A sleeper in the Senate

Senator Panfilo Lacson has turned-down former President Joseph Estrada’s offer to mediate between him and Senate President Manuel Villar Jr., who has been at odds with each other over the latter’s alleged impropriety in the C-5 road extension project. Estrada had hoped to reconcile the two in order to unite the political opposition and for it to rally behind one standard bearer in the 2010 elections.

Lacson’s rejection to the Estrada offer prompted Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada to react strongly, saying that this only shows that Lacson is only out to “divide” the opposition.

The younger Estrada claims that back in 2004, Lacson’s insistence to run for the Presidency, despite his poor rating on presidential surveys, has caused a major slash in votes for the opposition. He said his father also advocated for a lone opposition candidate in 2004 in the person of Fernando Poe Jr., who at that time had the strongest chances of winning.

Well, Jinggoy could be right. It is the administration anyway who is benefiting largely from Lacson’s so called “anti-corruption” crusade in the Senate.

Fil-Ams too won’t remit on October 29

An alliance of 12 organizations in five cities across the United States has signified their intention to support the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) and Migrante International’s call for overseas Filipinos not to remit their hard earned cash on October 29 to protest the Global Forum on Migration and Development’s (GFMD) agenda of legitimizing “forced migration and systematic exploitation of cheap labor.”

“We support the call of IMA for a day of no remittance because we believe the Philippine model of outmigration is not an example to be proud of,” Chito Quijano, chairperson of the US chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said.

BAYAN USA continued, thus:

“Using the Philippines as a case study (in the GFMD), massive and aggressive outmigration of over 3,000 Filipinos daily is an indicator of domestic economic failure, not development. The Philippines now has the most remittance-dependent economy in the world, and domestically is in a chronic state of economic crisis and massive poverty that will only get worse with the looming global financial crisis. At the same time overseas Filipinos around the world remain oppressed, exploited, abused in their host countries, and unprotected by the very government that pushed them out. This is anything but ‘development’ the people of the world seek. By not remitting for one day, Filipinos all over the world harness their economic power and take a stand against the sick and violative nature of the Philippine labor export program.”

The US-based Pinoys throwing of support for the “zero remittance day” call came after Asian migrants have vowed “zero remittance for the biggest violators of the rights of migrants.”

The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body in Hong Kong recently held protest rallies in the consulates of Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, the US, the office of the European Council and HK’s Central Government Office as part of the internationally-coordinated 10-day countdown against the GFMD.

“The hypocrisy of the GFMD is concretized in the policies on migrants of these governments. There is no way that the GFMD can really serve the interest of migrants if it does nothing to address the anti-migrant policies we are already suffering from,” said Dolores Balladares, AMCB spokesperson.

For Migrante International’s chapter in the Middle East, the “zero remittance day” call is “legitimate and a fair act of protest.” The group stated that OFWs who will be heeding the call on October 29 should not be accused of being “economic saboteurs” by the Arroyo government.

“The Arroyo administration and its minions are the real economic saboteur as we have seen unto the numerous cases of corruptions in the past including this ZTE broadband anomalous deal,” said John Leonard Monterona of Migrante-ME.

So, they are all in with the ZRD. Are you?

Middle East as OFW “shock absorber”

Department of Labor Export Secretary Marianito Roque proudly announced yesterday via phone-patch from Qatar that the Middle East region could be the nation’s saving grace in this time of global financial crisis.

He said OFWs whose jobs will be displaced or those whose deployment will be affected because of constricting labor markets overseas due to the crisis could find employment in the Middle East’s “booming” economy where the global downturn, according to him, is something that is just being “laughed” at.

“[The] Middle East may be our shock absorber. We can bring our workers who might be displaced [by the crisis] there. The region is booming,” he said.

But while the Arroyo government considers the desserts of Middle East as an oasis in this time of global financial dearth, they might be placing the army of displaced workers into an even more precarious situation considering that the issue of human rights is also a subject that is just being “laughed” at in that region.

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone, where Roque plans to re-deploy our skilled engineers and construction workers to jobs building its four “mega cities”; two or more are being executed per week according to a recent report by Amnesty International. Of those executed in Saudi Arabia, almost half are foreign nationals from poor countries such as the Philippines.

