Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Relations of RP, Singapore not tainted over slain OFW ­ envoy

Tuesday, 09/27/2005

Even with the brutal slaying of Jane La Puebla, a Filipino domestic helper, the bilateral relations of the Philippines and Singapore remains intact. Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Belen Anota yesterday confirmed this, stressing the recent tragedy involving two overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) was not in any way causing damage on the bilateral relations of the two countries.

“I am not here during the Flor Contemplacion case, but I can speak for what is happening now and the things are going on very smoothly,” Anota said.

Both countries, Anota added, are “very senstive” to each other's concerns and so far there was no indication that this might create another tension between the Philippines and Singapore should the ruling of the subordinate court turned out unfavorable to us. Guen Aguilar, the suspect in the murder of La Puebla, was currently detained at the Changi Womens prison.

Philippine authorities feared this case would again cause another spark between the good relations of the two nations 10 years ago during the execution of Flor Contemplacion, the Filipino domestic helper convicted of killing her compatriots Delia Maga and a Singporean boy.

Anota said there is an ongoing backdoor channelling with the Philippines and the host government to ensure the La Puebla murder slay will not put both parties at stake.

“We are in close coordination with all the authorities so that nothing gets out of hand,” Anota explained, adding she is heading the Philippine team. But she refused to give details of the backdoor negotiations since she noted this may harm the ongoing back room channelling.

Anota added despite the recent tragic event, the Singaporean government did not impose stricter rules on the entry of the OFWs in the country, claiming our deployment has not been affected. Citing the figures of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Singapore, Anota said there are an estimated 90,000 OFWs in Singapore at present and the number continues to increase.

But when asked how many are considered illegal, the diplomat noted if we are using the Singapore laws, there is no “illegal” workers in the host country since all of the Filipino workers there are documented and are able to secure their work permits.

But she claimed if we will use the Philippine laws, majority of the OFWs in Singapore could be considered illegal since they entered Singapore using a tourist visa.

Meanwhile, Anota has committed to give all the support to both the Aguilar and La Puebla families until the case will be over.

Court Magistrate Carolyn Wee last Friday suspended the court hearing for the third time to give the police some more time to gather pieces of evidence and complete their investigation.

Based on reports, the next hearing of Aguilar is set on Oct. 14. Marie A. Surbano

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Brain drain now a na

Brain drain now a national ‘hemorrhage’ First posted 09:32am (Mla time) Sept 21, 2005 By Christian EsguerraInquirer News Service THE BRAIN drain has become a “national hemorrhage.” Some 80 percent of government doctors are now enrolled in nursing schools nationwide so they can land higher-paying jobs as nurses overseas, according to a group of concerned health professionals. The situation was troubling since one Filipino doctor tended to between 10,000 and 26,000 patients, warned the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD).The local ratio was a far cry from the United States and even Cuba where there was one doctor for every 225 patients.“Let’s look at the irony -- we are producing so many nurses yet our hospitals are lacking in quality nurses and the quality of health service that we’re giving to Filipinos is very poor,” Dr. Gene Nisperos, HEAD secretary general, said Tuesday in a press conference in Quezon City.HEAD, an organization of doctors, nurses and other health professionals, linked up with the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) to pressure the government and other stakeholders to address the worsening health care problem.Last week, the AHW predicted that the local health care system would crumble in two to three years unless the exodus of doctors and nurses was arrested.In the media briefing, Nisperos said the brain drain started in the 1960s when doctors and nurses left for higher studies and training overseas.By the mid-1970s, however, the Philippines was already the top exporter of doctors and nurses in the world, second only to India in peddling local doctors abroad.The problem of health professionals leaving the country for better pay and working conditions came to a head in the late 1990s when the US and several European countries jacked up their demands for doctors and nurses.From 2000 to 2003, Nisperos said a total of 51,580 Filipino nurses left the country. In 2004, some 5,000 doctors jumped on the bandwagon to work as nurses. Around 4,000 more doctors are taking up nursing this year.The growing number of doctors settling for a nurse’s cap has been welcomed by nursing schools. At least 45 of them now offer an abbreviated nursing course for doctors lasting between 1 1/2 to 3 years, according to HEAD.Nisperos said administrations, past and present, should have taken concrete steps to keep doctors and nurses in the country.“This is mainly a government-sponsored phenomenon,” he said. “We believe strong medicine is needed to address the hemorrhage in the health sector.”The HEAD-AHW alliance proposed four steps to deal with the health sector crisis: First, the Arroyo administration should increase the budget for health care and abide by the World Health Organization prescription that countries set aside at least 5 percent of their gross national product for this purpose. At present, only 0.6 percent of the GNP was purportedly allocated to the health sector.Second, the government should work to adequately compensate doctors and nurses. In the South African country of Namibia, the alliance said a junior physician earned $1,161 monthly while a Filipino counterpart here had a salary of between $300 and $400.Third, the government should review -- or perhaps rescind -- its commitments to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Such commitments purportedly allow countries like the United Kingdom to lure local doctors and nurses to work abroad, with no regard for the fate of the local health care system.Fourth, there should be more consultations among all stakeholders in the health care crisis, particularly patients, to arrive at other concrete solutions. #(image placeholder)

