Filipino slave labour for US embassy in Iraq

This video from the USA shows the testimony of Rory Mayberry before a US congressional committee on July 26 on Filipino slave labour in the construction of the US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

From the Manila Times in the Philippines:


Shanghaied to Baghdad

SCARY was the testimony of Rory Mayberry before a US congressional committee on July 26. He told the story about how, in this age, foreign workers could be tricked by a contractor for the US government to work on a project they knew nothing about, for which they were not prepared and, when they were on the project, worked under bad conditions.

Mayberry, an emergency medical technician contracted to First Kuwaiti International—the construction company building the US Embassy inside the Green Zone in Baghdad—testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that he was ordered to shepherd 51 Filipinos. First Kuwaiti has denied the claim.

He told the committee that the Filipinos thought they were bound for Dubai for hotel work, and had no idea that they were being brought to the Iraqi capital.

When the Filipinos protested on the plane upon learning they were being brought to the wrong place, a security officer threatened them by waving an MP-5 machine gun.

Eventually, the Filipinos were “smuggled into the Green Zone,” past US security forces.

Mayberry testified that the Filipinos, among other laborers forced to work on the embassy site, worked without safety equipment. Many were injured at work.

The word “Shanghaied” refers to a history of workers tricked to where they did not want to go by lies; especially for US American merchant ships.

It is somewhat similar to being “blackbirded”, eg Fijian workers tricked for Australian sugar cane plantations.

However, at least those “blackbirded” and “Shanghaied” workers did not go to a war zone, unlike the Filipino slave labourers in Iraq now.

Filipino nurses face trumped-up charges in New York: here.

20 thoughts on “Filipino slave labour for US embassy in Iraq

  1. Fil-Am activist barred from returning to US
    08/10/2007 | 06:41 PM

    Members of progressive women’s organizations in the US are outraged over the Philippine government’s move to prevent a Filipino-American professor from leaving Manila where she attended a conference.

    Dr. Annalisa Enrile, assistant clinical professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work and national chair of Gabriela Network (GABNet) USA, was barred from boarding her return flight to Los Angeles on Aug. 5 purportedly because her name was on the Bureau of Immigration’s “hold-departure order” list.

    Enrile, a US citizen, came to the Philippines for the 10th bi-annual Women’s International Solidarity Affair held in Manila last week. The conference drew hundreds of women from all over the globe and covered issues such as sex trafficking and other international human rights violations.

    GABNet secretary general Doris Mendoza said Enrile chaperoned a delegation of USC Masters students who attended the conference and visited local non-governmental organizations.

    In a statement, she said officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) advised Enrile to report the Bureau of Immigration.

    Enrile was supposedly placed on the BI “watch list” on July 25. Gabriela believes this was still an enforcement of the Arroyo government’s policy adopted late last year to limit protest actions timed for the 12th Leaders’ Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Cebu last January.

    GABNet said its other leaders Judith Mirkinson and Ninotchka Rosca are on the same “watch list.” Mirkinson and Rosca also attended the women’s forum.

    “This is undoubtedly a scare tactic by the Philippine government to intimidate women’s
    international solidarity with Filipina women and their struggles,” Mendoza said.

    Pinay sa Seattle, a group of progressive Filipinos in Seattle, Washington State, said the barring of Enrile could be related to the government’s anti-terror policy.

    “Although the Philippine government had assured the international community that the watch list would be lifted following the ASEAN Summit, internationally-based progressives are still being targeted as part of the Philippine’s collusion with the War on Terror,” Donna Denina, vice chair of Pinay sa Seattle.

    “This is a time of grave concern due to the escalating human rights violations in the Philippines and the recent passage of the Human Security Act, commonly referred to as the Anti-Terror Bill. This law prohibits freedom of assembly and curtails the right to openly criticize and organize against injustices committed by the Philippine government. It restricts due process of law and is likely to be used in the Philippine government’s campaign against progressive organizations,” Denina noted.

    After a meeting on Thursday with US Embassy officers in Manila, Enrile was advised to secure a clearance from Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Cesar Garcia of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and Armed Forces Chief Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr, who all happen to compose the Anti-Terrorism Council tasked to implement the anti-terror law.

