Blacklist abusive employers, not runaway Pinoys in KSA – group

June 26, 2009

06/24/2009 | 08:45 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Instead of blacklisting runaway overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), abusive employers in Saudi Arabia should be barred under the new employment policy there, a migrants’ advocacy group said.

In a letter to Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia, Migrante’s Middle East chapter said the new policy puts the blame wrongly on foreign workers instead of employers who are subjecting these workers to various forms of maltreatment and labor malpractices.

“It should be erring and abusive employers that need to be blacklisted in hiring our workers, not the other way around,” said Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Based on Migrante Saudi Arabia’s records, there were 1,793 cases of OFWs requesting repatriation as of December 31, 2008. Of the total, 566 ran away from their employers, while 1,019 were in various “distress” situations.

“We believe running away from abusive employers is the only way out for our distressed OFWs to save their lives. They should not be punished as they are the victims here,” Monterona added.

A GMANews.TV source in Saudi Arabia explained that under the new policy, all entering expatriates will be scanned for fingerprints for the kingdom’s database. Employers could no longer ask immigration officials to take a foreign employee’s name out of the blacklist. The SR2,000 fine for blacklist removal is also not applicable.

Deportees are required to take a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight out of the country, “”but the deportee will surely be delayed in his return because of the long process and difficulty in booking a (Saudia) flight,” said the source, who has assisted many workers in the Middle East in leaving abusive employers.

Welfare Officer Romualdo Exmundo of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah said some runaway OFWs have even left the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration shelter at the consulate in Jeddah to join other expatriates who are staying under an overpass in Khandara District, in the hope that immigration police would arrest and deport them.

The other runaway workers are from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

But the GMANews.TV source said trooping to the Al Khandara bridge can only expedite the deportation of runaway maids, and not males or skilled workers.

Police records would have to be checked first for runaway men and skilled workers before they get deported. They also need their employer’s go-signal before they are allowed to leave the country, the source warned. – GMANews.TV–group


Paalam, Michael Jackson

June 26, 2009

michael_jackson_thrillerWe take a break from our usual OFW fare to bade our goodbye to a music icon that has “probably” part of our teenage years (and i’m referring to the 80’s teenagers).

My first memory of Michael Jackson is from the haunting lyrics of “Ben”. I loved this song and so are some Bisdaks, considering the stories sent to radio programs using “Ben” as the music.

In fact, when i was young (so much younger than today), my Auntie Menang encouraged me to join an amateur singing contest and she wanted me to sing “Ben”. But the high notes i can’t make, so i ended up with Rico J’s “Kapalaran”.

I was in High School when my friend Luel Yukoya showed his Thriller LP sent by his “Tate” cousins. And when the Thriller MTV hit the Philippines, our school arranged for a showing of the MTV in the AV hall. Every Saturday and Sunday, i would be glued to our b/w TV waiting for the MTV program to feature music videos of Michael Jackson.

But good things never last. And so we bade farewell to our friend and idol – Michael Jackson…

“My heart is heavy because my idol died,” said Byron Garcia, security consultant at a Philippine prison who organized the famous video of 1,500 inmates synchronized dancing to “Thriller.” The video has had 23.4 million hits on YouTube.

Garcia said the inmates in Cebu will hold a tribute for Jackson on Saturday with their “Thriller” dance and a minute of prayer.

Today, Lagos Classic FM is playing a whole day tribute to Micheal Jackson.

But i will pick the lines from Paul Anka’s “My Way”, to say goodbye to MJ:

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain,
My friends, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve travelled each and evr’y highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

Low-skilled OFWs top dollar remitters

June 17, 2009

By Veronica Uy

Posted date: June 17, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—Contrary to popular belief, low- and semi-skilled overseas Filipino workers are the top source of dollar remittances of the country, according to an analysis of remittance data made by the Institute for Migration and Development Issues.

In her analysis of the data from the National Statistics Office from 2001 to 2007, Beverly Jane Bulanday, an intern at the institute, found that the collective remittances of male and female low- and semi-skilled OFWs comprise the biggest among the other skills level categories.

She concluded that OFWs who fall under the categories “trades and related workers, plant and machine operators and assemblers, and laborers and unskilled workers” are the “major drivers of the country’s ‘remittance economy.’”

“Every time government authorities release monthly data on billion-dollar remittances from overseas Filipinos, the rise of these flows of monies is attributed to increasing salaries from professionals and technical workers,” Bulanday said.

“But findings from the annual Survey on Overseas Filipinos have always shown that female domestic workers and male production workers are the top overseas Filipino remitters,” she said.

The survey shows that from 2001 to 2007, except for 2006, male plant and machine operators and assemblers were the top remitters (P7.92 in 2001, P8.73 billion in 2002, P9.55 billion in 2003, P11.7 billion in 2004, P10.4 billion in 2005, and P14.5 billion in 2007). In 2006, male trade and related workers topped the list, remitting P13.1 billion.

