Save OFW Jakatia Pawa!

Save doomed OFW, workers group appeals
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:18:00 01/23/2010

A MIDDLE EAST-BASED FILIPINO MIGRANT workers’ group has asked Malacañang to make good its promise of saving the life of domestic helper Jakatia Pawa, who was sentenced to death by a Kuwaiti court in 2007 for killing the daughter of her employer.

The Kuwaiti Supreme Court recently affirmed the death verdict on the 31-year-old Zamboanga del Norte native, now detained at the Kuwait Central Jail, according to Migrante-Middle East.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, appealed anew to the Palace to “exhaust all means to ensure the commutation of (Pawa’s) death sentence,” which was upheld earlier by Kuwait’s Court of Appeals.

In an e-mail, Monterona told the Inquirer they were “preparing for the same battle waged by various OFW groups all over the world to save (Filipina maid) Flor Contemplacion,” who was sentenced to hang by Singaporean authorities in 1995 for the murder of her young ward and a fellow domestic helper.

“We’re watching closely the case of Jakatia Pawa. Mrs. Arroyo once said she would intervene on her case, as well as those of 40 other OFWs on death row. We’ll see if the President will be true to her word or break her promise,” Monterona said.



BAYAN-USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino American organizations and chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan Philippines), is calling on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Department of National Defense, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to immediately surface Melissa Roxas, an American citizen of Filipino descent who was abducted in the Philippines on May 19. BAYAN-USA also urgently calls on our representatives in the U.S. Congress to act quickly to ensure the safe return of Roxas.

Roxas is a well-known Filipino American activist, who served as the first Regional Coordinator of BAYAN-USA in Los Angeles and co-founded the cultural organization Habi Arts. Roxas is an active human rights advocate and was instrumental in organizing a BAYAN-USA contingent that participated in the International Solidarity Mission in 2005, an international fact finding mission that called attention to the escalating human rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas went to the Philippines in 2007 to pursue human rights work, where she became a full time volunteer health worker. She was abducted on May 19, 2009 at approximately 1:30 PM in Sitio Bagong Sikat, Barangay kapanikian, La Paz, Tarlac. She was with two other volunteers, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc.

Based on reports filed by the human rights group KARAPATAN and the La Paz police, Roxas and her companions were taken by at least 8 armed, hooded men riding two motorcycles and a Besta van without any license plate numbers. There has been no word on the whereabouts and condition of Roxas and her companions since the abduction. The circumstances of Roxas’ abduction typify the abductions and enforced disappearances of over 200 innocent civilians, allegedly last seen in the hands of suspected state security forces.

“We are deeply concerned about the abduction of Melissa Roxas, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. We call for Melissa and her companions to be immediately surfaced unharmed,” said BAYAN-USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro. “We condemn the ongoing abductions and human rights violations that have been rampant under the Arroyo administration and victimized thousands of innocent people.”

The search for Roxas and her companions will be spearheaded by the human rights organization KARAPATAN, while BAYAN-USA, its member organizations, and allies will undertake an international campaign to exert pressure on the Arroyo government to surface Roxas. “We appeal to our elected officials, members of the Filipino American community, and all people in the U.S. who believe in human rights to take action to surface Melissa and her companions. Since we were founded in 2005, BAYAN-USA has campaigned ceaselessly for an end to the human rights violations in the Philippines, and we will not stop until we obtain justice for Melissa and all victims of human rights violations under Arroyo.”

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

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
begging your help… Please help us..

Was he focusin’ on the ‘person’ on this one?

Speaking of poverty, today being Blog Action Day and all, I am reposting here Migrante International’s press release on the yesterday’s beheading of another OFW in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The 8-10 million OFWs after all is one of the most palpable indications how extreme poverty is in the Philippines.

On October 27-30, the Philippine government will host the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development. It is expected to be attended by 192 states worldwide and even the UN head honcho is expected to grace the event.

GFMD 08 Chairman and Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos says the forum intends to “shine the spotlight on the human face of migration” and that it would “not focus on the money. (But) on the person itself.”

So where on Earth was his and his agency’s focus when OFW Jenifer Bidoya was beheaded in KSA yesterday? Ah, he was busy answering questions in this interview.

Migrante says it right, he’s busy promoting the GFMD. He’s busy selling OFWs.


OFW beheaded while Conejos promotes global forum on migration

As Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Esteban Conejos is boasting of the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that the upcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) will bring about, a Filipino was executed in Jeddah yesterday.

“At approximately 10 a.m. yesterday (Saudi time), OFW Jenifer Bidoya a.k.a. Venancio Ladion was executed in Jeddah, one and a half hour before Conejos was shamelessly bragging the benefits of hosting the GFMD to OFWs welfare protection”, according to Gina Esguerra, coordinator of Migrants Assistance Committee of Migrante.

Bidoya was convicted of the crime of murder of a Saudi national and sentenced to death by the Jeddah Sharia’h Grand Court in April 2007.

