Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Abandon labor exportation amidst Saudization, group urges PNoy

Press Release
6 November 2013

Abandon labor exportation amidst Saudization, group urges PNoy

‘Right time for GRP to abandon labor export program, to invest in local job generation through genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization’

Thus, said today by the Filipino migrant rights group Migrante-Middle East and North Africa (M-MENA) upon analysing the number of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) yearly deployment based on the statistics released by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), an adjunct agency to the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), which serves as the primary labor exportation arm of the Philippine government.

“Since the re-intensification of Saudization in 2010 through Nitaqat scheme, Saudi Arabia’s protectionist labor program that aims to localize Saudi’s labor market made available to the growing numbers of unemployed and underemployed Saudis, we have conservatively estimated around 120,000 OFWs sent back home directly affected by Saudization,” said M-MENA coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona added the number of OFWs affected by Saudization is expected to increase as the Saudi authorities resumed rounding up of undocumented migrant workers on November 4, a day after the November 3 deadline imposed by the Saudi govt. to all ‘illegal’ and overstaying migrants either to correct their status or leave the Kingdom.

“Aside from the 7,000 to 10,000 stranded OFWs seeking govt. assistance for repatriation since April 2013, there are 40,000 to 60,000 documented OFWs in Saudi Arabia who will be either directly or indirectly affected by Saudization especially those working in sales, marketing, banking, and other office-based job categories which will soon be occupied by Saudis,” Monterona added.

Monterona added, “The Saudi govt. is on track implementing Saudization which is actually the gradual phase out of its labor importation. Saudi Arabia has been dependent on the services of expatriate workers, mostly Asians including Filipino workers, for more than 4 decades now, but its government is dead serious to correct this.”

Monterona took note the number of new hire OFWs in Saudi Arabia from 2008 to 2012 that indicated a dwindling pattern as seen on the attached table taken from POEA released 2008-2012 Overseas Employment Statistics:

Number of Deployed Landbased OFWs (New hires only) in KSA from 2008 to 2012 

Data showed a decrease in OFWs (new hires) deployment in Saudi Arabia during the years 2010 and 2011 with 6% respectively, compared from the preceding year; however OFWs new hire deployment rebounded on 2012 totalling 115,289, with 2,641 additional new hires, compared to 112,648 of the previous year (2011).

“Noting that the Saudi govt. has intensified Saudization this year, we are expecting a drop of new hire OFWs deployment to about 4% to 6% from the previous year,” Monterona predicted.

Monterona said given that Saudi Arabia has been the No.1 destination of OFWs for more than 3 decades now and rank number 3 in terms of the amount of remittances sent to the Philippines yearly, the PH govt. should take seriously the dwindling of OFWs deployment amid gradual Saudi labor importation phase out.

“We have been hearing from the previous administrations and this time from Pres. Aquino III so much rhetoric about ending forced migration and ‘migration as a choice’ becoming a reality. Undeniably, like the previous administrations, PNoy has not done any substantial efforts to ending forced migration, instead it intensified the peddling of Filipino labor as cheap as of commodities for export,” Monterona averred.

Monterona said there is one right option for the PNoy administration to do -that is to seriously invest in local employment generation through genuine implementation of agrarian reform program and national industrialization.

“The billions of congressional pork allocations, the presidential and special funds including the funds for Malacanang-invented Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and other lump sum allocations under the direct control of the president would be better spent in implementing genuine agrarian reform and related support services to our farmers alongside the building and strengthening of PH basic industries towards nationalized operation that recognize labor as a primary economic force in contrast to the view that labor is a mere object of alienation by the government controlled by exploitative monopoly-capitalists class,” Monterona concluded. # # #


John Leonard Monterona
Coordinator, Migrante-Middle East

Mobile No. 09399489080

Monday, November 4, 2013

'Seek Saudi reconciliation committee intervention to save doomed OFW from death'

Press Release
4 November 2013

 ‘Seek Saudi reconciliation committee intervention to save doomed OFW from death; hand over initial amount raised for Zapanta's blood money'

Thus, urged today by the Filipino migrants rights group Migrante-Middle East and North Africa (M-MENA) as it calls on the Aquino III govt. to exert all possible efforts to save overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joselito Zapanta.

On April 13, 2010, Saudi court of First Instance meted death to Zapanta after he killed his Sudanese landlord sometime June 2009 over house rental quarrel when the latter asked Zapanta to pay his 6-months unpaid rent.

