ng mga Pilipino sa ibang bayan; at pati mga programang pangkalusugan at pangkabuhayan.

Gayundin, nais namin na ang Pinoy International ay magsilbing tulay nang pagtutulungan, bayanihan at pagkakaisa. Nais rin namin na ito ay maging daluyan nang pagkakakilanlan, pagkakaibigan at pagsasama ng mga Pilipino saan man sila naroroon.

Higit sa lahat, nais namin na muling ilapit sa inyo ang pangungulila ng ating Inang Bayan. Pangungulila sa kanyang mga anak na matagal na nawalay sa kanyang pag-aaruga. Ito ay sa pamamagitan ng pagpapabatid sa mga mahahalagang pambansang kaganapan, mga pagsusuri sa likod ng mga isyu, at kung paano tayo makikilahok sa mga usaping ito bilang mga Pilipino.

Umaasa ang lahat ng bumubuo ng pamatnugutan sa inyong mainit na pagtangkilik sa inyong pahayagan – ang Pinoy International.

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Workers welcome POEA retreat


By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:56:00 02/17/2008
MANILA, Philippines — Migrant workers on Saturday welcomed the indefinite suspension of new government guidelines on direct hiring of overseas Filipino workers.

The leftist group Migrante International attributed to “OFW Power” the indefinite suspension by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s of its Memorandum Circular No. 4 (MC-04), which, among others, required foreign employers to post up to $8,000 in repatriation and performance bonds for each Filipino worker they hired.

“This is the result of the united protest of OFWs around the world and that of our families in the Philippines. We sustained the campaign and were not deceived by the promise of protection of MC-04 nor of the tricky exemption,” said Samahan Laban sa Katiwalian ng mga Recruitment Agencies at Patakarang MC-04, a coalition against the POEA rule.

“Filipino migrant workers claim victory over the POEA’s MC-04. This is the result of the united protest of OFWs around the world and that of our families in the Philippines,” said Dolores Balladares, chair of Migrante’s Hong Kong chapter, the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil).

In Manila, the Center for Migrant Advocacy said it hoped the government had “learned its lesson” in not consulting the OFW sector before imposing a “burdensome” regulation such as MC-04.

“MC-04 did not look good to OFWs not only because of its being tedious, drastic and costly but also it seemed to them that the government does not want to have the responsibility of bailing out OFWs in distress,” CMA executive director Ellene Sana told the Inquirer.

Sana said the OFW groups would be willing to sit down with the POEA to craft regulations that would “really” extend protection to OFWs, particularly the directly-hired.

“The process of making rules should be transparent and participatory. If we keep on promoting a labor-export policy, we should be ready for distressed migrants. So the government must touch base with OFW communities and hear from them how their welfare may be best protected,” she said.

POEA suspended the guidelines on Feb. 14, “until further orders,” less than a month after they were implemented. In suspending the guidelines, the POEA cited President Macapagal-Arroyo’s directives to relax rules on hiring white-collar OFWs and the need to deliberate further on the matter.

Martial Law in the making

The so called ‘assassination plot’ of suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and communist New Peoples Army (NPA) against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can easily be viewed as a chilling prelude to Martial Law.

Earlier today the Presidential Security Group (PSG) led by Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza disclosed that there are indeed reports that the President is being targeted for assassination. He also said even foreign embassies might be hit.

Prestoza’s statement came in the midst of heightening clamor for President Arroyo’s resignation over allegations of multi-million dollar corruption in the government as exemplified in Jun Lozada’s testimonies over at the Senate that a number of Arroyo’s trusted aides and even her own husband pocketed huge sums of ‘kickbacks’ in the overpriced NBN-ZTE deal. Demonstrations are also gaining momentum, with the scheduled big rally on Friday in Makati being viewed as the flashpoint of snowballing protests ala-people power.

This chilling statement from the PSG brings back the ‘ambush me’ scenario that ushered in Martial Law in September 21, 1972. It remains vivid in Filipino’s minds that then defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile faked his own ambush just to justify the imposition of the military rule in the country. A day after Enrile made public his so called ‘ambush’, several critics of the Marcos Administration were ordered arrested and locked up. Among them were Senators Jose W. Diokno and Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, lawyer Haydee Yorac, and journalist Amando Doronila.

