SAYS DE CASTRO : Domestic helpers abroad should at least be 25 years old

September 11, 2008

Wow, look at the wanna-be President trying to simplify the issues on abused DH in Middle East.  His solution? Must be at least 25 years old.

I don’t know if De Castro is listening to OFWs plaint or he is on the side of the recruiters.

My gulay, what de Castro is saying in effect is that, it is OK to have an abused, killed or DEAD OFW in these countries, for as long as she is more than 25 years old.

The fact of the matter is that the citizens of those middle east countries are not prepared to manage foreign domestic help. And coupled with the greed of recruiters, in connivance with some DFA, POEA employees, It does not matter if the OFW is 20 or 40 or 25 years old, they will all suffer the same fate.

What the government should do is to implement a FULL BAN against the deployment of DH/HSWs to Middle East countries (KSA, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan)  and even to NMCI. These countries are dangerous for DH/HSWs, whatever the age of the OFWs.

But we already know the verdict here. The government has no guts to slap a DH ban against ME countries. The influential recruiters will not agree.

And so, let us brace ourselves. If de Castro’s suggestion (coming from the recruiters) will push through, then let us check the news what is the age of the next ‘dead’ OFW DH coming from these countries.

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SAYS DE CASTRO : Domestic helpers abroad should at least be 25 years old

By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: September 01, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—Vice President Noli de Castro proposed on Monday to increase the minimum age VP Noli de Castrorequirement for Filipino overseas maids from 23 to 25 years old to ensure they would be mature enough for the rigors of their jobs.

De Castro, who is presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), made the counter- proposal after he was informed that the Department of Foreign Affairs wanted to raise it to 30 years old in a proposal submitted to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) Governing Board for approval.

The Vice President said that around 48,000 to 50,000 domestic helpers have been deployed abroad by the government under the present age requirement of 23 and raising that to 30 years old would displace many workers already abroad.

He also noted that most members of the household service staff abroad were below 29 years old.

“I think 25 is better than 30 years old since people at this age are already mature,” De Castro told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.

He said the government should instead strictly screen applicants, particularly those coming from Mindanao who have no birth certificates.

According to De Castro, some of the victims of abuse abroad faked their ages on their birth certificates to meet the age requirement of 23 years and above.

DFA Spokesperson Claro Cristobal, asked to explain the DFA recommendation, said “Because we see the situation on the ground.”

Cristobal added : “The proposal is very important because at age 30, they are already mature and are able to exercise better judgment.”

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. first made the proposal to increase the age requirement to 30 years old at an inter-agency meeting chaired by Labor Secretary Marianito Roque last week.
DFA USec Esteban Conejos
Conejos said raising the minimum age requirement would ensure that aspiring Filipino domestic helpers “are emotionally and mentally prepared to face the challenges posed by employment abroad.”

The Department of Labor and Employment was said to be considering Conejos’ proposal, said a DFA statement.

In a related development, De Castro is endorsing Stress Management Training for OFWs to enable them to better cope with the hardships of working abroad.

De Castro’s endorsement for the training came following a proposal of the DFA to require mandatory psychological test for workers seeking employment abroad.

“Workers applying for work abroad should first gain skills and learn techniques on stress management considering the peculiar socio-cultural setting in the country they will be working in,” De Castro said.

He said the program should be given for free and incorporated in the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) and any expense should be shouldered by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). He stressed that no additional economic burden would be imposed on OFWs.

De Castro further proposed that the coverage be limited to those domestic helpers and caregivers whose workplaces would be in households.

“Because unlike those working in medical centers, domestic helpers and caregivers employed in residences are often alone in handling difficult situation,” he said.

De Castro noted that the present psychological test required of OFWs would not be a sufficient measure to guard against untoward incidents.

In cases like those of Marilou Ranario whose defense in a murder case was to plead insanity, severe work conditions and maltreatment inevitably placed OFWs in situations that provoked them to commit even criminal acts.

