Friday, November 29, 2013

PMRW Invites OFWs and their Families to Watch “IloIlo”

BLESSINGS on the hand of women!
        Angels guard its strength and grace.
      In the palace, cottage, hovel,
          Oh, no matter where the place;
      Would that never storms assailed it,
          Rainbows ever gently curled,
      For the hand that rocks the cradle
          Is the hand that rules the world
n    William Ross Wallace (1819-1881)

They are called yayas, maids or nannies. They are the women whose hands rock the cradle, but are oftentimes not valued for the “unskilled” work that they perform in the homes. By taking on caregiving and domestic tasks that are traditionally assigned to women and girls in families, domestic workers enable their women employers to work in the paid labor market. Moreover, by assuming domestic chores, domestic workers allow families that employ them to enjoy family life unencumbered by mundane tasks.

In the multi-awarded film IloIlo, Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen captures the contributions of domestic workers to the families that employ them, especially the care work that is involved in raising and nurturing children.  The film was inspired by Mr. Chen’s memories of his nanny, Auntie Terry, who worked for his family when he was a child.  One of the things that he recalled about Auntie Terry when memories would flash in his mind is IloIlo, where Auntie Terry hailed from.  The film has received numerous accolades, including the prestigious Camera d’Or in the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, for its honest and poignant portrayal of the interconnected fates of the film's characters.

The Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW) is pleased to endorse IloIlo to the Filipino public. Through the lives of Auntie Terry and her Singaporean employers, the film presents the aspirations, struggles and humanity of the characters as they negotiate their encounters initially as strangers, later as worker-employer, and as family members.

Although the PMRW does not encourage overseas employment as a development strategy because of its social costs, the film would be instructive for OFWs, their families, advocates and other stakeholders who work for the promotion and protection of the rights of OFWs, particularly domestic workers.

As a network of migrant advocates, the PMRW was at the forefront in the lobby and campaign for the Philippines to ratify the International Labor Organization Convention 189 (Decent Work for Domestic Workers) and the passage into law of Batas Kasambahay (Domestic Workers Act) or RA 10361.

PMRW will continue to promote and raise awareness about Convention 189 and RA 10361, especially among domestic workers so that they will know and claim their rights.  The film, IloIlo, will contribute to PMRW’s mission to inform and to educate migrant workers, stakeholders and the general public about domestic work and why it is important to provide protection to domestic workers at home and abroad.

It is our hope that the film and others like it will contribute to the appreciation that the nurturing hands that rock the cradle are accorded the respect and dignity that is long overdue. 

Let us all watch, learn from and enjoy IloIlo!


Thursday, November 28, 2013


Ms. Mel Nuqui
President, PMRW

“BALIK PINAS: Empowering Returning Overseas Filipinos 
and their Families.”
 22 November 2013
Ateneo de Davo University

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen a pleasant afternoon to all.

Today’s gathering here at the Ateneo de Davao University marks the launching or the opening salvo for December’s celebration of the Month of Overseas Filipinos.  We are very happy to be with you today to launch this event.

Let me give you some milestones on the celebration the Month of Overseas Filipinos (MOF).  It was during the administration of then President Corazon Aquino that Proclamation No. 276 was issued in June 1988, institutionalizing the commemoration of the Month of Overseas Filipinos every December. Then in December 4, 2000, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed December 18 each year as International Migrants Day. And through Administrative Order No. 202 issued in October 2007, the Inter-Agency Committee for the Celebration of the Month of Overseas Filipinos and International Migrants Day was created.

The Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) for the Celebration of the MOF and the International Migrants Day chaired by the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch and co-chaired by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas with other government and non-government agencies as members. Some of these government agencies are here with us and will be speaking about our theme this year.

For 2013 our theme is “BALIK PINAS: Empowering Returning Overseas Filipinos and their Families.” This is a testament to the reality that there’s still so much to be done for returning overseas Filipinos. Our aim is to discuss the programs and services by the government and civil society to returning migrants and their families, mainstream the concept of migration and development in the local level; and highlight success stories and contributions of migrants in the development of the local communities.
While Filipinos leaving the country are increasing through the years, more overseas Filipinos are also coming back home after almost four decades of toiling in foreign lands. Some are retiring due to their age, health conditions, while others are forced to come back because their contracts were short changed or mainly because of circumstances like conflicts or wars. Reintegration is thus the other reality that time and again migrant advocates and stakeholders have to address aside from their constant role of protecting and promoting migrants rights and welfare.

Although this forum is just a half day, and the concerns and issues of our returning Filipino migrants and their families are plenty we definitely will not be able to cover them all. So we have a month long, this coming December to celebrate successes and gains, discussions and figuring out solutions and alternatives to making the lives of our reintegrating overseas Filipinos more pleasant and productive.

I hope that through our speakers they will be able to help us to learn new ideas and learn from their experiences. Let us all benefit from what they will be sharing to us.  I hope that during the open forum we also get to hear your voices on how we can collectively empower overseas Filipinos eager to come back and OFWs who will soon reintegrate.

Allow me to thank all the IAC members present and not here with us this afternoon who were so active and engaged in bringing this forum here to Davao, then to La Union and Manila and also the rest of activities lined up for December.

I also would like to acknowledge the team here in Davao who helped organize this event - Ateneo, Pag-ibig, and the indefatigable staff and officials of CFO as well as PMRW members and all others who in one way or the other made this event possible. And to our speakers who travelled and be with us and to everyone who participated Daghang Salamat, Maayong Hapon sa tanan!