“Pres. Aquino III should have sent Vice President Jejomar Binay in his capacity as the presidential adviser on OFWs concerns last month or months before the November 3 ultimatum set by the Court as manifested by the aggrieved family if his administration is really sincere in its effort to save OFW Zapanta and others who are still on death row in Saudi Arabia,” said M-MENA coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona added that sending an appeal letter to the Saudi govt. was not enough to save the life of OFW Zapanta and was an exercise in futility.

Monterona suggested that the total amount that has been initially raised for the blood money of OFW Zapanta that is reported to have reached 520,831 Saudi rials (SAR), roughly equivalent to P6-M, should be handed over initially to the aggrieved Sudanese family through the Saudi Reconciliation Committee (SRC), a quasi-government agency active in dealing negotiations between the aggrieved and offending parties involving death row cases.

“If it is true that His Highness Saudi King Abdullah shouldered the 2.3-M SAR out of the total 4-M SAR, plus the 520,831 SAR raised from the contributions from the Pampanga provincial government, from OFWs and OFW groups, and other contributors, then there is a big chance that the Sudanese family will accept the initial amount of blood money to get a conditional waiver on Zapanta’s execution until the blood money will be completed,” Monterona explained.

Monterona added, “PNoy could even share fund from its special purpose funds and presidential funds to complete the blood money to save the OFWs on death row like Zapanta, but this would not happen because of PNoy’s standing ‘No blood money’ policy.”

“In that sense, nakikita natin na magagamit sa pagligtas ng buhay ng OFWs, pagbibigay ng on-site services sa mga distressed at undocumented OFWs na namimilegro sa Saudi Arabia ang pundo na mula sa buwis ng mamamayan,” Monterona lamented.

Migrante 'Save the Lives of OFWs on death row' campaign. Migrante file photo

Monterona lambasted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for its failure to provide a local-hired lawyer to Zapanta during case hearings. “Only an interpreter was provided during case hearings.”

“The DFA only provided legal assistance after the Saudi court meted death to Zapanta when the Zapanta family decided to file an appeal on May 2010,” Monterona revealed.

On 2012, the Sudanes family finally consented to accept the blood money amounting to 4-M saudi rials after series of negotiations initiated by the Saudi Reconciliation Committee in exchange of the issuance of a letter of forgiveness to Zapanta. # # # 


John Leonard Monterona
Coordinator, M-MENA
Mobile No. 0939 948 9080

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Group sets up hotline for undocumented OFWs amid Saudi November 3 deadline

Press Release
3 November 2013

Group sets up hotline for undocumented OFWs amid Saudi November 3 deadline

As the deadline for ‘illegal’ migrants to either regularize their status or leave Saudi Arabia ending today (November 3), the Filipino migrant rights group Migrante-Middle East and North Africa (Migrante-MENA) sets up hotlines for undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) amid fear of the resumption of crackdown by Saudi authorities.

Children of stranded Saudi OFWs in the Philippines during March 2013 rally in Manila (Migrante file photo)

‘To further provide assistance to around 5,000 undocumented OFWs who are still in Saudi Arabia, we have set up monitoring centres and hotlines,” M-MENA coordinator John Leonard Monterona announced.

Monterona said undocumented OFWs can call Migrante-KSA hotlines for assistance in anticipation of the ‘illegal’ migrants crackdown by Saudi authorities after the November 3 deadline.

Monterona said undocumented OFWs can call the following Migrante hotlines in Saudi Arabia for assistance:

00966 55 726 7069 for those who are in Riyadh and Central Region, KSA
00966 56 203 1626 for those who are in Jeddah and Western Region, KSA
00966 50 737 3906 for those who are in Al Khobar and Eastern Region, KSA

Monterona urged undocumented OFWs who are at the Tent City #2, 3, and 4 in Jeddah, those in Riyadh, in Central and in the Eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia to report and inform his group if there are undocumented OFWs that will be nabbed upon resumption of KSA crackdown on illegal migrants.

‘We want to ensure that undocumented migrants well-being and rights be uphold and respected by the concerned authorities. Though undocumented, they have rights, too,” Monterona lamented.

Monterona appealed to the Saudi authorities to respect the rights and well-being of undocumented migrants.

“We are expecting an intense crackdown of all undocumented migrants in the Kingdom in the coming days. The undocumented migrants should be treated humanely as there were reports of abuses, manhandling, slapping, kicking, during previous crackdown,” Monterona appealed.

“We also appeal to the Saudi govt. to waive the imposition of immigration penalties and fines to all apprehended undocumented migrants, and instead swift deportation proceedings will be implemented,” Monterona added.

