late than absent
|Time was when
being absent puts some one in a bind. You fail your class,
you’re terminated from work, or you simply waive
your right. This time, being absent could make a difference.
Especially if you’re eight million strong.
This developed as the Philippine Congress vowed to pass
the Absentee Voting Bill giving overseas Filipino workers
and other foreign-based Filipinos the right to cast their
votes, hopefully, in the 2004 national elections.
Earlier, the two chambers were in a deadlock on the passage
of the bill as the lower house and other top government
officials questioned the viability of absentee voting
citing the exorbitant cost it would entail in its implementation.
During one of the official functions he has attended,
Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople cited the huge amount
it would entail for the operation of the absentee voting
system and the difficulties in implementing it especially
in countries hosting too many Filipinos.
In his talks with Ambassador to Singapore Ernesto Llamas,
Ople learned that the Singapore Embassy alone would need
an initial $1.7 million to conduct an absentee voting.
Singapore only has 124,000 Filipinos.
Among the countries with large numbers of Filipino expatriates
are Hong Kong, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the United
States. Over four million Filipinos work abroad, according
to government statistics. Close to a million Filipinos
work in Saudi Arabia alone.
Assuming the Philippines’ 60 embassies and 18 consulates
would each need $1.7 million, Ople said a total of $132.6
million or P6.63 billion would be needed to conduct an
absentee voting worldwide.
Filipinos abroad remitted $6.23 billion through official
channels to the Philippines last year.
But while the legislators were busy rambling, the OFWs,
becoming impatient themselves over the slow pace the bill
is leading, openly joined the struggle to pressure the
Congress for the passage of the law. And to their credit,
a leading Church leader has joined them in their campaign.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a group of OFWs organized an
‘electronic’ lobbying campaign to pressure
lawmakers in Manila to pass the AVB.
In a meeting held right at the Philippine Embassy, the
convenors of the International Coalition on Overseas Filipinos
Voting Rights (ICOFVR) Riyadh Chapter and community leaders
called on all overseas Filipinos to act as one and fight
for their right to vote.
As their campaign’s name Tutukan si Congressman!
suggests, ICOFVR members who have access to computers
were asked to send e-mails to their congressmen and senators
to express their concern over the continued delay in the
passage of absentee voting bills pending in the two houses
ICOFVR organizers gave the telephone and fax numbers,
e-mail addresses, and office addresses of all the members
of Congress. They were provided a ready-made letter with
a heading that reads: “Boto Ko, Karapatan Ko. Pass
the Absentee Voting Bill Now! Itaguyod Mo Kabayan ...
Panahon Na!” The full text of the letter is written
One of the group’s leaders, Mike Bolos, informed
that a group of OFWs in Japan had produced banners and
streamers and sent them to the Philippines and have been
draped from the buildings along the road leading to the
Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City.
The group contends that the right of overseas Filipinos
to vote in Philippine national elections is enshrined
in the 1987 Constitution but an enabling law is needed
for that right to be exercised. However, they admitted
that it is the lack of action on the part of overseas
Filipinos to assert their right that has enabled some
unscrupulous and selfish legislators to deny them that
“Today,” the ICOFVR said, “overseas
Filipinos are now being held hostage by some unreconstructed
congressmen.” Overseas Filipinos would be allowed
to vote only for the president, vice president, senators
and party-list representatives.
These obstacles in Congress are also the target of the
TALSIK portion of the campaign, which stands for “Tanggalin
Ang mga Lintik at Sagabal at Inutil na mga Kongresista
(Kick Out the Scums in Congress).
Among those given special mention in the TALSIK campaign
were Gilbert Remulla of Cavite (2nd district), Celso Lobregat
of Zamboanga City, Felix Fuentebella of Camarines Sur
(3rd district), and Digaden Dilangalen of Maguindanao
Perla Vega, one of the convenors and founding chairwoman
of the group Mother, has brought with her copies of the
15,000 signatures gathered for the bicameral hearing in
Riyadh last March to present to President Arroyo, Senate
President Franklin Drilon, and House Speaker Jose de Venecia
in hopes of getting their support.
The OFW group also threatened to stop remittances of their
earnings through legitimate channels which could severely
affect the country’s foreign currency reserve and
the income of remittance agencies as the these remittances
could end up in the black market. (See related story on
Also, a Roman Catholic bishop on Tuesday urged his flock
to reject at the next elections Philippine legislators
he blamed for denying millions of Filipinos working overseas
the right to vote.