More fotos here:

Regional Forum on Migration in Davao

2nd Regional Forum on Migration in Davao

As a kick-off event for the 2013 Month of Overseas Filipinos Celebration (MOF), the Inter-Agency Committee on the Celebration of MOF chaired and co-chaired by the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, respectively, held its second Regional Forum on Migration at Ateneo de Davao University on November 22, 2013. The Forum was supported by Pag-IBIG Fund and Ateneo Migration Center.
With a theme “BALIK PINAS: Empowering Returning Overseas Filipinos and their Families”, the forum aims to empower returning overseas Filipinos and their families by way of introducing them to various initiatives offered by the government as well as civil society groups so that they can fully reintegrate, make use of their learned skills and experiences or even invest some of their resources for nation-building.
The Forum was participated by 310 representatives from the government (which include OWWA, SSS, PhilHealth and DTI, among others), LGUs, civil society organizations, academe, overseas Filipinos and their families, and other stakeholders in the migration process, particularly from Davao Region.

Prof. Lourdesita Sobrevega-Chan of the Ateneo de Davao University gave the welcome remarks. She highlighted the significant contributions of the migrants to the economy, and the importance not only of economic reintegration but also emotional reintegration for returning migrants. She emphasized that the theme BALIK PINAS carries a message of hope, and evokes that there is dawn for returning migrants and the reunification of their families.

Ms. Carmelita G. Nuqui of the PMRW gave an overview of the MOF and the Regional Forum initiative by the IAC. She emphasized that the forum aims to give emphasis on the programs and services of government and the civil society in mainstreaming the concept of migration at the local level.

Davao City Councilor Antoinette G. Principe delivered the message of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for the Forum. She said that as a public servant, the welfare of Filipino people always comes first, even those who are abroad. The city of Davao actively encourages its OFs to participate and be involved on issues of national concern. She hoped that overseas work merely becomes an option and not a perceived necessity for the development of the city of Davao.

Mr. Raul Alcantara of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas showcased the newly-launched BaLinkBayan project which could serve as an investment and business information gateway for overseas Filipinos. BaLinkBayan aims to provide Overseas Filipinos with a comprehensive online guide for diaspora investment, as well as ways to donate and volunteer in the Philippines and access government online services. He said that the project can also help OFs in the reintegration process when they decide to come back in the Philippines, specifically in their hometowns, and start in business ventures.
Ms. Elizabeth Marie Estrada, OIC Director of National Reintegration Center for OFWs, discussed the government’s Reintegration Program for OFWs. She said that their programs does not ask for OFWs to return home now but to offer them choices where they can optimize their gains from overseas employment. She said that the preparation for reintegration should start even before the OFW leaves for overseas employment, hence the PDOS program. These programs and seminars for OFs should have components of entrepreneurship and that the implementation of programs should be multi-sectoral in concern. Other programs of NRCO also include Formation of Investors and Entrepreneurs, Creation of Livelihood and Enterprises, Local Employment Facilitation, and Support Services.

Mr. Arnel Adrian Salva of the Economic and Financial Learning Center of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas discussed the productive uses of remittances and financial literacy for OFs. He said that since OF remittances play a major role in economic growth, financial learning campaigns would help channel remittances to more productive activities. The BSP will remain committed to its advocacy to emphasize the importance of saving and introduce alternative opportunities for OF remittances. One of their upcoming projects is a modified PDOS for families of OFs since the earnings and wages of OFs are used by the family beneficiaries in the Philippines. 

Ms. Lilia E. Silda of the Department of Trade and Industry-Davao shared entrepreneurship and investment opportunities in Mindanao for OFs. She said that in creating an enterprise, it provides a cycle of prosperity for the returning migrant. She also said that DTI aims to share their institutionalized provision of business development services to micro enterprises and SMEs, which will make them competitive in the domestic and export markets.

Atty. Antoinette Diaz of the Pag-IBIG Fund-Davao discussed the programs and services of Pag-IBIG for their OFW members, which now account to 3 million. Among the many benefits of being a Pag-IBIG member are the following, Savings Program, Housing Loan and Multi-Purpose and Calamity Loan. They also have Special Assistance Program which provides support to distressed OFWs such as those affected recently by the Middle East and North Africa Conflicts, and Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. Their OFW Center, a one stop shop for all Pag-IBIG transactions provides PDOS. “Mas malaki ang hulog, mas malaki ang benepisyo!” an encouraging tagline that Pag-IBIG wishes to convey to everyone.


Mr. Benjamin Lelis of the International Organization for Migration shared their Initiatives for Youth and Migrant Empowerment. IOM is encouraging for the channeling of remittances for enterprise development. They are also actively promoting the establishment of migrant resource centers which are time and space-shifting facilities that aim to bring migration services down to the grassroots level. He stressed for the decentralization of national government services so they could easily be availed by returning migrants in their local community. 

Ms. Maria Angela Villalba of the UNLAD Kabayan showcased how their organization provides venues for social entrepreneurship for returning migrants. One of their projects is the Migrant savings and Alternative Investments (MSAI). MSAI has US$ 800,000 in savings and investments which compromises a number of 350 micro-enterprises and 22 small enterprises. In addressing the gaps in development, MSAI has also provided 5,000 jobs and livelihoods which adds to the income of families. According to her, there are 35 OFW savings group and 300 individual MSAI practitioners.

Atty. Cecilia Jimenez, former Chairperson of the Geneva Forum for Philippine Concerns, discussed the legal obligations of the government for returning migrants. She said that the government should provide improved databases, and performance audit of government agencies that caters to returning migrants. She also said that the government should create an enabling environment for the returnees, thus the partnerships of government with civil societies. As a champion for Human Rights in the Geneva Forum, she shared how the migrants can help themselves be aware of the dangers of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. She said that aside from the migrants, the government has the sole responsibility to look after its people.


Ms. Myrna Padilla is a former domestic helper in Singapore and Hong Kong for over 20 years and now a successful owner of Mynd Dynamic Team, Inc., an IT-BPO company in Davao. She showcased the OFW, an online based community that tracks and caters to the needs of OFW members. The website is an online forum wherein the registered OFW can provide personal information and ask for assistance. It is patterned to Facebook, making it easier to track a distressed OFW, provided that they are registered on the website. She said that the key to success is “no excuses” for any endeavor that would make one successful.

