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Full medical care for FDWs sought by Phl and Indo

Posted on 15 December 2019 No comments
Officials from Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines discuss policies for migrant workers.

\By Daisy CL Mandap

The top diplomats of the Philippines and Indonesia have launched a rare joint bid to seek full medical coverage for their nationals who come to Hong Kong as migrant workers, including those whose employment contracts are prematurely terminated.

Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada and his Indonesian counterpart Ricky Suhendar met with Labour Party legislator Fernando Cheung at the Legislative Council on Dec. 4 to pursue this agenda, and were assured of his full support.

Cheung also told the diplomats his initial talks with Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labor Law Chi-kwong on their request yielded positive results.

“Basically he said there will be no objection on the part of the government,” said Cheung. “He is positive about this, not neutral.”

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Legislators across the board also support the idea of providing health coverage for all foreign domestic workers, he said.

“When we (legislators) discussed the topic..last April…all members across the political spectrum agreed to the concept that workers from other countries who come to HK for domestic work should have some sort of medical coverage…and for the employers to take out the health insurance, the cost is minimal,” he said.

Cheung said the issue is personal to him, as his family has relied on foreign domestic workers for help, especially in looking after a disabled member, for years. One has been with them for 10 years. “I still believe that the better we treat our workers the better we treat ourselves,” he said

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Congen Tejada thanked him for his support and said his “heart was full” on hearing the legislator’s efforts to advance the cause of migrant workers.

Extending medical care has wide implications for about 220,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong who, like all their peers, are bound by contracts that may be terminated at will by their employers.

Once released from their contracts, they are routinely turned away from public hospitals as they are no longer deemed “entitled” to free medical treatment.

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This was what happened in the controversial case of Filipina Baby Jane Allas, a cancer patient who found herself unable to continue her medical treatment after being sacked by her Pakistani employer in February this year.

Private donors stepped in to help after her case was picked up by international media, and Hong Kong was forced to look closely into the issue of lack of medical care for those who fall through the cracks of its highly regarded public health care system.

Congen Suhendra said the issue was also a big concern for Indonesia which has 174,000 nationals working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

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“We support your effort to continue finding a solution to this problem,” Suhendra told the legislator.

But Cheung warned that there were technicalities involved, such as the need to come up with an insurance plan that will allow the worker to get medical care even after she falls into the “gap” of not being on employment visa, such as when she is terminated or is processing a new work contract.

Currently, most insurance policies do not provide for medical care except for minimal payment for outpatient consultations. They also follow the job – not the person covered – so that when she is replaced, the coverage is transferred to the new worker hired in her place.

Cheung also said employers should likewise be consulted and assured that the wider insurance coverage for their worker also works to their advantage.

But, as he says, “it is also to the employer’s benefit that the worker is kept in a healthy condition. Workers’ health is essential to the employer, we don’t want them to get sick.”

Cheung later told The SUN he again met with Secretary Law, who reassured him of his support. “He is in support of the idea but is not sure if there’s such an insurance product available,” said Cheung. He is also worried about the possible opposition from the employers.”

Taking the initiative further, Cheung said he also spoke with legislator Chan Kin Por, who represents the insurance industry. Chan reportedly agreed to talk to his constituents and get back to him.

As for being treated in public hospitals, he said those in a life and death situation are never turned away as a matter of public policy.

But routine medical check-ups could be a problem as that is when a patient’s HKID card is checked to see if he or she is qualified for the heavily subsidized medical treatment at the hospital.

He said those who get admitted and are later on slapped with a hefty medical bill should not get overly worried about not being able to pay the charge.

“The bill is sent to the person and if it does not get paid it becomes a bad debt,” he said. “But not everyone understands this, especially honest persons who don’t want to make it appear that they owe the government, and that it could affect their future employment.”

Congen Tejada thanked him for this disclosure, as it could be a big help to Filipino workers who might end up being in the “gap” but still need to seek medical treatment.

Accompanying the consuls general were their labor chiefs.

