Bobby Reyes – a Rusty Balderian in the making : A tale of Two OFWs in Philippine politics

Bobby Reyes – a Rusty Balderian in the making : A tale of Two OFWs in Philippine politics

Bobby Reyes

Roberto “Bobby” M. Reyes, “Lolo Bobby” is a friend of mine in the OFW community. He is an OFW in U.S.A. for 22 years. He never abandoned his legal residence in the city of Sorsogon. He is now running for Governor of Sorsogon Province. “Lolo Bobby” a play in the words for “Law and Order and Less government and Opportunities equally to all” wants to serve his constituents – his long time dream.

Bobby Reyes, a journalist, book author and a community organizer decided to cast his lot, by downloading copies of the COC from the website of the Commission on Elections in the Philippines, accomplished the forms and sworn to his COC before surprised Philippine Consulate officials before dropping the COC by registered mail at the Los Angeles post office addressed to the Comelec office in the Philippines.

Joseph Lariosa in wrote that Reyes, 63, was a beneficiary of a petition for a permanent residence that became current last March 2008 but he did not pick up the option to apply for a Green Card because he wanted to keep his Filipino citizenship and Philippine legal residence that will make him eligible to run for an elective office in the Philippines.

“The Immigration and Naturalization Service informed me that I could stay in the United States but it could not guarantee that I would be admitted back if I leave the country for the Philippines or a third country,” Reyes said.

If he loses, Reyes explained, “I will prepare for the next gubernatorial election in 2013. I can always get back to the United States on a ‘Business’ visa or perhaps I will let my son then petition me as a parent when I reach the late 70s. But I don’t want to spend the rest of my days in a nursing home, as I plan to spend the rest of my life promoting the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Ferdinand Magallanes in 2021. And of course write more books and teach.”

Dr. Rusty Balderian

Reyes will be the like of OFW Rusty Balderian, that despite of having a good life as a successful businessman in the USA’s healthcare industry landed serving his constituents as Mayor in Tabon Tabon, Leyte. A story of a young man from a family which owned a sari sari store in his town who practically supported himself as a working student to become an optometrist and a physician.

In 2003 before he entered politics he went back to his hometown and opened a school for nursing. It was put up to help the less privileged students to attend a four-year college in nursing; no tuition fee, whatsoever is being charged to any student; use of school facilities, laboratory, computer room, fire truck, books, library, is FREE; boarding is also provided free; quality education, complete with quality and qualified Faculty staff and employment at U.S. hospitals has been pre-arranged for those who will pass the CSGFNS; and many more fringe benefits which Dr. Balderian shoulders.

Dr. Rusty Balderian (my kumpare) is now running for Congress in the 2nd District of Leyte.

As for Lolo Bobby Reyes “I would not have entered the contest if my backers and advisers did not think that I have a good chance of toppling the corrupt Establishment. But remember the adage, ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall.’ I will capture national attention if I win and friends are saying that as governor, I will become the overall leader of the OFWs and the Overseas Filipinos, because I will still be active in Filipino community affairs in the United States, especially in Southern California.”

Lolo Bobby’s family is not new to politics in Sorsogon Province. The family of Reyeses already produced two governors (Juan S. Reyes and Teodosio Diño), a congressman (Juan S. Reyes), a constitutional delegate (Jose S. Reyes) and a municipal mayor (Jaime S. Reyes). He is also the brother of a former Sorsogon City councilor, Sylvia Reyes-Lao and Carlos M. Reyes, Sorsogon incumbent Provincial Board member.

To my friend “Lolo Bobby” and “Pareng Rusty”, Good Luck!

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There is a mathematical probability of putting one ofw in the senate:

There is a mathematical probability of putting one ofw in the senate:

There are 7 Million ofw’s worldwide, assuming 30% of this will be able to vote, its about 2.1 Million OFW votes. Assuming an average family size of 4 (husband, wife and two children at voting age), its now 8.4 Million votes. I am sure that we can convince our immediate family 100% to vote for a fellow-ofw. Assumig further that each of the 2.1 ofw’s with a chance to vote will target 15 other filipinos from his/her circle of relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces) and circle of friends (barkada, kaklase, kapitbahay, kababata, etc) – this is equivalent to 31.5 Million votes (2.1 M x 15). The final canvass – 39.9 Million (8.4 + 31.5) votes, which i think is enough to send one “kabayan” to the senate.

A Balikbayan Box an OFW Vote for OFWEmpowerment

Now that we are able to see the numbers, we realize that this is no longer wishful thinking, we can do this. However, we must do our share in the whole scheme of things – 15 votes from your immediate circle of relatives and friends is not a huge task – I actually think we can even target 20 to 30. Relatives are easy, friends – madami dyan nakakatikim lagi ng tsokolate, sabon, lotion at iba pa tuwing dadating ka, di pa kasali ang inuman at kainan at kunting pautang sa oras ng kagipitan, now is the time to at least ask for a small return favor. Another positive factor – communications today is very easy – email, text, cheaper long distance calls. It really doesnt matter kung nasa abroad tayo, we can still do our share in the campaign. Come to think of it, if we hit 30 target votes for each – this is around 63 Million votes, topnotcher na to sa senado.

Here is another helpful tip – every average voter will probably have 5-8 solid senators out of the required 12 in their individual preferential list. Ang balance dyan ay panakip butas na lang, just to complete the 12 allowed votes. In my experience, kadalasan 1 or 2 votes for senators ay minadali na dahil wala ng oras. Kadalasan di mo na nga matandaan kung sino yung last 2 or 3 na napili mo. Given this, it will not be that hard to tell our friends or relatives, paki sali naman yung isang manok natin, kahit doon na lang sa panapon na boto nya, para di naman masayang ang vote nya.

I’m sure after looking at the above scenarios, we can all feel positively na kaya natin to. We must do our share, this is the whole point and the assigned task for each is so easy, sa isang oras na text lang or email baka na-accomplish na natin ang share natin. Alam na natin that we need some representations at the highest level, yung taong kaisa natin, galing sa atin. However, alam naman natin ang mentality ng kadamihan, ok sana kaya lang wala naman mangyayari, kunti lang tayo, sayang lang. Now ikalat na nating ang mathematical probability na to, na we can do it and its really very easy para matauhan ang lahat ng yun lang pala yun – PWEDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!

We have been glamorized as modern day heroes, saviour of the nation, redeemer in times of economic distress. Pero hindi natin maramdaman eto and individually as an ofw wala naman tayong nakikitang prestige or glamour man lang sa mga monickers na to. The facts are pag nasa pinas tayo, sinisigawan lang tayo ng isang sekyu sa airport at tinataboy ang ating mga mahal sa buhay na parang mga hayop na umalis na at madaliin ang pagpapa-alam. Saan ba sila naghihintay pag dumadating ka, sa isang higanteng hawla, kala mo pumunta ka sa Manila Zoo, paghalik mo tuloy sa asawa mo at mga anak mo nahilamusan ka pa ng pawis nila. Pag nasa POEA ka, doon sa basement ka kukuha ng OEC, at ganun din kabangis ang asal ng mga sekyu at workers doon. Pag nagipit ka, sino ba ang nalalapitan mo sa gobyerno, mayron naman dyan pero libo libo kayong may problema, kaya wala kang priority. May programa ba tayong purely for ofw’s – I think wala, sa SSS at Pag-big at Medicare, singit lang tayo. Ang OWWA naman, aywan kung ano to, basta nagbayad tayo kasi kailangan ng OEC. Nakita nyo ba sa TV yung mga dependents natin nag-aaway-away na sa pila sa OWWA para makahiram lang ng sampung libo dahil sa nakaraang bagyong Ondoy at Pepeng. Madami tayong hinaing, maraming problema ang supposed to be heroes na alam naman natin na “lip service” lang ag binyag sa atin na to – “hero ka dyan”.

Our impact in our country is gained from our collective efforts particularly yung suma total ng ating remittances. The key word or the operative word here is “collective”. Individually, walang effect – yung $1000 na pinadala mo, walang effect but the $1000 na pinadala ng 5 Million ofw’s sa isang buwan is equivalent to $5 billion, yun ang may impact. Its about time para gamitin din natin ang ating collective power, we have this in our hands but not as individuals but as ofw’s collectively, acting as one huge, gigantic force.

Lets start with this electoral exercise, iparamdam na natin kung sino tayo, let start doing things from the position of strength, ipakita natin na we are a force to reckon with, that we can indeed make or break our nation. One OFW in the senate, this is not too much to ask for, set aside natin ang president and vice president, im sure we have our own choices. Kaya natin to, look at the numbers and look at your share in the undertaking, peanuts, no sweat. Lets not forget the operative word always, “collective”, for once, let us start being one. 