“We had hoped that the much-heralded human rights initiatives introduced by the Saudi Arabian authorities in recent years would bring an end to – or, at least, a significant reduction in the use of the death penalty. Yet, in fact, we have witnessed a sharp rise in executions of prisoners sentenced in largely secret and unfair trials, making the need for a moratorium more urgent than ever,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

The group noted that in 2007, 158 people were executed in the KSA compared to the previous year’s 39. But what alarmed AI more is the fact that the executions in the Kingdom is carried out “disproportionately and discriminately on national or ethnic grounds against poor foreign workers and Saudi Arabian nationals who lack the family or other connections that, fortunately, help others to be saved from execution.”

The AI report continued:

Execution is usually by beheading, generally in public. In some cases, crucifixion follows execution. Saudi Arabia is one of the few states in the world with a high rate of executions for women. It is also one of the few remaining countries to execute people for crimes they committed when they were still under the age of 18, in breach of international law.

So one can only imagine the dread these OFWs had upon hearing Roque’s brillant idea of shipping them to the Middle East, especially since his announcement came only days after another OFW had his head chopped off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (The latest OFW beheaded in the KSA was Jennifer Biduya aka Venancio Ladion, the 7th under the Arroyo presidency according to Migrante International).

But what is even more blood curdling is the fact that the Arroyo government plans to dump them in a region where incompetent and criminally negligent Philippine embassy and consular officials abound.

Take the case of Jeddah Consul General Ezzedin Tago (I’m still at a loss why up until now he’s still not given the boot for gross negligence), who was caught on-air that they only provided Biduya a “translator” during the critical period of his trial and that he was only given a lawyer when the case was already at the appelate stage.

I remember hearing Tago’s interview with Vice President Noli de Castro last Saturday in his weekly morning radio program. Even de Castro, who currently advises Arroyo on OFW affairs, was obviously dumbfounded upon learning of Tago’s non-action in the Biduya case that he almost ran out of excuses and rehashed rhetoric to defend the government’s so-called record of “protecting” OFWs.

Of course Tago’s admission is enough for us to believe that de Castro, Tago and the Department of Foreign Affairs were lying when they said they did all they can to save Biduya from execution.

So if the Arroyo government is really determined at re-deploying our displaced OFWs to the Middle East despite its deplorable human rights record  – which is further aggravated by the fact that the place is teeming with incompetent Philippine embassy officials – I only have one message for them:

I hope you have enough supply of body bags.

An OFW’s appeal from Saudi death row


“Life is the most important and sacred human right… The human blood is impermissible and nobody dares shed it… He who endangers the life of one person is considered to be endangering all mankind…”


Dear Sir / Ma’am

A greetings from Dammam Central Jail, Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…

I, Mr. Rodelio Don2 Celestino Lanuza, 34, was incarcerated since
August year 2000 here in Dammam Central Jail. I was sentenced to die
in Public Execution by Beheading but was delayed and have to wait the
Aggrieved Children to reach their majority Age before the
implementation of the said sentenced…

I have the word of truth, my conscience is clean and God knows that im
just a victim of circumstances. Anyone will do the same what i have
done in case of any unexpected evil attack…

I have my wife and kids and families waiting for me…

For sure that you’re aware also of my unceasing solicitation because
of our present predicaments. My wife is working in Government Hospital
here in Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia but her meager salary is not
enough to sustain our daily needs…

Our Kids are getting grown and we are facing more difficulty that is
so hard for a single parents working with a meager salary to cope our
needs…

Im begging your kindness some financial assistance for our Kids
Welfare and their Education…

Im on Deathrow and have to face the 36″ Sword to decapitate my head
and i keep praying harder to God asking Him to give me a new lease of
life for my family who are waiting for me…

Im not a murderer. I came here in KSA to work hard for our living but
destiny put me here. Please help us…

Your kind help and utmost attention regarding this matter would really
be highly appreciated…

May Almighty God continue to bless you and your family…

More power po to you…

Brotherly yours
Don2 Lanuza
+966551028601
begging your help… Please help us..

Zero Remittance day on October 29!

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) has declared October 29 as “Zero Remittance Day” in protest of the Global Forum on Migration and Development’s (GFMD) exploitative agenda of exacting more profits out of migrant workers.

“The Zero Remittance Day principally takes the GFMD to task for being an elitist, anti-migrant forum aimed to perpetuate the greater commodification of migrants worldwide. All over the globe, the growing migrants’ movement views the GFMD as a sham assembly with the sole objective to consolidate and legitimize attacks on migrants’ rights and welfare,” the IMA said.

The IMA will challenge the GFMD and expose it’s exploitative character in its own assembly on October 28-29 in Manila.

