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Court strikes out work compensation claim by FDW

Posted on 21 January 2018 No comments
By Daisy CL Mandap

A District Court judge has dismissed a compensation claim filed by a Filipina domestic helper against her former employer because she failed to pursue her case.

The order by Judge Katina Levy handed down on Jan 10 was the result of helper Evangeline J. dela Cruz’s, failure to appear at the hearing of the case on Dec. 8.

Dela Cruz had sought compensation against her former employer, Steven John Delich, for a supposed work-related injury on May 2, 2017.

Despite being denied legal aid, she filed for employees compensation with the Labour Department on July 25 in the same year, and appeared in person at a directions hearing at the District Court on Aug. 27.

Before the next hearing set on Dec. 8, the employer informed the court through his solicitors that the Labour Department had written to him, saying the helper had withdrawn her claim.

The solicitors also told the court about getting information that dela Cruz had decided to go home.

Citing these grounds, the solicitors asked Judge Levy to order a provisional striking out of the helper’s claim, but she declined, saying the defense failed to cite any law to back up this move.

Judge Levy also said that under court rules, the applicant must withdraw her case before an order for striking out could be granted.

“Although I agree with the Solicitors that the applicant, as evidenced by the copy of the Notice she submitted to the Labour Department, clearly no longer wishes to further pursue her employees’ compensation claim, as the applicant has not filed a similar notice of withdrawal in these proceedings, it is not open to this court to order the discontinuance or striking out of the Application under O.21 of the Rules of the District Court,” said Judge Levy.

But the judge eventually decided to strike out the case for lack of prosecution after dela Cruz failed to show up for the Dec. 8 hearing, citing the need to promote “procedural economy” and ensure “fairness between the parties”.

Phone addict kasi siya

Posted on 20 January 2018 No comments
Si Mel ay isang Ilongga mula sa bayan ng Pototan, 35 taong gulang  at dalaga. Patago siya lagi kung mag Facebook habang nagtatrabaho. Noong Enero 4 ng hapon, habang abala siya sa kusina sa paghahanda ng pagkain para sa gabi, nilagay niya ang kanyang telepono sa loob ng kaserolang ginagamit para mag sterilize ng bote ng kanyang alaga ang. Ang kanyang cellphone kasi ay Xperia at dahil malaki ay hindi niya mailagay sa kanyang bulsa.

Biglang lumabas ang matandang kasama nila sa bahay at binuhat ang kaserola. Laking gulat nito dahil mabigat ang kaserola dahil sa lamang natatakpan pa ng basahang pamunas.

Nang buksan nito ang kaldero ay nakita ang cellphone ni Mel. Hiyang hiya si Mel sa nangyari at parang pusang naiihi na hindi alam ang gagawin.

Inamin na lang niya sa matanda na hindi niya kasi mapagkasya sa bulsa ang kanyang telepono, at ayaw din niya itong iwan sa kanyang kuwarto. Mabuti na lang at hindi nagsumbong ang matanda sa kanyang anak na lalaki na siyang amo ni Mel.

Hindi ito ang unang pagkakataon na nabisto si Mel na nakadikit sa kanyang telepono habang nagtatrabaho.

Dati ay sa bulsa ng apron niya ito itinatago pero nang minsang makialam ang kanyang among lalaki sa kusina ay bigla nitong ginamit ang apron kaya nabisto din si Mel. Mabuti na lang at pawang mababait ang kanyang mga pinagsisilbihan at wala siyang narinig na sermon sa kanila.

Si Mel ay mahigit tatlong taon na sa mga among taga Kowloon. – Merly Bunda

Recipe ideas for holiday leftovers

Posted on 19 January 2018 No comments
By Jo Campos

A fabulous feast is a highlight of the holiday season, when families gather together and celebrate with a spread of festive food. But when the holidays are over, we usually wonder what to do with the Christmas and New Year dinner or lunch leftovers! We are often left with a refrigerator cluttered with containers of assorted food.

Don’t let those leftovers go to waste - we’ve got a host of delicious ideas to turn them into tempting meals you’ll love to eat a second time around.  I call them leftover makeover.
Here are some simple and yet delicious ideas we can whip up in the kitchen to transform those leftovers into delectable meals!

