Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Plight of the Native Filipino OFWs -- Under the Modern Slavery institution, a by-product of Globalization [WTO]

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass, American AbolitionistLecturerAuthor and Slave1817-1895)

“To be poor and independent is very nearly an impossibility.” - William Corbett, 1830

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Hi All,

We native Filipinos, depending on where we stand in the totem pole, have our own spins regarding our millions of OFWs. Our native rulers in government/military and business pay lip service to our contract emigrants by labeling them as "heroes",  as OFWs' dollar remittances make up/add to the billions unconscionably stolen from government coffers and/or as their departure for overseas work provide a societal relief valve that works to delay/prevent our social volcano from erupting, i.e. bloody revolution.  

Some in the Church (Roman Catholics, mainline Protestant, Evangelicals/Pentecostals, etc.) in addition see our OFWs as "Christian missionaries" who can proselytize about Christianity, forgetting that among them are Filipino Muslims. I doubt if any native, Filipino Christian/OFW entertain such, especially in the Middle Eastern Kingdoms. The task is not to proselytize/convert or withdraw from social justice concerns to concentrate solely on "personal salvation" ; but to practice authentic Christianity, i.e. the ignored catholic social teachings (or other religious traditions and social justice movements.)

A fellow native Filipino, who worked for an American company, wrote me to say that we native Filipinos are born to be slaves. I want to believe he is just being funny.

All these viewpoints are expressed apparently by persons who can not appreciate or do not empathize with, but may even profit from, the daily existential struggles of the common tao -who is forced mainly by dire economic realities -brought about by WTO in the Philippines -to leave the homeland and loved ones. 

The below articles demonstrate the situations our fellow native Filipinos are in: what their personal miseries, the slavish treatment they undergo and how their supposed "heroism" are paid back particularly by those who loudly label our fellow native OFWs as "heroes." 

NOTE: Rampant corruption in public offices, top to bottom is a symptom of disease: the disease of absent nationalism in combination with the disease of immature christianity/religion. Without being repetitive here, I just want to say that these have been discussed in previous posts.

It may be tiring and seemingly hopeless, but we need to keep alive, to continue the discussion of fundamental issues that cause our national predicament, especially to those fellow native Filipinos who are impoverished and/or illiterate, who can not escape/emigrate. 

And hopefully, for those who are truly concerned who can reach and help these neglected and despised native majority gain an appreciation and understanding of "what's going on." Because without the impoverished majority knowing and understanding, they can not unite and act for radical changes that are way long overdue. 

We may not see the realization now or during our lifetime. But we have to try and do so, for the next generations. For another, there's no place like home, our country of birth. That's how I feel and think.

- Bert 


The Plight of the Native Filipino OFWs -- Under the Modern Slavery Institution, a by-product of Globalization [WTO]

Investigate Owwa for missing P21 million – Migrants group

Next time overseas Filipino workers complain that they are not benefiting from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), they will know at least one reason why: their contributions might have been pocketed by corrupt officials.  
The OFW group Migrante International has called attention to a recent report of the Commission on Audit (COA) that the OWWA’s overseas officers have failed to remit more than P21 million ($488,372) in collections to OWWA’s Land Bank- Manila dollar account during the last 10 years. This prompted the group to call for an “immediate independent investigation” of the OWWA and its personnel both here and in offices abroad. Migrante’s chairman Garry Martinez said the audit should include investigations into the performance and financial transactions of OWWA’s officials including members of the Board of Trustees.
The COA said the multi-million-remittance failure has put the OWWA’s funds at risk of misappropriation. In its 2010 report on the agency, the audit authority said the dollar and euro collections from various foreign posts amounting to P21.587 million ($488,372) has been un-remitted “for a long period of time.” These funds comprise fees collected under the OWWA’s voluntary membership program. The program funds are intended for the immediate use of OFWs and their families for emergency concerns and related needs.
According to reports from the CoA, the overseas-based officers of OWWA’s are required to remit their monthly collections to the OWWA’s Land Bank-Manila dollar account not later than the fifth day of the following month. When the audit agency went through the OWWA’s records, however, it discovered that a staggering P21.587($488,372) million had not been remitted for periods ranging from one to 10 years.
The CoA 2010 report on the OWWA said that several of the officers who had the responsibility to remit the collections remain in service: but four have absconded or are absent without leave. In the meantime, another 10 have already resigned or moved to another agency. The audit agency also discovered that an employee of the Department of Labor and Employment remitted collections from Switzerland from October 2007 to December 2010. 

