OFW Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia Released, Thankful for Embassy’s Relentless Work

OFW Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia Released, Thankful for Embassy’s Relentless Work

18 April 2011- The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) earlier sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia was granted pardon and freed Sunday. His repatriation to the Philippines has been arranged by the Embassy and he is due to arrive in Manila shortly.

The Embassy is not releasing his name, in deference to the request of the OFW’s family for privacy.

The OFW was earlier sentenced to death by beheading in November 2009 by a tribunal of three judges for involvement in smuggling the illegal drug shabu into Saudi Arabia.

In February 2008, he was apprehended by Saudi law enforcement agents after receiving a postal package with shabu hidden inside. The smuggling and selling of illegal drugs in the country is a crime punishable by the death penalty

Following his arrest, the Embassy exerted utmost efforts in ensuring that his legal rights were respected during the investigation process and in trial.

Through the Embassy’s efforts, an appeal was filed on the original decision. Based on the appeal prepared by the Embassy with the assistance of counsel, two members of the tribunal reduced the earlier penalty from death penalty to 15 years imprisonment, 1500 lashes and a karama (fine) of Saudi Riyals 100,000.

Subsequently, the Embassy included the OFW’s name in the list submitted to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud for the grant of Royal Clemency. The Embassy’s efforts was favorably acted upon, and he was ordered released after serving a total of three years in detention.

Upon release, he tearfully thanked the Embassy for its relentless efforts at working for his release from prison.

He expressed gratitude to Charge d’Affaires (CDA) Ezzedin H. Tago for the Embassy’s tireless efforts on his case. Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, legal officer Jerome Friaz and interpreter Jamel Haris worked relentlessly for his release. The OFW vowed to pursue a different course in his life as a freed man with his family in the Philippines.

“His release is testament to the hard work and tireless dedication of the men and women of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh in safeguarding the welfare of every Filipino in Saudi Arabia,” CDA Tago said.

The OFW is the third Filipino sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia whose release was successfully secured by the Embassy. Earlier, Michael Roque was released from prison in February 2011, while Nonito Abono was released in November 2010. END

Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule

Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule

Countries With Severe Anti Drug Laws: In Indonesia you’d be looking at 10 to 15 years for drug possession, while in other places like Malaysia and Singapore it can range up to 50 years. Serious drugs charges in Tunisia can land you in jail for up to 20 years.

Turkey’s jails are notorious, and a drugs conviction could mean you’d be seeing the inside of one for up to 20 years. Smoke cannabis in India and you could lose 10 years of your life behind bars. If you’re caught smuggling drugs in Venezuela, it’s at least 10 years, while Morocco has a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine for possession. Perhaps surprisingly, Jamaica is tough on drugs possession, with mandatory jail terms and heavy fines even for possessing small quantities of drugs.

Even Europe isn’t all liberal in its attitude to drugs. Not only does Greece have life in prison as a deterrent, but Italy can put you away for up to 20 years, and Spain is only slightly less lenient – a maximum of 12 years.

If you’re a migrant workers overseas and arrested on drugs charges, you have the right to see the Embassy or Consulate – in fact, the local police are obliged to contact the Consulate or Embassy. Be aware, however, that they can’t do much. They can’t get you out of jail, or even see that you obtain better living conditions.

The solution, of course, is to not use or carry drugs abroad. Don’t be tempted to take them in your luggage for money or let yourself be tricked into it.
Parts of the Middle East, especially the Gulf States, treat drug possession harshly. In Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, even possession of miniscule amounts of marijuana – too small to be seen – can result in several years in prison.
Saudi Arabia, where those convicted of drug trafficking can end up beheaded in public. Pushers and Users will be jailed for an unknown number of years prior to trial. 
 Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule!
An Anti-DRUG Courier Campaign of OFW Congress-Riyadh

Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislation?

Babalik AKO Bayan Ko!

A few months ago, I featured an excerpt of a blog entry from a former OFW who was known in the OFW Community in Riyadh. In fact we met each other in 2003 during the 1st OFW Conference on Reintegration in KSA initiated by then Labor Attaché Jainal Rasul, Jr.  Like me, he was one of the resource speakers in that conference but we haven’t got the chance to be introduced with each other.

That particular blog entry titled “Dream Big Dreams – a Gadfly’s Wish Listcaught to my attention.  It is a dream for a creation of a specific body tasked with OFW economic reintegration.  And this could only be realized through a legislation to be enacted as a law by the Philippine Congress.  