    Because of the concerns, the progressive leaders have alerted their networks all over the United States and around the globe about Enrile’s experience at the NAIA.

    “The Philippine Human Security Act 2007 is in full effect and impacting visitors to the
    Philippines who are doing genuine international solidarity work,” said Pinay sa Seattle in its advisory.

    Other progressive women’s groups like Babae-San Francisco and Filipinas for Rights and
    Empowerment-NY, member organizations of BAYAN-USA have also denounced the travel ban on Enrile.

    Gabriela Women’s Party has organized a press conference on Saturday, August 11, in Quezon City for Enrile to talk about her experience at the airport on her way back to the US. – GMANews.TV


  2. Presence of US troops in combat zones slammed

    08/16/2007, Tribune Online

    Photos and reports of armed American troops in Philippine combat zones leading the fight against Muslim insurgents have raised the hackles of militants and opposition leaders, with Makati City Mayor and United Opposition president Jejomar Binay yesterday questioning the presence of the US troops in Sulu at a time of conflict.

    Reports said US soldiers led convoys of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in known combat zones in Mindanao, and Binay stressed that the presence of foreign troops is highly disturbing and irregular.

    The US Embassy also yesterday maintained that American troops are not involved in combat operations against the Muslim rebels in Sulu, with Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs Lee McClenny insisting that the “US troops have no combat role” but “will retaliate if fired upon.”

    US troops are in Jolo at the invitation of the Philippine government since 2001. “They advise, assist, share information with the AFP and cooperate on civil military projects,” Clenny said in a text message.

    Although they are not engaged in actual combat operations, he explained that the US soldiers stay in Philippine military bases and travel with AFP convoys.

    The deployment of US Special Forces troops in Sulu was photographed by global wire

    service Agence France Presse.

    The news service reported that US troops were aboard a Humvee armored jeep as two US soldiers manned a vehicle with a top-mounted machine-gun. The US soldiers’ helmets bore miniature US flags.

    Foreign troops are prohibited under the Constitution to engage in combat operation in the country.

    Manila has a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Washington, but the accord only governs the entry and exit of US forces engaging in military exercises with their Filipino counterparts in the Philippines.

    But Binay retorted: “But they (US troops) are entering combat zones and the chances of their being fired upon, especially if they are leading the convoys, are very, very high,” adding that the involvement of US troops in the conflict in Mindanao reflects the incapacity of the Arroyo government to handle the situation in Sulu.

    “It is a sad commentary on the state of the military’s preparedness under the Arroyo administration, that it is apparently subcontracting the job of leading the fight against Muslim insurgents to the Americans,” he said.

    The mayor said it appears the Arroyo administration is ill-prepared and cannot finish the war it started. He said the Filipino soldiers staking their lives and fighting in Sulu are the ones paying for the administration’s folly.

    Lawyer Harry Roque, Director of the Institute of International Legal Studies of the University of the Philippines Law Center yesterday also asked the government take steps not to internationalize the armed conflict in Basilan and Sulu.

    Roque, who is also the first Asian Counsel in the International Criminal Court at the Hague said: “If the news report from Agence France Press that American troops are operating in the battlefronts of Mindanao is true, then the Philippines should have very serious reasons to be alarmed. First, because, this is expressly prohibited by the transitory provisions of the Constitution on the presence of foreign troops.

    Second, and more important, an American involvement in the Mindanao conflict would “internationalize” the conflict in the same manner that the conflict in the former Yugoslavia became internationalized. This would have two very important consequences: one, the provisions of the Geneva Conventions may become the applicable law which would accord fighters from the MILF “combatant” status and hence, entitle them to enjoy criminal immunity for their participation in the armed conflict; and two, even more important, this may lead to a regional armed conflict when and if Islamic nations decide to come to the military assistance of the MILF”.

    Roque also underscored the need for all combatants to abide at all times with the provisions of International Humanitarian Law applicable to non-international conflicts which enjoins combatants, from both the AFP and the MILF, from targeting civilians and other protected person; and from resorting to prohibited means and methods of warfare, including all inhumane acts such as beheadings. “Combatants from both sides should be reminded that their violations of IHL would be the basis for their criminal prosecution not only in the Philippines , but in any court in this planet. This possibility also is never subject to prescription”, Roque stressed.

