The Minutes of the Meeting – OFW Forum
The “OFW Forum” was held at New Islamic Center, 2nd industrial Area, Riyadh and started at exactly 9:00 AM. The forum presided by Manuel “Bong” Amora of KAKAMPI-KSA, the organizer of the said event. The Forum was co-organized by Guardians NewHope Brotherhood Int’l. Inc. (GNBII) in coordination with the New Islamic Center, 2nd Industrial Area, Riyadh.
74 participants representing companies and factories around Industrial Areas of Riyadh attended the forum.
The meeting commenced with a Welcome address by the Presiding officer emphasizing how important the forum was. He informed the attendees that the morning session will focused on the overview of the Kingdom’s culture, customs and traditions and the OFW Forum “Know your Rights and Obligations as OFW in the Kingdom, On-site Labor Education Program of the Philippine Embassy, POLO & OWWA will follow in the afternoon session.
The Presiding officer pointed out that OFW rights should be protected whether the OFW is documented or undocumented and OFW grievances should be addressed by the concern Philippine government agencies that oversees the welfare of the OFWs in the Kingdom. He further elaborate that OFWs are the primary concern of the Philippine Mission in Saudi Arabia considering the fact that large numbers of Overseas Filipino Workers are employed in this oil rich region. He also mentioned that diplomatic talks in these regards between our Philippine Labor Office and Saudi Labor Ministry were one of the many agendas in the past and still currently in progress. He added that it will lead into an understanding of possible well-implemented bilateral labor agreements in the future. Other areas of concerns such as alleged maltreatment and abuse of our Filipina domestic Helpers are issues that are being discussed between the two countries for a better RP-KSA relationship.
Further, he stress a point that Saudi authorities is asking the Filipino community to respect the laws, customs and traditions of the country and not to get involved in any criminal activities, like engage in dealing illicit trafficking of illegal drugs and alcoholic beverages. So with other related crimes that may result into harsh punishment even death.
The Forum’s theme particularly the banner with two hands together pointing each other in same direction means “Equality” – Rights and Obligations” – “Employee, Employer relationship” where one hand, having given the privilege and the right to work in the Kingdom, also means an obligation to fulfill as expatriate worker and it is important to respect the country’s culture, customs and traditions and obey the Kingdom’s law in accordance with the rules of Islamic Sharia’.
On the other hand, the employer’s obligation to comply the country’s applicable labor laws and international labor conventions is a must – reasonable and within the scope of the contract “both hands have agreed.”
Culture, Customs and Traditions
Bro. Rasheed Saleh, a Filipino muslim and administrative in-charge of the New Islamic Center during the briefing about the culture, customs and traditions of the Kingdom explained to the participants that Saudi Arabia is characterized profoundly on conservative Islamic culture. He further explained that same with any other nationalities, Saudi’s are friendly, proud of their family, kind and practice good family relationship. Saudis are very hospitable and generous but private individuals.
HE elaborate further that in islamic culture women must wear an abaya (long black robe) over their clothes and should cover their hair as well. There are no public movie theatres, segregation of opposite sex with no relation are highly important. For some OFWs depending on their lifestyle and interests in our country, those side of Saudi culture could be negative. Though on the positive side Bro. Saleh said “one can live well in this country and there is much to explore and discover about Saudi Arabia.”
Alcoholic beverages are illegal throughout the country. The penalty for importing alcohol into the country is severe and can involve detention and/or public flogging. Drug related cases are among those with heavier penalties. Immorality is a serious offense.
Islam is Saudi Arabia’s only religion, the monotheistic religious system of Muslims founded in Arabia in the 7th century and based on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as laid down in the Quran.
Bro. Rasheed Saleh also includes in his briefing the general information of the Kingdom, such as land area, the Hijri calendar, the Arabic language, its national day, education, major cities and other significant information of the country.
Islam the way of life
Mohammad Jamal Norvila, a Filipino Muslim from Davao and a teacher of Islamic faith in the Muslim Filipino Community in Riyadh explained to attendees that the Islamic Center is not only for Filipino Muslims and other Muslim nationalities, it is also for Christians.
He started by saying that the word “Islam” is an Arabic word which means “submission to the will of God”. Word is from the same root as the Arabic word “salam”, which means “peace”. As such, the religion of Islam teaches that to achieve real peace of mind and surety of heart, must submit with God and live according to His Divinely revealed Law.
