Bahay Kalinga

During summer in KSA is a season where everyone and even the Saudis themselves usually stayed at home while expats like me are in our villas to escape the intense heat of the sun. That is why ACs (air condition) is the number one basic necessities in the Kingdom. 

Kakampi-Ksa at Bahay Kalinga

Kakampi-Ksa at Bahay Kalinga

Yet, the heat of the sun was not a hindrance for us to proceed with our visit last Friday 4/28/06 to Bahay Kalinga (BK). Bahay Kalinga is a house for our stranded distressed Female OFWs. The place is also officially known as Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) provided by the Philippine Government under  RA 8042 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Act of 1995) as a temporary shelter for our run-away Filipina workers. These female stranded workers will stay at the said house pending resolution of their cases for repatriation.  Most of their complaints are non payment of wages, long hours of work or without rest, poor accommodations, maltreatment and sexually abused.  

Boxes of Used Clothes for OFW in distress

Boxes of Used Clothes for OFW in distress

As of today the stranded female OFWs in the center is about 170. In that count the Female OFWs housed at the Saudi Welfare Center (SWA) are not included. The SWA is a center provided by the Saudi Government to those Filipina workers and other female workers in different nationalities with criminal cases such as theft, murder, immoral acts and drug related offenses. Only the POLO/Embassy personnel particularly from our Assistance to National Section (ANS) are allowed to visit this place. 

From 2nd Industrial Area we traveled 35 kilometers to reach Bahay Kalinga brought along with us 14 cartons of assorted used clothing and other things for their personal needs. Since the shelter is very strict with visitors, men in particular, the said visit was properly coordinated with the office of our good OWWA Welfare Officer Arman Roa.

Our group KAKAMPI-KSA unloaded the goods with the help of our friends from the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS-Migrante). The collected various assorted items came from our kindhearted fellow OFWs in the Industrial Area particularly workers in Al Sharq  Plastic Factory, Al Ajial Co. Ltd., Obeikan, Saudi Lighting and the logistical support from Black Python Martial Arts Association.

We noticed that the FWRC is well taken care of, compared to my last visit in the center a couple of months ago when we brought foods to the shelter. Today, the office is properly organized along with the visiting area, as well as a clean rest rooms. Though we can not enter the main premises where the rooms of our distressed female OFWs are located yet we knew that everything/everyone are in good shape and under control. Thanks to the newly assigned center personnel from Manila headed by Dr. Adel Usman and DSWD Social Welfare Officer Mrs. Nene Usman. We are hoping that the healthy environment in the center will be for long and not just for now in preparation for PGMAs visit. 

The mission was accomplished with a sigh of relief and a happy heart that we again fulfilled our task in helping others in needs.

 Special thanks to fellow comrades  Abdullah Andrade, Mario Ben, Jomel Soriao, Binang Jilhano, Norman Gatdula, Alex Aurelio (Yellow T-Shirt), Rey Ruiz and Faizal Mercurio.  ### BongA


Senate Bill 639

The issue of the transfer of 1 Billion OWWA Fund to Phil. Postal Savings Bank was opposed by many OFWs. The Overseas Filipino Workers Congress-Riyadh is one of the many groups who believe that the transfer is not in the best interest of the OFWs in general.

One of the several solutions that we proposed is that – if there is really a transfer of fund as what PGMA recently announced, it must be in a form of a legislative measure where we can see the implementing guidelines, rules and its mechanisms.

Last April 16, 2006, the OFWC wrote a letter to Senator Manuel Villar, Jr. on the proposed Senate Bill 639 he authored re: creation of Phil. Overseas Workers Bank for us to evaluate the said bill and in order to determine whether it is for the best interest of the Migrant Filipinos.

Below is his reply through the office of his Legislative Officer Reesa Novella and kindly see attached link for the full text of SB 639. – BongA



28 April 2006

Mr. Manuel Amora
Secretary General
Overseas Filipino Workers Congress
Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Dear Sec. Gen. Amora:

We would like to extend our warm greetings to the Overseas Filipino Workers Congress in Riyadh and the entire Saudi Arabia.

We are in receipt of your letter dated 16 April 2006 requesting for a copy of Senate Bill No. 639 or the Philippine Overseas Workers Bank. Attached is a soft copy of the bill which seeks to address the Filipino overseas workers various financial needs and concerns and further enhance their investment potential.