The same blog entry that inspired OFW Congress Executive Council members to pass a resolution addressed to Pnoy and VP Binay, to quote as follows:     

**“WHEREAS, some of our returning OFWs failed in their business endeavors for lack of  entrepreneurial preparation, short of knowledge in savings mobilizations and unguided investment schemes resulting into failures and bankruptcy. In view of this, we strongly believed that a separate agency or institution is necessary to handle the complex issue of OFW Economic Reintegration. In line with the Presidents’ commitment for transformational leadership and the governments’ agenda that working abroad would not be anymore a necessity for Filipinos; WE therefore urge the President to facilitate the creation of a special body whose task is to craft up policies and comprehensive approach as well as concrete mechanisms for OFW Reintegration Program.**

Three days ago Romie Cahucom in his new blog entry “Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislationexplains the necessity why our Congress should pass a comprehensive OFW reintegration legislation as early as possible. What was happening in Middle East and the natural calamity that hit Japan means displacement and suffering  for our modern day heroes.  Therefore, the government must be economically prepared for the eventual return of OFWs.

Click here>>> to read more “Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislation.

Binay to set up foundation for the needs of distressed OFWs

Riyadh, KSA: Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay arrived and tired from Qatar  fulfills his promise to met Filipino Community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last Friday, April 1, 2011 at Liwasang Bonifacio ground of the Philippine Embassy,  to tackle OFW issues and concerns. But prior to that, Binay visited first the Bahay Kalinga (Filipino Workers Resource Center) to see for himself the real situation of the Filipina distressed workers housed in the mentioned shelter.

Philippine Delegation (seated): Alexander Aguilar of HDMF, former Agusan Del Sur Congressman Rodolfo "Ompong" Plaza, VP Jojo Binay & CDA Ezz Tago.

He vowed to create a foundation that could supplement to the needs of the distressed OFWs in emergency situation such as availability of  funds in securing tickets for immediate repatriation of those OFWs who have already the clearance to leave Saudi Arabia.

During the open forum, he was asked about why  there’s been such a long delay in making the appointment of a new Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom, Binay said “an appointment had already been made but  he can’t reveal it at the moment who the appointee was.” But it was noticed that the Vice President addressed Philippine Embassy Charge D’ Affaires Ezzedin Tago,  as “Ambassador”.  

Binay who is also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Affairs, said that a technical committee in Manila was formed to review the issue of the host country’s temporary ban on deployment of Filipina Household Service Workers. The OFW Congress-Riyadh on the other hand presented to Vice President Binay a letter supporting the temporary ban and perhaps stops sending FHSW in the host country.

FilCom leaders Engr. Eli Mua, Gob Dimalotang, Alex Bello, Jhune Barbadillo

The letter expressed deep concern of our FHSW on their welfare and safety. There are more countless stories that can be shared by our “kababayans” which to them can no longer be erased and will just remain a traumatic experience that will hound them in the remaining years of their lives. The risks  is too much for us to take, although, we are aware that sending these domestic helpers here in the kingdom would somehow decrease the rate  of unemployment in the Philippines and will bring additional dollar remittances to the country  however, we should also try to weigh our concerns.” The letter also challenges the Philippine government and Filipino Community leaders in the kingdom, asking “which is bigger in scope and responsibility? The dollar remittances or their welfare and safety.”  The letter also includes,  expediting the status of those OFWs in Death Rows and working for a possible commutation of their death sentences.

Aside from labor matters, the Vice President is expecting to discuss trade and investment with officials of the Saudi government. The Philippine delegation led by Binay are former Senator Kit Tatad, former Philippine Congress representatives, Apolinario “Jun” Lozada of Negros Occidental and Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza of Agusan Del Sur, Jesus Varela and Alexander Aguilar of Home Development Mutual Fund, former Governor Ben Loong of Sulu, and Binay’s son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay –end-

Wish Him Well!

I wish Him Well

As of today, the Philippine government or PNoy himself has not yet decided who among the list of  ambassadorial nominees will be given the portfolio to head the Philippine mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

As a blogger and an active member of the Filipino Community in the Kingdom I am concern about who would be our new Ambassador in the Kingdom and Yemen. We all knew that Yemen is now lurches into political unrest and violence day by day.  Yemen is a border away from Saudi Arabia.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about some points to consider that will be taken in revisiting the purpose of the mission in assessing the expertise, experiences, knowledge, education, and commitments  of the nominees based on the nominees career tracks. Yes of course, the Executive branch especially the President has the prerogative to appoint who among he believe capable of the job, it may be a party mate, a classmate,  a best friend, a long lost friend, a relative, a cousin outside from the rank of foreign service and perhaps one of his sisters. But surely the President have a good decision on who will be the next caretaker of our OFWs in the Kingdom based on his sound judgment by appointing a former Ambassador as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is now in the hands of the Legislative Branch to confirm the appointment of DFA Secretary Alberto Del Rosario.

