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COMELEC delists Migrante, OFWs enraged

Migrante: Bayani sa Ekonomiya, Bayani sa Politika

Migrante: Bayani sa Ekonomiya, Bayani sa Politika

Overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) from all over the world are fuming mad over the recent Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Resolution delisting Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP) from the list of qualified Party-List groups for the May 10, 2010 elections.

In Resolution No. 8679, promulgated by the COMELEC en banc on October 13, 2009; the poll body ruled to delete Migrante and 25 other groups from the list of registered party-lists for allegedly failing to “participate in the last two (2) preceding elections OR fails to obtain at least two percentum (2%) of the votes cast under the party-list system in the two (2) preceding elections.”

Immediately, Migrante issued a statement condemning the COMELEC ruling saying that such a move from the poll body was “anomalous” and “unacceptable.”

“The Comelec decision is highly irregular since it veered away from the process where partylist are only removed from the list after due notice and hearing as provided by law. This time, however, the Comelec issued a resolution to remove 26 partylist groups first then asked concerned parties to just submit written opposition if there are any. This is unacceptable,” Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International exclaimed.

Aside from the lack of due process, Migrante also said the COMELEC committed a blunder when it deleted 5 of the 26 Party-lists just because they failed to get 2 percent in one election and was not able to participate in another election. The 5 groups were
Migrante, Abanse Pinay, AK, PCDO-ACTO and PGBI.

“This clearly negates the qualifier in the provision wherein the instance of failure should be committed twice and in two preceding elections,” Martinez asserted.

The Migrante leader likewise denounced the COMELEC’s “desperation” as it is purposely trimming down the list of participating party-list groups in 2010. He noted that if the official ballot for the 2010 elections would be “ridiculously long” because of the number of party-lists wanting to participate, the COMELEC has no one to blame but itself.

“It was the sole agency that approved the registration of those partylist who cannot even be considered as part of the marginalized sector as defined in the Constitution. The Comelec’s desperate scheme to reduce the numbers of participating partylist groups at present should not be done at the expense of the true and legitimate representatives of marginalized sectors,” Martinez protested.

He lamented that only ones who’ll stand to benefit from this “anomalous” ruling are “Malacanang backed party-list groups” such as Maria Lourdes Arroyo’s (sister of the First Gentleman) Ang Kasangga Partylist and Jovito Palparan’s (notoriously known as The Butcher) Bantay Partylist.

“Unfortunately, it is only the Malacanang backed partylist groups who are going to benefit from this Comelec decision while legitimate representatives of the marginalized sectors of our society are getting denied of their right to due proccess,” he said.

Martinez said his group is preparing to file a formal protest before the COMELEC. Protest actions from Migrante chapters and its allied Filipino organizations all over the world are also in the drawing board to express the OFW sector’s collective sentiment towards the unjust COMELEC ruling.

Black Friday Protests

Elsewhere around the world, OFWs are up in arms.

Filipinos in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has declared to hold Black Friday Protests in the Kingdom to protest the COMELEC ruling.

Migrante2“Delisting MSP means delisting OFWs in the political arena,” exclaimed Migrante Jeddah Chapter Chairperson Bob Fajarito as he called on all his compatriots in the Kingdom to wear black every Friday as a sign of their united disappointment. He also encouraged OFWs to bombard the COMELEC with protest letters via email.

For his part, Migrante Saudi Arabia Chairperson A.M. Ociones said COMELEC Resolution No. 8679 “marginalized the migrants even more.”

“Definitely, this is contrary to the real intent of the Partylist Law of encouraging the participation of the un-represented and marginalized sectors of society in the democratic process of nation-building,” he said.

Ociones said the Migrante’s deletion would be a big blow to OFWs all over the world, most especially in the Middle East which has been touted to be the “epicenter of migrants’ human rights violations.”