“Conejos said the GFMD will focus on the ‘person’ itself, the migrants. But how will he explain the death of Ladion?, Esguerra said.

Esguerra added that the case is just a part of the whole picture of migration’s ill effects.

Migrante’s Migrants Assistance Committee receives almost a thousand of OFW cases annually ranging from illegal recruitment, human trafficking, non payment of wages, physical, mental and sexual abuse, mysterious deaths and OFWs in death row.

Esguerra said her committee is currently handling other cases of Filipinos in death row like the case of brothers Edison and Rolando Gonzales in Jeddah and Cecilia Alcaraz in Taiwan.

“Families of these OFWs fear for the lives of their loved ones. They handed the cases to Migrante because the government is doing nothing to save them” she added.

Esguerra slammed Conejos for saying that GFMD will focus on migrants and insisted the forum will focus really on the commodification of Filipinos as cheap and docile labor.

“Aggressive marketing of Philippine government made it the biggest recruitment agency not only in the country but in the whole world. This only shows how desperate and how dependent our government is in overseas employment and remittances. They sell us in the name of so called ‘development’ at our expense”, Esguerra added.

Esguerra also said Conejos should not take pride in hosting the GFMD because it is tantamount to hosting representatives of host countries who are conducting crackdown on undocumented Filipino migrants, inhumane deportation of refugees, torturing them to forcibly admit crimes they did not commit, and inflicting various human rights violations on OFWs.

“GFMD is actually a gathering of anti-migrant governments and a market place for modern-day slave trading. That’s why the main stake holders, the migrants themselves, are not invited in the forum to voice out their real situation” she said.

Esguerra also chided Conejos for saying that migration of Filipinos is a supply and demand thing.

“It’s not a supply and demand thing. Filipinos are going abroad not out of free will but were forced to be separated from their loved ones due to their family’s need to survive,” said Esguerra.

Migrante is worried that the news on the beheading of Jenifer Bidoya will only exacerbate the depression already being suffered by the families of Edison and Rolando Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla whose death sentence where affirmed by the Tameez Appellate Court in Jeddah just a month ago.

“We are afraid that the longer this government promotes GFMD, the more OFWs will come home in coffins. We demand that the millions of pesos that the government plans to spend in this international forum be re-channel instead to saving lives of OFWs and for the immediate relief of their suffering families,” Esguerra concluded.## #

Fil-Am group refutes AFP’s “child warrior” charge to HRW

Ellorin discusses RP's deteriorating children's situation to HRW

Ellorin with HRW

Filipino-American rights group, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), met recently with leaders of the NY-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to refute the Philippine government’s claim that the New Peoples Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are recruiting children to join their ranks.

NYCHRP’s Berna Ellorin and Garry Labao met with Elaine Pearson of HRW’s Asia Division and Bede Sheppard of HRW’s Children’s Rights Division to clarify that such claims are “false and deceiving.”

“The child soldier accusation is actually a tactic of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Arroyo administration to escape its own accountability over the killings of Filipino children,” Labao told the HRW, adding that the so-called “child-guerillas” being peddled as “evidence” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are actually child victims caught in the crossfire in the AFP’s military campaign against the rebel movements.

“When a child is killed by the AFP, oftentimes they plant weapons by their bodies and report that the victim was a combatant,” Labao and Ellorin clarified.

The two cited the case of 9-year old Grecil Buya, whose head was blown off last year by AFP fire. She was killed in her own backyard in Compostela Valley. The military claimed that Buya was wielding an M-16 rifle when they shot her.

“Grecil’s story is not uncommon. The Arroyo administration, after being exposed and condemned for its rampant disregard for human rights all over the world, is so desperate to redeem its image that it will stoop this low, using the youngest civilian victims of armed conflict to twist the facts and brand the rebel movement instead, when the rights of Filipino children are most compromised and threatened by her state rule and her military,” said Labao.

There are over 800 cases of huma rights violations involving 215,233 child victims documented in the Philippines, Labao and Ellorin Labao and Ellorin told the HRW, citing data compiled by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns. These include extrajudicial killings, frustrated killings, enforced disappearances, illegal search and seizure, rape, sexual harrassment, illegal arrest and detainment, and physical assault. In most cases, AFP elements were identified as the perpetrators.

Earlier this month, US President George Bush signed into law the Child Soldiers Accountability Act that makes it a federal crime to recruit knowingly or to use soldiers under the age of 15, and permits the US to prosecute any individual on US soil for the offense, even if the children were recruited or served as soldiers outside the United States.

“Arroyo is pouncing on this new US law, loudly drumbeating her armed opposition as child soldier recruiters, to advance her agenda and divert the public’s attention from the crimes of her own military,” NYCHRP concluded

HRW concluded the meeting by thanking Labao and Ellorin and expressing plans to stay in touch for another probe trip to the Philippines early next year. NYCHRP last communicated with Pearson when HRW agreed to meet with Desaparacidos national spokesperson Edita Burgos earlier this year.