Congen Ezz Tago with Royal Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In the absence of a permanent  COM – Chief of Mission in the Kingdom, Consul General Ezzedin Tago was assigned as Charge D’ Affaires of the Philippine Embassy not too long after the former Philippine Ambassador Antonio Villamor ended his tour of duty. 

Charge d’ Affaires Ezzedin H. Tago assumed as caretaker of our Philippine Embassy with primary difficult task, the issue of runaways and the usual OFW issues and concerns at work, like contract substitution, maltreatment and abuse. In his tenure as Consul General in Jeddah and Charge D’ Affaires of our Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, he is in-charge in the implementation for the repatriation of our Filipino overstayers in the Kingdom granted by the royal pardon issued by His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud of September last year. Not to mention his remarkable work in repatriating hundreds of absconders in Jeddah, yet he was still criticized by some quarters with regards on how he handled the repatriation of absconders and runaways in the western region. Consul General Ezzedin Tago explained that the Consulate is just following the host country’s Saudi Immigration Laws which has tedious deportation process.

It is a public knowledge that the current Philippine Embassy Charge D’ Affaires Ezzedin Tago would likely return and back to his job as Philippine Consul General in Jeddah when a permanent Ambassador is appointed. At this early stage, it is just proper to thank him for his service and I wish him well.

A new Chief of Mission

Well, the Philippine government has recognized the importance of the Overseas Filipino Workers in Saudi Arabia not only because we are 1.5 million in this country, but first and foremost the OFWs in this oil rich region are the secondlargest source of remittances in our country. And because of the OFW issues and concerns and our remittances, the Government and the Philippine mission itself continue to overlook the other reason why there are Philippine Embassies in every country in the world. Sad to say, that they fail to notice the other areas of cooperation, the major task our Philippine mission should undertake that will benefit both countries in the field of  commerce, agriculture, engineering, science and technology, and even cultural exchange. All of the mentioned areas which we can achieve through collaborative means between the two countries are covered by the umbrella Memorandum of Agreement on Economic,  Trade, Investment and Technical Cooperation signed in 1994 by two countries represented by then DFA Secretary Roberto R. Romulo and His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs.  But mainly, the Philippine government focuses only in the areas of manpower supply in exchange for dollar remittances. Of course, yes, both government and Filipino migrant workers as well, are grateful for that, but there must be more means of cooperation by which our relationship with other countries may anchor upon.

Philippine Consul General Ezzedin Tago with Filipino Community Leaders in Yemen discussing OFW contingengy plans.

We need someone that could lead the mission with a diplomatic expertise in Foreign Service that could promote friendly relations between the two nations as well as promoting our very own government foreign policies. A new Philippine Ambassador that can turn Saudi-PH relations into economically, politically,  and socio-culturally productive partnership.  A man with cultural and political understanding, a true liaison that can nurture the host country’s culture and political concerns in order to provide our own government with accurate assessments of any situations. And more importantly, a man with honor, a leader who is always there in time of needs and who is ultimately responsible for providing protection to OFWs in this country.

The current Philippine Consul General in Jeddah and presently designated as Charge D’ Affaires of the Philippine Embassy in the person of Ezzedin Tago is a career foreign service officer and just recently confirmed by the Commission on Appointments  to the rank of Career Minister.  He is a son of a former career diplomat from Lanao del Sur.  Consul General Ezzedin H. Tago assumed office in Jeddah on 22 December 2007 and has been with the Department of Foreign Affairs since 1995 holding office as Acting Director with the Office of Middle East and African Affairs (1996-1999).  

In 1988, he finished his secondary degree from the Philippine School in Jeddah  (formerly The International Philippine School in Jeddah). In September 1994, he graduated Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Davis.  

DFA Secretary Alberto Del Rosario (center) during the meeting with FilCom in Yemen. (In the photo former Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia & Yemen, now DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis and Philippine Embassy CDA Ezz Tago.

In 1999, he was assigned in Riyadh as Vice Consul and Third Secretary that ended in 2003. He was then transferred to Jakarta, Indonesia as Consul and Second Secretary up to 2005.  He was also detailed to Baghdad, Iraq for 10 months in 2004-2005. He was posted back in Home Office, as Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs for Special Concerns from 2005 to 2007. Consul General Ezzedin Tago speaks Arabic fluently.  

He is a recipient of the following awards/citations:  2007- The Order of Lakandula, Rank of Officer and, The Gawad Mabini, Rank of Commander.  Presidential Citation from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo awarded on 19 June 2005 for role in the cases of two Filipino hostages in Iraq, Messrs. Angelo Dela Cruz and Robert Tarongoy. In December 2006, he received a Presidential Citation also from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for assisting in the repatriation of Filipinos in Lebanon during the Israel-Hezbollah Crisis in July 2006.

