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. # # #

Massive Fingerprinting of Expats Begins

Massive Fingerprinting of Expats Begins





7 Feb. 2009/Diraiyah, Riyadh

Saudi Government through its Director General of the Passport Department are now  implementing finger-printing on all migrant workers here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This massive fingerprinting of expatriates begins today 7 February, 2009 at Saudi Oger, Diraiyah compound.

The order from the Passport Department is to strengthen its internal security measures against terrorist activities and infiltration;  crimes such as drug smuggling, manufacturing and alcohol use, visa forgery, immoral act and back door activities where undocumented expatriates were able to flee the country despite of police and court pending cases.

Although the order was already issued last year but authorities are now on its massive implemention stage. Today thousands of expatriates including Filipinos from various companies in Riyadh arrived at Diraiyah where the fingerprinting and photos of expatriates were taken at Saudi Oger compound.  

According to the interior ministry security experts substantial increase in crimes involving foreigners  were reported. Mandatory fingerprinting will help solve crimes and prevent those expats or foreigners with criminal backgrounds to return the country with false names or new identity. The system will uncover their presence upon entering the country’s air and sea ports. According to an Immigration official, “this could also prevent expatriates to leave the country using backdoor facilities”.  

The finger-printing requirement was already implemented to new expatriates coming in the Kingdom and former expatriates with new employer.

The system is now being implemented in the airport Immigration upon arrival of foreigners  to work in the country.

OFW Congress an organization of Filipino Community leaders in Riyadh, advocating OFW issues and concerns are worried about undocumented OFWs, overstaying, stranded  and ran away OFWs roaming around the four corners of the Kingdom.  Engr. Faisal Sharque of OFWC said “the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Consulates must be ready to help and protect its nationals and to house undocumented OFWs  that will surely ask for their assistance”.  

In King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology-KACST, a Government institution provide buses to their expatriate employees going to Diraiyah, Saudi Oger compound in compliance to the order.

“Philippine Embassy officials should act as early as possible and invite Filipino Community organizations to a meeting where  proactive solution to the problem must be acted upon before the jails of the Kingdom will be congested with Overseas Filipino Workers” a member organization of OFW Congress said.    

Exclusive Report by: Aiman Ahmad

Exemplary Filipino

Dr. Rusty Balderian  has been featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer with the title of “Doc Shares Blessings with Leyte Youth”  published on November 8, 2008.

Tabon Tabon, Leyte Mayor Rusty Balderian

Tabon Tabon, Leyte Mayor Rusty Balderian

This is a story of a young man from a family which owned a sari sari store in the town of Tabontabon, Leyte who practically supported himself as a working student to become an optometrist and a physician.  He went to the United States and run several successful businesses. 
In 2003 he went back to his hometown and opened a school for nursing.  Out of the initial enrollment of 153 only 60 graduated due to the requirement to maintain an average grade of 2 with no grade in any subject lower than 2.5.  Out
of the 60 graduates only 57 took the nursing licensure examination and out of the 57 who took the nursing licensure examination 52 passed making his school the highest in the number of graduates passing the examination in the region and the ninth in the whole country.

At present there are 648 students and all are 100% scholars with free use of the dormitory. This is what makes the school unique. Parents are required to work in the school for 8 hours a day. The other requirement is for graduates to pass the Philippine board examination and the NFLEX and work in the U.S. When they start working they are required to send $1000.00 a month to their parents. This amount, Dr. Balderian believes, will be spent in the community by building better homes which in turn will provide jobs for local people and multiplier effect on the local economy of the town.
What makes Dr. Balderian so exemplary? 
1. His own passion to secure education and be successful in business

2. His desire to help his community by sharing his success and offering scholarship to the youth of his town

3. His vision, creativeness and innovativeness in creating a unique school that will improve the economy of his town and help the poor while encouraging the youth to seek higher education that will qualify them to work abroad.

4. His superb administrative ability to manage a school and run a town as mayor with passion for progress and help his town as the driving force that can only end up in success.

5. His ambitiousness and courage to start something that has never been done before (school of nursing offering full scholarship to each student)

6. Despite his successful business in the U.S.A. he still went back to the homeland to start helping his town and its people. 

This is why I am anxious to share this information that he may serve as a model and inspiration for all of us.  We need more people like him.

By: Bart Saucelo

Who is Reynato S. Puno

Who is  Reynato Puno?

jpunoChief Justice Reynato S. Puno A MAN OF LAW, prose and religion, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno exemplifies the modern Filipino intellectual.

His words have always had a profound effect on his readers. In describing Chief Justice Puno’s mastery of pen, a colleague wrote:

 Like a trained surgeon, he uses his pen with laser-like precision to separate and excise fabrication from truth and pretension from reality. In the process, he gives life to populist causes and libertarian ideals. Daring, gutsy, and erudite, he – like Justice Holmes – oftentimes wages lonely battles against conventional wisdom with his stirring dissents and insightful opinions. (Panganiban, Justice and Faith, p. 142)

He began to display his writing prowess in school by winning the much coveted editorship of the University of the Philippines’ Philippine Collegian in 1961. While in law school, he served as Chairman of the Law Register, and Recent Documents Editor of the Philippine Law Journal of the UP College of Law. In recognition of his campus leadership, he was given the Outstanding Award for Excellence and Leadership by the Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity for the years 1960, 1961 and 1962.

 In 1962, Chief Justice Puno obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Jurisprudence and Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of the Philippines (UP). In 1966, he went to the United States for his post-graduate studies. He was a grantee of a full scholarship given by the Academy of American Law for a degree of Master of Comparative Laws at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He was also awarded full scholarship by the Walter Perry Johnson Foundation for a degree of Master of Laws at the University of California in Berkeley, California. He was also given a tuition scholarship by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, from where he finished all academic requirements for the degree of Doctor of Juridical Science Degree. He was given the Doctor of Humanities degree (honoris causa) by the Philippine Wesleyan Univeristy in 1994. Justice Puno finished the degree of Master of Comparative Laws with high honors and as valedictorian of a class consisting of 23 graduate scholars from various parts of the world.

Read More>>>>> 

Reward – A Sword


Reward – A Sword

Overseas Filipino workers should be aware that  in Saudi Arabia  it is not worth risking your life for just a one second  of  wrath.  Taking someone life means you pay your  own life too.



Yesterday another Filipino was beheaded in Saudi Arabia for killing a Saudi national. OFW Jenifer Bidoya a.k.a. Venancio Ladion was executed in Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam under which those convicted of murder, drug trafficking, rape and armed robbery are executed in public with a sword.

There are number of Filipinos  in the death row awaiting to be beheaded due to a mere anger that leads them to kill others.

The Punisher Sword

The Punisher Sword

Though there are stories that could not be pointed out as murder but we should be aware that an ordinary neglect of duty could lead you to death penalty. The story of   a 19-year-old Sri Lankan girl is pleading for her life after a Saudi Arabian court sentenced her to death by beheading.  The court found Rizana Nafeek, 19, a maid who according to the authorities has no child care training was found with a dead 4 month old baby under her care.

Another Juvenile  charge offender  Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai’i  was sentenced to death in Taif  last year for a murder he was accused of committing when he was just 15 years old.

But many of them in Death Row were sentenced because of murder.

In early month of 2008 an  Indonesian housemaid has been beheaded by sword in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of killing her female employer. Yanti Sukardi was executed in the south-western province of Assir after she was found guilty of strangling her Saudi employer as she slept and stealing her jewelry.

It was the second execution announced in Saudi Arabia in 2008, after a year in which a record number of people were put to death. A total of 153 people were executed in 2007 in the kingdom, which applies a strict version of sharia, or Islamic law.

A Canadian has been found guilty of murder in Saudi Arabia and sentenced to beheading. Mohamed Kohail, a 23-year-old Montrealer who has been living temporarily in Saudi Arabia, was convicted of killing an 18-year-old student in a schoolyard brawl in the city.

How many of them, fellow Filipinos are in Death Rows?

Our Government are doing their best to interfere the implementation of their death sentences. However this move could not be consider as assurance that the sentence will be commuted to life in prison or freedom. The only hope is the forgiveness  from the victims family that count most.