Said Ociones: “With the proven track record of Migrante in fiscalizing the government to act in favor, and respond to the most pressing needs of OFWs, getting MSP in the next Congress as Party-list representative is the greatest hope the Filipino migrants can ever achieve.”

Meanwhile, Marco Luciano of Migrante Canada asserted that the COMELEC’s en banc decision “is tantamount to suppressing the rights of a party that seeks nothing but to represent in the House of Representatives the millions of Filipino migrants all over the world.”

“Not only is it a violation of due process leading to the disenfranchisement of a group that has truly served the interests of Filipino migrant workers and their families the world over. It opens the door for the Malacanang-backed party-list groups to dominate the coming party-list election, thus serving the ruling administration’s objective of prolonging its rule,” he said.

COMELEC robbed OFWs twice

Filipinos from down under also joined like minded kababayans all over the globe in deploring the COMELEC’s move.  Dennis Maga, National Coordinator for Migrante New Zealand said that overseas Filipinos were robbed of their votes by the COMELEC twice: “first, through its failure to ensure the registration of more OFW voters; and now, by unjustly disqualifying Migrante from the 2010 party-list elections.”

“It is the height of injustice that the Commission on Elections, in a recent en banc resolution, qualified the Malacañang-supported fake party-list groups like the one represented by the notorious Jovito Palparan to gain a seat in Congress, while disqualifying the leading and genuine advocate of the welfare of the marginalized overseas Filipino workers.”

Photos coutesy of Yboy Macatiag

More of Kriselda

Here’s Kriselda after sanding and yet another coat of paint. Still not finished though.

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Kriselda Volks

I recently bought a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle. Named her Kriselda Volks, hehe.

Got it at a very reasonable price, considering that she runs and has a pretty ok body. Kriselda’s still in the shop right now to have her body fixed and painted.

Wish me luck!

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Sick not with flu

std_20090601_swineflu2_PH_reutersI’m getting sick and tired of seeing Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque everyday on national TV while informing the public of new cases of H1N1 virus in the country.

Don’t get me wrong, just like everybody else I want to know the latest news on the virus. But what sickens me is my suspicion that the Secretary might be doing this not in service to the public, but in aid of elections.

Duque’s political ambition is not unknown to many. Word has it that the Health Secretary might gun for a Senate seat in the next year’s elections.

And by all indications, he’s doing a good job of keeping his face and name plastered and spoken on TV repeatedly. Indeed the virus scare is a perfect opportunity for him and his handlers to ensure name recall.

Not only because the H1N1 is something that all of us is interested in, it is also a perfect running story for Duque. But as he goes on with his daily ritual of “updating” the public on the virus; he only succeeds in sowing fear and panic among the populace.

Why? Because in almost all of his daily press conferences and media interviews all he and his underlings dish out are statistics that seem to shoot up every minute. I remember hearing the Secretary over the radio while preparing leaving for work one morning that confirmed H1N1 cases in the country number only to about a hundred plus. But when I again saw and heard him talking in a noon time news cast; I was stunned to learn that confirmed cases rose to almost two fold.

I read somewhere that the DOH is doing all of this in the name of “transparency.” But could anyone enlighten me why the hell their figures are screamingly different from that of the World Health Organization?

As of this writing, confirmed cases in the country now reached 473. But according to the WHO website, the Philippines have only a total of 344 and 33 newly confirmed cases. One can only speculate why the hell these two agencies hold differing statistics.

But the mere disparity in the statistics of our leading local health agency and that of its global counterpart is a serious cause for alarm for all of us who have been subjected to Duque’s daily fare of scaring the public with his swelling numbers. This is a just cause to investigate how the DOH is currently handling the pandemic.

Is the DOH really prepared and on top of the situation? Or is it only capable of keeping tabs of how many Filipinos are getting sick of the dreaded flu virus and terrorizing the public everyday?

Sowing fear and panic is a clear form of terrorism according to Gloria’s Anti-Terror Law.

