Over 100 Filipino groups to hold key poll on Friday


09/11/2013, QATAR:  More   than 100 Filipino groups recognised by the Philippine embassy in Doha   are expected to hold an election of officers of a newly-formed umbrella   organisation on September 13 (Friday).

In a circular e-mailed to  Gulf  Times recently, the embassy disclosed that United Filipino   Organisations in Qatar (UFOQ) will organise and spearhead major   activities for the Filipino community. It will plan and execute   programmes for the welfare of expatriates, including the annual   Philippine Independence Day celebration. It will also represent the   Filipino community at various official gatherings and events in the   country.

qrVice-consul Melvin Almonguera told Gulf Times that chairman,   secretary and treasurer made up the three elective positions for UFOQ.   The election will start at 2pm at the new chancery in the Jelaiah  area.

He  added that representatives who will attend the elections  are the only  persons eligible to be nominated and elected. Embassy  officials will  serve as the Commission on Elections.

Leaders of  various professional  organisations (such as accountant, architect, and  engineer groups) are  expected to vie for the three positions. 

Those  who have announced  their candidature include Jhin Tabuzo from the  United Architects of the  Philippines and Delfin Montenegro from the  Samahang Batangueno Qatar  (SBQ). Lyndon Magsino from the Philippine  Institute of Certified Public  Accountants was also mentioned by some  expatriates.

The organisations  that will participate on Friday  include the Philippine Institute of  Civil Engineers, Minsubasta,  Philippine Association of Safety Engineers,  United Pinoy Motor and  Motorcycle Group, and Foundation for Family and  Life Qatar Migrant  Workers. Dozens of sports, medical and artists’  groups as well as fraternities have confirmed their attendance.

It  is learnt that some aspirants have started seeking the endorsement of  other organisations while some groups have openly announced their  choice  by using Facebook since last week.

In the same circular, the embassy   reminded participants that an organisation may be represented by its   president or chairman or any designated representative with a written   authority signed by their  top officials.

In the meeting, the   chairman of the Philippine Independence Day Organising Committtee 2013   will also present his financial report regarding the event held on June   14. Almonguera had earlier said that there is also a need to streamline   the accredited groups. This, he stressed, will make information   dissemination easier and faster.

The vice-consul has expressed  optimism that the move will allow them, as well as community leaders, to   monitor and get updates from each group.  – GULF TIMES

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Know your Philippine Embassy and Consulate Officials


Surfing the Philippine Embassy website is one of the tasks I include in my morning routine, of course at the same time with a cup of coffee. Been doing it for the past two years in lookout for interesting information that I might be going to share here with you in our ofwempowerment blog.

philempersFor almost a year now since I decided to rest for a while in community service and activities; reading important events, news and advisories at PhilEmb website makes me still feel connected with the community that I’ve been serving for the past 20 years as one of the community leaders in the Kingdom. The last time I was with Filipino Community event when  Mr. Ernie Perez  the newly elected Global President of United Filipinos Worldwide for Community Development (UFWCD) asked me to be the Master of Ceremony  in the last September launching of  PHLPost e-Postmo service.  UFWCD is a SEC registered organization of OFWs worldwide where I was appointed as  UFWCD-Riyadh Chapter adviser.

And during the past few months surfing the Embassy website, I noticed that many new Foreign Service Officers from Manila were posted in Saudi Arabia to fill those who ended their tour of duty.

First Secretary and Consul Mohd. Noordin Lomondot, the Head of the Consular Section left on May 29, 2013 to assume as First Secretary and Consul in the Philippine Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Consul Lomondot also served as Philippine Consul General in Jeddah from 2004 to 2007. He was rumored to replace the then Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Tony Villamor however, the post of the Chief of Mission was given to the current H.E. Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago.

Section 29-Promotions of “Philippine Foreign Service Act of 1991″ states that “Career ministers and chiefs of mission, class I and II, shall not have grade classifications within each class. Seniority shall be determined by their original dates of appointment as career ministers, as well as the dates of their original entry into the Department.”

On May 31, 2011  Ambassador Tago was confirmed by the Senate Commission on Appointments as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with concurrent jurisdiction over the Republic of Yemen. Among those confirmed  at that time by  CA was Career Minister Uriel Norman R. Garibay, now Minister and  Philippine Consul General in Jeddah.

I was one of those who lobbied for Ambassador Ezz Tago the then Minister/Consul General and Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy in Riyadh. I was also among the OFWS along with FilCom Jeddah leaders who pushed the appointment of  Career Minister  Norman Garibay who was at DFA-Manila overseeing the Office of European Affairs as Executive Director. But prior to that position, he was the First Secretary and Consul in Philippine Embassy in Canberra, Australia In 1993 when I was a neophyte 28 year old OFW in Jeddah, the good Consul General Norman Garibay was a young and blooming diplomat with a rank of Vice Consul.

Another Embassy official ended her two year tour of duty was Ms. Nilda Oliva, Social Welfare Attache from the DSWD. Attache Oliva was replaced by DSWD Social Welfare Attaché Ms. Perlita Panganiban whose prior appointment, served as Chief of Division in Institutional Development and head of Technical Division, of DSWD in Cordillera Administrative Region.

The young Minister ConGen Norman Garibay w/ FilCom Leaders in Jeddah

The young Minister ConGen Norman Garibay w/ FilCom Leaders in Jeddah

The Filipino community also welcomed Hon. Marshall Louis M. Alferez, who assume as Minister and Consul General in the Embassy. He will supervise the assistance-nationals sections (ANS) vacated by my sparkling friend Consul Atty. Roussel Reyes.  Alferez  in 1999 was posted in London as First Secretary and Consul  in charge of Political Section and eventually became Minister and Consul. He joined the Department of Foreign Service in 1996.

Just last month, former Philippine diplomat to France Hon. Winston Dean Siscon Almeda was designated Third Secretary and Vice Consul of Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, who replaced Consul Mohd. Noordin Lomondot as head of the Consular Section.From March 2008 to July 2009, Hon. Winston Almeda was Special Assistant in the Office of the Undersecretary for Special and Ocean Concerns, handling issues relating to the peace processes, maritime security and anti-terrorism.

If we have new career diplomats at Philippine Embassy, we have also newcomers, one of them is Ms. Maria Angelica Capili-Genotiva, Third Secretary and Vice Consul who joined the Department of Foreign Affairs on 7 July 2008. Ms. Genotiva passed the Foreign Service Examinations in 2007. Her first foreign assignment on 26 February 2011 at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Ms. Nora Jamil Nirza joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in November 2002. In the Home Office she was assigned at the Office of Consular Affairs. She is a graduate of BSC-Marketing (cum laude) from the University of San Jose Recoletos-Cebu.

Mr. Rene Diamante Salazar is a graduate of AB Economics from the Sacred Heart College in 1988. He joined the government service in July 2001. Initially, he was assigned at the Office of Consular Affairs as clerk and served in Lucena Regional Consular Office as Alternate Signing Officer. Prior to his assignment in Riyadh, Mr. Salazar has undergone seminars and training on Phil Passport: Production, Security Features and Fraud Detection; Course on Personality Enhancement and Public Service; Training on anti-Trafficking in Persons for Consular Officers, Protecting Domestic Workers from their Vulnerability to Forced Labor and Trafficking. He was a recipient of the Outstanding Employee award in 2006.