According to  Director General of Prisons Gen. Dr. Ali Al-Harthi in an interview with Arab News correspondent Mahmood Ahmad says; “I would like to increase awareness; that is to say, awareness among people not to let their anger lead them into killing others. It is not worth risking your life for one moment of blind fury. We must be patient and not allow the devil to drive us to murder.”  *** BongA

Gov. Ed Needs our Prayers

I was in Saudi Arabia when I heard that a servant of God won the election in Pampanga. A miracle I should say and the signal to a new beginning in the Philippine Politics. The province of Pampanga was dominated by the local ruling elite that include the Arroyo’s, Guiao’s, Pineda’s and the Lapid’s.

Luid Ka

Luid Ka


The mere fact that he won the election against an ingrained political elite allied with the Arroyo’s is a proof that it is God’s will. The God’s gracious hands are the shining armor of this political neophyte to serve and save the province from corruption; with hope and prayers that good governance under his tenure will prevail and other leaders would follow.

The just recently Malacanang Cash Gifts exposed by Gov. Ed Panlilio gives the citizenry a light of hope that public service can be honorable in the absence of gold and guns. In the first place he won the election significantly without buying any single vote (see Democracy and our Votes). It is an example that the Filipino people are matured and intelligent enough in choosing a public servant that can govern our country with transparency and accountability.

Now, his enemies bowed to prevent him from continuing his vow of good governance – he needs our prayers and join us campaigning and supporting good governance in Pampanga.

The Filipino Diaspora


By: Manuel “Bong” Amora


Tonya the Chambermaid

Tonya the Chambermaid

Many years ago, a Filipina school teacher named Tonya worked as a chambermaid for a budget hotel in Taipei. Tonya’s husband, a technician, had a job in the more distant Nigeria, Africa. They supported three children staying with her parents and were saving up in hopes of one day operating a small business. Tonya’s unfinished house in Northern Mindanao was waiting for funds, but to her, it can wait. More important at the moment were her children, her parents and others – their subsistence assured and the kids’ school expenses taken cared of … fine!

Tonya and her husband are OFW’s or Overseas Filipino Workers, so to speak.

An Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) is a Filipino who is employed in work outside the Philippines. Some eight million of them, still citizens of the country; they left to seek work abroad, attracted by jobs with salaries that far exceed those in the Philippines. Others left simply because there are no more jobs available in the country. To survive, they had to bite hard the bullet.

Since then, the story of Tonya’s dispersed family has been replicated several times again and again as millions of Filipinos have been forced to leave the country in search of gainful employments. Fully, about 11 million Global Filipinos are working abroad today – that is already including some 3 million, the more fortunate ones, who are permanent residents or now citizens of other countries. Note that 11 million is 12 percent of the nation’s population of 91.5 million or 30.7 percent of the country’s labor force of 35.79 million.

Unemployment in the Philippines plays around eight percent or about 2.8 million, while underemployment is running at a crushing 25 percent or 8.9 million of the country’s workforce. No wonder that ‘Population below Poverty Line’ in the Philippines is 40% of the population or a whopping 36.6 million.

Typical to the big chunk of the country’s workforce, Tonya and her husband have to work somewhere else in the world, firstly – to feed hungry mouths and secondly, for a little flicker of hope of a promising future.



Just what is… diaspora?

Philippine Unemployment-Filipino Diaspora

Philippine Unemployment-Filipino Diaspora

Diaspora, according to Wikipedia means the scattering or dispersion of a group of people to anywhere else in the world. Its history dates back to the Jews when they were forcibly expelled and scattered after their captivity in Babylon. As far as one can see, some 7 million Jews outside the State of Israel are everywhere in the world today.

In terms of numbers, the Filipino Diaspora, at 11 million now outnumbers the original Jewish Diaspora. Each year, the Philippines is sending out more than a million to work abroad through its overseas employment program. Every hour, some 100 migrant workers leave the Philippines. Overseas Filipinos are typically known to be as doctors, accountants, IT professionals, engineers, technicians, entertainers, teachers, nurses, seamen, military servicemen, domestic helpers and caregivers.

Professor Belinda Aquino, Director of the Center for Philippines Studies at the University of Hawaii, points to “push & pull” as one of the many reasons that explain the Filipino Diaspora.

Sadly, ‘pushing’ Filipinos out of the country, according to Professor Aquino, is a faltering economy that cannot provide enough jobs. Another push comes from the wide disparities in a society where there are only a few rich families with world class wealth while a large majority is mired in poverty. To the global Filipino, working outside the country is ‘greener pasture’. The United States attracts most of the greener pasture seeking Filipinos but the Middle Eastern States and our South East Asian neighbors are fast catching up.

This disparity is also true if we look at ourselves with our neighbor-countries. Sorted by the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) Method, the Per Capita Income of the Philippines according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is at US$ 5,365. Malaysia on the other hand, is US$ 11,957 – that’s 2.2 times higher than the Philippines’. Just to have a taste how the neighboring city-state of Singapore performs, hold your breath; it is at US$ 33,471 and Thailand at US$ 9,193. This goes to show how poor we are compared to our neighbors. As a consolation, Vietnam has only US$ 3,393 but Vietnam’s economy is now fast propping up. By the way, ‘per capita income’ tell us how the average citizen earns per year.

Pulling’ Filipinos abroad are demands for specialists and professionals like doctors, engineers, nurses, caregivers, and medical technicians. They are the more fortunate ones who are now mostly entrenched in the Northern Americas. In United States alone, some 4 million Filipinos, about 2.5 to 2.8 million of them are now permanent residents or citizens handling responsible positions in their employments. Today, that pull has spread further to manual workers, maids, clerks, bartenders, cooks, and waitresses. For instance, in under-populated Saudi Arabia are more than one million Filipino workers – that includes me, my relatives, my friends and my town mates. Another 500,000 Filipinos are in the other Middle Eastern states – and that includes my town mates, cousins and nieces. Even Filipino entertainers go on extended tours.



The economic well-being of a country has always been equated to exports that should far outweigh the national imports.

It’s worthwhile to mention that Philippines’ present exports are semi-conductors, electronic components, garments, copper products, sugar, coconut oil, fruits, and most importantly or most ironically, ‘labor – in warm human bodies’.

Note that timber, yes, the once mighty timber & lumber products from the Philippines are no longer included in the export list. And our coconut oil exports had dwindled significantly because of the palm oil competition whilst our sugar exports threatened by competition worldwide. Soon they will become endangered species.

REal GDP per Capita : Year 1950, 1975, 2000

REal GDP per Capita : Year 1950, 1975, 2000

What’s left as our significant exports are the semi-conductors & electronics components – not ‘finished products’ to note, but a second level ‘raw materials’. Now, take out the Philippines’ Export Processing & Special Economic Zones where the semi-conductors and electronics are manufactured and we will end up poorer than the proverbial Timbukto. And the unemployment rate, so with the poverty line soars even more! Thanks that Atlas Mining in Cebu (now called Carmen Copper Corp) will soon resurrect, if not, copper from the Philippines will join the de-listed items as a Philippine product.

Nor are improvements on the horizon. The Asian Development Bank has reported that, despite a 5.6 percent Philippines’ growth rate projected for 2007 (now reaching 7.0%), “job creation is inadequate to make a meaningful dent in unemployment and underemployment.”

What happened to the Philippines following the diaspora?

As being said earlier, pushing Filipinos out of the country in a diaspora is a faltering national economy that cannot provide enough jobs. But a lot of Filipinos may not know it – because paradoxically, the ‘faltering’ Philippine Economy has at present been saved by the OFW’s in a manner that the country is now highly dependent on the dollar remittances by the same diaspora we are talking about.

Ranking fourth in 2006, Overseas Filipino Workers sent back to the home country some US$ 14.6 Billion in remittances. Topping the list is India at US$ 24.5 billion, followed by MEXICO at US$ 24.2 billion, then CHINA at US$ 21.0 billion, the PHILIPPINES at US$ 14.6 billion and RUSSIA at US$ 13.7 billion.

