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Art exhibit showcases domestic workers’s mental health

Posted on 19 April 2024 No comments
The art exhibit is ongoing at the basement of The Centre building in Central

An art exhibit entitled "Path to Well-Being," focusing on the theme Mental Health of Migrant Domestic Workers, is ongoing at the basement of The Centre building in Central, and can be accessed through its entrance along Des Voeux Road Central.

The exhibit showcases the winners of an art competition in visual art, photography and poetry, conducted by MDW Recharge Hub, a project of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.


“We each have our own mental health journey as we overcome different challenges in life, and the MDW participants shared their story through art (visual art, poetry, photography),” a statement by the organizers said.

“We asked them, ‘What is your journey towards well-being like? What challenges affected your mental well-being and how did you overcome them? How do you continue to take care of your mental health?’”

"Diversity" by Rosalie D. Razon

The Visual Arts competition was won by “Diversity”, painted by Filipina Rosalie Dulay Razon, who has been working in Hong Kong since 2014. A member of Guhit Kulay, she is self-taught and uses painting as a therapy.

Second was “The Key” by Jonalyn Macalalad Molina and third was “It’s Okay to be Okay” by Maria Christina C. Anire.

"Comfort Zone" by Sucjati

Topping the photography competition was “Comfort Zone”, taken by Indonesia’s Sucjati, who has been working in Hong Kong for nine years and has been dabbling in photography since 2019.

Second placer was “Thriving and Living” by Marian Vinissa Zorilla and third was “My Way” by Tonette Rodriguez Albo.


The poetry competition was won by Hannan Azka Tuminem for “Symphony of the Soul”.

Placing second was “Tower of Dreams” by Kristine Barbo and third was “Journey to a Healthy Living” by Jonnalyn R. Paredes.


The exhibit is open until April 21 (open daily from 9am to 6pm) at The Center, 99 Queen's Road Central. 


Filipino’s bail raised as 4 more cases brought against him

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A Filipino permanent resident came to Eastern Court for a hearing on a summons for possession of more than one Hong Kong ID card. When he left the court, he was facing four more charges and his bail had been raised from $2,000 to $5,000.

Mariano Ang, 54 years old, was originally issued a summons after police found another person’s HKID in his possession in a flat on No. 4 Fortress Hill Road in North Point on Aug. 26, 2021. 

A local whose case was heard before Ang’s, pleaded guilty to a similar charge and was given a sentence of three months in jail, suspended for 24 months.


However, when it was Ang’s turn to stand before Magistrate Stephanie Tsui yesterday (April 18), the prosecution unveiled an additional criminal case against him, consisting of one charge of money laundering and three counts of making a false representation to an Immigration officer.

According to the police complaint, Ang dealt with property known or believed to be proceeds of indictable offense, a violation of the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance.


This referred to the $2,000 that entered his Alipay account on July 7, 2021.

The charge of false representation arose from his declaring to immigration officers on three occasions that he was born on Nov. 5, 1966, even if he knew it was not true.

The alleged misrepresentation happened on Aug. 6, 2013, Aug. 20, 2018 and Sept. 29, 2018.


After the charges were read to Ang, Magistrate Tsui noted that his bail of $2,000 was no longer enough and raised it to $5,000.

She then adjourned the case to June 14.


Court reserves verdict in $1.3M laundering case

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Money seized by police from an unrelated scam and money laundering case

Is your ignorance about the transfer of illegal funds into your bank account a valid defense against money laundering?

This is the question that is raised yet again in the money laundering case brought against two Filipina domestic helpers who both denied knowing how their bank accounts were used to siphon off money from an elderly local who fell prey to a romance scam.

Leonida C. Manlunas, 40 and Nora Antonio Reymundo, 47, appeared at Eastern Court yesterday, expecting to hear Magistrate Jeffrey Sze hand down his verdict, but were told they would have to wait until May 14 to learn their fate.


Both were again released on $5,000 bail each until the verdict.