Captain Norberto Bajienting (Ret.) is a former seafarer for 20 years, and now general manager of Southeast Mindanao Transport Multi-purpose Cooperative. He started his humble business by acquiring jeepneys and were later replaced by busses. Even if was working abroad, he made sure that his business would augment his earnings for the use of his family. He said that one of the challenges of putting up a business is the fear that the capital might not return, knowing that what’s at stake is the fruits of his labor from working abroad. As a businessman, one should maintain good ties with the suppliers and the clients to ensure success of business.
Some of the issues raised and recommendations given during the open forum include:
·         The government should have a comprehensive and reliable data on returning migrants so the government could get their profiles and extend the help and services that they really needed.
·         Given that there are several government agencies catering to migrants, there should be coordination and harmonization of their programs and services.
·         The government should focus not only on economic reintegration of migrants but also on the psychosocial reintegration for their eventual return.
·         National agencies should decentralize their work to address the needs of the returning migrants in their local communities.
Dr. Marla Asis of the Scalabrini Migration Center provided the synthesis of the Forum. She said that the government and civil societies are doing a lot of partnerships and shared interests for the welfare of the returning migrants. Though there are success stories of migrants, not all returning migrants have happy and positive stories to share. With the consolidated efforts of stakeholders in migration, she hoped that the problems and issues of returning migrants be addressed. She said that not all OFs would want to come home, but the best that can be done is to help them prepare when they decide to come back.
Ms. Mildred Estanda, Chair of the Ateneo Migration Center, gave the closing remarks. She said that the Forum has inspired the participants and organizations to step up and work together with the stakeholders to boost support to OFs and their families. The strengthening of cooperation and coordination of advocates of migrants is indeed important and necessary.


After the Forum a cultural show was presented by the Kahayag Community Theatre (Subay sa Buhing Kabilin) of Davao City. The group delighted the audience with song and dance showcasing the rich and colorful culture of Mindanao. The cultural show was sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Mr. Pete Rahon of PMRW and Ms. Nova Pala of Pag-IBIG Fund hosted the event.

(A report from the Commission on Overseas Filipinos - CFO.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Celebrating 18th National Seafarer's Day 2013

by Atty. Dennis Gorecho
Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan Law Office

Seafarers and their families nationwide participated in 18th National Seafarer's Day.Activities nationwide included the Memorial at Sea, High Mass, Grand Parade, Oratorical/ Art/ Photo Contest, Karaoke challenge.

The Grand Parade from Rajah Sulayman park in Malate to Ninoy Aquino Stadium  was participated in by more than 6000 stakeholders from maritime schools, government agencies, manning agencies, training centers, maritime organizations, unions, families and private institutions. The high mass was celebrated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle while Vice-President Jejomar Binay was the keynote speaker.

Another highlight is the awarding of the Top Ten Outstanding Maritime Students of the Philippines: . Derwin P. Alcazar (Malayan Colleges Laguna), Mark Angelo B. Brillo (Mariner’s Polytechnic Colleges Foundation-Camarines Sur), Isagani A. Canal (DMMA Colleges of Southern Philippines), Jo-Mari G. Hieras (Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) West Campus), Monteo Ho (Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) East Campus), Mark Joseph D. Norico (Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) West Campus), Laarni Grace R. Pangilinan (Philippine Merchant Marine Academy PMMA), Micho O. Santillan (John B. Lacson Colleges Foundation-Bacolod, Inc.), Khennan John S. Suarez (John B. Arevalo), John Patrick Vea (MAAP).  

Former president Fidel V. Ramos earlier issued on July 9, 1996 Proclamation No. 828 declaring August 18 as National Seafarers' Day wherein  the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) was tasked to coordinate with the public and private sector in   activities related to the celebration of said event.

The purpose of the Proclamation is to give due recognition to the vital role of Filipino seafarers towards the development of the Philippines as a maritime countryLater,  Proclamation No.1094 was issued in 1997 by President Ramos   during the last Sunday of September every year. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the other hand, in its Circular No. 1884 dated July 11, 1996, requested all member nations to “celebrate’ World Maritime Day (WMD)during the last week of every September (maritime week) of each year. Consequently, Presidential Proclamation No. 866 dated Sept. 6, 1996 declared Sept. 27, 1996 and the last Friday of September every year, as National Maritime Day (NMD) spearheaded alternatively by the government agencies , to wit Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and  Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
The Philippines is considered as the major supplier of maritime labor globally. Per Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) data,. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) data showed that the deployed Filipino seafarers in 2006 (274,497), 2007 (266,553), 2008 (261,614), 2009 (330,424), 2010 (347,150), and 2011 (400,000) brought in the dollar remittances that have also been constantly increasing from US$1.9B in 2006, US$2.2B in 2007 , US$3B in 2008, US$3.4B in 2009, US$3.8B in 2010 to S$4.3B in 2011. As of 2013, the seabased sector’s remittance comprise at least 22% of the total dollar remittances of OFWs. No specific reason can be identified in the increase in dollar remittance despite the drop of supply globally in 2007 and 2008. But perhaps it is a result of increase in the salaries of the seafarers, on one hand, or the more aggressive “remittance” attitude of the Filipino seafarers, on the other hand. On the other hand, the Philippines as a flag State has a registered fleet comprising around 1.4% of total world tonnage.

Given the vast Philippine coast line (twice the size of the United States and nearly three times more than China), Filipinos have natural maritime instincts that place them at an advantage over other nationalities. Foreign shipowners are known to prefer Filipino seafarers for equally important qualities: dedication and discipline, industry, flexibility, loyalty, English language fluency, adaptability, positive work attitude, law-abiding, and problem-solving capability.