    The military admitted that there is a group of American soldiers who are in the war-torn province of Sulu but only to conduct an on-sight survey as a possible venue for the next RP-US joint Balikatan military exercises.

    AFP public information office (PIO) chief Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said that the US servicemen who are now in Sulu will not be involved in combat operations against the remaining forces of the Abu Sayyaf Group and other lawless elements in the area.

    “The purpose of their mission is to conduct a site survey. They are trying to determine in which areas where they can construct Baliktan related projects,” he said.

    Bacarro added that the US servicemen involved in the Balikatan exercises provide the AFP some assistance in the form of technical intelligence to be able to track down the whereabouts of the Abu Sayyaf elements and other terrorist groups operating in the Sulu province.“Definitely no combat (mission for the US troops),” he said, but refused to diclose details on the number of US troops in Sulu.

    Militant groups and their representatives in Congress yesterday expressed concern and opposition on the direct involvement of US military forces in combat operations in Sulu and Basilan.

    “While the high court decision upholding the constitutionality of the VFA insofar as joint military exercises are concerned, it explicitly prohibits US military forces from joining the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combat operations,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo.

    He also raised a pointed question at the Arroyo administration in relation to foreign military intervention and aid and the inability of the government troops to gain ground in Mindanao . “What has happened to the vaunted US intelligence work and training for Philippine troops?” Ocampo asked.

    Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran called for a probe into the presence of American troops in Sulu and their possible participation in the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf.

    Beltran is set to file a resolution on this and seek clarification into the alleged deployment of US troops in the combat zones. “How far will the US military command in the Philippines and the AFP stretch the excuse that the American troops are only here to offer assistance and not participate in the combat operations?” he asked.

    Beltran also concluded that if an American soldier would be wounded or killed, more US troops will be deployed to avenge his death – a “situation that could easily get out of hand.”

    In a related development, elite Philippine troops trained by US special forces began arriving in Jolo Wednesday as the hunt for Muslim insurgents intensified in the restive south of the country.

    More than 100 Philippine Scout Rangers arrived and headed to the west coast town of Indanan in Jolo , close to where 26 soldiers were killed in separate ambushes last week.

    Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, responsible for some of the country’s worst terrorist attacks, and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were said to have been behind the ambushes.

    The Scout Rangers are joining some 5,000 troops already on the island, where US special forces teams are claimed to also be working as advisors to the Philippine military.

    Maj. Gen. Ruben Rafael, head of a task force fighting the militants, said “rogue MNLF forces and their Abu Sayyaf cohorts” were mobile and evading combat with the Philippine troops.

    Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro again stressed that military operations in Jolo and nearby Basilan island were 14 marines were killed and 10 of them beheaded would not upset the 10 year peace accord with the MNLF.

    The MNLF signed a peace accord with Manila in 1996, ending their decades-long struggle for a separate Islamic state in the southern part of the largely Christian country.

    The Abu Sayyaf, which has been linked by the United States to the al-Qaeda network, is not part of any peace accord with the Manila government. With Michaela P. del Callar, Gina Peralta Elorde, Rommel Lontayao, Charlie V. Manalo and AFP


  3. Philippine News: The price of remittances
    RODEL RODIS, Philippine News
    08/15/2007 | 04:43 PM

    Perhaps the major accomplishment of the current Philippine government is the impressive improvement of the economy which has seen the peso increase in value from 54 to 1 under the previous government to the current 45 pesos to 1 dollar, requiring the government to expend less of its resources to pay off its foreign debt, and leaving more money for infrastructure improvements.

    By all accounts, this improvement in the economy is owed chiefly to the $15-B in remittances that overseas Filipino workers (OFW) annually send back to the Philippines. But what is the price that OFWs have to pay for these Philippine economy-saving remittances? Two reports about the Philippines, which appeared this past week in the mainstream media, provide us with the answer.

    Youtube ( posted on July 26 video clips from a U.S. House hearing where two witnesses testified about the brutal conditions that 51 Filipino workers were subjected to in Baghdad while working on the $600-M U.S. Embassy construction there.

    An American medical technician, Roy Mayberry, was hired by the First Kuwaiti Company to work as an emergency medic. On the first day he reported to the company in Kuwait, he was brought to a room with 51 Filipinos who told him they were bound for Dubai to work in hotels there. They showed their plane tickets to him which showed Dubai as their destination.