The same survey shows that female laborers and unskilled workers, which is the category of household services, dominated the top remitters list from 2001 to 2007: P6.45 billion in 2001, P7.322 billion in 2002, P7.434 billion in 2003, P9.32 billion in 2004, P9.73 billion in 2005, P12.674 billion in 2006, and P13.08 billion in 2007.

In contrast, male and female “officials of government and special interest organizations, corporate executives, managers, managing proprietors, and supervisors” were remitting only between P46 million and P4 billion through the same period.

Bulanday explained that low- and semi-skilled OFWs contribute the biggest amount of remittances because they comprise the biggest number of migrant Filipino workers.

“This is simply because job markets abroad call for such occupations for foreign workers. This trend will all the more continue even as there are efforts to attract more skilled workers in developing countries, and there are continued restrictions to the movement of low-skilled or semi-skilled labor,” she predicted.

As such, Bulanday called on the government and other stakeholders to focus their attention on these workers, especially in terms of protecting their rights and welfare.

“An approach as regards their and their families’ management of remittances that understands their being semi-skilled and low-skilled workers abroad is called for. They remit frequently (though in lesser amounts), they also try out micro to small enterprises, and have to repay debts incurred prior to their migration overseas,” she said.

Bulanday said most low- and sem-skilled OFWs send money back home to support their families’ basic needs, to repay debts, and to invest in their children’s education.

When mom is away, the whole family goes astray

June 7, 2009

05/09/2009 | 07:29 PM

WHEN THE LIGHT IS OUT. Mothers are the new face of migration in the Philippines. Often they are subjected to dirty, demeaning and dangerous jobs abroad.

MANILA, Philippines – Every night, Cathy’s sleep would be interrupted by a knock on her door. But she doesn’t complain. Since her eldest daughter left for Saudi Arabia to work as a nurse, her two grandsons have been more inquisitive than usual.

“My grandsons would cry to me and ask: ‘Why did Mama leave?’”

Cathy would give out the usual answers: “Because she has to work and she loves you.” But there are nights when even she asks the same question.

When Karen left her family in Manila, her marriage turned sour. Her husband spent her earnings and fled their home with a mistress. Meanwhile, their two sons performed poorly in school and were always being taken to the guidance counselor’s office for disturbing behavior. Three years later, Karen was forced to return home to a broken family and a long list of bills to pay.

When fathers took most of the jobs abroad, it only had a little dent on the Filipino family. But when the mothers left, the entire family needed to adjust.

The departure of the mother redefines her traditional role as the primary caregiver by taking on the position of the father as the main provider. Meanwhile, the father is often unprepared to assume the mother’s care-giving function, which in turn, affects the entire family, especially the children.

Since 2004, the number of women working overseas has steadily increased. The Commission on Population (Popcom) attributed the feminization of labor to the growing demand for health workers, particularly nurses and caregivers, who are mostly women.

The World Bank reported that close to half of the migrant population in the world are women. Andrew Morrison, WB’s Gender Group lead economist, said the more women migrants there are, the more positive effects to the development of the economy it will have.

“Women are sending lots of money to their families back home, and evidence from rural Mexico shows that their migration leads to positive effects for the homes they leave behind,” Morrison observed.

But Dr. Lourdes Arellano-Carandang, a renowned child psychologist who published a book about absent mothers, begs to differ.

“They remit more money because they are more faithful in remitting than the men, but that’s on the side of the money only. The emotional and social costs are not talked about but the money. But we have to consider the entire [OFW] phenomenon holistically,” Carandang asked.

When the ‘light of the house’ is gone

Carandang conducted a case study where she interviewed 10 migrant families, who like Karen, left their families behind to work abroad. For a year, they studied each of the family’s backgrounds, their insights and feelings about the mother leaving the household. They discovered that there is a “pervading feeling of sadness in the family and a deep longing for the mother to come home.”

Most fathers unfortunately do poorly with house management, including taking care of household chores and being sensitive with their children’s needs. The team suggested that the men should accept their new roles not as the breadwinner of the family.

Depending on their age groups, children also have different understanding of their situation.

Carandang later published her study as a book entitled, “Nawala ang Ilaw ng Tahanan: Case Studies of Families Left Behind by OFW Mothers” in 2007. In it she noted a startling discovery:

“While the young children simply miss their mother and don’t really understand why she has to be away, the adolescents are in conflict because they appreciate the necessity and benefit of working abroad (in that they can go to school and buy more things), but they also feel sadness,” a part in Carandang’s book read.

Interestingly, children of migrant parents also become the “tagasalo” (burden-bearers) of the father when he doesn’t perform his patriarchal duties well. That’s why there are kids who would volunteer to cook the family’s meal, do the laundry, perform household chores, and even cheer up the father who they sometimes see as “sad and helpless.”

But the mother’s absence poses a more serious threat to the family, according to Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrants’ Advocacy. Sana said incest is present in OFW families, particularly when the mothers are away.

“Incest relationships are being talked about among OFWs communities, but the figures aren’t there,” Sana said. “It’s an open secret but no one wants to talk about it. It’s embarrassing.”