The word “Muslim” means one who submits to the will of God, whatever their race, nationality or ethnic background. As a Muslim entails willful submission to God and live according to His message. Some people mistake believe that Islam is a religion only for Arabs, but nothing can be further from the truth. It is also interesting to note that actuality, over 80% of all Muslims are not Arabs.
He explained more that Islam is a religion without any mythology. The teachings are simple and clear. It is free from superstitions and irrational beliefs. The oneness of God, the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), and the concept of life after death is the main articles of its faith. They are based on reason and sound logic. All the teachings of Islam flow from those basic beliefs and are simple and straightforward. No hierarchy of priests, no complicated rites or rituals.
He ended his briefings by saying that “each person can approach the Quran directly and translate it into practice. Islam awakens in man the faculty of reason and exhorts him to use his mind. It enjoins him to see things in the light of truth. The Quran advises him to seek knowledge and the call of God to expand his consciousness. Islam is the way of life.”
In the afternoon session at 2:00 PM, the Presiding Officer introduced to the “OFW Forum” attendees, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office/Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO/OWWA) officials and Philippine Embassy Officials from Assistance to National Section (ANS).
Philippine Overseas Labor Office/OWWA
1) Atty. Cesar L. Chavez, Jr. ( Asst. Labor Attache)
Born in Davao City, Graduated Salutatorian at Calinan National High School, Calinan, Davao City. He went to Manila and took his college education at the Philippine College of Criminology. There he obtained his degree of Bachelor of Science in Criminology in 1987. He passed the first licensure examination for criminologist in 1988.
In 1991, he pursued Legal Education at the Manila Law College and graduated Cum Laude in 1996 and passed the Bar examination in 1997. He joined the Government service in March 1998 as Legal Officer of the OWWA. Thereafter, he handled various positions as: Chief of the Workers Assistance Division; Chief of the Legal Department; Chief of the 24/7 Operation Center and he was the Special Assistant for Labor Matters of the Secretary of Labor and Employment.
Atty. Chavez is also a part time Professor of Law at the Pamantasan ng Pasay, College of Law for over 10 years teaching Commercial and Labor Law subjects. Married to Gwendolyn S. Gutierrez and they are blessed with 3 children.
2) Mr. Odin T. Abdula ( Welfare Officer/POLO/OWWA)
( Information about Welof Odin T. Abdula will posted later)
Philippine Embassy (Assistance to National Section- ANS)
1) Vice Consul Atty. Roussel Reyes
Vice Consul Roussel Reyes was born on 5 September 1976 in San Juan, Metro Manila. He graduated from the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1998. He obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from the same institution in 2002 and passed the Bar examinations of 2003.
He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2004 as Foreign Service Officer, Class IV, after passing the Foreign Service Officer Examinations of 2003.
Prior to his current foreign assignment, he was a Principal Assistant in the Office of Legal Affairs of the Department from April 2005 to August of the same year. He was subsequently designated as an Acting Division Director in the office from August 2005 to October 2006. His first foreign assignment was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as Third Secretary and Vice Consul in October of 2006.
He is married to Mary Michelle C. Reyes and has two daughters.
2) Vice Consul Atty. Paulo V. Saret
Vice Consul Saret hails from Libon, Albay in the Bicol Region. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy degree in 1991 from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In 1998, he graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Laws from San Beda College in Manila. He hurdles the Bar Examinations on the same year and for the next seven years, he was a corporate lawyer for the Government owned Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation or PDIC.
While at PDIC, he took and passed the Foreign Service Officer’s Examinations in 2005 and joined the Department of Foreign Affairs the following year. At DFA head office, Vice Consul Saret served as Special Assitant to Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr.
THE OPEN FORUM
Questions, Inquiries and Complains during the OPEN FORUM:
1) 4 na taon na ako di pa binibigyan ng bakasyon. Makukuha ko pa kaya ang pamasahe ko noong finish contract ko?
2) Wala akong day off, kahit biyernes merong trabaho, walang tamang oras ang trabaho.
3) SR 5,000 na babayaran ng gastos pag punta ko dito.
4) Ayon po sa mga sabi sabi ay kailangan daw bayaran kami kahit na wala kaming trabaho o hindi naka duty. Maari po bang makuha yong aming sahod o ibibigay po ba yun ng aming komapnya dahil dalawang buwan napo kaming walang trabaho. Maari din po bang pauwiin na lang kami kung wala naming maibigay na trabaho?
5) In process of releasing magkano ba talaga ang dapat bayaran sa first release? Sa kin po kasi 14,000 SR ang hinihingi katumbas ng 900 SR na sahod ko plus kinaltasan pa ako ng 50 SR monthly sa iqama ko. Bukod pa dun 12 hrs. na trabaho at walang overtime na bayad na ibinibigay sa amin.