Creamy Ham Casserole

This is an easy and simple ham casserole recipe that uses up your leftover ham and could be ready in a flash. This is comfort food at its best, and it couldn’t be easier to throw together. So the next time you’re looking for a simple ham casserole recipe, try this one that’ll surely please the whole gang.

Ingredients:
• 8 ounces medium egg noodles, uncooked
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1/4 cup chopped onion
• 1/4 cup sliced celery
• 2 cups chopped cooked ham
• 1 (10-3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
• 1 cup sour cream
• 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
• 2 tablespoons chopped pimiento, drained on paper towel

Method of cooking:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 1-1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until hot. Add onion and celery and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in ham and heat 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soup, sour cream, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, the pimiento, and noodles. Spoon into baking dish.
 3. Cover and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, and bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Ham Fritata

The Italian-style omelet known as a fritata is a great way to use up leftover meats and veggies. This delicious recipe for a Ham Frittata does just that, and is perfect for breakfast, brunch or a light lunch.

Ingredients:
• 1 dozen eggs
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 pound deli ham, diced
• 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
• 3 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced
• 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped

Method of cooking:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and milk until well combined. Add remaining ingredients; mix well.
3. Pour into baking dish and bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until firm in center. Allow to sit 5 minutes then cut and serve.
Tip: This is perfect for using leftover ham from Christmas dinner, or even the cheese and veggies left from your veggie and cheese platters. Make it your own by adding your favorite meats and veggies.

Turkey Frame Soup

There’s more than one way to get leftovers out of a whole turkey, and our recipe for homemade Turkey Frame Soup will use up every part of our leftover turkey. Think of it as an eco-friendly recipe you’ll love.

Ingredients:
• 1 leftover turkey frame
• 12 cups chicken broth
• Leftover pan drippings, if available
• 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
• 2 to 3 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch chunks
• 2 onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• 2 to 3 cups leftover chunked turkey

Cooking Method: 
In a soup pot, combine all ingredients except the turkey. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, then simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Stir in the turkey, let simmer 10 minutes, then serve.
Note: You can add some cooked egg noodles to make this an even heartier soup.

Crunchy Turkey Bake

This creamy and Crunchy Turkey Bake is so warming and satisfying that you’ll want to save leftovers to make it! This is the perfect way to take the chill off of a mid-winter day.

Ingredients:
• 1 pound leftover cooked turkey, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
• 2 (15-ounce) cans mixed vegetables, drained
• 1 10.75-ounce) condensed cream of mushroom soup
• 1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
• 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
• 3/4 cup mayonnaise
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
• 1 cup French-fried onions (from a 2.8-ounce can)

Method of cooking:
1. Coat a microwave-safe 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the French-fried onions; mix well, then spoon into casserole dish.
3. Microwave at 80% power for 10 minutes. Remove from microwave and top with French-fried onions. Microwave at 80% power for 5 more minutes, or until bubbly and heated through (see Note).

Note: Cooking times may vary. Check your microwave instruction booklet for guidelines.

There are even more ways and ideas on how to turn leftovers into something the whole family will enjoy without wasting food.

But wait there’s more! Here’s another inspiring quote from JC The Foodie:

“Food is for eating, and good food is to be enjoyed… I think food is, actually, very beautiful.”
--Delia Smith

Opera on travails of Filipina domestic worker opens in HK

Posted on No comments
Filipina soprano Stefanie Quintin (middle) plays the title role of 'Mila'
(photo courtesy of Cecile Legaspi)
‘Mila”, a chamber opera that tells the story of a Filipina domestic worker struggling to be accepted by a hostile Hong Kong family, opened tonight (Jan. 18) at the Jockey Club Hall of Asia Society Hong Kong’s headquarters in Admiralty.

Playing the lead role of Mila is Filipina soprano Stefanie Quintin, a graduate of the  University of the Philippines College of Music who counts among her mentors Professor Emeritus Fides Cuyugan-Asencio.

UP alumni all: ConGen Morales (with glasses), Stefanie,
VC Bob (to her right) and VC Timmy (behind),
with Gilbert and Cecile Legaspi 
To Filipinos in Hong Kong, Stefanie could very well be known also as the sister of Vice Consul Bob Quintin, who was himself a professional singer in the Philippines before deciding to join the foreign service.