Are we witnessing another martial law in the making? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. Did I mention Arroyo has really gone desperate?

And oh, i almost forgot.. Security forces are on full alert since Wednesday night, two days ahead of the planned Makati rally.

 

 

CBCP breaks silence, urges “communal action” vs government corruption

The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Sunday, the eve of the second round of explosive Senate hearings on the scandal ridden ZTE-NBN deal, came out with a strongly worded statement commending the recent “public confessions” of Senate star witness Engr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada and ousted House Speaker Jose de Venecia on “questionable government deals in millions of dollars including scandalous and immoral kickbacks”.

“It was courageous (of them) to come out in the open to ‘publicly confess’ the high level of graft and corruption that they knew all along and ‘somehow’ have been involved in” said the bishops in a statement signed by CBCP President and Jaro Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo.

“Truth hurts. Truth liberates. But the truth must be served. The truth will set our country free” the CBCP statement continued.

The bishops noted that Lozada and de Venecia’s decision to step up and tell all “may be considered a providential event that may yet save our country from being hostage to scandalous and shady government deals that offend the common good and serve only personal, family and group interests.”

They strongly lamented the fact that the country “has too long been captive to the corruption of people in governance”. Corruption is in truth our greatest shame as a people, the clerics confessed as they encouraged “truth-loving and freedom-loving citizens” to support the crusade for truth initiated by the religious sector, civil groups and the clergy.

“Only the truth not lies and deceits will set our country free. This truth challenges us now to communal action” they said.

The CBCP reiterated also their earlier call to the Filipino people to “pray together, reason together, decide together, act together” adding that “the flame of social consciousness and common good must be kept alive.”

For his part, Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz said over the radio that the prelate’s call for ‘communal action’ means that it is the time for the people to take action and call for change in the country’s leadership. While admitting that Lagdameo’s call to action may be too general, Cruz said “people power” is still a viable option so long as it is peaceful and will not be bloody.

“Ang talaga pong buod niyan ay wala ng pag-asa kung hindi dapat palitan na… Tama na, sobra na, kilos na” Cruz said.

OFWs salute Lozada

Though miles away from the Philippine Senate where the hearings on the ZTE-NBN scandal is taking place, Lozada earned the admiration of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) “for daring to expose the truth behind the anomalous ZTE-NBN deal.”

“We applaud Jun Lozada for exposing the billion peso corruption in the ZTE-NBN deal and the South Rail project. He validates what theFilipino people have known all along – that the Arroyo administrationand particularly the First Family are guilty of raiding this country’scoffers for their own benefit,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson of Migrante International, an alliance of OFW groups worldwide.

The group described as “criminal” the fact that while OFWs sacrifice their lives and limbs overseas just to uplift their families out of poverty while at the same time propping up the country, “Arroyo, her family and her cohorts are plundering oureconomy. Through their billion peso kickbacks, they are literally stealing food out of our plates, denying our children access to good education and leaving the sick to die without adequate health care.”

Filipino migrants in the Middle East region agrees. John L.C. Monterona, coordinator for the Middle East chapter of Migrante said that Mr. Lozada’s statement is “believable & so damaging against a long perceived corrupt government of Arroyo.”

Migrante also called on the Senate to stop at nothing in their bid to unearth “the depths of corruption in this case and other cases”. They also urged the Senators to invite for questioning no less than the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

“Enough is enough. We enjoin all migrant workers and the Filipino people to unite to oust the corrupt fascist, puppet and anti-migrant Arroyo regime,” Regalado concluded.

Kasalan sa Pilipinas, bumaba

Bumaba ang bilang ng mga Pilipinong nagpapakasal ayon sa kalalabas lamang na ulat ng National Statistics Office (NSO). Sa datos na nakalap ng NSO mula sa mga tanggapan ng City/Municipal Civil Registrars sa buong bansa, napag-alamang sumadsad ang kasalang Pinoy ng 1.9% o mula sa bilang na 593,553 noong 2003 patungong 582,281 pagsapit ng 2004.

Ayon pa sa ahensiya, kung noong 2003 ay may 1,626 ang nagpapakasal kada-araw, bumagsak ito sa bilang na 1,591 noong 2004. Dagdag pa nito, mayrong 7 sa bawat isang libong tao ang ikinasal noong parehong taon.