The US$ 14.6 billion are official remittances in 2006 that passed through Philippine banks. A good 50% more are moneys that are hand-carried or ‘paki-padala’ or mailed in from abroad without showing up in banks or tax records, and that makes it a whopping total of US$ 22 billion! Compare that to the country’s 2006 budget of US$ 17.6 billion; the diapora’s dollar inflow exceeded that of the national budget by 25%!

Again, we may have not noticed that the Filipino Diaspora’s remittances has now logged as the largest source of foreign income, highly surpassing the annual average of US$ 2.5 billion foreign direct investment to the country. Note also that the OFW’s remittances represent a huge chunk of 13.5% to 14.5% of the Philippines’ GDP, the largest in proportion to the domestic economy among the other five countries mentioned above. WOW!

Is it worth giving big thanks to the Global Filipinos?



Philippine national economy has been increasingly fueled by remittances of the Filipino Diaspora. OFW’s, represent the rhetoric of the Philippines’ “bagong bayani” or “new heroes” as signified by the growing abundance of its national labor abroad.- FVR

Pres. Fidel Ramos (Republic Act 8042 or known as the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995″) significant contribution of FVR to OFW’s.

In the last forty years, the Philippine national economy has been increasingly fueled by remittances of the Filipino Diaspora. OFW’s, represent the rhetoric of the Philippines’ “bagong bayani” or “new heroes” as signified by the growing abundance of its national labor abroad. That’s in the words of our former President Fidel Ramos.

Bayani? Of course, yes…! Let us see…

As my brother Dood’s blog said, “Send them home, and the number of unemployed & under-employed Filipino workforce would balloon to some 19.7 million. Not only that! Bring the OFW’s home and the yearly US$ 22 billion remittances will be lost. It could mean the Philippine peso to be plummeting to probably PhP 80 to a US Dollar. I could not imagine anymore how much a liter of gasoline would be… and the domino effects thereafter!”

After India, Mexico and China, the Philippines is the fourth largest exporter of warm-bodied labor in the world. One out of eight Filipinos is an OFW, working in some 194 countries and territories and a good number of them plying the high seas of the globe.

Since the seventies, Filipino bodies have been the top Philippine export, and their corpses (about five or six return in coffins daily) are becoming a serious item in the import ledger. In the early 1990s, women comprised 55 percent of overseas foreign workers. Today, some 67 percent of Philippine overseas workers are women, outnumbering the men.



OFW Issues and Concerns

OFW Issues and Concerns

At last, Tonya returned home but sadly, as a cargo wrapped in a wooden crate. Two weeks before that, she leaped from the 8th floor of her apartment building after having been brutally raped. A month before the incident, she was frantic to go home but couldn’t. Her employer withheld her passport and won’t listen to her pleas. She needed to come home, – her husband had just been released from an earlier kidnapping in Nigeria. Tortured, shocked and confused, her husband was able to return home with the help of others – but penniless, his state of mind, – troubled.


OFW Coffin

Tonya finally had come home for good. But sadly, her husband couldn’t even understand why there was a wake in his own home. Shattered future …, tales of broken dreams …

Of course, Tonya and her husband are players in a fictional story. But the story had been based on actual occurrences in the lives of OFW’s. The point is, although the dispersed Filipinos are earning far more than they would at home, life is often not easy.

Many overseas Filipino workers face many difficulties abroad. These include illegal recruitment, mysterious deaths, racial profiling and discrimination, and kidnappings. In some countries, such as in Hong Kong, China, Singapore and in Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon, many OFWs have reported that their pay was withheld, while others have had their documents confiscated or hidden.

Several cases have been reported on sexual abuse by employers, while thousands of Filipinas travel abroad for domestic work only to be tricked by their foreign employers into sexual slavery. Furthermore, some of these workers are even murdered.

Other problems include the risk of involvement in a conflict, such as those in Lebanon, Iraq and Nigeria. About 30,000 Filipinos were trapped between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas in the fighting in Lebanon. Luckily, they suffered little in the Hezbollah rocket attacks. But luck will surely run out, may be next time, there could be no escape anymore.


Strong Peso

Strong Peso

The Philippine peso today has become one of the strongest currencies in Southeast Asia, second only to the Malaysian Ringgit. The monthly dollar inflows by the diaspora have made the peso Asia’s best performing currency this year, up nearly 33 percent against the dollar based on the 2007 vs. 2005 figures. In September of 2005 one dollar got 56 pesos, but now it buys about 42. Many remittances into the Philippines still come from the United States, but there are also significant flows from countries that have a dollar peg, such as Hong Kong, the Gulf States and other South East Asian countries.

There are good as well as bad effects of the strong peso.

In effect, at almost US$ 100 per barrel of crude, we spent less pesos for the dollars paid for the 350,000 barrels of petrol oil imported everyday. That had greatly helped dampen the gasoline price at the pump.

On the other hand, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves says that overall, the strong currency helps the economy. “The government has a large stock of debt. For every peso of appreciation, the government saves about P 4.5 to P 5 billion ($100 million) in interest payments. …. The strong peso would generally have a net favorable effect on the Philippines because by and large the stack of debt has really a tremendous effect on the Philippines’ situation.”

Per Manila Bulletin, July 5, 2007 issue, “the Department of Finance (DoF) said that because of the strong local currency, the government saved P20 Billion from interest payments in the first half of 2007.

Based on DoF documents, the National Government spent P129 Billion in interest expense for the January-June period, better than the program of P149.9 billion.

For the second quarter the government has programmed interest payments of P55.60 billion, and P12.11 billion for the month of June alone. The full-year program for interest expenses is P303.23 billion.

Note that Government’s interest expenses are the second biggest item in the national budget. The DoF said government will save about P40 billionin interest payments this year. Last year the DoF reported P30 billion as interest savings on past loans and about P18 billion from its debt exchange program. Based on Bureau of Treasury numbers, the government paid P310.1 billion in interest payments last year, way below the program of P340 billion because of lower rates and peso appreciation. DoF officials said the government will continue to pay lower interest payments in the next three years until it drops to below P200 billion by 2010. The government’s expected outstanding debt this year is P3.924 trillion, or 58.3 percent of gross domestic product.”

But the strong peso hurts the very people who help prop it up. Tonya, the chambermaid, made the equivalent of about US$ 500 a month before her ‘death’. In peso terms, she should now earn P 21,000, down from about P 28,000 two years ago. She used to send P 18,000 a month home, but the weaker dollar and higher living costs in Taipei have cut that to P 10,000.

The government acknowledges that the Global Filipinos suffer from the strong peso. But those workers are suffering because the dollars and other currencies they earn are worth less, and that means fewer pesos to help their families.

But then, the overseas Filipinos have to support families back home, and whether they like it or not; they have to remit regardless of what the level of the peso is. That, again is biting the bullet hard…


diasporaQuo vadis, Pinoy…? In the end, there is still no other way, but the Filipino Diaspora

published 12/12/07

Immorality a Serious Offense

A week ago I received a call at 1:30 early morning; I may call it a distress call. The person in the other line was an acquaintance a long time ago; it even took me a few minutes to remember her.

She was crying asking for help. Mutawwa’in, a religious police who constitute the Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice in the Kingdom, apprehended her and two other female companions. They just stepped out from a car and about to enter a restaurant when the religious police spotted them and asked for proper documentation.

My friend actually was in a wrong place at a wrong time, she was in the company of unrelated person of the opposite sex.

I advised my friend to relax and instructed her to contact her sponsor.

I contacted Attache Tom Lawson at the Philippine Embassy who acted right away and later found out that 2 of her companions have serious problem due to the absence of working permits or iqamas. In other words her companions were undocumented OFWs.

My friend who has complete documents was released after her sponsor came and signed a waiver for her temporary release. Her other companion who have a photo copy only of her iqama was also freed the next day after her employer showed up at the police precinct and bailed her out. The third one who doesn’t have a residence permit remains in jail.

However, their case that is called “immorality” will be forwarded to the court that will render the final decision.  A hearing would take place for them to defend themselves in court.