Less than a year ago, dynamic, energetic and respected career diplomat Mrs. Germinia V. Aguilar-Usudan assumed her duties as Consul in Jeddah. She was stationed at the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh as Second Secretary and Consul from 2002 to 2006.

Mrs. Aguilar-Usudan who is a lawyer, served as Principal Assistant at the Office of Consular Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs from June 1997 to October 1999, as Third Secretary and Vice Consul at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE (1999-2002). When she was placed back at DFA-Manila , she was the Vice Chairman of the Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat. After a two year stint in Manila she was posted back abroad as First Secretary and Consul at the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

You can surf the Philippine Embassy website at http://www.philembassy-riyadh.org/ or click this link to see the updated list of Philippine Embassy Personel http://www.philembassy-riyadh.org/index.php/about-us/embassy-personnel. For Philippine Consulate General located in Jeddah, please click the following link http://www.pcgjeddah.org/ .


The U.S. Department of State in their website has labeled every non-European country a “hardship post” for their American diplomats and that include Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

Factors considered belong to hardship post are difficult living conditions due to climate, crime, health care and pollution. Other factor like security issues, for example in a war torn Afghanistan.

Isang Taon pa...WARAY na!

Isang Taon pa…WARAY na!

Philippine government may consider Saudi Arabia a hardship post for their Filipino Foreign Service workers. Our government should compensate their hardship for taking care of our OFWs in distress, not to mention that there are estimated more or less 1 million Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia under their watch. For me, naturally they deserved 15% to 20% extra pay as “hardship differential”.  However in return, we are expecting our Foreign Service officers to serve heartily and provide adequate services to their kababayans especially to those OFWs in distress who needs their utmost care and attention.  Many of them are those in detention.  I am hoping that the new ANS Chief, the Minister and Consul General Marshall Louis M. Alferez will give his full attention to those fellow OFWs incarcerated in various jails of the Kingdom.

Well, as what I mentioned in my old blog post “from KSA to Washington DC, USA”,  after sakit sa ulo, after all the kunot noo, lagas ng buhok, and batikos from some community organization and press – to recompense all of the abovewill be a good posting and shining moments somewhere in the top 10 best cities of Europe and America. – BongAmora




Source: Philippine Embassy-Riyadh website, Philippine Consulate in Jeddah website, U.S. Department of State website

OFW Voice: Atin pong pakinggan

In  our latest post survey below titled “Survey para sa mga OFW at kanilang pamilya”, please allow me to paste below replies from  our  Ten OFW respondents on question No. 10  in particular.  

Question No. 10:

Anong mga serbisyo at benepisyo ang gusto mong makita mula sa pamahalaan ukol sa usaping pangkalusugan ng mga OFW at pamilya nito?

Respondent No. 1:  Sana mayroong OFW Hospital sa Pinas para naman tumaas ang tingin ko sa sarili ko bilang OFW. (From: Sergio)


Respondent No. 3:  Bigyan nila ng halaga ang OFW kasi malayo kami sa family at dapat lang tulungan kami ano mangyari kasi kami ay ngbabayad ng tama sa ating pamahalaan. Ang dapat pansinin nila ang bayan natin maitama muna ang bansa natin bago sila hihingi ng anumang pera sa OFW. (From: Andy) Continue reading

Astillero nomination to POEA Board blocked by Philippine Embassy in Riyadh

(Updated  6:10 PM) 15.03.2012, RIYADH— The fight over the nomination of a new Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Board of Trustee, an agency that oversees the government employment program and protects the rights of Filipino migrant workers recently backfires with Philippine Embassy in Riyadh allegedly blocking the confirmation of  Dr. Carlito Astillero in the POEA Board.

It was known from DOLE Secretary Hon. Rosalinda Baldoz herself  that the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has written to her blocking the appointment  of former OFW Dr. Astillero to the Board.

This is the first time that a true bloodied OFW from Saudi Arabia has been nominated to the post.  The Philippine Consortium on Migration and Development (PHILCOMDEV) nominated the multi awarded and MOFYA 2011 Awardee  Dr. Astillero.

Philippine Consortium on Migration and Development (PHILCOMDEV) is a network of thirty-six (36) non – government and people’s organizations, microfinance institutions, cooperatives, community based organizations, networks, and individuals who are involved on the issue of migration, human rights and development – particularly the empowerment of migrants, overseas Filipinos, their families and communities as social development actors, addressing the social costs of migration, optimizing the benefits of migration, and contributing to people-oriented Philippine development.

Dr. Astillero in a letter addressed to the newly designate Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago said please, investigate this matter and let the truth come out. Although I have no interest anymore to serve as board of Director of POEA, I want to clear my name of the report of your Embassy staff.” Dr. AStillero in his letter lamented that  “If I have not done the best thing for our people in diaspora in Iran, Libya, and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia how come that former President Corazon Aquino awarded me Bagong Bayani in 1992 and President Fidel Ramos awarded me Outstanding OCW in 1994, and the same President Ramos again awarded me with Special Presidential Banaag and Sikat Award in 1996 and this not to mention my recent awards after retirement last July 26, 2011 the Model OFW Family of the Year 2011 Award (MOFYA) last December 7, 2011 and the Outstanding Balikbayan Reputation Award (OBR ) in December 9, 2011.”

Dr. Astillero and Engr. Robert Ramos (Two Filcom Leaders in Saudi Arabia nominated for POEA Board)

It was alleged that the former hospital the good doctor was working, the Al Mishari Hospital did wrong doings to its Filipino staff and Dr. Astillero had not done anything to help resolved their cases of complaints by Filipinos working in the said hospital. “The truth of the matter, humbly speaking, and all cases of complaints involving our Filipino staff could not have been solved without my intervention.” The emotional letter says addressed to Ambassador Tago.

Community leaders in Saudi Arabia believed that  the good doctor was framed by some other quarters opposed to the nomination. The nomination was blocked simply because of intrigues and to protect the Embassy staffs, POLO and OWWA’s from further humiliation for their negligence, failure, indifference and insensitiveness  to resolve grievances of OFWs complaints with employers.

“It is sad to note that the blockade would come from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh”  says Jun Aguilar, head of Philippine based organization Filipino Migrant Workers Group.  

Aguilar, also in a letter addressed to Ambassador Tago said This could had been the first time that a legitimate OFW coming fresh and directly from the ranks be appointed in any government line agencies serving the OFW sector had it not been blocked. The staff/official of our Embassy who is blocking the appointment could have shown some courtesy by contacting the nominee and asked his side on the alleged issue of his engagement with Al-Mishari Hospital.

The Sector was already celebrating upon hearing that Dr Astillero is to be appointed in POEA Board, we thought finally a voice in that very important policy making body would be represented legitimately. I just hope a fair inquiry/investigation be conducted and a report/explanation be provided to the Sector very soon”, Jun Aguilar added. 