6) Ang Iqama ko 2 years na hindi binigay ng amo ko. Saan poba ako puwedeng mag reklamo? Hindi ako makapag renew ng passport.
7) Sir, ang working hours namin ay 12 hrs na kahit prayer time ay nagtatrabaho kami. Ang overtime pay po namin ay di ibinibigay. Ano po ang laban namin? May karapatan po ba kaming magreklamo sa employer?8) 4 months napo akong walang work, wala man lang sila binibigay na allowance kung di po ako mabibigyan ng bagong work maari po bang pauwiin nalang ako? O kaya bigyan ng release?
9) Ano po ang nararapat namin gawin kasi po matagal na po kaming stop work. Walang trabaho, makauwi po ba kami kahit hindi natapos ang contract namin at bayaran kami ng company namin?
10) Kailan po ako mabigyan ng trabaho, 2 buwan na po akong stop work gawa ng na terminate po ako sa aming company? Kung hindi ako mabigyan, pwede ba ako makauwi ng Pilipinas?
11) Hanngang kalian po ba ako mabigyan ng trabaho ng company SEDER Services, dahil 2 months na po ako no job? May dapat ho pa akong matanngap na allowance mula sa kompanya? Kahit food allowance lang po dahil wala na po akong pambili ng pagkain? Pati po padala sa pamilya wala narin po.
12) Anu ang dapat kung gawin kung amo ko ay di kami pina pasuweldo sa tamang buwan o petsa? Maghintay lang ba?
13) Anu ang gagawin ko pag tapos na ang kontrata ko pero ayaw pa akong pauwiin pero gusto ko ng makauwi agad?
14) Sa sahod po namin, nagkaltas sila ng basta basta na walang pang pay slip at kada sahod po namin wala silang maibigay na pay slip.
15) Mayroon po bang 3 years contract?
16) Kung puwede po bang umuwi kahit di tapos ang kontrata? O magbakaasyon? Dahil 3 years po ang contract ko.
17) Ano po ang possible namin gawin, dahil isang buwan na kami hindi binigyan ng trabaho. Dapat po bang bigyan kami ng food allowance kahit wala kaming trabaho? Makatarungan po ba ang ginagawa sa amin? Gusto na po namin magkaroon ng trabaho at kung di kami mabigyan ng trabaho puwede ba kami makauwi? Kahit di pa tapos ang kontrata?
18) Sabin g Gulf Horizon agency, pagdating naming sa Saudi ibigay ang allowance na SR 200 tapos Sr 100 lang ang ibinigay. Tapos pag sahod namin sobra ang kaltas, wala kami payslip. Hindi kami inaasikaso ng SEDER company pag may probelam kami sa kompanya na pinapasokan namin, kasi subcontractor lamang kami.
19) Sub contractor ang aming kompanya sa MAWARID Company, naterminate ako dahil sa pagsusugal sa loob ng kwarto namin. Ibinalik nila ako sa company ko na SEDER. Hnaggang ngayon 2 months na ako na walang work. Dapat po ba na bayaran nila ang pananantili ko dito na walang trabaho or pauwiin na lang nila ako.
20) Ako po ay isang electrician sa TETRATECH Establishment dito sa Riyadh. Ang kontrata kop o ay SR 1,800 + 200. Ngunit pagdating kop o ditto Sr 1,000 + 200 lang po ang pinasahod sa akin. August 25, 2009 po ako dumating dito sa Saudi Arabia.
21) Talaga po bang di pinapasahod ang First Timer sa loob ng 3 buwan?
22) Ano po ang karapatan namin dahil ng umalis po kami ng Pilipinas iba ang kontrata na pinapapirmahan sa min sa kompanya na pinagdalhan sa amin dito sa Riyadh, na parang ipinasa akami sa ibang kompanya?
23) Sa POEA, Sr 1,800 ang pinirmahan namin. SR 1,600 lang ang binigay sa amin dito. Ang trabaho naming fabricator welder. Delay pa ang sahod naming hanggang ngayon po, dalawang buwan na mahigit.
24) Paano po kami makakatulong sa mga takas nating mga Filipina Domestic Helpers o kahit hindi mga FDH? Sa mga lalaki po na mga taks, saan po kami makipag ugnayan para mabigyan sila ng pansamantalang tirahan? Ang bahay Kalinga po ba ay para sa lahat ng mga takas?
To be continued: