Finding Out Who Among Them – 2016 National Election

In Philippine May 2016 National Election, registered Overseas Absentee Voters should focus on finding out who among in the national candidates for President to Vice President and Senators  worthy of our vote.  

The OFW sector should be well represented by those legislators who are really concerned with issues in relation to the general welfare of Overseas Filipinos or OF. Please note that I referred Overseas Filipinos as Filipino Immigrants with dual citizenship, Filipino migrant workers and land based and seafarers.

Sad to say that there are few OFW supporters in the legislative body  of our government.  In the 16th Congress, the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs are comprised of  35 members, the 4 among them are identified as OFW advocates.  Bills authored and co-authored by those OFW advocates are still pending or referred to another house committee for evaluation. Some of those bills even lasted for 2 to 3 years on their shelves. Undoubtedly, it will never be deliberated or acted upon or even reach on the second reading or be included in the order of business.  Remember, that every House Bills are still subject of Senate action which undergoes the same legislative procedures.

Would the above scenario be corrected? Yes! Why not? The legislator who is an OFW advocate, an author or just a co-author of the bill can influence the members of the committee being referred, to speed up the process by conducting  immediate public hearings on the proposed legislation.  Non-government organizations, expert on migration, OFW/Seafarers organizations (overseas and at home) or individuals whose advocacies focused on the main issues and concerns of OFWs should likewise be pro-active to pressure the members of the committee to move to the next level of the process.  Sorry to say that some of our OFW advocates in the House and the Senate are busy focusing on other matters in their other areas or field of expertise. Some of those bills can be included in the lists of the “Silliest Proposed Laws Philippine Lawmakers Tried to Pass.” 

According to “The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation”, Policy advocacy is an initiative to focus exclusively on the policy agenda and a specific policy goal. These advocates usually assume that policy change will produce real change on the ground.

So, in the coming national election, I arrived into a simplest form of identifying those politicians in line with our cause by rating them on how they managed to support on certain OFW issues at the House and the Senate. Others can be identified on how many bills they authored or co-authored during their incumbencies.  How many of those bills signed into law, how many resolutions they filed for the general welfare of Filipinos overseas.   

I personally categorized the following 2016 aspiring candidates at the national level into four (4) categories:        

  1. PRO-OFW – A politician who advocates, argues, defend, participate or justify policies in relation to the general welfare of Overseas Filipinos/ OFWs.
  2. CONSIDERATE –  A politician with a specific position on certain issue or concerns in relation to the welfare of Overseas Filipinos.
  3. MODERATE – A politician whose legislative agendas focused on another field of advocacies and rarely participate on issues and concerns of OFWs. 
  4. UN-RATED –  To be rated or categorize later on.


OFWempowerment Survey Result “2016 Presidential hopefuls for OFWs”

In the 2016 Philippine Presidential Election, there are five (5) Presidential hopefuls for the highest position in the land; who among them you think have a heart for OFWs?

Our ofwempowerment blog survey (see title above) received an overwhelming response from our OFWs in 20 countries around the globe including in the Philippines. The OFWs in Saudi Arabia are the highest numbers of participants.

I decided to close the survey because most of the 5 Presidential hopefuls in the list had already filed their certificate of candidacy with the Commission on Election. The remaining hopeful Davao Mayor Rod Duterte has yet to file his COC pending echoes among the Philippine electorate whether the famous “crime buster city executive” will change his mind later and join the race. However, yesterday 16 October 2015 was the last day of filing and I think the good Mayor filed his COC seeking a new mandate from the Davawenos as Mayor of Davao. But his supporters “refused to accept the truth” that Duterte is not running for Presidency. 

I would like to emphasize to my readers that our online survey doesn’t reflect the entire sentiments of the OFWs around the globe. However, if majority of us participate in future online surveys like ours, it will become more reliable in the days to come. That’s one of the many reasons why I am advocating online voting as an alternative venue for Filipino overseas absentee voters to participate in Philippine national election.

Well, the result of our survey is pasted below, thank to



Photo by Inquirer

You may wonder why OFWs supports Duterte if he runs for the highest position in the land? Very simple, we need an iron fist in our national governance, a public official that can eliminate corruption once and for all. A leader who understand others ideals but opposes armed struggles. A President who knew the real needs of poor Filipinos. A leader like Duterte has an iron hand that can discipline Filipinos to follow the rule of law.

But to most of us OFWs, WE still feel that something will never be the same in this country, whoever in power. Sad to say that too little had really changed and coming back home as strangers to the land we long for is the most discouraging moment of our life.

Many OFWs think Mayor Rod Duterte can reform the nature of the political system in our country unfortunately, this guy is a man of honor who never changes a decision he had already made. Not unless a divine anointing prevails. To Duterte Harry, WE the OFWs salute you!    

Fabricating OFW Distress Call could face serious consequences

There are many kinds of OFW Distress call or information, those in need of immediate assistance through rescue effort and or a formal complaint in form of a letter or email or personal visit to our Philippine Embassy, POLO/OWWA as may believe proper under such any given circumstances.

In an imminent danger to an OFW in distress, a form of a rescue is sought. But a call or an information from an OFW in distress and or a third-party should be cautiously investigated prior to a plan rescue. Our diplomatic corps or the concerned agencies mentioned above will verify the veracity of any given distress calls. Though a frightening, frantic, desperate or threatening circumstances must be acted immediately.

Some distress calls may also be through a formal letter or email complaint addressed to our Philippine Embassy, POLO/OWWA. It can be relayed from a representative like friends, wife, husband, brother, sister,  relatives or from  NGO on behalf of the OFW in distress.

Our Philippine Embassy, the Philippine Overseas  Labor Office, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration are there to assist when OFW distress call or information is receive as mandated by R.A. 10022, the Migrants Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act as amended.   

However, may I remind our readers and fellow OFWs that fabricating stories, claims or complaint just to gain sympathy from the concern government agencies could face serious consequences, not only to the so-called OFW in distress but also to the one who give false information. Criminal liability awaits to those OFWs or to the third-party involve who make up accusations against their employer, if proven otherwise.   

There are many OFWs out there who are truly in need of an immediate help, therefore misrepresenting and or a mere allegation to make a complaint could hamper other genuine distress calls that our Embassy/POLO/OWWA may attend to.  

lovers quarrelTo those OFWs with marital problems, like non remittance of salaries and philandering OFW spouses, my post “hold departure order” can give you an insight on what to do. But make sure that you have the legal right to file a formal complaint against your spouse. If you and your partner are not legally married, talk to your lover in the lover’s lane, open up with each other, try to solve the issue of lover’s quarrel and close the matter amicably. Lastly, don’t disturb others’ lives because there are more people in desperate and in difficult situation that in need of more attention to deal with.   – BongA

 related posts: 

DTI warns OFWs to deal with Accredited and Legitimate Cargo Freight Forwarders


(13 May 2015) Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) warns Overseas Filipino workers who will send their balikbayan boxes and their consignees in the Philippines should book their packages only with reliable and Philippine Shippers Bureau or DTI-PSB accredited freight forwarders and Philippine agents to ensure that their packages will reach their destinations.

DTI also warned cargo senders from abroad against very low door-to-door rates  or “promo rates” that some foreign principals offer. “With low rates, they [foreign principals] do not have enough funds to bear the cost of transporting cargoes, and they fail to remit delivery funds to their Philippine freight forwarders, causing the shipments to be  abandoned at the ports and not being delivered to consignees.

For consignees in the Philippines who have not received their packages from freight forwarders, they may contact DTI (02-751-3330) or go to PSB office to file an immediate claim or complaint.”

OFWs around the globe are advised to check or visit this link:  from time to time and see the  list of Blacklisted  Sea Freight Cargo Forwarders around the globe.

OFWs in Saudi Arabia are advised  NOT TO DEAL   with any  Seafreight Cargo Forwarders  other than the list of DTI accredited freight forwarders listed below.

Again, the list below are updated list (March 06, 2015) from DTI list of Accredited Cargo Freight Forwarders in Saudi Arabia. – BongA

DTI-PSB  list of Accredited Cargo Freight Forwarders in Saudi Arabia

DTI-PSB list of Accredited Cargo Freight Forwarders in Saudi Arabia (save as the image or list to your PC and Print for clear copy) *** also take note the expiry date of their license to operate.


OEC-BM Online Processing


H.E. Ezzedin Tago & Hon. POEA Admin Cacdac

H.E. Ambasador Ezzedin Tago & Hon. POEA Admin Hans Cacdac

During the Filipino Community meeting with DOLE Secretary Baldoz at the Philippine Embassy, the Honorable POEA Administrator Hans Cacdac was with her. Admin. Cacdac announced to the attendees about the POEA OEC-BM Online Processing. It is indeed a good project by the POEA, and I salute POEA Admin Cacdac for this very useful initiative.

 I humbly request our government particularly those agencies overseeing the plight of OFWs to start planning or think something that could be beneficial for us OFWs rather than issuing a Memorandum Circular forcing us OFWs to pay P550 terminal fee in the cost of an airline ticket. 

By the way, thanks to the court ruling last November 19 issued by Judge Tingaraan Guiling of Pasay RTC Branch 109 by declaring MIAA’s Memorandum Circular No. 8 as “unenforceable” for a mere reason that  the Memorandum Circular did not comply with the legal requirement that it must be published in the Official Gazette or any newspaper of general circulation 15 days before its implementation.

I’m sure MIAA will file a motion for reconsideration if allowed by court and I just hope our court will later rule the MC No. 8 with finality that it is “unconstitutional” in violation to Republic Act 10022 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of. 1995) that prohibits the collection of travel tax and terminal fee for OFWs who possess valid Overseas Exemption Certificates.

Back to OEC-BM Online Processing, I tried to apply online but unfortunately the facility only caters OFWs to POEA offices in the Philippines. It means up to this writing, those OFWs who wish to set an appointment for your OEC to POLO offices at the site of employment has yet to be operational online. You can see below screen shot of the online facility in red arrow showing that the said locations are “coming soon”. To those OFWs already in the Philippines, please try to point your location to your areas where you are now and check the availability of the given dates to set an appointment after you’ve done filling out the online form.

Surely it can lessen the waiting time because an OFW has the slot, but just to make sure you’ll be there on time and you have all the necessary documents with you like passport and previous payment receipts as required in obtaining an Overseas Employment Certificate.

To those who haven’t visited the site online, please click this link: OEC Balik-Manggagawa Online Processing  and simply follow the instruction.

Frequently Asked Questions: click here >>>>BALIK-MANGGAGAWA (BM) ONLINE   PROCESSING SYSTEM

To POEA, MABUHAY Kayo! Keep up the good work in the service to OFWs. – BongA


Fig. 1- POEA Appointment Offices outside PHL “Coming Soon”


Fig. 2 – Slots Available in POEA Cebu Office

FilCom leaders pleased Secretary Baldoz Second visit in Saudi Arabia


FilCom leaders pleased Secretary Baldoz Second visit in Saudi Arabia

Philippine Labor Secretary Erlinda Dimapilis-Baldoz

Philippine Labor Secretary Erlinda Dimapilis-Baldoz

30 November, 2014, RIYADH: Filipino Community leaders are really delighted to receive an invitation of Philippine Labor Secretary Erlinda Dimapilis-Baldoz through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office to meet Filcom leader in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This visit is the second time of Secretary Baldoz since she took office in 2010.

The first visit was in May last year upon the signing of the Labor pact between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia that established the commitment of the two governments to implement a standard employment contract that provide protection for Filipino Household Service Workers. However, most of the Saudis are complaining about the very expensive fees the local Saudi recruitment offices are charging in bringing domestic workers from Philippines.

OFWs in Saudi are also facing forward that this visit of Secretary Baldoz could pave a way to formalize an agreed standard employment contract for skilled and semi-skilled workers in the Kingdom through a bilateral labor agreement similar to that of the standard FHSW contract. This could prevent employers from substituting a contract for their own interest. It can’t be denied that contract substitution still rampant in the Kingdom despite of both countries good labor relation.

The Filipino Community is likewise grateful to the good Secretary Baldoz for inviting them in line with the Philippine Government agenda on reintegration program. The OFW reintegration program should be properly disseminated to the vast population of OFWs as their guide in their eventual return to the homeland.

The top Labor executive’s ardent desire to hold an audience with the Filipino Community in Riyadh tonight, Sunday, at 6 PM is indeed a serious move that the Aquino government is sincere in their reintegration program for OFWs and looking for an alternative source of income for those who decides to be back home for good. – BongA

Labor Ministry launches portal for expatriates


Labor Ministry launches portal for expatriates

In a bid to prevent workers’ rights violations in the Kingdom, the Ministry of Labor has launched an exclusive Web portal to educate workers about their rights and how to avail them.

640x392_79058_157084The Web portal  launched on Tuesday aims to boost awareness about workers’ rights and the rules that regulate the relationship between the employee and employer in the Kingdom. While the Web portal’s Arabic version has comprehensive information, the English version is still under construction, according to sources in the Labor ministry.

The Web portal comes in the light of several reports of exploitation of expatriate workers in particular, due to lack of legal knowledge. The portal provides useful information related to the contact details of relevant authorities, workers’ rights, contractual obligations and wages, working hours, training, qualification, work responsibility, disciplinary rules and the calculation of end of service benefits.

It also makes provision for special rights for people with disabilities and women workers.

Sources pointed out that one can also lodge a formal complaint through the Web portal. The sources said that the Labor ministry which is fully automated through an electronic system now intends to extend the same facility for workers to improve the working environment and guarantee the rights of employer and employee.