Ironically, the Philippines almost lost its slot on the historical first thirty ratifying countries of the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 (MLC2006 It took the philippines six years to ratify MLC2006 on August 13, 2012 after it became a signatory of the so called international magna carta for seafarers rights..The convention sets out minimum standards and fair working conditions for seafarers worldwide. Philippines is the thirtieth country to ratify MLC 2006 out of the 314 signatories and one of the of the first thirty ratifying countries required for the convention to take effect.

Original source of this article here -

Monday, November 11, 2013

OLTCC holds series of meetings

As a venue to address issues and concerns involving land-based Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), the Overseas Land-based Tripartite Consultative Council (OLTCC) held series of meetings. Among the agenda in the said meeting includes update on the situation in Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt) by the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA), and OFW concerns on the Department of Health (DOH) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Mr. Renato Villa, Senior Special Assistant of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) provided a situationer of undocumented migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. The amnesty granted for undocumented workers to correct their visa status will end in November 3, 2013. He mentioned that embassy staff are doing their best to facilitate OFW documents for their repatriation but the bottleneck is with the slow processing of exit visa by the JAWAZAT (Passport Department).

Women and their children are being prioritized and there are about 300 being processed. The situation in Riyadh unlike Jeddah is far more challenging since mothers and children are subjected to DNA testing to establish their relationship.

As per record of the embassy, more than 20,000 applied for new passports. In the month of September, there were 2,969 OFWs that have been repatriated and another 2,130 are awaiting their exit visa. The embassy estimates at least 30% of the undocumented workers are looking for new employers and will get employed before the deadline. The embassy is also negotiating with Saudi Immigration to allow immediate departure of OFWs once the exit visa is issued and not to go through the prison anymore.

In Egypt out of 6,000 Filipinos there are only 2,500 registered. The embassy has not advised for repatriation. Meanwhile, in Syria there are more than 3,000 OFWs scheduled for repatriation and as of September 4,500 OFWs were already sent home.

In the meeting, TESDA reported that of the 217 training centers for household service workers only 200 centers were assessed and 100 are found to have violated the rules. The centers were given 30 days to comply or face closure and at least 32 centers had voluntarily closed their operations. Several issues were
raised to TESDA like the official and required number of days for HSW training; the observation that assessment centers have also become training centers; and the practice of training centers being used as collection agents for placement fees. There were reports that some training centers charge as high as 80,000.00 pesos. TESDA was urged to set an acceptable and affordable training fees that should not be substituted as placement fees.

It was also suggested that aside from trade skills HSWs should also be taught life skills (example health and reproductive rights). And that a closer coordination between and among POEA, TESDA and agencies should be strengthened to curb the issue of high training fees. Civil society groups also raised the need to revisit the current conduct of the pre-departure orientation seminars (PDOS).

The Gulf Accredited Medical Clinics Association (GAMCA) practice of “decking” was raised. DOH was told to
supervise such practice of GAMCA requiring OFWs to avail medical test only from their accredited clinics.

An NGO representative suggested that small committees be formed to act on the different issues that have been raised to the Council so that there will be real concrete results and output on the issues. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

PMRW Joins Senate Probe on Sex-for-Flight

After the three Senate hearings on the “sex-for-flight” scheme and as a result of the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) fact-finding, Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz recommended the filing of administrative charges against three government officials that victimized overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East.

Labor Attaché Adam Musa for gross negligence; (officer-in-charge) Labor Attaché Mario Antonio for grave misconduct; and Asst. Labor Attaché Antonio Villafuerte for simple negligence.

Also, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed a complaint before the Department of Justice against the assistant labor attaché for attempted rape and three counts of sexual abuse against three OFWs.The NBI report was forwarded to the prosecutor for preliminary investigation.

PMRW's Ms. Mel Nuqui with the Blas Ople Policy Center's Ms. Susan Ople served as resource speakers from the Civil Society groups in the Senate hearings. The two organizations representing other migrant rights advocates submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon and Labor Committees, recommendations for reforms in the delivery of onsite protective and welfare services to OFWs. Ongoing discussion is taking place to address these recommendations.

Link of the statement on the issue co-signed by PMRW  -

Friday, November 8, 2013

Roman Archdiocese welcomes migrant chaplains from Europe and the Gulf

by Fr. Edwin D. Corros  ECMI-CBCP

Roma, Italia, September 13, 2013 – With the backdrop of St. Peter’s Basilica at the grounds of Urbaniana University, twenty two chaplains and pastoral workers for the Filipino communities from twelve dioceses in Europe and the Gulf excitedly gathered for the 10th Regional Consultative Meeting for the Filipino Ministry last September 10 to 13, 2013 at the Centro Internazionale di Animazione Missionarie or CIAM.

Organized every two years by the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) the participants were cordially welcomed by the assistant chaplain, Fr. Ricky Gente and the five religious sisters assisting the Filipino chaplaincy in Rome.

The meeting began with the opening liturgy animated by the chaplaincy of Rome. It was immediately followed by the solidarity message of Msgr. Pierpaulo Felicolo, the director of Fondazione Migrantes – Roma.  Speaking in Italian, he claimed that he was very fortunate to be invited at the meeting of Filipino migrant chaplains who had chosen Rome as its venue.  “The Filipino migrants are well loved in Italy and are well esteemed by their Italian employers. Unlike those coming for example from Albania and Romania to Italy, their presence was likened to the way the Italians were treated in Belgium or Switzerland many decades ago. They were despised by the country that hosted them,” he disclosed.

He continued with his message declaring that his office is to help pastorally the migrant communities in the Roman diocese to settle smoothly. The diocese of Rome journeys with the various migrants coming from the four corners of the world acknowledging them with their distinct music, their particular culture and language. The diocese of Rome is in a constant journey with the migrant Filipinos and their families.

