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Filipina saved from drowning off Stanley

Posted on 21 October 2017 No comments
by Daisy CL Mandap


Rescuers wheel Mary Ann to a waiting
ambulance (Photo by Brian Belisario)
A beach outing for three friends from Davao City nearly turned into a disaster earlier today, Oct. 21, when one of them nearly drowned off Stanley Beach.

The three had just had lunch at about noon when Mary Ann, 31, decided to wade into the water. Not one of the three knew how to swim.

Within minutes, Mary Ann was seen struggling in the water. At first, one of her friends said she thought Mary Ann was just waving at them a few meters from shore, but then realized she was already fighting to keep afloat.

“Wala pa hong five minutes yun. Akala nga namin nag-e-enjoy pa siya, kaya pala e nalulunod na,” said Jocelyn Exim, one of her two friends who were with her at the time.

Exim said she started shouting for help, and two Western-looking men responded by jumping into the water to save Mary Ann. In their panic, Exim said she and her other friend, Jennifer, failed to get the names of the good Samaritans.

When Mary Ann was brought to shore, an ambulance team had already arrived. Mary Ann was given first aid and rushed to Pamela Youde Eastern Hospital where she is now said to be in stable condition although she remains in intensive care.

“Kaaalis ko lang po sa ospital,” Jocelyn said. “Noong paalis na ako, ok na siya, nakakapagsalita na siya”.

The nurse attending to Mary Ann had reportedly said the patient could be discharged by tomorrow. Her employer who lives in Shatin has reportedly been informed about the incident and will fetch the helper upon discharge.

Stanley Beach before the accident (photo by Brian Belisario)
An eyewitness, Brian Belisario, a Filipino driver who was on a leisurely stroll along Stanley beach when the accident happened, took pictures as soon as he saw the lifeguards helping carry Mary Ann to the stretcher before she was wheeled into the ambulance.

“Nakita ko nung binibigyan si Mary Ann ng first aid. Ang dami nyang tubig na nainom,” said Belisario.

He immediately posted pictures of Mary Ann’s rescue on his Facebook wall, along with the warning for Filipinos to take care when going for a swim.

Just last month, another Filipina drowned while apparently on a late-night dip in Repulse Bay. Her body was found only the next day, despite a massive air-and-sea search overnight by rescuers.

Exim said she and Mary Ann are neighbors in Davao, and are both on their first contracts with their respective employers. They met Jennifer, who has been in Hong Kong for even a shorter time, only recently.

Exim said it was the first time that the three of them had gone on a beach outing. Since they rarely get to meet because of their “international” days off (meaning, no fixed day), they decided to do something different when they finally got together again.

Little did they know that the few hours that they were together would end almost in tragedy. - with a report from Ellen Almacin

Filipina set free after winning appeal against indecent assault conviction

Posted on 20 October 2017 No comments
The Filipina walked out free from the High Court
after winning her appeal
A Filipina domestic helper sentenced to 4 years and six months for an alleged indecent assault on her young ward was ordered freed at the High Court earlier today, Oct. 20, after her application for leave to appeal against her conviction was allowed.

The 46-year-old Filipina, a self-confessed lesbian identified only by her initials SRM in court, was released after serving 18 months of the sentence meted on her by District Court Judge Johnny Chan in April last year.

In allowing her application, the three Court of Appeal justices ruled that the lower court judge was wrong in accepting the young boy’s allegations against the maid when they were in fact contrary to the evidence presented.

They also held that Judge Chan was wrong in failing to properly consider the “inherent improbabilities” of the boy’s evidence, in particular his claim of having been coaxed by the maid into full sexual penetration while his penis remained soft.

SRM was convicted by Judge Chan on Feb 29, 2016 on three charges of indecent assault against the boy, referred to as "X" in court.

At the time of the alleged indecent assaults, between July 2011 and March 2013, X was between 8-10 years old. He did not make the allegation against SRM until July 7, 2015, when he was already 13 years old. He claimed he understood the nature of the  sexual assaults committed against him only after learning about animal reproduction at school earlier that year.

By then, SRM had long left the family, parting with them “on perfectly amicable terms” and even meeting with them socially on occasions afterwards.