“When they leave the country, they are psychologically and mentally healthy. However, stress brought about by maltreatment in the work place subsequently affects their mental condition,” De Castro said.

“Stress is a common thing in life but there are ways of coping with adversity that will help our workers handle problems with employers and adjust to different situations that they may encounter abroad,” he added.

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from MIGRANTE:
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30-year-old cap will not address plight of OFWs

09/10/2008 | 07:27 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Three migrant advocacy groups on Wednesday were one in saying that raising the minimum age requirement for domestics won’t solve the worsening problem of exploitation being suffered by overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

The three groups — Migrante, the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment Through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS), and the Kapisan ng mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino (KAKAMMPI) — said the problem lies not with the age of OFWs but with the Arroyo administration’ s neglect of migrant workers.

Labor undersecretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the Department of Foreign Affairs had asked the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s governing board to increase the age limit for overseas household service workers from 23 to 30 due to the increasing cases of suicides and runaways.

sarah balabagan

sarah balabagan

“Kahit 30, 40, or 50 pa ‘yan hindi naman nirerespeto ang edad do’n. Ang dapat gawin ng gobyerno, asikasuhin ang support mechanisms sa receiving countries.

(Abusers and exploiters do not respect the age of OFWs even if they are 30, 40, or 50. What the government has to do is to ensure support mechanisms for OFWs in the receiving countries),” said Migrante chairperson Concepcion Bragas-Regalado.

Regalado said that in Bahrain , the minimum age requirement for OFWs was raised but that did not prevent employers from abusing Filipinos.

“It doesn’t matter that they’re matured already. Sa cases nga naming may 30, 40 or nasa retirement age na pero naa-abuse pa rin. It’s time for the government to look at bilateral agreements with receiving countries. Nagde-deploy pa sila sa mga may gyera tapos nag-i-impose lang ng ban kapag may pumuna

(It doesn’t matter that they are matured already. We have cases wherein OFWs already in their 30s, 40s, or retirement age who are still being abused. It’s time for the government to look at bilateral agreements with receiving countries. The government even deploys OFWs to war-torn areas and only impose a ban if it is already being criticized)”, added Regalado.

Ultimate solution

Lawyer Bernard Gregorio of the IDEALS echoed Migrante’s position.

It’s good for the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines ) to make efforts to protect OFWs by setting a standard age. But age doesn’t matter in migration. Mas maganda kung ang tingnan ay ang policies in deploying OFWs, (It would be better if the government reviews policies in deploying OFWs),” he said.

Gregorio was referring to a statement issued by CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerants on Wednesday supporting the proposed re-imposition of higher age limits for OFWs.

For Gregorio, the ultimate solution is for the Arroyo administration to create decent jobs for Filipinos so they will no longer be enticed to work abroad. “The government should create jobs in the country para hindi na lumabas ng bansa ang mga tao.”

For her part, Fe Nicodemus, KAKAMMPI executive director, said that changing the age of OFWs won’t change their plight. “Ganun pa rin ‘yon, third class citizen ka pa rin sa abroad, maaabuso ka pa rin (It’s still the same, you will still be a third class citizen abroad, you will still be abused).”

Institutionalizatio n

The Arroyo administration is being criticized by several cause-oriented groups in the Philippines for allegedly institutionalizing labor migration as a solution to the economic crisis being faced by the country.

The groups claim that while Filipinos are enduring hardships and risking their lives working abroad, the Philippine government is enjoying a big chunk of the money being sent home by OFWs.

As of 2007, the stock estimate of Filipinos overseas was 8.2 million. The Philippines is the world’s number one sender of Filipino workers abroad.

The government charges a 0.15-percent documentary stamp tax for every OFW remittance transaction. Groups such as Migrante claim that for every US$1-billion remittance, the government reaps US$1.5 million or about P62 million.