Summing up, the defense team said both women gave their ATM cards to other people and by doing so, had lost control over their bank accounts.

He acknowledged that previous judgments on the same issue had not been favorable to the defendants, but reminded the court of the legal norm that an accused could be convicted only if the evidence shows them guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

“Maybe they were not smart, but that is the same reason why they should be found innocent of the charge brought against them,” said the lawyer, adding that the two did not have much education and exposure to commercial transactions, making them clueless about the sinister plan of those who took their ATMs.


The lawyer also urged the magistrate to accept the evidence given by Manlunas’ employer, who supported the defendant’s claim that an aunt who took her ATM had disappeared after her arrest, leaving her heavily in debt.

Manlunas is accused of laundering a total of $387,000 which was laundered through an HSBC account in her name between Dec. 18, 2020 and Jan. 8, 2021.

Reymundo faces a count of dealing with a total of $903,000 in her HSBC account between Feb 10, 2021 and Mar 4, 2021, knowing or had reason to believe, that the funds were proceeds of an indictable offence.


Both pleaded not guilty to the offence, and underwent trial from Mar 11 to 13 at Eastern Court.

Manlunas said in her defence that she opened the account at the behest of an aunt, Josephine, who said a friend needed it to transfer some money.

Manlunas admitted receiving text messages from HSBC each time a transaction was made using the account she opened, but said she did not understand what they were about. However, she did not call the bank’s hotline for clarification.

When she was arrested, a bank statement for the month of January 2021 was found by the police among her things in her employer’s flat. But when asked about this in court, Manlunas said she could not recall the incident.

She admitted receiving $1,600 from her aunt after opening the account, but insisted she did not know it would be used for criminal activities.

In Reymundo’s case, she said she opened her Hang Seng account after being repeatedly bugged by a younger cousin, Angelita Antonio, who said her friend’s boyfriend needed it to receive money from abroad.

This said friend, Ronilda or Dang Sumili, could not open the account herself as her employer was working with HSBC. Reymundo said she contacted “Dang” and was able to confirm this story.

After opening the account at HSBC’s branch in Central, Reymundo said she immediately handed the ATM to Dang’s boyfriend Chad who gave her $500, even when she was supposed to get $2,000 for doing the bidding.

From Feb. 17 to Mar 4, 2021, several bank transactions were made using the account, and Reymundo admitted receiving text messages from HSBC each time. She said she told Angelita about them, but her cousin advised her to just ignore them.

After her arrest on Jun 17, 2021, along with Angelita and Dang, Reymundo said she could no longer access her WhatsApp conversations with the two, as well as the brief exchange she had with Chad.

Both Angelita and Dang fled Hong Kong shortly afterwards, and are now on the city’s wanted list.

Money laundering is a serious offence in Hong Kong, for which the prescribed maximum penalty is 14 years in jail and fine of up to $5 million. However, the maximum sentence that a magistracy can normally impose is two years’ imprisonment and a fine of $100,000.\


4 weeks’ jail for assault on fellow DH

Posted on 18 April 2024 No comments


Court did not accept defendant's offer of proof of her good character

A Filipina was jailed for four months today after she pleaded guilty to beating up a fellow domestic helper with whom she has had a feud that dates back to when they were both in the Philippines.  

Juliet Balacuit, 47 years old, presented a letter from her employer and a contract renewal as proof of her good character, while her lawyer said her victim, Rodelia Dangayo, was no longer keen to pursue the case as they sought to convince Eastern Court Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui to give her “a last chance”.

But Magistrate Chui was unmoved.


“Your behavior was captured on CCTV,” she said. “You assaulted the victim with another person, making the case even more serious.”

Chui chose a starting point of six weeks’ imprisonment. With the one-third discount for Balacuit’s guilty plea, the final sentence was four weeks.

The incident happened on Nov. 5, 2023 in front of 21 Li Yuen Street West, known to Filipinos as Alley-Alley, when Balacuit saw Dangayo.