An undocumented migrant once apprehended will be imprisoned for 6 months to 1 year and will be slapped a fine ranging from 12,000 to 20,000 Saudi rials, roughly equivalent to P139,000 and P230,000, respectively.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) estimated around 7,000 to 10,000 undocumented OFWs in Saudi Arabia. Only 4,000 plus have been repatriated since last week as per the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reports.

Migrante-MENA lambasted the Aquino III administration for its failure to provide utmost assistance to effect the swift and mass repatriation of all undocumented OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

“We hold the Aquino III administration, the DFA and DoLE, for their failure to make good of their promise that all undocumented OFWs will be repatriated on or before the November 3 deadline,” Monterona added.

Monterona said Migrante monitored 6 deaths of undocumented OFWs who have been at the Tent City in Jeddah, that only showed there were no, if not lack of on-site assistance including medical care to children, old and sick stranded OFWs amid public pronouncement by PNoy and DFA officials that there were enough funds for undocumented OFWs.

“Like the previous Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, PNoy and his political allies in Congress allowed the government budget and funds in the form of pork allocations, and the un-programmed funds, and the so called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) siphoned to fake NGOs courtesy of corrupt government officials.  But it can’t allocate funds to alleviate the deplorable conditions of undocumented OFWs and those in death row in Saudi Arabia,” Monterona concluded. # # #


John Leonard Monterona
Coordinator, Migrante-Middle East
Mobile No. 09399489080

Friday, October 11, 2013

PNoy urged to allocate funds for the blood money to save doomed Saudi OFW

Press Release
11 October 2013

PNoy urged to allocate funds for the blood money to save doomed Saudi OFW

The Filipino migrant rights group today challenged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to allocate funds for the blood money required to save the life of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Saudi death row.

According to reports from Saudi Arabia, OFW on death row Joselito Zapanta may be executed next month if his family failed to hand over SAR 4, roughly equivalent to P45-M, as blood money agreed with the aggrieved Sudanese family in exchange of their forgiveness to Zapanta.

Migrante 'Save the Lives of OFWs on death row' campaign

In Shariah law, ‘Diya’, a financial compensation paid to the heirs of a victim is allowed and well recognized doctrine in exchange of forgiveness to the convict.

“We are calling PNoy to share a considerable amount for OFW Zapanta’s blood money. This time he can take it from his billions of special purpose funds; we have also a standing call to PNoy to allocate funds to effect the immediate repatriation, to pay for immigration penalties and documentation of the more than 4,000 stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia,” Migrante-Middle East and North Africa coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

On April 13, 2010, Zapanta called his family and told them that he was given a death sentence by Saudi’s Court of First Instance and was only given until May 1, 2010 to file his appeal before the Appellate Court. He also said that only 2 interpreters were present to assist him during hearings of his case.

It was sometime on June 2009 when Zapanta unintentionally and in self-defense killed his Sudanese landlord who brutally beat Zapanta because the latter refused to pay his rent for the apartment since his payment is not yet due.

“OFW Zapanta is not only a victim of his own deplorable condition under his abusive Sudanese landlord but also of the criminal neglect of the PH embassy and the DFA for their failure to provide legal assistance and hire local lawyer for his defense,” Monterona added.

“While we call on our fellow OFWs to share based on what they have for the blood money of OFW Zapanta, the responsibility to raise an amount for Zapanta’s blood money, as well as any other assistance being sought, is at the hand of the PNoy administration,” Monterona averred.
Monterona noted that the PNoy administration maintained a ‘No blood money’ policy for OFWs on death row.

“There is ‘No blood money’ policy, ‘No on-site assistance funds’ policy for distressed and stranded OFWs, but there are billions of pork allocations and illegal DAP funds for PNoy, and politicians, both allies and those in the opposition. This is quite revolting, right?” Monterona lamented. # # #

John Leonard Monterona
M-MENA coordinator
Mobile # +216 2818 3872

Thursday, October 10, 2013

OFW accused of faking travel documents of undocumented explains his side via FB; hits back at PH embassy

Press Release
10 October 2013

OFW accused of faking travel documents of undocumented explains his side via FB; hits back at PH embassy

An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was accused allegedly by a group of Filipinos in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia explains his side via Face Book.

Mr. Warren Villegas Soriano is the subject of sworn complaints for allegedly fixing the travel documents of some undocumented OFWs who wanted to be repatriated amid the November 1 deadline imposed by the host government for all illegal expatriate workers to leave the Kingdom if they could not regularize their status.