Men and women found together with faked marriage documents or who were not married or closely related is against the Islamic law in the Kingdom; and it is “immorality or prostitution” according to its interpretation of Shari’a.

If men and women found in an embarrassing situation, women could be charged with “prostitution”. The police will then file a case to the court and if found guilty, it is punishable by flogging with a cane and a prison term of six (6) months or more and subject for deportation.



Many fellow OFWs are incarcerated in different jails in the 3 Regions of the Kingdom from various offenses including immorality and illegal marriage. To my fellow OFWs in the Kingdom - please let us respect the law of our host country and see to it that the documents with you are legal binding documents and not a fake one, or else you may spend part of your working contract in jail with flogging as bonus.

read related post: Pasaway ; CP’s on PDOS ; Philippine Embassy cautions OFW’s 26 Filipinos arrested for possessing fake papers (marriage, iqamas) in Dammam

Group of Referees reaches out of court to Bahay Kalinga

18 August 2007 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia- Basketball referees are not as famous as the basketball players yet they too run several miles in court supervising the game and administer its rules.   

Rey Ruiz of KAKAMPI, SGR Ricky Arellano, Labor Attache Delea Fuente, POLO Admin Officer Mrs. Mimah Mangotara, SGR Pres. Gerry Espinosa and BK Administrator Jimmy Umag

Rey Ruiz of KAKAMPI, SGR Ricky Arellano, Labor Attache Rustico M. Dela Fuente, POLO Admin Officer Mrs. Mimah Mangotara, SGR Pres. Gerry Espinosa and BK Administrator Jimmy Umag

But for Siglakas Group of Referees (SGR) their run continues and it even reaches Bahay Kalinga

The Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC), known as Bahay Kalinga or Paglingap Mangagawa was established under Republic Act 8042, known as Migrant Workers Act of 1995 intended as shelter for our distressed and run away female Overseas Filipino Workers.

Siglakas Group of Referees whose members are Professional Basketball Referees are hired for a fee per basketball game. The group however, set aside 10% of their earnings for charitable purposes. The fund collected was converted into assorted grocery items and were distributed to our less fortunate female OFWs at Bahay Kalinga last Friday 17 of August 2007.

SGR Pres. Gerry Espinosa with Labor Attache Resty Dela Fuente

SGR Pres. Gerry Espinosa with Labor Attache Resty Dela Fuente

Female distressed OFWs are housed at BK pending resolution of their complaint such as: maltreatment and abuse, sexual harassment and non payment of wages. Most of them are Female Household Service Workers. There are 106 female OFWs at the center as of to date and luckily some of them are waiting for air tickets to be finally send back home.

“Lending a hand to those in needs is a fulfillment, the feeling is very different” said Gerry Espinosa, the current President of SGR.  “The 10% basket funds collected among the members of the group are mainly intended for charitable purposes” he added.

Siglakas Group of Referees was formed a year ago and the most sought professional basketball referees hired by fellow Filipinos in Riyadh in their Inter Company Basketball Tournaments.  Filipinos employed at Saudi Oger Co. Ltd. and companies located at Industrial areas in Riyadh frequently hired their services.

Ricky Arellano, officer of the group said “The fees for our services is another form of blessing from God, we should share this blessings to others in needs and future donations will continue as long as there are Basketball activities within the Filipino Community”.

Welfare Officer Abdulghani “Jimmy” Umag, administrator of the Filipino Wrokers Resource Center was thankful of the group donations.

The Philippine Government is providing the needs at Bahay Kalinga but they accept donations from Filipino Community more particularly personal items to be used daily by our stranded female OFWs.

Labor Attache Resty Dela Fuente who personally acknowledged the group donations however said “we are not soliciting any form of donations from the Filipino Community but if the good deed was given wholeheartedly from any Filipino groups, they are most welcome and we are very grateful for that”.    

The group noble act was coordinated with Bong Amora and Reynaldo Ruiz of the Kalipunang Kaakabay ng Mangagawang Pilipino sa Ibayong Dagat (KAKAMPI-KSA) based in the 3rd Industrial Area-Riyadh who witnessed the turnover of the donated grocery items. – BongA

Tilapia in the Desert Land

Trip to Al Kharj

For my 14 years as expats in Saudi Arabia, these past few weeks was the hottest temperature I’ve experienced; and seems to continue till the month of September or October, the month usually winter seasons starts.

But the hottest time of the year doesn’t prevent me and fellow employees to went out yesterday (Friday) for a fishing trip to Al-Kharj to relax from a week very busy hours of work, or to ease even for just a day our homesickness away from home. This blogger in particular, July 13 is my daughter’s birthday and I am not with her to celebrate her 9th years of existence.

Al Kharj "Sunrise"

Al Kharj "Sunrise"

We traveled at 4:00 AM and arrived Al Kharj city proper at 5:10 AM. We were able to take a photo of the famous city landmark, the Al Kharj Tower on way back to our accommodation. Going to our destination we were not surprised that the roads are deserted for the reason that it was Friday and due to hot season. But all of us were amazed seeing a mall (Geant) in the area, perhaps the biggest mall in the Kingdom as written in their billboard.

Al Kharj or El-Kharj is 87 kilometers from Riyadh city proper which is 52 kilometers away from our accommodation in the 3rd Industrial Area. Al Kharj is a small city but the area in general is home of agricultural production in Saudi Arabia. Leading processing plant that deal in the production of food beverages and dairy products are located in Al-Kharj. And as what I have seen, the largest farms of the notably “Dates Palm” the national fruit of Saudi Arabia is likewise found in the area. Other agricultural products as we noticed along our way; are watermelons, barley, sorghum, onions, grapes, citrus fruit; and poultry.

Al Kharj is part of Riyadh, the country’s capital and largest city that lies among oases on a dry, rocky plateau; and it is

Al Kharj Tower

Al Kharj Tower

in the center of the whole Kingdom. Unlike Jeddah and Dammam or Al Khobar there are no coastal areas found in these region. Though Saudi Arabia lacks permanent lakes and rivers, but considerable reserves of underground water have been discovered across the countries that have been used for irrigation purposes in agricultural production.

 Water is very important in Saudi Arabia, large desalinization plants was built for the supply of drinking water, as well as the intakes of power plants and oil refineries. Most of the population including expatriates Filipinos buy mineral water for daily drinking use.


The Wetlands

 In Saudi Arabia where rain rarely occurs but heavy one when it comes, Inland Wetlands or Marsh provides natural flood control by serving as basins for excess rainwater. These floodwaters then empty into the adjoining farmlands. Many countries experimental planting showed that fruit trees and grains could be grown successfully by means of the old water-distribution systems using drainage, dams and catchment’s basins.

The Wetlands

The Wetlands

One native Saudi national we’ve met pasturing his camels near the Marsh said that the agricultural success of production in Al-Kharj contributed much in the co-operation among neighboring farms to use drainage, irrigation, erosion control, or other special type conservation programs where water reserved is not so abundant. “The Saudi government irrigation program is very helpful to farm owners,” he explained. We agreed with him as showed by the many big culvert lined up along the road that proves Government serious on-going irrigation improvements that will benefit farm owners in the area.



The trip in search of “Tilapia”

Our visit to Al Kharj is to have a proof and see to ourselves the presence of tilapia in one of the wetlands. We heard from OFWs in the neighboring factories that “Tilapias” are abundant in many Marshland located outside Al-Kharj city proper.

Though I am convinced that there are tilapias and other rare species of fish in the Saudi desert particularly in the



coastal areas of Jeddah and Al Khobar but at the center of a dry and rocky plateau like Al Kharj needs to have a proof at least by my very own eyes.

 Tilapias as what I have known are commercially important species that have been cultivated in several Asian countries, including the Philippines. They have interesting behavior and attractive coloration. The larger species are important as a source of food and are cultivated extensively. Fresh and smoked tilapias are now readily available all over the world. However, the smallest known tilapia species is listed as an endangered species. According to my research “tilapia can survive in waters with oxygen conce

ntrations as low as 0.1 parts per million, and one species inhabits hot springs with water temperatures as high as 40 deg.C (104 deg. F).” It means it can survive in Saudi Arabia.