Migrante also claims that banks and other private businesses rake in profits from remittances. For every US$200 remittance sent monthly, US$15 to US$22 is charged as service fee. For 10 million OFWs sending remittances, banks earn a staggering $1 billion monthly.

A recent study by the National Statistics Office showed that thousands of unskilled OFWs such as domestic helpers and construction workers were among the biggest contributors to the Philippine economy.

Money sent home last year by Filipinos working abroad was nearly one-fifth more than the official figures reported by the government, according to a study by a London-based organization.

Instead of receiving US$14.45 billion, the Philippines actually got some US$17 billion in remittances last year, the research unit of the London-based Economist Magazine said in its July 2008 report. – Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

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Recruiters accuse NGOs of not doing role in pre-employment of OFWs

August 10, 2008

My hair stands after reading this statement of Mr. Gan, president of the employment agencies federation.

Kailan pa kaya naging trabaho ng mga NGO ang pre-employment concern??

Hindi naman mga NGO ang nagpapadala ng OFW. Kung mag hugas-kamay lang din si Mr Gan sa kanilang obligasyon, dapat ipasara ng POEA ang employment agency ni Mr. Gan.

If Mr. Gan’s statement is the the statement of all employment agencies, this, is a very serious concern to all would be OFWs and OFWs.

What is the purpose of these employment agencies if they cannot provide proper pre-employment support to their contract workers?? As if milking the hapless OFW (mula Pilipinas hanggang sa overseas station nya) is not enough, employment agencies have the ‘pachyderm face’ to pass the pre-employment responsibility to NGOs. Na Wow.

Hindi lang pala gobyerno ang nang huhugas-kamay sa kanilang responsibilidad, kundi pati na rin mga employment agencies, na sya dapat unang mangalaga sa kanilang mga ipinapadala sa abroad.

Really, POEA and DOLE should remove the license of Mr. Gan’s employment agencies for so being anti-labor, anti-OFW.

This statement should be investigated by the Senate. This is serious. Very serious.

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Recruiters accuse NGOs of not doing role in pre-employment of OFWs
08/09/2008 | 04:26 PM
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/112604/Recruiters-accuse-NGOs-of-not-doing-role-in-pre-employment-of-OFWs

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MANILA, Philippines – An association of recruitment agencies in the Philippines accused non-government organizations (NGO), specifically migrant groups, of not doing their part for Filipino workers being deployed abroad.

According to Jackson Gan, spokesman of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, recruitment agencies have been taking care of OFWs’ pre-deployment issues, but migrant groups have been remiss in their duties on the workers’ pre-employment concerns.

“Hindi ninyo ginagawa trabaho ninyo (You’re not doing your job),” said Gan to the representatives of migrant rights advocacy groups Kanlungan Centre Foundation and the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) last Wednesday during a technical working group meeting called by the House Committee on Workers’ Affairs.

“Lagi na lang kayong naghahanap ng problema o butas (You’re always looking for problems or loopholes),” Gan further told the migrant groups during the meeting.

But the migrant groups dismissed Gan’s claims, saying it was not their responsibility to handle pre-employment concerns of OFWs.

CMA Advocacy Officer Rhodora Abaño said her group did not have a program to handle the pre-employment concerns of OFWs and that CMA didn’t have to do such duty.

“We’re in advocacy so we only do information work,” Abaño told GMANews.TV in an interview on Thursday.

For its part, Kanlungan, through its lawyer Donnaliza Nicolas, said in an interview with GMANews.TV on Friday that she found Gan’s statements “funny.”