Nanguna naman ang National Capital Region (NCR) sa nagtala ng pinakamaraming bilang ng nagpakasal na umabot sa 92,921 o 16.0% ng kabuuan. Sinundan naman ito ng CALABARZON na may 76,800 o 13.2% at Gitnang Luzon na nakapagtala ng 72,861 kasalan o 12.5%. Ang Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) naman samantala, ang humawak sa puwesto ng may pinaka-kaunting bilang ng ikinasal noong 2004. Umabot lamang ang bilang nito sa 2,624 o 0.5% ng kabuuang bilang sa buong bansa. Bumagsak din ang bilang ng mga kasalan sa Western Visayas, NCR, Davao at Negros Occidental sa taong 2004 kumpara sa 2003, ayon pa sa NSO.

Samantala, mas marami naman ang mga bumigkas ng “I do” sa ilalim ng kasalang sibil (276,233 or 47.4%) kaysa sa simbahan (212,236 or 36.4%).

Annulment tumaas

Habang bumaba ang bilang ng mga napapakasal sa Pilipinas, lumobo naman ang dami ng mga nagnanais ipawalambisa ang kanilang kasal sa mga Korte ayon sa Office of the Solicitor General, bagay na nagtulak sa ahensiya para humiling sa Simbahang Katoliko na makialam na sa isyu.

Ayon kay Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera, may 7,753 marriage annulment cases ang lumapag sa mga Korte noong 2007 kumpara sa 7,138 noong 2006 at 5,773 noong 2005.

Puna pa ni Devanadera, tila kinukunsinte na ang bagay na ito ng ating lipunan kaya naman nanawagan siya sa simbahan na umaksyon ukol rito.

Kung si Lingayen-Dagupan Arcbhishop Oscar Cruz naman ang tatanungin, panahon na raw para itaas ang edad na maaari nang pahintulutan ng batas ang isang tao na ikasal.

Ayon pa kay Cruz na siya ring pinuno ng CBCP National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal simula pa noong 1971, sadyang “psychologically unprepared and emotionally unstable” pa ang mga ikinakasal sa gulang na 18, edad na pinapayagan ng batas.

“Getting married at 18 could be disadvantageous since a person at such an age is still unripe or incapable of raising a family,” sabi niya.

Kaya naman sa pagpupulong ng mga lider Simbahan at mga mambabatas kamakailan, iminungkahi na ito ni Cruz sa mga lider ng Senado at Kamara.

Wala namang nabanggit ang Obispo kung anong gulang sa tingin niya magiging handa ang isang tao sa responsibilidad ng pagpapamilya ngunit sinabi niyang umaabot sa 150 marriage annulment cases ang idinudulog sa kanilang tanggapan kada taon.

Diborsyo

Ngunit ang murang edad lamang ba ang pangunahing dahilan ng hiwalayan sa bansa? Para sa grupong pang-kababaihang Gabriela, sadyang malalim at mahaba ang listahan ng mga dahilan kung bakit nauuwi sa hiwalayan ang mga mag-asawa.

Ilan lamang sa mga ito ang pambubugbog, pagmamaltrato, pag-aabandona at pangangaliwa. Kaya naman noong 2005, ang Gabriela Womens’ Partylist ay naghapag na ng panukalang batas sa mababang kapulungan ng Kongreso para payagan na ang diborsyo sa Pilipinas.

Gaya ng inaasahan sadyang maraming balakid na pinagdaanan at pinagdadaanan ang panukalang lehislasyon sa kabila ng pagtitiyak ng Gabriela na may mga kalakip na “safeguards” ang kanilang panukala para hindi naman maging “common recourse” ang diborsyo.

Paliwanang pa nila, maging mga sentro ng Katolisismo nga gaya ng Espanya at Italya ay pinapayagan ang diborsyo at ang mga bansang ito ay kabilang sa may pinakamababang “divorce rates” sa daigdig.

“Perhaps these societies have a self-regulating mechanism. And religion is one of them. So if we really are confident of our religiosity, then why should we be afraid of divorce?” sabi ni Rep. Liza Maza sa isang pahayag na nalathala sa ChannelNewsAsia.com noong 2005.