Kuwait plans minimum

Kuwait plans minimum wage for foreign workersTuesday, September 20, 2005 / 7:31:24 PM KUWAIT CITY, Sept 19 (AFP) - Kuwait's minister of social affairs and labour Faisal al-Hajji has proposed the introduction of a minimum wage for hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers, a newspaper reported Monday.    Al-Qabas newspaper quoted Hajji as saying he has submitted recommendations to the cabinet calling for a 50-dinar (170-dollar) minimum monthly wage for foreigners hired by private companies involved in government contracts. He also proposed a 70-dinar (240-dollar) minimum wage for expatriates working as security guards for private companies. Monthly salaries of many expatriate menial workers, like cleaners, are as low as 70 dollars a month. Hajji said that after the recommendations are approved, no private company will be awarded a government contract before guaranteeing it will pay the minimum wage. More than 1.8 million foreigners live in Kuwait, which has a population of 2.8 million. About 900,000 work in the private sector, including about 60 percent from the Indian subcontinent. Kuwait also employs about 450,000 domestic workers, mostly from India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Asian workers have staged a series of strikes in recent months, claiming they had not been paid wages in several months. The government intervened and threatened action against employers if they did not pay. The US State Department in its annual "Trafficking in Persons Report" released in June criticised Kuwait and three other Gulf states for not doing enough to halt human trafficking and child labour. Washington has also stipulated improving labour conditions and amending the labour law as two of several conditions for starting free trade talks with Kuwait. Like other oil-rich Gulf states, foreigners working in Kuwait's private sector must have a "sponsor," a regulation which restricts their movement and puts them at the mercy of their employers. Officials have said Kuwait has been cooperating with the International Labour Organization for the past four years, and is considering ILO suggestions for changing the sponsor requirement. In June, the labour ministry prohibited employers from forcing labourers to work under the sun from noon to 4:00 pm during the summer months when the temperature reaches 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). #

Malaysia tightens OF

Malaysia tightens OFW entry rulesTuesday, September 20, 2005 / 7:04:45 PM FILIPINOS who intend to work in Malaysia will be required to attend a 10-day induction course and pass a 90-item written test on Malaysian laws and culture, including basic Malaysian language, the Department of Labor and Employment said yesterday. Labor Attaché to Kuala Lumpur Josephus Jimenez, in a report to Labor Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas, said the government of Malaysia has come up with the new policy to help foreign workers avoid problems that may arise due to their ignorance of Malaysian laws, culture and language.  The course aims to teach foreign workers basic Malaysian language, help them adjust to Malaysian culture, religion, and social norms, avoid violations of Malaysian laws, and raise awareness on foreign workers' rights. After the induction course, foreign workers will be required to take a written test.  Those who pass will be listed on the Roster of Passers and granted a Certificate of Eligibility.  Only those with CEs will be granted a work visa.  Jimenez said the policy is applicable to foreign workers who will arrive in Malaysia starting November 1, this year.  Those who arrived in Malaysia between Nov. 1, 2004 and October 31 this year will be required to attend an orientation course to be conducted by Malaysian employers, Jimenez said, adding employers who fail to conduct the orientation will be penalized. Sto. Tomas said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority will submit a list of training centers for  accreditation to Malaysia before October 30 this year.  #