“With the period of time that has lapsed and continued failure of the collection officers, particularly those with large amounts of accountability, to remit the money, the possibility of the funds having been misappropriated cannot be discounted,” the CoA said. “Some of the funds may already be lost. Moreover, recovering the money may become difficult and may even be doubtful for those who have absconded or have been separated from the service.”

More anomalies
Migrante International’s Martinez said the un-remitted P21 million might just be the tip of the iceberg. “This appears to have been going on for a long time because no check-and-balance of OWWA funds is in place. We also believe that overseas officers cannot have pulled this off over a span of 10 years without the complicity and tolerance of people who are higher up the food chain,” Martinez said. 
He demanded that the COA should immediately release the names and embassies of those involved. The labor leader said Migrante has been calling for an investigation of OWWA for the longest time, prompting congressional inquiries. The group and allied organizations have also filed several graft and plunder cases before the Ombudsman and Department of Justice against OWWA officials.

Martinez cited former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Roy Cimatu’s failed rescue mission during the Lebanon crisis on 2006 when the OWWA released P150 million ($3.48 million) for the repatriation of OFWs. Out of more than 6,000 OFWs, only 1,000 were repatriated, but the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was able to repatriate 4,000 OFWs. “When asked where the OWWA funds went, Cimatu was mum about it,” Martinez said. 

The incident prompted several Senate hearings and it was then discovered that P6.8 billion ($158 million) of OWWA’s funds were transferred to the Development Bank of the Philippines and Landbank of the Philippines (P3.4 billion or $79 million in each transaction) without any consultation with the OFW sector.

Former solicitor general Frank Chavez also filed a case at the DOJ against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for alleged misuse and re-channeling of OWWA’s funds to various projects that had nothing to do with OFWs, among them the supposed evacuation of Filipinos from Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan in 2003. No actual evacuation of Filipinos took place, but the money disappeared.

Macapagal-Arroyo also reportedly transferred P100 Million ($2.32 million) from the Livelihood Development Program of the OWWA’s to the National Livelihood Support Fund under the Office of the President in September 2003. She and the other respondents are also accused of electoral fraud by “intending, facilitating and ordering the diversion of migrant workers’ trust funds from the OWWA to finance her campaign machinery starting 2003” with regard the release of Phil Health cards bearing Arroyo’s name and picture as an election campaign tactic in the 2004 elections.

Martinez said some officers of the OWWA’s may have escaped accountability through the years on account of Section 5, provision (h), Article III of the OWWA’s Omnibus Policies that stipulates that all minutes, transcripts and tapes of the OWWA’s are confidential and not open to the public.

Go after OWWA officials
“If it is proven that OWWA’s funds were not used for the benefit of OFW s, the whole Board of Trustees should be recalled. Erring and corrupt officials are being protected by this provision in the OWWA’s Omnibus Policies. No need for consultations with stakeholders, they could do anything with OFWs’ money without consulting them,” he said. For its part, the CoA has already called on the OWWA to demand the immediate remittance of the full amount from the collecting officers concerned. It also said that the agency should withhold payment of any money to the collecting officers, and hold them accountable.  “The OWWA should get in touch with those who have gone Awol and demand that they settle their accountability for the un-remitted collections,” the COA said. 


Labor trafficking victims of diplomats launch campaign in the US

MANILA – Last week, domestic workers from various immigrant communities gathered at the Philippine consulate on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York to bring attention to the existence of modern-day slavery of domestic workers. They demanded enforcement of existing anti-trafficking laws to protect workers and punish foreign diplomats who have trafficked domestic workers into the United States. More than 75 women workers and their allies joined the rally that was also seen as a launch of a campaign focused on labor trafficking of domestic workers. 