Salamat po and good luck sa ating lahat………. OFW – ONE FILIPINO WORKER

From: an OFW like YOU

OAV Internet Voting and OFW representation – Hoping for the best

OAV Internet Voting and  OFW representation – Hoping for the best

GFN (Global Filipino Nation) a group of a coalition of major Filipino expatriate organizations who drafted the insertion of internet registration and voting said that the proposed amendment of Republic Act 9189 known as Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 is now pending in the Senate.  The bill contains the new version of allowing Internet voting for overseas Filipinos. 


Internet Vote - OFW Vote

GFN office in Manila spokesperson Connie Gomez Valdes in an email said that  “the bill was technically approved in the Committee on Constitutional Amendments headed by Sen. Chiz Escudero and is being passed around the tables of Senators Loren Legarda, Manuel “Mar” Roxas and  Noynoy Aquino for signature.  Once they have signed, it will be discussed in the Senate.”   

GFN advocates empowering global community of unified Filipinos to proactively participate in their motherland’s mainstream activities particularly the right to vote.  GFN is pursuing the passage of this amendment for the coming May 2010 elections.  GFN led convenor, Asian Leaders 2004 awardee  Mr. Vic Barrios and FilAm community leader Ernie Del Rosario are the two proponents who drafted the insertion of internet registration and voting in the proposed amendment. 

Called GFN Lead Harvesters, they appeal to global Filipinos to help lobbying or pushing for the passage of the amendment before the May 2010 election.   “Since we did not make it happen for the registration period, I appeal to everyone to please help us by writing letters to the senators and congressmen” said Connie Gomez Valdes.

 ”It would be good also to write to your consuls to make them aware that we are on top of the situation” she added.

Internet voting was successfully tested in Singapore last July 20 to August 8 which the Commission on Elections describes as “major step forward” towards the full modernization of Philippine elections.  Being a remote electronic system, OAVs can cast their votes from their homes, workplaces and cyber cafes and voting stations to be set up inside the Philippine embassy.  

Filipino community leader Rudy Nazruddin Dianalan based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the main proponent of ”internet voting”  during the tripartite meeting of Filipino community in Saudi Arabia  said  “internet voting is the most practical method to maximize the participation of OAVoters in elections.”

Most Overseas Filipinos are far away from diplomatic posts and going to the nearest one to vote entails too much expenses. Like here in Saudi Arabia.  OFWs that are registered as absentee voters can only go either to the embassy in Riyadh or the consulate in Jeddah.

“Of more than one million OFWs in the kingdom, only about ten to fifteen percent are within reasonable distance to the two diplomatic posts here. Spread over a land area about five times larger than the Philippines, most OFWs do not have the means or the motivation to travel a long distance to cast their votes.”  Mr. Dianalan added.

Rudy Nazruddin Dianalan is among called by OFWs in Saudi Arabia to represent the OFWs in the Senate.  Filipino community is hoping that major Philippine political parties will include OFW stalwarts in their Senate slate.

“Assuming a crack at the senate, my advocacy shall center on the protection of OFWs from recruitment to worksite, the welfare of their families left back home, strengthening the ties of Overseas Filipinos to the Philippines and their reintegration, and enhancing a global Filipino nation.” He said.

Mr. Dianalan is the Chairman Emeritus of KASAPI,   duly recognized federated and coalesced alliance of Filipino community organizations in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  He was one of those who hardly fought that  OFWs should be represented in Congress.  

Among the names eyed to represent OFWs is Susan “Toots” Ople, the daughter of the late Sen. Blas F. Ople.

She served in the Senate in 1987 as media relations officer of Senator Ernesto Herrera.  In 1989, the Citizens’ Drug Watch Foundation was created with Herrera as president and Susan as executive director.  When the late Sen. Ople was designated Foreign Affairs Secretary, he brought Susan with him as chief of staff.  It was during her stint at the DFA that Susan became deeply involved in human trafficking and OFW cases.  In 2004, after  Senator Ople  died, Susan Ople was appointed Undersecretary of Labor and Employment.

Since the 1970s, the issue of Overseas Filipino Workers welfare has become one of the primary concerns of the government. However, in spite of efforts to provide protection, benefits, and programs to address their welfare, there are still many OFWs that have become victims of various circumstances and abuses from their foreign employers.

In 1992, the Party List Act of the Philippines was signed into law.  However, the implementing rules of the Party List Act came very late and the  then newly elected President, Fidel V. Ramos, appointed party-list representatives from several recognized sectors, like labor, business, cooperatives, teachers, OFWs, and others.

Ramos also appointed two OFW sectoral representatives in Congress, from the ranks of  OFWs  in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  

But many say the failure of OFW sectoral representation in Congress was because the representation itself did not enjoy the mandate of the OFW sector they are supposed to represent.

In 1995 up to now many OFW party lists tried their luck to participate in the last elections, not even one of them  garnered the mandatory requirement in number of votes needed to be able to nominate a representative to Congress. 

Now, that unity is too elusive to achieve, the OFWs will try the upper House of Philippine Congress, the Senatehoping for the best.  

By: Bong Amora

Related Post : The continuing saga towards OFW Empowerment

Rural bankers try carving niche in OFW market

Rural bankers try carving niche in OFW market

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO  (OFW Journalism Consortium)

[Reporting from Ibaan municipality, Batangas and Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Some of the names were changed to protect against probable harm from persons scouring the news for potential victims]

LINDA has a problem with money: she has lots of it.

Her worries are less about meeting daily needs, which she gets from a regular pension, having retired from working as a nonprofit worker, and spouse of a German, in a European country.

Linda’s problem is how to grow a sizeable inheritance her late husband willed to her just recently.

She isn’t alone in such conundrum: rural bankers discovered this lately through dialogues with former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and current OFW families.

Lorded over by large Manila-based financial institutions, the booming market for remittance by overseas Filipinos has attracted more than a dozen rural banks trying to carve a niche in that market by staying local.


FINANCIAL COUNSELING. Former overseas Filipino workers from rural Philippines, mostly women, seek advice with rural bankers during dialogues with officials and staff of Batangas-based Bangko Kabayan.

Rural banks, according to Ildefonso Bagasao, are “in the best position to serve the financial needs of OFWs and their families, especially since they know each other and their needs.”

Bagasao is president of Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (Ercof), a nonprofit group trying to deepen this mutual awareness between OFW families and rural bankers.

Since July, Bagasao and his team has brokered dialogues to discover how families, mainly wives, of OFWs and OFWs themselves are managing new-found wealth from remittances and how rural bankers can help.

Linda is just one of the many participants in these dialogues that started in Bicol, which was organized by Ercof and the Moraleda family-owned Rural Bank of Camalig (Albay) Inc.

The last dialogue was co-organized by Bangko Mabuhay in Cavite on the day, Sept. 26, typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) stormed through Metro Manila and Luzon.

The financial mosaic formed by Linda’s life as an OFW bare the general storyline of rural folks accustomed to simple living, but are now grappling with ideas on how to handle surplus money more productively.

And with the recent fiasco involving some rural banks in a get-rich-quick scheme, ex-OFWs like Linda understandably worry: it’s money earned with too many trade-offs that are mostly painful to recall.

Like Aurelia Sarina, who lightly chided her husband Primo at another bankers-OFW dialogue in Ibaan, Batangas, for “wasting” some of the money she sent home in the past 17 years as a domestic worker in Italy.

Slow buck

RURAL bankers, however, discovered that ex-OFWs like Linda and Aurelia are concerned less with a fast buck than how to squeeze the strategic worth of their cash.

“They don’t seem in need to borrow money from the bank because they apparently have lots of it,” Bank Victorias’ Bacolod City branch manager Pancho Javelosa mused.

Javelosa saw three seafarers’ wives slid inside luxury cars when the Bank Victorias-sponsored dialogue ended.

Their peer Jurry Tormis, Kabankalan City branch manager, said: “What I think these OFWs need are financial advisors.”


Insular Life Assurance Company Limited during Literacy Seminar held at Insular Life Bldg. in Cebu "Ensuring the Expatriate Filipino's Financial Security" in their IPINOY Money Management Program (Photo by: Bong Amora who attended the seminar)

Bank Victorias president Jaime Lopez, however, said the bank is willing “to go beyond money matters” in dealing with OFW clients within their five branches in the southern Philippine provinces of Negros Occidental and Iloilo.

Bagasao agreed with Lopez, urging the rural bankers to provide family counseling as one of their “services”.

Doing so would make OFW-focused rural banking distinct from other attempts to catch a windfall from the P150-billion remittance industry.

One such attempt was the so-called “double-your-money” time deposit scheme that involved 14 rural banks and a financial services firm called the Legacy Group.

Based on news reports, investors in this scheme who got “burned” included OFWs and their family members.

Bagasao said Ercof took the safer but slower boat by linking OFWs to 15 “stable” rural banks.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reveals there are 648 rural banks in 75 provinces.