I admit, I am scared. But not so much because the flu’s coming to get me sometime soon (I am armed with a hand sanitizer hehe). But because I think the DOH is inordinately ill prepared should the pandemic reach catastrophic proportions in the country.

Note that the Philippine medical system is currently in tatters because almost all of our health workers are scrambling to leave the country for jobs abroad. Who’s going to nurse us should the DOH’s prediction that 25% of the country is in danger of being affected by the novel flu strain?

Not Duque, I suppose. He doesn’t even bother to inform us of how many of those in his rising statistics have been cleared of the flu. Makes me even more convinced that he’s only in it to advance his political ambitions.

But then again, I hope I’m wrong.

(Photo courtesy: Reuters)

Disaster has a passport Mr. Bean, err, Mr. Tsao

chip-tsao as Mr Bean

Yup, Hong Kong based columnist Chip Tsao sure looks like our favorite funny man Mr. Bean. But unlike Mr. Bean, who could make us laugh to tears easily without even muttering a word, Mr. Tsao is not at all funny. And, this self-confessed “patriotic Chinese man” has learned of it the hard way.

Recently, Tsao wrote the article “The War At Home” that appeared on Hong Kong Magazine and on its online site March 27, 2009. In his piece, Tsao ranted about Manila’s claim over the disputed Spratly group of Islands. This, according to him is “beyond reproach.”

“The reason: there are more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as $3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong. As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter,” wrote Mr. Tsao.

Of course, Mr. Tsao’s unsavory remarks made a whole nation’s blood boil. Filipinos from all walks of life and from all over the planet, lambasted the writer for this out and out “racial slur.”

Outrage

Reactions from angry Filipinos flew in from different directions. This ranged from demanding an unconditional public apology from Mr. Tsao and from the publishers of the magazine; to the filing of a stern diplomatic protest by the Philippine government; to a nationwide boycott of all things Hong Kong. Migrante International, the largest OFW alliance worldwide, even wanted Chip Tsao declared “persona non grata” in the Philippines.

Migrante couldn’t be more correct when they said:

“The article written by Mr. Chip Tsao smacks of unqualified racial bias that vilifies the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in Hong Kong and puts them in danger of persecution and harm. We demand no less than a public apology from Mr. Tsao and from the Hong Kong Magazine for allowing this bigoted garbage to appear on its pages.”

The Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration (BI) responded to Migrante’s call. In a directive issued Monday, BI chief Marcelino Libanan ordered that columnist Chip Tsao be barred from entering the Philippines pending a public apology on his part for the national insult. Libanan even volunteered to one day give Tsao a personal tour of the Philippines if only to drive home the point that ours is not a “nation of servants” but a “nation of professionals.”

Of late, and after stirring up a hornet’s nest of outrage, Tsao’s publisher and editors have apologized “unreservedly” for any offense caused by the article. But Tsao has yet to issue his.

In a recent AFP report, Tsao even hinted that “people in Hong Kong,” Filipinos included, who were riled at his writing, couldn’t take a joke. He explained that he has just “taken a dramatic role to express the sentiment of Chinese nationalism.”

“It’s my usual tongue-in-the-cheek, satirical writing style. People in Hong Kong are not used to this style, but native English speakers would have no problem understanding my message,” he said.

State of denial

From his own words, we can deduce that Tsao is in a state of denial and that he’s not about to say sorry in spite of the international indignation that he has caused. Tsao is still bent on passing off his racist article as a “satire,” sorely missing the point that no one’s even laughing.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE HK), a group of Filipino workers in the former British colony, through its Chairperson Dolores Balladares, a domestic worker; gave Tsao, “a best selling author and columnist,” a dressing down and a lecture on what really constitutes a political satire.

“Political satire as a journalistic device is used to challenge or even make fun of authorities and the status quo. Mr. Tsao did not do so in his latest column. Instead, he further beats up the already low and downtrodden.

