after 9/11: What of the OFWs?
thing that keeps us migrant Filipinos on our toes is the
Aside from green mangoes, bagoong and tuyô, we crave
endlessly for news from our families, updates about the
country, developments in the government, or the lack of
it, life back home. That is why family videos, voice tapes,
letters and even old newspapers never get dust. The advance
in information technology and the growing use of the internet
have provided overseas Filipinos breaking news every minute.
Reading and hearing the news is like being in it. It’s
like you are there. Being a former migrant worker myself,
I know how it is, mga kababayan.
However, it is different when you are the one in it.
“...One million five hundred thousand overseas
Filipino workers in the Middle East are likely to be
affected once the United States fires its guns on Iraq...”
The United States government, under President George
W. Bush, is hell-bent in attacking Iraq. Under the tutelage
of its global war against terrorism, it shall inflict
the gravest of harm on Saddam Hussein and all those
who support him. Tagged as a rogue state by the U.S.,
Iraq recently experienced a spray of bombs and bullets
from swift military planes of the U.S. and Great Britain.
Although only 144 Filipinos live in Iraq, most of whom
are in Northern Baghdad, I cannot for one discount the
possibility of more than 1.5 million overseas Filipino
workers to be affected by the war. Saudi Arabia, just
south of Iraq, is home not only to more than 800,000
OFWs but the largest U.S.-operated military bases in
the Middle East. Among other countries, Israel has more
than 200,000 Filipinos working there. Likely that it,
too, being a staunch ally of the U.S., will launch its
own independent attacks.
“...Belgian police raided 19 houses the next
dawn, arresting Honorato Calacapa and 29 other Filipino
“...Among those unfairly targeted and inhumanely
treated were William Manalastas and his family, an initial
batch of 63 deported Filipinos...”
What do Honorato Calacapa and William Manalastas have
Honorato Calacapa and 29 other Filipinos in Brussels
were rounded up one early morning in September 20, 2001,
a few days after the World Trade Center (WTC) incident,
detained for more than eight hours, denied their right
to a lawyer, had their documents confiscated, interrogated
William Manalastas, on the other hand, was one of the
63 undocumented Filipinos termed as Absconders, who
were detained for violations of their immigration status
and deported back to the Philippines. For thirteen hours
on the plane, their hands, waists and feet were cuffed
limiting their moves, to the point of eating their meals
with their faces.
Honorato and William are just two of the many overseas
Filipinos who have experienced suppression and crackdown
from their host countries. Their nationality, no less
than their skin color, has given them away to the state-sponsored
crackdown on immigrants. All these after the World Trade
The U.S. government led the way with its own Absconder
Apprehension Program that essentially tags immigration
status violators as possible terrorists. Under their
list of roughly 316,000 names are 100,000 Filipinos
bound to be arrested, detained for an indefinite period
of time and experience the same fate as the last 63.
The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines has divulged that
more than 4,000 Filipinos have already been deported
Several other countries followed suit with the implementation
of their own anti-terrorism bills. Malaysia for one
has cramped, harassed and deported more than 3,000 Filipinos
from Sabah to Mindanao since December, 2001. Documented
are cases of women raped and sexually assaulted by Malaysian
police. Seventeen children, some barely a year old,
have died of starvation or dehydration.
In Korea, 14,000 undocumented Filipinos who registered
in the new amnesty program of the Korean government
are forced to leave the country until March, 2003. Italy,
Hong Kong and Israel have threatened to send back more
than 200,000 undocumented Filipinos.
Stereotypes, racism, xenophobia, name-calling and unjust
targeting of immigrant groups are the reality of the
US anti-terrorist campaign. All these episodes have
put the lives of our kababayan under constant fear of
being branded as terrorists or enemies of the U.S. government.
The Philippines, for one, is one of the terrorist-infested
countries in Asia, as specified by the U.S. government.
It is imminent that after its war on Iraq, the warmongering
snakehead of the U.S. will escalate further its presence
and military intervention on the Philippines.
