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Unifil hits Duterte for requiring costlier PhilHealth in OEC issuance

Posted on 17 October 2019 No comments
PhilHealth's premium rate hike for OFWs will be from 2.75 % to 5 % by 2024.

By The SUN
Philippine Health Insurance Corp, or PhilHealth, will start imposing on Jan 1 next year a premium rate hike on direct contributors or salaried workers, including OFWs and professionals that will see their rates rise from 2.75 % to 5 % by 2024.

Militant Filipino workers in Hong Kong blasted the new imposition, which has been made an added requirement to the issuance of overseas employment certificate, as proof that of how anti-OFWs President Rodrigo Duterte is.

Implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 11223, the Universal Health Care Act, mandates Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to ensure new hires or returning land-based OFWs pay PhilHealth premiums before they are given OEC.
“This is utterly outrageous! The compulsory SSS contribution is already a prerequisite to obtaining the OEC; why should the PhilHealth contribution be an additional step? This is the height of greed,”  Dolores Balladares Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante HK), said in a press release on Oct 17.

“Duterte’s state exactions never end. Weighed down by the current crisis in Hong Kong, OFWs' woes are aggravated by the looming PhilHealth mandatory extortion,” she said.

She said that instead of providing health care protection to OFWs who are suffering from severe afflictions due to their slave-like working conditions, insufficient food, and other stressful factors, the Duterte government is imposing more mandatory monetary burden.

Dolo Balladares Pelaez: "Enough is enough!"
From 2020 to 2024, persons earning at least P10,000 a month would see their premiums rise from P3,600 annually to P6,000. OFWs currently pay a fixed annual rate of P2,400.

Each year, PhilHealth will also raise the monthly income cap as covered by the premiums to as high as P60,000, bringing annual premiums to P21,600.
By 2024, the income ceiling would be P100,000. Anyone earning that much would need to shell out an annual premium of P60,000.

Balladares Pelaez said once again, Duterte shows how anti-OFWs he is. “He doesn’t care where we get the money to pay for these exorbitant fees; what matters to him is the big collections that his department can get,” she said. 

The Unifil leader said the Universal Health Care be subsidized by the  Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.’s remittances, and shares from sin tax revenues.

“OFWs have long been victimized by government agencies’ money-making schemes and false promises of health care benefits,” Balladares Pelaez said.

“Enough is enough! We shall struggle against Duterte’s PhilHealth and other mandatory state exactions and all other forms of abuses and exploitation,” she concluded.

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Filipina locked up 8 months for stealing employer’s $138k jewelry

Posted on No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao

None of the $138,100 worth of stolen jewelry was recovered.

For stealing her employer’s Hermes watch and jewelry worth an estimated $138,100, a Filipina helper has been sentenced to eight months in jail by an Eastern Court magistrate.

Jenny Lou Nualan, 33 and single, was sentenced by Magistrate Bina Chainrai on Oct 17 after she pleaded guilty to two counts of theft.

Nualan was originally charged on Oct 3 with theft of a Hermes watch, a bracelet, a pair of diamond earrings and a necklace belonging to her employer Wu Ping-yi between Apr 8, 2018 and Jan 31 this year.
But the prosecution split the charge into two, one stating the first offense took place between May 2017 and Sept 14, 2019 and the second between June 2016 and Sept 14.

The first charge said Nualan stole a black Hermes watch valued at $74,500 and a gold Hermes bracelet worth $51,600. In the second, she was accused of stealing a pair of diamond earrings valued at $4,000 and a platinum necklace valued at $8,000.

The gross total value of the stolen items was $138,100, the prosecution said. The uninsured watch and jewelry were never recovered as their pawn tickets had either expired or been lost, the prosecution said.

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Nualan was hired by Wu in June 2016 as a domestic worker in the victim’s house at Tropicana Court, South Bay, Hong Kong.

On Sept 14, Wu discovered that her Hermes watch and Hermes bracelet were missing from an unlocked drawer in her bedroom, and so were the pair of diamond earrings and the platinum necklace she kept in an unlocked drawer in her toilet. 

Wu asked the maid about the missing items and Nualan admitted she had pawned them. The helper produced the pawn tickets for the watch, earrings and necklace. She said she had hocked the bracelet at Cheuk Fung Pawnshop but lost the pawn ticket.
The employer reported the theft to police on Sept 26. Nualan was arrested and she admitted stealing the four missing items out of greed, a prosecution report said.

The owner of Shing Fung Pawnshop told investigators that Nualan had pawned a necklace and a pendant on Apr 8 last year for $500, but neither the brand nor the serial number was recorded in the property description.

Police also went to Cheuk Fung Pawnshop and found out Nualan had pawned one 18-karat gold necklace, a pair of earrings and a diamond pendant for $1,000 on Jan 31 this year. But no records of the brand and serial numbers and no photographs of the items were taken.

As the pawn tickets had expired, the police were not able to recover them.

The bracelet was pawned on May 29 but Nualan said she had lost the pawn ticket.

The defense lawyer said his client admitted she had pawned the missing items for a total of $4,000 and sent $2,000 to her mother in the Philippines who had a heart ailment.