Sa ngayon, ang Pilipinas na lamang at Malta ang natitirang bansa sa daigdig na walang batas na pinapayagan ang diborsyo.

Migrante slams new POEA memo on direct hiring

An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their
families today slammed the new POEA guidelines on direct hiring as
another Arroyo scheme against the interests of OFWs.

“Mafiosi is the most apt description for these new POEA guidelines.
It exposes the Arroyo administration as a ruthless thug whose message
is that all activities in its labor exportation alley must fall under
its `protection racket’. We demand no less than the immediate
scrapping of POEA MC 04,” says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante
International Chairperson.

The POEA MC 04 was implemented last December 2007 and it covers all
foreign employers wishing to directly hire Filipino workers. It also
requires foreign employers to post a Performance Bond equivalent to 3
months salary of the OFW and a US$5,000 Repatriation Bond.

“Although the Arroyo administration is sure to justify these bonds as
insurance for the welfare of the OFW, it is clearly nothing but
`grease money’ in that foreign employers will only be allowed to
recruit if they fork out the necessary funds. The painful reality
here form OFWs is that employers usually extract their recruitment
costs from the OFWs themselves – either through their maximum
exploitation or through direct deductions from their salary,” she added.

Central Bank figures indicate remittances from overseas Filipinos last
year was around US$14 billion while state exactions or fees by OFWs to
various government agencies amount to approximately P13 billion annually.

Global actions against the POEA MC 04

“OFWs around the world are already in an uproar against this latest
exploitative scheme. We commit to intensifying the campaign to demand
its immediate scrapping. Further, given that this scheme underlines
how Arroyo will never implement policies for our genuine benefit – we
will also strengthen the campaign for her immediate ouster,” said
Bragas-Regalado

As part of its campaign to scrap POEA MC 04 and oppose other unjust
anti-migrant policies, a petition campaign and a series of protest
actions in the Philippines, Italy, Hong Kong, the Middle East and
other countries is being spearheaded by Migrante International and its
member organizations in the coming weeks. #

A Critique of the new POEA Memorandum Circular No. 04 and the Ban on Direct Hiring

Here’s a critique on the latest anti-OFW policy of the Arroyo regime prepared by our compatriots from the Asia Pacific region. Read it and learn why 2008 is never a ‘banner year’ for the OFW sector as boasted by Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye.

________________________________________________________________

A Critique of the new POEA Memorandum Circular No. 04 and the Ban on Direct Hiring

Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
30 January 2008

On December 18, 2007, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued Memorandum Circular No. 04, Series of 2007, entitled Guidelines on the Direct Hiring of Filipino Workers. The order took effect last January 15, 2008.

In a news release of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), the agency directing the POEA, dated January 19, 2008, they said that MC-04 “allows direct hiring of OFWs by foreign employers only upon approval by the Secretary of Labor and subject to screening of employers and employment contract verification by the Labor Attaché or the Philippine Embassy.”

Additionally, it clarified that “direct hiring may be allowed only for members of the diplomatic corps and of international organizations, government officials of ministerial level, and employers who are hiring on one-time or trial basis. The number of employees to be hired directly shall not exceed 5.”

MC-04 puts more severe restrictions for name-hired or direct-hired OFWs. According to DoLE, if prospective employers do not wish to comply with the guidelines, they shall only be allowed to hire OFWs through recruitment agencies “which are willing to assume responsibilities over the employees, including payment of salaries and other employment benefits.”

Furthermore, DoLE Secretary and POEA Board Chairman Artutro Brion declared that the new policy for dircet hires is aimed at “strengthening the protection mechanisms for OFWs.”

In the experience of Filipino migrant workers, when the government starts to drum up slogans of “protection”, it is time to be alert, vigilant and inquisitive. It was the same when they heaved upon OFWs the POEA Guidelines on the Deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers in 2007. It was also the same when they came out with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Omnibus Policies in 2003.

The two latter policies were eventually proven to be detrimental to the rights and wellbeing of Filipino migrants.

Memorandum Circular No. 04 deserves no less attention from migrant workers and advocates of the rights of migrants.