Nicolas said Kanlungan was not mandated by the government or anyone to address the said pre-employment concerns. “Our responsibility is to the migrant workers.” – Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

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Reaction from Migrante/CMU:

I BEG TO DISAGREE THE ACCUSATIONS OF MR. JACKSON GAN. MIGRANTE IS ONE OF THE ORGANIZATIONS WHO VOLUNTARILY HELP OFWS WHO ARE IN NEED OF HELP, AND IT IS PROVEN IN MANY CASES, NO NEED TO MENTION

(PUBLICATIONS IN MAJOR NEWSPAPERS ATTESTED MIGRANTE’S ACTIONS IN HELPING OFW WORLDWIDE )

INSTEAD OF POINTING THE BLAMES TO NGOs, HE SHOULD LOOK FIRST THEIR UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR TO WOULD BE OFW ( THE POOR APPLICANTS HAVE TO PRODUCE ALL THE MONEY THAT RECRUITMENT AGENCIES WANTED ) i.e.

1.0 THE POEA APPROVED PAYMENTS TO ANY RECRUIMENT AGENCIES AS PROCESSING FEES IN EXCHANGE OF JOBS ABROAD IS ONE MONTH SALARY EQUIVALENT, HOWEVER, I PITY THOSE WOULD BE OFW WHO ARE HUNGRY OF JOBS OVERSEAS IN ORDER TO UPLIFT THEIR LIVES, WHEREAS, MAJORITY OF THE RECRUITMENT AGENCIES ARE CHARGING THREE TO FOUR FOLDS EQUIVALENT TO THEIR INTENDED MONTHLY SALARIES ( IMAGINE A POOR ORDINARY CARPENTER WHOSE CONTRACT IS USD 200 MONTHLY, THE SHARK AGENCY CHARGED STARTING P 30,000 PESOS, NOT TO MENTION OTHER CHARGES LIKE MEDICAL, TRADE TESTS, ETC. WHEREIN, THE AGENCY COLLECTS THEIR SHARE/COMMISSION FROM THESE ESTABLISHMENTS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE POOR WOULD BE OFW )

2.0 THE RECRUITMENT AGENCIES WHO CONDUCTS ‘PDOS’ ( PRE DEPARTURE ORIENTATION SEMINAR ) IS MISLEADING THE WOULD BE OFW BY NOT TELLING THE TRUTH, WHAT IS REALLY THE LIFE OF AN OFW IN ABROAD, THEY ONLY TALK ABOUT THE SALARIES THEY WILL GET ARE IN DOLLARS/BUCKS WHICH IS VERY ENCOURAGING TO WOULD BE OFW ( THESE RECRUITMENT AGENCIES ARE LIARS, THEIR ONLY ULTIMATE INTERESTS ARE THE FEES THEY HAVE TO COLLECT FROM THE POOR WOULD BE OFW )

3.0 TO MENTION A FEW OF THE PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED THAT RECRUITMENT AGENCIES HIDE DURING ‘PDOS’
– CHANGE OF CONTRACT UPON ARRIVAL TO EMPLOYER ( THE CONTRACT SIGNED BY BOTH PARTIES THAT SUBMITTED TO POEA WILL BE DISREGARDED – NO CHANCE TO WITHDRAW SINCE THE POOR OFW IS THINKING THE MONEY PAID TO THE SHARK AGENCY )
– THE ACCOMMODATION STATUS – THERE ARE EMPLOYERS WHO PROVIDE THEIR WORKERS NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE NORMAL LIVING CONDITIONS
– WEATHER CONDITIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST (EXTREME HOT WEATHER CONDITION – you will feel the real hot weather when you are experiencing losing your consciousness AT 50 TO 54 DEG C )
– WAKE UP EARLY IN THE MORNING AT FOUR O’CLOCK TO PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE DAY’S WORK
– HAVING LUNCH AT JOBSITE WITH SANDS DURING SANDSTORM
– OWWA PERSONNEL ARE INUTILE WHEN PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED ( INSTEAD OF ASKING HELP TO OWWA, BETTER CONTACT A MIGRANTE MEMBER )

– MONTHLY SALARIES NOT RECEIVED ON TIME ( SOME EMPLOYERS DELAYS SALARIES )

– WORKING 10 HOURS PER DAY BY FORCE WITH NO OVERTIME PAY , INSTEAD OF 8 HOURS CONTRACT AGREED BY BOTH PARTIES SUBMITTED TO POEA