Perhaps, Consul General and Minister Counselor, Philippine Embassy Charge  D’  Affaires Ezzedin Tago could be the right man for the job as  Chief of the Philippine Mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. – end (BongA)

WE Pray..

Our Prayer

There are rumors circulating around the Filipino community about the protest in the coming days. There will be or not, WE, Filipinos should be aware of our status in the Kingdom. As a visitor in this oil rich country, we must be careful of what we are doing in our daily lives, like roaming around the city, staying late at night in the streets and having fun in groups around malls and restaurants and other places where the local authorities might sense it as a gathering with purpose.

What we need to do is to pray that what is going on now in Libya will never be happen in this country. We loved this country like our home, a country that provides us job and golden opportunities. Though some of us are not lucky enough, but majority of us Filipinos in Saudi Arabia have managed to become successful in their lives  dahil sa “Katas ng Saudi”.  Many Filipinos consider that working in Saudi Arabia is a privileged.

Although most Saudis I mingled concur that “it is highly unlikely to happen in this country” where the government is very supportive to its people.  Like any other countries in the world, it is natural for the people to air their grievances and needed some reforms.  But it should be done in a proper forum.

To fellow Filipinos, Muslims and Christians, let us join our hands in prayer  that  if such action will takes place, we pray   that cooler heads will prevail  and the reprehensible action of the few will not result in equally reprehensible retaliatory acts of violence, in GOD Almighty, WE PRAY. Amen!

OFWC newly elected Execon affirms oath of office

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: The OFW Congress-Riyadh on its 12th years of existence as an advocacy group comprised of various Filipino Community organizations held its Induction Rites at Philippine Embassy in Riyadh last 24 of February 2011.

There was a sense of renewed vigor among the newly elected and appointed officers in their continuing quest advocating national policy and program to address pressing issues and concerns of OFWs in general.

OFW Congress-Riyadh was primarily formed to help ensure that the country’s new heroes dubbed by the Philippine government  will be well protected on their rights while working in a foreign land. The group objectives in particular is to  spearhead the drafting, lobbying, passage of motions, measures, resolutions and position papers on vital issues affecting the rights, welfare and economic well being of the OFW’s.

L-R: Philippine Embassy Consul General Ezz Tago, Alex Veloso Bello (partly hidden), Faisal Sarque, Ronie Huertas, Abdul Gafhar Dimalotang, Resty Sibug (back, partly hidden), Allan Macabangkit, Cesar Gervacio (back, partly hidden), Oscar Domingo, Dante Pangcoga, Boggs Bolor (back , partly hidden), Bioux Manilum, Bong Amora (back, hidden), Nilda Ballesteros, Faizal Mercurio (back, partly hidden), Alona Dela Cruz, Robert Ramos (back), Habib Batua.

The 2011-2013 OFWC 21 Executive Council members  affirmed their commitment to their office as they took their oath administered by Philippine Embassy Charge D’ Affaires, Minister Counselor and Consul General Ezzedin H. Tago. 

Re-elected OFWC President Alex Veloso Bello expressed his heartfelt and humble gratitude to every participating member organization on their pledged to their continued belief on the implementation of the objectives and programs of the group.  He prods the Executive Council member’s enthusiasm in supporting his leadership as he placed and expounded to the members during his brief address, “without your assistance, cooperation and group effort everything would be in vain.”

For the 2011-2013  EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEMBERS: President: Alex Veloso Bello, Executive Vice-President: Engr. Faisal Sarque of Filipino Retirees OFW Movement: VP – Strategic Planning & Good Governance, Abdul Ghafar Dimalotang (Philippine Muslim Overseas Workers Movement): VP – Economic Affairs, Engr. Allan Macabangkit (Shakba International Association): VP – Welfare, Oscar Domingo (Order of the Knights of Rizal): VP – Political Affairs, Dante Pangcoga (Integrated Mindanao Economic Forum): Secretary General, Manuel Amora (Kalipunang Kaakabay ng Mangagawang Pilipino sa Saudi Arabia): Comptroller General, Engr. Bioux Manilum (BISAYA). 