On September 25, 2013, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh issued a press release (PR No. 165-2013) with several photos of the accused OFW, which states, “The Embassy strongly advises all Filipinos in Saudi Arabia against any dealings with MR. WARREN VILLEGAS SORIANO and any other individuals who promise to facilitate issuance of exit visas for any amount.”

“The Embassy has not authorized any individual to facilitate issuance of exit visa in exchange for any payment. Issuance of exit visas may only be done through concerned Saudi authorities,” the Embassy added on its press release that was posted in its official website http://philembassy-riyadh.org/index.php/component/k2/item/1990-pr-166-2013

On a recorded video posted on his Face Book account, Mr. Villegas vehemently denies the allegations. (Here’s the link https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=518759238217749)

Mr. Villegas exposes the allegedly maltreatment of undocumented OFWs especially women who were subjected to various sex exploitations.

He also alleges the inhumane treatment of undocumented OFWs at the half-way shelter rented by the PH embassy in Riyadh.

Mr. Villegas challenges the PH embassy to surface all the evidences it has against him.

He dared embassy officials to explain the production of fake passports at the PH embassy as well as the alleged burial of an old OFW and a child without telling the kin of the deceased.

On their part, the Filipino group Migrante-Middle East and North Africa (M-MENA) calls on the Aquino III government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to probe the allegations of Mr. Villegas against the PH embassy.

“This certainly warrants an investigation. What Mr. Villegas exposes were all previously said by other undocumented OFWs who have been inside the PH embassy and its rented shelter,” said John Leonard Monterona, M-MENA coordinator.

Monterona added their investigation lead to an initial finding that Mr. Villegas has been tagged by a Filipino group close to the PH ambassador. This was the group of a certain Mr. Joseph Espiritu who is colluding with PH ambassador Tago.

“Mr. Villegas hinted that the fire that broke out at the PH Consulate in Jeddah was orchestrated by no less than PH embassy and consular officials to deflect the issue from the immediate, free and mass repatriation of undocumented OFWs staying at the Tent City,” Monterona lamented.

Monterona urges Mr. Villegas to issue a signed affidavit. “We strongly urge Mr. Villegas to give us his signed affidavit. We will help facilitate forward it to PH concerned officials and work with them to conduct an investigation.”

“Our collective aim is to correct wrongdoings allegedly perpetrated by corrupt embassy and labor officials especially that maltreatment accusation on distressed OFWs under the custody of embassy and labor officials,” Monterona added.

Meanwhile, Monterona warned that there would be some 3,000 undocumented OFWs could not come home on or before the November 1 deadline imposed by the Saudi authorities.

 “The assistance for documentation of the undocumented OFWs by the PH embassy, consular, and labor officials are really lacking and still wanting. The embassy merely asked the undocumented to proceed to Saudi labor offices for documentation and left there without any assistance,” Monterona lamented.

He said out of the 7,000 to 12,000 undocumented OFWs in Saudi Arabia, only more than 3,000 were repatriated since May 2013. # # #

John Leonard Monterona
M-MENA coordinator

Mobile # +216 2818 3872

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

OFW group says, ‘Yes to people’s initiative to abolish pork, DAP, and creation of national council for unity’

Press Release
9 October 2013            Reference: John Leonard Monterona, M-MENA coordinator
                                     Mobile # +216 2818 3872

OFW group says, ‘Yes to people’s initiative to abolish pork, DAP, and creation of national council for unity’

The proposal of a former Supreme Court chief justice calling for the Filipinos to exercise people’s initiative as provided for by the 1987 Constitution and the Republic Act 6735, the law that outlined a system for initiative and referendum, gets support from an overseas Filipino workers group.

On Tuesday, former Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno called for people’s initiative that would craft a proposed legislation that will abolish all forms of pork allocations, including the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which funds are under the sole discretion of the President, believed to have been abused and misused during past and even the present Aquino III administration.

“The exercise of people’s initiative specifically directly proposing a law for the common good manifests our people’s sovereign act. This was an innovation in the 1987 Constitution that characterizes ‘representative democracy’ of a modern state,” said Migrante-Middle East and North Africa (M-MENA) coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona said OFWs and their dependents will throw their all-out-support to the proposal which intention, he said, is ‘as noble as it is for the common good’.

“We will help gather signatures from the 12-M OFWs around the world to materialize this people’s initiative that will move for the abolition of all forms of pork allocations, including the Malacanang-invented DAP,” Monterona added.