Among the guests at the opening night of ‘Mila’ was Philippine Consul General Antonio Morales, who joined VC Bob and his wife, VC Timmy, in welcoming Stefanie and applauding her performance.

“Mila” was written for the stage by Candace Chong with music by Eli Marshall.

The show runs from Jan 18-20 at 7pm, and on Jan. 21 (Sunday) at 3pm.

Judge asks for record of Consulate's interview with 3 Pinay drug mules

Posted on 18 January 2018 No comments
Sentencing at the High Court has been reset to Aug 20
By Vir B. Lumicao

Three Filipinas convicted of bringing four kilos of cocaine into Hong Kong in late 2015 had their sentencing reset to August this year, pending the submission to the court of the Philippine Consulate’s recorded interview with the defendants.

Shirley Cua, Remelyn Roque and Ana Louella Creus appeared at the High Court earlier today (Jan. 18) for sentencing, after being convicted of drug-related offences on Nov. 14 last year.  A fourth defendant, Maricel Thomas, was acquitted of all charges

Judge Audrey Campbell-Moffat was given a letter from Vice Consul Robert Quintin addressed to the three defense lawyers, disclosing that two drug syndicate leaders in the Philippines had been arrested due to information supplied by the defendants.

But the judge was not satisfied with the letter, and instead asked for the transcript of the interviews that the Consulate had with the defendants on Sept. 29, 2015, a few days after they were arrested.

She adjourned the sentencing to Aug 20 after the lawyers said they needed enough time to request for the transcript, and have it translated to English from Tagalog.

The cocaine was found in a secret compartment of this luggage
The defendants said in the interview that they were offered a free trip to Hong Kong by a certain Nora Noora, an acquaintance of Roque, in exchange for carrying four pieces of luggage to be delivered to a man in Chung King Mansions.
                                                                        
The four broke up into two pairs when they got off the last flight of Cebu Pacific Air from Manila at Hong Kong International Airport on Sept 23, 2015. Roque and Creus cleared customs unchallenged, but Cua and Thomas were intercepted minutes later

The hand carried bags of Chua and Thomas yielded four slabs later found to contain nearly 2 kilos of pure cocaine. Acting on their information, Roque and Creus were arrested as they boarded a flight back to Manila on Oct. 25, 2015. By then the hand carried bags with the other half of the cocaine haul were no longer with them.

In mitigation, defense counsel Nicholas Adams submitted a letter from Roque, saying it was Noora who had asked her to invite people who wanted to go on a free trip to Hong Kong.

Campbell-Moffat voiced concern that Noora was not arrested by Philippine authorities even if she was named by all the defendants as the one who recruited them for the drug deliveries in Hong Kong.

Adams submitted two other letters: one from correctional chaplain Fr. John Wotherspoon who wrote about a Nigerian drug syndicate that is reportedly recruiting Filipina drug mules for Hong Kong, and another from Vice Consul Quintin.

But Campbell-Moffat told Adams that she would not admit as mitigation a letter about Noora’s role in the drug trade, but would consider a copy of the recorded interviews conducted by the Consulate.

She told Adams as well as barristers Kevin Egan, for Chua, and Phil Chau, for Creus, to request from the Consulate a transcript of the interviews.

News reports from the Philippines indicated that agents of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency who raided the residence of Katumba and Ramos in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, seized 10 kilos of cocaine and 2 kilos of  “shabu”, or “ice”,  worth PhP20 million.

Misa de Aguinaldo sa HK

Posted on No comments
Pangarap ni Elena ang magkapagsimbang gabi sa Hong Kong. Ito ang kanyang laging dasal tuwing sasapit ang kapaskuhan. Simula kasi ng mag abroad siya halos 10 taon na ang nakalilipas ay hindi na siya nakakapagsimbang gabi muli.

Kaya ganoon na lang ang tuwa niya nang nataon na Lunes ang Pasko dahil naisip niya na baka pwede na siyang makapag midnight mass dahil Linggo iyon at day off niya. Pagsapit ng Sabado ng gabi ay sinubukan niyang magpaalam sa kanyang amo na kung pwede ay payagan siyang makapagsimba sa Misa de Aguinaldo sa Chater Road noong Dec. 24.