Taken from: Arab News Saudi Arabia News/JEDDAH: Irfan Mohammed/Published — Wednesday 17 September 2014


Advocate what is right – NOto550


The issue of the integration of terminal fee into airline tickets is seems like a reported ISIS (unconfirmed) statement on tweet to destroy the Holy Kaaba in Mecca after capturing Saudi Arabia.  Though these two issues very much differ from the other, it is like an atomic bomb exploded right in front of those concern people that surely affected by the recent events.

NOto550Actually, OFWs is still exempted from paying airport terminal fee if the plan prosper; the main question here is why integrate the payment of terminal fee into airline tickets if the OFW is properly documented by showing to the airline agent the OEC.  The logic is – we have the OEC; and why on earth incorporate the terminal fees along with the ticket and subject for reimbursement later because we are exempted from paying it.  What a totally stupid idea. What an insult to us – OFWs. (Other scenario in the implementing process at the last part of this post). 

And adding more insult to the insult is about the refund process. Why giving us more excess burdens by having it reimburse with all of those documentary requirements?  To obtain OEC, will take us one day and now you are asking us to queue on the very day of our departure just to collect the money that we can’t even use in the country of our destination. Sa isang banda, bakit pa namin bigyan ng problema or istorbohin ang aming pamilya o kamag-anak para lamang mag pa-reimburse. Exempted na nga, pagbabayarin pa at ibabalik rin pala! Di ba masalimuot? 

Are those stupid minds behind this plan are enemies of OFWs? Why our government always keeping an eye on us – OFWs? Are you not contented to the millions of dollars of remittances WE, OFWs brings into the country?  Saving our economy while those corrupt government officials spending millions of OWWA funds at the expense of an ordinary OFW’s.

But I still believed that all of these fees that Philippine officials want to put on the shoulders of our OFWs will not materialize because OFWs are protected with the Migrant Workers Overseas Filipinos Act.

imagesThe issue of terminal fees to be imposed to OFWs was already an issue way back then. I remember in 2005, the government plan to restore the gross income tax on OFWs,  the following year there was a proposal to collect from the OFWs security fee of $3.50 (P175) and a rumored about terminal fees surfaced in the succeeding years. All of these turned out into the trash because any fees to be collected to OFWs clearly violates the said law.

The  R.A. 10022 as amended read as follows:

SEC. 35.  Exemption from Travel Tax, Documentary Stamp and Airport Fee. – All laws to the contrary notwithstanding, the migrant workers shall be exempt from the payment of travel tax and airport-fee upon proper showing of proof entitlement by the POEA.

What proof entitlement does the law talking about? To quote “Upon proper showing of proof entitlement by the POEA”.  What document we are talking about?  The Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). The OEC is a requirement under the rules and regulations of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). This helps ensure that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are properly documented and protected.

The basic requirements to obtain an OEC are: a) Passport with valid working visa. In KSA, Exit Re-entry visa for vacationing OFWs/Employment Contract or Working Visa for new OFWs b) Annual payment and or OWWA Certificate of Membership c) Annual Payment of Pag-ibig membership d) Copy of Ticket  reservation e) Annual Payment of Philhealth membership.

If you have all of the above, OEC holders are exempted from paying the travel tax and the airport terminal fee.

Please note that in KSA, the employer are the one who will purchase the ticket (as prescribed in the contract) for their vacationing workers. The original copy of the ticket is handed to the worker on the day of his/her departure along with their passport (that was keep by the employer from the day the worker arrived in KSA) and other travel documents.  Prior issuance of the ticket, the worker only have the copy of the ticket reservation.  So it means if we will apply for OEC at our Embassy/POLO office we don’t have a choice but to present them with the copy of the ticket reservation from the airline company na may kasama ng terminal fee.Walang lusot ang kawawang OFW”.  Kung sa Pilipinas kami kukuha ng OEC natural na ang ticket namin na binili ng employer ay may dagdag or kasama ng terminal fee. PERO may isang problema, papayag kaya ang employer na bayaran ang dagdag na singil for terminal fee?  Ito ay isa sa mga usaping aabangan natin. Ang kawawang OFW na katulad ko ay walang magawa kundi pumila sa designated areas to comply with the refund stupid process.

Wala ba kayong naalala?  Parang kahalintulad ng OWWA membership fee!   To quote found at their websiteOWWA membership fee to be paid by the employer.”  NAPAKALINAW!  Ang tanong,  employer ba ninyo ang nagbabayad sa OWWA membership fee? 