If some of these remittances are saved and invested in rural banks, Bagasao said these remittances can help generate jobs since rural banks are mandated by law to invest their income and offer loans in the rural areas where they operate.

An Ercof report wrote that these banks, including Bank Victorias, have a branch network collectively covering over-220 branches found in 44 provinces.

These banks have collective resources worth P149.4 billion, or 13 percent of the resources of the Philippine rural banking industry, the report added.

Have money, won’t borrow

LINDA said she participated in the dialogue with the rural bankers to know if she can make money out of her inheritance to bankroll her home renovation project.

Likewise, she also plans to put up a coffee shop.

Marivic Valencia said as an observation that ex-OFWs like Linda and wives of OFWs like her dive into business sans having the skills.

Marivic admits they need people who can become their financial coach.

She said the coaching that occurred during the dialogue organized by Bangko Kabayan in Batangas was helpful.

A bank manager, for example, advised Linda to open a one-year time deposit, send the money via mobile phone, and withdraw proceeds of her time deposit also through her mobile phone.

The manager’s additional advice: “If you want to pursue your coffee shop business, be visible to customers and be hands-on in the business.”

Bagasao said by advising OFWs and OFW families in their financial needs and aspirations, rural banks can remain stable and create a resilient customer base.

That is also expected by OFW family members like Shirley Buenaflor from Rosario municipality in Batangas.

Buenaflor dreams of running a business out of some savings coming from her Saudi Arabia-based husband’s remittances, but she doesn’t know how to run one.

Buenaflor told a Bangko Kabayan staff: “I hope you can help us every step of the way.”

“No other financial institution knows the needs of rural folk and could offer friendly and personalized services than grassroots financial institutions such as rural banks, whose management and staff live in the same neighborhoods as OFWs,” Bagasao said.

He says Ercof is optimistic the dialogues, which are part of the Bayaning Bayanihan awareness campaign of the consortium of 15 banks and of Ercof, will enhance the relationship between rural bankers and their clients.

According to briefing materials, the campaign will stress the strategic role of rural banks in countryside development.

Other institutions involved in Bayaning Bayanihan ( include: Rang-ay Bank (Ilocos and Cordillera Administrative regions); Bank of Florida (Pampanga); GM Bank (Nueva Ecija); First Macro Bank (Pateros, Metro Manila); Bangko Kabayan (Batangas), Bangko Mabuhay (Cavite), Quezon Capital Rural Bank (Quezon),  Camalig Bank (Bicol region); Bank Victorias (Negros Occidental), 1st Valley Rural Bank (Misamis Oriental and other Mindanao provinces), and Cantilan Bank (Caraga region).

Four other banks —One Network Bank (Mindanao island), Guagua Rural Bank (Pampanga), Xavier Punla Bank (Misamis Oriental), and Xavier Tibod Bank (Bukidnon)— are also part of the Ercof-coordinated consortium of 15 banks.

These banks have each designated an OFW desk officer to not only receive queries from OFWs abroad, but to act as the OFW’s financial consultant and planner.

The OFW desk officer can provide the portfolio customized to OFW concerns such as education, housing, health, or buffer fund for retirement.                                                                                             

Comments are welcome at

Pass the Senate and House Bill amending R.A. No. 8042


Speaker Prospero C. Nograles consults with leaders of the various Filipino communities in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who raised, among others, the need for faster facilitation by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration of services relative to OFW Welfare, and licensure renewals by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC). The Speaker, together with his official delegation composed of Deputy Speaker Simeon Datumanong, Reps. Munir Arbison, Yusop Jikiri, Nur Jaafar and Mujiv Hataman, have assured the OFW leaders that their concerns, including better OFW representation abroad, will be taken into consideration and their suggestions be thoroughly studied. The common sentiment is to strengthen OWWA's programs and be more responsive to the needs of OFWs. Additional OWWA action desks in embassies and consulates are also being pursued. Saudi Arabia is the second home of more than one million Filipinos.

Philippine lawmakers are expected to arrive in Riyadh on November 5, 2009. They are on their working trip to Middle East for a series of consultation meeting with Filipino Community, Philippine Embassy officials and Philippine government agencies overseeing the plight of OFWs.

They are members of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) to conduct congressional hearing among Filipino Community leaders in Riyadh on issues concerning  OFW grievances and complains. 

However, as of this writing, I haven’t yet heard from fellow community leaders of an invitation from Philippine Embassy/POLO/OWWA  to attend such important event. The visiting lawmakers are Representatives Luz Ilagan, Carlos Padilla, and Rufus Rodriquez.

The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) has the jurisdiction to tackle all matters directly and principally relating to policies and programs on the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers and their families.  The 14th Congress COWA is Chaired by Rep. Manuel  Zamora consisting  35 Committee members namely:  Five Vice Chairman, Lagman, Edcel, Gatchalian, Rex, Labadlabad, Rosendo and Romulo, Roman. Members of the Majority are Magsaysay, Ma. Milagros,De Guzman, Del , Estrella, Conrado III,Bichara, Al Francis,San Luis, Edgar,Sy-Alvarado, Ma. Victoria,Robes, Arturo,Roman, Herminia,Chong, Glenn,Codilla, Eufrocino Sr.,Alcala, Proceso,Cajayon, Mary Mitzi,Amatong, Rommel,Bonoan-David, Ma. Theresa, Dela Cruz, Jonathan, and Arroyo, Ma. Lourdes. For the Minority are Ilagan, Luzviminda,Villanueva, Emmanuel Joel, and Hataman, Mujiv.

If Philippine Embassy will invite me to the consultation/hearing and be given a chance to talk in front of the Honorable Lady and Gentlemen from the Philippine House of Representative, I will lobby for the immediate approval of House Bill 05649 or  Senate Bill 3286 and it should be signed into law before the May 2010 election.  

House Bill 05649:  “The Standards of Protection and Assistance For Migrant Workers Act” is an act guarantees the protection of the rights of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who are to be deployed only in countries where labor and social laws protecting workers’ rights, adherence to conventions, declarations and resolutions, and bilateral agreements or arrangements are existing and guaranteed. Principal author of the bill is Rep. Manuel Zamora. It was approved on 2nd Reading dated 2009-02-03 and approved on third reading dated 2009-02-04 with the followingvotes Yes = 127, No = 0, Abstain = 0.

The abovementioned bill is a counterpart bill under Senate Bill 3286 known as an “Act amending R.A. No. 8042, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, as amended, further improving the standard of protection and promotion of the Welfare of Migrant Workers, their Families and Overseas Filipino Workers in Distress and for other purposes.”  The legislative status of the bill is for recommendation for approval pending before the  “Senate and House Conference Committee” since August 17, 2009.

Above House Bill 05649 is a consolidated bill substituting the following House Bills:

HB00628 –  “Establishment of a legal attaché office in every country in the Middle East to provide free legal assistance to Filipino migrant workers in need of legal aid or in crisis or difficult situation”. The bill was authored by Rep. Judy Syjuco.

HB00700 – “Act Setting Higher Standards of Protection of Migrant Workers”. Authored by Rep. Rexlon Gatchalian, the bill prohibits the issuance of a work permit to a country where there is no existent guarantee for the protection of the rights of migrant workers.  Bill Status: House agreed to the request for a conference made by the Senate.

HB00769 – “An Act Setting Higher Standards of Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families”. Authored by Rep. Arthur Pingoy, Jr. The proposed bill is an act to institute policies of Overseas Employment and establish higher standards of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers, their families and Overseas Filipinos in distress.

HB04783 – “An Act Improving the Protection of Migrant Workers, amending for the Purpose Section 4 of R.A. No. 8042. The bill was principally authored by Rep. Edgardo Chatto.

HB00699 – “Act Providing for the Selection of Additional Memberships in the Boards of the POEA and the OWWA, amending for such Purpose Republic Act 8042. Authored by Rep. Rexlon Gatchalian.

There are 41 House Bills and Resolutions currently referred to the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) found at Philippine House of Representative official website.  Several  of this House Bills seek to amend R.A. 8042 known as Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.  These bills are currently on hold pending deliberations and approval by both the House and the Senate.

Relevant House Bills intended for the promotion, welfare and protection of Overseas Filipinos are the following:

NO. HB00819 - Principal author:  Rep. Judy Syjuco. The bill provides for the abolition of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and for the transfer of their functions to the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION.

NO. HB03115 – Principal Author: Rep. Bienvenido Abante, Jr. “Overseas Domestic Helpers Act”, the bill aims to determine the countries where maltreatment and abuse of overseas Filipino workers is rampant and to ban their development to these countries. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS.

NO. HB04310 – Principal author Re. Narciso Santiago III. “Migrant Worker’s Retirement Act of 2008” establishes a retirement fund that shall provide social security protection to OFWs and their beneficiaries for contingencies resulting in loss of income due to inability to find another employment overseas due to old age, disability and/or sickness. Principal Author Rep. Rexlon Gatchalian, co-authored by Rep. Narciso Santiago III, Rep. Arnulfo Go. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS.

NO. HB04845 – Principal author: Rep. Narciso Santiago, III. “Left-Behind Households of OFWs Act of 2008″, that seeks the establishment of OFW family centers that shall provide welfare assistance and counseling services to the families left-behind by OFWs. Also directs the OWWA to develop a program for the re-unification and reintegration of returning OFWs. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS.

NO. HB05621 – Principal Author:  Rep Rufus Rodriguez. “Overseas Contract Workers Insurance Act”, seeks to protect and ensure the welfare of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) by providing them compulsory welfare insurance program in addition to the benefits being provided by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS.  

NO. HB05657 – Principal author: Rep. Satur Ocampo. “An act expanding Legal Services to Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos in Distress”. Seeks to expand the legal assistance the Philippine government presently extends to migrant workers and overseas Filipinos, both documented and undocumented, in distressful situations abroad, particularly those who are incarcerated in the Middle East on account of lack of access to Shariah lawyers and other specific legal concerns. Bill Status: Pending with the Committee on OVERSEAS WORKERS AFFAIRS. *End*

By: Bong Amora

Read Related Postings:   

Proposed Amendment of R.A. 8042 

Amend R.A. 8042 

Migrant Workers Day – Nothing to Celebrate  

OFW’s opposed newly appointed OWWA Board

The Ninth Ray of Philippine Flag and the Muslim Mindanao Issue

The Ninth Ray of Philippine Flag and the Muslim Mindanao Issue

By: Manuel “Bong” Amora

 The 9th Ray of Philippine Flag

I want to convey my heartfelt thanks to our Philippine legislators both the Senate and the Congress especially the bicameral conference committee who voted for the addition of a ninth ray to the sun in our Philippine Flag. The inclusion of the ninth ray represents Muslim Filipinos who fought for the nation’s independence.

Philippine Flag

Philippine Flag

The two houses of Philippine Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives approved some amendments to R.A. 8491, otherwise known as An Act Prescribing the Code of the National Flag, Anthem, Motto, Coat-of-Arms, and Other Heraldic Items and Devices of the Philippines. Ironing differences of both Senate Bill (SB) 3307 and House Bill (HB) 6424 led into the inclusion of the ninth ray to the sun in our Philippine flag.   

The author of Senate Bill (SB) 3307, Senator Richard Gordon, commended the approval of the measure saying that it would promote and enhance greater unity among Filipinos regardless of religion. “We are a country that has had a conflict with our Muslim brothers for the last so many decades. I think this is a big step toward reuniting our country, recognizing the contributions of our fellow countrymen, the Filipino Muslims. We should recognize their deeds in our country.” He said.

Well, “better late than never” shall I say, the addition of the ninth ray should have been done a long time ago. In my previous entry titled “Pilipino Ako Saan man sa Mundo” (A glimpse of freedom), I said that “that true character, customs and traditions we have Filipinos, were originally acquired from the genuine blood of our ancestors who were already in our motherland prior to the Spanish era”. Muslims are the original inhabitants of Philippine islands before Christianity was introduced by Spaniards who ruled our country for three centuries. Though history tells us that WE, Filipinos later on accept the Spanish rule in our land, undeniably our brother Muslims were among those proven as the earlier inhabitants of the country.   

Though Filipino historians have presented different kinds of Philippine periodization wherein the Filipino is the focus, U.P. History Professor Dr. Ma. Luisa Camagay admitted that whatever things that they did should be considered as the turning points, not what the colonial experience has been”. 

Acknowledging the courage, bravery, and integrity of Muslim Filipinos who fought for the nation’s independence are the main reasons of the “ray” inclusion and history can prove that Muslim Filipinos were among the populace who bravely resist Spanish colonization even at very early time of Spanish rule. 

The Moro

 Southeast Asia section, Metamorphosis at says “Philippine history also acknowledged that long before the coming of the Spaniards, Muslims in Mindanao and Sulu were already known by their ethnic names like; Magindanaw, Maranao, Tausug, and more. Originally, the Spaniards were the ones called them “Moro or Moros”. After the Spanish rule, Philippines were under America for 50 years, and a quarter of a century of the Second Philippine Republic, they were Muslim Filipinos”.

The Filipino Muslim versus Americans

The Filipino Muslim versus Americans

To dig more, I found out that Moro leaders at that time asserted they (Muslims) were not Filipinos, warning that the cultural, social and religious chasm between them would spell a troubled union. The Muslim Filipino leaders did not ignore history and the warnings of their elders. While they deplored in the strongest terms – the plight of the Muslim, they had to play politics with the powers in Manila to stay in power”. 

And according to PBS ( ) an online site that tackles worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs “The Moroland (Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan), also presently known as Southern Philippines, comprises the area of about 96,438 sq. km- about 33 percent of the total land territories of the Philippines. Currently, it contains 23 of the Philippines’ 73 provinces”. The land has been picturesquely described by Herman Hagedorn as “a vast green crab, in tropic waters, stretching out an irritated claw after a school of minnows skipping off in the direction of Borneo. The crab is Mindanao. The irritated claw is the Zamboanga Peninsula. The minnows are the islands of the Sulu Archipelago”.

The "Moro" today

The "Moro" today

By way of comparison, PBS added that “Moroland is larger in territory than either Portugal or Austria. The Muslim population of the Moroland outnumbers the populations of many independent countries such as Albania, Costa Rica and Libya. The Moros are the Islamized people and the native inhabitants of the Moroland who were once the majority inhabitants of the area. However, due to the consequence of the colonization of Mindanao, the status of the Moro as majority has diminished from majority to minority. The exact figure of the Moro population is difficult to determine because of conflicting information”.

The Moros’ are divided into thirteen ethnic linguistic groups such as Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, Samal, Yakan, Sangil, Badjao, Kalibogan, Jama Mapun, Iranun, Palawanon, Kalagan, and Molbog. They are mainly found in Western and southern Mindanao Island, the Sulu Archipelago, and coastal areas of southern Palawan. But only five (Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Basilan) of the twenty-two (now twenty- three) Mindanao provinces have a Muslim majority.

Imam Reza (A.S.) Network, a non-profit Internet-based group who present the ideals and sublime teachings of Islam ( believes that the “Moros were once considered to be the most developed communities in the entire Philippines Archipelago. They reached the level of a centrally organized life. They had their own form of government antedating several hundreds of years the creation of the Philippine Republic. These governments were the Sultanate of Sulu, which was founded approximately in 1450, and the Sultanate of Maguindanao and Buayan which were united by Sultan Kudarat into one Sultanate, Sultanate of Maguindanao in 1619”.

Muslim Mindanao Issues

Today, there are no Spaniards, no more Americans but the fight goes on, not from foreign aggressors but to the same blood that runs through our veins! Filipino versus Filipino (Filipino Muslims versus Filipino Christians).  Click here>>>>  to read “The Price  of Peace”  by: Ryan Rosauro).

Map Area of Muslim Mindanao

Map Area of Muslim Mindanao

At present Muslims are made up between 5 and 9 percent of the Filipino population, they are fighting  for more expansive rights and autonomy in the Mindanao.

Fr. Roberto C. Layson, a Parish Priest of Pikit, North Cotabato during the  Interreligious Dialogue Conference in Bali, Indonesia said “in Mindanao, when you ask a Muslim boy what he wants to become when he grows up, he tells you that he wants to become a rebel to fight the military. When you ask a Christian boy what he wants to become when he grows up, he tells you that he wants to become a soldier to fight the rebels”.

2010 Philippine election is fast approaching; Presidentiable aspirants should lay down their government platform for Mindanao. The lucky one (the winner) should prioritize Mindanao peace process and development programs; strengthen Mindanao policies and implement genuine reforms.

DFA Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis who is the head of  the Government in Mindanao Peace Panel expect that the two sides should agree on two frameworks; one is on the general principles of the Mindanao Peace Agreement; and second, on the civilian protection agreement (in time of hostilities).

Flag of OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference)

Flag of OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference)

The talk was supported by other countries supporting peace process to achieve long term peace stability for the region in Mindanao more particularly the Muslim community. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), a pan-Islamic bloc of more than 50 Muslim states, including wealthy oil-exporting countries in the Middle East and Africa, has relayed to its central committee its willingness to join the international contact group (ICG) that will be composed of foreign organizations and international donors helping the Mindanao peace process.

The OIC was founded in 1969 and based in Saudi Arabia’s port-city of Jeddah, represents fifty-seven predominantly Muslim countries and is the largest intergovernmental organization outside the United Nations system. The Philippine, Moro Islamic Liberation Front is an OIC Member under Observer status since 1977.