Monday, September 19, 2005

Migrant party pickets Philippine office in Taipei

Industrial accident victim's rights were protected, MECO labor officials say
2005-09-18 / Taiwan News, Staff Reporter / By Marie Feliciano http://www.etaiwannews.com/Kabayan/2005/09/18/1127014440.htm

A group of Filipinos staged a picket protest inside the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei last Sunday to denounce the alleged incompetence and gross negligence of labor officials who helped negotiate a compensation package for occupational accident victim Seraflor Mabuti.

Seraflor, a native of Ilocos Norte, figured in a work-related accident in Taipei on September 10, 2004. The injuries left him paralyzed from the waist down. The Filipino returned home on November 10 last year In a dialogue with the protesters, MECO-Labor Taipei Representative Reynaldo Gopez and Welfare Officer Lydia Espinosa stressed that MECO did all that it could to secure Seraflor a just compensation package.

The occupational accident victim and his wife, Rocel, also voluntarily agreed to accept one of the two options drafted by the Taipei County Labor Bureau, the two said. "Everything was explained to Seraflor.

He was advised (by us and someone who was really looking after his interest) not to leave Taiwan (so that he could pursue his case) but he still insisted on going home. We respected (Seraflor and Rocel's decision), and we understood their situation at the time," Gopez said.

"If you (are well off), you could easily say, 'Yes, I can wait (for the compensation package from the labor insurance bureau).' Their situation however did not permit that. You can't blame them for accepting the settlement." Espinosa confirmed Gopez's assertions. "We explained to them their options.

We discussed everything with Seraflor and Rocel," she said. Seraflor's wife however insisted that MECO-Labor Taipei bungled the settlement process, and demanded that Gopez and Espinosa re-opened her husband's case. "Bakit po pinabayaan ninyo kaming pumirma (ng kontratang) mali? (Why did you let us sign an unfair contract?)" Rocel asked the two officials.

The Filipina, who attended the picket staged by the Migrante Sectoral Party, works as a caregiver at a Taipei nursing home. MECO, which assisted Seraflor during the negotiation process, allowed Seraflor to sign a document in Chinese dated November 3, 2004, Rocel said. The Philippine labor center did not even bother to translate the agreement in English or Tagalog, she continued.

By doing so, MECO failed to fully explain to them that signing the contract meant they were waiving all of Seraflor's actual labor insurance claims, Rocel continued.

Item 7 of the agreement stated that Seraflor was "forfeiting" all of his insurance claims, and that he was authorizing his former employer to collect it. The said article also stated that Seraflor must sign 10 withdrawal slips so that his former boss could withdraw the money. The final sum was also none of Seraflor's business, it added. Based on the contract that Seraflor signed, the Filipino would be receiving a total of NT$795,040 from his former boss.

The amount included the NT$150,000 in compensation package paid to him by his former employer, two months' salary amounting to NT$31,680, and NT$613,360 in estimated labor insurance benefits. The latter amount, a rough assessment of Seraflor's insurance claims, was initially shouldered by the Filipino's former employer.

The employer would later get a reimbursement when the labor insurance bureau has determined Seraflor's actual insurance benefits. The entire sum, once released, would go to Seraflor's former employer, the contract said. Negligence? Reverend Joy Tajonera, one of the individuals who provided moral support and assistance to the Mabutis, described the agreement as "lopsided."

"First, the contract that Seraflor signed - and this is a contract that MECO brokered - is in Chinese. Everyone knows that Mr. Gopez and Mrs. Espinosa neither speak nor read Chinese. If that's the case, then there's no way that those two officials could honestly say that they had fully explained its contents to Seraflor when they themselves could not even read it," said Tajonera.