Thank you very much for your interest in the bill. We will appreciate if you could send us your comments about it.

Our office is always more than willing to help our OFWs.


Manny Villar


Pre-Check-in counter for OFWS (OWWA Lounge) at the Terminal 1 of the NAIA

Pre-Check-in counter for OFWS (OWWA Lounge) at the Terminal 1 of the NAIA

To my fellow OFWs, kindly be informed that last February 17, 2006 the COMELEC-DFA-MIAA has signed a Memorandum Of Agreement (MOA) for the use of MIAA facilities in the conduct of OAV registration.

Usec. Rafael E. Seguis of the DFA and Comelec Comm. Tuason and Gen. Manager Alfonso M. Cusi of the MIAA

Usec. Rafael E. Seguis of the DFA and Comelec Comm. Tuason and Gen. Manager Alfonso M. Cusi of the MIAA

To those fellow OFWs /absentee voters who happen to visit and read this posting more particularly to our comrades in KSA, kindly disseminate this important information to those who have not yet registered as an absentee voter. It is more convenient for them to pass at the Pre-Check in Counter (OWWA Lounge), Terminal 1 of the NAIA to register prior to their respective flights.

Farewell Bahn, Welcome Tony


Farewell Ambassador Bahn Guinomla, Welcome Ambassador-Designate Tony Villamor

Ambassador Bahnarim Guinomla in his short message during the Philippine Road Show Presentation to Middle East on business and investments yesterday night 19 April 2006 at Philippine Embassy, made a confirmation on his new posting as Ambassador to Turkey. In his farewell speech, he thanks the community for their support in his tenure as Ambassador to the Kingdom.

Bioux Manilum (Bisaya Group), Amba Villamor, BoangA & OFW Congress Pres. Alex Veloso Bello

Bioux Manilum (Bisaya Group), Ambassador Tony Villamor, BoangA & OFW Congress Pres. Alex Veloso Bello

The Philippine Road Show Presentation to Middle East on Business and investments is here in the Kingdom from April 18 to 20 to present investment opportunities to OFW’s. Two of the biggest business enterprise in the Philippines, like ING Investment Management represented by Cesar C. Zulueta, Managing Director and Head of the ING delegation and LANDCO Philippines presented business and trade opportunities in the Philippines to OFW’s.

Their mission includes to help OFW’s identifying prospective markets for integrated coconut processing centers, real estate planning and development, retirement options/medical tourism, engineering, construction and other related services.

Ranie Basanta, BangA, Ambassador Tony Villamor & Bioux Manilum

Ranie Basanta (S.E. Producion), BongA, Ambassador Tony Villamor & Bioux Manilum (BISAYA)

During the said event we also noticed the presence of Special Envoy to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ambassador Antonio P. Villamor. He is here on official visit or perhaps one of the advance parties assigned for the preparation of PGMA’s visit in the Kingdom probably very soon.

I noticed that everyone who attended the said event focused their attention to the mentioned visiting official. Later on, I heard that Ambassador Antonio Villamor would be the Ambassador-Designate to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pending confirmation approval by the Senate Committee on Appointments.

I have the opportunity to greet him during the break with the first impression that he is approachable aside from speaking different Filipino dialect.

I am hoping that he can deal the tough job that he will be facing in the future.

A little bit of information of who is Ambassador Antonio Villamor:

As a diplomat and once the head of DFA-South, he travels from one country to another promoting economic opportunities in our country. On 1995, he was among the Mindanao delegation to Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia promoting economic prospects in both countries.

On 1997 he headed the group Growth with Equity in Mindanao, Philippines (GEM) to PALIKIR, Pohnpei on trade and investments for the economic growth in Mindanao particularly in the areas of agro-industry, tourism and transportation.

He was also a member of the Board of Trustees of Silliman University, one of the prestigious universities in the Philippines and a former Philippine Consul General to Guam.

His previous tour of duty as a diplomat includes Jeddah-Saudi Arabia in the 1980’s, an experienced that could probably makes him a good Philippine Ambassador in the Kingdom. *** BongA

GMA Visit

Our organization Kalipunang Kaakabay ng Manggagawang Pilipino sa Saudi Arabia (KAKAMPI-KSA) received an official invitation letter yesterday 25 April 2006 from the office of (POLO-Riyadh) Labor Attache Manuel Roldan informing us the arrival of Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the Kingdom on May 7, 2006. Also in the letter it said that PGMA will have an audience with the Filipino Community on the evening of May 8, 2006, 8:30 PM at the Philippine Embassy grounds.



