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Depression, workers’ rights and protection tackled in symposium

Posted on 20 January 2020 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao

Alegre says sadness is not depression, but prolonged sadness could be

A clinical psychologist has warned against using the word “depression” to describe sadness because it might hinder the determination of whether a person is really depressed and needs to see a medical specialist.

Brenda R. Alegre, lecturer in gender studies at the University of Hong Kong and who has a PhD in Psychology from the University of Santo Tomas, told migrant workers they should watch out for how they view themselves, the future and the world around them.

She spoke in a symposium on depression and gender discrimination held on Jan 19 by the Social Justice for Migrant Workers and DOMOHK at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office conference hall in Wanchai.

Other guest speakers were Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Devi Novianti, corporate communications officer of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

Alegre said depression is a medical condition that is diagnosed by a psychiatrist based on a symptom and is different from sadness, a natural emotion that a person can experience. Even so, prolonged sadness may be symptomatic of depression, she said.

“We have to give ourselves the right to be sad, pero we should understand hanggang kailan tayo talaga malulungkot? Can we really be sad the whole day? How about tomorrow?” Alegre asked.

She said when a person worries about so many concerns over a period and is in a negative mood, he has depression and one thing that can help him fight depression is by restraining his mind.

Alegre urged migrant workers to be resilient in the face of adversities, and so should their extended families back home. She said the life of OFWs is about toiling and enduring depression while their dependents are having a good life. The workers should learn to change such a situation, she said.
Tamayao says bilateral agreements with host countries help ensure protection of OFWs
WelOf  Virsie Tamayao said in her speech, said the Philippines has 64 bilateral agreements with countries hosting OFWs to ensure promotion of employment and protection of the rights and welfare of migrant workers and their families.

She said protection of the rights of migrant workers is enshrined in the United Nations “International Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families” to which the Philippines is a signatory.

The signatory states are mandated to implement policies that comply with the convention, in particular, laws protecting OFWs from illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

She said under Hong Kong labor laws, migrant workers are protected although many workers are not aware of their rights so they do not stand up against abusive employers.

“Dito sa Hong Kong napakasuwerte kasi very clear ang kanilang employment ordinance,” Tamayao said.

She said the Philippine government has adopted policies to harmonize labor relationships through such activities such as the pre-deployment orientation seminars that seek to bridge cultural differences between the country and the host countries.

These measures are intended to strengthen protection of the rights of migrant workers, she said.
Participants show happy faces after the semina
The EOC’s Novianti provided the symposium participants with a quick review of workplace risks for female migrant workers such as sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, disability discrimination, race discrimination and other abuses such as slave-like treatment.

HK OFWs protest 4-fold hike in PhilHealth premium

Posted on 19 January 2020 No comments
By Daisy CL Mandap

Members of the Rage Coalition took part in the march from Central to Admiralty
Around 200 Filipino migrant workers marched from Central to Admiralty today, Jan 19, to protest against a new law that forces them to pay for national health insurance that is more than four times what they are currently paying.

Under Republic Act 11223, migrant workers are mandated to pay 3% of their monthly salary for PhilHealth starting this year.

For a HK OFW whose minimum pay is roughly Php30,000 a month, the monthly premium is Php900, or P10,800 a year, a whopping 450% increase from the Php2,400 collected from them in past years.

Little Lila and Rosa Carnay and Elca Villanueva (in stroller) joined the march to Admiralty
Eman Villanueva, chair of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, blasted at what he called the Philippine government’s practice of burdening migrant workers with its obligation of providing health care to its citizens.
“Ipinapasa ng gobyerno ang kanyang responsibilidad sa balikat ng migranteng manggagawa,” Villanueva said outside the Philippine Consulate in Admiralty, where the protesters gathered after marching from Chater Road in Central.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has no funds for its so-called universal health care program for Filipinos because it has allocated a big chunk of its annual budget to pork barrel for its supporters in the legislature.

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It is also not true that PhilHealth members get to be treated for free, said Villanueva, citing a HK OFW who only got a Php3,000 discount from the Php70,000 that she was charged recently when her son was admitted to a hospital in the Philippines.

