Help OFWs in distress! Watch Migrante (The Filipino Diaspora)

Gusto mo bang makatulong sa mga kababayan nating OFWs na palagiang dumaranas ng pang-aabuso sa ibayong dagat? 

Suportahan at panuorin ang pelikulang “MIGRANTE (The Filipino Diaspora)” ng batikang Direktor na si Joel Lamangan. Tampok sa pelikula sina Jodi Sta. Maria at Allen Dizon. Kasama din sina Luis Alandy, Bangs Garcia, Chynna Ortaleza, Ryza Cenon, Rich Asuncion, Jaime Pebanco, Raquel Villavicencio, Alex Castro at Tony Mabesa.

Ika nga ng mga taong nasa likod ng pelikula:

Of the many films on the Filipino migrant workers, we are proud to say that “Migrante (The Filipino Diaspora)” makes a difference. While it may have hewed to the commonplace story of a Filipino family forced by circumstances to join the perilous diaspora of migrant workers, it offers a critical insight on the OFW phenomena and the quicksand that is government’s labor export policy.

Ipalalabas ang “Migrante (The Filipino Diaspora)” sa July 15, 2012 sa Robinson’s Galleria Cinema 5, Ortigas.

Ticket prices:
10am screening – P50
1pm – balcony P120, orchestra P100
4pm – balcony P120, orchestra P100
7pm gala premiere – sponsor tickets (limited seats only) P1,000 and P500

Bahagi ng kikitain ay mapupunta sa  Rights and Welfare Assistance Program ng Migrante International – na pinakamalaking alyansa ng mga samahang OFW sa buong mundo. Ang grupong ito ay kilala bilang pinakamasigasig na nakikipaglaban sa kapakanan ng sektor.

Para makakuha ng tickets, makipag-ugnayan lang sa Migrante International sa telepono bilang (02) 9114910. Hanapin lamang si Pam.

Tara nuod tayo!

OFW at IMF

“We have a substantial number of OCWs (overseas contract workers) and we have to protect… It’s in our interest to protect–to help those economies because we have a substantial number of Filipinos there,” Edwin Lacierda, on defending the $1B loan to IMF

 

Bakit tayo may OFW?
Kasi may IMF –
na imperyalistang instrumento
para gipitin ang mga hutuhutang
kolonya at mala-kolonya –
‘gaya ng Pilipinas.

Pilipinas
na magpapautang pa ngayon
ng $1B sa IMF.
Pang-tulong din daw ito sa mga OFW,
sa mga nasyong apektado
ng krisis at resesyon – na
niluwal din naman ng mga
baluktot na polisiya’t imposisyon
ng IMF!

Isang bilyon itong
kontribusyon, pang-bayad
sa lubid na siyang ipang-bibigti natin
sa sarili nating mga leeg!
Isang bilyon itong sampal
sa mukha ng naghihirap
at pinahihirapang si Juan dela Cruz!

Huthot piga

Pagpasensyahan niyo na po
ang ating gubyerno
dito kasi, walang trabaho,
walang makain ang maraming tao

E ‘bayani’ nga kayo ‘diba?
Kung hindi nga dahil sa
perang padala ninyo,
ang ekonomiya natin ay guguho,
siyempre, kasamang maglalaho
pati ang gubyerno –

‘Yung parehong gubyernong
walang tigil sa kaiisip ng mga pakulo
para lalo pa kayong huthutan;
‘yung mga masisibang walang kabusugan,
hangga’t hindi nasasaid
ang pera niyong pinaghirapan;
‘yung mga buwitreng walang kapaguran
hangga’t hindi nasasakmal
ang lahat ng inyong laman;
‘yung mga lintang walang pagkakuntento
hangga’t hindi napipiga ang
kahuli-hulihang patak
ng inyong dugo…

Kaya, ‘wag na kayong magreklamo
kayo na po ang bahalang magpasensya
sa ating gubyerno

Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) in the Philippines

Today we celebrate National Migrant Workers’ Day!

In commemoration of this occasion, I deemed it necessary to focus on Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV), the mechanism by which our kababayans abroad may participate in electing our leaders here in the Philippines.