According to Fr. Ricky Gente and the other nuns working in Rome, Msgr. Pierpaulo Felicolo tries to be present always at the formation seminar provided to the forty six Filipino communities existing in Rome. Towards the end of his talk, he had expressed hope that this meeting will bring out better pastoral intervention to the Filipino migrants.

Translating into English the message of Msgr. Pierpaulo delivered in Italian was Sr. Gloria Agaan, a Salesian nun and the oldest religious participant in the meeting. She claimed to be present at the first ever gathering of Filipino priests that convened in the early 80’s when fewer Filipinos were in Europe.  Being the most senior among the pastoral workers for the Filipino ministry in Europe, Sr. Gloria has accumulated a wealth of information and experience with the changing attitudes of Filipinos towards the Church especially in Italy. She observed the need for church people to continue reaching out to them. “Priests and nuns must go out of their comfort zones to visit more often the migrants in their homes,” she enthused. Even at her age at 80, she was still thrilled to throw support at the message of Fr. Herbert ‘Bubi’ Scholz, a Society of the Divine World (SVD) priest gave a formation talk on “How evangelization among Filipinos overseas could still be improved?”

Fr. Bubi who is based in the General House of the SVD in Rome stressed in his presentation that personal relationship with the people they minister must be developed in order for them to be effective witnesses and not just carrier of the message of the Gospel of Jesus. “We must learn to form real community not necessarily small community as many of them are really very small and refuse to integrate or form relationship with others,” he stressed. Born in Essen, Germany in 1958, Fr. Bubi as he is fondly called by many Filipino SVD confreres had worked in the Philippines from 1972 until 1994 until he was called to work in their general administration in Rome. “Our faith must be contagious or infectious,” his reminder to the pastoral workers and this is for him the evangelizing quality in the human relationship among missionaries and the people they serve.

In his opening remarks, Bishop Precioso Cantillas, SDB, DD, the outgoing chair of ECMI spoke on the “Thirty Years of Faith Accompaniment among OFWs”. He reminded participants of this faith accompaniment as an expression of the CBCP’s commitment towards the overseas Filipinos and such deserves to be continued with further enthusiasm. He moreover invited them to assist the Filipino migrants in understanding the value of our faith as the Philippine Church prepares for its 500 years centennial celebration in 2021.

The opening remarks of Bp. Cantillas set the tone of the individual report of chaplains. The first chaplain to deliver an update of what transpired after the  meeting in Zurich in 2011 was Fr. Simon Boiser, an SVD missionary based in Berlin. Armed with power point presentation, he narrated the various activities of the Filipino chaplaincy in that German capital.

Many of the participants were first timers to the meeting hence the enthusiasm was high. Among the chaplains who took turns to deliver their own report were Fr. Ronnie Lacanienta of Bergamo; Fr. Ben Barrameda of Kuwait; Fr. Vicente Castro Jr. of Madrid; Fr. Mark Jeben Diola of Padova; Fr. Lyndon Balubar and Dani Visda of Paris; Fr. Edwin Literato of Siracusa; and Fr. Julipros Dolotallas and Fr. Antonio Enerio of Switzerland. Other participants of the regular assembly of European chaplains were Fr. Jun Deocampo of Cologne; Fr. Rene Esoy of Dublin; Fr. Ricky Gente of Rome; and the national director for the Filipino ministry in Italy, Fr. Elmer Bumanglag. Their chaplaincy’s report was centered on the activities of their community. Some conveyed concern over the changing attitudes of Filipino migrants towards the Church in the region.

One major observation that some chaplains shared in their report is the changing way of life and mentality of the Filipino migrants in Europe. Understandably, the behavior and culture of the host country is also a factor. After four decades of continuous work in Europe, many Filipinos have decided to adopt the citizenship of their host country. This change has come after having successfully brought their children to live with them through a family unification system.

In the past most migrant Filipinos were merely aiming to go back to the Philippines to retire. This is no longer the case when asked about their plans. Many of those who have adopted a new citizenship conveyed that their motherland could not provide them practical reason to return. Until the country show signs of economic stability and better opportunities would they reconsider coming back. However, they would love to come only for holidays.

Although some are also thinking about returning, but for many, their children are decided to stay put. Many of those who have bought  properties in Europe are now torn between staying with their children and going back home  for their retirement. These are few of the examples shared by the chaplains who had attended the consultative meeting in Rome.

With the global economic slump that also hit Europe, several Filipinos complained that they do not have anymore the luxury of choosing jobs. Many have also lost their jobs and could not also complain about their salary cut. Some were reported to have problems paying for the property mortgage especially among those who had decided to settle permanently in Europe. Just like the Europeans now they too face the same reality of job insecurity and financial woes.

With the changing priorities that come with their European integration, many of them are not even coming to church. Everyone seemed preoccupied of finding part time jobs to augment their income even during Sundays.

Among the second generation Filipinos, referring to the youth, many are not going to Church. One of the chaplains even claimed that some Filipino youths have become members of a satanic cult. The chaplains found some difficulty addressing the needs of the youth. This issue was also raised consistently in the previous consultative meetings in Dublin, Jerusalem and Zurich in 2007, 2009 and 2011 respectively. Apparently, some chaplains have a hard time addressing this problem as many of them had failed to offer a practical possible solution.

As in the past, besides their meeting, prayers and liturgical celebrations were likewise animated by the chaplains and pastoral workers. In the afternoon of September 12, 2013, the participants went to the basilica of S. Pudenziana, the seat of the Filipino chaplaincy in Rome to celebrate the Eucharist with the Filipino community. Afterwards they were treated to a hearty Filipino dinner. The dinner was followed by karaoke singing that allowed participants to enjoy taking turns in the microphone exhibiting their vocal prowess.