Antonio Villafuerte, office-in-charge of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, brought up as a side issue the need to provide a separate visa category for caregivers, in line with a pledge given by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam when she took office two years ago.

Indonesian Labor Attache Erga Grenaldi explained that their workers are required to take out a life insurance when they leave the country, but are also dependent on their employers for health protection once they start working in Hong Kong. But on arriving here, the employers are also required to pay for the worker’s medical check-up before she assumes work.

Cheung assured the diplomats they would be informed on how the insurers and the employers respond, and what would be the next step forward.
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UPDATE: Police says woman who jumped to death in Mid-Levels not a Filipina

Posted on 13 December 2019 No comments
By The SUN
Image may contain: tree and outdoor
Robinson Place where the victim fell to her death

Yes, she appears to have jumped to her death, but no, she was not a Filipina domestic worker.

This was what the police told The SUN this evening, hours after being asked for confirmation of reports that a Filipina domestic worker said to have worked in Hong Kong for just 11 days had jumped to her death.

According to a police spokeswoman, the victim was a 66-year-old local woman who appears to have jumped from a high floor of Robinson Place at 70 Robinson Road, at around 1:30pm today, Dec. 13.
Various Facebook posts and messages posted in online chats had earlier indicated erroneously that the woman was a Filipina who had worked for an Indian employer in Tower 2 of the building.

The information reportedly came from other Filipinas who worked in the same luxurious residential block.

 Some had quoted other sources as supposedly saying that the victim was cleaning windows when she fell to her death.
However, Welfare Officer Marivic Clarin of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said at about the same time that they had yet to receive information on the woman’s identity, and whether she was indeed a Filipina.

But she admitted having seen the various posts that had wrongly identified the fatality as a Filipina domestic worker.

Earlier reports said the unidentified woman fell into the patio on the third floor of the Robinson Place which has a rough surface.
It took rescuers some time to retrieve the body so some tenants managed to take pictures they posted online which showed the woman wearing what looked like a denim jacket and pants lying on her side in a pool of blood.  

Tenants on the 11th floor of the building had reportedly informed the police about the apparent suicide.

Paramedics who rushed to the scene pronounced the woman dead. Police then covered the body with a tent proceeded to gather more information from residents.

Pictures showed a crowd gathering outside the building while the police were doing their investigation.

The incident sparked alarm in the community in the wake of a rash of suspected suicides involving Filipinos in Hong Kong. The latest happened only on Dec 8, when a 24-year-old male student reportedly jumped off an industrial building in Kennedy Town.

Those who are feeling depressed are advised to seek professional help immediately, either through the Philippine Consulate or NGOs like the Mission for Migrant Workers. They can also call the 24-hour multi-lingual hotline of the Samaritans at 28960000. 
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Maid caught selling fake branded goods jailed for 2 weeks

Posted on 11 December 2019 No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao
 
Among those found in Yarte's possession were fake Gucci bags like these
A Filipina domestic worker has been jailed for two weeks after admitting in Eastern Court that she was selling fake branded goods and had violated her work visa by engaging in business.

J. Yarte pleaded guilty before Magistrate Lam Tsz-kan on Dec 11 to charges of “possession for sale or for any purpose of trade or manufacture goods to which a forged trade mark was applied,” and for breach of condition of stay.

Yarte, 47, was arrested by Customs officers on Jan 20 this year while manning a mobile hawker stall on a footbridge outside Fairmont House on Cotton Tree Drive in Central.
The officers seized two fake Gucci bags and five Gucci wallets on display in front of the defendant. More counterfeit items were found in a bag beside her, including eight wallets, 16 bags, basketball jersey and shorts, caps and T-shirts.

All the items bore famous brand names and were worth a total of $1,170.

A plainclothes officer saw Yarte at about 9:10am touting the goods to passersby. He also noticed the bag that held the other counterfeit items.
A few minutes later the officer approached Yarte then identified himself before arresting her.

The prosecution said Yarte had admitted to selling the goods for a Pakistani man who paid her $100 a day but whose telephone number she did not know.