 In Philippines Tilapia are raised in artificially created fishponds, in the fish-farming industry known as aquaculture. The aquaculturists carefully manage their production to ensure and maintain quality of water used in fish farming. It maybe because some of our lakes and swamps are already polluted that eating tilapia may harm consumers health.

To see is to believe

As explained above, Wetlands or Marsh served as basins for excess rainwater use for irrigation system. The tilapia that we caught using Philippine made “Fishing Net” or “Lambat” for the said purpose proves that tilapias are abundant in the area.

Rod, Rey and Edwin

Rod, Rey and Edwin

Out of my curiosity, I made a personal survey to look where the source of water came from, which I found out coming from the adjoining farm. A canal was built for the purpose and the “huge pre-cast culvert” near to it is ready for installation. I later discovered that the marsh where the tilapias are found had a small dam or barrier use to empty the waters into the adjoining farmlands. And according to our native Saudi friend, the wall is open in time of rainy days or when there is a rain. It should be monitored and close again when the other farms have enough supply of water in their own Marsh.

Thus the timing of the water that flows during rainy days or by the use of the underground water supply influences the use of the marsh by fish and wildlife, especially for spawning and waterfowl migrations.

 While preparing to pack up, a “Mooror” or “Highway Traffic Police” stop at the nearby road and asked, “what are we

The Catch

The Catch

doing?”, we simply said fishing tilapia. He approached us and said in Arabic “Inta Akil Hada” it means, “You eat those?” We chorused and said, “Yes!” Then he replied, “Allah! You’re so great; in my country YOU provide food for Filipinos even in the desert”. We inform him that Tilapia is clean and favorite fish of Filipinos, he replied, “My friends, what I mean is – God give us oil from underneath and now God provide food for Filipinos in the desert lake.” We all smile to him and before he goes back to his mobile car he said, “be sure to go home before 12:00 noon, the sun is so angry.”

But I advised my friends to bring one sample of the catch to a Saudi acquintance working at Ministry of Health to conduct testing first, to make sure that what we caught are safe for human consumption.

 Government and local executives in our country should not ignore the beauty of wetlands. Wetlands in other countries provide many opportunities for recreational activities, such as bird watching, hunting, fishing, trapping, and hiking. Once develop a possible local tourist attraction will emerge that will contribute enhancement of its local economy.

It was indeed a fulfilling trip, in one hot summer Friday in Saudi Arabia’s Wetlands.

Next entry “The Monkeys in the Desert Land.”

Philippine Mission: Paramount concerns

OFW Welfare and Protection

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) has been the Philippine government’s primary concern in its relations with Middle East countries. In Saudi Arabia our Philippine Mission focuses more on Filipino expatriate’s welfare and protection considering the fact that large numbers of Overseas Filipino Workers are employed in this oil rich region.

As a community partner of our Philippine Embassy, I am aware that diplomatic talks in these regards between our Philippine Labor Office and Saudi Labor Ministry are one of the many agendas in progress. Hopefully these may lead into an understanding of possible well-implemented bilateral labor agreements.

What the Saudi government is requesting is when the contract is violated; the Filipino worker should present his complaint before the concerned agencies in the Saudi labor offices before he/she leaves the Kingdom. In this process, both sides can be heard and when there is a violation committed by the employer an appropriate compensation based on a given decision will be dispensed accordingly. Complaints raised by the Filipino workers to POEA after coming from the Kingdom will not give the chance for the Saudi employer to defend himself. If a breach of contract is found then any reward may not be properly handed to the aggrieved party.

Saudi authorities is also asking the Filipino community to respect the laws, customs and traditions of the country and not to get involved in any criminal activities, like engage in dealing illicit trafficking of illegal drugs and alcoholic beverages. So with other related crimes that may result into harsh punishment even death. Other areas of concerns such as alleged maltreatment and abuse of our Filipina domestic Helpers are issues that are being discussed between the two countries for a better RP-KSA relationship.

Trade and investments

We are all aware that Welfare and Protection for our OFWs are not the only paramount interest of our Philippine Mission in the Kingdom. The area of Trade and Investment is very essential as part of their diplomatic responsibility. Trade and Investment has always been the major force behind the economic relations among nations.

During last year’s meeting of Pres. Gloria Arroyo and members of Saudi chambers of commerce and industry and the council of Philippine-Saudi businessmen, she encouraged Saudi businessmen to invest in the Philippines in different industrial sectors especially in Mindanao. Saudi businessmen welcomed the idea of investing in our country. Philippine Commercial Attache was formally re-introduced for the mentioned purpose.

2007 UNITED NATIONS— Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo and His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal reaffirm the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ’s firm commitment to strengthen friendly and cooperative ties, particularly in trade and investment, the peace process in the Southern Philippines , migration and inter-regional cooperation.  Secretary Romulo and Prince Saud Al-Faisal met following the ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Meeting held at the sidelines of the 62nd UN General Assembly. The ASEAN-GCC strongly supported a proposal made by Secretary Romulo for ASEAN and GCC senior officials to begin discussions on formal linkages as well as specific projects for the ASEAN and GCC foreign ministers to consider at their next meeting.

2007 UNITED NATIONS— Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo and His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal reaffirm the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ’s firm commitment to strengthen friendly and cooperative ties, particularly in trade and investment, the peace process in the Southern Philippines , migration and inter-regional cooperation. Secretary Romulo and Prince Saud Al-Faisal met following the ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Meeting held at the sidelines of the 62nd UN General Assembly. The ASEAN-GCC strongly supported a proposal made by Secretary Romulo for ASEAN and GCC senior officials to begin discussions on formal linkages as well as specific projects for the ASEAN and GCC foreign ministers to consider at their next meeting.

Mindanao is not only the home of our Muslim brothers and sisters but the country’s main agricultural export zone that currently brings tuna, pineapple, rattan furniture and fresh bananas to Saudi Arabia. The Philippine furniture alone proved its competitiveness in the world market in quality and design and the Saudi businessmen wants to purchase directly from our country than buying furniture from America that are originally manufactured in the Philippines.

Just yesterday, Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Antonio Villamor made an appeal to community leaders to support and assist in promoting to potential participants in the establishments, companies or institutions OFWs are connected with, in the upcoming October 17 to 20, 2007 International trade fair in Manila initiated by Manila FAME International.

Manila Fame International is organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions (CITEM), an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry. You can visit their web site at

Let us-all help endorsing Philippine export products that would further enhance strategic RP-Saudi relations in Trade and Investments.  – END by: BongA.

Peace, Love not War

Sid Meier’s Civilization, a game to play 


U. S.  Sen. G.W. Norris

Peace is LOVE not WAR

Peace is LOVE not WAR

“To whom does war bring prosperity? Not to the soldier who for the munificent compensation of $16 per month shoulders his musket and goes into the trench, there to shed his blood and to die if necessary; not to the broken-hearted widow who waits for the return of the mangled body of her husband; not to the mother who weeps at the death of her brave boy; not to the little children who shiver with cold; not to the babe who suffers from hunger; nor to the millions of mothers and daughters who carry broken hearts to their graves. War brings no prosperity to the great mass of common and patriotic citizens. It increases the cost of living of those who toil and those who already must strain every effort to keep soul and body together. War brings prosperity to the stock gambler on Wall Street-to those who are already in possession of more wealth than can be realized or enjoyed.”  - U.S. Sen. George William Norris (April 4, 1917)

In this speech Senator Norris details his reasons for opposing a Senate resolution entering the United States in World War I. He criticizes British and German acts of war toward neutral third parties and the use of American citizens as “insurance policies to guarantee the safe delivery of munitions of war to belligerent nations.” Norris also criticizes opportunistic businessmen who seek to profit from the war.



Civilization IV

Civilization IV

Sid Meier’s Firaxis Game “Civilization” is a widely renowned computer game in everyone’s personal computers. Kids, parents, professionals and people from all walks of life can play the game using only computer mouse. But the player brainpower in pursuit of winning the game is very important in order to build a Civilization that could stand the test of time.

Been playing Civilization III for two years now but I always ended up a loser. Only these past two weeks of my continuous long quest to win the game that I finally succeeded.