The OAV

The right to suffrage of Filipino citizens, here and abroad, is enshrined in the highest law of the land.

Section 2, Article V of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “Congress shall provide  a system of securing  the secrecy and sanctity of the ballots as well as the system for absentee voting  by qualified Filipinos abroad.”

Thus on February 13, 2003, Republic Act No. 9189 or the “Overseas Absentee Voting Act” was made into law, granting “all citizens of the Philippines abroad” the right to vote for President, Vice-President, Senators and Party-list representatives.

But since its enactment eleven years ago, Filipinos overseas have yet to reap the benefits of full voting rights as promised by the Constitution. Participation by our overseas compatriots in the system remain dismally low.

Migrante International, the biggest alliance of OFW organizations worldwide, maintained that the low participation can not be attributed to the so called  “growing apathy” among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), contrary to claims by the government and some migrant advocacy groups.

Migrante averred:

While OAV turn-out was indeed low, we believe that it is more important and urgent to review and evaluate the limiting provisions in Republic Act 9189 or the OAV Act , as well as the indifference of some government agencies, particularly the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), to OFWs’ issues and complaints pertaining the actual processes and implementing procedures of the OAV. These, primarily, are the main reasons for the massive disenfranchisement of overseas Filipino voters.

The group prepared a Position Paper on what they think the government should undertake in order to improve the system.

I believe Congress and the COMELEC should seriously consider Migrante’s proposals.

In the meantime, I strongly urge Filipinos overseas to register as overseas absentee voters. OAV Registration have been running since October 31 last year. It will end on October 31, 2012.

Qualified Filipinos abroad may file their applications for registration at their Philippine Posts or Consulates. They need only bring their passports- and in the case of the seafarers, their Seaman’s Books – to register.

To learn more on the basic features of the OAV, below is a power point presentation prepared by the COMELEC Education and Information Department on the Basic Features of the OAV. Kindly click on the link to download: 2011_oav_regn

OFWs Kalahok sa Pagbabago! Magparehistro para Makaboto! 

OFWs and Financial Literacy

CNN’s “Eye On” made a special report on the Philippines recently, focusing on our Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs. The report stated that while they earn billions of dollars abroad, our OFWs are faced with the challenge of investing their money wisely.

So to address this, CNN said the Philippine government ventured on providing financial literacy trainings to teach OFWs money management and investment skills and to equip them with the necessary knowhow to “stop their relatives back home from spending all the cash.”

“There’s a lot of money,” Philippine Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Grace Princesa told the CNN. “If we can guide overseas Filipinos and their families to invest, I think that will be a large source of private-public sector cooperation,” she said.

Ambassador Princesa and the Philippine government appear to be trivializing the almost four-decade old forced Filipino migration and its ruinous social costs. For them the solution to the complex issues and problems besetting our OFWs and their families is as simple as educating them on how to spend their hard-earned cash wisely.

What’s worse, the fact that the government is again turning to our OFWs to invest their money if only to spur economic growth, reveal its parasitic reliance to OFW remittances. It also proves that the government has no plan at all in generating long-term and sustainable jobs in the country.

OFW country

The Philippines has been in the business of exporting Filipinos since the early ‘70s. Right now, we have more than 12 million Filipinos toiling in almost 200 countries worldwide. In 2010, OFWs remitted $18 Billion, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The amount contributed to the spike in the country’s growth rate from 5.6% in 2009 to 8.2% towards the end of 2010. The total remittances that year were equivalent to 8.7% of the country’s Gross National Product (GNP).

Indeed, the money generated by our army of OFWs is huge. But we need to dissect this further.

Government data shows that majority of Filipinos overseas works on service, production and skilled job categories such as domestic workers, caregivers, factory and construction workers, among others.

This means, a huge chunk of OFWs labor on jobs that are tagged as ‘dirty, difficult, demeaning and dangerous’ – or jobs that does not pay well, however backbreaking and demanding it is.