The Embassy side had not received any request from the DOLE Secretary for background information or comment on your appointment as POEA BOD member”, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago  said, in an email reply to Dr. Astillero.

Ambassador Tago had just arrived from Manila and back in Riyadh two days ago.

“If my comment or opinion was asked, I believe you already know what I would have saidThe embassy will verify if anyone from the other agencies in Riyadh had received such a request or sent an unsolicited comment or reservation on your appointment.” Ambassador Tago added.

OFW Congress President Alex Veloso Bello said, that he will convene the OFW Congress to address the issue, this is unfair, if the Embassy is behind all these, therefore this is an insult to us seasoned leaders.”

If there was really a letter, verified coming from an embassy staff or its attached agencies and found to be just pure harassment to the nominee, the OFW Congress will write a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs and fight for the expulsion of the Embassy staff and ask DFA that he or she should not to be posted in any Philippine diplomatic post abroad.

Engr. Robert Ramos, a well respected community leader in Riyadh commented “that seems there was a political reason behind which I’m also victim at one point of time.  Ramos was also nominated to the POEA Board but was deleted on the list due to a mere technicality of requirements.

Former Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Rafael Seguis, now Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary promised to look into the matter and warn the community not to arrive into conclusion based on speculations, if  there was indeed a letter  from the Embassy, then we should look into it, verify and investigate, I am sure he or she will be identified.” Seguis added.

If the letter was sent through email and the sender hide his or her identity as Embassy staff then we can hire computer forensics experts to identify, dig deeper, analyze and trace who are those behind all these” said one Filipino community leader who is expert in IT based in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Astillero has been endorsed  in the past, as  OWWA  Administrator  by Filipino organization around the globe and now nominated as POEA Board by PHILCOMDEV.  –end- By: BongA

New OFW regional group sworn into office by Street Sweepers

Tacloban City – Taking oath before a “Street Sweepers” may not be a good idea under Section 41 of the Philippine Administrative Code but that doesn’t stop for a newly constituted organization to take their oath of office administered by street sweepers in the city.

Pagkakaisa OFW & Family in Region 8, Eastern Visayas

PAGKAKAISA OFW and Family in Region 8, Eastern Visayas were sworn in before the Tacloban street sweepers during the association’s First General Assembly on June 18, 2011 held at the Boulevard Restaurant in Tacloban City.

The group comprised of OFWs, active and ex-OFWs and so with their families is a non-stock and non-profit association under the laws of the Republic of the Philippines.

The gathering was witnessed by more than three (300) hundred participants. The affair was honored by the presence of relatives and families of the OFWs from Region 8. The affair had its many firsts, unlike other induction ceremonies, there were neither big names nor fun fare for having celebrities and politicians as its honorary guests of honor.

The association invited three street sweepers from MMDA to induct them into office; they are Mr. Virgilo Bostrillo, Mr. Darwin Balderama and Mr. Francisco Salas.

The officers of  the association firmly believes that the three symbolizes the  true  Filipino values, which is, despite of difficulties and hardships  they’re facing, they are still proud on what they are doing of serving  the public and do everything  to improve their personal living conditions. One of them is a College Criminology graduate.

“The Honorable Street Sweepers” Mr. Virgilo Bostrillo, Mr. Darwin Balderama and Mr. Francisco Salas

The association believes that it’s about time for the OFWs and their families to come together and form a worthy cause that will not only benefit the OFWs and their families but would somehow lessen the alarming poverty rate among the people in Region 8. The group will embark on the concept of  TEAM WORK and synergy among its members as the saying goes: “kung kaya nila, kaya rin namin.”      

The Founding President, Mr. Alex Veloso Bello, the  MOFYA 2010 National Special Awardee in his acceptance speech stressed the need for a strong commitments among its members. He pointed out to achieve the following objectives:

- To conduct an opportunity for its members to gather a liberal discussion on issues involving the OFWs and their families in Region 8.

-  To promote strong unity and machinery and together they will express their own opinions and suggestions on how to further improve the lives of the OFWs and families in Region 8.

-  To create a global network of federal association among other regions through modern technology and communication in coordination with the Philippine government.

-  To formulate and support advocacies and significant bills to the Philippine government concerning the welfare, benefits, education, training, deployment and re-deployment and other related matters that are beneficial to OFWs or ex-OFWs and their families.

Participants (OFWs, ex OFWs and Family)

Bello emphasized that the association’s objectives can only be realized through strong devotion and dedications among its officers and members. “It is the officer’s aspirations to develop its members to become leader’s in the future through proper education and honing their interests” he added.

The group believes that as poverty line of the Filipino people increases, there will be more people suffers from poverty and blaming the government for all of these is not the solution. Pagkakaisa OFW and Families will take part of helping the people in Region 8 to become self- reliant and to motivate them to help themselves.

Bello explained that “it is about time that OFWs like us should think of ways and means to help the government alleviate the living conditions of the people in Region 8. The profile of our Region shows that there are more middle class and lower class families who cannot afford to send their children to school.”

He also reminded the OFW families who are left behind to handle properly the finances being sent by the family member who happens to be an OFW worker and just don’t rely on the remittances being sent.

The newly inducted officers are; President: Alex Veloso Bello, Executive Vice President Noel Sia, Vice President for Northern Leyte: Violeta S. Sabornido, Vice President for Southern Leyte: Leo Quirante, Vice President for Western Leyte: Paul Villamor, Vice President for Eastern Samar:  Angelita Alalim, Vice President for Western Samar: Reynaldo Tuazon, Vice President for Northern Samar Danilo Pancho, Vice President for Biliran: Pablito Cuizon.

OFW and Families of Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) Founding Chapter

The Executive Officers are; Secretary: Rosario Macapugas, Assistant Secretary: Nida Cortez, Treasurer: Delia Reyes, Assistant Treasurer: Norma Enerlan, Auditor: Floresa Tabuloc, Asst. auditor: Julie Saldana, Marshals: Victor Quimbo and Arturo Bello, Jr.

The Board of Directors are; Tacloban City: Dr. Pantaleon Hobayan (Chairman of the Board), Rogelio Labbarete, Evengeline Bello, Lolita Entong, Tess Contado.

Tanuan: Beatriz Aleta, Dulag: Eugenio Alicando, Alang-alang: Annariza Alve, Ormoc City: Araceli Sevilla (Vice Chairperson), Isabel: Cecila Orsalez, Calubian: Nida Robin, Almeria: Crisanto Calvez, Basey: Flor Lagutan, Calbayog City: Edgar Madeja, Babatngon: Cesar Nacorda, Baybay: Teresita Gabi.

The association Board of Advisers: Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis and 2009 OWWA Land Based  “Most Outstanding OFW Awardee  Engr. Francisco “Jun” Aguilar, Jr.

Although, PAGKAKAISA agreed to develop self – reliance among them but, they are still expecting support from the government and Non Government Organization to start the projects that they started to conceptualize.

The group also encourages other regions in the country to organize PAGKAKAISA OFW and Family and to consolidate their strength  that could eventually bring and empower OFW families into the mainstream of the Philippine society. – end – by: BongA

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.