Substitute spouses

Sana explained that if an incestuous relationship happens in a family where the mother leaves the home early in the morning to sell goods in the market — leaving the father and the daughter at home — how much more if the mother works thousand of miles far away from home?

“It’s gut feel. You know it’s happening but no one wants to talk about it,” Sana observed.

Erwin Puhawan, a paralegal of the Kanlungan Center Foundation, shared Sana’s observations that families tend to be discreet about problems of incestuous relationship.

He said it is an “open-secret” among OFW communities and they talk about it in private.

In 2007, Senator Pia Cayetano expressed apprehension on the emerging problem of the growing number of women working abroad.

While the number of mothers abroad has been increasing, the number of daughters (especially the eldest) who take on roles at home left by their mother, is also increasing, Cayetano said.

“Sometimes to the point of being subjected to sexual abuse and forced to become substitute spouses by their father,” she said.

“This disturbing phenomenon of the girl-child being turned into a substitute spouse has been happening in our country along with the feminization of labor migration,” the lady senator lamented.

She described the phenomenon as one of the most damaging social impacts of labor migration, which she said can never be measured by any of the government’s socio-economic indicators or captured by statistics on labor export.

Home remedy

Carandang and her team suggested several measures for members of the family to implement to lessen the emotional burden on the children and even the fathers left behind.

According to them, children should be allowed to have an outlet where they can cope with their situation. Letting the kids play enables them to “‘re-enact’ what is happening to them in order to make sense of what is going on around them.” Expressive activities like art, music writing, drawing, or just observing nature’s beauty will enable the child to deal with the absence of their mothers.

The advent of modern technology has also made the communication lines more accessible, convenient and cheap. Regular communication is vital not only to the fathers but more importantly to the children.

“A simple act of asking how they are, what happened to them during the day, etcetera, can boost children’s feelings of being loved and cared for,” she said.

Simple gestures such as asking, “Kamusta ka na? Kamusta pag-aaral mo?” can have a tremendous impact on the child.

In order to lessen the spending sprees of the family left behind, the absent parent must explain thoroughly to her family the reason why he/she is leaving. This will ensure that the family members won’t be lured into overspending or splurging their loved one’s hard-earned money.

It is also crucial for the fathers to know that their change in roles in the household does not necessarily demean his identity “or his perception of himself as a male — that doing the responsibilities of the mother does not make him less of a man.”

While the government hails overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as the new unsung heroes of our time, families like Cathy’s think heroically of their loved ones for sacrificing life and limb, defying war and travel bans just so they could eat three times a day, despite being hardly ever present at the dinner table.

“If only we had enough, I wouldn’t wish for my daughter to leave. I don’t even aspire to be rich anymore. I just want to see my family whole,” Cathy said. – with Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

900,000 Pinoys still needed to meet OAV goal

June 7, 2009

05/27/2009 | 05:42 PM

MANILA, Philippines – With only three months left before the overseas absentee voting (OAV) registration comes to a close, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has barely made a dent to meet its 1 million target.

As of May 27, only 85,784 overseas Filipinos registered to vote for the 2010 elections since registration opened last February, data e-mailed by the DFA’s OAV Secretariat to GMANews.TV showed.

With the OAV registration’s Aug. 31 deadline looming, the DFA needs at least 914,216 more registrants in the next three months to meet its target. To reach the million mark, the government needs at least 166,666 registrants every month until the OAV registration ends.

But even if the DFA meets the target, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may still trim down the number of voters after a rigorous screening process. Just recently, the Comelec approved less than half of one percent of the targeted 1 million OAVs for the 2010 election. [See: Comelec approves only 4,751 of 1M targeted absentee voters]

Hong Kong still has the largest turnout of OAV registrants with 8,623 or an additional 2, 870 voters from last month’s 5,753. The Chinese province is home to more than 130,000 Filipinos, most of them working as domestic workers with two-year contracts.

Hong Kong is followed by Los Angeles (5,576), Dubai (4,245), Singapore (3, 807), London (3, 637), Toronto (2,951), New York (2, 638), Riyadh (2, 419), Washington (2, 253) and Brunei (2, 085).

With the deadline closing in, Ambassador Nestor Padalhin of the OAV Secretariat is intensifying the information drive to invite more Filipinos overseas to register.

Padalhin is tapping on radio and TV shows to promote OAV registration among migrants.

Earlier, Padalhin blamed the Filipinos’ infamous “hasta mañana” habit for the dismal number of registrants. [See: Pinoys’ ‘mañana’ habit blamed for poor OAV registration turnout]

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, head of the DFA’s Special and Ocean Concerns, said he was hopeful that the figures would improve in the coming months as the Philippine government would heighten its campaign for the overseas voting.

“These figures will increase tremendously as the OAV registration activities in all Philippine Foreign Service Posts [FSPs] intensify in the coming days, weeks and months,” he said.

There are 8.7 million overseas Filipinos, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, including 4.1 million contractual workers and about 900,000 undocumented migrants. – GMANews.TV