In fact according to Migrante International, a global alliance of OFWs and their families, a remittance-dependent family in the country receives only an average of P7, 000 a month from their relatives abroad. A survey conducted by Hong Kong based migrant Filipino groups also reveal that a typical OFW there sends their families here a measly average of $166 (P6, 640) a month.

This goes to show that the money received by remittance-dependent families here in the country simply is not enough if we compare it to the government estimated data of P29, 000 needed by a family of six to survive. Even if their husbands or wives here in the country have jobs, the pay on the domestic front is glaringly insufficient considering the unabated increase in the prices of oil and petroleum products, transportation, education, utilities and other basic commodities.

So, if the majority of our OFWs barely have enough cash to support their families’ needs here at home, where on God’s earth will they find the money to save or even invest?

To say then that the problem lies in our OFWs’ ignorance in money management is tantamount to saying that they and their families that depend on them are ‘waldas’ (irresponsible spenders) and ‘bilmokos’ (local street slang for ‘buy me this, buy me that’).

Our OFWs don’t need ‘financial literacy’ trainings.

What they need and deserve are sustainable and gainful employment here at home. What they need and deserve is a government that is truly responsive to their needs. ###

Hari ng Padala

“But of course you have to remit bigger so as to avail of lower charges,” PNoy

Sa harap ng mga Pinoy sa Japan,
sumubok magpa-bibo ang Pangulo:
“Alam ba ninyong may programa ang gubyerno
para pababain ang singil sa perang padala ninyo?”

Kaya laking gulat na lamang nito
nang ang isagot ng mga Pilipinong naka-tipon,
ay isang tumataginting na “NO!”

“Ha? Hindi ninyo alam? Baka kulang lang sa abiso,”
palusot pa ng feeling bibo…
Sabay dagdag na may usapan pa nga raw
ang Land Bank ng Pilipinas at Postal Bank ng Japan
para sa mas mababang kaltas nito..

“Tama po ba ‘yon?,”
tanong ulit ng Pangulo…
Na siya namang sinagot ng kakarampot at tila pilit-na pilit na “Opo”

“Kasi naman, unawa ko na kailangan niyong
makatipid sa padala ninyong pera sa pamilya..
Para sa pag-aaral ng inyong mga anak,
sa pagpapagawa sa inyong dream house..’

“Etcetera… Etcetera… Etcetera”

Kaya kung gusto ng mga OFW na maka-bawas sa kaltas
sa pinapadalang pera sa pamilya,heto ang maipapayo niya:

“Dagdagan pa po ninyo ang perang padala!”

Teka.. Teka.. Teka..
Ano na nga ulit ang ibinandong programa ng Hari ng Padala?

It’s time for genuine OFW representation in gov’t

The successive crises that have overwhelmed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families recently – from the case of the three OFWs awaiting execution in China; the spate of revolutions that has engulfed a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries; and now the current humanitarian disaster in Japan resulting from the massive quake and tsunami last week – brings to the fore the urgent need for genuine OFW representation in government.

You see, aside from the anguish and distress suffered by the thousands of OFWs from these successive crises, the world have also seen glaring proof of the Philippine government’s utter failure to ensure the safety and security of their so-called ‘bagong bayanis.’

OFWs in China Deathrow

The government scrambled on the eleventh hour to save the three OFWs from execution in China. It must be remembered that through the early stages of the OFWs’ trial, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have been vocal in not extending legal aid to these troubled OFWs. It has even went to the extent of advising the OFWs to just “behave in prison to be pardoned.”

Though the government scored a diplomatic coup recently by managing to defer the scheduled execution last month through the effort of Vice President Jejomar Binay, China has eventually decided to push through with the execution.

It was last Thursday March 17, 2011 – as the nation commemorated the 16th Anniversary of the martyrdom of Flor Contemplacion, the OFW whose unjust hanging in Singapore exposed to the world the harsh realities of the Filipino forced migration – that China announced that the verdict against OFWs Ramon Credo, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva and Elizabeth Batain over drug trafficking charges, was indeed “final” and that the verdict will be carried out “sooner or later.”