Congratulations! UFWCD..


The United Filipinos Worldwide for Community Development-South Korea Chapter will celebrate  its  4th  Foundation Anniversary with  a special event: UFWCD Search for Ms. Valentines 2011 to be held on February  13, 2011 at 6:30 p.m., Tapdong Catholic Center.
United Filipinos Worldwide for Community Development (UFWCD) is a group of Filipinos worldwide. UFWCD was organized on February 10, 2007 and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Manila, Philippines on March 19, 2007.
The mission and vision of this organization is to serve our less fortunate kababayan as well as addressing social and economic problems in the poorest communities back home.  Since the day it was founded UFWCD is actively involved in humanitarian aid such as providing relief goods and medical assistance to affected areas during disaster and natural calamities in the country.


Just recently, the group donated books and school supplies to less privileged schoolchildren in Luzon area.  UFWCD is headed by Mrs. Fe Gimarino Kim based in South Korea.  UFWCD-KSA (Riyadh and Jeddah) Chapter is also an accredited Filipino community partner of Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Congratulations and Happy Founding Day! UFWCDinians!

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.  

OFCI-Overseas Filipino Council International

Overseas Filipino Council, Int'l.

Overseas Filipino Council International – serving our expatriates by becoming bridge builders, torch bearers, and pledge keepers. Filipino expatriates, whether immigrants or contract workers, are currently estimated at some eight million: close to ten percent of our homeland’s population. But our sheer size – growing at the rate of 3,000 per day in 2005 – has far outpaced our needs. We have become a class – “overseas Filipinos” – but have yet to become a community.


This is the task embraced by OFCI:  serving our expatriates and thereby fashion a true, progressive community.  A community responsive to the genuine needs, interests, and concerns of its members. And, ultimately, those of our homeland.

The bedrock of OFCI – our common purpose – is service. Our expatriates – specifically our contract workers – have time and again been lauded as the “new unsung heroes” of our Republic. The least we can do, by holding hands across the seas, is to facilitate the availability of the tools we require to make ourselves even more well-informed, self-reliant, and valuable to our families, to our host countries, to our expatriate community, and to our homeland by leaving a good legacy for the next generation. Join us. Our task is daunting.  But we’re taking it on. Because we can.  We mean it.  Read more>>>> 

OFCI’s hospitality Room

Several years ago, I was asked to teach Filipino cooking at the US Naval Submarine Base in Bangor, Washington State. My love for cooking did not stop at the Naval Base, I would go to American homes and proudly present our Filipino cuisine.

Anita's Kitchen

In 2005, while organizing the OVERSEAS FILIPINO COUNCIL in California, ANITA’S KITCHEN caricature was sent in through the internet by our President Dindo Generoso, from Australia. I fell in love with the picture, with my signature Hairdo, why not? So ANITA’S KITCHEN became the LOGO and the kitchen came alive VIRTUALLY. OVERSEAS FILIPINO COUNCIL, became OVERSEAS FILIPINO COUNCIL INTERNATIONAL and ANITA’S KITCHEN became the OFCI’s hospitality room. – nitz sese schon

read more about>>>> Anita’s Kitchen

Region 8 OFWs formally organize themselves as an association

PIA Press Release
Friday, December 17, 2010

Tacloban City (December 17) — For the first time, the Overseas Filipino Workers in Eastern Visayas have organized themselves into an association, on December 17, 2010 at the OWWA Region 8 Conference Room.

OFW Alex Veloso Bello and Family during MOFYA Awarding Ceremony with H.E. Philippine President Noynoy Aquino and OFW Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, Vice President Jojo Binay andOWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon. Also in the photo, Globe Telecom chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz

Mr. Alex Bello, this year’s Model OFW Family Awardee for Region 8, land-based category, informed the Philippine Information Agency that during the OFW Family Day, upon the suggestion of Board Member Roque A. Tiu, the group decided  to meet on December 17 to formally organize into an organization.

Mr. Bello said that the OFWs could be a strong force in implementing changes in the Region, in the policies on OFWs and in helping other OFWs who are in  need, even OFWs who are now back from abroad.

With Mr. Bello is the interim President, vice presidents for every province  were also chosen. They are Teresita Contado; Reynaldo Tuazon of Samar, Rogelio  Labarrete for Northern Leyte, Araceli Sevilla for Western Leyte, and Pablito Cuizon for Biliran.

Rosario Macapugas is the Secretary while Delia Reyes isTreasurer. Batasheba Dy was chosen as the auditor and Victor Quimbo and Nida Robin are the Marshalls.

Mr. Bello who is also this year’s National Special Awardee for community  service, said that the association is named as  Pagkakaisa OFWs Families in Region 8.

The name expresses the desire of the OFWs to unite together to help Region 8 and to help other OFW families who are in need.

The little help from each member will have bigger impact when added together,  Mr. Bello said.

With the 26 years of being an OFW leader in Saudi Arabia, here is wishing Mr.  Bello and the other officers good luck in their endeavors. (PIA 8)

OFWEmpowerment Blog- 5 years of existence

OFWEmpowerment- 5 years of existence

Like any other anniversaries, today marks a new year to a new beginning and my further commitment to serve the OFW sector.

"AKO Pilipino Taas Noo Saan man Dako sa Mundo"- Babalik AKO Bayan Ko

Five years of existence is a symbol that increases in value or in strength with each passing year that reflects what this blog has made in the partnership of my fellow OFWs. As what I’ve said in my previous entry “I am not perfect but it’s quite relieving that someone out there believes in you.   

Today is a significant milestone for this blog and time to pause, to reflect, and to celebrate what has been accomplished in a relatively short span of years. Though this blog started  just for fun to ease the homesickness of the blogger far away from home and his loved ones; yet it is very fulfilling that it became a home to our fellow OFWs who needs answers to their unanswered questions.  

I came to realization that what I am doing is not enough, because with you as my partner, together – WE can do many things to help each others in times of needs and for us to lend a hand to those who needs us.

And as long as I am the writer, the editor and publisher  of this blog, I will remain your humble servant. I will try my best to keep this blog alive, to hear your sad stories, inquiries among others. I will also try to give all the information you need beneficial to the OFW sector.

To all my readers, visitors, friends and fellow community leaders, I have been deeply moved and heartened by your unwavering support and encouragement. I am gratified by the wholehearted endorsement of so many to read and subscribed “OFWempowerment” blog.

Today, WE still exist because of   YOU out there. You are the bedrock upon which OFWEmpowerment existed; you are the foundation that will sustain OFWempowerment towards a new years’ to come.

OFWempowerment 5 years of existence is also dedicated to my dear friend the late OFW Farmer Claro Ybanez  of  Davao and to his family. Wherever you are now  Nong Claro, I want you to know that –  We continue to exist because of  you and you are my inspiration.

To my brothers  Doods  and Bebs who believes of what I am doing, to my family, to my close friends, to OFW Congress-Riyadh and to all of you in the cyber world – THANK YOU So much!

Happy 5th Year Anniversary.

December 13, 2010


The busiest day so far in the Year 2010 was  Wednesday, December 8, 2010.  