Not every chaplain invited to the meeting was able to attend. Earlier that week, Fr. Gestie Advincula, CM, the chaplain of the Filipino community in Beirut, Lebanon had informed the organizer that he was withdrawing his participation from the meeting due to the escalating tensions happening in Syria. He feared that he will not be able to return to Lebanon in the event that the US would take action against Syria. Moreover, Fr. Virgilio Bago Malgapo the outgoing chaplain of Ibiza, Spain, had sent his report but due to lack of time, it was not read by the organizer. He too had apologized for his inability to join as the new chaplain will soon be replacing him.

Everyone enjoyed the presence and company of each other especially during meals and coffee breaks where lively sharing of experiences of their mission were exchanged.

On the last day of the consultation, it was agreed that  chaplains support the second collection that was approved by the CBCP during the celebration of the National Migrants’ Sunday in the Philippines. The executive secretary of the ECMI will send them a letter related to this activity.

Furthermore, the participants had approved that the next meeting will be brought to the Gulf region.  The chaplain of Kuwait volunteered to host the 11th regional consultative meeting in August 2015, once his bishop agrees.  Then, Kuwait will become the second country to host the meeting outside Europe. It must be remembered that Israel hosted the 8th consultative meeting in Jerusalem last August 2009.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Implementation of the 5th AFML Recommendations

by Fr. Graziano Battistella, SMC


Migration in ASEAN

Using a traditional framework, ASEAN is comprised of 6 countries of origin and four countries of destination of migrants, mostly migrant workers. Using a systemic approach, (and ignoring Brunei because of the small number of migrants involved) it could be said that the region is characterized by four main migration subsystems, where Thailand is the center for a periphery involving Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos; Singapore is the center for an inflow of migrants from traditional sources (mainly Malaysia) and from other countries of Chinese and non-Chinese origin; peninsular Malaysia is the center for migration from Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam; and Sabah is the focus for migration from the Philippines and Indonesia. Three main observations can be made in regard to migration in the region:

1) Migration is important for the countries of origin, like Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, because they have the ASEAN region as their main destinations. However, it is not very important for the Philippines (leaving the case of Sabah aside), which utilizes only Singapore as a major destination within ASEAN. In fact, the number of Filipino migrants within ASEAN is only around 300,000 (according to CFO estimates, excluding Sabah). Migration is even more important for destination countries, particularly Singapore and Malaysia, which have a high percentage of foreign labor force. Therefore, the migration discourse within ASEAN cannot be ignored and, paradoxically, the country which most contributes to this discourse – the Philippines – is the one with the smallest interest in it.

2) Countries of destination, while relying heavily on migrant labor, intend to reduce it. In particular, Singapore and Malaysia are inclined to increase highly skilled labor and decrease unskilled labor. Countries of origin also would like to increase the deployment of skilled workers. However, the supply of unskilled labor in the region is very large and the possibilities to find employment either in the service or the informal sector are very high. Convergence of interests among ASEAN countries needs to be clarified, for a more effective governance approach.

3) Migration is disproportionately characterized by irregularity. Irregular migrants are over one million in Thailand and over one million in Malaysia. Irregularity has been persistent from the 1980s and 1990s and all regularization efforts have proven ineffective. This means that to some extent it is endemic and perhaps accepted. Even in the case of the Philippines, half of the Filipinos in ASEAN countries are considered in an irregular situation, although the data is affected mostly by the reality in Sabah. It is not possible to ignore the irregularity aspect in a dialogue on migration within ASEAN.

Before suggesting recommendations within the ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labor (AFML) it is important to consider this overall context.

Recommendations from the 5th AFML

Recommendations formulated in the 5th Asean Forum on Migrant Labour embraced the migration process in a comprehensive way, emphasizing many components that need to be present in the governance of migration, from the human rights approach to the transparency and accountability of procedures, the sharing of information, effective monitoring and partnership. Behind the many formulations, it is evident that a major objective was the improvement of the recruitment process, which is traditionally considered a problematic aspect in the migration cycle. The other objective was to obtain better services for migrants from government agencies responsible for handling migrant affairs, in particular by reducing the cost of migration.

It is not simple to monitor the actual implementation of the recommendations because of two reasons:

1) many recommendations are formulated in UN-ese language: they are politically correct, but they are extremely generic.

2) recommendations are somehow decontextualized. Although formulated for the ASEAN context, they could have actually been written in another region of the world, with not much difference.

The role of civil society

Considering the five areas of the 5th AFML, and what civil society has done in the past two years, the following can be mentioned:

1) The World Social Forum on Migration held at the Miriam College in Quezon City was a big event, organized through the leadership of MFA and with the cooperation of other civil society organizations. It attracted several hundred delegates from all over the world who came to discuss migration, its current issues, and look for alternatives. It was an occasion to expose to the whole world the reality of Asian migration.

2) In the area of human rights, civil society in the Philippines was active in the ratification of ILO Convention 189 and the adoption of the Kasambahay Bill. In terms of spreading information on the rights of migrants, the PMRW has printed a series of posters and is preparing a guide booklet to be used when presenting the posters in schools. Booklets will be prepared to present in a summarized and illustrated form the rights of migrants to be given to the migrants themselves so that they know their entitlements.

3) In the area of increasing transparency, civil society has participated in the consultation organized by POEA for the preparation of the new Rules and Regulations.

4) In regard to information sharing, several research and publications have been done recently. First is the Country Migration Report: The Philippines 2013 organized by IOM and implemented by the Scalabrini Migration Center. SMC also published the Asian Migration Outlook 2012. Both reports are available in the Internet. Additional research was done in regard to the pre-departure orientation seminars, youth employment and migration and the phenomenon of brain drain – brain waste.

5) With regard to the meaningful involvement of stakeholders (someone should explain what “meaningful involvement” means) the Overseas Landbased Tripartite Consultative Council was created and civil society is proud to say that it was a development of the Consultative Council on Overseas Filipino Workers, initiated more than ten years ago by civil society in dialogue with the then Secretary of labor.