    After they boarded the plane and the pilot announced that next stop was Baghdad, “all you know what broke loose on the plane”, Mayberry reported, as the Pinoys screamed and demanded to be returned back. They returned to their seats only after security officials pointed their MP-5 submachine guns at the men and ordered them to do so.

    “I believe these men were kidnapped by the First Kuwaiti Company to work on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad,” Mayberry told the congressional committee.

    These men could do nothing, he said, but accept their fate. Their passports had been taken away from them in Kuwait. Their fate was to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with only short breaks in between. They could complain only on pain of being verbally and physically abused, or fined with huge wage deductions.

    “They had no IDs, no passports, and were being smuggled past U.S. security forces,” Mayberry said.

    He also testified that while he had his own trailer at the construction site, the Filipinos were packed 20 to 30 people in one trailer.

    This wholesale kidnapping of Filipinos occurred a year ago but was only revealed to the world during the July 26 congressional hearing. When pressed about this disclosure, a First Kuwaiti Company spokesman denied that it had any Filipino employees.

    The second report on Filipinos came on August 8 when Dateline NBC devoted a full hour on prime time to the dramatic rescue of Lannie Ejercito, a 22-year old Filipina “sex slave” in Malaysia. NBC Dateline host Ann Curry reported that the girl, “just one among hundreds of thousands of girls who are poor, helpless and naïve preyed on by human traffickers” had one thing going for her. She had an aunt, Ravina, who is married to “Troop” Edmonds, a retired former U.S. Marine officer living in Oregon. On October 5, 2006, they receive a panicked call from overseas. “Get me out of here” was the anguished plea.

    The call came from Ravina’s niece, Lannie, whom they had financed through nursing school. When she failed the national nursing exam, she pursued her career as a singer and was eventually contracted to sing in Malaysia. But singing was not on her Malaysian employer’s mind who confiscated Lannie’s passport and forced her to sign an eight-year contract that required her to work until she paid back the $80,000 which her employer said he had paid for her. It would be work, not as a singer, but as a prostitute.

    Ravina told her husband to go to Malaysia and rescue Lannie and not to come back without her. With that assignment, Troop recruited a buddy who was a retired FBI agent and, together with a Dateline NBC film crew, flew to Lannie’s hometown of Cebu to obtain clues on Lannie’s whereabouts. After interviewing a Pinay who had recruited Lannie, the Americans and the TV crew went to Kuala Lumpur. With clever sleuthing and with the reluctant aid of the local police, they managed to safely rescue Lannie.

    There were 15 other Filipino “sex slaves” similarly living in “debt bondage” with Lannie in an apartment, Lannie reported, but the American pair decided that it would be too risky to stay in Malaysia and attempt to rescue them as well. They quickly departed Malaysia and safely returned Lannie to her parents in Cebu.

    At the end of the Dateline NBC program, I cried as I did when I watched Mayberry’s report about the Filipinos in Baghdad. Is the price of huge remittances from Filipinos abroad worth the pain and suffering many have to endure? – Philippine News


  4. Jocelyn Dulnuan: Shattered Dreams

    By Perry Diaz
    Last updated 11:42am (Mla time) 10/31/2007

    Two years ago, Jocelyn Dulnuan, 25 years old at the time, left her fiancé and two-year old daughter and journeyed to a distant land, searching for a job to provide a better future for her family. Two years later, her dream was shattered and her life snuffed out – a victim of foul play – in her living quarters in the basement of a $15 million palatial mansion in a posh neighborhood of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

    A native of Hingyon Ifugao province, Dulnuan graduated from the University of Baguio, Philippines with a degree in Criminology. She did not pursue a career in criminology but instead she took a job overseas to support her family.

    Her sojourn brought her to Hong Kong where her mother was working as a housekeeper. Then she moved to Canada in November 2006 and worked in several jobs in the Greater Toronto Area. Two months ago, Dulnuan started working for an affluent family, Dr. Jayshree Chanchlani and her husband Vasdev, a businessman. Last October 1, 2007, Dr. Chanchlani discovered her dead body when she got home after 5:00 PM. Her husband was on a business trip abroad at that time.