596 views on your busiest day, December 8, 2010

Pageviews: 596


Top 10 Posts & Pages

These posts on your site got the most traffic.


Title   Views
Home page 129
Iqama Rules, Jawazat Procedures, Repatriation Advisories 91
New Saudi Labor Law 40
KSA Exit & Re-entry Visa 31
Handbook for Overseas Filipinos 23
GCC Labor Laws 22
Iqama System Violations & Penalties 19
Open Letter from Ex-OFW Marge 15
SLL Basic Information 15
Rep. Act #10022 13

ofwempowerment blog: one year stats

To our ofwempowerment readers,

Data Stats

Please note that  one (1) year viewing statistics for ofwempowerment blog as of yesterday 18 October 2010  has so far recorded a total of 32,765 direct hits to our “homepage” ; and the highest viewed entry was Iqama Rules, Jawasat Procedures, Repatriation Advisories  seconded by New Saudi Labor Law.  

The record also showed that July 20, 2010 was the highest hits recorded by “day” with 537 pages viewed by our readers across the globe.

For the recorded statistics re: “Comments“, the New Saudi Labor Law got the highest number of 331 followed by Iqama  Rules, Jawasat Procedures, Repatriation  Advisories with a total of 169 and  70  for OFW Guide.  

Thanks a lot!  Maraming maraming Salamat Po sa inyong patuloy at mainit na pagsusubaybay!   


Top Posts for 365 days ending 2010-10-18 (Summarized)

Summarize: Year   From 2009-10-18 to 2010-10-18 

Title Views  
Home page 32,765 More stats
Iqama Rules, Jawazat Procedures, Repatri 6,475 More stats
New Saudi Labor Law 4,350 More stats
OFW Guide 1,909 More stats
Rep. Act #10022 1,861 More stats
About Me 1,153 More stats
Employee Benefits: End of Service Gratui 1,132 More stats
Top 10 Misconceptions About Islam 1,124 More stats
Salient Features of the Saudi Labor Law 867 More stats
Loan Assistance to OFWs 836 More stats

Busiest day: 537 views on Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Engr. Francisco “Jun” Aguilar For OWWA Board

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration is a Philippine government agency tasked with the care, protection and

Jun Aguilar with Noli Benavent, Angel Pantoja (Ex OFWs in Riyadh), Vic Barrios & Lanie Aquino (partly hidden) of Global Filipinos in a huddle with Sen. Kiko Pangilinan

 assistance of Overseas Filipino Workers. Its policies have a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of Filipinos working overseas and the families they leave behind. With the new Aquino administration, there is a need for a review of the OWWA, its failures and successes, adherence to the regulations and implementation of needed reforms.  Part of this reform is the creation of a new OWWA Board. This petition is to request President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino,  to consider the appointment of Francisco “Jun” Aguilar to the Board of the OWWA. 

Francisco “Jun” Aguilar had spent thirteen years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an Overseas Filipino Worker  from 1985 to 1998.  He worked at the King Abdulaziz Military Academy as a technical analyst and later moved to the National Industrialization Company.  As an OFW, he was witness to the distressed situations of Filipino workers whom he assisted as best as he could.  It was an experience that will influence his unwavering dedication to improve the lives of the Filipino workers.


Upon returning to the Philippines in 1998, he formed the Filipino Migrant Workers Group, a principled recruitment agency.  This is the only agency that does not charge a placement fee from applicants.   He also encouraged savings and investment programs for the Overseas Filipino Workers and their families for their retirement and re-integration.  He volunteers numerous hours on social-civic-political advocacies.

Mr. Aguilar’s experiences as a former Overseas Filipino Worker, a recruitment agency owner and as a humanitarian worker provide him with the appropriate know-how and mindset that will guide him as a progressive Board member.   He can articulate on the perspectives of the workers, recruiters as well as clients and, therefore, effectively assist with the policy making of OWWA.  With a proven track record of leadership, commitment and dedication to public service, he is the voice of the Overseas Filipino Workers.  

Jun Aguilar w/ Rep. Roilo Golez during Congressional Consultative Hearing re: OFW Concerns

We, therefore, request the newly elected Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and his administration to appoint Francisco “Jun” Aguilar on the board of OWWA because of his merits.  More importantly, his guiding principles exemplify those of the current administration with its mantra of change.


It is about time that a true bloodied OFW will be a given a hand to represent OFW Sector (land-based) in the  OWWA Board, please sign the PETITION.  

To know more about Engr. Francisco “Jun” Aguilar  click here >>>>>

Thanks a lot!

RELATED POSTS:   Migrant workers day, nothing to celebrate  ;   OFWs opposed newly appointed OWWA Board  ;  OFWs back Cebu Doc as  OWWA  head 

The lady with a big SMILE: 2010 AKBAYAN Party list nominee

AKBAYAN Party list nominee

AKBAYAN Party-List Nominee : Ellene Sana – Correcting Injustice, Promoting Human and Migrant Rights Here and Abroad.

Ellene Sana, the curly haired small lady with the big smile is an in and out human rights and migrants’ rights advocate. The current Executive Director of the Center for Migrants’ Advocacy-Philippines (CMA), an independent policy advocacy group working on issues of migrant Filipinos through research, education and direct assistance, Ellene is known for being an authority on migrant-related issues often invited as a resource person in forums, governmental and otherwise, both here and abroad. From providing direct assistance to organizing activities to promote the rights of migrant Filipinos, her name has become synonymous with migrants’ advocacy.

She is also acknowledged as a strong advocate of women ‘s issues. Together with women migrant workers, they seek the comprehensive protection of all women migrants from abuse and violence. A licensed Civil Engineer, she decided to leave her comfort zone and work full time to promote and advance the rights of the deprived and underprivileged, something which is close to her heart, being a political detainee herself in Mindanao in 1991.

Then again, Ellene’s advocacy is not limited to her fellow kababayans but also with other marginalized citizens as well. In 1997, Ellene was a founding member and coordinator of the Philippine Solidarity for East Timor and Indonesia (Phil-Seti), then the most active and relevant solidarity group based here in the Philippines which actively campaigned for the democratization of Indonesia under Suharto, and the independence of East Timor. In 1999, she was a member of an International Election Observer Team which monitored the United Nations-sponsored Referendum of East Timor and currently, an active member of the Free Burma Coalition (FBC).

Ellene takes her international solidarity and human rights work so seriously that she became re-acquainted with incarceration. In 1996, she was detained by the Malaysian authorities together with 48 other foreign advocates when they participated in an Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor held in Kuala Lumpur. She was again detained in 1998 this time in Burma by the ruling Military junta because of her pro-democracy activities in support of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Among the most momentous of Ellene’s crusades was the campaign that cemented the participation of Overseas Filipino Workers in our political process. With the help of the CMA and AKBAYAN, the Overseas Absentee Voting Law was passed in 2004, granting voting rights to overseas Filipinos.

However, not everything about the indefatigable Ellene is work. To many young advocates, Ellene is a sort of a “nanay-nanayan”, a nurturing and “cool “mentor and a good friend. She loves music and in a not so busy day, you’ll find her in the company of friends and colleagues singing and dancing to the beat of good-old reggae music.

