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PCG warns anew against use of passports as loan collateral amid record haul from lending company

Posted on 21 June 2019 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap

The Consulate has issued a new warning against anyone using the Philippine passport as collateral for securing a loan.

The warning, posted late tonight, Jun 20, came in the wake of reports that a record haul of more than 1,400 Philippine passports had been seized by police from a lending company in Sheung Wan called OFC, during a raid on Jun 5.

The passports were collected and kept by the company as collateral from Filipino borrowers.

The Consulate advisory states: “We remind all Filipinos in Hong Kong that all Philippine passports are property of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and shall not be used as collateral for any loans or debts”.
It added that in accordance with the Foreign Service Circular No 214-99 issued on Aug 19, 1999, all passports used as guarantee for loans or debts are “automatically cancelled” upon notice by the passport holder that the document had been lost.

This means that once cancelled, the passport holder will have to apply for a new one, which under current practice, will require him or her to go to the main passport office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.

The Consulate will not issue a replacement once it proves that the passport was lost to a money lender.
Consul Saret says no replacement for the hocked passports will be made in Hong Kong
Consul Paul Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, has told The SUN they will stick to this policy, even if it will mean long hours of processing requests to replace all the passports that had been seized from OFC.

Once a lost passport is found to have been among those seized from the money lender, the Consulate will issue a one-way travel document to the holder so she can go home and get the replacement in Manila.
In no way will the new passport be replaced in Hong Kong, said Saret, to deter Filipinos from engaging in the practice they have been warned against for years.

“We will just have to find a way to speed up the process,” he said.

More than 200 of the seized passports were initially turned over to the Consulate by officers from the District Crime Squad of the Wan Chai Police Station on Jun 14, and more are expected to be returned after documentation.

The record haul means the ATN section will be kept busy for a long time. Up until now, some of the more than 400 Filipinos whose passports were seized from an unlicensed money lender in North Point late last year are still seeking the Consulate’s help in getting replacements.
Filipino borrowers besieged CFC on Jun 9 on learning about the police raid
During the raid on the office of OFC Holding Limited in Ngan House on 206-210 Des Voeux Road Central, police said a 35-year-old local man was arrested for “breach of money lenders licence conditions”.

According to the police statement, an initial investigation revealed that the arrested man had offered loans totaling more than $4 million to more than 1,400 victims, who were asked to surrender their passports and employment contracts as collateral.
Initially, the police had started returning some of the passports to OFC’s borrowers but stopped after the Consulate complained, saying this deviated from the agreed protocol.

Consul Saret said the police had apologized and promised to turn over the remaining passports.

“We already talked to the police that if they don’t want to keep the passports as evidence, they should not be returning the passports directly to the debtors but to the Consulate. They apologized and agreed to stop what they are doing and turn over all the passports to the Consulate tomorrow,” Saret told The SUN.

OFC appears to have convince the police to return the passports despite the raid

By then, at least 30 of the documents had been returned by Wanchai police officers, at the intercession of OFC’s owners.

The suspect, who insiders say is a man surnamed Wong, is listed as part owner of OFC Holding Limited and Cheers Holding Company Limited, which is the one with a money lender's licence. He was reportedly released on police bail and required to report back in mid-July. 

The arrest was apparently over the failure of Wong to register the Sheung Wan address in the money lending license issued to Cheers Holding, but not to OFC . Its license shows addresses in Shamshuipo and Wanchai.

Cheer Holding also operates Cheers Employment Limited, with which it shares the  Wanchai address. A check with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office showed its accreditation to hire Filipino domestic workers was suspended earlier this year.


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Macau and its relevance to Philippine history

Posted on No comments
The St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery (left) where Rizal's friend is buried. 

By George Manalansan

Filipino migrant workers based in Hong Kong, led by cultural group, Lakbay Dangal, went on a one-day historical trip to Macau on Jun 7, a statutory holiday.

The group took the trip to unwind, but also to know more about the ancient city transformed by Portugal into a commercial outpost between the east and west in mid-16th century, but is now known as the Las Vegas of Asia for its many casinos that now drive its economy.

Despite the heat, the group managed to pack in several historical sites during their day-long visit, including the ruins of St Paul’s Church which was built in the 17th century, but was wrecked by an earthquake that left only its façade standing. The site is included in the list of Unesco world heritage sites.

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Along the way they took in samples of traditional food like meat jerkies and almond cookies offered by various shops that dot the paved streets leading to the ruins.

They also visited the famous paved streets of Largo de Senado (Senado Square), seat of the old Macanese government, and on which an old church also stands. The square used to be a popular meeting place between Portuguese and Chinese residents of the city. Today, most of the old buildings on the square have been preserved, and house commercial establishments.

The group's trip also took them to Museo de Macau, which was built in 1617- 1626 as a fortress, but was later used as a residence of governors and as military barracks. It was turned into a museum in 1998.

Some  of the Lakbay Dangal travellers stop over at the Largo de Senado.

Another site they visited was the St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery ( Cemeterio de S. Miguel Arcanjo) where Dr. Jose Rizal’ s Portuguese friend, Dr. Lorenzo P. Marquez ( Dr. Lourenco Pereira Marques) is buried.

Lakbay Dangal members know from their research that Dr Marques lived in Hong Kong at the same time as Dr. Rizal, and during their time together, helped the Philippine national hero boost his clientele. At that time Dr Marques was a physician in Victoria Prison, which was just a stone’s throw from Rednaxela Terrace where Rizal lived during his stay in Hong Kong in 1891-1892.