In studying the policy and analyzing its impacts to Filipino migrant workers, it can be seen that:

  1. MC-04 will result to loss of jobs and employment opportunities

The new guidelines provide for pre-qualification of employers wishing to direct hire a Filipino worker. It carries no distinction among the Filipino workers being hired that include current OFWs who are renewing their contracts and those with finished contracts or pre-terminated contracts and are transfering employers.

For employers who wish to direct hire a Filipino, Part II, No. 3, Item d of MC-04 said that the employer will submit an undertaking that will include the:

ii. Provision of a performance bond equivalent to the worker’s three months salary to guarantee compliance of the employer with the provisions of the employment contract

iii. Provision of a repatriation bond in the amount of US$5,000 or its peso equivalent to guarantee the following:

iii.a. actual cost incurred for the repatriation of remains and subsequent burial following death from any cause;
iii. b. actual cost incurred for repatriation from other causes such as violation/non- compliance with the contract, rules and regulation of the company and Philippine laws as well as the laws of the host country, except when violation is attributable to the worker or when worker voluntarily resigns or returns to the Philippines

This means that a prospective Hong Kong employer directly hiring a Filipino domestic worker, for example, has to shell out about US$6,320 or approximately HK$50,000 as bonds (US$1,320 for the three-month salary performance bond and US$5,000 for the repatriation bond).

For practical and financial reasons, no employer will be willing to put up this amount.

Thus, an OFW who just have to renew a contract with the same employer or has another employer already in line must still register with a recruitment agency in order for her papers to get processed. This will be a cause for massive confusion among the OFWs and the employers on top of the inconvenience that it will put in an otherwise simple process. What will happen to OFWs in Macau, for example, who are mostly directly hired? Or those in countries like Kuwait where a worker is allowed to directly seek an employer if the previous employer for at least two year permits him or her?

Even worse, this will lead to more unnecessary fees for OFWs for the recruitment agencies will surely charge them for a “service” that is not even needed in the first place.

With the additional hassle of passing through agencies, an employer who wants to direct hire a worker will be strongly discouraged to hire a Filipino. The potential loss of job opportunity is a greater tragedy for any OFW who could have been assured of an employer if not for the MC-04.

  1. MC-04 puts Filipino workers under the control of recruitment agencies and makes them vulnerable to overcharging and other malpractices of unscrupulous recruitment agencies

Since the new pre-qualification of employers for direct hires/ name hires is impossible to meet, all workers have to, by force majeure, go through recruitment agencies.

It should be noted that according to the announced procedure of the new program for dircet hires by the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong (PCG-HK), “Workers coming to Hong Kong on employment visa for the FIRST TIME are not allowed under this program.” This means that NO DIRECT HIRING will be allowed for first time applicants at all.

This will mean that recruitment agencies will have a field day with overcharging. Not yet content with the floodgate for overcharging it has opened with the POEA Guidelines on the Deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers, the government has now completely given unscrupulous recruitment agencies the free rein to exploit for maximum financial benefit the desperation of Filipino migrants to work abroad.

In an initial survey of the MFMW among its clients, overcharging has remained rampant if not even worse than before.

Out of the initial 526 respondents surveyed from the MFMW clients, about 80% paid more than P25,000 to agencies. Of this, about 25% paid P60,000 to P100,000 while 31 of the respondents said that they paid more than P100,000.

In Taiwan, Filipino workers are charged by as mush as P190,000. Even the Taiwan government has recognized the gravity of the problem of workers with recruitment agencies and, since the start of this year, has initiated moves to allow direct hiring for returning caregivers.

If a host government such as Taiwan acknowledges this problem, why is the Philippine still bent in shoving its own nationals to the mercy of recruiters?

How can the government still claim that putting OFWs in the hands of recruitment agencies is for their protection?

Following the government’s logic, it appears that they consider direct hiring as the problem of OFWs and not overcharging. They cannot be more wrong.

It is widely-acknowledged by migrant workers and institutions serving distressed migrants that malpractices of unscrupulous recruitment agencies is the source of many serious problems of Filipino migrants. Overcharging of fees in particular has put Filipino migrants in a situation where they are unable to escape from the debt trap cycle. This condition has recently even worsened with the sliding value of OFW remittances that now cannot even meet the basic needs of their families in the Philippines.