MECO only produced an English translation of the contract after Rocel, Tajonera, Alice Librea of the Migrant Workers Concern Desk, and a representative from the Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries asked Gopez to furnish them a copy during a visit on November 8, 2004, said the priest. Rocel did not have a copy of the agreement.

"If they (MECO-Labor Taipei officials) really knew what they were doing at the time, they would have drafted an agreement stating that Seraflor still had the right to collect his insurance claims. If the actual amount exceeded the NT$613,360 in substitution payment shelled out by Seraflor's former boss, the excess amount should still go to Seraflor since it's his. Baldado na nga iyong tao. (His injuries left him paralyzed)," the priest said. "What went wrong? What would MECO do to ensure that this would never happen again?" Tajonera added he was puzzled that MECO agreed to a contract requiring a migrant to sign withdrawal slips.

"No one in his right mind - especially government officials who are mandated to protect the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers - would agree to that. They themselves are breaking their office's own policies," he said. On the evening of November 8, MECO's Tony Wu asked Rocel to drop by the Philippine labor center and sign another waiver the following day, Tajonera said. "I told her not to sign anything," said the priest.

During the said meeting, Gopez promised Rocel, Tajonera, and representatives of the MWCC and TAVOI that he would ask MECO lawyers to go over the agreement, the Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants said in a statement. "Mr. Gopez never got back to the three to relay to them the lawyer's opinion - if there was any," APMM said.

In a handwritten statement, Seraflor claimed that Espinosa and former MECO-Labor Taipei administrative assistant Tony Wu - Wu was one of MECO's local-hires who was "eased out" earlier this year - discouraged him from pushing for a bigger compensation package. Seraflor's statement "Since my employer's offer was quite small, my wife and I decided to ask for a larger sum (NT$1.4 million).

My employer turned down our request. MECO's (Tony Wu and Lydia Espinosa) told us that if we insisted on getting that amount, we might end up with 'Option 1' (total receivable was NT$181,680 exclusive of actual insurance claims after 180 days) or a sum that was even smaller than that. Worse, we might end up with nothing," Seraflor said in Tagalog.

"Why are they (Espinosa and Wu) like that? Instead of encouraging us to fight (for our rights), they discouraged us at tinakot na baka mas maliit o kaya'y wala pa kaming makuha (and they warned us that we might either end up with a smaller sum or nothing at all)."

Espinosa denied Seraflor's allegations. "What we told Seraflor was that the employer rejected their demand, and that the latter even said Seraflor could file a case if he wanted to. I asked him, 'What do you want to do? File a case and go to court?" she said. "We simply explained to him what his options were." The NT$613,360 in estimated insurance claims stipulated in the agreement was also a "fair assessment" of what Seraflor might eventually get from the labor insurance bureau, Espinosa continued.

"We based that on labor insurance bureau estimates. We did the best that we could even though we were pressed for time," she said. The final decision always rest with the migrant, Espinosa continued. During last Sunday's dialogue with Migrante protesters, Gopez told Seraflor's wife, "Rocel, may kasabihan sa Ingles na (there's a saying in English that says), 'You can't have your cake and eat it too."

"Pasensya na. Naiintindihan kita (I feel for you and I understand you)," he said. "I'm also thankful to Migrante because they are helping you out, and that's what we are hoping for. Let's help each other. What's wrong with that? Instead of assigning blame, let us cooperate with each other. If you think what we are doing is wrong, tell us. Now, let's talk about her husband. How is he? How can we help?"

Rocel lamented that when her husband was still confined at a Taipei hospital, MECO failed to get him a 24-hour caregiver. "He is paralyzed so he needed someone who would regularly change his diapers and empty his catheter," she said. "No one was there to care for him. It was really tough for Seraflor." Espinosa said she did request Seraflor's former broker and employer to provide the Filipino with a caregiver during his therapy sessions.