We all knew that GMA made many plans in the past to visit Saudia Arabia; the last one was of September last year that did not materialize. Now, at last! She will be here for an official visit primarily to discuss with Saudi Government on oil issues particularly in the light of rising crude prices in the world market. Hoping she could achieve positive outcome on her number one mission – to secure affordable oil price.

I believed that the issue about Filipino Expatriates in the Kingdom is in the list of her priorities, considering the fact that for the past few days 7 of our compatriots were implicated in the recent horrible incident in Jeddah where they are deeply involved.

Certainly, she can’t just ignore this problem, after all – she represents the image of the Filipino community in the Kingdom. Perhaps, what she can surely do at this moment is to request the Saudi Government to treat those alleged suspects in a manner where their rights are properly protected under the Saudi Law. Also, I understand that she is expected to appeal for clemency for other six Filipinos facing the death penalty on various murder charges.


The mentioned letter of invitation is requesting Filipino Community to give inputs and recommendations in relation to OFW issues and concerns. It is going to be submitted today in advance prior to the said scheduled meeting for her consideration.

Well… there are many OFW issues and concerns; in fact a lot of recommendations were already submitted to the proper agencies that oversees the plight of Filipinos overseas.

Some of our concern NGO’s at home made an appeal to the Lower and Upper House of Congress for the possible amendment of certain provisions in the Republic Act 8042 known as Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. There are also many attempts from our pro OFWs legislators by filing Senate and House Bills intended for the general welfare of migrant Filipinos. Sadly, a number of them were left unattended in the closet of their respective committees pending deliberations and appropriate action.

Last year we even raised the question of the legality of OWWA USD 25.00 contribution to the highest court of our land but unfortunately as of now it is still in the good hands of our esteemed members of Judiciary pending its decision.

All of these were not given exceptional attention from the three (3)branches of our government namely; the executive, legislative and the judiciary.

Where else do we go? Directly to the President? Are there any assurances that the President will give attention to our recommendations? We hope so. Nevertheless, there is no harm in trying.

WE therefore, respectfully submit the following for the Presidents’ utmost consideration:



We strongly opposed the plan to transfer 1 Billion Peso OWWA Fund to Philippine Postal Bank. If there should be a transfer of fund, then it must be governed by a legislative measure where we can see and understand its implementing mechanisms.


An appeal to the President to act in behalf of the OFW’s to expedite the early discussions and deliberations of the following legislative proposal:

Senate Bill No. 639 authored by Sen. Manuel Villar, Jr. Re: Seeking the creation of the Philippine Overseas Workers Bank to serve the financial and investment needs of the growing number of OFWs worldwide;


HB No. 1565 authored by Rep. Jaime Lopez Re: An Act Establishing the Overseas Filipino Bank. This bill concentrates and would specifically authorized to address the banking, economic, financial, and related needs of the more than eight million Filipinos working abroad.

Any of the two above Bills that would be in the best interests of the Migrant Filipinos Overseas, then we hereby request for its passage into law.



A) The OFWs are not properly represented in the policy formulating boards of the government agencies that oversees OFW’s issues and concerns.


1) The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Welfare Administration (OWWA) governing board should be well represented by an OFW who comes from the OFW rank himself/herself and not just a mere political appointees whose credentials are not well define as representative to OFW’s.

2) That any such appointees should be consulted or must be recommended by the OFW Community themselves.

3) Dubbed as Modern Day Heroes and economic savior, OFWs should be recognized as Special Sector” and therefore be provided with empowering mechanisms in the affairs of governance locally.

4) OFWs contributed a lot to the progress of local economies and it is therefore recommended that upon their return for good to their respective localities they should be given a place in the affairs of local governance.