    Three weeks later, Dulnuan’s remains returned home to her family in the Philippines. One of the observers from Migrante International said “the remains bore several stab wounds on the chest, and bruises in many parts of the body, including the neck, knee, arms and legs.” It was believed that more than one killer was involved; however, the Canadian police wouldn’t confirm that.

    It was reported by The Mississauga News that evidence recovered from the scene suggests that Dulnuan knew her killer. Norm English, the homicide inspector assigned to the case, stated that the murder was an “isolated incident” and that the killer “might have targeted Dulnuan, the mansion, or both.” He added that “the location was targeted for a specific reason that I am not prepared to comment on.” English said “detectives have found no signs of forced entry.”

    It was further reported that, two weeks before her death, Dulnuan called her fiancé Sandy Kinnud, and told him that she was being threatened. However, Dulnuan’s mother, Godeliva, who works in Hong Kong, said that she spoke to her twice the day before her murder and she did not mention any threat to her life.

    But what’s intriguing is if that it was a simple case of robbery why would the killer bother to go to Dulnuan’s quarters in the basement and kill her? The fact that there was no forced entry would support the theory that Dulnuan knew her killer. To date, the murder remains unsolved.

    An “unregistered worker” the RP consulate wouldn’t help repatriate

    Dulnuan’s murder has become an international cause celebre. Her sister-in-law Imie Belanger asked the Philippine consulate in Toronto for assistance in repatriating Dulnuan’s remains to the Philippines. But her request was shrugged off. A consular officer told her that they did not have the funds to repatriate Dulnuan’s remains and that Dulnuan was an “unregistered worker.”

    So what if she was an unregistered worker? She was a Filipino citizen, one of 10 million OFWs who remitted more than $15 billion this year. Wasn’t that enough to provide consular assistance?

    Frustrated with the consulate’s callous indifference, the Filipino community in the Greater Toronto Area took it upon themselves to raise the money to send Dulnuan’s remains to her family for burial. They raised $10,000. After getting a lot of flak, the consulate decided to contribute $5,000 to the fund after all.

    Dulnuan was categorized as an “unregistered worker” because she failed to report to the Philippine government that she was working in Canada. However, she was registered when she worked in Hong Kong and her working papers in Canada were legitimate.

    The growing number of Filipino domestic workers going overseas is spurred by the Labor Export Policy (LEP) of the Philippines and the “Super Maids” program that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo implemented when 30,000 OFWs returned from Lebanon in early 2006., Arroyo said at the time that a training program would be started to upgrade the skills of overseas Filipino domestic helpers. She said that with their upgraded skills, the “super maids” — as she called them — could get higher pay from foreign employers.

    However, the program led to further “de-skilling” of Filipino professionals who end up in low-paying jobs in foreign countries.

    In a media release issued by the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC), it claimed that Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program (PCP) requires caregivers to live in the homes of their employers for a 24-month period. The NAPWC said that LCP is perpetuating a “cycle of poverty, debt, isolation, and vulnerability to physical, sexual, and verbal abuse.”

    It further said that 97% of all live-in caregivers in Canada are Filipino women. Since the early 1980s, when Canada implemented LCP, more than 100,000 Filipino women have entered Canada. Statistical information shows that everyday, 3,000 Filipinos leave the country for overseas employment. And each day, eight Filipinos return home dead. Since 2003, there have been 23 unsolved murders of overseas Filipino workers.

    In my opinion, the Arroyo administration is guilty of neglect. The Dulnuan murder case is just the tip of the iceberg. Countless incidents of violence and abuse against OFWs are occurring every day. With ten million OFWs in more than 190 countries remitting $15 billion this year, they deserve the protection of the Philippine government.

    As the number one beneficiary of the OFWs’ remittances, the Philippine government should not turn a blind eye to the plight of the OFWs. Their remittances are the primary reason for the Philippines’ economic recovery.

    The OFWs are like orphans in a foreign land. They endure the sacrifices to fulfill dreams of a better life for their families back home. They persevere in adverse working conditions. They overcome the obstacles they face each day. They bond into a tight-knit “family” and protect each other. And when one of them falls, they feel the pain of the shattered dreams of fallen kindred.