The Philippine government, meanwhile, approves of all
these as it throws back its 100% support to the Bush
administration. That is why it pushed for Balikatan
02-1 and then later, the signing of the MLSA (Military
and Logistical Support Agreement). What miniscule contingency
programs it has for the Filipino migrants being deported,
it compensates with permitting the U.S. government to
use our airbase for their war against Iraq.
and Rebecca Ruga, the two Filipina caregivers who were
killed in the recent suicide bombing in Israel...”
The U.S. war is imminent and is taking
its toll not only on the people of the countries they
wish to target but of all other overseas Filipinos working
in those regions.
It is not a simple issue of proximity as opposed to
the statements of the Philippine government. The distance
between countries will not deduce the chances or effects
of the war on innocuous areas.
As days pass after the World Trade Center, the statistics
of Filipinos being deported, harassed, assaulted and
dehumanized increase at an alarming rate. Filipinos
are not simply tagged as terrorists. They are treated
like one and made to suffer like one.
The U.S. war spells displacement for many Filipinos.
Displacement from their country. Displacement from their
jobs. Displacement from their sources of livelihood.
Taking the cue from the Gulf War of the 90s, Filipinos
overseas have time and again stood up against the atrocious
and equally terroristic war of the United States. While
others have not been remunerated or compensated, while
others have been deprived of jobs and livelihood, while
others have been forced back to the country, many of
us remained standing.
News such as this one did not push us down to our knees.
Rather, it kept us standing on our toes. #
(Comments are most welcome! Please send
it to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mr Gratela has been the Secretary
General of the Migrante International, an organization
deeply involved in the struggle of OFWs, since 1996.
home, you can still claim unpaid salary and benefits from
your foreign employer
is a GUIDE which is simply designed to readily remove
OFW worries over the how, where, what, when and why on
Wrongly or mistakenly accused agencies can find this useful,
too. This guide is bound by the due process requirement
of the law. Legalism is minimized but cannot altogether
be eliminated. It does not detail the entire National
Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) Rules of Procedure.
WHO, WHAT & WHEN OF MONEY CLAIMS. You are an OFW
or a migrant worker if you are (1) yet an applicant
worker but was promised or assured of employment overseas,
and acting on such promise or assurance, you sustained
damage and/or injury; (2) is engaged, or employed, or
(3) has been engaged or employed abroad.
Your money claim can cover unpaid salary and benefits,
RA #8042 mandated payments for illegally terminated
contracts, and damages. It has to be filed within three
years from their accrual. It may be filed against the
deploying recruiting/manning agencies, and/or their
officers with the foreign employer and principal because
of their joint and solidary liability.
WHERE DO YOU FILE YOUR MONEY CLAIMS? The NLRC Rules
give the OFW two choices: with the NLRC RAB or Regional
Arbitration Branch (1) where the OFW resides, or (2)
where the principal office of the recruiting/manning
agency is situated.
If you need advice, you may visit first the NLRC-MWD
or Migrant Workers Desk at Room 403 of the NLRC Office
at PPSTA Bldg., #4, Banawe comer Florentino Streets
(near Quezon Avenue), Quezon City, or any NLRC-RAB-MWD.
TIP. To make accurate the date on your complaint, secure
the official details of your overseas contract and your
agency from the POEA Records (5th Floor) and Licensing
Branch (4th Floor), respectively.
HOW TO FILE CLAIM? (sample area: NCR) OFWs can file
their claim with the Complaints Section of NLRC NCR
at the Ground Floor of PPSTA Building.
Get a complaint form from the Complaint Section and
fill it up. There are officers to assist the OFW. Have
the completed Complaint notarized by the Administrative
Officer in or near the same Complaint Section, free
The Complaint is docketed or listed and numbered as
a CASE. (The OFW henceforth is the COMPLAINANT) The
case is now raffled openly to a Labor Arbiter who shall
hear and decide the case. (There are about 50 Labor
Arbiters in NCR.)