What to bring to Brunei

Two are the focal aspects to be taken up in the AFML in Brunei: 

1) Data. The Scalabrini Migration Center, with ILO support, has begun in 2007 the Migration Information System in Asia (MISA). It was agreed that ILO would continue this effort within the ASEAN region, ensuring the cooperation of the member governments for a regional database on migration.

2) Legal issues, judicial system and system of complaint mechanism. The suggestion is to consider the UN Migrant Workers Convention as a base to be adapted to the ASEAN context. In particular, arts. 16 to 24 of the convention already contain a comprehensive formulation of judicial safeguards applicable to migrants.

3) Review of previous issues. The concept of regional integration should be taken seriously and extended to the circulation of labor within the region. Perhaps it is too early to advocate for the free circulation of labor (although it should be considered an objective of ASEAN), but some obstacle to that circulation should be eliminated:

a) deployment of migrants within the region should take place without placement fees. Employers should pay for the services provided by recruitment agencies in finding the personnel they need. Likewise, employers should not be charged levies for the employment of migrants, because those levies are actual tariffs on the circulation of labor.

b) some deployment of labor within the region should be handled through government-to-government agreements.

The importance of the regional approach

There are many initiatives occurring on migration in the world, in the regions and in sub regions. The regional approach has a better chance to achieve concrete results, because there are implementing and monitoring mechanisms, although not very strong yet, to oversee it. ASEAN is an area where the Philippine leadership in the migration discourse can make some progress. However, instead of generic recommendations, instruments and guidelines are needed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Forum with Stakeholders to Assess the 2013 Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Exercise

Report from CMA

Last July 10, 2013 Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and supported by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), conducted an assessment forum on the Overseas Absentee Voting exercise in the last election. Of the registered voters abroad, only 15.35% actually voted, the lowest turn-out since the OAV exercises started in 2004. The objectives of the forum were to find out why this happened and to gather recommendations to improve the system.

In her opening remarks Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Director of Government Linkages of CHR, said that the Commission also covers Filipinos residing and working abroad. She concluded with a commitment of creating  an enabling environment for all the Filipinos to practice their right to vote within and outside the country. CHR Chairperson and principal author of OAV, Etta Rosales, was also there to welcome the participants.

Berthold Leimbach, the FES resident representative, stressed that the assessment is a timely and important initiative, also reiterating that voting is a civil right. He encouraged the participants to make suggestions for OFWs to participate in the exercise and in improving the exercise as a whole.
 Assessment of OAV 2013

CMA Executive Director Ellene Sana relayed feedbacks from OFWs all over the world. The trending reasons for the low turn-out are the following: Disillusionment and Apathy, Inaccessibility of Polling Precincts, Aggravating Circumstances, Wrong Addresses on Postal Packets, Lack of Information, Weak FSP-FILCOM Collaboration, Outdated Comelec Registration Records, and Limited Suffrage and Limited Stakeholding.  Addressing these issues OFWs made recommendations: online voting, field voting in industrial areas, free transportation for far away precincts, less complicated registration process, improvement of Comelec infrastructure, improvement of information campaign and the amendment of the OV law.

Daphne Ceniza-Kuok, representative of ICOFVR in Hong Kong, offered some positive feedback. In Hong Kong, the voter turn-out increased by 10,000 votes. The consulate was able to devise creative ways to encourage Filipinos to vote despite the lack of funding. The utilization of social media for information dissemination worked and because of the support of Philippines business entities and volunteers, OAV in Hong Kong went relatively smoothly.  She concluded that “the flaws in OAV are a reflection on how the government fails to provide for OFWs”.

Atty. Henry Rojas, the CMA legal counsel, was the next speaker to assess the recently concluded OAV exercise.  According to him, the first OAV in 2004 had a 65% turn-out. In 2007, a resident electoral board was created. Field and mobile registrations were introduced and there was a transition from personal voting to postal voting. Atty. Roxas proposed additional aspects to be raised for further changes like issues in postal voting, effectivity of different registration processes, Comelec budget for information dissemination, and community involvement. Further research and studies on these aspects, he states, might help in improving the exercise.


Representatives from Comelec and DFA were invited to respond on the issues raised by the OFWs. The Comelec representative failed to attend but was able to send a PowerPoint presentation for their assessment of OAV 2013. According to the presentation, every stakeholder contributed to the low-turn-out; the voters’ apathy and disillusionment, and their failure to give correct and complete addresses, Comelec’s administrative and operational limitations, minimal information campaign and limited budget, DFA’s OAV arm’s administrative and operational limitations, and their post’s limited manpower and support, and finally, the NGOs’ waning support.

DFA-OAVS’s Edgardo Castro recognizes the importance in making others understand that OAV is a work in progress and is still in its infancy. For him, the low turn-out, is attributed to OFW’s mobility, political apathy, distance and cost, non-presidential election, complicated voting instructions, unreliable postal service, and OFWs’ change in citizenship. He also explained  that election management is not DFA’s core competencies. It also doesn’t help that DFA operates on a limited budget and a limited number of personnel which hasn’t been increased in 20 years. Among the participants comments were: the turn-out was also affected by the weak relations of Comelec and DFA, OAV exercises in other countries have a less complicated process thus resulting to positive outcomes (e.g. Italy), the OAV is not a work in progress but actually a work in regress.

Steps Forward 2016

Imelda Apostol, Foreign Affairs House of Representatives, gave a review of amendatory provisions of RA 10590 (an act amending republic act no. 9189). CMA’s Ellene Sana presented the PMRW 10-pt migrant agenda for the 16th congress. In the open forum several suggestions and recommendations were given by the participants.