Civilization III is a game played by one player in a mind controlled game. The player chooses what nation he/she wants to play. Yesterday I played and selected Abraham Lincoln of the United States.

The player/nation starts from scratch. It needs workers or inhabitants to learn the secrets of farming, road-building and irrigation for them to settle down. The player/nation must build improvements to satisfy the needs of its people. The player monitors the Governor of each cities and emphasize how important are the food, peoples moods as well as commerce and production.

When a civilization develops, it can mobilize its economy for war. It starts with a Warrior (Stone Age) to Swordsman, longbow man and to high tech war equipments like warplanes, tanks and nuclear weapons. When a nation goes to war, it should have four types of combat units: ground/naval combat, bombardment, missile attacks, and air combat. But the player must have consistent amount of gold in the nation’s treasury to sustain military offensive and defenses against its enemies.

Winning the game can be achieved by purely military solution: conquer the world, civilization by civilization. If you eliminate all civilizations from the game, you win. Also, cultural victory which means make your whole civilization the envy of all any rivals, you win.

When your civilization builds an embassy in a rival’s capital city, or when a rival builds one in your capital, you can negotiate “Diplomatic Agreements” like trade embargo, military alliances such as mutual protection pacts and right of passage with friend nations against your enemies to win the game. 

Because of my militaristic way of winning and constant desire to keep my nation rich and powerful are maybe the contributing factor of my many failures or losses for almost two years of playing CIV. III. What I like most is to watch my warplanes bombarding enemy improvements and I enjoy rival nation to perish in the world by one drop of my missiles/atomic bombs.      

What I overlook is “Diplomacy“, the other area of winning the game which requires the player an excellent diplomatic skills. Like for instance, trading agreements to other civilized nations, more particularly offering them new technologies and resources, in exchange for something your nation don’t have. Building roads and access of  sea route for trading purposes. Another one is lending them gold to sustain their survival and helping them to build again their nation caused by the destruction of war.

There are many other diplomatic ways to win the game. But in order to achieve it, you must be getting elected to the head of the United Nations. All nations are required to build a U.N. building, though the first nation to build will be the host country of the symbolic U.N. building. After the United Nations Building is built there are periodic votes by the council to elect a leader and to be elected, and a candidate must win a majority of all votes. If you are the one, you win the game.

Yesterday night from 10:00 AM to 11:45 PM almost midnight, armed with diplomatic strategy or approach, AT LAST! I WON THE GAME! Now, I am at PEACE and NO TO WAR.   Sid Meier’s Firaxis Game “Civilization 1 to 4″ -  A game to play.  * BongA


The United Nations

U.N. Headquarters

U.N. Headquarters

Created in 1945 to maintain international peace and security, the United Nations was the second of two laudable efforts to establish an international authority on law and human rights between the self governing nations of the world. Headquartered in New York City, the United Nations was established at the end of World War II in response to the apparent ineffectiveness of the League of Nations to prevent another global conflict on the scale of “The War to End All Wars”. The organization was originally conceived in 1941 as the Atlantic Charter, an agreement signed between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, but developed into a pact signed by 26 countries to try to stop the aggression of the Axis powers. In 1945, in a conference between “The Big Three”, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, the original charter was laid down. Throughout its history the United Nations has had great success in establishing many permanent international laws on subjects from human rights, international treaties, and worldwide decolonization. Although the United Nations does not have the power to enforce decisions or compel nations to take military action, the ability to compel member nations to impose economic sanctions against countries guilty of violating security orders gives it significant power in the world stage.

More Than Just Sympathy “What, a man raping another man?”


What, a man raping another man?

This is something folks back home will be surprised to hear. Yes it’s weird, but it’s true; some men do rape other men in some parts of the world.

Dito sa Saudi Arabia, kapag wala kang bigote ang tingin sa iyo ng mga Arabo ay para kang isang babae. Ngayon kung medyo mistisohin ka pa, maganda ang katawan, matambok ang puwit, at laging bagong paligo at mabango, asahan mong pagtritripan ka nila dahil sa kanilang paningin isa kang sexy star (ala Coca Nicolas or Claudia Zobel).

Si Ed ay cashier noong araw sa Al Kharj branch ng aming company. Tuwing umaga trabaho niya ang ideposito ang collections of the previous day sa down town. Dahil may kalayuan din ang aming office sa downtown kung saan naroroon ang mga banko, kinakailangan niyang bumiyahe sakay ng taxi. Isang umaga, Yemeni ang driver ng nasakyan niyang taxi pabalik sa opisina. Dahil seguro guwapo at malinis sa katawan si Ed, pinagtripan daw siya ng driver. Hindi naman siya ginalaw. Inilabas lang naman nong driver ang ari niya at nilarolaro habang nagdradrive. Takot na takot si Ed ng dumating sa opisina. Sabi namin na pasalamat siya at hindi siya dinala sa disyerto. May mga storya kasi na sa disyerto daw kadalasan dinadala ng mga rapist ang kanilang biktima. At doon na nila iiwan pagkatapos abusuhin. Mula noon hindi na bumibiyahe si Ed ng mag-isa.

Reynaldo Cortez, a welder in one of the car care shops at Sinaya in Riyadh, was not as lucky. When a Pakistani driver tried to molest him sometime in 2003, he fought back, and in the process of defending himself stabbed to death his would be rapist.

For the offense, he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to 10 years in October 2004. However in 2005, the High Court in Riyadh that gave the final verdict sentenced him to death. After that, the only way Cortez could be saved was through the grant of forgiveness from the family of his victim.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said they did their best to save Cortez. They said they negotiated with the family of the Pakistani driver and offered SR 100,000 blood money so that Cortez may be forgiven. They said they even hired the services of a Pakistani professional negotiator. But all those effort failed. All that the family of the victim wanted was to see the execution go through.

Last Wednesday, as we continue to celebrate our Independence Day as well as the Migrants’ Month, we were greeted with the sad news that the death sentence of Reynaldo Cortez was finally executed. In minutes, the world joined the Filipinos in the Kingdom in mourning. Another comrade has fallen.

Back in the Philippines, the sadness among the bereaved family and relatives of Cortez was aggravated by the news that the fallen hero’s body cannot be brought home, because it has to be buried before sunset on the day of the execution. The immediate burial was in accordance with traditions of Islam, which Cortez embraced during his stay in the Kingdom.

For not being able to bring Cortez’ body home, the Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia said in a phone patch interview that, “we can only sympathize with the family of Cortez.”

Had the family of the Pakistani driver accepted the SR 100,000 blood money offered by the DFA, Cortez would still be alive and free today. He would have flown back home to be with his family, and never to leave them anymore.

OFWs - Die in Vain

OFWs – Die in Vain

But the offer was rejected, and Cortez had to die. Instead of just paying the usual lip service and saying, “we sympathize with the family,” I think it will be more appropriate and better appreciated if DFA gives the SR 100,000, which was rejected by the family of the Pakistani driver, to the wife and six children that Reynaldo Cortez, our fallen hero, left behind.

I call on the various Overseas Filipino organizations in the Kingdom, and around the world, to officially ask the President to approve the release of funds required. After all, the amount is just a small fraction of what was spent for Dematera.

I think there is also a need to revisit the provisions of sections 24 to 26 of R.A. 8042, with the objective of assessing the effectiveness so far of the Legal Assistant for Migrants Workers Affairs’ Office as well as the status of the Legal Assistance Fund.

There is also a need to set up a Fund for blood money, so that the Post and the community need not beg around whenever the need arises. A certain percentage of the government’s savings from debt servicing, brought about by our dollar remittances, should be allocated for this purpose.

Reynaldo Cortez will not be the last to need help. In Saudi Arabia alone there are already three waiting in the death row. The time for government to act is now. ###

Migrant Workers Day-Nothing to Celebrate

Respect and Protect Human Rights of Migrants

Respect and Protect Human Rights of Migrants

June 7, 1995 the Migrant Workers and Filipinos Act of 1995 or Rep. Act 8042 was signed into law.