In response, the Philippine government (as though ignorant of the weight that date holds for millions of Filipinos toling in all corners of the world and their families here in the country) have apparently raised the white flag and seemed proudly convinced that saving the three from sure death in China will be next to impossible.

DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario admitted that the government is now at a loss as to how they can prevent the execution from happening. Meanwhile, Malacanang has come out advising the OFWs’ kin to just “respect” Chinese laws, adding even that “there is no possibility for a commutation for the three.”

“We respect their decision,” a Presidential Spokesman said.

The execution of three Filipinos in China gallows, it must be emphasized, should not be seen as a victory against efforts to curb the menace of  international drug trade, because these so-called ‘mules’ are just victims of big time syndicates that prey on hapless Filipino workers so desperate to earn a few bucks so they can send enough money for their families at home.

The fact that there are Filipinos who are willing to risk their lives and livelihood for a quick buck by delivering illegal drugs, even inserting the merchandise into their privates, tells a lot about the abysmal economic state of the country.

There’ll be no drug mules, no OFWs even, if there are decent and sustainable jobs and farm lands to till here in the country.

So it is the height of official insensitivity and callousness for Malacanang to tell the poor OFWs’ families now to harp the  ‘China has spoken and the execution will push through so we just have to respect their decision’ mantra on the very day an OFW was executed in Singapore 16 years ago largely because of government’s criminal neglect!

Meanwhile, the largest alliance of OFW organizations worldwide, Migrante International, has been calling on the government from the very beginning to act on the cases of Filipinos unjustly jailed and on deathrow overseas.

Based on the group’s monitoring, “there are currently 125 OFWs in death row. Of the 125, 85 are drug-related and 79 of these are in China jails. The rest are in the Middle East, Malaysia and Thailand.”

Migrante Chairman Garry Martinez has squarely blamed this to the government’s unfettered “labor export policy”.

“Our Filipino workers will always be subjected to these tragedies for as long as the government sticks to promoting labor export policy unmindful of the welfare and protection of our OFWs. Unless the government creates enough decent jobs at home to curb forced migration, it will always be responsible for every life that is threatened, endangered or lost.”

On OFWs and wars

The tension and violence that gripped the countries such as Egypt, Libya, Bahrain in the past weeks, meanwhile, revealed how vulnerable OFWs are during times of conflicts and wars.

They become even more vulnerable when those who are supposed to protect them during these times are the ones who go missing in action or are the first ones to scamper away for safety.

Take the Philippine government’s response to the Libyan crisis for example.

During the height of hostilities in the strife-torn country, all the embassy and the DFA could tell the thousands of confused, war shocked and distraught OFWs there were “go to the Embassy in Tripoli if you wish to be repatriated or just stay put.”

Of course, this moronic instruction from the embassy and the DFA prompted the OFWs there to just organize themselves, brave the bullets and bombs just to get to the nearest border.

At the onset, the Filipino public had no idea that we indeed have an Ambassador in Tripoli. We only learned of this when the DFA deployed its so-called “Quick Reaction Team” headed by Ricardo Endaya. But when ‘help’ arrived, the fleeing OFWs were half way through their journey to the borders.

And so, the DFA QRT just made themselves comfortable in the Libya-Tunisian border. Some even commented that the team merely acted as a “reception committee” for the hordes of OFWs who escaped conflict-ridden Libya, sans government help.

Instead of getting their acts together, the government agencies concerned contented on blaming each other on the monumental blunder they made in the Libyan crisis.

Meanwhile, as the DFA brandishes their patented incompetence with regard to helping OFWs in distress and while it scrambles to explain why OFWs and their worried family members cant get through their much ballyhooed hotlines, Migrante International kept the nation updated on the latest situation on the ground.

And because the DFA’s ‘hotlines’ have become ‘not-lines’, according to some OFWs, Migrante also put up a crisis center and hotlines and posted contact persons and their numbers inside ravaged cities in Libya such as Benghazi and Tripoli.

As expected, the calls poured in and the public was kept abreast on the latest developments in Libya. According to some Migrante staff who manned their crisis center, even the DFA used the data they have gathered and shamelessly pointed OFWs in distress to Migrante’s contact persons in Tripoli, such as Fr. Alan Arcebuche, in case they need help inside Libya.