“Now you know who are the villains and traitors,”
Bishop Ramon C. Arguelles said in a statement, telling
the families of overseas workers not to vote for the unnamed
Addressing the overseas workers, Arguelles, who heads
a commission for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant
people, said, “How can you entrust (congressmen)
with the future of your country and of your children?”
“Tell your relatives to junk them” in elections,
It is at the lower house where the bill has been experiencing
rough sailing as local officials including congressmen
do not stand to benefit from the bill.
But apparently, the OFWs’ ploy paid off. Earlier
this month senate president Franklin Drilon announced
that both the lower and the upper chamber have agreed
to pass the AVB within this month. This, he said, would
be the Arroyo administration’s ‘greatest gift
to the OFWs.’ The senate recently passed its own
version of the bill.
Well, all’s well that ends well. Sana lang, wag
maranasan ng mga kababayan natin sa abroad ‘yung
nararansana natin dito sa Pilipinas. Na ‘yung pangalan
ng botante sa Saudi ay mapunta sa listahan ng mga botante
sa Hong Kong.
workers see no glory under Gloria
more to it than meets the eye.
While President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continues with
her propaganda blitz declaring an all-out war against
criminality and most especially, against poverty, she
expects stiff opposition from migrant workers who view
her to be the most anti-migrant worker president by far.
According to Migrante International, not only has the
Philippines’ economic situation worsened under the
Arroyo Administration, but also the president herself
has started what could be dubbed as the biggest sellout
of the country’s migrant workers.
Citing a recent Pulse Asia survey indicating that one
out of every five Filipinos want to leave the country
because they are losing hope in the country, Migrante
said that 2,700 Filipinos leave the country everyday due
to lack of job opportunities locally. Every year, hundreds
of thousands of Filipino workers are pushed abroad to
work due mainly to the failure of the government to generate
long-term economic opportunities and jobs for the people,
“For Gloria - the systematic export of Filipinos
abroad through the government’s Labor Export Program,
is among the hallmarks of her administration. In the spirit
of globalization, she prostitutes and enslaves overseas
Filipinos through the LEP. Abroad, Gloria engages in the
wholesale sell-out of Filipinos for cheap wages as part
of her aggressive marketing drive for Filipino workers,”
The militant migrant workers organization scored Arroyo
for referring to overseas Filipino workers as “Global
Filipinos,” saying this is a euphemism that hides
the reality of modern slavery.
“Since the start of her term, she blatantly attempts
to export one million Filipinos per year in exchange for
inhumane wages, physical and emotional abuse,” Migrante
deplored. “It would be more appropriate if she calls
us ‘the Global Filipino Slave.’”
Recently, Arroyo signed an agreement calling for a 30%
wage cut for domestic helpers in Hong Kong. However, she
was prevailed upon when faced with strong anti-wage cut
protests led by the Asian Migrant Coordinating Body, United
Filipinos in Hong Kong and Migrante International.
In addition to these, Arroyo has also agreed to the lowering
of the wages of overseas Filipinos through the implementation
of the “trainee system”. In Korea and Japan,
the trainees afford the foreign capitalists a cheap alternative
to “migrant workers”. As trainees, the Filipino
workers are given only “allowances” and are
not entitled to any rights as workers even if the work
they do is similar to that of other workers.
The group also criticized the Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration rules on the new Standard Contract for
Sea-Based Workers, implemented under Gloria illustrates
policies which, according to them, clearly serve the interests
of manning agencies, insurance firms and the government
instead of the sea-based workers.
“Gloria also dismissed the rights of seafarers by
validating the practice of blacklisting by manning agencies
and implementing a POEA watchlist of seafarers who speak
out against oppressive working conditions,” Migrante
added. Under these schemes, all seafarers who complain
may be placed on the blacklists or watchlists.
The group also condemned the president for her alleged
inactions on the reported human right s violation against
Filipinos abroad mostly on justifications that these are
part of global war against terrorism being spearheaded
by the United States.