In a letter addressed to the US State Department, the protestors led by an organization of Filipino domestic workers Damayan Migrant Workers Association and allied groups named seven countries with diplomats who they alleged are guilty of trafficking women domestic workers and forcing them into slavery; these countries are the Philippines, Kuwait, Tanzania, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, India and Peru. They called the campaign “Baklas” (Filipino word for “dismantle”): Break Free from Labor Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery and said that other worker centers, grassroots organizations and advocates against trafficking support it. The Urban Justice Center is also aiding the campaign.

In a letter to the US State Department, the campaign is seeking the enforcement of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act 2008 by suspending the privilege of bringing domestic workers into the US of countries, the diplomats of which are found to be engaged in labor trafficking. In cases where domestic workers are demanding justice from these employers, groups are calling for the US State Department to press home countries to waive the diplomatic immunity of traffickers.

Helper settles civil case vs Philippine official
During the protest, Damayan announced the settlement of the civil case of one of its members Marichu Baoanan.
On June 24, 2008, with the assistance of Damayan and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Baoanan filed a civil lawsuit of 15 counts including trafficking, forced labor, peonage and slavery against her former employers, Permanent Representative to the United Nations of the Philippines Lauro Baja, his wife Norma Baja, and their daughter Maria “Beth” Facundo.  
According to reports, Marichu was trafficked to the US by the Bajas and worked as a domestic worker in the Baja household for approximately three months. She was forced to work at least 18 hours a day, seven days a week, with no days off, for $100 or approximately six cents per hour. Invoking diplomatic immunity, the Bajas asked the court to dismiss the charges. After a one-year legal and organizing battle to waive Baja’s immunity, Judge Victor Marrero of the New York Southern District Court denied Baja’s motion and effectively removed his immunity so the case could proceed. Three years after filing, the case was recently settled.

According to Damayan and its allies, the problem is more than just a few bad actors. Damayan said that since Marichu’s case was exposed, more domestic workers have come forward. They related similar tales of being abused by diplomats, suffering experiences similar to Marichu’s: being forced to work extremely long hours for very low to no wages; having their passports stolen or confiscated by their employers; and being threatened with deportation.

We need to take a stand against trafficking and slavery,” said Cita Brodsky, chairwoman of Damayan. “With the global economic crisis, the number of migrants around the world is growing, and with that grows the Philippines’ dependence on remittances of overseas women workers. And on the demand side, the unprotected labor industry for domestic workers also breeds modern-day slavery. We need accountability from all governments, the enforcement of laws and the protection of women workers.”

Do not grant immunity to abusive diplomats
Nicole Hallett of the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center said it was unfortunate that the law often gives immunity to diplomats who commit heinous crimes such as forced labor and human trafficking. She said groups like Damayan hope to change the public discourse so that diplomats are held accountable, both in and out of the courtroom. 

Domestic workers from New York and Maryland, who have been abused by diplomats, also spoke at the protest. There were also cultural performances and readings of statements of support from by a variety of immigrant- and community-based organizations, lawyers and advocates.
Damayan called for the support of the Philippine consulate in the campaign, and demanded that the consulate create protocols to address the potential trafficking of Filipino domestic workers by diplomats. After the program at the Philippines consulate and mission, the workers marched to the Tanzanian, Kuwaiti and Mozambique missions.

Advocates have long exposed Tanzania and Kuwait to the US State Department, with no concrete action. “We will work with all our allies and sister organizations to protect our workers and community,” Brodsky said. “We will continue to educate and organize to dismantle the structures that create modern-day slavery and to empower women who need to break free.”

Taiwanese official arrested for abusing Filipina housekeeper
In a related development, Taiwan is in an uproar over the arrest of a Taiwanese diplomat in Kansas City last November 11. Jacqueline Liu was arrested on charges of labor fraud. She has been accused of abusing her Filipina helper. Reports said there is a precedent of US judicial authorities’ issuing an arrest warrant for a Taiwanese official.