12 Years since it was enacted into law yet the said act has done a little or not much has been done to the Overseas Filipino Workers. The both House in Congress has never given our clamor for amendments of certain provisions that would enhance the protection and welfare of OFWs. 

For instance, Magna Carta for Migrant Workers  of 1995 provision under III: Services, Section 19 Establishment of a Migrant Workers and other Overseas Filipinos Resource Center. - Within the premises and under the administrative jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in countries where there are large concentrations of Filipino migrant workers, there shall be established a Migrant Workers and Other Overseas Filipinos Resource Center with the following services…

Emabssy and POLO/OWWA officials with Filcom donations for Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh

Embassy and POLO/OWWA officials with Filcom donations for Bahay Kalinga (Filipino Workers Resource Center in Riyadh)

In Saudi Arabia, there are 3 Filipino Workers Resource Center provided under this provision, each in Eastern, Western and Central Region. The said proviso did not specify male or female distressed OFWs. Our female distressed OFWs are housed in this Center and our male runaways are roaming around without valid work permit or expired iqamas and could be apprehended by the host country’s authorities anytime of the day. Others seek refuge with friends and other kindhearted fellow OFWs unmindful or maybe aware that harboring runaways could put their lives at risk too. 

The establishment and operations of the Center are joint undertaking of various Philippine government agencies overseeing the plight of our Filipino migrant workers, however, facilities and required needs of our distressed OFWs were not being fully provided. Thus help and contributions from Filipino communities, organization and kindhearted individuals are very necessary to sustain their daily needs at the shelter.

Just recently a newly organized SEC registered group of overseas Filipinos named United Filipinos Worldwide for Community Development, UFWCD-Jeddah Chapter visited our distressed OFWs at the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah. Excerpt of the report by UFWCD-Jeddah, VP Jun Macaranas and the shocking revelations inside the consulate:

As I only write what we see/saw, together with my KFSHRC-Jeddah colleagues, upon entering the big gates opened (with a Saudi Police stationed outside the gate), the quadrangle of the Consulate, estimated at 1000 sq. meter wide, LAY OUR KABAYANS, all male, with “improvised beds” to spend the whole night under an open air of the Consulate’s quadrangle improvised beds: cartons, cloth, papers at any site of the sprawling estimated 1,000 sq. meter wide cemented ground, all looking sad, without any smile, ignorantly looking at us, who by their looks, we were all made SPEECHLESS, the first time I have been to the Consulate very late at night with these bodies sprawling at any position they could find convenience at any points on the ground seeing all our kababayans, OFWs at this “nakakaluhang” sight all of them males, numbering at estimated more or less 100 pinagkakakasya ang kani-kanilang mga katawan upang maiprotekta ang sarili sa hamog, sa lamok, at sa ibang kinakaya na lang nilang magiging masamang epekto ng kung anong sakit ang dadapo sa kanilang lahat sa pagtulog sa malamig na semento ng quadrangle ng Phil Consulate Jeddah.”   To read the full report of UFWCD VP Jun Macaranas click this link UFWCD-Hawak Kamay).



Where are the OFWs Millions or Billions of Pesos OWWA contributions? Why on earth our Government cannot provide or rent a better place for our unfortunate kababayans as mandated by the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers of 1995?

Nasaan na ang mga representative ng mga OFWs sitting at OWWA and POEA/DOLE Board? Are you doing your job? Or just receiving salaries doing nothing, sitting at your air-conditioned room while those unfortunate OFWs out there are hungry, no right place to stay and having sleepless nights.     

This is what I always keep on saying, Overseas Filipino Workers should be truly represented by a legitimate OFWs and must be given full rights to be heard in one voice; and these could only be materialized with a broader participation in body politics so that we will be representing our OFWs with equal footing in any legislative agenda for our welfare and protection. 

June 7 – Migrant Workers Day “Nothing to Celebrate”.

Go out and Vote Campaign

Posted 27 April 2007

It was quite exhausting but happy indeed that once again we were able to do the task in line with our “go out and vote campaign”.

Yesterday night I and Ka Francis Oca with ka Alex Bello were busy preparing  the materials necessary for what we have accomplished today.

We went to Batha this morning to post our Go Out and Vote posters in selected strategic points of the area where our co-pinoys frequently hang out.

Sad to say that some of our kababayan only learned that OAV had already started after reading the posters.

My fellow concerned OFWs/Overseas Filipinos who believe that the spirit of democracy is measured  through electoral process, please  help us in our campaign.

To Francis Robert Oca, son of our colleague Francis, thanks a lot for designing as well as providing several copies of the campaign material.

To each and everyone, lets do our share.

OAV update in Riyadh:  Ka Ambo’s  “It’s Just Another Day“.

The second week of the ongoing Overseas Absentee Voting ended this evening. While there was a slight increase in the number of voters who cast their votes this week compared to last at the embassy here in Riyadh, still it is much lower than we expected. But the sight of three company buses transporting voters to the embassy was a good sign, and we hope the remaining two weeks will really see us more company buses bringing in more voters.

It's Just Another Day Ahead"

It’s Just Another Day Ahead”

Ask anybody, especially government officials, what they think is the reason why the turn out of voters have been very low, the most common answers you will get are that: many overseas Filipinos think that since this election is not a presidential election it is not so important; many think that it is useless to cast their votes because these will not be counted anyway; and many say ‘nakakatamad naman kasing pumunta sa embassy’.

At one point I did believe that may be those are the valid reasons. But this afternoon, I realized that those earlier statements may not be the reasons at all..

In relation to our Go Out and Vote campaign here in Riyadh, we designed a campaign ad that centered on why we should cast our votes. The message was conveyed by the following lines that were printed on the poster/flyer:

Ipaabot ang nagkakaisang tinig
Gamitin ang karapatang marinig
Ang Boto mo, pahalagahan mo.

We had the poster designed by a young OFW for free, but the printing of the four color poster cost us SR 2.50 each for the A4 size, and SR 50 for the A3 size. Thursday night we have the number of posters we needed ready.

This morning we started placing those posters in areas around Riyadh where many Filipinos usually hang out especially during weekends. In one supermarket the Filipino cashier commented: “Nag umpisa na pala ang botohan?” In one restaurant one employee asked, “Taga Comelec po kayo?”; while a jolly barker in the fastfood center said, “huwag kayong mag-alala kabayan, akong bahala dyan”, referring to the poster that we stuck on a suggestion box.

When I heard the supermarket cashier said, “nag-umpisa na pala ang botohan,” I asked myself how many Filipinos like him are not aware that the overseas absentee voting period has already started two weeks ago; maybe a hundred, or maybe a couple of thousands? Could this not be the main reason why there is a low turn out of voters?

What really made me smile was the question from the waiter at the Thai restaurant. When asked, “taga Comelec po kayo?” we simply said we are not from Comelec, but are from various OFW organizations. But he’s got a point. Bakit nga ba kami ang nagdidikit ng mga OAV posters na yon at hindi ang mga taga Political section ng embahada?

Commissioner Tuason proudly announced during the OAV Forum at Intramuros last March that the OAV cost per voter this year compared to that of 2004 is very very much lower. That of course was great for the budget department. But given the experience of 2004, the Comelec could have spent some amount on information materials like posters and flyers. If posters were sent to the Posts a month before the start of the voting period, and the Posts are able to distribute these to the major companies and community organizations, as well as display some in areas where Filipinos usually hang out – like what we did today, chances are the turn out could be better than what we witness now.

But if Comelec cannot even send postal voting materials and voters ID on time, can we expect them to be able to think of those little, yet very important, things?

It bleeds my heart when I think of how little the government cares about us who are sacrificing to be away from home just to keep the Philippines survive. Perhaps when the bleeding stops, time will have been ripe.

But for now, today is just another day. ###

BSP pushes sale of $1-B bonds to OFWs

BSP pushes sale of $1-B bonds to OFWs

Move can shift focus from spending to investing

THE BANGKO Sentral ng Pilipinas has urged the national government to offer this year as much as $1 billion in retail treasury bonds (RTBs) to overseas Filipino workers and their beneficiaries.

body_tpl_02In a report to Malacanang on initiatives to improve the environment for offshore workers, the BSP said it had taken steps together with the Department of Finance and the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) “to finalize the proposed issuance of RTBs for OFWs.”