Nguni’t ganoon na lang ang sama ng loob niya nang sabihin ng kanyang amo ang, “Sorry, you cannot, I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

Lubha siyang nalungkot sa tinuran ng amo, na ang sabi ay pwede naman siyang magsimba kinabukasan. Hindi nila naiintindihan na iba ang pakahulugan ng midnight mass sa mga Pilipino.

Sa kabila ng naging desisyon ng amo ay pilit pa ring inunawa ni Elena ang kanilang dahilan. Naisip niya na marami pa namang Pasko ang darating, at matutupad rin ang matagal na niyang pangarap.  Si Elena ay isang dalaga na mula sa Bicol at apat na taon na sa kanyang mga amo na Intsik na nakatira sa Midlevels. – Ellen Asis

The Sun Writers Club: Meet the maids reporting Hong Kong’s hidden stories

Posted on No comments
By Shaun Turton 
Republished from Coconuts Hong Kong (www.coconuts.co)

We are republishing here a glowing tribute from Coconuts Hong Kong to the intrepid and purposive group of Filipino domestic workers who contribute articles to The SUN on a regular basis These volunteer writers have helped The SUN fulfill its avowed mission of serving the Filpino community in Hong Kong through fearless, fair and insightful reporting.

After she finishes cooking dinner, cleaning up and reading her employer’s children a bedtime story, Marites Palma aims to be in bed by 9pm — especially if a deadline is looming.

With the rest of the house asleep, she rises at 2am, sits at the table where her television usually rests, and, in the glow of her laptop, begins work on her articles.

The 42-year-old domestic helper usually writes until 5:30am, then takes a bath and begins preparing her employer’s breakfast.

Sun contributor Marites Palma conducting an interview at a demonstration against mining in the Philippines in Central last month. Picture: Shaun Turton

Though tiring, her early morning routine, she says, is the realization of a life-long ambition.

“When I was in school, I wanted to study [mass communication], but my parents could not afford it because that course was only in other provinces, so I took agriculture instead,” says Palma, a native of northern Luzon.

“But I always read newspapers and I love to write. I think maybe this is the dream.”

Palma is a contributor to the Filipino community newspaper The Sun, one of about 100 overseas workers in Hong Kong that the free bi-monthly publication has trained in journalism since it was founded 22 years ago this week.

A few times a year, the paper holds workshops for any readers interested in news writing. Some of the attendees, mostly domestic helpers, then join the Sun Writers Club and contribute a handful of stories to the paper each month.

It’s a taxing double life. The contributors use their one day off each week to report, and often correspond with sources in the brief spare moments between housekeeping, running errands and cooking.

But for members of the all-volunteer Sun Writers Club, it’s a role they cherish and excel at.

Their stories cover the gamut of the experience of the roughly 189,000 Filipinos living in Hong Kong. From community events, travel features and sports write-ups, to the all-too-common stories of abuse, indignity and misfortune suffered by their fellow maids.

And though each enjoys improving their writing, their overriding motivation stems from helping their community.

“It’s sort of activism and journalism,” Palma told Coconuts Hong Kong last month in Central, where she had been covering an environmental group’s demonstration against destructive mining in the Philippines.

“If you know more, you know about your rights and how to fight for them.”

Paper with a purpose
In its first four-page edition, printed on Dec. 3, 1995, the Sun vowed to serve Filipinos as they “toiled in this strange land.”

And toil they do. Recent research has highlighted the “appalling” living conditions of many maids who are forced to sleep in toilets, showers, storage rooms and on balconies. Another, government-backed, report revealed that more than 70 percent of employment agencies charge exorbitant fees, withhold passports, or act as de facto loan sharks, ensnaring maids in debt.

One year-long study found a “significant proportion” of the maids it interviewed were working in conditions that would constitute “forced labor”.

Publisher Deocadiz and editor Mandap at the Sun newspaper office. Picture: Shaun Turton
Newspapers, a page 1 editorial in the Sun’s inaugural edition reads, can be pieces of paper tossed away after reading, or they can become institutions. Leo Deocadiz and Daisy Mandap — the Sun’s founders and veterans of the Filipino and Hong Kong journalism scenes — promised to be the latter.

More than two decades later, the husband and wife team continue to run a publication that is much more than the sum of its parts, adopting what might be called a hybrid approach to journalism — melding reporting, advocacy, social work and community service.