Those who managed to be repatriated from Libya were assured, however, of receiving baseball caps from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), a financial assistance worth P10,000 and promises of job deployment abroad!

Of course, OFWs deemed the government’s response as “unacceptable”

“We are gravely concerned that the Philippine government continues to send our workers abroad when they fail to protect the welfare of our OFWs during critical times,” Migrante Chairman Garry Martinez said. “But above all, Malacañang has not offered any clear and concrete response.”

The best economic alternative, according to Migrante, however, is to implement genuine agrarian reform program and nationalization of basic industries that would become our local economy’s backbone coupled with a well-planned, pro-people economic structural policy towards the desired economic development.

OFWs and natural disasters

If you thought the government learned its lesson during the Libyan crisis, think again. It demonstrated, yet again, their world-class incompetence when a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan last March 11, 2011.

According to Migrante’s chapter in Japan, the Philippine Embassy there waited three full days to check on the situation of Filipinos affected by the disaster.

“Para lang silang namamasyal sa koen (park) at nakipag-tsismisan sa mga kababayan natin doon,”Rossana Tapiru, the group’s representative said.

The consular mission was dispatched Monday, March 14, 2011, upon the orders of Ambassador Manuel Lopez following an SOS from 20 Filipino seafarers trapped inside a hotel in Fukushima, one of the areas devastated by the double disaster.

MIGRANTE Japan said that it took the embassy three full days before it could finally send a mission there, but sadly, the mission had barely little to offer relief for distraught Filipinos there.

What’s worse, the Philippine Embassy abandoned the OFWs in their time of need. In the aftermath of the tremor and tsunami that hit Japan, Migrante Japan said, “this is the most dastardly act we’ve seen so far from officials of the Philippine embassy in Tokyo.”

“They have done so little yet, and now they are abandoning their post to save their themselves leaving our distraught compatriots fending for themselves. What a disgrace!”

The group pointed a distress call from Filipino students in Japan who complained of insensitivity and ineptness of the consular team who were on a rush to get back to Tokyo with or without the rest of the Filipinos still in the area.

For its part, Migrante Japan, regularly posts updates and lists down names of Filipinos reportedly missing or found via their hotlines. The said list, by the way, is regularly and shamelessly copy-pasted by the DFA and the PHL embassy in Tokyo to make it appear that they are doing their jobs.  (See for yourselves here and compare it to this link here.)

The need for genuine OFW representation

In light of the appalling condition of OFWs and their families brought about by the government’s criminal neglect on their rights and well-being, the need for genuine OFW representation in government has become even more apparent.

Although Migrante Sectoral Party ran during the 2004 party-list race, it didn’t garner enough votes to secure a seat in Congress. The Party, then decided to not participate in the 2007 elections in order to strengthen its organization and prepare for the elections in 2010.

Consolidated and ready, the Migrante Sectoral Party filed its Certificate of Candidacy for the 2010 Party-list race. But the group was delisted by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) allegedly for failing to get at least two percent of votes in the last two elections prior to 2010.

But the group averred that the delisting reeked of political vendetta as it is widely known to constantly criticize the government’s failure to protect its workers abroad.

“In good faith, we said we will first strengthen the party-list. This time we think we’re ready because now our group has a wider coverage, we are even present in 23 countries,” Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante, told GMANews.TV.

According to Regalado, the Comelec decision was “politically motivated.”

“We think our delistment is politically motivated because we are a progressive party-list group that is critical of the policies of the government for its forced migration strategies,” she said.

But there seems to be chance for Migrante to finally be allowed to truly represent OFWs and their families interests in Congress.

The Supreme Court on April 29, 2010 ruled in favor of the petition of the Party-List PGBI to annul COMELEC Resolution 8679 which delisted 26 Party-List groups (including PGBI) for failing to garner 2% of the votes in the last two elections.

Remember, Migrante was also among the Party-Lists by the COMELEC delisted citing the same reason.