A CCTV shown in court showed that Balacuit ran after Dangayo and grabbed her by the hair from behind; an unidentified woman then pushed the victim to the pavement.

Balacuit then straddled the prone Dangayo while punching her on the head and body.

She kept kicking Dangayo as some of her friends tried to pull her away. 

The victim was taken to hospital for treatment.

During an investigation, Balacuit denied assaulting Dangayo, who turned out to be a distant relative, until she was shown the CCTV footage.


Unifil-Migrante urges immediate prosecution of Mabatid

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Mabatid confronts OFW complainants and the police during her last HK trip in June 2023

United Filipinos in Hong Kong has called on the Philippine government to immediately file charges against Prisca Nina Mabatid, who was named in sworn statements by no less than 22 migrant workers as being behind a student visa scam that defrauded them of some $400,000 (Php3 million).

In a statement issued today, Apr 17, Unifil-Migrante HK chairperson Dolores Balladares said: "It’s (been) almost a year since the OFWs in HK were victimized by the visa scam of Nina Mabatid, yet the justice they look forward to is uncertain.”

Balladares said that despite the mountain of evidence forwarded by the complainants to the Department of Migrant Workers, National Bureau of Investigation, as well as the offices of Senator Raffy Tulfo (who heads the Senate committee on migrant workers) and President Bongbong Marcos, the agencies involved have been “extremely slow” in filing charges.

“Where can the victims find justice, if the government is not keen on resolving the issues?" Balladares asked.


Apart from the Hong Kong OFWs, about 150 Filipinos from across the country and some overseas posts have similarly filed complaints against Mabatid and two companies associated with her, PinoyCare Visa Center and Opportunities Abroad, all claiming to have been tricked into paying at least Php100,000 each on the promise that they would be helped in securing work in Canada while on student visa.

The DMW and the NBI have repeatedly assured the complainants and the Senate committee that charges of large-scale illegal recruitment and syndicated estafa have already been filed against Mabatid and her co-accused, but to date, no court document has been shown to them to support the claim.

“Despite the large number of victims and complainants, videos as evidence of fraud, and the DMW itself declaring the agencies owned by Mabatid to be illegal, still no cases have been filed,” Balladares said.

Worse, said Balladares, Mabatid was allowed to harass her victims, and even filed a cyberlibel case against lawyer Daisy Mandap, a respected journalist and migrants rights advocate who was singled out for reporting on the case, despite it being covered by other mainstream publications in Hong Kong.

Unifil-Migrante HK has staged several rallies calling for  Mabatid's prosecution

The OFW complainants alleged that during her recruitment drive in Hong Kong on Feb. 19, 2023, Mabatid, together with her partner Russ Mark Gamallo and OFW blogger Bryan Calagui, promised to help them move to Canada on a work-study program within just three months if they paid a processing fee of HK$18,731 on the spot, or no later than three days.

Failing to get the promised help from Mabatid and her staff, the complainants called the police to help them secure a refund when the group returned to Hong Kong on June 18 last year for another recruitment activity at the Sunbeam Theater in North Point.

To appease them, Mabatid told the police she would give back the complainants' money at the Philippine Consulate offices the next Sunday, June 25, but did not show up. As a result, the OFWs, helped by the MFMW, went to the police to file complaints against Mabatid, Gamallo and Calagui. 

The police investigation is continuing, as more complainants against Mabatid and company have emerged.


Simultaneously, the complainants executed sworn affidavits at the Consulate detailing their complaints against the three, which the Migrant Workers Office subsequently endorsed to the DMW for immediate action.

Balladares said that if the current national government prioritized job creation instead of labor exportation, migrant workers will not easily fall prey to illegal recruiters and human traffickers in their desire to provide a better life for their families.

She mentioned the case of Mary Jane Veloso who was arrested in Indonesia for drug trafficking, and remains imprisoned there because of the government’s alleged failure to act faster in providing her help.