“Nasaan ang pera ng taumbayan?,” he asked. “Kailangan nila ng pera dahil sa ‘build, build, ‘build kaya sila ay ‘kotong, kotong, kotong,’ at ‘utang, utang, utang’. In response, he said Filipinos should “laban, laban, laban” any attempt to make them pay for the government’s obligations.
Balladares with PhilHealth advisory showing chart for the higher fees
Lead organizer of the march, Dolores Balladares of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, earlier called out in her speech on Chater Road critics who say her group was making up the story about the four-fold increase in PhilHealth payments.

She held aloft a chart based on PhilHealth’s own advisory showing contributions rising gradually from 3% of the monthly salary to 5% by 2024. The advisory also states that departing OFWs will be charged Php2,400 initially, but will have to pay the balance of what’s due them over the next six months.

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“Paano kung wala kang pambayad? O kapos ang iyong kinikita, lalo na ngayon, may mga biktima ng kalamidad?” Balladares asked, in reference to OFWs affected by last week’s devastating eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas.

Balladares said that PhilHealth is an insurance, so whatever is paid for it each year is lost, whether or not members or their dependents benefited from their coverage by getting medical treatment.
Protesters say mandatory PhilHealth is another 'kotong' by the Duterte administration
Alann Cayosa-Mas, chair of Filipino Luzon Active Groups and co-founder of Rise Against Government Exactions or Rage, lamented that from being voluntary, PhilHealth membership is now not only mandatory, but also costs so much more.

Shiela Tebia de Aldo of Gabriela Hong Kong said President Duterte is to blame for all the forcible collection being made from OFWs now because all of them were implemented under his watch.

RA 11223 became law on February 20, 2019 after it was signed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tito Sotto as Senate President, and President Duterte. It took effect on Dec. 7 last year, 15 days after the publication of its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

The groups are also opposing the mandatory payment of Php2,400 monthly to the Social Security System implemented last year, the long-standing forced contribution to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and a reported plan to make payments to the Pag-IBIG Fund also compulsory.

A bill that would have required all OFWs to pay for mandatory insurance was scrapped at the House of Representatives last October, but the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has a similar plan that has yet to be pushed aside.

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Two Filipina helpers give conflicting claims in window-cleaning case

Posted on No comments
Dangerous window-cleaning has been outlawed since 2017 (file photo)

A Filipina who filmed herself cleaning the exterior window of her employers’ 19th floor flat in Repulse Bay on Feb 20 last year was not tasked to clean the window on that day, her fellow worker in the household has told the Labour Tribunal.

Girlie Angel made the statement on Jan 17, the last day of the hearing of a compensation claim for $45,931 brought by her co-worker Nerie Mier against their employer Ip Kam-tim for her alleged illegal dismissal.

Mier claims Ip dismissed her after the video of her cleaning the window from the outside was somehow uploaded on social media, and eventually caused the Hong Kong Labour Department to call her employer’s attention to the alleged illegal act.

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Angel supported the statement given earlier by their employer’s wife, Mrs Ip, that it was not Mier’s task to clean the windows in February. Mrs Ip also insisted she instructed the maids not to extend parts of their body outside the window when cleaning.

But when Mier asked Angel during cross-examination why she was ordered by their employer’s wife to clean the window on Feb 19, the second maid replied the “madam” would sometimes tell the helper who is not busy to do the chore if the other is occupied.

The hearing centered mainly on an exchange of message via Whatsapp between the two, when Angel was on vacation in the Philippines and Mier was alone doing the chores in the employer’s house.

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The claimant brought up the messages and Presiding Officer Michael Lok allowed them as new evidence saying he wanted to hear all evidence relating to the case.

Mier also said she was not allowed to take her day off by Mrs Ip, but Angel disputed that, saying the other helper had taught her how to lie regarding days off.

Angel also insisted that Ip’s wife paid the maids extra if she asked them to work on their day off, contrary to Mier’s claim that she was not paid for working on her days off.

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Angel’s evidence during the four-day trial revealed animosity between her and Mier.