With her entry in the 2010 partylist elections as one of AKBAYAN’s nominees, Ellene will surely be a strong voice of Filipino migrants in Congress.

April 10 to May 10 : Boto Mo Pahalagahan Mo

On April 10, 2010, registered Filipino Absentee voters will head to the polls to vote.  It is a month period from April 10 to May 10, 2010. 

 “Ang tagumpay ng Overseas Absentee Voting ay nakasalalay sa pakikilahok ng bawat isa sa atin.  Let us troop down to the polling station/precinct or to the designated areas abroad where you can make use the power of the overseas vote. 

Ang Boto mo, Pahalagahan mo!

Voting is one of the most important rights and responsibilities we have as  Filipino.  Let us exercise this right of suffrage that we owe to our beloved motherland. Our participation is indeed an important part of  the Philippine electoral process.

Huwag po nating hayaan na bawiin sa atin ang ipinagkaloob na karapatang ipinaglaban natin ng mahigit labing-anim na taon.   

WE  urge our fellow absentee voters  to do your part,  Ipaabot ang nagkakaisang tinig! Gamitin ang karapatang marinig!  Ang Boto mo, Pahalagahan mo!  

GO OUT and VOTE  this coming April 10 to May 10, 2010.     

Susan “Toots” Ople inindorso ng PPP pagka Senador

Susan “Toots” Ople  inindorso ng PPP pagka Senador

Susan "Toots" Ople (click photo of Toots my choice for Senator )

March  5, 2010 Riyadh – Idinaos ang pangalawang pagtitipon o “2nd Tripartite Meeting” noong Biyernes ika-5 ng Marso ng mga community leaders na nagmula pa sa iba’t-ibang bahagi ng kaharian. Mainit ang pagtanggap ng Central Region na siyang tagapamahala sa mga delegates (delegado) na galing sa Eastern Region at buong pwersa na nagpakita ng kanilang supporta ang Western Region na bumiyahe pa ng mahigit sampung oras, kasama ang ilang mga kabataan na nakilahok sa naturang pagtitipon na ang layunin ay ang pagkakaisa at pagtibayin ang samahan para isulong ang mga adhikain at kapakanan ng mga OFWs.

Ang forum ay nag-umpisa pagkatapos ng isang almusal na inihanda ng mga Filipino Community Leaders ng Riyadh sa Al Mutlaq Hotel, eto ay nagbigay din ng pagkakataon para makasalamuha at maipakilala ang bawa’t isa.

Shakehand - 2013 OFW Sector Senator Rudy Dianalan and Upcoming 2010 OFW Mayor of Tubigon, Bohol William R. Jao

Napag-usapan ang pagrehistro ng isang malakas na puwersa, ang partidong pandaigdigang pilipino o PPP na isang partidong politika upang paghandaan at makilahok sa halalan sa hinaharap.

Ang matagal na paghahanda ng PPP mula ng naratipika ang Charter and By-laws nito noong Mayo 2008 sa Makati ay nagkaroon ng liwanag ng maipasa sa pagtitipon na ituloy ang pagparehistro nito bago matapos ang taon 2012.

Inaprobahan rin ng mga miyembro ng partido ang mungkahi ni Alex Veloso Bello, Chairman of the Board ng PPP na pasiglain muli ang membership campaign isang buwan pagkatapos ng halalan o sa darating na June 10, 2010.

(Breakfast prior to the Meeting) L-R Jauhari Usman (PPP-WR), Ding Manlapaz (PPP-CR), Dr. Astillero (PPP-CR), Rudy Estimo (ArabNews), Robert Ramos (PPP-CR) & Bel Hugo (PPP-ER), Rudy Dianalan (PPP-WR), Jun Aguilar (PPP-MLA/HQ) and Boggs Bolor (PPP-CR)

Nabigyan din ng pagkakataon si  Susan “Toots” Ople,  anak ng yumaong nationalist lider Blas F. Ople na isa sa mga kumakandidatong pagka senador sa pamamagitan ng phone-patch at inihayag ang kanyang programa para sa mga OFW na ikinagagalak ng mga nagsidalo.

Pinag-uusapan rin sa pagtitipon ang malawakang paghahanda ng Regional PPP Chapters na kung saan kinasasakopan nito ang probinsya, siyudad, munisipyo at barangay chapters alinsunod sa patakaran ng COMELEC upang mabigyan pansin ang aplikasyon nito.

Jun Aguilar (PPP-Manila/HQ), Alex Veloso Bello & Tony APolto (PPP-CR)

Ayon sa isang panayam kay Mr. Bong Amora, secretariat ng PPP Central Region, “Nagkatipon-tipon ang mga filipino community leaders ng 3 rehiyon ng kaharian upang pag-usapan ang OFW Representation, at magkaroon ng endorsement sa mga kumakandidato sa nalalapit na halalan”.

Ayon kay Engr. Frank Naval “in order for the OFWs to be heard, we are bound to support this endeavor because this is the only way, and this is the only organization that is very vocal as far as representing OFWs in our government”. Si Frank Naval ay kasalukuyang Presidente ng United OFW, isa sa mga organisasyon sa Riyadh na may pinakaraming bilang na mga kasapi.

Ayon naman kay Engr. Faisal Sarque, “humihingi kami ng supporta sa mga OFWs around the world para sa pagkakaisa.”

Meeting Proper

“Kung gusto natin na marinig ang mga hinaing o boses ng mga OFWs, kailangan na pagtuonan pansin ang problema ng hindi pagkakaisa at pagkakaunawaan ng mga lider komunidad hindi lamang sa Saudi Arabia kundi sa buong mundo na may mga Pilipino” dagdag ni Sarque, na kasalukuyang tumakbo ng pagka Bise Alkalde ng Navotas sa darating na halalan.

Sa pagpakilala naman ni Engr. “Jun” Aguilar na galing pa sa Manila para konsultahin ang mga kapartido “in this meeting we will endorse a common candidate in the person of “Toots Ople” for among the candidates she has the only concrete labor agenda for the LABOR sector and the migrant workers including their families and who could carry the legislative agenda in the senate.”

“I believe that we will come-up concrete steps on how to register the party and the timelines required.” Dagdag ni Aguilar na isa ring dating OFW sa Saudi Arabia.

Raul Valenzuela, Ben Manikan, Francis Oca & William R. Jao (PPP-Central Region)

Sa pagtitipon umabot sa mahigit isang oras ang deliberasyon tungkol sa pag indorso sa pinakamataas na puwesto sa gobyerno. Iginiit ng pinagsamang suhestiyon nina Bel Hugo ng PPP-Eastern Region, Faizal Sarque at Frank Naval ng PPP-Central Region  at  Jauhari Usman at Atoy Esguerra ng PPP-Western Region  na hindi pa napapanahon na ang partido mag indorso ng mga tumatakbo sa pagka-pangulo, pangalawang pangulo at mga sampung senador. Sa huli pinagkasundoan ng mga delegado na ipagliban muna ito sa darating na tamang oras at panahon.