Behind adjacent desks ensconced in the Sun’s 15th-floor North Point office, the couple works late most nights, surrounded by shelves piled high with files, mementos, and back issues.

With a small full-time team of three — Deocadiz, the publisher; Mandap, the editor; and associate editor, Vir Lumicao — the paper tackles an endless torrent of troubling tip-offs: from shady recruitment agencies offering bogus jobs, to helpers abused by employers, to those stricken by illness or terminated in the dead of night.

Reporting the facts is draining enough, but their work goes far beyond simple reporting.

Behind the scenes, the team arranges lawyers, coordinates the rescue of maids in distress, refers helpers to shelters, accompanies them to police stations, and helps them file complaints or compensation requests. Its these efforts outside a newspaper’s traditional mandate that have earned them the unofficial title of “second consulate.”

“We grew into this role because there was a need for it,” Deocadiz said, sitting behind his desk last month.

“We were schooled in the journalism principle of always being in the middle, but in this case, since we started this, we have found that it’s not enough. You have to take sides, and you know which side you’re on. We’ve always taken the side of these people, and we recognize that.”

Rodelia and the rescue
Sun contributor Rodelia Villa, who began writing for the paper this year after 13 years of publishing a church newsletter, occupies a middle ground of her own: reporter, responder and, perhaps her favourite role, a source of recipes.

After finishing her work as a domestic helper each day, usually about 11pm, the 39-year-old informs her Facebook followers that she is available to answer questions.

She administers two Facebook groups, one providing basic Cantonese translation services for maids, and another that shares recipes for affordable meals to cook their employers. Each has several thousand followers.

Sun contributor Rodelia Villar at a market in central. As well as writing stories, Villar maintains a Facebook group to share recipes for fellow domestic helpers to cook. Picture: Shaun Turton
Her profile online also sees her regularly contacted by helpers in need. Most days, she gets 10 to 15 messages ranging from minor issues to emergencies. She refers serious cases directly to the Philippine consulate, where she also somehow finds time to volunteer.

On three occasions, she’s been contacted by domestic helpers contemplating suicide, and in each case, talked them down.

“She said she was at the window,” she recalled of one. “I told her to step back, just step back.”

Early last month, Villar received a tip-off, describing a history of horrific treatment of a helper working at a home in Tseung Kwan O, including physical, verbal and emotional abuse.

The woman had allegedly been forced to bang her head against the ground, kicked, jabbed with scissors, and made to pay exorbitant fines for perceived shortcomings in her performance, each documented in a notebook, photographs of which were passed to Villar.

She quickly sent the information on to the consulate and the newspaper. Soon after, Vir Lumicao, the Sun’s main writer, arrived at the helper’s home, and took her and the colleague who reported the abuse away to safety.

Villar helped write the story, which appeared in the Sun’s next edition.

“It’s a critical part of the community,” says the Philippine Labor Attache in Hong Kong Jalilo Dela Torre of the newspaper.

“Not only is it a source of information but, also, they see to it that all the services that our workers are entitled to are delivered by government officials, as well as non-government organizations.”

‘Small person, big voice’
Merly Bunda, too, always finds herself in the middle.

The exuberant 50-year-old is a domestic helper, a trained midwife, a volunteer radio correspondent and a contributor to the Sun. But, like many of those in the Sun Writers Club, she’s much more.

In the Philippines, some — not her, but others — say she’s a bit of a celebrity.

Since the SARS outbreak in 2003, her regular dispatches from Hong Kong for Bombo Radyo mean her voice is recognized regularly when she returns to her native Iloilo province.

“When they meet me in the market, they say ‘how does such a small person have such a big voice,” says Bunda, who has lived in Hong Kong for 27 years.

Sun contributor Merly Bunda draws on her large Facebook network for stories and sources. Picture: Shaun Turton

Here in Hong Kong, she’s also well-known in the community, particularly via social media. She has almost 5,000 friends on Facebook.

In a matter of minutes, Bunda, acting on a tip-off, can use those online relationships to track down nearly any Filipino living in the city. In October, a Filipino driver suffering from severe depression mutilated his own genitalia. A few messages later, she was in contact with the man’s flatmates.

Like others in the Sun Writer’s Club, Bunda also serves as a point of contact and source of advice for helpers in distress. For true emergencies, like workers abruptly struck down by illness, she refers to the Philippine consulate, which knows to always answer her calls.