4.0 FROM ITEM 3.0 WHAT ASSISTANCE DO MR. JACKSON GAN CAN PROVIDE IN EXCHANGE OF THE RECRUITMENT FEES COLLECTED FROM THE POOR OFW

BASIS OF THE ABOVE, IT IS A NORMAL BUSINESS PRACTICE THAT THE RECRUITMENT AGENCY TO ASSIST OFW IN TIME OF DISTRESS, SINCE THEY COLLECTED THE FEES THEY WANTED , HOWEVER, IT IS MIGRANTE WHO IS AN ACTIVE ORGANIZATION READY IN EXTENDING ASSISTANCE TO OFW.

SHOULD ATE GLO CARES THE OFW, CONGRESS SHOULD CREATE A LAW CRIMINALIZING SHARK RECRUITMENT AGENCIES THAT DO NOT FOLLOW POEA POLICIES ON THE APPROVED ONE MONTH SALARY EQUIVALENT.

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MIGRANTE: : Illegal deployment of Filipinos to Lebanon continues

May 16, 2008

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: May 15, 2008

MANILA, Philippines — An alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations in the Middle East called on the government Thursday to intensify their monitoring against recruitment agencies that have been sending OFWs to Lebanon despite the deployment ban imposed by the government.

Migrante-Middle East said an official of the Filipino-Lebanese Friendship Association based in Lebanon claimed that around 5,000 Filipino domestic helpers have entered the eastern Mediterranean country since the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 ended.

“Like in Iraq, despite deployment ban imposed by the Arroyo administration, we are wondering why there are still a considerable numbers of OFWs that have been sent to work as domestic helpers in Lebanon where a civil war is now escalating,” John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East’s Saudi Arabia-based regional coordinator, said in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

He urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to intensify its monitoring drive against recruitment agencies that were continuously sending OFWs in Lebanon and Iraq, where there was heavy internal conflict.

“The Arroyo administration and POEA should seriously prosecute recruitment agencies violating the deployment ban in Lebanon and Iraq to ensure that our fellow OFWs and aspiring alike will not be sent to war-torn Iraq and Lebanon,” Monterona added.

Reports indicated that violence has been escalating in Lebanon due to infighting of two warring Muslim factions, the Shiite and Sunni groups. Monterona said that based on Migrante’s monitoring, the unrest may escalate in the coming days.

An estimated 50 people have already been killed due to heavy fighting between United States-backed Lebanon government army and militia Hezbollah group that ensued when the former opted a policy of disarming the latter.

Early this week, Lebanon’s pro-government and opposition factions reached a deal to revoke the two decisions that sparked the fighting. On the same day, the opposition ended its civil disobedience campaign.

Monterona said the outbreak of hostilities put the lives of OFWs in Lebanon at great risks, referring to the estimated 25,000 OFWs there who were mostly domestic helpers.

During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, most Lebanese employers just left their domestic helpers and were even locked inside their employer’s houses, Monterona recalled.

“That time Lebanese are swiftly fleeing and securing only themselves and members of their families, leaving behind our fellow OFWs at their employer’s houses, thus putting OFW lives at great risks at time when heavy bombs are pouring like rain,” Monterona said.

The ongoing conflict has seen many Lebanese citizens evacuating to Cyprus amid the fighting.

Monterona said the issuance of advisory from the Philippine government to OFWs in Lebanon to keep off the streets and just follow their employer’s instruction would not be enough, he added, as he called for a “pro-active plan” to ensure the safety and security of all OFWs in Lebanon.

He said that Philippine officials in Lebanon should make themselves and their offices available and that they should try to get in touch with OFWs by having available telephone hotlines in time.

Two years ago, over 6,000 Filipino workers were evacuated and repatriated from Lebanon following the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Many were repatriated through the help of the International Organization for Migration.