The dispositive portion of the Supreme Court Decision (G.R. No. 190529) reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we GRANT the petition and accordingly ANNUL COMELEC Resolution No. 8679 dated October 13, 2009 insofar as the petitioner PGBI is concerned, and the Resolution dated December 9, 2009 which denied PGBI’s motion for reconsideration in SPP No. 09-004 (MP). PGBI is qualified to be voted upon as a party-list group or organization in the coming May 2010 elections.

So you see, OFWs have the chance to be truly represented in Congress after all.  When Migrante so decides to again gun for a Congressional seat or seats via the Party-List System in the 2013 elections, the COMELEC will have no reason any more to deny their accreditation.

Let us just hope that Migrante will be able to gather enough votes to win seats in the 2013 polls!

The anti-OFW in Noynoy rears its ugly head

With the drastic slash in the funds intended to help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in distress, President Noynoy Aquino has signaled his administration’s total abandonment of the rights and welfare of millions of Filipino migrant workers abroad.

It was learned during Wednesday’s budget hearing in Congress that Malacanang has trimmed down the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) allocation from P100 million to P27 million in the proposed 2011 national budget.

The LAF is used to pay mainly for the lawyers and interpreters who are hired by the government to defend OFWs jailed abroad, most especially for those who are languishing on death row.

Thus, the Malacanang instigated P73 million budget cut is a death blow to OFWs who are in desperate need of legal help from the government.

Currently, there are more than seven thousand jailed OFWs worldwide and about 180  more are awaiting execution in various death rows overseas.

If the observable indifference of Philippine posts to their plight is bad news enough for them and their families here in the country, it would be unspeakable if they hear about Noynoy’s plan to give our inutile embassy and consular officials more reason to abandon them!

Noynoy should rethink his plan to chop the DFA’s Legal Assistance Fund.

The move is patently illegal as it goes against the provision in the Migrant Workers Act that states P100 million are to be allocated for the LAF annually.

It is also immoral as the drastic budget cut completely flies in the face of more than ten million OFWs, whose “needs” Noynoy  had just wanted the DFA and other concerned government agencies to be more “responsive” to.

Is this what you mean by being “responsive” Mr. President? By chopping the only lifeline our hapless , desperate and locked up kababayans overseas have?

Stuck in Iraq and a hard place

In a memorandum dated July 20, 2010, United States Colonel Richard Nolan of the Central Command’s Contracting Command, has ordered all contractors inside Iraq to send home all workers in their employ who came from countries that prohibits work and travel to Iraq.

Nolan cited an incident in the past weeks wherein eight such workers – “third country nationals” according to his memo – were discovered to have been abandoned by their employers at various contractor controlled camps across Iraq.

“Employing individuals with passports which state “not valid in Iraq” violates both host nation and third country laws. CENTCOM is currently aware that the Philippine and the Nepalese Governments prohibit its citizens from traveling to Iraq. There may be other countries. It is the contractor’s responsibility that it is not employing people from countries prohibited from entry to Iraq” said Nolan in his memo.

He then gave all contractors 20 days to ensure that their employees comply with both US and international laws and that they understand their redeployment obligations under their contract.

The sudden pull-out order resurrected calls for the government to consider lifting its deployment ban. The Philippines imposed the ban on 2004 after the kidnapping of Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz by Iraqi militants.

Emmanuel Geslani, consultant to the country’s major recruitment agencies, has urged the Aquino administration to “partially lift” the ban if only to allow those who are already employed in Iraq to continue with their work.

“It would be a nightmare for the new administration”,  Geslani said if an estimated 15,000 Filipino workers are repatriated back to the country jobless.

Quite a number of Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) netizens seem to agree with Geslani’s assessment. ABS-CBN News, which carried the story on the pull-out order, received several comments from OFWs, who appears to be either currently in Iraq or has relatives working in Iraq, supporting the call to lift the ban.

anongsaymo, a Certified Public Accountant working in another warzone, Afghanistan (deployment there is also banned by the government by the way), minced no words when he commented:

It is never a crime to work in a dangerous place, so you could feed yourself and your family, when your own country cannot provide jobs for its own people.