When she can, she follows up in person. Not just for the story, but to try and provide a solution.

In recent weeks, she’s visited hospitalized maids, one with Lupus and another with tuberculosis, the latter of which she personally accompanied to the emergency ward during a typhoon warning.

In late November, she met with a domestic helper wrongly accused of abandoning a fetus in a public toilet. The woman had been summonsed a second time for questioning and was nervous. Bunda, who’s writing a piece about the episode for the Sun, counseled her prior to the interview to remain confident and answer all the questions she’s asked.

“I’m always in-between, in the middle,” she says of her role.

“You know, there is a thrill,” she admits, both in chasing down stories and trying to help those in need. “If in my heart, I think I can help, I will go.”

Agents of change
Deocadiz and Mandap joke about who is the real boss. Dela Torre, the labor attaché, calls them a “perfect match,” the former handling the business and the latter spearheading their coverage of dozens of stories a month.

Mandap’s energy and drive is integral to the operation. Holder of degrees in both law and journalism, her resume includes major Filipino publications and senior editorial roles at Hong Kong newspaper the Standard, Asia Television HK (ATV), and CNN in Hong Kong.

There’s likely not an issue affecting Filipinos in Hong Kong that she can’t detail in depth, meaning conversations easily flow from one case, to the next, to the next.

As well as reporting many of the stories, Mandap spends her time editing the copy of the Sun Writers Club contributors, making sure her changes are accompanied by feedback.

She’s a stickler for the fundamentals. Nor is there any accommodation of double standards in the paper’s portrayal of those it’s covering.

“Our bottom line is the protection of our domestic workers, but if they do something wrong, they have to face the consequences. We do not protect them to the extent that we cover up for any misdeed they have done,” she says.

“We try to be very accurate. There’s no excuse for sloppy.”

Working as a domestic helper can be isolating, lonely and a blow to the self-confidence of women, many with tertiary educations, who often feel they’re treated as second-class citizens.

For many of the Sun contributors, reporting and writing gives them a chance to change not only the lives of the people they cover, but their own.

Such was the case for Gina Ordona, who arrived in Hong Kong fresh out of college, planning to stay just a few years. That was 20 years ago, and for a long time, the 41-year-old said she struggled with low self-esteem. That finally began to change a decade ago when she began writing.

Sun contributor Gina Ordona has written for the paper for a decade. Picture: Shaun Turton

“I could not even tell my friends, my classmates from college, what I do here in Hong Kong, for a long time,” she said recently. “I had difficulty accepting it. I don’t know what made me come to terms, but maybe it’s because of what I do now. I’m a domestic helper, but on the sidelines, I write.”

After many sleepless nights writing and hours spent comparing her copy to the published story, Ordona has become one of the Sun’s best contributors.

She wants to study writing when she returns to the Philippines, where she hopes one day to work full-time in journalism.

Speaking with Coconuts last weekend after covering a forum by Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano, Ordona explained why she loved the craft.

“I just enjoy writing the story as it is,” she said.

“You want to be the agent of change, just making a little difference to make the situation better. If you can do it by writing about a specific issue, then good enough.”


Passport applications shoot up with launch of 10-year travel document

Posted on 17 January 2018 No comments
ConGen Morales has shuffled staff to cope with
surge in new passport applications 
By Vir B. Lumicao

The expected launch of the new 10-year passport has caused the number of applicants at the Consulate to more than double since the start of the year.

Consul General Antonio Morales told The SUN in an interview on Jan. 16 that the Consulate has coped with the deluge by shuffling staff assignments on Sundays, the heaviest day for applicants.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of passport applicants, probably because those whose passports were expiring did not renew in November or December,” Morales said.

“Ini-expect nila sa January because it was officially announced that the 10-year validity would be issued starting January. So, they already started applying in January,” he said.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano led the launch of the 10-year-validity passport in a ceremony at the office of consular affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila on Jan. 12.

An appointment is needed to apply for a passport on Sundays

The jump in the number of applicants had called for adjustments in the Consulate’s personnel deployment.

“We have asked our people from the other sections, the economic section, the political section, to help out in the consular on Sundays to enable us to cope with the volume of applicants,” the consul general said.

ConGen Morales said no one in Hong Kong has received the new passport, but added that this would happen in the first quarter, given that it takes two months to process the travel document.