In the first and second charges, the boy accused SRM of indecently assaulting him on two occasions one week apart in the bedroom that they share with X’s elder sister.  On both occasions X claimed there was penetration.

In the third incident, which took place in the bathroom, X said he sat on the toilet bowl cover and the appellant stood between his legs and held on to the cistern as he penetrated her.

The appellant, giving evidence, said the accusations were only made up by the boy for reasons she did not know. But she said the boy was not known to tell lies.

Chan, however, admitted the boy’s testimony as honest and reliable, while saying that SRM could not explain why X should have made up the accusations.  

The judge also said he believed that X had penetrated SRM because the boy was adamant he did so.

In their written judgment, the appeal court, led by Justice Andrew Macrae, said the case had been difficult to resolve, “not least because the verdict depended on the unsworn and unsupported evidence of the child of tender years making very serious allegations some years after the event against a domestic helper in a trusted position of unblemished character”.

They suggested that had the judge not allowed himself to fully accept the boy’s testimony and instead looked at the other parts of his evidence that could have supported the charge of indecent assault, then a conviction was still possible. They said sexual penetration was not necessary to prove a case of indecent assault.

“(However), what the judge was not entitled to do was find that X’s penis was “soft” when he clearly said it was, or that he must have penetrated “inside” her (SRM) when, on the account he gave, it would have been difficult, or in Dr Ho’s (expert witness) opinion impossible,” said the appeal court.

After ordering the Filipina’s release, Justice Macrae told her that she should go to her lawyer so the judgment could be explained to her.

Then SRM was to go Immigration“ for a few administrative formalities” before she is either repatriated or allowed to work again.

Justice Macrae earlier asked if there was anybody in the courtroom from the Philippine Consulate after being told by the defense that the helper might have some visa issue as her passport was held by the Immigration Department. There was none.

No retrial was ordered as the prosecutor, Eddie Sean, had said at the outset that he would not take further action if the appeal was allowed.

Concurring in the decision were Justices Ian Mc Walters and Derek Pang. – with a report from Vir B. Lumicao


Pinoy driver dies of heart attack in boss’ car

Posted on 19 October 2017 No comments
Palomas 
A Filipino driver in his 50s died was found dead in his employer’s car while it was parked on Morrison Street, Sheung Wan at about 4:50pm on Monday, Oct. 16.

Fernando Palomas, from Quezon City reportedly  died of a heart attack. He was said to be waiting in the car for his employer at the time.

Hong Kong Police told The SUN Palomas was brought to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wanchai but was declared dead on arrival.

Hermogenes Cayabyab Jr of the Consulate's assistance to nationals section said John Palomas, a son of the deceased, arrived from Manila on Wednesday to coordinate the repatriation of his father’s remains.

Cayabyab said the younger Palomas was told to go to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office to fill up the necessary forms for death and burial claims.

The deceased’s son was also put in touch with his father’s employer, who will pay for the cost of sending Palomas’ body to the Philippines.

Friends of Palomas in World-Wide Plaza in Central which he used to frequent, informed The SUN about his death. They showed a photo of the lifeless Paloma still on the driver’s seat while the police were checking the car.

Palomas died inside the car

His friends from the Duterte Alliance in Hong Kong (DAHK) are planning to get together this coming Sunday, Oct 22, to raise funds to help Palomas’ family.

“Noong buhay siya ay marami siyang naitulong sa grupo kaya ngayon balak naming ibalik naman ang tulong sa kanya,” DAHK chair Marvin Cometa said.

Cometa said he was told that Palomas was already dead when the police found him inside the car.