The setting up of the ICG was stipulated in a joint statement signed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by government chief negotiator Usec Rafael Seguis and MILF counterpart, Muhaquer Iqbal, putting the peace talks back on track.

Fr. Roberto Layson said “I believe that we can only have peace in the world when there is peace among religions. But we can only have peace among religions where there is authentic dialogue among peoples. And there can only be authentic dialogue among peoples when there is respect for one another”.  – END

sources:  Global Nation Inquirer :  Congress panel OKs 9th ray in RP flag ; Christian-Muslim Dialogue in Mindanao Amidst Uncertainties, by Fr. Roberto C. Layson, OMI  International Contact Group (ICG) ; Taped Interview  of  U.P. Prof.  Maria Luisa T. Camagay 

Nasipitnon in KSA celebrates Town Fiesta

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 24  September 2009 – Nasipitnon in KSA known as NKSAI or Nasipitnon KSA, International in Saudi Arabia celebrates its town fiesta  in honor of the town’s patron  St. Michael Archangel.  The towns’ fiesta falls on September 29.

Nasipitnon-KSA, International

Nasipitnon-KSA, International

The celebration coincides the organization General Membership meeting. The group agreed a number of projects intended for the schoolchildren (4 Elementary Schools) located in the remote areas of the towns barangays and a surprise donation for the towns new library, the Montinola Information Center. The said library was a pet project of the incumbent members of the Town Municipal Council under the leadership of  the Town Chief Executive, Mayor  Roy Doyon.

NKSAI Pres. Ric Casil (glasses) & Jun Exclamador

NKSAI Pres. Ric Casil & Jun Exclamador

Current NKSAI President Ric Casil in his Inspirational Talk  encouraged its members to continue their kindhearted support and cooperation whatever the group decides for the good of their constituents  and the town in general, especially to those identified areas that really needs a helping hand.

It was also agreed by the majority of its members that the mentioned projects will be realized within the first week of December as Christmas presents to the towns schoolchildren.  

Last year,  NKSAI donated (educational items) 2 sets of 21″ TVs and DVD players  to 2 Barangay Elementary Schools located in the remote areas of  the town. 

Parlor games, sing-a-long and pool swimming were among the several activities during the event.  Prizes courtesy of  Mrs. Ivy Casil, the behalf of the group President Ric Casil.  

(NKSAI Officers) Jhun Redoble & Manny Pasinio

(NKSAI Officers) Jhun Redoble & Manny Pasinio

The organization primary objectives are;  to foster mutual understanding and unity among its members (town mates); promote, preserve and contribute whatsoever the organization decide for the progress of their hometown Nasipit, Agusan Del Norte; stimulate their interest about Nasipit, its historical- cultural heritage; promote projects geared towards improving the quality of life of the towns poorest of the poor especially the school children and instill their children desirable Filipino values and Nasipitnon strong religious beliefs and traditions.

NKSAI memberships are  composed of Nasipitnon OFW’s in Central, Eastern and Western Regions in the Kingdom.

Nasipit is located at the Northwestern part of Agusan Del Norte. The town has the major seaport in the province, the Nasipit International Port or Port of Nasipit. It is 24 kilometers west of Butuan City and is 175 kilometers northeast of Cagayan de Oro City. ###

The OFW Journalism Consortium: A Reader’s View

The OFW Journalism Consortium: A Reader’s View

(click OFJCI Logo to view their Site

(click OFJCI Logo to view their Site

AMONG my peers, there seems to be a common observation in the reporting of any kind of news that media generally shows bias for sensational stories that whet the reading public’s appetite for such accounts but which incidentally also sells newspapers, broadsheets and tabloids.
News reportage on Filipino migrants is no exception.

Stories about overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) coming home in coffins, jumping out of the windows, committing suicides, of rape, torture, and other forms of maltreatment in foreign shores, continue to dominate our daily newspapers. One has to find balance and variety in reporting of this or any kind of news.

For one like myself engaged in advocacy for migrant empowerment, I continue to wonder; given that we have an estimated 10 million of our fellow citizens working and making a living overseas, there must be and, indeed, there should be success stories and other development-oriented diaspora activities initiated by migrants all over the world that mirror their sacrifices and continued love for their origin countries.

However, if one has not scoured papers, studies and reports, or participate in conferences of development, international and multilateral agencies, academic and research institutions, which monitor, support, assist or enhance these activities, the public remains unaware of the important contributions to the economic, cultural and human capital made by migrants to their countries of origin, and the enormous challenges that had to be surmounted by people who once upon a time made a momentous decision to migrate.

Which brings me to the work of the OFW Journalism Consortium, a small band of journalists who in the last few years since their formal organization, chose to focus on development-oriented migration journalism, bringing to the public stories, reports, and even person-to-person accounts, that may well have escaped our notice.

I am quite sure the OFWJC’s brand of journalism has enhanced the public’s level of awareness on core issues, concerns and challenges of Philippine migration, diaspora activities that highlight the overseas Filipinos’ love for their native land and, at the same time, has pointed out to policymakers where reforms should be directed.

As a migrant advocate since 1999 to the present, I know of no other media group, here or elsewhere, that is engaged in this type of journalistic work regarding migrants.

Their reports have often been quoted or cited not only in academic papers but even by local and foreign newspapers. Perhaps, these are indications their decision a few years ago to focus on migrant issues was a wise one.

Well, they don’t sell newspapers –they only write and report these stories.

If that is not commitment, I don’t know what is. end

Editor’s note: The author is president of the nonprofit Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (Ercof), and plays the bass guitar and keyboards.

The Statesman and the Right One

When the good Senator Mar Roxas back out of his bid to contest the highest position in the land and instead gave way to Sen. Noynoy Aquino – was really an act of a true statesman.

The Statesman and the Right One

The Statesman and the Right One

There are two important factor why a politician can be called a statesman; one is a politician who accomplished excellent and untarnished track record in his political career and the other; is a politician who execute all his political plans for the good of the people into a credible action.

Charles A. Beard, writing in the American Mercury, noted: “The statesman is one who divines the long future, foresees the place of his class and nation in it, labors intelligently to prepare his countrymen for their fate, combines courage with discretion, takes risks, exercises caution when it is necessary, and goes off the stage with a reasonable degree of respectability.”  Sen. Mar Roxas announcement backing out his bid in the Presidential race is undeniably an act of accomplishment as a true politician and a statesman rolled into one.    

On the other hand,  Sen. Noynoy Aquino who pledged to continue “Ninoy and Cory’s fight is the only right person that can unite the opposition and probably the best man to lead the nation.

With the slogan “Gawin ang Tama” (To Do What is Right), Noynoy will be the next highest official in the land.

Unlike other Presidentiables (minus Sen. Mar Roxas), Senator   Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, an economics graduate of the Ateneo University is a full-time legislator. A third termer representative of the 2nd District of his home province, Tarlac prior becomes a Senator.  As a member of the House, he was one of the congressmen who voted for the passing of the Overseas Absentee Voting Act (RA 9189), known as the “Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003.”

In his last term in the House of Representatives, he filed a total of 14 measures, one of which was a resolution creating an oversight committee to study how government agencies use intelligence funds.

Born on February 8, 1960, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco-Aquino III, popularly known as Noynoy, is the third of the five children (Maria Elena, Aurora Corazon, Benigno III, Victoria Elisa and Kris) and only son of  former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Simeon Aquino, Jr. and former Philippine President Maria Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco-Aquino. ### BongA

OFW groups in Saudi in a last minute appeal to COMELEC: Extend OAV registration period

Senate Bicam Consultation, March 15, 2002 Philippine Embassy, Riyadh

Senate Bicam Consultation, March 15, 2002 Philippine Embassy, Riyadh

Riyadh, August 26, 2009 –  OFW groups in  Saudi Arabia, appeal to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to consider extending the Overseas absentee voting registration until 31 December 2009 to give OFWs ample time to register and vote in the 2010 elections. 

A separate statement coming from Migrante-Middle East an alliance of OFW organizations in Middle East and OFW Congress, an advocacy group composed of Filipino community organizations in Riyadh. The OAV registration would be ending on the 31st August 2009 set by  COMELEC.

As the duration of registration has been shortened from originally 1 year to 7 months by virtue of COMELEC en banc resolution, we appeal to our COMELEC Commissioners to reconsider the original duration of 1 year so that our fellow OFWs could register themselves and vote come 2010 elections,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

FilCom Leaders in Riyadh & members of the Senate Bicameral Consultation Committe delegations

FilCom Leaders in Riyadh & Phil. Senate Bicameral Consultation Committe delegations

On the other hand OFW Congress-Riyadh appeals COMELEC to extend the registration period untill 31 of December this year to give way to those OFWs who now realize that 2010 election is very crucial for the nation’s democratic processes. “We noticed that our youths are now actively involved in the process, especially first timer voters as we can see in TV news, how much more the OFWs who harldy fought for the passage of the OAV law?” said Alex Veloso Bello, President of OFW Congress through a telephone conversation from Dubai.