PH peso drops to 57.18 to US$1

Posted on 17 April 2024 No comments


OFWs, including those in HK, will get more for their dollar when they send money home

The peso has further lost its value versus the US dollar, dropping to as low of 57.29 to the greenback today, Wednesday, before ending the day at P57.18, still the lowest since November 2022.

The peso first breached the 57-level mark for the first time in 17months yesterday, after shedding 19.2 centavos from Monday’s 56.808. The peso last dropped below 57 to $1 on Sept. 6, 2022.

In Hong Kong, the exchange rate with the peso is now HK$1-30, as the city’s currency is pegged to the US dollar. 


News of the peso decline and the consequent strengthening of the HKD led many migrant workers to call on each other to send money home so they could take advantage of the favorable exchange rate.

But most said it was too late for them to make a bit more from their monthly remittance, as the peso drop happened halfway through the month.

In the Philippines, the peso’s decline past the psychological barrier of 57-per-dollar level is seen to have put pressure on the central bank to intervene to support the country’s beleaguered currency.


But Governor Eli Remolona said he is comfortable with the peso’s current level and that the central bank usually lets currency adjustments to happen unless the drop is too drastic.

He also said the peso’s recent depreciation does not mean that the local currency is performing poorly, but because the US dollar has become stronger.

Remolona also partly attributed the peso’s decline to political tensions in the region and speculation over the US Federal Reserve’s next step.

 “I wouldn’t say it is performing poorly. I would say it’s adjusting to some events initially weakened along with other emerging market currencies because of what’s going on in the Middle East,” Remolona said in a press conference on Wednesday.

“So it’s not a case of a weak peso. It’s a case of a strong dollar,” he added.

Finance analysts meanwhile say that the peso has held up relatively compared to the currencies of other countries in the region.

The Japanese yen, for example, has dropped near its lowest level to the US dollar in 34 years,, following remarks by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that US interest rates will remain elevated for an extended period.

The peso is expected to remain volatile until the Fed implements its first rate cut, initially forecast by July. Analysts see it stabilizing at around P56.20 to the dollar by then.


DH warns against using slimming product

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Slimming product that contains banned ingredients

Hong Kong's Department of Health (DH) has warned against consuming a slimming product because it contains undeclared controlled and banned drug ingredients.

Honey Q Level Up, purchased online during the DH's market surveillance and tested by the Government Laboratory, was found to contain sibutramine, benzyl sibutramine and fluoxetine, which are Part 1 poisons under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance.

Sibutramine was once used as an appetite suppressant. Since November 2010, pharmaceutical products containing sibutramine have been banned in Hong Kong because of an increased cardiovascular risk. Benzyl sibutramine is a substance structurally similar to sibutramine. Fluoxetine is used for treatment of mood disorders and may cause hallucination and insomnia.


According to the Ordinance, all pharmaceutical products must be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong before they can be legally sold in the market.

Illegal sale or possession of unregistered pharmaceutical products or Part 1 poisons are criminal offences. The maximum penalty for each offense is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment. 

In a statement the DH urged members of the public not to buy products of unknown or doubtful composition, or to consume products from unknown sources.


Those who have purchased his product should stop consuming it immediately. They should consult healthcare professionals for advice if feeling unwell after consumption.

The spokesman added that weight control should be achieved through a balanced diet and appropriate exercise. The public should consult healthcare professionals before using any medication for weight control.

They may visit the website of the Drug Office of the DH for "Health message on overweight problem and slimming products" and "Slimming products with undeclared Western drug ingredients" for information. 

The public may submit the product to the Drug Office of the DH at Room 1801, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, during office hours for disposal.  


Kidnapper of Filipina DH, toddler jailed for 9 years, 4 months

Posted on 16 April 2024 No comments


The victims were locked up in a container in Pat Heung after being kidnapped in Pokfulam (File)

A 45-year-old jobless man was sentenced to nine years and four months in jail at the High Court yesterday for kidnapping a Filipina domestic helper and her 20-month-old ward more than two years ago.