Palomas’ remains are now in Victoria mortuary in Kennedy Town. A police autopsy has already been performed and the coroner is expected to release the body shortly, said Cayabyab. – Vir P. Lumicao                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 



‘Missing maid’ reported to have fled to China

Posted on 18 October 2017 No comments
Jelyn Olivar, the 'runaway' maid
By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina maid reported missing for three days had reportedly sent an online message to a friend just before 1am this morning, Oct. 18, saying she was ok, and asked that the search for her be stopped.
Jelyn J. Olivar did not say where she was, but said she was in some "big place".
“I’m fine don’t worry wag kaung gumawa ng anong hakbang na lalong magpagulo sa aking sitwasyon... ang mahalaga buhay ako,” said the message reportedly sent by Olivar to her friend.
“Hayaan nio na maging missing in action ako dito sa HK…wag nio na palawakin pa ang paghahanap sa akin…safe ako at maayos ang kinalalagyan ko.”
Her apparent flight prompted a warning from Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre that  Filipino helpers should not abandon their wards, particularly children and old people.
He said that in such a situation, their employers could explore Hong Kong’s law that penalizes neglect of a ward by those assigned to take care of them.
Olivar’s disappearance on Oct 15 sparked widespread concern about her safety. She had reportedly left her employers in Marina Cove, Sai Kung before noon that day, supposedly to meet with friends in a church despite the stormy weather, but never did.
Many of her friends went online to ask for help in locating her, and were even joined by her husband who professed not knowing about her plans.
It was not known what had prompted the flight of Olivar, a 32-year-old mother of three and former OFW in Saudi Arabia, who had been with her Hong Kong employers for just five months.
Labatt Dela Torre, who was informed of Olivar’s disappearance on Oct 17, said he received word today that the Filipina had crossed over to China.
In this case, he said the employers can have Olivar watch-listed. And if that happens, he said the absconding maid would not likely be allowed to work in Hong Kong again.
“If  they have plans of going to other countries for employment purposes, they should be honest with their employers and also consult with the Consulate," Labatt dela Torre said. "Kasi kung may mga countries silang pupuntahan na wala namang kasiguraduhan, lalo lang silang (mapapahamak)."
Danny Baldon of the assistance to nationals section of the Consulate echoed the view that runaway helpers would find it difficult to work again in Hong Kong.
Worse, they could be detained on re-entry if their employers lodged criminal charges against them.
This is not the first time that a Filipina helper had run away from her employer, but the Philippine Overseas Labor Office has reportedly not compiled statistics.
“That’s tough to count because employers rarely report these incidents except when, aside from abandoning, the worker also committed other grave offenses like stealing, abandoning and endangering their wards,” Labatt Dela Torre said.
In many of the cases, the Filipina helper would decide to stay put in the Philippines while supposedly only on vacation.


Filmcass celebrates life, offers thanksgiving

Posted on No comments
Filmcass members and their guests gather for a souvenir photo (above). 

An unusual quiz on the causes and prevention of cancer was one of the highlights of the “Celebration of Life and Thanksgiving” organized by the Filipino Migrant Cancer Support Society (Filmcass) and held at Edinburgh Place, Central, on Oct. 8.

Dr Mamie Lau, founder and director of Radhealth, conducted the quiz, and startled everyone by revealing that the radiation level in Hong Kong is twice as high as in Japan.

She said that granite and radon emit high radiation, and could be found in many items in the house such as granite counters, renovation tiles and walls. Radioactive particles that are inhaled from these substances cannot be exhaled, and once it builds up, could cause lung cancer.

Dr Lau said good ventilation is very important to lower the radon level, and to minimize the radon gas indoors.

On more practical terms, she said extra care should be taken when using mobile phones because they emit non-ionizing radiation.

She advised everyone not to keep their mobile phones close to their body, and to always put them in a bag instead of in their pockets when they go out.

A member wears one of her favorite sayings that have helped inspire cancer victims to hold on to hope..

Skin care products and cosmetics could also be harboring harmful ingredients like paraben which mimics the female hormone, and could cause breast cancer.

Her advice was for women to always check the label of the skin care products and cosmetics so they could stay away from paraben and its potentially harmful effects.

The whole-day program was full of entertainment, with 17 associations performing dance and musical numbers and popular musicians like Penny Salcedo, William Elvin, Satur Tiamson, Jr. and Wendie Sacedon sharing their talents.

A raffle draw livened up the affair, as well as a fund-raising pitch for Filmcass and its  community projects. – Marites Palma


Baltazar re-elected BSK president

Posted on No comments
Veteran Filipino community leader and Bagong Bayani awardee Ching P. Baltazar was reelected as president of the Balikatan sa Kaunlaran – Hong Kong chapter during elections held on Oct 8 at the Metrobank offices in United Centre, Admiralty.