5) Former OFW and their families be given a right sustained by executive or legislative measure to participate in the local election of the City or Municipal Council. In this manner the government reintegration plan for the OFWs into the mainstream of our society particularly in the grassroots level will be truly established and rightly implemented. ***  BongA

Blog powered by FUNCHAIN

Jason Banico (Creator of Funchain)

Jason Banico (Creator of Funchain)

Browsing Internet is part of my daily job, not to mention that the company where I am employed have unlimited access with our ISP. It means that I can always visit and post important events, commentaries, etc. to my blog whenever I have the spare time to do it.

Actually, I heard this blog mania a couple of years ago and was fascinated by some bloggers conveying personal opinions through the freedom of expression using the power of blogging.

My impulse told me so creating my own blog. Then, I discover myself doing my homework in my PC at my flat. It does not only eases homesickness away from home, it likewise enhances my know-how in the usefulness of Information Technology (IT).












Thus- the creation of (now whose postings relates Overseas Filipino Workers issues and concern.

I found powered by I POWER BLOGGER popularly known as IBlog easy to use and recreational, not only venturing creativity in developing my personal site but it also helps improve my love of writing.

Few days ago I visited one of my favorite blog created/authored by Davao City Councilor Peter Lavina, I noticed that he shifted to a new blogger powered by FUNCHAIN. Out of curiosity I started my new blog with the same blog name (ofwempowerment) using FUNCHAIN and later conclude it remarkable, very easy to use and more convenient.

In this new era of information technology, let your views be heard, let us exercise our freedom of expression through the use of a proper venue; and that is – the power of blogging. However, we should be always compassionate in expressing our respective viewpoint, thoughts and ideas.

Try making your own blog using Funchain.

Who brought this idea to reality? Like us – He is Filipino, in the name of Mr. Jason Banico. Find out a little bit of who this person is – below:

Jason Banico is a technopreneur with 9 years of IT experience. He hails from Davao City, only coming to Metro Manila for his college studies at Ateneo de Manila and working there for approximately 10 years.

In 2005, he became a Reuters Digital Vision Fellow at Stanford University, where he realized his dream of finally going to Silicon Valley. Staying in a converted garage (yes, the proverbial Silicon Valley garage), he brought Funchain from idea to reality. *** BongA

Cooperativism & OFW Reintegration

In today’s global scenario, the race for survival is widely perceived as an inevitable crisis each man has to wrestle. And the common denominator behind this sorry reality is more likely economic in nature. Stability has become a proverbial question not only among those countries who struggle for a stalwart economic order, but also those who have ever since been known as “Giants in Economy”. As population grows leaps and bounds every minute just as the world also gets smaller and older, so does economic trend fluctuate incomprehensibly daily. This marching of events breaking from the community of nations everyday poses us with no escape a dreary future on how to be able to cope with the demands of time.

Bohol Leyte OFW Cooperative-Founding Members with former Welfof Iriles Ladjabasal and Former Consul Garibay now ConGen in Australia

Bohol Leyte OFW Cooperative-Founding Members with former Welof Iriles Ladjabasal, the late Labor Attache Abraham Malli and Former Consul Garibay now Consul in Australia ( Bong Amora-Center and Peter Polestico - 2nd from left)

As part of this web of uncertainties wherein we figure as the end targets of impact, we need to buckle down seriously in attacking issues that concern human subsistence particularly ourselves, our families, our children and their future. Something that could ensure us promising prospects for sustainability which would not reduce us to sub-human level. Naturally, the how-to-do-it and what-to-do questions pop out from everyone’s mind. And subsequently, each one needs a plausible answer.

The most sober response to this is the emerging viability of effort collectivism. The Philippines in the past several years in line with the Overseas Filipinos Re-integration program of both the government and the Non-Government Organizations has openly extended its approval and assistance to other NGO’s as part of its strategy in solving the surmounting economic anxieties nationwide. Under this NGO umbrella branches out the phenomenal co-operativism concept of promoting sustainable development programs in the countryside.

Cooperativism effectively has helped ease the barriers of unemployment, inflation and market stagnation. It also inspired the grassroots to involve themselves in many a productive endeavor other than being individualistic and partial. Like the “Bayanihan” concept, co-operativism has securely tightened the bonds of helping each other through aggregated virtues of self-respect, industry, self reliance, diligence, etc. towards attaining a common goal.

The unprecedented success of co-operativism can never be discredited vis-à-vis to its role in nation building. It has worked potentially and prospered lives among many of its adherents. Owing to its substantial effects, there is no way it can work in a group if the bottom line is to serve the interest of the few if not individual. It has to be functioned for a greater number of beneficiaries who will received its services.