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The group that conducts free guided tours of the places where Rizal lived and practiced as an optometrist in Hong Kong, timed their visit ahead of the 121st anniversary of the declaration of Philippine independence on Jun 12 and Rizal’s 150th birthday on Jun19.

At the cemetery, the group was so awed at seeing the little-known grave of a close friend of Rizal that one of them said she got goose bumps.

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Macau remains a blend of old-world charm from its colonial past, and of glittering, modern-day buildings that house casinos and ritzy shops. It has so many attractions that a day’s visit will not be enough to take in all its attractions.

With proper planning and good budgeting, $500 should be enough for a day tour, food and snacks included.

Rowena Arandia, who was with the group, said she considers Macau as her second home, as she frequently goes there, sometimes staying overnight with friends. She enjoys the convenience of having free shuttle buses that take visitors to the casinos on Macau’s three islands.

Her friend Imee Payoyo, a first timer in Macau, had a fun time playing slot machines, but was quick to say one must have discipline to make sure she does not gamble too much. She said she was happy enough capping her losses at $100.

Going there has become easier on the budget with the opening of the HK-Macau-Zhuhai bridge late last year. One can get to Macau by taking the air bus – A11 from North Point and Central, A41 from Shatin, and all others that go past the airport, and stop at the border checkpoint. After clearing Hong Kong immigration, one can take the cross-border buses at just $65 each way, $70 for the night buses.

The trip from Central to Macau will take an hour and a half each way, providing there are no huge crowds at the border crossing.

Another option is to take the Tung Chung- bound MTR. Get off at Sunny Bay station, and take Bus B5 to the border. From Tung Chung, take Bus B6.

Finally, one can still take the faster but pricier sea crossing by taking a jetfoil from the HK-Macau ferry terminal in Sheung Wan. The ferry ride costs at least $300 round-trip,

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Trial of maid for abuse, indecent assault on young ward reset anew

Posted on 20 June 2019 No comments
The accused will now be tried in this court on Aug 1 

The trial of a Filipina accused of ill-treating and indecently assaulting her 10-year-old male ward has been postponed until Aug 1 in Kowloon City Court.

Angela Vivo appeared in court again today, Jun 20, but Magistrate Raymond Wong decided to postpone her trial for a further six weeks to give the defense enough time to study the voluminous transcript of the video-recorded interview with her alleged victim.
Vivo’s bail was extended until her next court appearance.

Her lawyer had applied for a postponement so he could read through the certified English translation of the interview transcript, which the prosecution failed to produce yesterday, when the trial was originally set to start.
The magistrate had scolded the prosecution for the oversight, saying the certified transcript was “in fact, the main case”.

The first count of ill-treatment against Vivo allegedly happened sometime in February 2016 near the Yaumatei fire station when the boy was 6 years old. The second, in July the same year in the boy’s house, and the third near the Mongkok police station on Sept 7 last year.
Vivo also denied that indecently assaulting the boy in his home between 2016 and 2017, and again in 2018. – Vir B. Lumicao
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DH, employer in dismissed shampoo theft case settle dispute

Posted on No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao

Claimant got 

A Filipina domestic helper cleared of charges she had stolen a small shampoo set has agreed to settle her labor case against her former employer for $5,800, almost half her original claim.

The agreement came after a two-hour hearing at the Labour Tribunal today, Jun 20, during which Presiding Officer Jo Siu told Damiago and defendant Jennifer Wong they could both lose if the case dragged on.
Damiago was claiming from Wong a total of $11,504.37, broken down as follows: $734.37 for five days’ wages, $7,640 in damages for alleged loss of income, $1,700 for a one-way air ticket, $1,330 for visa extension costs and a $100 travel allowance. 

She had insisted on pursuing the case after the last hearing on Mar 29 during which Wong had refused to pay the claim for unpaid wages and return air ticket with a 20-kilo baggage allowance.
It was the  first time the two had faced each other at the Tribunal after Damiago was acquitted in Eastern Court on Feb 13 of a theft charge which arose from Wong’s claim that the maid had stolen a small travel set of toiletries, along with a pack of dried plums.

In her labor claim, Damiago had alleged constructive dismissal, saying Wong’s husband had abused her, physically and verbally, in their Repulse Bay flat.

But Wong countered that she fired the helper on Oct 15 last year because of her “dishonest acts.”
After examining the helper’s claims, Siu said Damiago should have stated “wrongful dismissal” instead of “constructive dismissal” because she was fired based on false accusations after she had given Wong a one-month notice of resignation.    

“In constructive dismissal, you leave right away because of abuse. You don’t have to give the employer one month’s notice,” Siu said.

Then, seeing that both sides were not ready to settle, Siu explained the rigors and risks of going to trial, starting from gathering evidence, calling witnesses, waiting for months to get a trial date, and the risk of costs.

Then, if the Tribunal’s ruling is appealed or a review is sought, a hearing in the High Court could take months to schedule. Getting a lawyer could also entail costs of about $50,000 each hearing, she said.

In the case of Damiago, Siu said she could apply for Legal Aid, but she could still face a long wait as a court case could go on for years if both parties stood their ground.
Also, if Damiago loses, she could be ordered to pay costs.

For Wong, money may not be a problem, but her family’s reputation could be ruined, and dragging her children to the trial as witnesses may also be traumatic for them.

“Why not just settle to avoid all the troubles?” Siu asked the parties. Then she gave them 10 minutes to try to reach a settlement.

When Wong and Damiago returned, there was still no agreement. The employer offered to settle for $4,000 plus $1,500 for the air ticket, while Damiago insisted on $4,500 plus the ticket.

Siu suggested raising the total amount to $5,750, then fixed it at $5,800. The two agreed.

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