Alex Veloso Bello is presently in UAE attending the repatriation of  the remains of his elder sister OFW Arlyn Veloso Bello who died due to stroke last Monday, August 24, 2009. The member organizations of OFW Congress-Riyadh extends their deepest sympathy and condolences to the bereaved family of OFW Arlyn Veloso Bello, a driving instructress of Al Shola Driving School and an OFW for  21 years.

Bicam Delegations during Filcom Leaders Consultation Meeting

Bicam Delegations during Filcom Leaders Consultation Meeting

Monterona said on 2006 OAV registration, the COMELEC gave OFWs a 13-month registration duration; One of the factors why OAV registrants reached to almost 150,000 that year,”

Mathematically speaking, with a shorter period of registration (only 7 months), it would be hard for the COMELEC and OAV Secretariat to attain a considerable number of registrants such is its 1-M target, given all other factors present delaying the registration,” Monterona opined.

Based on the data released by the OAV Secretariat last August 13, 2009 there are only 10,718 OAV registrants in Saudi Arabia. There are more than a million OFWs and their dependents in Saudi Arabia.

We are hoping that with the granting of the OAV extension until 31 December 2009, we could gather all in all 300,000 OAV registrants benchmarking the OAV registrants last 2003 registration or even higher,” Monterona added. Monterona said Migrante chapters in the Middle East vow to continue encouraging fellow OFWs in the region to exercise their right to vote initiating various form of activities and information dissemination drive about the on-going OAV registration.

Last year, rumors spread around the worlwide OFW community that there are sectors in the Philippine Congress planning to scrap R.A. 9189 known as Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003, if the turn out of votes of absentee voting be less than 1 million in 2010 election. The said plan was strongly opposed by Filipino Community leaders around the three regions of the Kingdom.

We have days left and we hereby appeal to our fellow community organizations in the Kingdom and around the world to please exert more efforts to bring their members to their respective Embassies and consulates to register Bello added. 

If our appeal will be given due course, the extension will give more ample time to OFWs in the Kingdom to register considering the Holy month of Ramadan and the coming Eid Holidays” Bello ended.    

The two groups appeal to COMELEC Commissioners particularly COMELEC Chairman Melo to reconsider extending the OAV registration until 31 December 2009.

Exercise your right to vote, your vote will make a difference and effect the change we want,” Monterona ended. ### BongA

related post : OAV The Fight must Continue 

Timely Assistance from PhilEmb led to the released of OFWs jailed for “illegal mixed Gatherings”

Timely Assistance from PhilEmb led to the released of OFWs jailed for “illegal mixed Gatherings”  

Riyadh,  24 August 2009 — Overseas Filipino Workers belong to  filipino community organization, Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) who were apprehended by Saudi authorities for illegal “mixed gathering” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has been released.

In an email received from John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator,  that the “prostitution” case  supposed to be filed by the Saudi police to 18 KGS members and run away distress OFWs arrested when the Saudi cultural police raided the KGS safe house last August 14 during the group’s welfare case assistance meeting, has not been filed and is now dropped by the Saudi police. 

Monterona said, the information was relayed by Eric Jocson, Chairperson of KGS,   the local chapter of Migrante in Riyadh”.  Eric Jocson  were among of those arrested during the raid but was later released through the help of his employer.   

The dropping of the case has also been confirmed  by Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, saying that their case officers were able to convince the Police that there is no “prostitution” as those apprehended are members of legitimate OFW organization providing assistance to distress and run away OFWs.

H.E. Ambassador Antonio Villamor in one of the Filipino Community events in the Industrial Area

H.E. Ambassador Antonio Villamor with the management of Obeikan Investment Group of Companies during FilCom events in the 2nd Industrial Area of Riyadh, KSA

The Filipino community in Riyadh commended the immediate intervention of the Philippine Embassy  and to Ambassador Antonio Villamor who directed Assistance to National Section (ANS) headed by Vice Consul Reyes to act on the case immediately.  The timely assistance of  the Philippine Embassy lead to the dropping of the case.

The Migrante Middle East through Monterona commended Embassy’s case officers,  Attache’s  Frias, Akraman and Harris under the direct guidance of Vice Consul Reyes. We will not hesitate to laud the good job done by embassy’s case officers and officials for that matter so long as they will provide same assistance to all distress and run away OFWs not only to KGS and Migrante members,” Monterona added.

The email also mentioned that there is no case filed yet against the KGS members and they are hoping; that KGS Secretary-General Mike Garlan and member Rustico Marcos will be released any time from today who are still  in jail for 11 days now.  

The Embassy informed the group that those with Iqama (working permit) will be released immediately,  those who have expired Iqama or run away will be deported.

2 of the 5 detained OFW women namely Sarah Gumansing and Elvira De Guzman have already been released in the custody of their respective employers; while run away OFWs Clemia Corpuz, Rosa Salazar, Amauri Meriz together with Reynaldo Balagtas who filed a labor case against his employer will be deported.

The Philippine Embassy through diplomatic means convinced the Saudi police that nothing illegal happened in the said gatherings  or there is no commission of “prostitution” as alleged by the apprehending cultural police, locally called Muttawa.

While acknowledging the efforts undertaken by Assistance to Nationals Section (ANS) of  Philippine Embassy,  Monterona  reiterated that the next most important task the RP Embassies in the Middle East should be doing is to find proactive solutions that will lead in  the legalization of all undocumented and run away OFWs mostly victims of abuses and maltreatment.”

To our conservative estimate there are about nearly 26,000 undocumented and run away OFWs in the Middle East mostly in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon,” Monterona ended. # # # – BongA

OFW’s opposed newly appointed OWWA Board

OFW’s opposed newly appointed OWWA Board

Saturday, 22 August 2009,  Riyadh –  An online Petition is now gaining momentum demanding the recall of  President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s  new appointee to OWWA Board of Trustees.



Just recently, PGMA  appointed  Mr. Joselito “Jojo” Sapio  as  new member of OWWA Board of Trustees and according to the Petition,  the new appointee was  GMA’s  election Campaign Manager in Hongkong and the founder of “GMA Pa rin Movement.”

The said online Petition demanded that the  conduct of selecting land-based OFW representation in the Board should be more impartial, transparent and independent.

The Petition demands includes:

- Increase the number of OFW representatives to the OWWA Board and reduce those from the  government.

- Make the OWWA work concretely for the welfare needs of OFWs and their families by scrapping the OWWA Omnibus Policies and promulgating a pro-OFW Charter.

- The OWWA Fund should never be used for the personal and political agenda of a few.

For the past years, OWWA has consistently been questioned with regard to the management and allocation of its funds. One of the most controversial issues involved the transfer of the OWWA Medicare Fund to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in 2004. This was made after Health Sec. Francisco Duque (then head of PhilHealth) wrote to PGMA endorsing the transfer, saying such would have a “significant impact” on the impending election at that time.”  the Petition said.

A year ago PGMA rejected  an online petition asking PGMA to  appoint Dr. Carlito L. Astillero a  Saudi-based Cebuano pathologist as chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) vacated by the then OWWA Administrator Marianito Roque who is now the current DOLE  Chief.  

The current OWWA Board of Trustees are:

Hon. Marianito D. Roque – Secretary of Labor and Employment and Chairman

Hon. Carmelita S. Dimzon –  OWWA Administrator and Vice-Chairman


Hon. Luzviminda G. Padilla – Undersecretary, DOLE
Hon. Esteban B. Conejos – Undersecretary, DFA
Hon. Jennifer J. Manalili – Administrator, POEA
Hon. Arturo C. Bumatay – Director IV, DBM
Hon. Gil S. Beltran – Undersecretary, DOF
Hon. Victorino F. Balais – Representative, Labor Sector
Hon. Rene Y. Soriano – Representative, Management Sector
Hon. Gregorio S. Oca – Representative, Sea-Based Sector
Hon. Corazon P. Carsola – Representative, Land-Based Sector
Hon. Bai Omera H. Dianalan-Lucman – Representative, Women’s Sector

The said Petition strongly  opposed  the arbitrary and biased selection of the land-based OFW representative to the Board of Trustees of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

You may access to the Petition by clicking the link below :  ( “No to GMA ‘yes-man’ in OWWA Board of Trustees”.)BongA

related post:  Migrant Workers Day Nothing to Celebrate Amend R.A. 8042

ReVOTElution 2010 Takes Off

ReVOTElution 2010 Takes Off

There  is a peaceful and pro-people revolution initiated by Overseas Filipinos and Overseas-Filipino workers (OFWs) that will be done through the diligent exercise of suffrage. The ReVOTElution proponents want to do an uprising in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people, so as to create positive changes in the homeland.