  5. Thousands flee army offensive in Philippine south

    Mon Dec 3, 1:15 AM ET , Reuters

    MANILA (Reuters) – Nearly 3,000 tribespeople have fled their mountain homes in the southern Philippines as the military stepped up an offensive against insurgents of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), officials and church leaders said on Monday.
    Modesto Villasanta, a Roman Catholic priest and leader of a local human rights group, said he feared a humanitarian crisis if military operations continue to displace Manobo tribes from 11 communities in a province on Mindanao island.

    “We’re appealing to the military to stop the offensives and allow these people to return to their homes during Christmas,” Villasanta told Reuters in a phone interview. “We’re also running out of food and supplies to sustain these people.”

    The military launched the offensive against the communist rebels last month, aiming to capture their largest base on Mindanao island.

    The 6,000-member NPA, active in 69 of 81 provinces, has been fighting for nearly 40 years to overthrow Manila’s democratic government and replace it with a Maoist system.

    More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

    Villasanta said the Manobo tribesmen started leaving on November 1 from their homes, walking 16-20 km (9-12 mile), to the nearest town centre, after soldiers occupied their communities, using them as a base for launching attacks on rebel positions.

    Vicente Pimentel, governor of the affected Surigao del Sur province, asked the military to allow safe passage for displaced people, appealing to soldiers to respect the rights of the Manobo tribesmen.

    “The civilians must not be threatened and their rights must be respected, otherwise, I will be the one to file charges against the military,” Pimentel said over a local radio station.

    Colonel Jose Vizcarra, brigade commander, denied reports of rights abuses by his troops, dismissing them as part of rebel propaganda to stop the offensive against them.

    Vizcarra said soldiers killed 5 NPA rebels in a gun battle on Saturday.

    (Reporting by Manny Mogato, editing by Carmel Crimmins and Sanjeev Miglani)


  6. Overseas migration has taken the face of a woman
    12/18/2007 | 09:02 PM, – Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

    With more than 70 percent of Filipinos working abroad belonging to the female gender, it has become obvious that overseas migration has taken on a woman’s face. This has been the situation in the last four years.

    When the Philippines adopted its labor export policy in the 1970s, female workers going overseas comprised only 12 percent of the migration pie. The share steadily became bigger, going up to 48.2 percent in 1987, to 55 percent in 1993, and even bigger to 64 percent seven years ago.

    Filipino women workers are scattered in 197 countries as domestic helpers, caregivers, entertainers, nurses, clerical and sales workers, and professional and technical employees.

    However, the Center for Migrants Advocacy noted that while women comprise more than 70 percent of OFWs, their remittances in 2005 only took up 57 percent of what the men remit.

    “This strongly suggests that women migrants work in unskilled, low-paid and unprotected jobs,” the CMA said in its “2006 Working Paper on Overseas Migration.”

    “Migrant women, because of the nature of their work and lowered status, usually end up victims to the more serious problems of migration: physical and sexual abuse, drug dependence, prostitution, mysterious or violent deaths, and trafficking in women. Other migrant women end up on the missing persons list,” the CMA said.

    “They are the disadvantaged sector,” said Rep. Edcel Lagman, senior vice chairman of the special committee on OFWs at the House of Representatives.

    Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reveal that female new hires totaling 205, 206 comprised 72 percent of the deployment in 2005, and most of them are household workers.

    The deployment of males totaled 79, 079 or roughly 18 percent of the total, compared to 26 percent in 2004.

    In its 2005 report, the POEA attributed the increase in the female OFW deployment to the sizeable increase in the number of household workers which offset the decline in the number of deployed female overseas performing artists (OPAs).

    In 2006, POEA reported a ground breaking record in the number of OFWs deployed in 197 destination countries at 1, 062, 567, or 7.5 percent more than the 988, 615 deployed in 2005. The POEA the 2006 deployment record was the highest in 30 years, with corresponding record-breaking remittances of $12.76 billion from $10.69 billion in 2005.

    On the average, the POEA facilitated the daily deployment of about 3,000 Filipino workers for overseas jobs. About 60% of those newly deployed are women.

    In 2004, the National Statistics Office said the number of female OFWs increased by 13.5 percent while the number of male OFWs increased by 3.1 percent compared to the previous year.