“Our people’s trust to the current public officials, both in the Legislative and the Executive, is dwindling amid discoveries of corruptions. Thus, people’s efforts and mass actions must now focus on the abolitions of all pork allocations,” the OFW leader lamented.

Monterona, however, added that the fight for good governance should not end on the abolition of pork allocations but also extend to changing the decadent system that had long been ruled by the elite few to advance their own selfish interests above the common good.

Monterona said that the people’s initiative to abolish pork will certainly go through the eye of a needle so to speak knowing PNoy’s hardline attitude to maintain presidential pork allocations including the DAP.

“PNoy spin doctors will do everything so that the people’s initiative will not succeed,” the OFW leader warned.

“If the people’s initiative failed, I believe the people have no other option left than to demand to support and materialize the creation of a national council for unity and moral regeneration as previously expounded by the progressive multi-sectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) during the corrupt-ridden Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. A national council that will be composed of leaders with integrity and are righteous from the various sectors and national organizations,” Monterona concluded. # # #

Monday, October 7, 2013

Breaking news: Another OFW dies at Tent City, Saudi Arabia

Press Release
7 October 2013

Another OFW dies at Tent City, Saudi Arabia

A distressed and stranded overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who temporarily sought refuge at the ‘Tent City’ in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia succumbed to death yesterday due to lingering asthma, according to Filipino migrants rights group Migrante-Middle East and North Africa (M-MENA).

Migrante officers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia called the PH govt to immediately repatriate the stranded and distressed OFWs, March 2013. File photo courtesy of Migrante-Jeddah chapter

Citing report from Migrante colleague in Jeddah, M-MENA coordinator John Leonard Monterona identified the OFW as Louie Bedaho Belista, 36 yrs. old a native of Nueva Vizcaya.

Mr. Belista died inside the Tent City at around 11:30 p.m. last night, according to Marlon Gatdula, chairperson of Migrante-Jeddah, who went at the Tent City along other Migrante officers upon alert received from stranded OFWs.

“Mr. Belista, a nurse and had been helping fellow sick stranded OFWs, had been at the Tent City since April when stranded OFWs put up tents and stayed beside the PH consulate building as they demanded government assistance for their repatriation,” Gatdula added.

Migrante-Jeddah’s Gatdula disclosed that Mr. Belista was confined twice in a hospital in Jeddah but unfortunately there were no proper medication given sans PH consulate assistance.

“His remains lies at King Fahad Hospital morgue. His kin was already informed by our Migrante official. Prior to his death, Mr. Belista sought assistance from Migrante after he complained no medical assistance from PH consulate and labor officials,” Gatdula revealed.

“He was the 6th person to die at the Tent City in Jeddah,” according to Monterona.
On July 9, 2013 Monterona in a statement citing reports from some stranded OFWs in Jeddah, a 2-year old child also died sometime mid-June at the PH consulate shelter, aside from the 20-month old toddler reportedly died on June 30.

“There was also an old and sick woman who also died sometime June at PH consulate shelter in Jeddah, now totaling to 5 deaths, 3 were already confirmed by the PH officials in Saudi Arabia, while 2 remains to be confirmed,” Monterona revealed.

Monterona said they have repeatedly warned the PH govt and its consulate in Jeddah to fast track the repatriation of stranded OFWs especially those with children, women and those who are old and sick.

“Six reported death already at the Tent City since April. We are not counting, but the numbers may increase if there is no medical assistance and their supposed immediate repatriation has been delayed noting that the November 1 deadline imposed by the Saudi govt,” Monterona added.

“We condemn the govt. inaction and hold the Aquino III accountable on the deaths of the six distressed, stranded old and sick OFWs in Jeddah. Amid its posturing that it is ready to provide assistance, distressed and stranded OFWs are crying for government on-site assistance,” Monterona lamented.

“Ipinapain lang ng gobyernong Aquino, tulad din ng mga nakaraang administrasyon, ang pondo ng gobyerno na dapat para sa social services at on-site protection na mga OFWs. Bilyung-bilyong piso ang nakukurakot ng mga kurap na politiko samantalang tinitipid at pahirapan maglabas ng pondo para sa kagalingan at proteksyon naming mga OFWs,” Monterona concluded.

Migrante-MENA said there are at least 400 stranded OFWs in Jeddah who have sought govt. assistance for repatriation.


Marlon Gatdula
Chairperson, Migrante-Jeddah chapter
Mobile No. 00966 562 031 626

John Leonard Monterona
M-MENA coordinator

Mobile # +216 2818 3872