"It even reached a point where it's the broker who ended up looking after him," she said. Gopez called on overseas Filipino workers to care for their own. "It's difficult to get sick abroad since you are away from your families. We have to help each other. Mga negosyante ito eh bakit sila magsusuweldo ng taong magbabantay? Igiit man natin iyan, kulang pa rin. Iyong bibig natin ilagay natin sa trabaho.

Tayo ang magbantay (They are businessmen so why would they pay for your caregivers? Even if we were able to push that, it would still not be enough. Let's put our words into action by looking after our sick countrymen)," he said.

Rocel added that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration did not even provide them with an ambulance when they arrived in Manila on November 10. She had to arrange for one and pay for it. Espinosa said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Manila did not dispatch any ambulance to the airport since Rocel did not inform her that they were indeed flying home on the said date.

The agreement that Seraflor signed stated that his flight was tentatively set on November 10, 2004. "The night before we left, Tony Wu kept on calling me. He said he would meet us at the airport, and that he would ask us to sign a waiver concerning my husband's insurance benefits. So how could you not know that we were flying home on the said date?" Rocel asked. In a text message to the Taiwan News, Wu, who is no longer with MECO, neither confirmed nor denied Rocel's allegations.

"I was not at the airport, so how could I ask them to sign (the waiver)?" Wu said in his text message. He added that he was only employed as an administrative assistant at MECO at the time, and had no power to make tough decisions on behalf of Seraflor. "Do you think without the (officer's authorization) I would be able to solve that kind of problem?" he asked.

Accountability In a statement, the Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants called on MECO to immediately endorse Seraflor to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Manila for medical and psychological assistance. The group also called on the Philippine government to closely examine MECO-Labor Taipei's performance on the Seraflor case.

"As of this writing, Seraflor had stopped his rehabilitation program at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital in Batac, Ilocos Norte because of financial constraints.

His doctor is still recommending that he continues the said program since possible complications might arise," APMM said. "Vocational training should be considered and (possible) psychological problems like depression and anxiety reactions should be seriously addressed." #

Labour ministry powerless to prevent abuse of maids

By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporter
Published: 19/9/2005, 07:59 (UAE)

Dubai: Labour ministry officials say they know that recruitment agencies are abusing foreign housemaids they bring into the country to work, but say the ministry is powerless to oversee their activities.

Asked by Gulf News about complaints from housemaids that agencies keep them in tiny attics, beat them and give them very little to eat before delivering them to their sponsor, an official from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said he was aware of what was happening.

“Yes, hundreds of housemaids are mistreated by the agencies, and we know that,” he said. “But we can’t inspect them and go inside to find out what is going on. Even the Interior Ministry cannot do that. The agencies are taking advantage of this.”

A Gulf News reporter visited four recruitment agencies in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, posing as a potential employer. In one agency about 25 housemaids of different nationalities were crowded into a small room above the office. They crouched silently on the floor.

“Take one,” the woman at the agency said. Gulf News saw a lady at one agency slap one of the housemaids who had been returned by a dissatisfied client. The maid had neither done nor said anything before she was slapped in the face.The official said the labour and interior ministries were both powerless because neither had full oversight over the issue.

The labour ministry merely issued licences for the agencies to pursue their business in the UAE. As for the Interior Ministry, he said its Immigration and Naturalisation Department issued visas for the housemaids.The official said: “Everything to do with these agencies should be placed under one ministry, and we have suggested that it should be the Interior Ministry. “We want to explain this problem to the media.

These agencies mistreat people and break the law because they are not under full control of anybody,” he said. An Indonesian housemaid named Hini, now working for a family in Sharjah, said the previous housewife who employed her in Abu Dhabi forced her to wear a veil day and night in the house because she was young and pretty.When the housewife found her sleeping without a headscarf, she said, “She kicked me and woke me up, asking me to cover my hair while sleeping.

I cried a lot and I asked them to send me back to the agency, who also mistreated me and they used to beat me until I found another sponsor who treated me well.” She said back at the agency in Dubai dozens of maids were kept in a small room.

Maria, another housemaid at another agency in Sharjah, said she and 20 other housemaids were kept in a small attic above the agency.