    Of the estimated 1.06 million OFWs in 2004, 49.3 percent (524,000) were men while 50.7 percent (539,000) were women.

    The increase in the number of female OFWs was observed in all age groups. The bulk of female OFWs (24.3 percent) belonged to the 25-29 age group, while 23.9 percent of male OFWs were 45 years old or older in 2004.

    Data from the Center for Migrants and Advocacy (CMA) in 2004 indicated that there are about 2,755 Filipinos who are either in detention centers, under house arrest, or with pending cases in court, in top seven countries of OFW destination – Malaysia, Israel, Japan Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuwait.

    Of the 2,755, 470 of them are women. In Israel, 1,028 OFWs are facing legal problems. “Considering that 98 percent of OFWs in Israel are women, it can be assumed that most of those detained are women,” a CMA study revealed.

    ‘3D jobs’

    The CMA said female overseas workers are exposed to the “3D jobs” (dirty, dangerous and demeaning), such as domestic work, jobs that are shunned by nationals of receiving countries.

    “With cheaper salaries and lesser benefits, most of these jobs are not covered by labor laws and unregulated by the host government,” a CMA report said.

    Noriel Devanadera, deputy administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, said female OFWs, particularly those working as domestic helpers, are considered part of the “vulnerable” sector.

    The OWWA has discouraged the posting of OFWs classified under the vulnerable sector, but there is no ban on their deployment. “We ask them handa ka ba not just physically but also emotionally. Once he or she said yes, it’s a go,” Devanadera said.

    Devanadera assured that the number of abuses is very few. “If you look in terms of number, it’s exceptionally few. However, in terms of seriousness, it is alarming, disappointing and frustrating,” he said.

    OWWA records revealed that about 80 percent of welfare cases filed involve women OFWs working as domestic helpers.

    Labor Secretary Arturo Brion, however, said domestic helpers comprised only 90,000, or less than 10 percent of the 1.083 million OFWs in 2006.

    Migrante International, however, said most Filipina migrant workers in the Middle East and Asia are household service workers.

    Gov’t strategy

    The Philippine government’s found a way to reduce the number of female OFWs, particularly domestic helpers: Change the name to “household service worker” and set a new guideline in their deployment.

    The guideline, which was crafted by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, was implemented in March 2007. It increased the entry level or minimum salary of household workers to $400 from $200, prescribed a minimum age of 25 years old, and added a requirement to undergo skills training from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

    Five months after the new policy was implemented, Brion announced that deployment of domestic helpers in the Middle East dropped by 9 to 10 percent. He did not say if the decline was due to the new policy.

    Also, Labor attaché Romeo Young in Oman reported that job requests for household workers decreased to 15 percent of the total job orders during the first quarter of the year. He said job orders in Oman for Filipino workers have shifted from domestic helpers to services and technical workers.

    The new policy on household workers has been the subject of several hearings at the House of Representatives, especially under the committee for of OFWs chaired Lagman. After three meetings, the committee failed to come up of with recommendations.

    Lagman said the new policy is effective.

    In November, Brion announced that the policy has removed the “slave-like” classification of domestic work in Saudi Arabia. He said Filipino domestic workers are now recognized as household service workers who are equipped with a set of skills, training and high school education.

    Long history of deployment

    In 1975, there were only about 36,000 Filipinos “deployed” in other countries. Two years before the 1986 “People Power” uprising, the number increased to 350,982.

    In 1987, the number of OFWs increased by almost 18 percent from 378,214 OFWs in 1986 to 449,271 in 1987.

    The biggest increase in the number of Filipinos who decided to work abroad was recorded during the last year in office of President Corazon Aquino in 1991. >From 446,095 OFWs in 1990, the number shoots up to 615,019, or by 37.87 percent.

    In 1994, the deployment of OFWs doubled to 718,407 compared to 378,214 when Marcos was ousted in 1986.

    In 1998, the number of OFWs reached 831,643, then 867,599 in 2001.

    In 2002, a year after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power, there were 891,908 OFWs. After four years, in 2006, the number rose to 1.221 million documented workers.

    The Commission on Filipinos Overseas estimate Filipinos abroad at 8.233 million, composed of 3.556 million permanent residents, 3.802 million temporary residents, and 874,792 irregular.