In a report from the Central News Agency, Taiwanese authorities are demanding the US government release Jacqueline Liu, the director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City. It said that Liu should be immediately and unconditionally released on the grounds that she enjoys immunity under a bilateral agreement on privileges, exemptions and immunities signed between the two countries in October 1980.

Taiwanese politicians are outraged over how the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made the arrest on the grounds that Taiwan is not a sovereign country and therefore its officials are not eligible for diplomatic immunity in the US.
Based on the FBI’s indictment against Liu, she has not just short-paid her housekeeper and abused the Filipina mentally and physically, but also has a record of maltreating a previous housemaid, leading to the maid suffering from depression and anorexia. The FBI’s main charge against Liu is her alleged violation of the criminal code regarding “fraud in foreign labor contracting.”
According to the indictment papers, a director-level official in Liu’s office was reported to have disclosed how the Filipina domestic worker was paid only $620 a month. In her contract, it was stated that she should be paid $1,240 per month. Another senior consular official, who had worked at the Kansas City office for more than two years was quoted as confirming that he was told by Liu to pay the maid only $220 every two weeks, plus $70 for grocery purchases — far below the contracted amount. It was also stated in the indictment papers that the Taiwanese official falsely brought the Filipina to her house on false pretenses. The indictment said the housekeeper was working about 100 hours a week.
A member of the Filipino Association of Greater Kansas City Jose Bayani was quoted in media reports saying that what was done to his compatriot was “literal enslavement.” Bayani said that during her errands to the grocery store, the Filipina told other Filipinos of her plight. A Filipino man heard her story and helped her escape from Liu’s home in late August. The housekeeper plans to stay in America to find another job. She is living in a shelter. Liu, is being held in the Johnson county jail until her next court appearance this week. The charges carry a possible five-year sentence in a federal jail. 


Arroyo’s Labor Export Policy and the GFMD Promote Trafficking of Filipino Women –Women’s Party

A women’s party list group scored the Arroyo government and the Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD) for the intensified trafficking of Filipino women and children.  To show their disgust for the Arroyo government and the GFMD, the Gabriela Women’s Party held a protest parade this morning at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City. 

Gabriela Women’s Party’s Parade of Pinays for Export (PX),” highlighted the plight of Filipino women who were trafficked as mail order brides, domestic workers and caregivers, and prostituted women in countries such as the US, Singapore, Japan, Kuwait, and Canada, among others.  According to reports, some 300,000 to 400,000 Filipino women are victims of trafficking yearly. They are among the 12.3 million victims of forced labor or servitude worldwide.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said that the Philippines belongs to the top five countries in the world with the most number of human trafficking victims, 80 percent of the victims are female minors. The DFA reported some 238 cases of trafficking in 2007, 212 of these are cases of sex trafficking in Singapore.

Cristina Palabay, Gabriela Women’s Party secretary general, said that Arroyo’s labor export policy ‘legitimizes the trafficking of our women and children to precarious and exploitative situations in host countries. ”Without jobs and livelihood within the Philippines, victims are lured, deceived and facilitated by profit-hungry syndicate recruiters and even government officials with promises of different jobs, good compensation, high wages and benefits,” Palabay said. 

Palabay disclosed that despite the enactment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2003, there were only eight convictions involving 11 persons out of more than 200 cases filed in violation of the law.
Palabay also said that by highlighting the Philippine government as the role model among nations for exporting labor and by pursuing regular and protective forms of migration, ‘the GFMD’s role in the promotion of trafficking of women and children becomes clearer.’ Palabay said that with the generation of some $28 billion from the illegal industry of trafficking of women and children, the GFMD sees trafficking as a ‘profitable industry.’