The Consulate has recorded an average of more than 300 passport applicants since the start of January, up from about 150 last year, Morales said.

The figures for each of the past two Sundays reached 700, double the 350 average for the same day in November and December last year, he added.

But ConGen Morales said that in the long run, the 10-year passport would help decongest the consular services area, as people would wait for a decade before they return to renew their passports.

“In three to four years, we expect a reduction in the number, but in the short to medium term, we expect an increase in the volume of applicants,” ConGen Morales.

He said the price and the number of pages of the passport remain the same, as well as the requirements.

“To address the congestion in the consular area we have instituted an appointments system on Sundays,” he said, adding that, for weekdays, they consulate will accommodate those with or without appointments.  

Cayetano signed on Oct 25 the implementing rules and regulations of the new Philippine Passport Act, which extends the validity of passports to 10 years from five.

But the IRR took effect on Jan 1, 2018 to give sufficient time to Philippine embassies and consulates abroad as well as foreign governments about the changes of the passport validity.

Under the IRR passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Duterte in October, regular passports will be valid for 10 years for Filipino travelers 18 years old and above. Those under 18 will still be issued passports that are valid for five years.


Alleged killer drilled Austrian-Filipina lover in face, High Court told

Posted on 16 January 2018 No comments
The late Andrea Bar was a parttime model
By Vir B. Lumicao

A drill bit about 5 centimeters long was still sticking out of a wound below the right eye of an Austrian-Filipino bar waitress when a police officer arrived at a construction site in Tuen Mun two years ago, to respond to a 999 call.

This was revealed on the first day of trial at the High Court on Jan. 16 of Pakistani security guard Safdar Husnain, who is charged with murder for the death of Andrea Bayr, 25, on March 29, 2016.

“I’m sorry… water!”  Husnain allegedly told the officer who wrestled him to stop him from attacking Bayr with an electric drill at dawn that day.

Details of the killing were revealed by a police officer identified only as PC 7388 as he took the witness stand during the trial presided over by Justice Kevin Zervos.

The officer, the first prosecution witness, said he found four plastic packets of  methamphetamine hydrochloride, popularly called “ice”, weighing a total of 0.82 gram, in the green container-guardhouse where the killing took place.

When prosecutor Terence Wai asked him how many times the defendant said “sorry”, the witness said he could not remember.

The officer also could not remember the name of the defendant or identify him positively when asked whether he was the man in the dock.       

The suspect’s Pakistani friend, surnamed Khan, who called police to the construction site at the junction of Tin Hau and Hung Cheung Roads, had told investigators that Husnain and Bayr took “ice” in the defendant’s room in the guardhouse earlier that evening.

A prosecution report said the victim, a girlfriend of Husnain, had earlier arrived at the site where a bridge connecting to Tuen Mun Park was being built.

Husnain’s friend then heard a noise in the guardhouse at about 2:15am on March 29. He saw the couple fighting but called police when he failed to stop them.

The police witness said that when he arrived at the scene at 2:17 am, he found the site unlit so he used his vehicle’s lamp to light up the place. He then went to the green container and saw blood on the floor and splatters of it on the ceiling.

He said he heard noise outside coming from the bridge, so he checked and there he saw the defendant still bludgeoning Bayr with the electric drill.

The officer said he pinned the attacker to the floor then radioed for help and an ambulance. He said Bayr had multiple injuries on her head, including a wound just below her right eye where the drill bit was still protruding and blood was oozing.
 
Medics took the still unconscious Bayr to Tuen Mun Hospital where Husnain was also taken with injuries in his leg.

The officer said he arrested the defendant after doctors certified Bayr dead at 3:10am.

A second prosecution witness, Dr Lam Chi-chung, a forensic scientist of the Government Laboratory, also giving evidence on Jan 16, said he collected blood samples from the scene of the attack.

He said that based on his analysis of the samples, the victim was first attacked in the office section of the guardhouse as indicated by the blood splatters on the floor and ceiling. The attack then continued at the foot of the bridge where a pool of blood formed.

Dr. Lam said the blood pool indicated the victim lay there motionless and bleeding. He said the blood pool was consistent with the police report.

Barrister David Boyton, defense counsel, did not cross-examine the two prosecution witnesses.