Ho Lin-chun admitted abducting the Filipina who was 39 years old at the time, and the toddler, on Dec. 8, 2021, with intent to demand a ransom for their release.

In sentencing, Deputy High Court Judge Amanda Woodcock praised the helper for her bravery as she managed to free herself and the toddler from a freight container where they were held, and even fought off one of the kidnappers who tried to recapture them.


"If the helper had not bravely climbed out of the container and asked for help, the crime would have caused serious consequences," she said.

Woodcock said it was fortunate that the girl and helper have not experienced long-term physical or mental injuries from the crime.

It also emerged during the hearing that the kidnappers had tried to offer the helper 5% of the $200,000 ransom they intended to claim from the toddler’s parents, but she brushed them off, saying her employers were not rich.


While praising the helper, Woodcock slammed Ho and his unnamed accomplice for planning the serious crime well in advance, as they bought cable ties and prepared a fake car license three days before the kidnap.

Earlier reports indicated a mainland resident surnamed Wang was arrested on Jan. 2, 2022 in connection with the kidnapping, but was allowed to post bail. No mention has been made of him after this.

The court heard that the abduction happened on Victoria Road, Pokfulam, as the helper was taking the toddler on a stroller from their home in Residence Bel Air to the girl’s preschool at around 8am on December 8, 2021.

Ho and his accomplice forced the victims into a seven-seater car then tied up the helper’s hands and legs, before covering her head. The stroller was then pushed into the car with them.

The kidnappers then asked the helper for the name and phone number of her employers, then offered her a cut of their bounty if she cooperated with them, but she brushed them off.

The victims were subsequently taken to Yuen Long and locked inside a freight container, before the men left.

The helper took the chance to untie herself at about 11am and escaped with her ward. She then climbed on top of the container to scream for help just as Ho was making his way back to the container. She managed to push him away as he tried to climb up the container.

The commotion alerted nearby villagers, forcing the kidnappers to flee.

The two victims were sent to hospital for treatments for minor injuries on their hands, which were red and swollen from being tied, but were discharged on the same day.

Inside the container where the helper and toddler were held, bound and gagged (SCMP photo)

Ho was arrested the next day, but remained silent during police questioning.

In mitigation, the defense said Ho committed the offense due to financial pressure, and was remorseful.

A creditor to whom he owed $40,000 was said to have tricked him into committing the crime, assuring him it was just a way to collect a debt.


Filipino who hit pedestrian with car fined for lesser offense

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Bernandino was fined for the lighter offence of careless driving

A Filipino who hit a pedestrian with the car he was driving, causing injuries that required hospital treatment, got off with a fine of $4,000 after he was acquitted of the charge of dangerous driving.

Instead, B. Bernandino, 63 years old, was convicted of careless driving -- a charge to which he pleaded guilty last Jan. 11 when originally asked how he would plea, but was rejected by the prosecution.

In his verdict today at the Shatin Court after a trial held in March, Magistrate David Chum gave weight to the opinion of an expert who testified that Bernandino was driving within the speed limit and the accident happened suddenly.


He noted the expert’s opinion that Bernandino’s only fault was that he did not extend his head far enough to see ahead of his car as he was rounding the corner at Hau Tei Square in Tsuen Wan, New Territories, on April 6, 2023.

He was also driving his car close to the curb.

As a result, he did not see pedestrian Wong Lai-kiu early enough and hit him, causing “grievous bodily harm” that resulted in treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.


In mitigation, his lawyer said that since Bernandino got his license in 1999, he has never had a traffic violation conviction, except for being made to pay fixed penalty fines.

The lawyer said Bernandino is a permanent resident, works as a civil engineer and is active in various community and church groups.

He supports his wife and three children in Hong Kong, as well as relatives in the Philippines, including his father who has cancer, the lawyer added.

With Chum’s decision, Bernandino got his driving license back, as well as the $1,000 balance from his $5,000 bail.

When asked about the points deduction on Bernandino’s license as a result of the accident, Magistrate Chum said, “I don’t have the authority to do that.”


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