The group will participate in the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), a counter forum to the GFMD, on October 28 to 30. (

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I consider these earleir posts and the RECTO READER as essential in knowing and understanding our homeland and ourselves, native, Malay Filipinos; and are therefore always presented in each new post. Click each to open/read.
  2. WHAT IS NATIONALISM [Filipino Nationalism]?
  3. Our Colonial Mentality and Its Roots 
  4. The Miseducation of the Filipino (Formation of our Americanized Mind)
  5. Jose Rizal - Reformist or Revolutionary?
  6. The Purpose of Our Past, Why Study (Our) History?
  7. Studying and Rethinking Our Philippine History
  8. Globalization (Neoliberalism) – The Road to Perdition in Our Homeland
  9. Resisting Globalization (WTO Agreements)
  10. Virtues of De-Globalization
  11. Our Filipino Kind of Religion
  12. Our Filipino Christianity and Our God-concept
  13. When Our Religion Becomes Evil
THE RECTO READER is presented in several postings. Click each to open/read:

NOTE: Recto's cited cases, examples or issues were of his time, of course; but realities in our homeland in the present and the foreseeable future are/expectedly much, much worse. Though I am tempted to update them with current issues, it's best to leave them as they are since Recto's paradigms about our much deepened national predicament still ring relevant, valid and true. In short, Recto saw the forest and never got lost in the trees.- Bert

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Anonymous said...

I hasten to say that your global views on this sensitive topic are welcome but need more time to digest. Will read it fully after final exam days ahead.

I like your website, Bert! Can you give me pointers on how to make one like this?



Anonymous said...

Hi Bert:

You are right in your blog -- an elite controls Philippine politics. This is because they have the money to pay press people on issues that the Filipino people are interested to hear.

For example, the current controversy between Pinoy and Gloria stems from the belief that Gloria has not been true to the ideals of the People's Power revolution and therefore should be duly punished by the Aquinos.

Look who is talking! Pinoy is just as corrupt and incompetent as Gloria.

The main reason why Pinoy was elected to the Presidency because of the wide coverage of his mother's funeral. The one who should have been elected President was Estrada who was a close second to Pinoy.

Hence this issue of corruption does not held too much on the Filipino voter's mind. Binay was removed as the Makati mayor by Gloria on charges of corruption, but the FIlipino people elected him Vice-President. Estrada was removed by a People's Power revolution because of charges of corruption. Although he did not make it to the Presidency, he was running second to Aquino in the elections.

The stupidity of Pinoy is seen in his attacking the Supreme Court. Obviously he seems to be obsessed with the idea that the Presidency is a magic wand that he can use to accomplish anything he wants -- even his own fantasy. Does he not realize that his mother replaced Marcos because of the failure of the Marcos presidency?

Where is the magic wand of the Presidency that Pinoy is so obsessed with? If the Presidency gives the President a magic wand, why did Marcos fall from power?

Pinoy thinks that by attacking the Supreme Court, he is going to change them. Since when did you convince somebody to do what you think should be done by humiliating him and criticizing him in public. If he wants the Supreme Court to do what he wants, he better show that his ideas are better -- through tact and diplomacy -- not by humiliating them in public.

I guess Pinoy's administration will be characterized by his struggle with the Supreme Court. Some say that only a coup d'tat is going to teach the Aquino's much needed lesson in statesmanship. I don't think a coup d'tat is necessary to teach Pinoy anything. It is just the failure of his administration to deliver on their promises in the polls will be enough. Hopefully the presidency of Pinoy will contribute to the growing maturity of our political leaders.

The late Amang Rodriquez said that "politics is addition." Politicians will gain more if they patiently sit down and discuss their problems mutually among each other and respects the viewpoints of everybody rather than persecuting and fighting each other to the end. This is the reason why Marcos abdicated from power although he won the 1986 elections. It is to show that you gain more by discussion and mutual respect for the ideas held by each party -- rather than politicians fighting each other to the death.

By going after Gloria, Pinoy will just alienate his supporters. The Aquinos and the Macapagals were close allies in their struggle against the Marcoses. With Aquino after the neck of Gloria, the Macapagals have become the close allies of the Marcoses. The struggle of Pinoy against Gloria will result in the loss of a powerful ally in politics.

Ramon A. del Gallego