Behind such lines that Mr. Tsao may likely but wrongly justify as satire, there lies the precarious reinforcement of the master-slave treatment of domestic workers. Mr. Tsao makes it appear that it is alright to denigrate us and take potshots at us.

In his failed attempt to be witty, Mr. Tsao regrettably trivialized the very serious domestic workers’ situation in Hong Kong society. Such an article to appear publicly is very dangerous for it projects that it can be socially-permissible to treat domestic workers as no more than slaves ready to be lectured, ordered around, easily threatened with termination, and made to jump at every whim of employers.”

Disaster has a passport

Chip Tsao has to realize the lesson that – as a by-line in Mr. Bean’s recent movie goes – ‘Disaster has a passport.’ This lesson was learned quite bitterly by Filipino journalist and self-confessed “diva” Malu Fernandez after she collectively derided the army of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) when she said in an article that she would rather slash her wrist than be trapped in a plane loaded with OFWs; and the US TV giant ABC who aired a ‘Desperate Housewives’ episode in 2007 which belittled the Philippines’ medical profession.

As a nation that is buttressed by the hard-earned money sent home by almost 10 million overseas Filipino workers scattered in 192 countries all over the world, we are a country that is easily fumed each time somebody attacks the dignity of even a single OFW.

Almost all of us have a parent, a better half, a sibling or a friend overseas, courtesy of the past and present regime’s three decade old Labor Export Program that is why we automatically relate to racial slurs as that of our own.

But while Chip Tsao deserved the disaster he’s in right now and that it is but just to rile at every Chip, Malu and Susan Meyers (character in Desperate Housewives played by actress Teri Hatcher) out there, we should also hold the Philippine government accountable for exporting three thousand Filipinos on a daily basis to dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs overseas in exchange for their billions of dollars of remittances.

If only we Filipinos could channel our impressive demonstration of collective outrage at the successive racial slurs we have encountered, into militant resolve and action to radically change the socio-political landscape in the country so no one would be forced to be an OFW and run the risk of being denigrated, humiliated and treated as second class citizens abroad; I’m sure Mr. Chip Tsao wouldn’t be enjoying the international attention he’s in right now because “Luisa,” his Filipina maid, wouldn’t be working for him in Hong Kong, cleaning his toilet and windows for “16 hours a day.”

Luisa would be in Hong Kong as a tourist and not as a maid. Otherwise, she’d be with her family here at home, happily cleaning her own toilet and windows while contributing, in her own little way, to the betterment and progress of her country.

This is the kind of society we Filipinos should rage about and work hard for.

Wrong focus

The Department of Education (DepEd) has announced Monday that they are set to tap 12,300 out of school youths (OSYs) and train them to produce health soaps for Central Luzon’s 1.3 million public school students.

“We are counting on some 12,300 OSYs to produce herb-based health soaps which we intend to distribute to schoolchildren suffering from various skin ailments in Tarlac and Pampanga,” Edcation Secretary Jesli Lapus said.

Lapus furthered that the “cash-in-soap” program was in line with Gloria Arroyo’s Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP)  in the face of the worsening global economic crisis. At the same time, Lapus says that while the program would provide alternative livelihood to the idle youths, it will also addresses the problem of head lice and skin diseases among public school children.

The education chief lauded the program because of its “multiplier effect” on Central Luzon’s local economy because of the jobs and additional income (P4,000 for making 2,000 soaps in a 20 day period)  it will generate; but he seems to be missing the point that the DepEd should be working doubly hard to provide these idle youths education and not soap making skills.

Lapus should leave jobs generation to the Labor Department and focus on addressing the issue of why we have thousands of OSYs in the first place.

The Philippine Government has once again revealed its misplaced and elitist mindset when it comes to the OSY issue. After their idea of employing the army of idle youths to collect garbage and sweep city streets, now they want them to make soap.

They belong in school for petesake.

The Government's Project OYSTER (Out-of-School Youth Towards Economic Recovery)

The Government's Project OYSTER (Out-of-School Youth Towards Economic Recovery)