Of the 743 cases handled by the MFMW last year, 492 indicated that their employment was facilitated by recruitment agencies. Ninety-six per cent (96%) of them experienced problems in their employment.

This just shows that incidence of abuse and rights violations is not tempered by the recruitment agencies’ facilitation of employment. If the government believes that processing of employment through recruitment agencies will decrease violations of rights fo OFWs – or vice versa, direct hiring of OFW by employers themselves increases violations of OFW rights – then this government is really not in touch with what is happening to their nationals abroad.

Hostaging of OFWs by recruitment agencies shall surely increase by leaps and bounds with the implementation of MC-04.

  1. MC-04 belies the fact that recruitment agencies are not there to protect OFWs but are in fact accessories to, and even promoter of, many cases of abuse.

When did recruitment agencies ever become champions of OFW services and protection? Never!

Aside from being the source of OFW woes, recruitment agencies even aggravate the situation of abused migrant workers. There have been many cases wherein a worker whose rights have been violated is dispatched back to the Philippines by the recruitment agency instead of being provided with the needed assistance.

Distressed migrants are oftentimes left to fend for themselves. If they approach the PCG, they will be directed to the agencies. If they go to the agencies, either they are directed to the airport or asked to seek help from the government.

Migrants’ organizations and service institutions are the ones that take on the responsibility of providing assistance to distressed migrants. More often than not, it requires the determination of the distressed migrant worker and the support of migrants’ organizations and service institutions to push the government to provide the assistance that the worker needs.

Recent concrete cases of these are those of Jocelyn Dunluan in Canada, Marilou Ranario in Kuwait and of Miriam Espiritu – an OFW who died in Hong Kong and was only repatriated by the OWWA after the pressure exerted by her family and the MFMW.

  1. MC-04 negates the gains of Filipino migrants in previous struggles for their rights and wellbeing.

In 1994, the POEA issued Memorandum Circular No. 41 that made passing through recruitment agencies mandatory for OFWs. This triggered a widespread outrage among OFWs especially in Hong Kong where the campaign was most intense.

In the face of such sustained opposition, the government was forced to revoke MC-41 at least for OFWs in Hong Kong.

Department Order No. 11 issued in October 26, 2001 by then DoLE Sectretary Patricia Sto. Tomas entitled Revoking POEA Memorandum Circular No. 41, Series of 1994, stated that:

“In line with the State policy to afford adequate protection to Overseas Filipino Workers, POEA Memorandum Circular No. 41, Series of 1994, is hereby revoked.

Employers in Hong Kong shall have the option to hire Filipino household workers either through licensed recruitment agencies or through the name hire facility of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).”

Ironically, the same line that the government used to repeal MC-41 and allow direct hiring is the same line that they are now peddling to justify MC-04 and practically ban direct hiring! It is totally irrational and illogical to use a principle as basis to revoke one policy and then use the same principle to institutionalize a new one that is essentially the same as the repealed rule.

This alone makes the rationale behind MC-04 highly-suspect. The government dishes out the slogan of “protection” whenever it is convenient for them. It just shows how shallow their commitment is to actual, concrete and effective protection of OFWs.

Aside from the success of the campaign against MC-41, Filipino migrants were also victorious in the campaign against the collection of the Mandatory Insurance and Repatriation Bond (MIRB) implemented in 1991. OFWs then asserted the responsibility of the government in the repatriation of distressed migrant workers. Finally, the MIRB was scrapped in 1992.

MC-04 resurrects the horrors that policies like MC-41 and the MIRB have brought to migrant workers.

  1. MC-04 translates to the deregulation of the Philippine labor export industry and relieves the government of its responsibility for protection and services to their nationals abroad.

The deregulation of the Philippine labor export industry is a long-standing agenda of the government.

Simply put, deregulation means the erosion of the government’s regulatory powers in different aspects of the migration process and giving it to the private sector – such as recruitment agencies. Notably, the deregulation policy is focused on scheduling of fees and the provision of services and protection to OFWs. Government’s function is then limited to the “facilitation” of the migration process.