She admitted to the arresting officer that she knew the goods were fake and that she was a domestic helper.
Immigration records showed Yarte had a working visa valid until Jun 6, 2020.

In mitigation, Yarte’s lawyer said she augmented her salary with income from selling the goods to support her family in the Philippines.
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Militants say Duterte's Christmas 'gifts' to Filipinos have led to more suffering

Posted on No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao
Protesters showed Duterte's wrapped 'gifts' to Filipinos

 Christmas gifts the Filipino people have received from President Rodrigo Duterte since he came to power in July 2016 are nothing but unfulfilled promises, excessive exactions on workers, and more human rights violations.

This was according to Hong Kong-based activists who say that as a result, life in the Philippines has become more difficult than ever, resulting in more workers being forced to leave the country just to earn money to support their families.
Speaking at a rally on Sunday, Dec. 8 on Chater Road to mark International Human Rights Day, United Filipinos in Hong Kong chair Dolores Balladares-Pelaez blasted Duterte for failing to fulfill a promise to bring back OFWs by creating jobs at home.

“Nito ngang nagkakagulo sa Hong Kong, ayaw nating umuwi hindi dahil gusto natin ang gulo, kundi dahil wala naman tayong trabaho,” Pelaez said. “Yung mga problema sa Pilipinas ay hindi nareresolba, iyon pa rin at lumalala,” she said.

The Unifil leader said Duterte does not care even if a big chunk of migrant workers’ pay will go to excessive government fees due to be imposed from next year, such as mandatory insurance and increased Pag-IBIG, Philhealth and SSS contributions.
She said that as the exactions are all mandatory, migrant workers have no choice but to pay up so they can work overseas.

“Ito ba ang ating hiniling noong mga nagdaang Pasko?” she asked.

She recalled that during his 2016 election campaign Duterte promised a safer and corrupt-free Philippines but the exact opposite of these have happened since he took power.

Image may contain: 1 person
Tebia enumerates Duterte's 'gifts' of suffering
 Gabriela Hong Kong & Macau chairperson Sheila Tebia enumerated the so-called “gifts” of the President to the Filipino people: his disrespect of women, high prices and low salaries; increased rice imports that have pulled down local grain prices; demolition of informal settlers’ homes; expanded mining operations and dam constructions by foreign companies; his giving up the country’s claim over the West Philippine Sea; and closure of schools for lumad children.
Further, Duterte has reneged on his promise to end the labor scourge called job contractualization, or “endo,” which according to Tebia, has undermined Filipino workers’ right to job security.

Tebia also noted the 27,000 extrajudicial killings since “Operation Tokhang,” Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, began in July 2016.

She said the anti-drug campaign has targeted small-time drug pushers and even innocent people, such as 17-year-old student Kian delos Santos, who was taken from his home and shot dead by Caloocan City policemen on Aug 17, 2017.



Those who condemn human rights abuses under the Duterte government are branded as terrorists, face trumped up charges and suffer persecution, Tebia said.

“Iyan ang mga regalo sa atin ni President Duterte… Kung hindi natin ito pinag-usapan, kung hindi natin ilalaban at ite-table sa gobyerno, sino ang magpaparating sa kanila na hindi tama ang mga polisiya?” Tebia said.

She said it is not wrong to be an activist and to protest. As a fitting celebration of International Human Rights Day, she said Filipinos should assert their rights as promoters not just of migrant rights but also those of the Filipino masses.

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Filipina HK resident accused of fleecing $112k from OFWs by offering fake jobs

Posted on No comments
By Daisy CL Mandap

Fernandez allegedly collected at least $112k  but offered no real jobs

Nine Filipina domestic workers have complained to the Consulate about losing at least $112,000 from a former staff of an employment agency who allegedly offered them non-existent jobs for their male relatives back in the Philippines.

They identified the alleged scammer as Mila Bodomo Fernandez, a resident of Smithfield Street, Kennedy Town, who used to work at the ACJ International Recruitment Services Company with an office in Excellente Commercial Building on Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay.