Habib Batua (PPP-CR) & Boy Cornejo, Jauhari Usman, Arman Muleem (PPP-WR)

Binigyang diin ng mayoriya ng mga delegado na dapat lamang na si “Toots Ople” ang bibigyan ng suporta ng mga OFWs dahil siya lamang ang karapat-dapat na magdala ng boses ng mga OFWs sa senado.

Kabilang sa mga inindorso ng PPP ang mga sumusunod na mga tumatakbong meyembro at supporters ng partido; Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim (Senator), Engr. William Jao (NP, Mayor, Tubigon, Bohol),    Dr. Rusty Balderian (Congress, 2nd District, Leyte), Andy Rosales (Councilor in Quezon City), Beng Causing (Councilor in Koronadal City), Kit Tejero (Municipal Councilor, Leyte) and 1 GANAP for Party list group (Boggs Bolor, 3rd Nominee).

PPP Founding Members Chris & Marlyn Lavinia of TFC Balitang ME

Napagkasundoan rin ng partido ang paglikom ng sapat na pondo para sa paghahanda ng mga regional or local chapters sa buong Pilipinas para sa pagpa reghistro ng partido bago ang halalan 2013. Umabot sa P570,000.00 ang nakolekta na pondo sa pagtitipon para sa mga unang hakbang na gagawin upang ipagpatuloy ang pagbuo ng isang OFW-led National Political Party.

Group Photo

Ang nasabing pagtitipon ay pinangungunahan ni Engr. Rudy Dianalan bilang moderator, Dr. Lito Astillero, Presiding Officer and Bong Amora bilang Master of Ceremony.***



Quantum Breakthrough

Legislators have filed Senate Bill #3565 that would, inter alia, authorize Internet voter registration and voting. The bill amends R.A. No. 9189, otherwise known as Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Act of 2003.  The authors of the bill are Senators Angara, Escudero (Committee Chair), Gordon, Pimentel, Santiago and Villar. The bill is ready to be heard and debated on.

The passage of the bill represents a quantum breakthrough in empowering millions of overseas Filipinos by allowing them to exercise their suffrage right in a convenient way. The present system of voter registration and voting requires physical presence at Philippine consulates – a stipulation that has hampered the ability of many Filipinos to register and vote.

A large number of Filipino population concentrations reside in areas that are far removed from the consulate sites. In many cases, potential voters have to invest more than one day to reach the nearest consulate. Delinking voter registration and voting from consulate sites frees up the time that overseas Filipinos would otherwise spend in registration and voting under existing law.

The registration and voting turnout during the national elections of 2004 and 2007 could have yielded significantly higher results had more voter-responsive modes of registration and voting been made available.  Additionally, a paper-less and non-physical site registration and voting would relieve the Department of Foreign Affairs and Commission on Elections of tasks and logistics that are considered burdensome. 

 Key Changes

 Section 6 of SB #3565 provides that, in addition to the use of biometrics: “Remote registration through the Internet may also be allowed based on the guidelines and procedures determined by the commission, provided that the appropriate technology will ensure adequate security and voter authenticity”. During the public hearings on the bill, experts clarified the highly secure elements of Internet registration, including the use of the (1) passport number as voter-unique identification that cannot be replicated by anyone else, and (2) voice metrics that likewise is unique to a particular voter. (Italics and underscoring supplied.)

 As for Internet voting, Section 30 of the bill stipulates: “Authority to adopt other modes or systems using automated election system notwithstanding current procedures and systems hereon provided, for the proper implementation of this act and in view of the peculiarities attendant to the overseas absentee process, the commission may explore and adopt other more efficient, reliable and secure modes or systems, whether paper, electronic technology, or internet-based, for onsite and remote registration and voting, counting, canvassing and consolidation of votes, as well as for the transmittal of results.” (Italics and underscoring supplied.)

 Genesis of Initiatives

 Global Filipino Coalition (GFC), a predecessor organization of Global Filipino Nation (GFN), initiated its advocacy for Internet registration and voting after the 2004 registration and elections. GFC’s international conference held in the Philippine Senate premises in 2005 referred to the need for Internet registration and voting. The initiative was in response to the complaints of overseas Filipinos overseas about the requirement of physical presence for voter registration and voting. 

The issue of distance from Philippine consulates and the mobility of global Filipinos hindered their ability to exercise their suffrage. In collaboration with different groups, GFN pursued without let-up steps leading to the adoption of Internet registration and voting. In 2007, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) carried out pilot e-voting in Singapore.

Organizational Collaboration

 Drawing on the resources and previous efforts of Global Filipino Coalition and Global Filipino Forum (an international initiative that focused on past Charter change issues), GFN held international conferences in July 2007 and May 2008, which included, among others, recommendations relating to the adoption of Internet registration and voting. The GFN Political Module Logical Framework incorporates the adoption of Internet voter registration as a key element in politically empowering global Filipinos. Subsequent to those conferences, GFN submitted appropriate recommendations to Comelec and Congress. 

 GFN participated in the drafting of the new bill as part of the Technical Working Group under the Committee on Constitutional Amendments chaired by Sen. Chiz Escudero. IT Specialist Mr. Ernie del Rosario provided expert inputs in the deliberations, in active collaboration with GFN. Mr. Victor S. Barrios, GFN Convenor, and Mme. Connie Gomez-Valdes, GFN Deputy Executive Director, interfaced with the authorities during the entire process.  After undergoing a series of deliberations, Senate bill #3565 incorporated GFN’s proposal on the use of Internet registration and voting.

 Elimination of Affidavit to Return

 Senate Bill #3565 introduces another significant aspect of the existing OAV law that removes a perceived past demotivation on the part of global Filipino voters. In particular, the bill eliminates the clause on the intent for immigrants abroad to return to the Philippines three years after voter registration. Mme. Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) successfully focused on this issue.

 Initiatives of Other Leaders

 Other organizations and leaders were involved in the revisions of different sections of the OAV law designed to enhance the exercise of suffrage by global Filipinos. Mme. Etta Rosales of Akbayan and Mr. Noel Esquela, also of CMA, provided significant inputs during the technical discussions and Committee hearings.

 Truly Continuing Registration

 Future public hearings on the bill could revisit a previous recommendation to institutionalize truly continuing Internet voter registration, i.e., 24/7/365 voter registration that is uninterrupted rather than restricted to a limited period of time. Voter registration in many other countries is a year-round activity. Since DFA and Comelec onsite personnel and logistics intervention are not needed for Internet voter registration, the process of registering voters should be a 365-days/year activity.

 About one million OFWs leave for abroad every year. The net for registering voters could cover a much wider universe if voter registration for overseas Filipinos is uninterrupted rather than carried out only once every three years.

 Comelec could provide for an appropriate cutoff date for eligibility of overseas voters to vote in a given election. That arrangement would allow for adequate Comelec internal preparations for that given election, without stopping the Internet voter registration process. Voters who register after the prescribed cutoff date would be eligible to vote only in the succeeding election.