A woman who runs a labour recruitment agency in Sharjah told Gulf News she kept the housemaids in an attic at the agency while they were awaiting deportation or changes in their visas.

Number of domestic workers set to grow

The number of foreign housemaids in the UAE is estimated at 300,000. They represent 20 per cent of the workforce. However, this number is expected to rise to 800,000 by 2010, according to figures released by Dubai Municipality two years ago.

They come from India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, East Africa.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Overseas remittances bypass Philippines poor, says ADB

Posted: 11:58 AM
Sept. 13, 2005
Agence France-Presse

BILLIONS of dollars of cash transfers from the Philippines' huge overseas work force have largely bypassed the Southeast Asian nation's poor, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

While the money has boosted personal consumption, the main driver of its economy, the overall impact is patchy, with more prosperous areas of the country and higher-income families receiving the lion's share, it said.

"The poorer segment of Philippine society has been largely excluded from the opportunities provided by migration, and OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) tend to come from less poor regions," the Manila-based lender said in a report.

The Philippines central bank says around eight million overseas Filipinos -- nearly a 10th of the population -- will send home 9.4 billion dollars this year via formal banking channels, up 10 percent from last year's levels.

The country is the third highest recipient of remittances, behind Mexico and India.

The ADB, however, estimates that the actual level of remittances will be about three times the official amount, with overseas workers using other, informal means of transfer.

It found that despite sustained GDP growth in the four years to 2003, real average family incomes in the Philippines have fallen 10 percent, with the total income of the poorest 10th of the population having stagnated.

About 44.1 percent of Filipinos earned no more than a dollar a day in 2003.

"While a significant proportion of families report that income from abroad is their main source of income, these families are mainly based in urban areas," the report said.

"Furthermore, families from higher income groups tend to receive larger proportions of income from abroad than lower income groups."

Provinces with the highest levels of poverty, particularly in the rebellion-torn southern island of Mindanao, have the lowest proportion of overseas workers.

"Poverty remains a significant challenge in the Philippines, and it is a challenge that continues to grow," said Shamshad Akhtar, head of the ADB's Southeast Asia department.

"The number of poor Filipinos is increasing," she said, owing to the rapid 2.36 percent population growth rate, and "rural poverty has proven to be particularly intractable".

Remittances outstrip ODA, FDI for poor countries--experts

Posted: 5:00 PM
Sept. 12, 2005
Agence France-Presse with XFN-Asia

OVERSEAS remittances from workers in developed countries have outstripped foreign direct investment (FDI) and official development aid (ODA) as sources of funds for developing countries, financial experts said Monday.

Total overseas workers' remittances to developing countries are conservatively estimated at 200 billion dollars a year," said Donald Terry, manager of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank.

In contrast, foreign direct investment amounts to about 125 billion dollars a year and official development assistance is only some 50-60 billion dollars annually, Terry told an international conference on remittances in Manila.

He estimated the number of workers sending remittances overseas at about 125 million worldwide.

This huge transfer of funds had been hidden because financial institutions were not aware how large the total was, said Robert Bestani, director-general of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) private finance department.
It was also not widely acknowledged because it was "very controversial," he added.

"It's wonderful to talk about the free flow of goods but it's not wonderful to talk about the free flow of people," said Bastani.

He said this situation could increase as more of the poor sought work in developed countries while richer regions, like Europe and Japan, suffered a shortage of young workers.

India, Mexico and the Philippines were the three countries which got the largest amount of remittances from their nationals overseas, said Bastani at the opening of a joint conference on how such remittances could lower poverty.

The forum, sponsored by the ADB, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the MIF at the ADB headquarters in Manila, will look into ways of tracking such remittances and how they can be harnessed to help the poor.

Terry remarked that the total amount of overseas remittances to poor countries was officially placed at 126 billion dollars but that all studies showed that there were still vast amounts going through unofficial channels.
The amount officially recorded as going to Asia is about 50 billion dollars a year, said Terry, about equal to the amount going to Latin America.