When officer Lok asked Angel why she stabbed Mier with a ballpen on her arm and caused bruises on her neck once, the helper said it happened during an argument when her co-worker wrestled her first.

Several times while cross-examining Angel, Mier also felt compelled to say “Don’t point your finger at me!” whenever the latter lifted her finger to dispute what she was asked.

After Angel’s testimony, Ip cross-examined Mier again about what she said in her messages to the other maid about “grabeng parusa,” (grave punishment), saying he was concerned about it. He also asked why she described him as having a “masamang ugali” (bad attitude).

The claimant said “grabeng parusa” was a figure of speech meaning extra burden, referring to the employer’s guests who would stay for the night, and “masamang ugali” when his wife said it was he who would not allow her to take her day off.

Lok ordered both sides to make their final submissions on Jan. 30. – Vir B. Lumicao

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Buhay o trabaho?

Posted on No comments

May nagkunsulta kung ano ang dapat niyang gawin dahil pinapalinis ng kanyang amo ang kanilang malaking bintana gamit ang panlinis na may mahabang stick.

Ang problema ay walang grilles ang bintana, kaya kahit kamay lang niya ang inilalabas niya ay halos matumba na siya palabas mula sa tinutuntungan niya dahil kailangan niyang abutin ang dulo ng malapad at mataas na bintana.

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Nagpadala pa siya ng video na nagpapakita kung paano niya pinipilit linisin ang malaking bintana ayon sa utos ng kanyang amo.

Sabi pa niya ay ganun daw kasi ang ginagawa ng dating katulong ng kanyang amo.

Pinayuhan naman siya na bawal ang ginagawa niya dahil walang grilles ang bintana.

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Kahit kamay lang ang inilalabas niya ay malaki ang tsansa na mangalay siya at tuloy mahulog mula sa malaking bintana dahil walang harang iyon.

Ang payo sa kanya ay ipakita ang kanilang kontrata sa amo kung saan nakasulat na bawal maglinis ng bintana mula sa labas kung (1) may ibang parte ng katawan bukod sa kamay ang ilalabas at (2) walang grilles ang bintana.

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Kung hindi daw niya kayang sabihan ang amo niya ay humingi siya ng tulong sa Philippine Overseas Labor Office para sila ang magsabi sa agency niya.

Sagot naman niya, kamag-anak daw kasi ng kanyang amo ang may-ari ng agency, kaya malamang na makarating sa employer niya ang sumbong.

“Baka ma terminate ako, wala akong makuhang ibang employer pag di ko siya sinunod,” sabi pa niya.

Tinapos ng ka chat niya ang usapan sa isang tanong, “Mamili ka, trabaho mo o buhay mo?”. -DCLM
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21 OFWs named Fight Crime Ambassadors

Posted on 18 January 2020 No comments
The new group of overseas Filipino workers appointed as the latest batch of Fight Crime Ambassadors, with Senior Insp. Rick Tsai, community relations officer of Central Police District (center).

A new group of overseas Filipino workers has been appointed as the latest batch of Fight Crime Ambassadors of Central District.

Of the 207 who initially joined the program, 21 made the grade, and of these, 18 were able to attend the ceremony held in their honor on Jan 12.

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Senior Insp. Rick Tsai, community relations officer of Central Police District, presented the appointment certificates to the newly appointed ambassadors

To qualify for the role of Fight Crime Ambassador, participants must complete four compulsory seminars covering local laws, traffic regulations, law and order situation in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong police force, police powers and procedures, as well as a session on crime prevention campaign.

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The program was initiated in 2017 by the Hong Kong Police in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate as part of the campaign to involve Filipino domestic workers in:

1) Helping prevent fellow Filipino from falling prey to crimes or to break the law due to unfamiliarity with Hong Kong’s laws and regulations;

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2) Disseminating crime prevention messages among Filipinos in Hong Kong as well as the family members of employers of those working as domestic helpers;

3) Enhancing mutual understanding between the police and Filipino domestic workers in terms of ensuring better police services and assistance
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