 Moving Forward Together

 The global Filipino community welcomes the role of Filipino leaders and organizations all over the world to be actively involved in ensuring that Congress will, in the end, pass Senate Bill #3565. Only then would it be possible for global Filipinos to be empowered in a forceful and consequential way.


GLOBAL FILIPINO NATION "Building the Global Filipino Nation for Good Governance"

Global Filipino Nation is an organization of global Filipino leaders and organizations committed to the goal of “Building the Global Filipino Nation for Good Governance”.

For inquiries and interest in collaborating on Senate Bill #3565, please contact Connie Gomez Valdes, Deputy Executive Director, 2240 Chino Roces, Barangay Bangkal, Makati City, Philippines, +632.726.1697, +63.917.528.1323.

Pinoys abroad tapped to wake up sleepy town of Bohol

MARIBOJOC, Bohol–THE explorer Pigafetta would have chosen this town over Mactan had it already sported a Hollywood-like sign on its mountain ranges.

But had this town did, it may have attracted not only Pigafetta –desperate to escape after his and Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet was pummeled in the Battle of Mactan– but also other explorers who may know only Bohol because of its famed chocolate hills.

That is ultimately what this project hopes to accomplish, according to mayor Leoncio Evasco: to lure back its former residents, or at least their resources, from abroad.

MARIBOJOC’S HIDDEN TREASURE. This Is the Postan Mangrove Forest, located in the heart of the Abatan River (where a tourist can visit via a banca ride). But this forest bares century-old mangrove trees, 18 identified species of forest mangrove trees, and nipa forests. Postan is the cherished treasure of the Bohol town of Maribojoc, whose local officials plan to make this forest an eco-tourism destination for Maribojocanons abroad.OFW Journalism Consortium Photo Service

Evasco said he has secured commitment from the Maribojoc Association USA to construct a Maribojoc billboard —similar to what Hollywood in Los Angeles, USA, has— on the side of the mountain range that faces the Maribojoc Bay.

Evasco is the man behind such project that, he said, aims to raise tourism receipts and attract investors in his town, a five-minute ride northwest of Bohol’s capital city of Tagbilaran.

Evasco said he’s starting with Maribojocanons overseas as a target market.

“We want to raise awareness to the returning Maribojocanons about the town that they left, of what it has become today, and of the values and people that were lost here.”

Evasco spoke to the OFW Journalism Consortium last month to promote the project, which will be announced during the annual town fiesta on May 5.

The fiesta is the highlight of a town-wide reunion from April 10 to July 31 called Balik Maribojoc.

Considered as one major grandiose sight in the barangay of Punta Cruz in the municipality of Maribojoc, this structure with Baroque features once served as a lookout for incoming pirates for the townspeople. This tower is composed of ground and upper floors that offer a breathtaking view of the sea facing the provinces of Cebu, Siquijor and Mindanao.

Aside from announcing the construction of the Hollywood-like sign, the reunion aims to showcase some of Maribojoc’s tourist spots.

One of this is Punta Cruz, Bohol’s remaining watch tower, which deterred Spanish pirates during the 19th century.

Punta Cruz is also symbolic for overseas Filipinos and their families in Maribojoc since it is here where the germ for the town’s version of diaspora philanthropy was seeded.


PUNTA Cruz is a historic site for the informal, town-wide group of families of overseas Filipinos who meet in this triangular, sturdy structure almost every month.

The last gathering in October of over-300 families affirmed Evasco’s belief in the possibility of tapping OFWs as source of social investment.

People just kept coming and the seats were not enough. Municipal government employee James Mabilin, then manning the entrance of the watch tower compound, couldn’t stop the influx.

The organizers said they expected representatives of only 200 migrant families.

Seafarers waiting for their next contract bankrolled lechon (roasted pig). College-schooled children of overseas Maribojocanons hosted parlor games around the grassy complex.

Amazed at the turnout, Evasco said he donated P5,000 for additional cash prizes for the parlor games.

“We never had this kind of a crowd, coming from OFWs [and their families] in our town,” Evasco said.

The parish of Maribojoc was founded in 1768, and construction of a church started 1798 and lasted 18 years. The church is located in Maribojoc town, 14 kilometers from the Tagbilaran. The place can be reached by bus of jeepney.

Still, those who joined the gathering represented only half of the total 742 overseas workers and emigrants from this town of 18,133 people.

The figure is based on Mabilin’s census of families with dependents and relatives abroad in Maribojoc’s 22 upland, lowland, and coastal villages.

While only half were represented in that gathering last year, it failed to dampen the spirit of Virginia Alindajao, 48, wife of an electrician in Saudi Arabia since 1993.

“I never realized that we OFWs and OFW families,” she said in Tagalog, “are just around waiting to get ourselves together.”

Alindajao is also one of the organizers of Punta Cruz Environmental Organization.

When the buzzword of forming an OFW group swept Maribojoc, she signed up.

Alindajao’s euphoria was shared by Laura Manuta, mayor Evasco’s sister and a former nurse in Germany and in Saudi Arabia.

Manuta is also a volunteer nurse for the Holy Cross Parish’s medical clinic since retiring in 1997.

She’s also president of the land-based OFW family circle group called the Maribojoc Land-based Migrant Workers and Beneficiaries Association.

On the other hand, the Maribojoc Seafarers and Beneficiaries Association has the town’s agricultural officer, seaman’s wife Eva Bolasco, as its head.


THE stronghold of Maribojoc’s OFW population, Mabilin told the OFW Journalism Consortium, is not the remittances plowing into the town, estimated to be between P52 to 84 million annually.

It is the OFW townmates’ alayon (bayanihan in Tagalog, or community spirit), Mabilin said.

Last December, the groups recommended foregoing a town-wide Christmas party to donate school supplies and slippers to children in the town’s poorest village of Candavid.

Filipino migration-and-development analysts have remarked the potential of luring the resources and bayanihan spirit of overseas Filipinos and their families right in the migrants’ rural hometowns.

Evasco and the OFW family circles that his office, the Municipal Manpower Development and Placement Office, facilitated to organize are seeking to make that spirit transform the town into an economic paradise.

Currently a fourth-class municipality whose income in 2008 was P61.358 million, this sleepy town lacked jobs, forcing some middle-class residents go to the provincial capital of Tagbilaran City, the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao (like Evasco himself) and Manila, and overseas.

Overseas Maribojocanons’ remittances that pass by the town’s only two pawnshops, as well as banks and money transfer outfits in Tagbilaran City (some 14 kilometers from Maribojoc), are the single biggest economic drivers of Maribojoc, says Evasco.

The lack of vibrant economic activities apart from retail trade, fishing, and farming made Maribojoc a fifth-class municipality previously.

“Nothing wrong if you go elsewhere,” two-year mayor Evasco recalled telling some Maribojocanons during casual conversations, “but come back home and bring with you the ideas and experience you learned elsewhere.”

Maybe after the Hollywood-like sign facing the sea, some would mimic Pigafetta’s journey but not accidentally landing in this town whose name was taken from a pine tree named “Malabojoc”.  

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO ( OFW Journalism Consortium)

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

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

Bobby Reyes

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rusty Balderian

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

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

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

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

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

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