The Director General’s are the following:  Legal Affairs, Engr. Robert Ramos (Samahan ng Mangagawang Pilipino-SAMAFIL): Health, Dr. Lito Astillero (order of the Knights of Rizal): Education, Ronnie Huertas: Elite International School: Emergency Assistance, Mario Ben (KGS-Migrante), Community Relations, Engr. Resty Sibug (Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers-PSME): External Relations, Cesar Gervacio (Royal Guardians International): Women, Ma. Nilda Ballesteros and Alona Dela Cruz (Philippine Nurses Association): Islamic Affairs, Habib Batua (Federation of Maranao Associations in Saudi): Government Relations, Engr. Boggs Bolor (Guardians-GMGI): Sports, Faizal Mercurio (Black Python Martial Arts Inc.): Entertainment & Social Affairs, Celso M. Ditalo (CSM.Com Cooperative): Culture and Arts, Ruperto Civil (Artist League for Culture & Arts) and Youth, Jim Rosacena (Safari).  

L-R cont... Habib Batua, Dr. Lito Astillero (back, partly hidden) and Mario Ben. (Not in photo or hidden, Rupert Civil, Celso Ditalo & Jim Rosacena)

Consul General Ezzedin Tago, in his short remarks expressed his gratitude to OFWC in their continued commitment to serve the OFWs and very optimistic that OFWC and the Embassy can work together as partner in pursuing their plans and programs for the betterment of OFWs in general at site and at home.

Philippine Embassy Charge D’ Affaires, Minister Counselor and Consul General Ezzedin H. Tago administered the OFWC oath of office.

OFWC during the induction ceremony presented to Consul General Ezzedin Tago the group resolution OFWC011-001 Series of 2011 dated February 24, 2011 addressed to His Excellency Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, III, President of the Republic of the Philippines and Vice President and Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFW) Concerns Jejomar C. Binay.

The nine-point recommendations for President Benigno Aquino’s considerations includes the following; a) appointment of two personalities coming from the OFW rank in Saudi Arabia to sit in the POEA and OWWA Board respectively, 2) creation of a pension scheme for OFWs, 3) the government to acquire a more sophisticated device or equipment to detect drug couriers from using our country’s airports as gateway for drug traffickers, 4) to subsidize the operation of  an “OFW Community Schools” in Saudi Arabia 5) to re-examine the mandate and the role of Philippine agencies whose authority includes: acceptance and approval of Job Orders from countries where there are rampant contract substitution, maltreatment and abuse, 6) to support the pending bills in Congress for the creation of a medical facility or OFW Hospital named “Bagong Bayani Medical Center”, 7 ) to mitigate the negative impact of the continuing dollar decline on OFW remittances, 8 ) to facilitate the creation of a special body whose task is to craft up policies and comprehensive approach as well as concrete mechanisms for OFW Reintegration Program, and 9) for the President to act within his power to facilitate the release of OFWs still locked up in their cells despite of having been completed the jail terms imposed by the Saudi authorities. – End – (by MAA) 

Click here to read the full text of the OFWC 9 Point Recommendation>>>>>>>

Let’s unite for the sake of those OFWs in Libya

Rescue Effort

Expats in Libya (Evacuees)

What I’ve heard is that there will be an onward flights arranged by our Phil. government for those OFWs crossing the Libyan border to Egypt or Tunisia, as well as those arriving by boat in Malta or Crete. I am not really sure that this arrangement are being implemented at this very moment but for sure our government will do the best what they can do for the safety of those OFWs affected by the worsening situation in Libya. Let’s us hope and pray that those government agencies given the task on this purpose will exert more effort para naman maibsan ang worries ng ating mga kababayan doon at sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay na naghihintay sa Pilipinas. Though, practically, we should admit that during wars and this kind of events, we cannot do the rescue effort in just a blink of an eye, our prayers are needed than blaming each other’s shortcomings.

WE, Filipinos especially those people in the world of dirty politics-pinoy style, “matagal pa po ang eleksyon”, you should stop throwing each others mud and instead pray hard at kumilos kung may magagawa para sa kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan sa Libya.

At sa mga media or pahayagan na ang isinusulat ay puro kapalpakan ng gobyerno,  akala nyo magaling kayong Pilipino, tingnan nyo muna ang inyong sarili kung nakapasa ba kayo sa tinatawag na journalism code of ethics and standardsWala ba kayong nakikitang magandang nagawa ang gobyerno?  Sa mga oposisyon, di ko kayo masisisi dahil kung hindi kayo mag papapel na oposisyon, or leftist, sigurado wala na kayo sa ere. At least man lang sana this time, let’s unite for the sake of those OFWs that needs our help.

VP Binay visit to KSA

Vice President Binay’s  visit to the Kingdom was postponed due to the request of the host government at hindi po kapalpakan ng ating Embahada at Department of Foreign Affairs, gaya ng sinasabi ng mga kritiko ng gobyerno.

