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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The Sarah Villegas experience (with illegal recruiter)

May 27, 2008

I just would like to share some news from the travails of Sarah Villegas, an OFW who was a victim of illegal recruitment who ended up distressed in Singapore (no jobs).

We posted her appeal to some forums, and we are thankful to kind people who passed her appeal among friends. There were lawyers who volunteered to take her case, pro-bono.

We also caused the publication of Sarah’s letter to the Inquirer’s Global Nation website, under Mailbag.

According to Sarah, as a result of that posting, she received a call from the POEA adminsitrator inquiring about here case, since they receive a letter from the office of Sen. Chiz Escudero regarding Sarah’s case. They (Sarah & co.) were also invited to his office to discuss their case.

Sarah said that she also received e-mails from the offices of Sen. Noynoy Aquino and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada indicating their support on her plight.

Also, other victims of the said illegal recruiter were encouraged to file their own cases with POEA. But during a conciliation meeting sometime in May 13, 2008, a POEA conciliation officer named Rose Andres and a certain Miss Claudette, representative of NRS Recrutiment Agecy, allegedly told the new complainants that NRS agency will file a LIBEL case against Ms. Villegas.

Her lawyer assured Sarah that the libel suit will not prosper, and is just a plain harassment.

We thank everyone who responded to help Ms. Villegas, and consequently provided moral support to other victims to file their claims also.

We will monitor this case, if we see something positive will come out of this collective action, such as: criminal prosecution of the illegal recruiter, return of their advance fees plus interest, blacklisting/delisting of all the dummy agencies of the illegal recruiter, administrative action against erring POEA employees who will be found to have connived with illegal recruiters.

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My Letter of Appeal for Support
( Sana Inyong Dinggin at tulungang lutasin )

PLEASE HELP ME: A CALL FOR JUSTICE
(The Voice of a young Filipino who suffered a great and traumatic experience as OFW in Hong Kong)

By: SARAH N. VILLEGAS
Matti, Digos City
Province of Davao del Sur
Contact Number: 09289507404
Email add: sararoejade@yahoo.com.ph

I spent almost P 200, 000.00 in my humble desire to work in Hong Kong. It was very painful to be away from my family. Yet, I gamble because I want to save my family from too much poverty. It was too late to know that a simple dream became a worst nightmare. I almost died to fight for a cause. I didn’t loss hope even until now that I am here… in God’s divine mercy… back in the Philippines with my family.

I am Sarah N. Villegas, married, 35 years old and a native of the province of Davao del Sur. I am just a simple housewife …tried my luck to hopefully take the advantage of going abroad as an OFW.

I know you will agree with me that hundreds if not thousands of Filipinos working abroad or planning to work abroad who encountered serious problems. Admittedly, I am one of them. But my case is different. I have a serious case. Please consider the following facts:

A powerful placement agency like NRS PLACEMENT INC, LOVE MANPOWER AGENCY still deploying OFW’s in different countries who have juicy connections with POEA, still operating their business even behind a lot of charges filed in different courts.

The said agency is having a special arrangement of the employers abroad to earn huge amount of income and bargaining transactions in the expense of a poor Filipino. There are even complainants who only settled for P 10, 000 to P 20, 000.00 from over P 200, 000.00 placement fee including other expenses spent in their application just to avoid lengthy court litigations.
It is a fact that NRS PLACEMENT INC. and LOVE MANPOWER AGENCY is opening different branches like and even establishing new placement agency, name BLS agency just to continue their operations. But I cannot understand why all these agencies are still protected by the POEA.

The POEA aware that most of the recruitment agencies are refusing to give a receipt in every payments has been made by applicants.

Other Conflicts

1. Philippine Government Agencies in Hong Kong like the Philippine Consulate are not really there to serve and solve problems of the OFW’s. The truth is they are conniving with the agencies. I am a witness of different transactions.

2. Most of the victims of injustice and / or illegal recruitment were displaced. Some were arrested, maltreated and sexually abused. Others were lucky and blessed because they knew where to go. In my case, I went to a catholic center where I was given the moral support of the religious community.

Important Consideration

I was instructed by HongKong magistrate court to be a prosecution witness because the evidence collected by Hongkong Police is sufficient to sue my employer.

I reported to the media when I was still in Hong Kong where it created a big story. The impact was great because the Philippine Consulate got panic.
I have all the facts, documents and lead to establish a strong case.

The problem is the case is no longer working for almost a year now.

I decided to go back home after 6 months of initial battle in Hongkong because my situation was very difficult.

I was not allowed by Hongkong Government to have a job because I am a prosecution witness.
Manifestations

My family is in great pain. We could hardly survive because we need to pay our debts.
We need to save other OFW’s who are still in Hong Kong and those who went home with broken dreams particularly the victims of this agency.
There is need for those people involved in this case to be brought to court and be accountable.
The case must be given an utmost attention.

Please help me. It is my prayer that with your support we will be able to solve my problem especially that I am so much affected, not only of my personal convictions but also with my concern with other Filipinos who need your PRECIOUS attention.

Maraming Salamat po!

Sa inyo gumagalang,

SARAH N. VILLEGAS
NLRC CASE NO.