What are the Aims & Objectives:

To foster r friendship, service, co-operation, and mutual benefit among its members in the conduct of its operation. Also, the objectives and purposes for which this co-operative is to be formed are to:

1) Encourage thrift and savings mobilization among its members for capital formation.

2) Create funds in order to grant loans for productive and providential purposes to its members.

3) Provide goods, services, welfare and other requirements of the members and its beneficiaries.

4) Engage in conduct, and carry on the business of investments and deals with the money’s and properties of the co-operative in such manner as may from time to time be considered wise or expedient for the advancement of its interests.

5)To work with the co-operative movement, non-government and government organizations/entities in the promotion of countryside development in line with the OFW Re-integration Program by both Government of Non-Government Organizations in the Philippines.

In furtherance of and not in limitation of the general powers conferred by the laws of the Philippines particularly the Cooperative Development Authority and the objectives and purposes set forth, this cooperative shall have the powers:

a)To draw, make, accept, endorse, guarantee, execute and issue promissory notes, mortgages, bills of exchange, drafts, warrants, certificates and all kinds of obligations and instruments in connection with and in advancement of its business operations;

b) To issue bonds, debentures and other obligations of the cooperative, to contract indebtedness and to secure the same with mortgage or deed of trust, or pledge or lien on any or all of the real and personal properties of the cooperative;

c) And to acquire facilities, either by or through construction, purchase, lease, bequest or donation, grants from local or foreign sources.

If co-operativism has worked out in many areas in the Philippines, then it is also workable anywhere irrespective of its geographical location, creed, religion and what not. It simply means it can be done anywhere as its inceptive location to build its databases. Although, in the long term, its main objective is to coarsely attacked the feasible market in the Philippines. **end

COOPERATIVISM and OFW Reintegration
By: Peter Polestico and Bong Amora
Founding Members
Former Board of Director
Bohol Leyte OFW Cooperative (BLOC)

Araw ng Kagitingan

By: Retired Judge Lilio Libres Amora

JESUS steadfastly refused any thought on a violent overthrow of the despotic regime but insisted on peaceful reforms. Barabas who led the underground movement pursued his uncanny strategy that if Jesus is arrested and imprisoned, His thousands of followers would rise up in rebellion and join the underground, then ignite the poor and down-trodden into a great civil war. Judas who subscribed to the views of Barabas betrayed Jesus and facilitated His arrest but when the thousands of followers did not rise up or joined the underground, Judas committed suicide. In an unexpected twist of events, Pilate, supported by the viva voce vote of the people, released Barabas instead of Jesus, washed his hands and ordered the scourging of Jesus after proclaiming, I have nothing to do with the death of this Man. The passion and crucifixion of Jesus followed. And then, Easter Sunday came, the first and the only true araw ng kagitingan of mankind and the whole world.
* * *
Bataan has fallen but the spirit that made it stand will remain a beacon to all freedom-loving people of the world? this is the Voice of Freedom. (April 9, 1942):. Some Filipino soldiers in that war, which was not our war, are still living after fighting side by side with the Americans 60 years ago. Veterans, they are called who are living on their pensions but pensions that they lament are not apportioned equally among all the soldiers who crawled and bled with the American buddies in the war contrary to the promises of American presidents from Roosevelt to Bush. To many Filipino veterans, this is araw ng kagitingan sa mga sipsip. They even have to line under sun and rain towards a bank that keeps and cashes their checks under a business arrangement with another sipsip group. The aging veterans in crutches or by walking sticks are victimized by swindlers and pickpockets in the city. Their travel from their towns to the city is already a great physical effort on the part of the aging veterans who still hope on the promises that are aged already like them. It is not hard to presume that on the lips of these fading old soldiers are the words & I fought in vain.
* * *
There is now another Senate Five to counterpart the Batasan Five which will fuel further the Oust PGMA campaign and which is to be intensified during the Lenten season but the new assault is pre-empted by FG (Front Guard) Mike Arroyo who challenged all senators to resign instead. Here we go again, but this time, the man of the house is at the front door in an open war to protect his loved ones. The fight has taken a new shape and size. The flames are fanned by the resignation of the prime minister of Thailand after violent street demonstrations and the adverse editorial of the New York Times that democracy has dark days in the Philippines. The fight is now taking place outside of the ring, what’s next?