Cases of human rights violations documented by Migrante
• The unjust detention of almost 30 Filipinos and
their children in Belgium without a warrant
• The deportation of 63 Filipinos in handcuffs and
chains from the US; The detention of almost
30 immigrants in Texas and the unjust assumption that
the Filipinos in the group may have
ties to the Abu Sayyaf;
• The possible mass unemployment of 1,000 Filipino
immigrant baggage screeners because
of the ultra-nationalist US Aviation Security Act that
calls on all baggage screeners to be
• The suspension of almost 30 Filipino nurses in
California because of their walk-out over
racist policies that gave them lower wages than their
• Crackdowns on undocumented workers in Malaysia,
Korea and the US; and,
• The death of a Filipino child due to the inhumane
conditions Malaysia deports Filipinos
“Arroyo’s inactions on the human rights violations
committed against our compatriots abroad clearly manifest
her continued to be a fanaticism as a puppet to foreign
and US dictates,” said Migrante.
In the face of her ‘crimes’ against the country’s
migrant workers, Migrante International concluded that
Arroyo had already dug her own grave as some sectors are
already calling for her ouster, them included.
Man! And all the while I didn’t think she could
dig that deep!
whom the bell tolls
|At the height
of the Filipino-American War in 1901, Filipino patriots
waylaid a troop of American soldiers patrolling a small
town in Samar killing five of them in the process. In
retaliation, Brig. General Jacob Smith of the US Army
ordered that town of Balanggiga, burned to the ground
with no one above 10 years old to be spared and no prisoners
to be taken. Not contented, they plucked out all three
bells from the bell pry of the Balanggiga Church as trophies
to their savagery. One of the bells was used by the locals
to signal the attack on American troops on Sept. 28, 1901.
Now, a century later, the Bells of Balanggiga still tolls
every morning. But not in its rightful place at the entrance
of the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming
and at the 9th Infantry Regiment Museum in Camp Red Cloud
in South Korea. Negotiations conducted in the past for
the return of the bells bore no fruits as the US Government
consider them as war mementoes confiscated on a legitimate
war operation and that it had been used by the Filipino
revolutionary forces in furtherance of their attacks against
the US troops then. In fact, the marker on Warren Air
Force Base states, "These bells came from a church
in Balangiga, Samar, located in the Philippine Islands.
The ringing of these bells signaled the attack by bolo
tribesmen on Sunday morning, the 28th of September, 1901,
in which a company of the Ninth U.S. Infantry was massacred."
While many downplay the significance of the bells and
are hesitant to pursue further negotiations for their
return, nationalists believe otherwise. Not only do they
contend that the bells symbolize the courage and patriotism
of Filipinos, but also the barbarism of Americans. Furthermore,
the taking of the bells are considered sacrilegious. In
a 'religious' country like the Philippines, church bells
are the foremost symbols of all communities. Church bells
toll the baptism, wedding and death of every individual
in a Catholic community.
Recently, Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez, Senators
Aquilino Pimentel and Loren Legarda, and former Makati
Mayor Jejomar Binay asked the Arroyo administration to
resume formal negotiations with the United States for
the return of the bells. And with the present dispensation
toeing every whims of the US, it is hoped that they could
persuade US authorities to return what is not rightfully
Legarda said time has healed the pain of a most savage
conflict between two nations that have become the best
of friends and the bells should serve as a memorial to
the thousands of Filipinos ordered killed in retribution
Pimentel invoked a United Nations resolution dated Nov.
2, 1993 calling for the return of cultural property by
the countries in which it is found, to the countries of
deployment of OPAs to Korea'
"Kiko" Pangilinan told this to the Department
of Labor and Employment to prevent more Filipino Overseas
Performing Artists (OPAs) from falling prey to white slavery
syndicates in South Korea. The Philippine Overseas Labor
Office in Seoul unilaterally banned the deployment of
Filipinos to Korea, but Pangilinan said this would only
be effective if the POEA reciprocates the POLO's act.
Pangilinan also reasoned that it is illegal to deploy
Filipino workers to Korea since the Manila has no standing
labor agreement with Seoul. He said the lack of a bilateral
labor agreement between the Philippines and South Korea
jeopardized the welfare and safety of OPAs. If this is
so, why is POEA deploying OPAs to Korea?
bonus for balikbayan
teasing balikbayan to spend more on pasalubong by dangling
a $1,500 duty-free shopping privilege. The proposed $500
additional shopping privilege in all government-owned
duty-free shops got the nod of the bicameral conference
committee on tourism.
Likewise, balikbayan will have a longer time to shop --
within 15 days upon arrival in Manila during ordinary
days and within 30 days from arrival during the Christmas
season (Nov. 15 to Jan. 15). The previous shopping time
is 12 days.