The OFW proceeds to the sala/office of the Labor Arbiter
and ask from the staff the date of the initial mandatory
conciliation conference(s). Thereafter, the complainant
can leave (go home) to return on the scheduled meeting.
This process may take less than an hour, depending on
the number of other litigants or complainants, or what
is called volume of work considering that NLRC-NCR receives
on the averages 10 to 11 OFW cases daily, aside from
the numerous local cases totaling to about 30 cases
per Labor Arbiter per month.
The staff of the Labor Arbiters sends summons, which
is the order/notice of the complaint with the dates
of the conferences or hearings, to the respondent or
the one being complained of.
NLRC CASE FLOW FROM THE LABOR ARBITERS. In the mandatory
conciliation conferences, issues are simplified and
parties are encouraged to settle their case amicably.
Should the efforts fail, parties are directed/ordered
to submit pleadings. Hearings are conducted only if
necessary. The Labor Arbiter decides.
The decision of the Labor Arbiter, when not appealed,
becomes final and executory. If the claim is dismissed,
the case is terminated. If the claim is granted, that
is, the OFW wins, the decision shall be executed.
To execute a decision, the winning party must file a
motion for a Writ of Execution, for which the Labor
Arbiter issues the Writ ordering a Sheriff to carry
out the decision. The Sheriff shall then proceed to
the losing party who may opt to immediately pay.
Otherwise, the Sheriff shall garnish the agency’s
available cash bond with the POEA Cashier, escrow deposit
with a bank and the surety bond with a bonding company.
If these are not enough, the Sheriff may go after the
properties of the agency/respondent officer/s for the
entire judgment award plus execution fee, the total
value of which shall be deposited with the NLRC Cashier,
who releases the award to the OFW, upon motion.
The Sheriff reports the execution result to the Labor
Arbiter within 30 days from receipt of the writ. If
within that period the full execution is not over, the
Labor Arbiter may issue another writ called Alias Writ
of Execution upon Motion of the winning party.
The decision of the Labor Arbiter, if appealed cannot
as yet be considered final. The appeal is filed with
the same NLRC Branch where the case was filed but addressed
to the NLRC Commission, with payment of proper appeal
fees and/or filing of appeal or supersedeas bond, which
shall be in effect until the final disposition of the
case, and joint declaration by the
employer and his council that the bond posted is genuine
and shall be in effect until the disposition in the
The appeal together with the entire records of the case
is forwarded to the Division of the Commission having
jurisdiction over the RAB. Hence, records of cases with
the appealed decisions of the Labor Arbiters in the
Luzon RABs are sent for raffle to the First, Second
and Third Divisions of the Commission, which are holding
offices at the NLRC office in Banawe, Quezon City; in
the Visayas, to the Fourth Division in Cebu City; and
in Mindanao, to the
5th Division in Cagayan de Oro. Each Division of the
NLRC has three Commissioners who review the case on
appeal, after it is raffled to them. Their decisions
are reached in consultation.
As a rule, the decision/resolution of the Commission
on the appealed decision becomes final after 10 calendar
days from receipt of the parties.
Any of the parties however, can file a Motion for Reconsideration
(MR) on the decision of the Commission but only on palpable
or clear errors. The Resolution of the MR becomes final
and executory after 10 calendar days from receipt of
the parties. Thereafter, the decision is recorded in
the Book of Entry of Judgments (this is called Entry
of Judgement), and the entire records of the case is
sent back to the Labor Arbiter of origin for execution.
A party can ask the Court of Appeals (and after, the
Supreme Court) to review the case by way of Certiorari.
When the decision of the higher Court becomes final
and executory, there shall be an entry of judgment,
and the entire records of the case shall be sent back
to the Labor Arbiter of origin through the Commission.
Thereafter, the Labor Arbiter will proceed with the
execution of the final decision and/or the termination
of the case by archiving the records, as the case may
Under the NLRC New Rules of Procedure parties to a case
can at any stage of the proceeding, amicably settle
their case. This is notwithstanding the failed efforts
in the initial mandatory meetings before the Labor Arbiter.