Taken from:
Bohol Times/April 9, 2006 Issue
Thinking Aloud/Editorial Column
Posted at my Home Blog, April 9, 2006

Absentee Voting Book

Absentee voting book
still good read amid charter change bids


QUEZON CITY — WHAT’S blue and nearing obsolescence but still worth reading?

It’s the book entitled “Overseas Absentee Voting: The Philippine Experience,” whose author is preventing the issue from dying amid renewed efforts to change the country’s constitution.

Not that author and lawyer Henry Rojas is bothered over potential revenue loss from his book’s sale—at P250 or just under US$5 each from publisher and nonprofit group Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA)-Philippines; Rojas is afraid overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may again miss out on the deal.

If charter change pushes through, the right to vote of overseas Filipinos might be taken away again,” Rojas told the OFW Journalism Consortium. He said opposing moves to change the 10-year-old Philippine Constitution is a “logical option.”

The book offers keen insight on an instrument of suffrage that dates back to a hundred years when Australians first enacted overseas voting under its Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1902.

The 225-page “blue book,” printed with money from the OFW Journalism Consortium’s partner Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, shows the nuts and bolts of Republic Act 9189, or the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003.

While the book is a strain to read, full of legalese speak and lacking literary flair, it provides an astute look on the circuitous law and its application in the 2004 elections.

Rojas offered this reason for getting through the quagmire of legalese: “Active participation in elections is one of the many ways we contribute to nation building. Thus, the right and opportunity to vote as an absentee voter are too important to be treated lightly.”

The books is designed to help overseas Filipinos and NGOs in their advocacy efforts for reforms in the enacted law and in Philippine elections, and to help them grasp the complexity of the country’s immediate electoral history.
Blue clues

THE book offers clues to understanding the immediate future of qualified OFW voters under a new Constitution being pushed by supporters of President Gloria Arroyo, Part I is an abridged version of RA 9189. It gives the context of the overseas absentee voting law and how it works in the Philippines.

This part explains the law and the rules and regulations supporting it. It identifies who may vote and can be voted into a particular public office as well as which public official under the Commission on Elections is responsible for which particular rule.

Nearing the deadline of registration for voters in August this year, it informs OFWs among readers of the processes and requirements for registering.In an interview months after the book was launched in a coffee shop ostensibly called “Conspiracy Café,” Rojas said proposed revisions to the Constitution “have basically retained the constitutional right of qualified overseas Filipino citizens to vote.”

“However, assuming that charter change does happen, overseas Filipinos will return to square one because a new absentee voting law has to be passed before [they] can vote again,” he said.Rojas explained that the current OAV law limits overseas Filipinos to vote only for president, vice president, senators, and party list representatives. It also restrains OFWs from voting in a referendum or plebiscite.Assuming that charter change happens, overseas Filipinos cannot vote anymore without a new enabling law under the proposed parliamentary form of government.

Similar to the run before the 2002 elections, there is no specific reference to representation of overseas Filipinos in this form of rule, according to Rojas.

Currently, OFs are represented in the Lower House of Congress via the party-list system introduced in the elections that brought movie actor Joseph Estrada into the presidency.

“It would appear that representation of overseas Filipinos in parliament would [depend] on the discretion of the winning political parties,” Rojas said.
Rosy past

OFWs attuned to the workings of the absentee voting law may skip to the second part should they want to know how the law fared in real-time, especially the first time it was applied in 2004.

Part II bares the actors and players in the run up to the elections that led Arroyo to power, some say through “extra-legal” help from Comelec official Virgilio Garcillano.

Before that scandal brought questions unto the legitimacy of Arroyo’s ascent into the presidency, “OAV: Philippine Experience” showed how OFWs struggled on their newfound right to influence the country’s socio-political and economic conditions.

Struggled, indeed, as Rojas cited the problems that hounded the first application of the OAV law: low registration turnout, undocumented workers’ fear of exposure, and host country restrictions. He also documented the usual problems in the counting of votes and canvassing of returns.

But here is where Rojas may have failed to meet readers’ expectations; he immediately gave recommendations in Part III rather than continuing with the review of the law’s rosy past.