As Nualan had pleaded guilty, Chainrai sentenced her to 8 months for Charge 1 and 3 months for Charge 2, to be served concurrently. 

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Carrie Lam delivers policy address by video amid heckling in Legco

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Stern-faced Chief Executive Carrie Lam pauses as opponents in Legco heckle her. 
 By The SUN

Embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam abandoned her speech in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Oct 16, and resorted to delivery by video after opponents in legislature heckled her.

Lam’s 51-minute policy address was the first time in Hong Kong’s history that a leader used video to address the Legco because of unruly members.

She admitted she faced unprecedented challenges, but said she hoped the policy address would set Hong Kong back on track and help end the violent protests.
Fighting off tears at some points, Lam said Hong Kong was on the brink after four months of violent aCnti-government protests and urged various sectors including community leaders, experts and academics to push 200 initiatives to help end the turmoil.

But none of Lam’s measures addressed protesters’ demands for universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police's alleged abuse of power.

While Lam vowed to safeguard human rights, she pushing for Hong Kong independence could not be tolerated and the city would adhere to its governing system of “one country, two systems”.
Among the initiatives were boosting land supply by invoking the Lands Resumption Ordinance more proactively, enabling the forceful resumption 700 hectares of private land for public purposes, such as housing. Lam said land seizure will involve three types of land.

These include 450 hectares of brownfield land near new towns or main roads, such as in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun; land marked for public housing in existing zoning plans; and the three urban squatter villages in Ngau Chi Wan, Cha Kwo Ling and Chuk Yuen United.

The legislation enables the forceful resumption of private land for public purposes, such as for building 10,000 public housing units.

Security officers hem in Carrie Lam as she arrives at the Legco on Wednesday morning.

The land resumption legislation envisions that “every Hong Kong citizen and his family will no longer have to be troubled by or preoccupied with the housing problem as they will be able to have their own home in the city”.

“What we can rely on now is the spirit of the rule of law, the freedom of expression and the unique advantage brought by the one country, two systems,” she said.
Hong Kong’s economy faces unprecedented challenges in the face of the US-China trade war and “violent acts in recent months” that had left the economy slipping into a technical recession since the third quarter as GDP shrank 0.5% quarter on quarter in the second quarter.

Citing the progressive rise in unemployment in the most affected retail, accommodation and catering services, Lam said her government will seek policy support from Beijing on tax perks and simplified procedures for firms seeking China expansion to create opportunities.

Lam said the government would offer a “one-off living subsidy” for low-income households who were not living in public rental flats or receiving welfare, such as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, or CSSA. These include those on the queue for public housing.

Under the Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme launched this year, subsidy for a commuter’s monthly public transport expenses that exceed $400 will rise to about 33% from 25%.

Lam suggested waiving tolls for tunnels, including the upcoming Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link Subsea Tunnel, the Lantau Link, the Tseung Kwan O-Lam Tin Tunnel that will open in 2021 and the existing Tseung Kwan O Tunnel.

The measures Lam announced to boost the city’s supply of land and affordable housing targeted at least 10 sites that had already been identified and would be resumed at cheaper rates if developers did not formulate development plans by June next year.

The Chief Executive called on people across the political spectrum to put aside their differences and stop attacking each other, saying Hong Kong would soon be able to “emerge from the storm and embrace the rainbow”. 
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Elderly Pinay charged with scam-linked money laundering

Posted on 16 October 2019 No comments
The Eastern Court was told Qazi was arrested when Ruttonjee staff alerted police

An elderly Filipina is facing a charge of money laundering in Eastern Court following the transfer of more than $700,000 into her Hang Seng Bank account from a Singapore woman’s bank account allegedly through an online scam.

The defendant, Shirina Amistad Qazi, was charged today, Oct 16, before Magistrate Bina Chainrai with dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of indictable offence, a euphemism for money laundering.
The prosecution said Qazi, 61, was arrested on Saturday when staff at Ruttonjee Hospital in Wanchai who attended to her found out she was on the watch list and alerted police.

According to the particulars of the offense, between Sept 8 and Sept 15, 2015, cash totaling $731,731 moved in and out of the defendant’s Hang Seng Bank account.
The huge amount triggered an alert at the bank, which informed the authorities. Investigators traced the fund source as a Credit Suisse account owned by a Singapore woman named Miss Teh. 

The prosecution said the account owner was a victim of a scam in which an email purportedly coming from her instructed Credit Suisse to transfer money into Qazi’s Hang Seng account. Several withdrawals were made from Qazi’s account after the transfer.
While the case was under investigation, Qazi disappeared on Jul 15 and put on the watch list on Aug 11. Her visit to Ruttonjee Hospital’s ER department for medical treatment on Oct 12 gave her away.

At the request of the defense counsel, Chainrai ordered the police to allow Qazi access to her mobile phone so she could call her family.

The magistrate adjourned the case until Nov 27 for legal advice and further investigation.

But Chainrai rejected Qazi’s bail application due to opposition from the prosecution, who said she had no travel document, had a previous conviction in 2011 and was a flight risk.

The defendant was remanded into custody.
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