(Queries can be e-mailed to email@example.com)
Atty. Lora is a labor arbiter and
head of the Migrant Workers Desk of the NLRC.
– Promoting family values through the years
is the Seamen’s Wives Association of the Philippines,
Inc. to which Mrs. Gomez is a member and officer. Below,
she gives a background of her organization and its role.
The topics for her succeeding columns will be about SWAPI’s
efforts to help seamen’s wives and other activities
of the group. Wives and relatives of land-based workers
abroad can also get advices and tips from this column.
The Seamen’s Wives Association of the Philippines,
Inc. (SWAPI), is a non-stock organization of wives of
Filipino seamen. Mother, sister, and other female relatives
designated by the seamen as their allottees also compose
SWAPI was organized on December 30, 1978, in Parañaque
City, Metro Manila, with the general objective of meeting
the social and psychological needs of its members. It
aims to unite the wives of seamen throughout the country
and foster understanding, cooperation, and camaraderie
among them. It promotes friendship and oneness in times
of calamities such as fire, typhoon and flood, as well
as in sickness and death. It helps solve members’
problems related to their husband's employment on board
In January 1995, the Board of Directors expanded its
vision, which focused on personal adjustment, solo parenting,
coping up with temporary separation blues and home management.
The new vision, mission and goals reinforce the value
and relevance of previous service.
The new vision focuses on responsible parenting and
active participation of the seamen's
wives in the development and improvement of family life,
specifically in the moral, spiritual, economic, social,
health, educational, and psychological aspects.
The mission is to provide opportunities to members in
the development of their talents and skills and to assist
them achieve a wholesome family life.
The goals are to assist and guide members in meeting
the problems that hinder their progress, encourage them
to continue their service and promote responsible parenthood.
There are certain requirements for joining SWAPI. First,
one must have a good intention in joining the association.
Concern and personal commitment is basic to membership.
Second, she must be the legal spouse of an active seaman.
The mother, sister or any other female relatives designated
by the unmarried seaman as his allottee can join SWAPI
as a special member.
To join, apply personally at the SWAPI office or to
any authorized member-recruiter, pass a short personal
interview by the recruiting officer and fill up the
bio-data sheet together with the appli-
cation forms. The SWAPI office at Room 219 Administration
Bldg., Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, 1175 UN Avenue,
Manila or at 314 Abbey Road, Goodwill 3 Village, Dr.
A. Santos Avenue, Sucat, Parañaque City.
Passing applicants have to submit two 2"x2"
or passport size photos and one ID size photo.
She must pay the membership fee of P500 that will entitle
her to receive a Membership Certificate, ID card and
all membership benefits. She must also pay annual dues
to cover up miscellaneous expenses and monthly office
Passing applicants are also required to attend a seminar
on credit cooperative and values formation.
SWAPI conducts seminars, conferences, conventions and
congresses beneficial to members. For example, health
care seminars teach members the right approach on how
not to hurt their partners in discussing awareness and
prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, especially
HIV/AIDS. Other seminars discourage pre-marital sex
and advocates natural family planning.
SWAPI conducts livelihood seminars that teach members
business skills to help wives earn.
In SWAPI our eyes were really opened to the intricacies
of life and we learned to solve it religiously through
shared responsibility, which is the key to making a
happy family. Shared responsibility begins with the
couple - the husband and the wife. Because of the distant
and temporary relationship of seafarers’ families,
the husband and the wife should have as guiding principles
of relationship faith, action, loyalty and love. If
these principles are met, it will always result to a
happy, healthy and successful marriage.
Mrs. Gomez is the national
vice president of the SWAPI and president of the SWAPI
NCR chapter. She is a radio and TV talent, a resource
person for AOS seminars and customs broker. She is a
recipient of the 2002 Outstanding Lady Executive Leader
of the Year Award and the 1996 Seaman’s Wife of
the Year Award.
BOMB GIRLS. Fourteen boob-tube babes would like
to help fight lawlessness and evil in our crime-infested
communities. How are they going to do it if they have
YOUR COPY NOW