The train of thought that could have gripped readers in Parts I and II were derailed as it is in Part IV that zoomed to other countries’ application of absentee voting.

In this section, Rojas talked about the Australian and United States experiences and explained various methods of overseas voting as practiced in other countries.

Rojas described how Australians and Americans could either vote in person, or by mail, facsimile transmission, proxy voting, or via the Internet (allowed in Missouri and Dakota). Some European countries meanwhile, also allow proxy voting and voting via the Internet (the Netherlands).

In Part III, Rojas could have shown the rash actions surrounding the decisions by government officials to approve on the twelfth hour the OAV. The book failed to explain why its authors didn’t think there were questions on the slow boat the OAV law took prior to the 2002 and 2004 elections.

Were those seeking public office blinded by how remittances have helped stabilize the economy? Were debates begun by OFs in Europe not sufficient enough? Were decisions to apply the OAV tied with the Photokina polling equipment sale to government?

Responding to these questions could have explained why it took more than three decades of money flowing in the country and millions of Filipinos out of the Philippines for suffrage rights to be given attention.Strong republic

ROJAS is more an advocate and lawyer than a writer, highly concerned that in the run up to the 2010 elections, the problems that gripped voting OFWs would be repeated.

Hence, he has pressed in Part III of “OAV: Philippine Experience” several recommendations on what he cited as “outstanding issues and concerns on the law.”

These concerns include “some restrictive provisions of the law on voter qualifications and limitations in the electoral mechanisms that deter broader voter participation and maintenance of the integrity of the ballots and other orderly electoral administration.”

These, according to him, must be addressed by legislators, the Comelec, and the overseas Filipino communities.

It is here where the author liberally discussed what he deemed as “a need to democratize overseas absentee voting to ensure a broader participation of qualified Filipinos abroad.”

But the recent imposition of a state of emergency after the buzz on Charter change may have pulled the rug off the feet of Rojas and others like him betting on the rights to suffrage of some five million Filipinos temporarily working in 190 countries.

e the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal, charter change was not an issue,” Rojas told the OFW Journalism Consortium, adding: “There was no gridlock in the legislative branch of government.”

He believed that it shouldn’t be the OAV law that should be changed but “those in power.”

Still, Rojas is caught between the Scylla and Charybdis: tentacles of issues and concerns on the OAV remain unresolved while putting people into power in the Philippines is being altered.

Something Rojas admits: “For many in the Philippines, it will be a dilemma since they are involved in an ongoing political struggle.”Since the Philippine situation is more fluid than Rojas’s pen, the book “OAV: Philippine Experience” should still be read to give a backdrop of what could occur in the next few weeks and to give a bird’s eye view on what was once a flicker of hope for millions of powerless Filipinos overseas.

**Request for posting granted by OFW Journalism Consortium**

Mainstreaming OFW Affairs in local governance

I have just  found a new friend whose advocacy works includes OFWs issues and concerns. He is currently a member of the Davao City Council.

Please allow me to share his legislative proposal that have to do with our continuing fight for OFW recognition and empowerment. – MAA


I received a request to post my legislative proposals in the City Council. Here is one approved on first reading last month. It is now with the Committee on Labor & Employment.



WHEREAS, it is the policy of the state and government to enhance local autonomy, and address the needs of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW);

WHEREAS, there is a growing need to mainstream OFW affairs in local governance as more and more OFWs seek direct governmental services from local government units in terms of various assistance, programs and projects;

WHEREAS, devolving such functions, powers and welfare funds of national agencies like the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) would greatly enhance the direct governmental services of LGUs to OFWs, particularly those who are in distress, those in need of various assistance, and those to be reintegrated in local communities by way of trainings, livelihood and employment, and other opportunities;

WHEREFORE, premises considered, be it resolved, as it is hereby resolved, to urge Congress to enact legislation to devolve some of the functions, powers and resources of the Overseas Workers Welfare Fund (OWWA) to local government units (LGUs) to mainstream Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) affairs in local governance.

By: Davao City Councilor Peter Lavina
April 7, 2006

Note: Peter Lavina is a journalist, a political activist, and an elected Davao City Councilor.

Be an Absentee Voter

My Fellow Absentee Voters (OFW’s)

Whether we like it or not we are part of Philippine Politics and as long as there are (few) good leaders who do their best advocating electoral reforms in our country, then, we have still hope that our one vote in the future be counted as what we’ve been expecting in an honest to goodness, clean and peaceful election.

