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Pinoys in HK recall horrors of martial law

Posted on 19 September 2019 No comments

By The SUN
Image may contain: 7 people, including Dolores Balladares Pelaez, people sitting, table and indoor
Tellez talks of why Filipinos should resist any new attempts to impose martial law in the country

The oft-repeated chant of “never again to martial law” was given fresh meaning on Sept 15, when a group of migrant workers hosted a film screening and dialogue in Li Hall of St John’s Cathedral on the horrors that followed the imposition of martial law in the Philippines 47 years ago.

The event, organized by Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, was held ahead of the commemoration of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines on
Sept 21, 1972, by the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Highlighting the gathering was the screening of a graphic film showing the arrest and torture of Bonifacio Ilagan, then a young student leader at the University of the Philippines, shortly after martial law was declared.

Ilagan was arrested along with noted journalist and film writer Pete Lacaba, who was tortured along with him during the two years that they were detained inside a dreaded unit of a military camp.
Ilagan’s story also includes his younger sister, Rizalina, who followed in his footsteps as an activist at UP, and later disappeared, presumably after being arrested by military agents.

She is among dozens of “desaparecidos”, or people who vanished during the brutal crackdown on anti-government activists by Marcos’ soldiers and paramilitary troops.

Lacaba’s older brother Eman, meanwhile, was killed during an encounter between rebels and soldiers, just as the journalist was about to be freed by his captors.
Three Filipino community leaders who lived through the dark years of Marcos’ iron-fist rule shared their painful experiences during the gathering.

The SUN publisher Leo A Deocadiz related how two cousins he grew up with, and who both attended UP with him, were taken away by the military, never to be seen again.

The SUN editor Daisy CL Mandap spoke of neighbors and friends who were among the tens of thousands who were tortured and abused by the military during the reign of terror throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Amid mounting pressure from the international community, Marcos formally lifted in martial law on Jan 17, 1981, but continued his one-man rule until he was ousted by the People Power Revolution on Feb 25, 1986.

During his dictatorial rule, more than 3,000 people were killed, 35,000 were tortured, 77 disappeared, and 70,000 were imprisoned.

Jun Tellez of the Mission for Migrant Workers, who was an activist during the martial law era, said the gathering was a reminder that Filipinos should resist any attempt by the country’s leaders to go down that path again.

Bayan’s chair Eman Villanueva said the resistance put up by thousands of Filipinos against martial law is mirrored in the ongoing protests by Hong Kong people who are fighting to preserve their freedoms.

Villanueva also urged vigilance, as the Philippines’ sitting president Rodrigo Duterte has shown signs of emulating Marcos, and has already done far more in a short period of time to gain control over the country.

He enthusiastically supported a call for a community-wide network to be set up to call for Duterte’s resignation or ouster, to head off another bloody dictatorship.

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Judge says case vs Pinoy with fake US$500b gold certificates can proceed

Posted on No comments
Morano presented the fake gold certificates he claims to have received from Marcos, to HSBC in Central


A District Court judge has ruled that a Filipino tourist accused of trying to pass off US$500 billion worth of fake gold certificates has a case to answer.

Judge David Dufton made the ruling on Sept 19 as he sent defendant David Morano Jr back into custody.

The case has been adjourned to Sept 23 for the final submissions by both sides.
Morano pleaded not guilty to a charge of “using a false instrument” at the start of his trial on Sept 16.

According to prosecutor Frederic Whitehouse, Morano had claimed that the fake gold certificates were personally given to him by the late President Ferdinand Marcos to help fund his humanitarian projects.
Morano brought the documents to the HSBC headquarters in Central on Oct 29 last year, and presented them to a clerk who called her manager.

Giving evidence during the trial, the manager, Ms So, said the documents included US$500 billion gold certificates issued in Morano’s name by “Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corp.” on Jun 12, 1983; four HSBC cards bearing his name, and 12 documents certifying he owns the gold certificates.

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Morano also presented certifications purportedly from Marcos, the United States and the United Nations, that he was the owner of the gold certificates. – Vir B. Lumicao


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Economic slump from protests hit Pinoy businesses, entertainers

Posted on 18 September 2019 No comments
By Daisy CL Mandap
Image may contain: 2 people, crowd
Tourist arrivals in HK dropped by a massive 40% last month

With tourist arrivals in Hong Kong down by a massive 40% last month as a result of weeks of anti-government protests, everyone in the city is feeling the pinch – including Filipinos who are in the entertainment and tourism industries.

According to Manuela Lo, chairperson of the Hong Kong Musicians Union, many hotels have been reducing the nights when they offer live performances. Special events which have for years, been the lifeblood of many Filipino musicians, are also being cancelled all over Hong Kong on an increasingly regular basis.

But Lo says there is not much that HKMU can do to help members who are affected. “We can’t do anything at the moment, we all know business has been bad,” she says.

cover photo, Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor
Filipino musicians in HK are among the hardest hit by the slump (Photo from HKMU's Facebook page)

Hermie Santos, a booking agent for entertainers at Ocean Park, has just barely escaped getting hit by the looming downturn. His talents had already been signed up by park before visitor arrivals plummeted so they’re still assured of their contract wage.

This is despite an apparent massive drop in the number of visitors at both Ocean Park and Disneyland Hong Kong, which is perhaps even more affected because of its higher entrance fee.

A recent Filipino visitor to both amusement parks was amazed that she and her companion could get on any of the rides without having to queue, an experience that she never had in all the years that she had visited both places.

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She had the same experience at the Peak Tram, which most tourists prefer to take in going up to one of Hong Kong’s best known attractions. For the first time in so many years, the queue going in, which used to snake up to a block away, especially during the weekends, was nowhere to be seen.