The IMA’s call:

Uphold and protect our rights!

Stop forced migration!

Ensure jobs back home!

End poverty!

Nothing less.

————————————–

OFWs urged not to remit on October 29

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:14:00 10/19/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Overseas Filipino workers’ groups will join an international “Zero Remittance Day” on October 29, according to a coalition of migrant labor groups.

The International Migrants Alliance, an alliance composed of 112 grassroots migrants’ organizations worldwide, called on migrant workers on Sunday to withhold sending money home for a day to express their opposition to the 2nd Global Forum on Migration that the Philippines has been set to host from Oct. 28 to Oct. 29.

Eni Lestari, IMA’s chair who is now in Manila, said in a statement that member-groups from sending and destination countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, US, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Taiwan, and Australia committed to participate in the activity.

“The Zero Remittance Day principally takes the GFMD to task for being an elitist, anti-migrant forum aimed to perpetuate the greater commodification of migrants worldwide. All over the globe, the growing migrants’ movement views the GFMD as a sham assembly with the sole objective to consolidate and legitimize attacks on migrants’ rights and welfare,” explained Lestari, an Indonesian migrant workers organizer.

Lestari said the GFMD “cannot be expected to become a significant tool to its supposed stakeholders, migrant workers themselves, when it fails to tackle the fundamental problems and issues concerning the unprecedented growing number of migrants.”

IMA will be conducting in Manila its own gathering, the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees, also on Oct. 28-29, to call for the end of labor export policies, for the creation of jobs at home, and for intensified defense of migrants’ rights.

Tan’na naman!

Nakakapanggalaiti.

Habang ang karaniwang mamamayan ay hindi na magkanda-kuba sa kababayad ng buwis tulad ng Value Added Tax (VAT) maging sa mga produktong petrolyo; si Lucio Tan, may ari ng Philippine Airlines, Philippine National Bank, Fortune Tobacco Corp. at ikalawa sa pinaka-mayamang tao sa buong Pilipinas (US$1.5 billion na ngayon ang kaniyang net worth) ay biniyayaan pa ng administrasyong Arroyo ng P1 bilyong tax refund.

Lalo’t higit panahon ngayon ng krisis, isang napakalakas na sampal sa mukha ng naghihirap na si Juan dela Cruz ang kapritsong ito na iginawad kay Tan.

Lubhang napakahirap paniwalaang wala itong bahid pulitika, gayong hindi naman sikreto na si Tan ay isa sa may pinakamaraming perang binuhos sa kampaniya ni Gloria sa pagkapangulo noong 2004.

Department of Labor Export

The Arroyo government, by way of a press release and after weeks of deafening silence, has finally disclosed their contingency plan to assist the thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that will surely be displaced by the global economic crisis.

In a statement posted on its website yesterday, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Marianito Roque said its “action agenda” consists of “two sets of interventions such as those that shall be provided onsite and those that shall be extended to OFWs upon their return to the country.”

As expected, the government, Roque says would assist OFWs “find employment in other overseas destinations;” and for those who would opt to stay here in the country, they would give them “livelihood or business enterprises” instead.

I, however, find the Department of Labor’s “action agenda” quite disturbing. Roque’s official pronouncements confirms the unmistakable fact that the Arroyo administration, despite its boasts of “sound economic fundamentals,” is utterly incapable of providing long term and viable jobs for the mass of OFWs who are about to be displaced.

Even their promises of livelihood options brings to memory how the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) “Groceria Project” failed miserably and how it was just used by Ms. Arroyo as a campaign tool during the 2004 elections.

Still, their plan to re-export these workers to other “overseas destinations” speaks volumes about the Arroyo regime’s thrust with regard to jobs generation. It exposes how Ms. Gloria Arroyo was lying through her teeth, again, when she declared during the media launch of the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Malacanang two weeks ago that “our policy is not to export labor.”

On October 27-30, the Arroyo regime shall host the 2nd GFMD minus the credibility and moral ascendancy to even pretend that our government “cares” for the well being of our bagong bayanis. One need only look at the inhumane deportation of Filipinos from Sabah, Malaysia; the recent beheading of OFW Venancio Ladion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the death sentence by firing squad to OFW Nemencia Armia in Taiwan; the anxiety befalling our OFWs on death row and the growing number of OFWs trickling back to the country because of the crisis; as proof how bankrupt the Arroyo government and the GFMD’s line that migration leads to development.