Elected with her were: Marilyn C. Andaya, vice president; Irene B. Ramos, secretary; Myrerie H. Gendrala, asst secretary; Maryson A. Medina, treasurer; Charlyne M. Besas, asst treasurer; Imelda M. coprado and Rowena L. Valdez, auditors; Marites L. Mapa and Elvie L. Esteves, PROs; Jeannete R. Serato and Joy May M. Abellarde, health and sports committe; Fredalyn Tungpalan, membership committee; Evelyn O. Santos, cultural committee; Ela dela Fuente Pascua and Remedios B. Celedonio, livelihood committee.

The group advisers remain as Merlinda Mercado, Glo Telan and Randolph Salazar.

Balikatan officers after their oath-taking.

Know your rights as patient

Posted on No comments
How do you know if your hospital is good or bad?

This was the question that Shalini Mahtani, chairman of Zubin Foundation, highlighted during a recent talk on health to members of the Domestic Workers Empowerment Program at Hong Kong University.

Mahtani is spearheading Health Advisor, a joint project between Zubin and Harvard Global Health Institute, which conducts a survey among patients about the quality of care they received from both public and private hospitals. The aim is to empower patients while acknowledging hospitals that put patients at the centre of their service.

Shalini Mahtani, chairman of Zubin Foundation (right), stresses a point during the Domestic Workers Empowerment Program forum at Hong Kong University. 

Hospitals are rated based on the number of patients who died under their care, how many acquired infections, and or how many had to return for re-admission.

Mahtani said her advocacy was the offshoot of her having lost a son at the age of 3 while in hospital.

She told her audience that patients have the right to know both the positive and negative aspects of a hospital, like whether it is clean, if the staff fully explain the medication that need to be taken, and are always available whenever help is needed.

Patients who undergo a procedure should be told everything that should be known about their ailment, as well as the cost of the treatment. Doctors should also provide them with a contact number in case of an emergency.

Mahtani’s talk was also attended by Vice Consul Timmy Quintin and DWEP advisor Dr. Mike Manio. – Ellen Almacin

Fake PHL embassy website targets OFWs, jobseekers

Posted on No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre is warning Hong Kong-based OFWs against an online illegal recruitment scam that uses the name of the Philippine embassy in London to lure them into applying for non-existent jobs in Britain.

He made the warning after helping three Filipina domestic workers from falling prey to the scam last month by telling them not to send money to the scammers.

Labatt Dela Torre said he had alerted the Philippine Overseas Employment Office about the case. It is now being handled by the POEA’s Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch, a member unit of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

This is how the fake website looks like.

In a separate Facebook post, he urged remittance companies not to become unwitting conduits for the payment of fees to illegal recruiters, and to alert governments by hoisting the red flag on suspicious transactions.

He said the three women were told to send their payments through Western Union to a certain Myra Tiongson Arugay in Tuguegarao and Sarah Jean Pedregosa Macawile in Quezon City.

But he said the names could be fictitious or the two could be real persons whose names and photos had been stolen.

Labatt dela Torre revealed that he had advised one of the would-be victims during a meeting to withhold her payment until an entrapment operation had been put in place.

“But how can you set up an entrapment when the remittance company doesn’t want to cooperate?” he asked in frustration.

Remittance firms that do not cooperate “should be investigated and, if warranted, have their license to operate revoked”, he said in another Facebook post.

He said the scam had been around for six months, but it was only last month that the victims had surfaced and sought help. 

The exposure of the scam follows the disclosure in August of another online recruitment fraud that faked the signature of Philippine Labor Attaché Rey Conferido in London on purportedly verified and authenticated work documents of a British agency offering Filipinos incredibly high-paying blue-collar jobs in Britain.

In the latest caper, the scammers created a fake website of the Philippine Embassy in London accessible via https://londonphilembassy.wixsite.com/recruitment/copy-of-contact.

Among the four agents named, and whose photo appears on the site, is Macawile.