Philippine VP & Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns Jojo Binay with Esteban Conejos, Office of Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs-DFA

As the 2nd highest official of the land, the Kingdom wants that VP Binay’s visit will be in an official capacity with highest respect of acceptance from  His Highness King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. VP Binay wants his entourage to sidetrip Saudi Arabia via Kuwait.  Vice President Jojo Binay was invited by His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of  Kuwait to witness its founding day celebration.

Here in Saudi Arabia, even an Ambassador who wants to visit a government facility needs an approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an standard operating procedure where the head of mission is a special and very important person. He will be fully guarded and honored.  Ang Bise Presidente pa kaya ng bansang Pilipinas?  The number two Philippine highest official in the land who represents  “1.5 million OFWs in the Kingdom.”  Ganyan ka-importante ng  Hari ng Saudi Arabia ang isang Head of State.

In an Official Visit to a State Capital, like Riyadh,  the Vice-President should be received by the Governor, a Minister, and at least a high ranking police officer. The Vice-President, will be given a special place to stay and a transport to the extent if necessary irrespective of the nature of the visit. If the Vice-President is making a transit halt either at the Kingdom’s Capital or any other place in the Kingdom, one executive and one police officer may be present to render such assistance as may be necessary. If the Vice President wants to visit a person or friend in private, a government executive and one police officer should be present on arrival and departure. In all of these secenarios, the Vice President or a head of state is fully guarded by crack police or military units.

As we all knew that the King of Saudi Arabia had just arrived from a medical trip, surely, the King is too busy during these days and of course  he wants to make sure that he will receive the second highest official of the Republic of the Philippines by himself.

Kaya mga borg, hindi po kapalpakan ng Embahada at ng DFA sa atin ang hindi pagtuloy ni Vice President Binay sa Riyadh, kundi dahil sa request ng host government. Kaya mga oposisiyon sa Kongreso tumahimik na kayo at magkapit-bisig, magtulongan para sa katahimikan at kaunlaran ng bansa. Pero at least nakikita namin kung sino talaga kayo!!!

Siyanga pala bago kayo magdakdak at magkunwaring pro-OFWs sa inyong mga adhikain bilang mambabatas, tumulong muna kayo at magpakitang gilas at personal mismo na tutulong –  para naman at least kaming mga OFWs bibilib po sa inyo. Pero kung sa kongreso lang kayo magdakdak at dakdak dito dakdak doon ang mga galamay ninyo para lang mabandera ang pangalan sa diyaryo at media – “HINDI PO GAGO ANG ISANG ORDINARYONG OFW.”

Edward Everet Hale says “Look up and not down. Look forward and not back. Look out and not in, and lend a hand.” (End) BongA

Filipino Community leaders in KSA seeking audience with Philippine Vice President Jojo Binay

RIYADH – The official website of  Vice President and Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFW) Concerns Jejomar C. Binay announced that VP Binay will leave Friday to look into the situation of OFWs in the Middle East as per instruction from President Benigno Aquino III.

The Vice President is expected to arrive Riyadh on the 28th of February 2011. He will be meeting with government high ranking officials in Saudi Arabia from Kuwait and also expected to visit United Arab Emirates to hold labor bilateral discussions aiming to improve the conditions of Filipino workers in these countries.

He will also be closely monitoring the security situation of OFWs in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen in light of protest actions taking place in those countries. According to the Vice President’s website there are around 31,000 Filipinos in Bahrain, 26,000 in Libya and 1,400 are in Yemen as of June 2010.

“We are working very closely with DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] and our embassies to ensure that all preparation and contingency measures are smoothly implemented,” Binay said.

Binay will visit OFWs in welfare centers and job sites to listen their concerns.

Filipino Community leaders from  KASAPI Congress in Jeddah is expected to come to Riyadh and together with the OFW Congress-Riyadh will seek an audience with the Vice President to discuss  number of issues pertaining to those OFWs incarcerated in various jails in the Kingdom and in the death row in particular. And so with the refusal of the Saudi government to implement the new requirement on contract demanded by the Philippines. One of the conditions allows it to obtain private information on the family and social situation of Saudi citizens. The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought its revision.

Also, the OFW Congress in Riyadh during their induction rites to be held 24 February 2011 at Philippine Embassy will submit a resolution addressed to H.E. President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and Vice President and Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFW) Concerns Jejomar C. Binay.

The group demands include the appointment of two (2) personalities or OFWs coming from the rank of OFWs in Middle East particularly in Saudi Arabia to the two key government agencies that oversees the plight of the Filipino Migrant Workers, the POEA and OWWA governing boards respectively.  And the President to support pending bills in Congress for the creation of a medical facility or OFW Hospital named “Bagong Bayani Medical Center”, recognizing the economic contribution of OFWs in the country dubbed as the new heroes of the Republic.