The day JPEPA was ratified is a day that will live in infamy

While most of us were sleeping, the Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) was ratified by the Philippine Senate last night. Sixteen Senators voted for its ratification. Only four voted against it.

Click here to know who are the modern day Makapilis (Filipino traitors during the Japanese occupation) in the Senate.

Borrowing a turn of phrase from the famous speech of United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941; the day the Philippine Senate voted in favor of JPEPA would be remembered as “a date which will live in infamy.”

As I have said in my post last year, the JPEPA will set a dangerous precedent. For one, JPEPA in essence proved that imperialist nations such as Japan can still have it their way despite the successive collapses in World Trade Organization (WTO) talks. They can still continue with their unbridled plunder of poor nations’ economies by entering into bilateral trade pacts like the JPEPA.

So expect several JPEPA-like deals forged in the future especially in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis.

Second, JPEPA is the first trade agreement in the world that involved people (our nurses) where they are treated as mere commodities for export, as bargaining chips.

JPEPA proves that Gloria Arroyo is lying when she declared recently that it is not an official policy of her regime to export Filipinos. She even wants Filipino migrants called ‘expatriates’ instead of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), when in fact they are “modern day slaves.” JPEPA basically brought the world back to the age of slave-trade.

It must be noted that negotiations on the JPEPA hit several snags in 2005 mainly because the Philippines sternly opposed Japan’s demand to impose a quota on the deployment of Filipino nurses.

In September that year, then Labor Undersecretary Danilo Cruz was quoted in newspapers confirming the deadlock. “We are objecting to certain provisions that they want, specifically on the quota. The Japanese government wants to provide us with a yearly quota. We are objecting to that provision. We want [the number of deployment] to be demand-driven,” he said in an interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Veronica Uy.

Cruz then went on to add: “We are pursuing every market because we see there is a need… We have a lot of nursing schools. If we don’t seek markets for them, where will they go after they graduate?”

In the end, the Philippines insistence for a non-quota provision in JPEPA’s Movement of Natural Persons prevailed. Philippines can now export as many nurses as it can to Japan, even if the collapse of our health care system is just around the corner. The deadlock and Philippines dogged insistence happened at a time when doctors associations were crying “medical apocalypse.”

Who knows, maybe what made Japan agree to the Philippine government’s demand is the provision that they’d be allowed to dump hospital wastes to our shores.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and fellow opposition Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, and Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal should be lauded for standing-up against this “one sided, anti-Filipino treaty.”

Saludo ako sa inyo! Kampai!

Expatriates or overseas slaves?


Arroyo accused of having ‘delusions’ about OFWs

Expatriates or overseas slaves?

This was the question posed by migrant advocacy group Migrante International to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after the latter said that overseas Filipino workers (OFW) should now be called expatriates.

Mrs Arroyo on Tuesday said she took her cue from a well-known and well-paid Filipino working overseas who claimed that more Filipinos are now working as skilled professionals abroad and receive higher pay, thus they should be called expats instead of OFWs.

But Migrante claims Mrs Arroyo could be engaging in a “delusional game” because she “doesn’t have her facts right.”

“Do not glamorize the plight of OFWs. Majority of migrants are working practically as slaves and are living miserable lives that are a far cry from that of expatriates,” said Migrante chairperson Concepcion Bragas-Regalado in a statement issued on Wednesday.

According to Regaladao, data from the government itself refute the statement of Mrs Arroyo on Filipino skilled workers abroad.

She cited the National Statistics Office’s 2007 Survey of Overseas Filipinos which showed that only 9 percent of OFWs are professionals or skilled workers.

The same survey said that most OFWs or 35 percent were unskilled workers; 30 percent were plant and machine operators; 14 percent were service, shop, and market sales workers; and another 14 percent were workers engaged in trade and other related jobs.

Migrante also belied the President’s claim that there are now more OFWs with high pay. It said that most OFWs only remit $200 to $300 or about P10,000 to P15,000 monthly to their families.

“Their earnings are barely enough for their families to subsist back home, given the spiraling costs of basic necessities and the government’s lack of social services. No one is living the good life, not OFWs nor their families,” said Regalado.

The group likewise said Mrs Arroyo was lying when she said that her administration’s “policy is not to export labor” but “to protect” Filipinos who work abroad.

“We only have this to say to Mrs. Arroyo: liar! Right now, there are 5,000 OFWs in jails worldwide, 30 in death row, and more than 200 stranded in the Middle East alone. And yet, the government has the temerity to host the GFMD,” said Regalado.

Migrante said the GFMD or the Global Forum on Migration and Development to be held in Manila later this month “is a sham process that aims to legitimize and strengthen existing labor export policies that will never lead to development but only open up migrants to further exploitation and abuse.” – GMANews.TV