The obviously fake email address the agency provided the three would-be victims was londonphilippineembassy. gov.uk @gmail.com.

In a post on Facebook on Sept 30, Labatt Dela Torre said: “The war against cross-border illegal recruitment has become a desperate battle to get the information across to gullible recruits, and to employ technology to hunt down, and take down, faceless and shadowy scammers who prey on the vulnerable through internet-based websites…

“But at the end of the day, the success or failure of the campaign against recruitment predators and human-traffickers depends on every recruit being aware of, and avoiding the risks of internet-based recruitment scams.”

68-year-old Filipina dies doing part-time work

Posted on 17 October 2017 No comments
By The SUN staff

R.G.'s body inside the MidLevels flat
A sickly Filipina domestic helper who would have turned 69 years old in January next year, died alone at the height of a signal 8 typhoon last Sunday, Oct. 8, at the home of her part-time employer in Mid-Levels.
R.G. reportedly called up her friend Joan at about 10:11pm that day, saying she felt unwell and asked for help. But it took awhile for the ambulance to get to her because Joan couldn’t give the exact address and she had already gone back to her own employer’s house.
It was only after the police were summoned and managed to pick up Joan that R.G. was found in the Kotewall Road flat at about 11pm. Police had to break down the door of the flat to get in, but found R.G. already dead.
The owner of the house, a lawyer, was said to be on vacation in Bali, Indonesia at the time, but was due back the next day. R.G. was asked to look after the house and two dogs while the owner was away.
R.G.’s Indian employer, who was often away for work-related travel, had reportedly told police she was not in Hong Kong at the time, and was unaware of the helper’s parttime work.
According to one of R.G.’s six grown-up children, they had been asking their mother to give up her work in Hong Kong because of her age and health condition, but she refused.
R.G., who had worked in Hong Kong for 34 years, reportedly had heart surgery a few years back, and was constantly in pain. Joan told The SUN she had to accompany R.G. to the hospital a couple of times in the past because of her heart problem.
But R.G. was reportedly adamant about staying, and even begged her employer to keep signing her work contract, because of the free medical care she was getting
The deceased reportedly made quite a sum doing parttime work, including cleaning for a couple of serviced apartments. Much of it was reportedly sent back home to her family in Quezon City.
But R.G. was often lonely, and would call Joan every few minutes for a chat. The deceased would also ask her to accompany her on some part-time work.
“For example, last Oct. 4, I saw more than 100 missed calls from her,” said Joan.
Early on the day she died, the two of them were together, and even took a video of them talking and playing with the dogs in the house of the parttime employer.
Little did Joan know that it was the last time she would see her friend and mother figure alive.
R.G.’s remains are currently in Victoria Mortuary in Kennedy Town, and the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section is working on the funeral arrangements.
The Mission for Migrant Workers is coordinating with the family and the employer on the timing of the repatriation. – with a report from Rodelia P. Villar




NGOs line up health fair for migrant workers

Posted on 16 October 2017 No comments
A day-long health fair for migrant workers in Hong Kong will be held on Dec 10 in Yuen Long to equip them with basic health-related knowledge as well as give free check-ups and advice.

PathFinders and Christian Action, two local non-government organizations helping distressed foreign domestic helpers, are teaming up to host “2017 Migrants’ Health Matters” at Kik Yeung Football Pitch in Yuen Long.

The community event will be sponsored by Operation Santa Claus, an annual charity drive jointly organized by South China Morning Post and Radio Television Hong Kong.

It is a health fair that aims to provide basic health-related information and health screenings to migrant workers in Hong Kong,” a PathFinders spokeswoman said.

“We hope to equip participants with knowledge of health-related matters, community resources and support networks,” she said.

The two organizers will link up with various NGOs such as Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, Equal Opportunities Commission and other migrant groups to set up community services information booths.

Volunteers will distribute health-related materials and answer queries from the public, the spokeswoman said.

The whole-day affair, which will begin at 10 am, will feature music, cultural dances and other performances, as well as a line-up of speakers.


For inquiries, please contact PathFinders at tel. no. 5621 8239 or email info@pathfinders.org.hk.
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