As courtesy rules, the resolution will be formally presented to Philippine Embassy Charge D’ Affaires, Hon. Minister Counselor, Consul General  Ezzedin Tago who at the same time will grace the occasion.

While in Kuwait, the Vice President will also be representing President Aquino during the celebration of Kuwait’s 50th National Day,  20th Liberation anniversary and five years of the rule of the Emir of Kuwait, Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah. – (BongA)

To our flag carrier, our sad farewell…

The Philippine Airlines country manager in Riyadh, Mr. Reynaldo Garcia announced today that the country’s flag carrier will be suspending its flight operation between Manila and Riyadh effective 01 April 2011 due to commercial issues.

Philippine Airlines Advisory – 007  dated today 8th February 2011 said that the  PAL management convey with extreme regret about the decision.  Dispositive portion of the mentioned advisory says, “nonetheless, rest assured that this did not come without due consideration of the painful effect it will have on our customers, generous business partners and wonderful friends in the industry”.

To our flag carrier, our sad farewell…

PAL first flew to Riyadh on March 1, 1987 and it was recalled that PAL has reduced its presence in ceasing flight to Dubai and Jeddah in 1998, then Dammam in 2001 and stopped  its flight operation to Riyadh on March 2006.  

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Congress-Riyadh, the OFW Congress-Eastern Region, Kasapi Congress-Western Region and other community groups were among the prime movers requesting the then GMA administration to help resume its flight back to the Kingdom.

In response to the clamor of more than two million Filipino Overseas Worker (OFW)communities in the Middle East, the flag carrier resumes back its service to Riyadh on  March 28 of last year, after four years of absence, but unfortunately for a mere year of  operation it dropped its flight  to Riyadh – again for commercial reason.

To our flag carrier, our sad farewell

DOLE Reform agenda for OFW sector

DOLE Agenda 2010-2016

The implementation of R. A. 10022 is a challenge that puts the DOLE at an even bigger forefront in pursuit of the goal of  President Benigno S. Aquino III  to reinvigorate labor and employment in the country and strengthen workers welfare and protection  both in the country and Filipino contract workers overseas.

According to DOLE’s Report on President agenda’s on Labor and Employment 2010-2016,  the department is crafting policies and reforms to respond to the current labor and employment situation. These reforms are structured in four key areas; 1) employment facilitation 2) workers welfare and protection, 3) labor relations 4) governance.

Overseas Filipinos welfare and protection reforms falls on Agenda 9 to 12 of the report such as;  review the continued deployment of workers to countries, which are high-and medium-risk areas, and the continued deployment of workers in high-risk occupations. Policy reform in agenda # 9 focuses on reducing the deployment of low-skilled workers in countries where work prone to abuse and exploitation.

Agenda # 9  can only be realized if the Government will once and for all  impose a ban in the deployment of Filipina Household Service Workers to countries where there are proven and ducumented rampant maltreatment, sexual harassment and abused.   

Reform Agenda 10 focal points are employment opportunities and social protection. Areas of reforms are the creation of an efficient “one-stop” for processing applications for overseas work and seeking redress for grievances such as; the establishment of OWWA-NRCO Reintegration Centers or PESO and the creation of develop one-stop centers that can be used to help Filipinos find jobs in both the domestic and international scene.

On Agenda # 10, OWWA-NCRO or PESO are usually found in the city like Capitol building and offices located in provincial capitol or regions,  PESO (Public Employment Service Offices)  should also be visible or can be found in all Local Government Units in every municipality. 

OFW grievances can be addressed by intensifying  grievance mechanisms for OFWs in which this could be responded by  24/7 hotlines in partnership with telecommunication companies and the presence of migrant workers desk in different destinations.

In KSA alone, OFWs can not feel the presence of 24/7 hotlines. Although Philippine Embassy, Consulate and Philippine Overseas Labor Office  announced the 24/7 telephone service  for those OFW in needs of emergency help and those with grievences –  WE still heard reports from OFW distressed callers that  government officers are uncaring and  unresponsive to OFW calls for help and support.  

Migrant Workers Desk?  Try at least one in Batha, Riyadh and one in Balad, Jeddah.   

Agenda 11 is to audit the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to rationalize the management of its funds, in terms of the benefits provided as well as how the funds are invested. In response to the program, the department will see to it that the board of trustees is a multi-sectoral group that will truly work towards the protection of the interests of their respective groups.  

As long as the  criterion in terms of the nominee contribution to OFW sector is only 40%, WE, OFWs are not properly represented in the POEA and OWWA governing boards. We need a PRO-OFW who can truly serve the OFWs by heart.  