Bobby Mercado-Reyes, one of the chief architects of the peaceful revolt, coined the word, “ReVOTElution.” It principally wants to duplicate the people-powered revolt in February 1986, although it wants to change the meaning of the EDSA into “Economic Development and Social Advancement” EvoteLUTION. More details about the new Overseas-Filipino initiative can be found in its website, the

 The  ReVOTElution 2010 began in Southern California and has attracted the support of many OFWs in the Middle East, especially in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The mission, aims and objectives of the ReVOTElution 2010 are described in the “Vision RP 2021” manifesto that is published in this website.

The ReVOTElution intends to have a political arm, which is now performed by the Partidong Pandaigdigang Pilipino, which some OFW community leaders have organized. It is billed as the   “Worldwide OFW-led Political Party.” More information about the budding political movement can be found in its website, 


In Southern California, supporters of the ReVOTElution have organized a branch of the PPP, which they call the “PPP-Labor BalikLaban Chapter.

Slowly the    Section of the will be transferred to the new website, so that the original website will be completely apolitical.  

The ReVOTElution 2010 will be launched officially sometime in August 2009. Details of the launching will be announced in several websites. # # #

Reyna Elena’s OFW Logo

Reyna Elena  is one of the many blogs that features the life of OFW’s.  I started reading this blog way back 2006 when I was still a neophyte in the world of blogging. The award winning blog is maintained by a certain “Reynz“. 

Reynz  sense of humor earned him the respect of his fellow bloggers like me. He posts anything that captures his senses, from science to fictions, from love stories, commentaries to politics. His wits fascinates me and sometimes envies the style the way he blogs. According to Technorati, “Reynz”  maintains blogs  like; the Reyna ElenaOfw Center and  Barrio Siete   all of these blogs are widely read by OFW’s.  

But the most of all, the logo he used in all of his blogs captures my heart. 

Thanks “Reynz” for having a heart of an OFW and more power!

The logo in far sight and in its entirety is like an explosion of confetti and light. A celebration of Success and dreams of all the Achievements of OFWs, both the nameless and the famous. A logo of positive emotions, feelings of jubilation and the patriotistic pride of being one of the New Heroes of the Philippines.
The logo in far sight and in its entirety is like an explosion of confetti and light. A celebration of Success and dreams of all the Achievements of OFWs, both the nameless and the famous. A logo of positive emotions, feelings of jubilation and the patriotistic pride of being one of the New Heroes of the Philippines.(Click the logo, to read the maker’s inspirations that enabled him to create the logo).


Democracy and our Votes (Pagbabalik Tanaw at Panawagan) AKO ang Simula


(Pagbabalik Tanaw at Panawagan)
AKO ang Simula
By: Manuel “Bong” Amora

 I- Political Change

I may consider that the best way to change the political system in our country is to first transform ourselves – the voters.
Political Change-Transform Ourselves "He/She who is without sin, CAST the first stone" (Be a responsible Voter)

Political Change-Transform Ourselves “He/She who is without sin, CAST the first stone” (Be a responsible Voter)

We know that our country is no stranger to political turmoil; corruption in politics is so widespread that often the person elected to office is not the most qualified. The root of all-evil in dirty politics is – “Vote Buying” which is rampant during elections. Therefore, as a mature citizens of a democratic country, we need to educate our voters “how sacred our votes are”.

Vote buying takes place in the rural areas. Thus – it is extremely hard to cast a watchful eye over the democratic process. Not surprisingly, the country is governed by the same individuals, whose primary role is to buy votes. It is almost impossible for a qualified person/leader to enter politics under this particular scenario. Even a mere candidate for councilor in a small barangay needs half a million pesos to spend in election time.

But I still believed that every Filipinos deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives and not be subject to the will of another. Perhaps we should adapt new ways of thinking. Therefore, we should not look back to the negative side of politics instead we look for an answer to correct the wrong side of politics.

The spirit of change can only be achieved if the people participate in an honest to goodness election. It is for us to choose the future we are creating today.

We should educate ourselves/others and must take serious actions against the ineffective democracy and vote-buying that is taking place in our politics. We should fight for the introduction of new faces and the purging of old, corrupted politicians. In addition, we should form organizations which aim to control vote-buying, and sponsor programs to educate the impoverished half of the Philippine population. If reform is not taken soon, the country’s political system will spiral deep downward, with the economy and our country’s international status following closely behind.

It may not be too difficult to mobilize voters to come to vote but it is hard to prevent people to receive money or sell their votes. Vote buying is a big problem not only in our country but also to other poor neighboring countries in South East Asia. Voter education should be focused on educating voters in principle of how to select the good candidates. We must educate them that unwise votes could ruin our country and democracy. Voter education is critical and can be done in many different ways. Our challenge is to educate people about issues, processes and candidates and to also encourage good candidates to put themselves forward to run for office. We all have to work to make elections meaningful. There will never be perfect voter education in any nation but education is an on going and never ending process that begins in the schools through civics education and should continue throughout our voting lives.

For me, we don’t need charter change to move our beloved country forward, we only need laws against vote buying to begin to solve the problem. Then they need to be enforced.

What is the key information to convince people to make a better choice? We will all have different opinions about which is the “better choice“. Our goal is to give voters the opportunity to educate themselves about issues and candidates so that they can make their own informed choice. Just because voters are educated doesn’t mean they will also make the same choice that you or I might.

It cant be denied that others refused to participate. But we need to find out why they are “not interested”. Until we understand the reasons, it’s difficult to motivate people. And, there will always be people who simply will never participate, no matter what you do. Education is the key. Let us work together and help others understand why it is important to vote and how and why they are directly affected by who is elected to an office.

In democracy assumes that things will never be perfect. And it allows for a structure that helps people deal with those weaknesses to secure freedom.

Democracy is about more than just candidates and elections. It means being an active participant in the society surrounding us. It means that we try to build a series of communities that function as they work together. A part of that will be politics but more of it will be working to stay informed about how issues relate to each other. The important is there are a lot of avenues that we can do and many ways is the fulcrum of change.

Furthermore, we should let our youths participate the process and motivate them to become leaders. Today, our youths are the next foundation towards a new beginning. Lets educate them that voting is symbolic, It symbolizes our voice in a larger conversation. And it is important for young people to be heard because they offer a fresh and honest perspective on issues. After all, the youths are our future leaders for a better Philippines.

II-Absentee Voting

 Controversies of electoral fraud is somewhat discourages us to participate in the forth coming electoral process and to set right this kind of attitude, first and foremost the current electoral system should be transformed into a credible institution that can foster voter participation. Electoral reform should be introduced; cleaning up the mess of those involved in electoral maneuverings or even overhaul the entire Commission on Election (municipal, city, province) and designate new personalities that could probably win back the trust of the Filipino people to our country’s electoral processes. Only then that we could perhaps gain back the momentum of hope in exercising our right of suffrage as the fundamental nature of a truly democratic nation.

Many friends asked me why I am so involved with the OAV, my answer is very simple, “I want to exercise my basic right as a responsible Filipino by casting my vote”.

OFW Vote - A Cleansing Vote

OFW Vote – A Cleansing Vote

Why OFW Vote? Overseas Filipino Workers community will be most likely the best political electorate, we are outside the Philippine soil, no politicians can court us or buy us out, we know in silence what is really happening in our country. We have the money, our remittances can be used as a tool to influence our families and relatives back home in choosing the best public servant that could properly lead our country to progress. Absentee voters can be a political muscle someday that could probably put back the shattered pieces of Philippine politics, “a cleansing vote” shall we say. All of these can only be achieved with our participation. That is why I am an ardent supporter of the OAV and I am urging OFW’s to register and be an absentee voter.

This is a big challenge to all of us, the OAV is already in placed, it only needs our intense participation, and we should show to the world wherever we are that we are Filipinos.

OFW Remittances - Economic Stability

OFW Remittances – Economic Stability

OFW remittances helps a lot in rescuing and uplifting economic condition in our country and this contribution could not be discredited vis a vis as to our role in nation building. Migrant Workers is perhaps the biggest sector of Philippine Society and yet we do not have proper representation in government policy-making bodies that oversees OFW issues and concerns, more particularly in the Lower House of Congress.

We know in reality that the issues related to sad stories of our Filipina Domestic Helpers, Contract Substitution, Illegal Recruiters, Proper Legal Assistance and many more were not given proper attention from our government.