If the ban continues, and you send 15,000 Pinoys home and jobless, you can now call yourselves IRRESPONSIBLE people, IRRESPONSIBLE leaders, IRRESPONSIBLE fathers and mothers of this country who do not realize the consequences, the number of mouths who might not get fed, and the number of children who will not get to school.

Whoever is/are behind this, probably guys who rides a Mercedes, sits in a big leather chair with a shiny wooden table with the airconditioning on, and his/her secretary to assist, they must have got big guts to ban us when they cannot even provide good paying jobs for their people! So lift the ban! Let us work for ourselves and for our family, coz it is never your asses that are in the battlefield, it’s ours!

You dont even have a consulate! Coz the truth is you dont really care!

bluedennis7789, meanwhile, couldn’t help but express his disappointment with the pull-out order and the continuing deployment ban. He said his father is an OFW in Iraq for six years already and that his family is relying solely on his father’s earnings.

I am deeply saddened by this news. I already knew it last Friday when my father called me that he and other Filipino workers would be sent back here in the Philippines. My father stayed there for almost 6 straight years already. I was able to graduate in college because of him. I am currently working but still I cannot sustain the expenses of our family. We are much depending on my father. That is why we are shocked by the news. I am sure a lot of families feel the same way. Every time I ask my father on what is the situation there he would always say that he is very safe there. I think his 6 straight years’ experience there is enough to say that the Filipinos are doing well there despite the fact that Iraq is not yet at peace. I am suggesting the government to lift the ban for at least 3 months. It is because it is shocking news and the families here are not ready for that kind of news. Maybe, it would ease the burden of the families if the government can talk with the US government to allow for at least 3 months suspension of the ban. If only I am thinking of myself I would rather want my father go home because I missed him so much but then I think of what the future awaits. My father is already 46 years old and I think it would be difficult for him to find another job. I have younger siblings who are still studying and my family will be suffering because of this situation.

dennis

Some OFWs couldn’t contain their disdain at the Philippine government’s stance on the brewing crisis. The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has reportedly welcomed the US army’s decision to send home OFWs currently in Iraq.  The official has also ruled out the possibility of lifting the ban saying that the situation in Iraq is still “dangerous.”

“We’ve always asked [US and other countries] to respect our ban. We have always asked them to please help us because delikado nga sa Iraq (it’s dangerous in Iraq). They’ve never been heeded until now, when they’re winding down their operations,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos said.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), meanwhile, has assured those who will be displaced a start-up capital loan of P10,000.00 and alternative job postings in another country.

But OFW tag-hirap had this to say: Napaka imposible po!

uuwi po kami at bibigyan nyo kami ng trabaho? yung mga nandyan nga po sa pilipinas walang trabaho eh. at kung magkakaroon man ng trabaho para samin po diyan, masasahuran nyo po ba kami ng tulad ng sinasahod namin dito? mabibigyan nyo ba kami ng tirahan na libre, pagkain na libre? umuwi nalang kami para magnegosyo? kaya nga po kami andito para magipon ng pang negosyo. kasi alam namin na di naman pang-habang buhay dito ang trabaho, ang habol lang po namin ay ang pagkakataon na kumita ng pera na pang nenegosyo rin po namin dyan sa pinas pagbalik namin.

yun po ang katotohanan. bibigyan po ng trabaho talaga? lahat kami? magpakatotoo po tayo. wag po panay sulat sa hangin.

Surprise! Nepal lifts ban

But while the Philippines continues to stand pat on its policy to prohibit Filipinos from traveling to Iraq, the Nepalese government has moved to lift the ban on their nationals entering the country.

Upon hearing the news of the US army’s pull-out order, Nepalese Foreign secretary Madan Kumar Bhattarai, based on reports, immediately summoned US ambassador to Nepal Scott H DeLisi to discuss the situation, as more than 30,000 Nepali workers are currently staying “illegally” inside Iraq.

And after assurances were made by the US that they will retain the Nepali workers in spite of the pull-out order, Nepal decided to lift its six year old deployment ban. To recall, Nepal banned its citizens from entering Iraq after 12 Nepalis were executed by radical militants in August 2004.