This plan was crystallized in the Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant’s Act of 1995 . Amidst the clamor against neglect, the government of then President Ramos swiftly passed the Magna Carta for OFWs that contained motherhood statements of protection and services while also slyly pushing through the deregulation agenda.

Filipino migrant workers, however, were not fooled. The campaign against deregulation was advanced. Recently, Articles 29 and 30 of the law that stipulated deregulation were repealed from the Magna Carta.

Deregulation assures the government of its steady income from OFWs – remittances and standard government charges to migrant workers – while divesting itself of the “burden” of providing services and protection such as shelter for and repatriation of its distressed nationals.

However, aside from earning from OFW themselves, the government is also set to harvest more income from the expansion of the recruitment industry.

The current Licensing and Regulation rules of the POEA for recruitment agencies stipulate that:

Section 2. Payment of filing fee. Upon receipt of an application with complete requirements, the Administration shall require payment of a non-refundable filing fee of P10,000.00 and submission of proof of payment thereof.

Section 3. Action upon the application. Within fifteen (15) calendar days from receipt of an application with complete requirements including proof of payment of the filing fee of P10,000.00, the Administration shall evaluate the pertinent documents, inspect the offices and equipment and determine whether or not to grant or deny the application. Denial of an application will result in the forfeiture of the filing fee.

Section 4. Payment of Fees and Posting of Bonds. Upon approval of the application, the applicant shall pay a license fee of P50,000.00. It shall submit an Escrow Agreement in the amount of P1,000,000.00, confirmation of escrow deposit with an accredited reputable bank and a surety bond of P100,000.00 from a bonding company acceptable to the Administration and accredited with the Insurance Commission.

Agencies with existing licenses shall, within four years from effectivity hereof, increase their Escrow Deposit to One Million Pesos .

But similar to other businesses, recruitment agencies will likely pass on whatever it paid for in taxes, bonds and other charges of the government to its “consumers” who are the migrant workers. Again, it is the OFWs who will carry the ultimate burden.

Be it from recruitment agencies, employers or the OFWs themselves, the government has the most to gain from the deregulation of the labor export industry. If without the deregulation, the government is already bloated with monetary gains, what more if the extra expenses for the already mediocre services and protection they provide are taken off their hands?

With MC-04, the government is now again on top of its deregulation drive. By making it mandatory for OFWs to pass through recruitment agencies that will suppossedly also provide OFWs the protection they needed, the government has practically concretized its deregulation plan.

In effect, this government is also violating its own laws. If the deregulation provisions of Republic Act 8042 have been repealed, then a mere circular by an adjunct agency of the executive branch should not be able to circumvent this.

Additionally, while the government divests itself of its responsibility of welfare provision and protection to OFWs, it also continuously collects fees for the “welfare fund” in the OWWA. As what have been exposed in the past, the OFW money that is in the OWWA Fund has been a rich source of corruption involving no less than whoever sits in Malacanang.

Now with the deregulation taking shape on one hand and the OWWA Omnibus Policies on the other, the OWWA Fund shall be a bottomless well of money for corruption and expenses not even remotely related to OFW welfare.

In summary, MC-04 is a policy that shall put Filipino migrant workers in a worse situation than before.

As migrant workers have put it, it is a policy that throws them to the wolves and opens them up to more exploitation, abuse and hardship. It plays right into the government’s plan of “unburdening” itself of its responsibility to its nationals abroad without grave impacts to its own gains – in fact, it stands to gain more – from the migration of Filipinos.

As institutions providing services to migrant workers and advocating for their rights, we urge the government to:

  1. Immediately scrap POEA MC-04.
  2. Scrap the POEA Guidelines on the Deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers.
  3. Institutionalize effective mechanisms that will curb, if not not finally stamp out, overcharging and other malpratices of recruitment agencies.
  4. Improve the onsite services for and protection of Filipino migrant workers. Scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies.
  5. Stop the deregulation of labor export. Institute policies and mechanisms for effective and concrete protection of Filipino migrant workers.

———— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— ——— —–
Ramon Bultron
Managing Director
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
G/F, No. 2 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Tel. (852) 2723-7536 / (852) 9477-3141
Fax. (852) 2735-4559
E-mail: rbultron@gmail. com / rbultron@netvigator .com / apmm@hknet.com
Website: www.apmigrants. org