But considering the large amounts still going through unofficial sources, the total for Asia would more likely hit 75 billion or even 100 billion dollars a year, said Terry.

Bestani said the overseas remittances were very effective as the money was going to the poor who need it most.

However the experts said the money could have a wider multiplier effect and could also be put to better use by the recipients if they were only aware of their financial options.

Terry cited India and Ecuador where remittances were being routed through micro-finance institutions and were being used in different financial services like home mortgages.

The challenges facing financial institutions is to find ways to lower transaction costs for remittances and learn how to channel more of the money into investment, Bestani said.

The experts also warned governments against excessive intervention like taxation or forcing people to use their remitted funds in certain ways.

Bestani said it was highly unlikely that terrorists and criminals were relying on overseas remittances to launder funds, remarking that individual amounts being sent home were too small.

Monday, September 12, 2005

24 OFWs on death row for various crimes--DFA

First posted 02:28pm (Mla time)
Sept 12, 2005
By Veronica Uy

APART from a Filipina maid in Singapore who faces death by hanging if she is convicted for the murder of a compatriot, at least 24 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are on death row for various crimes, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

In an interview with INQ7.net, Pedro Chan, executive director of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, said most of the 24 death-row inmates are in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. He said those in Saudi Arabia face capital punishment for murder, while those in Malaysia face the death penalty for drug-related cases.

Chan also said that of the seven million Filipinos overseas, his office is handling some 25,000 assistance-to-nationals cases at the moment, including those that involve crimes and capital punishment.

“These figures are relatively low if you compare for example with the crime rate in Metro Manila. Of course, [OFWs] are more behaved when they are outside the country. When you have seven million people, these incidents are bound to happen.

“[The OFWs] stand out only because the cases usually involve both Filipino victims and Filipino perpetrators, and because they happen outside the country,” he said.At the same time, DFA spokesman Gilbert Asuque said funds have already been released for the hiring of two Singapore-based lawyers, one each for suspect Guen Garlejo Aguilar and for victim Jane Parangan La Puebla.

Asuque said Philippine embassy officials have already talked to Aguilar but only about “general things” as Singapore police officials have advised them against discussing the case.

“The right to remain silent and the right against self-incrimination are really honored there as requirement of the law,” he said. #

Monday, September 05, 2005

Nurse Assaulted

Monday, 05 September 2005

This man hit his receptionist in the face with a phone. He got a dhs500 fine. She got four stitches and faces a six month ban. A dental nurse who was assaulted by her boss faces being banned from the country after he reported her as an absconder.

Grace Castello was celebrating her 30th birthday when Dr Mohamed Nihad Mohammed Gouma, a dentist based in the Comprehensive Medical Centre at the Crown Plaza in Dubai, lost his temper over the time of an appointment and hit her over the head with the telephone.

“I was asking a patient to come to the clinic at 2.00pm instead of 4.00pm. I was surprised when he started shouting at me and took the phone from my hand and hit me with it.

He hit me with the telephone so hard that I had a cut on my forehead and I started bleeding,” Castello, from the Philippines, said. A surgeon in the same building gave her four stitches, she said.

The case eventually went to court, where Gouma was found guilty and ordered to pay dhs500 compensation for the attack. When Castello said she was too afraid to return to work, she was reported as an absconder, and she could now be banned from the country for six months.

“He wanted to settle the case amicably and I refused, hoping that this man learns a lesson,” she said. “But I feel he has got away with a mild punishment - even for a traffic violation we get the same fine.

“My sponsor had warned me that I was digging my own grave and now I feel he is right,” she said. When contacted by 7DAYS, Dr Gouma claimed Castello had fallen over and invented the story. He hung up when told 7DAYS had seen court documents on the case.

Siza Darwish, the patient who was on the other end of the phone when Castello was attacked, said she could hear a man screaming. “Then I heard a bang and she [Castello] was crying.

“The call was disconnected after a while,” Darwish told 7DAYS. Despite repeated requests, Dr Gouma’s sponsor refused to comment on the case.