Okey,  let’s talk about  amending the law. Of course, a certain law can be changed or a portion of it can be amended but it can be done in normal legislative process.  A law can be replaced in its entirety or if not the court can declare part of a law unconstitutional and renders that portion void but leaves the rest in place. However, all of these can be done in a proper forum through legislative proceedings or in court proceedings. Kaya may laban pa rin tayo na tutulan ang panukalang ito ng mga istupido. 

If our legislators, particularly those “leaders kono” for OFWs can’t do anything to stop this stupid plan, then WE should fight for it! Maybe not in the house of Congress, but perhaps in the Court of Law.

For whatever this pahirap sa OFW is all about, I am asking my fellow OFWs to advocate what is right for us NOto550.  – BongA



An Appeal to Free Fred


Wenifredo “Fred” Castolome, an active Filipino community leader in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is now languishing in jail on the charge for breach of contract to operate a five year school operation. He is at present incarcerated in prison at Hogug Islahiyah, Amber 9 Detention Cell, Briman, Jeddah. Most of the Filipino community in Jeddah knows “Fred” very well, it is because he is actively involved in the Filipino community. He was the former President of CSOSA (Cebuano Speaking Organization in Saudi Arabia), a regional group behind many cultural, sports and fundraising activities for a purpose in the Philippine Consulate. He was also the former Chairman of the Overseas Filipino Worker Cooperative Council, whose organization (OFWCC) conducts seminars to fellow OFWs on cooperative and computer literacy training not only in Jeddah but also in Taif and Riyadh. These two organizations I mentioned are few of the many organizations, Fred has been active with.

Winefredo Pernes Castolome

Wenifredo Pernes Castolome

Fred and his wife Moncita  spent most of their lives in the Kingdom and in fact their two sons “Jan Jan” and “Jesric” are both born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Like any other Philippine School in the Kingdom, the defunct Sunrise International School has its trustee in which Fred was the Chairman of the Board.

The first year of the five year contract operation was then going smoothly, however the next year was a trying year for the school. Until the board realized that to continue operating is impossible for them to perform its obligation. They decided to cease its operation.

Unfortunately, their local partner refused to accept the groups’ decision who take legal action and brought the complaint to the court against Fred in his capacity as chairman of the board.

Both parties, then initially agreed in the sum of SAR 300,000 to settle the amount representing losses for the remaining three years of the agreed contract. Regrettably, the court corroborated by the complainant raised the agreed amount to SAR 1,300,000.

Due to anxiety, lack of sleep and afraid of the consequences Fred as ordered by the court signed the documents in the absence of witnesses, consulate interpreter and legal counsel.

Impossible to produce such huge amount Fred was arrested and put in jail on May 15, 2012.

I know Fred personally way back when I was in Jeddah (1993-1997), he is a family man, an energetic person, full of life and stamina, a man who never rests and delivers what you wanted if you ask him to do a certain task. He likes to roam around offering anyone an alternative ways how to have an extra cash for savings.

His pocket is open to all his friends, organizations and charities; he never says no to a friend in dire needs of money. Not all are destined to succeed, there’s always an accompanying failure in an attempt to reach the top, people sometimes fail in any endeavors or ventures, I or you want to create and Fred is one of them.


Click Gavel for the Facts of the Case

The Philippine Sunrise International School (PSIS) was a failure, but it doesn’t mean that ceasing its operation was an intent to cheat or defraud the other parties involved. Breach of contract is not a crime, therefore a two years in prison is considerably the value of the amount in damages asked by the complainant. Fred already suffers the consequences of his action. For Fred, 2 years in jail is another 30 long years as an OFW in the Kingdom.

On behalf of Fred’s family, relatives and friends; WE appeal to the other party concern to please drop the case so that Fred can go home and be with his family. He already suffers and punish, two years is enough to a 64 years old OFW with a declining health.

On behalf of Fred’s family, relatives, friends, Filipino Community organizations in Jeddah, Fred helps to organized; WE respectfully appeal to His Royal Highness Prince Mishaal bin Majid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Governor of Jeddah to please free the man who considered Saudi Arabia as his second home.

On behalf of Fred’s family, relatives, friends and OFWs in the Kingdom who knows him well;  WE humbly appeal to H.E. Ambassador Ezz Tago to please look Fred’s case and assist him of a legal counsel and or whatever necessary to be done under the circumstances of the case.

Lastly, on behalf of Fred’s family, relatives, friends and the son and daughters of  Almighty God ; WE pray Lord in Heaven to please give Fred more strength and good health for him to submit and hold Your Grace in this trying and tough times of his life.