It ‘s too early to say, but I think it’s about time for us to evaluate new breed of young leaders that could probably put back the broken pieces of Philippine politics.

Let’s register now and be an Absentee Voter.

An OAV Advocate

“So many people have a wealth of ideas that could make things work. And they don’t have to be in politics to do that. There are so many opportunities they can create out there. There is still so much that can be done.” GR

Excerpt taken from: Gilbert & Good Governance
By Denise C. Villegas
People Asia Magazine 11/11/2005

In politics he says there are things that he has learned to accept and there are still things that he cannot accept. “For example, especially in the national scope, there are certain things that can be done. Like entertainment, you sell escape. With politics you sell hope. And I think that that is what you have to keep on selling especially in our country where everyone feels so hopeless now. You have to sell that and you don’t do it by lying through your teeth about the true state of the nation. But you actually have to show that you are doing something. There has to be solid action. There are so many things that you can do so easily to sell that hope. Does it gnaw at me? Yes, it does. Because it is not being done. You show the people that you won’t tolerate nonsense when it comes to smuggling in order to protect our agricultural and manufacturing centers. So, you jail the biggest smugglers. You want to say that you are no nonsense about drugs? It’s so easy to find out who the biggest drug lords are. We have millions of pesos worth of information. Or you can jail the most corrupt officials or the biggest tax evaders. You know these are things that will make people say, `Hey they are actually doing something’.”

And what of the people who have lost all hope that our country just may yet find a way to set itself right? “Hope should be the last thing to go. So many people have a wealth of ideas that could make things work. And they don’t have to be in politics to do that. There are so many opportunities they can create out there. There is still so much that can be done.”

Unannounced Visit

It has been observed that for the past few days Government Officials that oversees OFW concerns made an unannounced visit to the Kingdom. A week ago DOLE Secretary Pat Sto. Tomas paid a short visit to the Kingdom via Geneva and OWWA Administrator Marianito Roque was also here at that time of her visit and came back a few days ago and presently still in the Kingdom.

DFA Usec. Rafael Seguis (Former Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia)

DFA Usec. on Special Concerns Rafael Seguis (Former Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia)

This week I came to know that our beloved DFA Undersecretary on Special Concerns Rafael Seguis is here in the Kingdom unannounced too. Whatever their visit is all about, am sure it is an official and relevant to the issues and concerns for the welfare of our fellow Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia.

Usec Rafael Seguis is not new to us, he was once a former Ambassador to the Kingdom and one of the prominent and outstanding negotiator for the released of our fellow kidnapped OFW victims in Iraq a year ago. As a former father of the OFW’s in the Kingdom, he knows exactly what he is doing, and I’m hoping whatever official visit he is into today; it would be a success.

Amidst political crisis in our country, we are thankful enough that our current government officials are here doing their job as what they are paid for. This is what we need from them. The Filipino community in the Kingdom needs special care, especially to those fellow OFW in distress, at least an assurance that there is hope and perhaps light at the end of the tunnel. I am referring to those comrades languishing in jails and to those facing death penalty.

As we all knew that we need to strengthen our foreign relations initiatives to the government of Saudi Arabia, in order for us to intensify access of protection for the rights of our fellow OFW’s in jail and those facing the death penalty; and likewise enhance the role of our Foreign Affairs Department.

Last February 25, 2006, our group (Kalipunang Kaakabay ng Mangagawang Pilipino sa Saudi Arabia) submitted a position paper to the Honorable Members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs through the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) with the following recommendations:

1) Provide details of the legal proceedings to all pending cases especially to those with death penalties. 

2) Ensure that Filipino Expatriate Workers in the Kingdom are guaranteed legal counsel and an interpreter immediately after arrest and in court.

3)  Ensure that families of those arrested are immediately informed of the arrest of their relatives. 

4) Guarantee that consulate or embassy staff are informed of any detention and allowed communication with them.

5) Relatives of OFW’s who have been executed are allowed to request repatriation of the human remains of their love ones to perform burial rituals in accordance with their religious or cultural traditions.

We continue to hope and pray that this recommendation must be given top most attention from our visiting Philippine government officials in the Kingdom. – BongA