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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Justice sought for death of female OFW in Saudi Arabia

June 15, 2008

So how many more DH in KSA will die before the government implements a total ban against sending of DH, caregivers, and nannies to Middle Eastern countries??

This is madness…

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Justice sought for death of female OFW in Saudi Arabia
JANESS ANN J. ELLAO, Bulatlat

It has been two years since Lilibeth Garcia has seen her sister Eugenia Baja who left to work in Saudi Arabia in May, 2007. Their long-awaited reunion should have been joyous and full of significance being on June 12 Independence Day and just five days since Migrants Day. But there was no cause for celebration in Baja’s much awaited return and the day lost its significance to Garcia and her relatives; because they were in grief and mourning as they waited in the cargo area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for the remains of her sister Eugenia Baja.

Baja left the country for Saudi Arabia last May 6, 2007. Her employment abroad was facilitated by the Aisis International Manpower Inc. which has its office in Malate, Manila. She signed a contract stating that she would be employed as a patient server in Saudi Arabia. However, she ended up being a domestic helper.

In January this year, Baja’s family was alarmed after receiving a series of text messages from her: the first pleading for help from her brother and a second message telling them that she did not know what her employers were doing to her and that she felt like losing her mind.

Their greatest fear was confirmed when they received news February 27 that Eugenia died three days earlier. But it was only by March 2008 that Garcia received a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) informing them of her sister’s death. Garcia was first told that Baja died from an illness. But DFA officials later told her that Baja committed suicide by hitting her head with bathroom tiles.

At that moment, their long struggle to have Eugenia Baja’s remains repatriated began.

Three painful months

Garcia followed up the repatriation of her sister’s remains with the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs for three months to no avail. When Garcia felt that her pleas were being ignored, she brought along representatives from the 700 Club, a news talk show of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which is being aired locally in QTV Channel 11.

Garcia told Bulatlat that because of the presence of media, OWWA officials immediately promised to give them P20,000 ($450.349 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.41) for burial expenses, a P100,000 ($2,251.745) life insurance policy for her father and another P2,000 ($45.03) for her father’s transportation expenses in going back to their hometown in Bohol.

Garcia said that even Aisis International Manpower, Inc. gave them P10,000 ($225.17) as financial assistance. The OWWA also gave them a direct contact number to a certain Ed Lamparas who is working in the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

“Nag-iiba sila kapag may kasama kang media. Samantalang dati pinabalik-balik pa nila ako,” (They suddenly changed just because I was accompanied by a media person. Whereas before, they made me come back and forth with no results. ) she added.

On the other hand, through the help of Migrante International, an organization of OFWs and their families, they were able to ask Senate President Manny Villar for assistance. Villar gave money for the plane tickets of Garcia and two other relatives going to Bohol for Baja’s wake. Congressman Edgar Chato of Bohol promised to shoulder the funeral expenses for Baja.

Journey home

“Nawalan na ako ng gana magtanong sa DFA kaya kay Ed Lamparas na lang ako tumatawag sa telepono,” (I lost my confidence with DFA so I called Ed Lamparas directly for updates.) said Garcia. She added that it was Lamparas who informed her that her sister’s remains would be arriving within one week and that they were having a hard time getting a flight back to Manila. Garcia was also informed that her sister’s employer shouldered the expenses for her repatriation.

She added that this was also the first time that someone, either from the government or from the recruitment agency, disclosed the name of the Baja’s employer, Major Abdulasis Alhusim. “Pulis ata yun,” (I think he is a poiceman.) she added.

“Nung nalaman nila na uuwi na yung kapatid ko, yung OWWA na yung tumatawag. Eh dati ako yung nangungulit,” (When OWWA found out that my sister’s remains was scheduled to be sent home, they started communicating with me. Whereas before I had to follow them up persistently. ) Garcia said.

The arrival

The plane that carried that remains of Eugenia Baja landed in NAIA around 7:30 p.m. June 12. Gladys Garcia from the legal department of Senate President Manny Villar was able to negotiate with the NAIA administration to allow the relatives to fetch the casket. Ten people – three relatives of Baja including Garcia, four people from the media, two staff of Migrante International and another from the office of Senate President Villar – went inside the airport to claim the body of Baja.

Garcia and her two accompanying relatives later emerged from the airport hand-in-hand and went to where other people were anxiously waiting. Garcia was crying hard as the rest of her relatives came to hug and comfort her. The night ended with a solemn prayer inside the humble jeepney, which they rode going to the airport.

But their quest for justice has just begun.

In an interview with Bulatlat earlier in the day, Garcia said that they intend to have Baja’s body autopsied here to be able to determine the true cause of her death.

“Yung buhay (na stranded OFWs) nga kaya baligtarin, yung patay pa kaya?” (If the testimonies given by stranded OFWs who are still alive are being twisted, how much more