Stuck in Iraq and a hard place

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has yet to speak on this issue that stands to affect more than 15,000 Filipinos in Iraq, not to mention the thousands more in the country who survive on their toils.

That the pull-out order has been in effect for more than a week, the Aquino administration’s silence towards the looming crisis is downright disturbing. Thousands of our breadwinner kababayans there stand to lose their jobs in a matter of weeks and yet not a whimper of reply from the Malacanang.

Its deafening silence, however, betrays the reprehensible arrogance on the part of the Aquino administration most especially those in the labor and foreign affairs departments. That they even lauded the US’s move despite the alarming level of unemployment in the country boggles the mind and speaks volumes of their utter indifference to the affected OFWs’ plight and that of their families.

It is as if they have anything sustainable and long-term to offer the 15,000 souls that are set to be sent back to the country. It is not surprising that their paltry tender of P10,000 start-up capital and job slots in Qatar or elsewhere were outrightly rejected and was even ridiculed by the OFWs themselves.

But then again, it is most certain that the snowballing clamor for the government to lift the deployment ban, aggravated further by Nepal’s decision to lift theirs, is having Philippine labor and foreign affairs officials scratching their heads. They are stuck between Iraq and a hard place, literally.

But the government has no one to blame but themselves.

The farcity of the RP deployment ban

We have to understand that the so-called ‘deployment ban’ was nothing more than a farce, a knee-jerk reaction by the Arroyo government to the Angelo dela Cruz crisis back in 2004. It was imposed by the the Arroyo regime to douse cold water to the growing international pressure for it to pull-out the Filipino armed contingent in Iraq in exchange for the life of dela Cruz.

When the US invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003, former President Gloria Arroyo was among the very first world leaders to join the US led Coalition of the Willing. It subsequently committed Filipino boots on the ground to aid the US in its unjust and illegal war of aggression against the Iraqi people.

Also, it must be noted that the Arroyo government imposed the ban because of its desperation to portray an image among the Filipino people that it was on top of the situation amid extreme pressure from Washington for Arroyo not to even consider pulling-out Filipino troops in Iraq.

The deployment ban’s farcity was immediately validated when the number of Filipinos in Iraq continued to rise despite the standing government policy.

It would be remembered that when dela Cruz was kidnapped in Iraq on July 8, 2004, Filipinos there numbered only at 4,000. But when another OFW, Roberto Tarongoy, was kidnapped a year later, the number increased two-fold!

And so plenty more have either been killed, maimed and injured inside the war zones of Iraq in the years that followed. Recently, after the US decided finally to “heed” the Philippine’s deployment ban according to DFA’s Conejos, we now have 15,000 Filipinos braving bullets, bombs and abductions on a daily basis in Iraq!

Filipinos have managed to sneak into Iraq despite the stamps on their passports that say “Not valid to Iraq” and the government couldn’t care less. All they are concerned about are the moneys the OFWs continue to pour in the country in the form of their remittances. Whether the dollars came from the sweltering plantations in Sabah, Malaysia, or inside Iraq’s constantly bombarded Green Zone, it doesn’t matter. So long as it continues to come in to buoy our ever sinking economy afloat.

In short, the deployment ban, which DFA’s Conejos so ridiculously prides himself with, is just ink in one’s passport and nothing more.

So Filipinos should not fall into the trap and engage in the fruitless debate on whether to lift the ban or not.

We should focus on the heart of the issue: the sad fact that there are 15,000 Filipinos who are moving heaven and earth as we speak just so they can stay longer in war torn Iraq.  Hindi baleng kahit kalahati ng katawan nila sa Iraq ay nasa hukay na dahil sa peligro, basta’t may maipadala lang na pera para sa pamilyang umaasa sa Pilipinas.

Our struggling kababayans in Iraq mirror the real state of the nation today. We truly are stuck in Iraq and a hard place – a situation where choosing to risk death in a far away war zone becomes a wiser decision than slugging it out in a place where breakfast, lunch and dinner is a constant unwinnable battle for the majority of the people.

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.