In response to the agenda, Atty. Eulogia, Angkla Partylist counsel, presented their own plans.  A house bill is proposed that will make Marina the agency for maritime labourers, part of this is creating a special program for seafarers and creating a maritime high school adhering to the K-12 educational program. Angkla is also currently working on seafarers’ registration and certification, a seafarer bank and the Magna Carta for seafarers.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Demand for Government Help to Deported Filipinos

On August 27, 2013, a dialogue with government agencies was organized to probe on the case of the 75 Filipino deported from Japan last July 6, 2013. The dialogue was facilitated by the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (ECMI-CBCP) in partnership with the Catholic Commission of Japan Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move (JCARM) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ).  

The JCARM organized a fact finding mission headed by Rev. Fr. Resty  Ogsimer, Cs, with  some lay missionaries, and  leaders of migrant NGOs in Japan due to the alarming reports they received  of the  inhumane treatment during the deportation.  Particularly, they wanted to understand the protocols in the deportation processes from-and-to the country; especially because this is the first ever mass deportation from Japan unannounced to the deportees so they were caught unprepared. The 9-man team or fact-finding mission would also want to ensure that welfare services are available and provided to the deportees.
Under the new regulation of Japan, migrants who stayed for more than three years without valid and acceptable documents cannot circumvent the required fine, imprisonment, or worst, deportation.   Once deported, one has to wait after five years for the possibility of going back, and be accepted once more in Japan. 

The 75 Filipino deportees from Japan were held as undocumented migrants. These Filipinos were tormented by fears when Japanese government started to implement the new immigration law. Most of them were incarcerated for months others for years before their mass deportation. 

Allegedly, male deportees have experienced being dragged, and handcuffed like case-hardened criminals when dispatched to the chartered plane.  Most of the 75 deportees have lived, and established their lives in Japan for more than two decades, and some do not have immediate family in the Philippines.  Others have children left behind in Japan, and worst, without preparation, they have nothing to start with in the Philippines in terms of their economic needs.   

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) were the government agencies represented in the dialogue. Also present were representatives from local migrant NGOs like Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW), BATIS, Balik Buhay Service Cooperative, and some representatives of the 75 deportees.   

The DFA-OUMWA said that the deportation was confirmed to them two days prior to the scheduled date.   Allegedly, within that short period, the agency has managed to negotiate with the Japan authorities to exclude in the deportation those Filipinos with established family ties in Japan, resulting to the reduced number of deportees.  From the initial listings of 100 individual deportees, it was reduced to 75 individuals accounting to 54 males, 13 females, and 8 children.    

On the issue of rights violation and inhumane treatment of deportees, DFA-OUMWA explained that handcuffing is part of the Japan process of deporting foreign nationals. Moreover, it assured the Church and the NGOs that the agency has haggled with the Japan authorities to observe humane and dignified protocols on deportation, and have asked to exempt from handcuffs the women and children; and that handcuffs of the males be removed when the plane entered the Philippine air space, which was contrary to the claims of other deportees that cuffs were only removed 30 minutes before their landing.

The DSWD was in-charge to receive and assist, de-brief, counsel, and provide medical assistance to the deportees, and to facilitate their safe travel back to their respective homes.  Although the initial assistance were delivered, the fact-finding team demanded for a more pro-active and relevant response. The team found out that after more than a month, deportees have not yet receive any form of economic assistance.   Other government agencies present have also committed to look into the possibilities that their agency could assist the deportees in terms of employment, and economic reintegration.
With the utmost desire not to repeat the same ordeals narrated by many of the Filipino deportees, since there are still more than a hundred undocumented Filipinos inside the Japan immigration detention centers,  the JCARM of the CBCJ thru its 9-man team, together with the ECMI-CBCP has issued a joint statement underscoring the following: 

WE DEMAND that the Japanese government 
1) Respect the deportees’ rights to access family and legal assistance before deportation; 2) Prohibit excessive use of handcuffs to manage the deportees because it is an act of torture and humiliation; 3) provide proper medical attention with a reference to the hospitals in the Philippines. 

WE also DEMAND that the Filipino government     
1) extends its support to fulfil urgent needs of the 75 undocumented migrants; 2) help those undocumented who wish to remain in Japan  acquire legal status; 3) provide an accessible and tangible reintegration program designed for undocumented workers. 


Monday, November 4, 2013

Gearing up for MOF 2013

Preparations are going well for the Inter-agency Council (IAC) for the Month of Overseas Filipinos 2013 chaired by Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW) and co-chaired by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) that serves as the Council’s secretariat. The Council is composed of several government agencies that have programs and services for overseas Filipinos such as the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO), Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA), Pag-IBIG Fund, Social Security Systems (SSS), PhilHealth, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Tourism, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP), League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), Presidential Communication Operations Office,  National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and civil society groups like the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) and the Philippine Migration and Research Network (PMRN).

The theme for this year is Balik Pinas: Empowering Returning Overseas Filipinos and their Families. The aim is to highlight government programs, international organizations and civil society initiatives for returning migrants and their families, the mainstreaming of the concept of migration and development in the local level; and highlighting success stories and contributions of migrants in the development of their local communities.

Three monthly meetings were held for the quarter. Several events are being lined up to celebrate the month of overseas towards the end of the year. A regional forum will be held in Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City that is scheduled for November 22, 2013. Another regional forum is being planned for La Union set for November 29, 2013. And to commemorate the International Migrants Day the national forum will be held on December 18, 2013 at the RM hall of the Social Security System head office in East Avenue, Quezon City. Culminating the forum will be the CFO’s awarding of winners for the 2013 Migration Advocacy and Media Awards and the cultural presentation by the NCCA.

The calendar of activities for the month-long celebration of MOF 2013 is being readied. Among the activities include PhilHealth sponsored Yeba! a fun  original Filipino workout based on Philippine folk dance steps that is set to original Pilipino music. Included also are cultural events and film showing.