In perspective, all of these problems are because the OFW sector is in need of a political mandate and we have to admit that we lack the virtue of patriotism among our ranks. We continue to advocate changes but we ourselves are fragmented on issues and trends that concern OFW’s in general. Following this cynical political judgment, OFW groups are scattered around the globe, how could we ever unite to pursue a common grounds in our fight for OFW recognition and Empowerment even for the fact that there is already a chance for us to put up a national leadership through the existing OAV law?
 Do we need physically together to attain this vision? The answer is NO; all we need is attachments even in the absence of physical aspect. We only need to register as an absentee voter and through a unified collective effort we can build the foundation for the creation of an OFW National Leadership. This can only be achieved if others will give way to a so-called unification process. Then all of the above mentioned problems would be addressed accordingly.

OFW Representation in Congress

OFW Representation in Congress

Do we need a solid OFW Party List group to address these problems in a political point of view? In my opinion the answer is Yes! But the problem continues, in the previous elections many OFW groups vying for a seat in Congress, but nobody knows they even exist. First, the lack of awareness campaign of what party list is all about. Second, we don’t know the names of OFW groups wanting to send their members to Congress. That’s the reason most of us usually skip the space in our ballot for the party list representative because we don’t know who they are.

One of the OFW Party List Group that didn’t make it in Congress was GABAY formed in Saudi Arabia. Even the Migrante Sectoral Party whose membership scattered in other countries didn’t make it too.

There must be a coalition or forged alliance between OFW party list groups/OFW organizations and form at least one solid party to be elected in Congress or else we will faced the same embarrassing result and be constantly unrecognized. One solid vote for one particular party can achieve a needed percentage votes in a seat to Congress that will represent us in crafting laws advancing OFW special interests.

This suggested coalition composed of OFW groups worldwide and local NGO’s or OFW Advocates at home must formed a council within its leadership and create a committees such as: welfare and protection, reintegration, legal assistance and a screening committee that will serve as a panel in the selection of a qualified representative to any governing boards that oversees OFW concerns and among others related to OFW issues.

We should be aware that if we have a seat in Congress, our representative are considered elected Members of the House and as such, entitled to the same deliberative rights, salaries, and emoluments as the regular Members of the House of representatives. They shall serve for a term of three (3) years with a maximum of three (3) consecutive terms. Armed with legislative powers we can acquire funds through legislation that can be used as financial support to our OFW in distress worldwide. We can even have a national headquarters and welfare assistance facilities to our returning OFW in distress.
 All of these depend on our OFW leaders to embrace the so-called coalition and set aside personal interest and look deeply for the good and welfare of the OFW Sector.

I still believed the possibility that OFW vote can make a significant difference in the coming election, only if our heart dictates the importance of our consitutional right then we should register and be an Absentee Voter.

Whether we like it or not, WE are part of Philippine Politics.


The Pacman Vs. The Hitman



He sees a glimpse of the crowd cheering him – but same faces of his countrymen, the good men, the bad men, the politicians of all sorts included, the rich, the poor; all extending their arms begging him for a life to be lived. Then he hears sounds resonating agreeably to the ears – pleasingly getting louder and louder. Then he sees the outlines of the Filipino people some 95 million of them, all over the world, praying and saying:
“We need your victory Manny, at least for this moment that we are one”…
The confrontation is still sneaking weeks away, but the brewing tension of a fierce combat smells irresistibly towards one hell of a war. There’ll be non-stop action. We will witness blood flowing – lots of them, and someone will fall down.
By ofwempowerment Posted in Articles

Puno for president movement launched

Puno for president movement launched

by LEI CHAVEZ, | 02/25/2009 10:28 PM

l15032850620_95001Supporters of Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno launched on Wednesday a movement to encourage him to run for office.

Organizers of the Movement for Electoral Non-trapo (MEN) said their goal is to prevent “trapos from perpetuating” themselves in Philippine politics, and urged Puno to run for president in 2010.

“We stand for a certain principle, and that is–we don’t want trapos to rule our nation,” former Justice Undersecretary Jose Calida said.

Unlike many movements that prefer to be non-partisan, MEN has rallied behind a potential candidate for the 2010 elections. It is also the only movement to support a “candidate” without his consent.

“We have not consulted him on this because we believe that we can launch this with or without anybody’s blessing. There is no need for us to ask his permission. We are a free country, anybody can speak up. So for us, we believe that he [Puno] is the best candidate, so why settle for second best?” Calida said.

Not a ‘trapo’    read more>>>>>>    or   related link>>>>> 

By ofwempowerment Posted in Articles

Agusan del Norte Chosen Official Website Finalist

Agusan del Norte Chosen Official Website Finalist    

After successfully hurdling the elimination, quarterfinal and semi-final rounds   was announced as one of the finalists in the 11th Philippine Web Awards, the award giving body that recognizes the best Filipino created web sites annually. pwaThe announcement was officially made last January  12, 2009 and our website automatically qualifies to the final round which started last January 15, 2009.

To recall, the province’s website was launched almost a year and with the full support of all stakeholders we were able to compete on this prestigious award for this year’s edition. This is just the first time the province joined search for the best website. 

read more>>>>>>> 

King Abdullah Cracks the Glass Ceiling

King Abdullah Cracks the Glass Ceiling
Written by Amina Rasul – Feb 21, 2009 at 08:07 PM


Finally! A woman has been appointed to a ministerial position in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On February 14, the appointment Norah al-Fayez as deputy education minister for female education affairs was announced. This is the most-senior position granted to woman in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“King Abdullah has given us a Valentine’s day present!” happily proclaimed Aysha Alkusayer to us during the 2009 US-Islamic World Forum in Doha. Aysha represented the Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation of Saudi Arabia at the Doha Forum. One of the young professional Saudi women who are working to empower Saudi women, young professionals and civil society, Aysha told us that young Saudis are very supportive of King Abdulla’s moves to transform Saudi Arabia. In fact, she said, King Abdulla is treated like a rock star, with young Saudis buying his posters to adorn their rooms.

Aysha is one of the rare few Saudi women who have been given to opportunity to work at their profession. A paper circulated at the forum, “The Impact of Oil Wealth on Women in the Middle East”, noted, “There is little doubt that in the Middle East, women lag far behind their counterparts in other regions of the world”. The showed that while women generally do better in the rich countries than the poor ones, “The Middle East is the great exception: even though the region enjoys relatively high incomes, it has fewer women in the work force, and fewer women in parliament, than even South Asia—where incomes are far lower”.

Norah al-Fayez’ appointment, while it does not break the glass ceiling, has created a tiny crack which the forces for reform and liberalization can certainly exploit.

* I was in Doha for the US-Islamic World Forum from February 13 to 17. Organized by the Saban Center at Brookings and the Government of the State of Qatar, the Doha Forum annually brings together leaders from the U.S. and the Muslim world for “frank dialogue on the key issues affecting their relations”. This year, we discussed “Common Challenges,” as the Obama Administration has reached out to the Muslim world to move forward, together, towards common solutions to shared problems.

The dialogues at the Forum have focused on security, governance and religion, and human development and social change. This year, a session for Women Leaders was added. As you can imagine, King Abdullah’s historic move certainly impressed. Not only did he appoint a woman minister, he also axed Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ghaith as the head of the Muttawa (religious police who strictly enforce Islamic code of conduct such as segregation of unrelated men and women in public places, women to be covered in black robes with only their faces showing). Under Al-Graith, the Muttawa was a feared institution. Al-Graith blocked many liberalization programs in the Kingdom.

King Abdullah’s sweeping changes included a cabinet reshuffle and the reorganization of the powerful Grand Ulama Council, which advises the King on religious matters.

The King also removed Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan from the judiciary. Last Ramadan, Al-Luhaydan had ruled that it was permissible to execute the owners of satellite television channels broadcasting “immoral” programs. He and Al-Graith have been widely viewed as enemies of reform and modernization.

King Abdullah’s sweeping changes included a cabinet reshuffle and the reorganization of the powerful Grand Ulama Council, which advises the King on religious matters. The reorganization will bring in scholars from different branches of Sunni Islam. Traditionally, the Ulama Council members all came from only one school of Islamic jurisprudence (what is referred to as the Wahabbi).

King Abdullah’s initiatives are hailed in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East as moves that will accelerate the pace of reform in the Kingdom as well as bring in new and moderate views into the political system.

Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who spoke at the Doha Forum, must have been just as happy. She spoke of a world where ideas are hard to contain, where the path of dialogue is the right path. She stressed the responsibility of groups (or countries) defending their legitimate group interests without depriving others of their rights. Even the talk of General David Petraeus, Commander of the US Central Command, reflected the shift to dialogue as he spoke of the strengthening of international security by strengthening networks in pursuit of common goals. He mentioned a security architecture that would include a leaders network, information sharing and training networks (designed with multilateral inputs).

With the commitment of the Obama Administration for a common way forward, the developments in Saudi Arabia can usher in a brave new world, where wars can be waged in the arena of ideas and not in bloody Arab streets like Gaza. Where weapons of choice will be carefully argued position papers and not deadly missiles. # # #