Consul Paul Saret, head of the assistance to nationals section, said his office would consolidate the statements and ask each complainant to sign an affidavit before forwarding them all to the police for immediate action.
Fernandez allegedly offered jobs ranging from yacht maintenance staff to houseboy or gardener, and prodded the complainants to apply for their male relatives back in the Philippines, saying she had many employers waiting to hire them.

She allegedly said the offered salary ranged from $5,000 to $7,000, and all that the applicants needed to pay initially was $3,000 and a further $1,000 after their work visa was released.

With another group of applicants, she allegedly collected $3,500 each for those without a Tesda training certificate, and $2,500 each for those who already had it.
One group of complainants said they paid Fernandez a total of $32,500 in February this year, after which she promised them their relatives would already have their work visa by May.

Another group made up of 13 applicants in the Philippines who are represented in their complaint by a longtime Filipino domestic worker in Hong Kong, remitted a total of $43,719.90 (converted from peso) to Fernandez’s HSBC bank account between April and June this year.

Remittance receipts issued to applicants all show Fernandez' name and bank account number

Fernandez allegedly asked the applicants for their bio-data and copies of their passports but never sent them employment contracts, or set up any interview with their prospective employers.

Months after the promised deployment in May did not happen, the first group said they asked Fernandez to just give their money back, but she stopped taking their calls and have blocked them on messenger.
At least one of the complainants, C. Delfino, said in a sworn statement she submitted to the Consulate on Oct 27 that she met Fernandez after ACJ managed to place her with a new employer in December last year. Delfino also said she made her second payment to Fernandez in the ACJ office, but the company manager was not around.

But when Fernandez allegedly started hiding from them, they learned from the company that she had been sacked because of similar complaints from several other people.

The SUN managed to contact Fernandez at the mobile number supplied by the complainants, and she did not deny taking money from them. However, she gave the same excuse that she told all of them: that all the employers who were supposed to hire their relatives had backed out.


She was unable to respond when asked why not one of the applicants was given an employment contract as should have happened from the time they gave her money.

Fernandez also vaguely spoke of using the money she collected for buying air tickets, but could not say who the tickets were for. She just said she was willing to pay the complainants back, and in fact, had started doing so by installment.

This claim was vehemently disputed by A. Alday, who after being meeting Fernandez through a mutual friend, got 13 relatives and friends in Iloilo to apply for the promised jobs.

“Urgent daw mga amo kaya pinipilit niyang magbayad agad, at kung ma delay ang payments sasabihan nya ang aplikante na e- cancel nya ang application,” said Alday in her sworn statement dated Oct 30.

But when it became clear that there were no real jobs were waiting for them, the applicants, who have remittance slips to prove their payment to Fernandez, began clamoring for a refund.

Alday said that to date, Fernandez has refunded only $3,750 of the more than $43,000 she collected from them.

The unlicensed recruiter has reportedly been making up all sorts of excuses for not paying back, like she’s sick, or she was still trying to cash a cheque.

The last time she bugged Fernandez about paying up, Alday said “Kahapon sabi nasa hospital siya at today sabi in a critical condition ang mother nya. Lahat isasali sa kasinungalingan nya.”

One time, Fernandez allegedly said she was at home sick, but only hours later, Alday said she saw her near World Wide House, fully made up and dressed to the nines. Fernandez allegedly ran away when she saw Alday taking pictures.

Like Alday, Delfino has worked in Hong Kong for a long time, 22 years to be exact. All these years, she said she never fell for a scam, and was never in debt, so that the $16,000 she paid Fernandez had come from her life savings.

Two years back, she said she nearly got looped into a similar ploy by the disgraced former employment agency owner Ester Ylagan. But she backed off after failing to get a sign from God on whether she should cough up the required $10,000 for a tempting job placement in the UK.

She now wonders why her sixth sense failed her, or why she forgot to ask for divine intervention again, when a bigger part of her nest egg was at stake.

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