Lastly, the Agenda 12 is to work with the DFA to transform Philippine embassies, consular offices and POLOs into centers of care and service for overseas workers by assigning more foreign service officers to posts where there are many OFWs and train them in the needs of the communities they serve. And to adopt a more holistic approach in ensuring the welfare and protection for OFWs.

Very simple and  in other words, “make sure that there will be OFW-centered diplomatic posts and POLO offices worldwide.”

The succeeding agendas are more on reintegration (social welfare services, investment and savings program, skills training, etc.) and the Government’s comprehensive  response in the implementation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.


Source: DOLE on President’s Agenda on Labor and Employment  

Who, Where and When?


Last week the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) announced that they are now on its way to accept nominations for representatives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to their respective governing boards.

The Screening and Selection Committee (SSC) composed of POEA and OWWA officials was created and given the task to screen and select who among the nominees will be given a hand to represent women, land-based and sea-based OFWs in the round table.


NGO’s or Non-government organizations protecting the rights and welfare of OFWs are likewise given the mandate to nominate. (Who are they???).

NGO’s should see to it that their nominees are true bloodied OFW who has the on hand knowledge of what is exactly going on site. Those who witnessed the real situation of the distressed OFWs, more particularly in the Middle East. A nominee who has  experienced  how to fight in the actual arena, a pro-OFW who can truly serve the OFW sector by heart.

The 40 % criterion in terms of the nominee contribution to OFW sector is not enough for the nominee to become a member of the board. Make it, at least 75% man lang po (passing grade).


The  criteria include at least 3 years experienced as an OFW.  What? 3 years lang? Saan  bansa galing? Sa mga maraming inabusong OFW? Katulad ng Contract substitution, maltreatment and abuse? Make it 5 years man lang. How can he protect us if he is not the right man for the job?

OWWA mentioned that the selection process includes, conducting consultation meetings with the women, land-based and sea-based sectors. Where? When? Who are these land and sea-based sectors?

From the beginning, POEA and OWWA never consulted OFWs about who will be the right men and women to the board. The right man who has our say on how our funds will be used and  the right person to have a say in where our money goes.


Well…well..well…part of SSC job is to establish a massive information campaign on the application and selection of nominees. Saan po? Sa diyaryo? Okey, sige wait nalang po kami kung sino na ang uupo. Just remember, OWWA funds are from the pockets of  OFWs. Therefore, Overseas Filipino Workers should be truly represented by legitimate OFW and must be given full rights to be heard in the round table; at least in POEA and OWWA Board man lang tsaka na sa Hall of Congress.

Dream Big Dreams – A Gadfly’s Wish List

Dream Big Dreams – A Gadfly’s Wish List
By: Romie Cahucom (former OFW in Riyadh)

Dream big dreams; only big dreams have the power to move men’s souls”, the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once said. Before the mania of the New Year season finally ends, I will hasten to add a couple of big dreams or wistful thoughts for the OFW sector.

And so, folks, bear with me for a short moment of wistful thinking. Let us dream of bigger things for this year 2011. Maybe some time this year a stroke of luck may bring us closer to the fulfillment of our desires. Or some of those in a position to act will act for us.

I only have two big dreams or wish list for the OFW sector and this concerns the ideas or line that I am most concerned about: investment literacy.

The first of this wish list is related to the last article I posted which is entitled, “A Gadfly’s Proposed OFW Resolution Calling and Urging Congress to Craft Legislation on OFW Economic Reintegration”. The dream is simply that Congress passes a law creating a specific body tasked with OFW economic reintegration. Or at least, a legislation along this line is crafted in either or both houses of Congress.

I have written about this in the last post and will elaborate on the compelling reasons and the possible structure or set up of this body in future posts. Hence, I will not dwell much about this issue in this post.

Just one last note: the body to be created by the law should be something similar to POEA and OWWA but specific to OFW economic reintegration. We leave the other aspects of reintegration (psychological, redeployment, and so forth) to DOLE. That is their line of expertise.

The second item on the wish list concerns the OFW organizations of which a myriad exists practically everywhere there is deployment – a testament to our gregariousness as a people. There are as many types as there as subsectors or interest groups: sports, social-civic, professional, regional-provincial ethnic and so forth. A small number are business and/or investment-oriented.

All these organizations, once registered with the Philippine Embassy, are officially called Accredited Community Partners or ACPs. At least, that’s what I know in the place where I used to work. Maybe other worksites have different names for the same thing.  read more>>>> 

Note: Romie Cahucom was a  former Senior Relationship Manager of a major Saudi bank, a  former long-time financial analyst and one-time Legislative Officer and  Executive Assistant of a  Senator. He finished Business Management from the University of the Philippines. He is at present engaged in financial consulting work.