The Filipina mother and teenage brother of Bayr were in the courtroom when the trial began but didn’t return after the lunch break.


The trial continues.

Recruiter deploying DHs to Russia fined for overcharging

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By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina co-owner of an unlicensed recruitment agency that has been sending Hong Kong-based domestic workers to Russia was convicted on Jan. 5 of overcharging a client, and ordered to pay a total of $22,000: $12,000 in compensation and $10,000 in fine.

Gilda Flores Li, who jointly owns Quality Consultants Agency with her husband, was also warned by Magistrate Andrew Mok Tze-chung to make the payment within three months, or face a jail term.

However, the $12,000 compensation she was ordered to pay Filipina domestic worker Jean Lorena Sheel was $8,000 less than what she took from the maid, who had applied for a domestic helper job in Russia.

This was because the magistrate found that Li had paid US$1,000 to a Russian company for a second invitation to Sheel, after the first one had to be scrapped because of an error.

The invitation was meant to be used for securing a commercial visa for Sheel, even if what she had applied for was to work as a maid in Russia.

Li pleaded not guilty on Jan 2 to three counts of “receiving payment other than the prescribed commission” from domestic worker Jean Lorena Sheel, who was applying for a domestic helper job in Russia.

 “I don’t find the defendant a credible and reliable witness. I do not accept that QCA, of which she is a partner, is not an employment agency,” Mok said in returning his verdict.

Quality Consultants used to be licensed by the Employment Agencies Administration but its name no longer appears in EAA’s list updated as of Dec. 17, 2017.

Neither is Quality Consultants licensed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, contrary to its claim in its Facebook page, where it also openly recruits for jobs in Russia, Mongolia, New Zealand and Spain.

 Sheel, testifying on the first day of the trial, said Li charged her $20,000, of which she paid $11,000 in cash on March 5 last year, $4,000 on April 9 and $5,000 that she deposited in Li’s HSBC account on April 25.

Giving evidence on Jan 4, Li claimed that the $20,000 she charged Sheel was not a placement fee.

She said $10,000 was payment for an invitation letter issued by a firm in Moscow that the maid needed in applying for a commercial visa to Russia, and $10,000 to cover the cost of visa, air ticket, and room and board if Sheel got terminated after her first month there. 

The magistrate said Sheel’s evidence was clear and credible. He noted from her evidence that Li told her the first monthly salary as a helper would be $9,000 to $10,000.

He said taking into account the US$1,000 paid for the invitation letter, the commission was still more than the 10% provided under the regulation.

“Having considered all the evidence, I find the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charges,” Mok said.

The labour prosecutors told the magistrate that Sheel was applying for damages and claims totaling $20,000, and Mok asked the defendant if she had any objection.

“I’m just a poor company. I don’t know the regulation. I don’t know if I have money,” Li replied tearfully, asking the magistrate if she could pay the compensation in installments.

The magistrate said he saw no reason to mitigate the sentences, which were a maximum of $50,000 for each offense. But after taking into consideration Li’s clear record, he said, he was imposing a $5,000 fine for the first charge, $3,000 for the second charge, and $2,000 for the third.

Mok then ordered that Li’s payment of US$1,000 to the Russian company for a second invitation be deducted from Sheel’s $20,000 damage claim, leaving the maid with just $12,000 in compensation.

Li’s conviction ended a four-day trial during which Sheel, the first of five prosecution witnesses, spoke of how the defendant charged her $20,000 for a domestic helper job in Russia.

Sheel said she withdrew her application after waiting in vain for a second invitation to replace the one with a wrong birth year that would have invalidated her application for a commercial visa to Russia.

In their evidence and during cross-examination, both Sheel and Li brought to light how agencies offering OFWs purported jobs in Russia and other places send the workers there without any job contracts and no employers waiting for them.

Sheel testified that Li would at first get her a commercial visa that was good for three months, and once she got to Russia, she would be housed by a Russian agency that would find her an employer for a fee, or find one on her own.

After the commercial visa expires, the worker will have to apply for a work visa.

The practice is under fire from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, which has repeatedly warned that third-country deployment is illegal under Philippine law.

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre has also urged Hong Kong authorities to clamp down on the practice of sending Filipino workers to non-existent jobs in Russia and other places abroad, saying this amounts to human trafficking.


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