“This is aimed at encouraging them and their beneficiaries to channel their remittances to investment instruments,” the BSP reported.

The proposed issuance, targeted within the year but not necessarily in one single sale, aims to divert more OFW inflows for economic development while giving OFW households lucrative investment outlets.

“These savings and investments will help prepare OFWs for future reintegration into the Philippine economy and help provide additional funding for government requirements, including for infrastructure development,” the report said.

The offering size proposed by the BSP was based on the assumption that OFWs could set aside about 10 percent of their earnings for investments.

The issuance of RTBs also helps the BSP’s monetary policy as a way of siphoning off strong inflows from OFWs.

“For their part, commercial banks have offered OFWs specialized investment products and services related to insurance, pension and real estate,” the BSP said. “Direct payment schemes of banks are also available for the added convenience of the OFWs’ beneficiaries.”

In line with its major advocacy programs, the BSP is conducting financial literacy campaigns (FLCs) for OFWs and their beneficiaries together with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

“The FLCs emphasize the importance of saving and inform the participants of alternative opportunities for their remittances such as placements in financial instruments and investments in business ventures,” the BSP reported.

Based on a survey of four rural banks and one cooperative bank in the three regions where the BSP conducted FLCs, microfinance loans attributed to OFWs have risen in their areas, particularly in Tuguegarao, Cagayan.

Microfinance is the provision of small, unsecured loans to the poor to help them start their own businesses.

OFW remittances coursed through the banking system surged to $11.4 billion in the first 11 months of 2006 from $6.1 billion in 2000. These remittances boosted the supply of foreign exchange, helping stabilize the exchange rate and provided valuable support to economic growth, particularly through strong personal consumption expenditures.

Proposed Amendment of R.A. 8042

newsOnline news item this morning  brightens up my day.

Bicameral Committee on Labor and Employment of both House in Congress met yesterday about the proposed law that will replace Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

Though, for me the right word is to amend some provisions not replacing the law.  

The said proposal seeks to strengthen safeguards for overseas Filipino workers. Relevant provisions mandates the POEA to deploy workers “only to countries where the Philippines has concluded bilateral labor agreement or arrangements” provided they guarantee the protection of Filipino migrant workers’ rights and comply with international laws and standards.


Philippine House of Congress

I’ve been writing and very vocal with regards to the welfare of our ordinary OFWs particularly our Filipina Household helpers. Their abusive conditions and absence of the concrete protection of their basic human rights in the host countries they’re in is highly at risk. And in spite of the new policy that governs the deployment of FDH, we still have to deal with primarily on how to prevent violation of our rights in a foreign country where laws and policies were  different from ours.

Bilateral Labor Agreements between sending and receiving countries actually were there for many years now. But it cannot be fully implemented due to the fact that some countries don’t recognize or comply international laws and standards pertains to migrant workers rights. Our Government even admitted that R.A. 8042 that provides selective deployment have difficulties to implement the policy since the demand was for unskilled workers.

To give POEA an iron hand by the mandate of a concrete new law could probably ease our burdens when it comes to abuses and maltreatment of our ordinary OFWs;  and their human dignity be fully protected. 

On the other hand, the committee should give ample time to deliberate and study the proposed salient provision “reversing  the long-standing but unimplemented policy to phase out the POEA and allow private labor recruiters to regulate themselves”. Perhaps my friend  Jun Aguilar  could enlighten us on this proposed provision. – BongA

Sacrificial Lamb

Sacrificial Lamb

Sacrificial Lamb

In the Overseas Filipino community, many dubbed him as a “sacrificial lamb” for the 8 million Filipinos overseas when he decided to file his candidacy in the Philippine senatorial race. I am referring to Engr. Theodore Bradford Macabulos Aquino, “Ka Ted” to his Filipino colleagues in San Francisco. He is a Civil Engineer and incumbent President of UP Alumni America.

Ted Aquino

Ted Aquino

Giving the chance to run under the existing Dual Citizenship Law, Ka Ted said, “He wanted to test the principles of the Dual Citizenship Law”.

However, others commented that his chances of winning is extremely slim considering the fact that Philippine Politics is predominantly occupied by the “trapos” and “the rich”. The lack of political machinery in the grassroots level for a “political babe” like Ka Ted could eventually contribute for his electoral defeat.

Even the so-called “jologs” prefer to vote those they considered “a candidate for the masses” and the “bakya crowd” favor media and showbiz personalities.  Not to mention that Ka Ted is faceless at home, he could also be declared a nuisance candidate on the basis of not having the capacity to campaign nationwide.

Though some quarters said if we would not do it today, WHEN? Our 8 million Overseas Filipinos need to be represented in our Government. A servant among the overseas Filipinos that may craft up policies and laws responsive to the needs of our Overseas Filipino Workers.

Former U.P. Professor Ceasar Torres now based in U.S., in his reply to my inquiry posted at PPP e-group asking “if Ka Ted truly represents the Global Filipinos”, he said, “Ted Aquino represents “all” of us, not just Mr. Victor Barrios and Lito Gutierrez of “Global Filipinos” (a non political group based in U.S.). He added that “When Ted talks about Global Filipinos, that means all of us, in the Middle East, not just in America, including the estimated 200,000 TNT or undocumented aliens“. 

My question is - Does the estimated 500,000 OAV registrants and their dependents at home, the “jologs” and the “bakya crowd” are aware that a “lamb” belong to 8 Million Overseas Filipinos that helps Philippine economy afloat is here willing to serve the country and its people?

If we believe that there is a need of a “sacrificial lamb” within our midst to achieve our long awaited dream for political empowerment - then the answer lies within us. Otherwise we may end up the same fate and we cannot afford anymore failures this time. If we loss in this battle therefore, it is about time that an overseas Filipino political party should emerge, stand and act in the coming years. Hoping that when time comes it would be a triumph for all of us.  - BongA

Take Note (Running as Independent)

Magandang Gabi Bayan

Magandang Gabi Bayan

Running as independent risks almost certain defeat in the history of independent  candidates for lack of a grassroots organization. Even the venerable Lorenzo Tanada, with his tiny Citizens’ Party, had to be a guest candidate of a major political party to be reelected twice as senator. - Jose “Pepe” Abueva

What the candidate needs to do is to found and lead a new political party, drawing on the talents and enthusiasm of the Overseas Filipino community.  Only in this way the sacrifices can be shared and the front broadened.

Even when my senatorial candidacy was being trumpeted in 2003, some of my friends in the homeland said that I should have done my homework and did some projects to show the voters proof of what my campaign platform talked about. -  Roberto “Bobby” Reyes

To Bobby Reyes: We are not forgetting that you were going to run for the Senate if our favorite Senator, Nene Pimentel, ran for the Presidency. Well, it did not happen. And now here is Ted Aquino who has done what you were thinking of doing. - Prof. Cesar Torres ( U.P. Professor now in U.S.)

While we would like to participate in governance, the Partido Pangdaigdigang Pilipino (PPP) has not yet taken off the ground. We were not actually eyeing it for the coming elections but rather beyond 2007. We would like to have it as a work in progress until it is ripe to stand and act. -  Jun S. Aguilar (The Filipino Migrant Workers Group) 

Faulty Wiring?

This is not about OFWs but I just found it very interesting to read.

House Fire

House Fire

We are all powered by Electrical systems; I can’t even post entries in this blog without switching the power ON first of my computer. But in our everyday lives, like me, whose electrical system is not part of our job, it seems that we don’t bother knowing how important electrical power was.

The recent tragedy (fire) that engulfed the house of famous actress and environmentalists Chen Chen Gutierrez; was primarily suspected as a result of “faulty wiring”.

However, according to the author of “The Competency Development of the Electrical Engineer” said “There is no such thing as faulty electrical wiring; only abuse or misuse of electricity”.

It is not because the author of “FAULTY ELECTRICAL WIRINGS – A CLOSER LOOK” is my elder brother but I would recommend my readers to give a glance in this article. Guaranteed  it’s read-worthy.