    Temporary measure becomes permanent

    Lagman said the deployment of OFWs was initiated by Marcos in 1974 to serve as a “stop gap” measure to give employment to the people and, at the same time, for the government to earn additional dollars.

    “We should remind the government that this (OFW deployment) is not a permanent policy. What is started as stop gap measure during the time of Marcos has become more or less a permanent policy already,” Lagman said.

    In 2005, POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz said “the exodus of Filipino workers will continue.” She said OFW deployment has ceased to be a temporary stop-gap measure. “It has become a permanent fixture of Philippine labor, economic and foreign policy,” Baldoz said.

    The cost of going abroad

    Migrante deplored the “policy” and accused the government of exploiting OFWs to generate revenue. (The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas expects that OFW remittances in 2007 through the banking sector will reach $14.6 billion.)

    The group said that aside from remittances, the government earns from migrant workers through charges “every step of the way in the whole migration process.”

    Migrante said that the government collects about P10,000 from each of first time OFWs.

    Expenses for a new OFW includes $100 or its peso equivalent (P4,200 at an exchange rate of P42:$1) as POEA fee; the peso equivalent of $25 OWWA membership fee; and P900 for Medicare.

    An OFW has also to spend P2,500 for medical examination; P3,000 for trade test; P500 for passport; P120 for clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation; and P110 for a copy of his or her birth certificate from the National Statistics Office.

    “If everyday, 3,000 Filipinos leave to work abroad, this is a whooping P30 million per day. This does not even count the taxes that the government collects from businesses related to migration such as recruitment agencies and finance companies,” Migrante said in a statement.

    “When the government is in need, they turn to OFWs. However, whenever OFWs are in need, the government turns its back from OFWs,” Migrante opined.

    Going abroad a necessity

    OWWA Administrator Marianito Roque said it is the government’s dream to make overseas employment an option, instead of a necessity.

    Roque said sending OFWs abroad is still a stop-gap measure to help those who could not find employment in the country. The temptation, however, of a better pay abroad is a difficult to resist.

    Devanadera said Filipinos opt to work abroad not anymore for money.

    “Before, working abroad is an economic issue, pero ngayon, it seems that it already became a cultural issue.” He said some OFWs are accepting a P10,000 or P7,000 monthly salary for the sake of being called nakapag-abroad.


  7. From: International Migrants Alliance
    Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 12:44 PM
    Subject: [IMA 2008] IMA Statement on the Acquittal of Irene Fernandez

    Dear friends,

    This day has brought in great news for all of us.

    Irene Fernandez is now free. She has finally been acquitted by the Kuala Lumpur High Court from the charges filed by the Malaysian government against her.

    Let us celebrate in this victory and let it inspire us to continue on with our struggle.

    Congratulations, Irene!

    In solidarity,

    Eni Lestari


    November 24, 2008

    Press Statement

    For reference:

    Eni Lestari, Chairperson


    Irene Fernandez’s Court Victory

    Is Victory for All Migrants

    Justice has been finally served Irene.

    The International Migrants Alliance celebrates with Irene Fernandez as the Kuala Lumpur High Court has acquitted her today from all charges filed by the Malaysian government in 1996.

    Today, the presiding judge Mohamad Apandi Ali reversed the 2003 conviction on Fernandez after the prosecution did not oppose the appeal of Fernandez “in the interest of justice.”

    Irene Fernandez is the director of Malaysia-based migrant institution Tenaganita and a member of the IMA International Coordinating Body.

    It can be remembered that in 1996, the Malaysian government charged Fernandez of violating the Printing Presses and Publication Act of 1984 after she and Tenaganita exposed in a publication the inhumane conditions of captured undocumented workers in immigration detention cells.

    Fernandez’s acquittal is definitely an addition to the concrete gains of our movement. Truly, her victory is the victory for all migrant workers around the world.

    It only proves the righteousness and strong foundation of Tenaganita’s campaign to protect the rights of undocumented migrants in Malaysia and the need for the Malaysian government to address such urgent concern.

    It is in then but proper for the Malaysian government to heed the ongoing campaign to recognize, respect and protect the rights and welfare of migrant workers in Malaysia, be they documented or not.

    With her acquittal, we continue the campaign. With her victory, we continue the struggle.


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