The committee also introduced a Kabuhayan program that
lets a balikbayan buy tax-free $2,000 worth of livelihood
tools. Sen. Noli de Castro, chairman of the Senate panel,
said the Kabuhayan program intends to enable the balikbayan
and OFWs to be economically self-reliant upon their return
to the country.
Bilmoko nyon, bilmoko nyan, ha.
nurse for P14,000 a month
|Among the amendments
that Sen. Edgardo J. Angara is proposing for the Philippine
Nursing Act of 1991 is a minimum monthly salary of P14,000
for government nurses. That's P5,000 more than the current
entry-level pay of P9,000.
As the US and Europe are on a hiring binge for nurses,
the amount hopes to keep local nurses from working abroad.
Angara noted that last year, 14,000 nurses left for jobs
overseas. The figure was more than double the 6,000 average
graduating size of nursing schools from 1999 to 2000.
From January to May this year, a total of 4,700 nurses
left the country. They represent 85% of the nursing students
to graduate this year.
Angara proposed a P14,000 starting salary because this
is the amount that police and soldiers are getting now.
Let's hope the salary is attractive enough.
By the way, skilled Filipino nurses can earn as much as
P300,000 a month abroad.
So take your pick.
house from housing dep't
Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. said so when the Department
of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) is eventually
created. House Bill 4517, which was approved on second
reading, will enable millions of Filipinos to acquire
houses at affordable prices by creating a social housing
fund that would be used solely for building houses for
Under the bill, all agencies of the Housing and Urban
Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) will be under
one roof. DHUD will absorb the Home Guaranty Corporation,
National Housing Authority (to be renamed National Housing
Corp.), National Home Mortgage Finance Corp., Home Development
Mutual Fund, and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board
(to be renamed Real Estate Arbitration Commission). The
HUDCC will then cease to exist.
Bill 4517 also mandates the Public Estates Authority to
develop new towns with complete basic facilities to decongest
vets' kids... grandkids to get gov't posts
|So much for
veterans' pension. It's the veterans' dependents' turn
to get favors in recognition of their father or lolo's
House Bill 785, which gives government and GOCC jobs to
any veteran's child or grandchild, was approved on second
reading. If finally passed into law, it mandates all appointing
government personnel to grant preference to the child
or grandchild of a veteran among the crop of qualified
applicants for a position in any government office or
government-owned or controlled corporations.
Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, author of the bill,
believes that offering veterans' children and grandchildren
a place in public service serves to value the contributions
of World War II, Vietnam, Korean and other war veterans
to the formation of national consciousness on freedom
Let's hope that the bill's beneficiaries are more qualified
and more competent than other prospective applicants for
Solis wants maritime department
|Rep. Jose G.
Solis (2nd Dist., Sorsogon) is out to prove Rep. Harry
C. Angping (3rd Dist., Manila) wrong. Contrary to Angping's
radio pronouncement that his colleagues are not in favor
of creating a Department of Maritime Affairs that will
help simplify the documentation and deployment of seafarers
abroad, Solis' House Bill 4728 is scheduled for floor
deliberation this month.
HB 4728 aims to integrate into the DMA existing government
bureaus, offices and agencies managing and developing
the shipping, shipbuilding and crewing industries. The
proposed DMA will have a National Seafarers Administration,
which will promote, develop and monitor the education,
training, welfare and deployment of Filipino seafarers
and other maritime workers abroad. Among the tasks of
the NSA are the issuance of seaman's books, maintenance
of a seafarers registry and job placement.
Angping said congressmen are not inclined to create another
department because they have just passed a law creating
the DHUD. However, Angping said he is in favor of creating
a National Seafarers Commission, which will serve as a
one-stop shop for seamen's concerns.
meeting kasimanwas in Damman
Franklin Drilon is gracing the 9th Filipino Community
Day 2002 on October 25 in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi
Arabia Hiligaynon Inc. (SAHI), a community group of Ilonggo-speaking
Filipinos, invited Drilon, their kasimanwa, to be the
guest of honor of the event.
SAHI also invited singers Rey Valera and Karding of the
former Reycard Duets, as well as teen artist Lance Raymundo
to perform before the Filipino community in the Eastern
Drilon's hosts are expected to ask the Senate leader to
expedite the passage of the Absentee Voting Bill, which
will allow overseas Filipinos to vote in the 2004 national
elections. Fine. Just don't ask him to take his shoes
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