It is the same story with Philippine airlines, which used to fly the seventh highest number of tourists into Hong Kong every year. Scenes from the widespread mayhem that have marred what previously were peaceful weekend protests have all but doused the desire of many Filipinos to come over for a quick respite.

Philippine Airlines, which used to fly four times daily from Hong Kong to Manila, has already cut out one flight, and is reportedly considering stopping services on one return journey. Cebu Pacific Air’s website shows it has maintained its four flights in and out of Hong Kong, but perhaps not for long.

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“It’s the same with all other airlines,” said an industry insider. “People have just stopped coming.” He says the 40% decline cited by government does not even give an accurate picture of the massive downturn in tourist arrivals as they do not include border crossings.

Things continue to look grim even with the approach of “Golden Week”, when Chinese people traditionally go traveling during the long National Day holiday, which starts Oct 1.

By this time, airlines and hotels would have been swamped with bookings from Chinese tourists many of whom prefer to do their shopping for luxury goods in Hong Kong. But none of this is happening this year because many Mainland tourists reportedly fear they could be targeted by Hong Kong protesters angry at what they perceive as China’s premature tightening of its grip on their freedoms.

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As a result, occupancy rates at hotels which last year was at a high 91% on average, have dipped considerably, prompting them to offer as much as 70% percent reduction in room charges.

The brunt of the slump is also being borne by hotel workers, 77% of whom have been asked to go on unpaid leave for at least three days, according to media reports. A survey by the Hotels, Food and Beverage Employees Association also showed 46% of the workers believe their salaries could be cut by as much as $3,000 per month.

Retailers are also feeling the brunt of the crisis, including those who cater mainly to migrant workers.
No photo description available.
Filipino retailers in WorldWide Plaza 
are hard-hit by fallout from the protests 

They include Joy Tan, a storeowner in WorldWide Plaza, who has lamented on Facebook that the protests, which often peak during the weekends when domestic workers are having their days off, have resulted in her failing to make enough to cover rent.

But the worst is yet to come. With the prospect of wage cuts looming in the horizon, many foreign domestic workers and their supporters fear they could suffer the same fate. Back in 2003, in the aftermath of the SARS epidemic, the minimum salary of FDWs was cut by $400, or more than 10% of their monthly pay then. 

Now, with the new minimum wage for FDWs expected to be announced by the government by the end of the month, there is widespread fear that salaries could again be cut, or at best, frozen.

But the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, which is pressing for what it calls a living wage of $5,894 for FDWs, has been at pains trying to allay such concerns.

AMCB chair Dolores Balladares-Pelaez says, “The number of employment contracts being processed at the Consulate has remained steady despite the crisis, so it means the demand is still there, and that employers are willing to continue paying a just wage to their helpers.” 


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Filipina overstayer ends 11-year bid vs. deportation

Posted on No comments

By The SUN
The torture claimant told the Court she decided to just go home and raise her daughter there

A Filipina former helper who overstayed in Hong Kong for nearly five years and tried to fight deportation for the next 11 years, has been allowed to withdraw her application in the High Court seeking leave for a judicial review of her case.

Meanwhile, two other Filipino overstayers who are challenging Hong Kong’s decision to deport them after rejecting their torture claims, failed to get the court’s nod for a judicial review.

In a decision handed down on Sept 12, Mr Justice Li of the Court of First Instance granted Marina Palangdosan’s request to drop her case so she can leave Hong Kong and take care of her daughter, who was born here in November 2006.
Palangdosan, 45, came here as a helper in November 1988 and was allowed to stay until Apr 23, 2004. But she did not leave and eventually gave birth to her daughter. They were both arrested for overstaying on Sept 26, 2008.

She filed a torture claim on Sept 14, 2009 but was refused by the Immigration director after nearly two years. She went to the Torture Claims Appeal Board but was turned down on Aug 17, 2011. A removal order was issued against her three weeks later.
She filed another non-refoulement claim (against being sent home) in October 2013 but it was rejected by the director on Feb 16, 2017. Her appeal was dismissed by TCAB on Dec 27, 2017, leading her to seek leave for a judicial review in 2018.

Justice Li said Palangdosan wrote to the director in February 2018 seeking leave to remain in Hong Kong to look after her child, but her application was refused on Aug 9 and Dec 9, 2018.

“The director pointed out that she was an overstayer and had no right to remain in Hong Kong. There was no strong humanitarian or compassionate ground or exceptional extenuating circumstances to justify rescission of the removal order,” Li said.
In turn, Palangdosan applied for leave for judicial review of the director’s decision in October last year and indicated that she would apply for legal aid.

But Justice Li said that when the court wrote to Palangdosan in May about the result of her legal aid application, she replied that she would like to withdraw her leave application.

Two other Filipinos, Christopher Espiritu and Eva Tomad, applied separately last year for leave to challenge Immigration’s and the TCAB’s decisions rejecting their non-refoulement claims.
Judge K.W. Lung, however, refused their applications on Sept 11, saying these have no reasonable prospect of success.

Espiritu came to Hong Kong in Jul 27, 2008 and was allowed to stay as visitor until Aug 3 that year. He overstayed and was arrested on Oct 27, 2009. He applied for non‑refoulement on Oct 30.

Tomad came to Hong Kong Aug 12, 2009 as a visitor and overstayed until she was arrested by police on Feb 22, 2010. She lodged her non-refoulement claim on Jul 18, 2013.

Espiritu said he feared for his life if he was sent back home because he had witnessed a murder committed by a robber named Sapida and he had reported the matter to the police.

Tomad, on the other hand, claimed she feared being subject to extra-judicial killing.

Both said the Director failed to give enough weight to their claims and was either unfair or unreasonable in not allowing their applications.

Judge Lung, however, said he was not convinced that their claims had any reasonable prospect of success, and dismissed their applications.

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