|Media Mileage (Selected) and Political Gains
of the August 2001 Delegation
Note: Thanks to the OFW-Vote e-group and the
PhilippineUpdate.com forum participants for the news postings, as well as
to those who e-mailed me directly with related-news tips. Please
send any more items I missed. (Obviously, the following does not
include the radio and TV exposure we received.)
five days (Aug. 19-23) of tireless advocacy work for the
long-delayed Absentee Voting bill, overseas Filipino
groups abroad and their local migrant NGO counterparts
here embraced and thanked each other for a job well done.
salamat at nawa’y maipasa na ang Absentee Voting
bill ngayong Congress (I am so thankful and hopeful
that the current Congress will pass the Absentee Voting
bill)," said Filomena Tagura, a pastoral worker who
had come all the way from Barcelona, Spain.
Ceralvo, a 50-year-old businessman from the United States,
had the same reaction. Ceralvo has not yet voted in any
election, since migrating to the United States after
having been a political detainee together with now Senator
Aquilino Pimentel during Martial Law.
pay my taxes regularly and I diligently remit my dollars
to the Philippines. Please help me vote," Ceralvo
pleaded. But he is more optimistic now than he ever was
to a certification from President Arroyo during her
State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on July 23,
multi-partisan legislators are now engaged in legislative
debate about the Absentee Voting bill, to the delight of
civil society advocates both here and abroad.
one can blame the convenors of the OFWs' advocacy visit
for their optimism and sense of achievement. The convenors
are: KAKAMMPI, the Platform of Filipino Migrant
Organizations in Europe, Global Coalition for the
Political Empowerment of Overseas Filipinos (EMPOWER), and
eLAGDA (Community of Filipinos Connected through
ang mga legislators na mag-file ng mga bills
(The legislators are racing to file the bills). But we
don’t really concern ourselves with the stories (behind
their actions)," said eLAGDA’s Noel Esquela.
to Platform’s Nonoi Hacbang, the promises legislators
made during the OFWs' five-day advocacy visit "must
be translated into actual legislative processing."
all the action in Congress regarding the Absentee Voting
bill, it's passage may become the next victory of civil
August 29, the joint House committees on Suffrage and
Electoral Reforms, Foreign Affairs, and Labor and
Employment approved the consolidated version of 14 bills
on Absentee Voting, which Suffrage committee chair Rep.
Augusto Syjuco (Iloilo) calls "Overseas Voting."
from Syjuco, other proponents of the as yet unnumbered
consolidated House bill include House Speaker Jose de
Venecia, foreign affairs committee chair Jose Apolinario
Lozada (Negros Occidental), labor and employment chair
Roseller Barinaga (Zamboanga del Norte), and Benasing
Macarambon (of Lanao del Sur). Rep. Macarambon was a prime
mover of the bill during the tenth Congress.
and Electoral Reforms committee secretary Erwin Lara said
the consolidated version will be presented in the
House’s plenary session for first and second readings.
the real battle over the bill was held the day before, on
August 28, when civil society advocates and
representatives of the congressmen who authored the 14
Absentee Voting bills debated during a Technical Working
Group (TWG) meeting.
society lobbyists led by Esquela, Netherlands-based Carlo
Butalid, and three members of the Philippine Migrants’
Rights Watch (PMRW) were successful in getting their
inputs integrated into the consolidated version of the
Overseas Voting law which now promotes "inclusivity".
the critical issues resolved by the technical working
group was the coverage of absentee voting. It was agreed
that overseas voting will be given to "any Filipino
abroad who has not renounced his Filipino citizenship and
who may provide proof of his citizenship."
proposed provision welcomes all kinds of overseas
Filipinos – migrant workers and immigrants, documented
and undocumented workers, sea-based and land-based
related to coverage, the consolidated version provides
that government will implement absentee voting for all
national elections (president, vice president, senators,
and party-list representatives) until such time as an
oversight committee can determine if the absentee voting
process can include local elections.
and voting by absentee or overseas voters will be done
through mail or by voting at the nearest diplomatic office
(embassy, consulate or any venue designated by the
Butalid, the spokesperson of the advocacy delegation,
insisted that counting should be done at the embassies and
consulates in order to "safeguard the integrity of
the ballot." This was supported by the
representatives of the House bills’ authors.
also said that overseas Filipino groups and NGOs here and
abroad should be encouraged to participate in the entire
electoral process – "from the crafting of the
implementing rules and regulations (IRR), composing
electoral boards, monitoring the polls, up to the counting
and canvassing of votes."
and Electoral Reforms committee secretary Erwin Lara
sought the help of seafarers’ NGOs to devise ways for
seafarers to vote during the elections since they are
highly mobile compared to land-based workers and
delegation’s ‘wish lists’
consolidated version includes many items in the advocacy
group’s "wish list". Aside from coverage,
registration, means of voting, and the involvement of NGOs
and Filipino migrant communities, the members of the
global delegation also lobbied for the following points:
- No residency
requirements, either in the Philippines or abroad, for
one to be able to register and vote;
abroad should be as free as campaigning in the
boards set up at the Philippine diplomatic unit shall
be headed by a senior career diplomat and joined by
members of the Filipino community;
of the registration process by making it possible for
a voter to register as a voter and apply for an
absentee ballot at the same time;
- The issue of
dual citizenship shall be treated as separate from
absentee voting; and
implementation of the absentee voting law should not
be tied to the schedule of the Commission on
Elections’ computerization of the elections.
for absentee voting
the August 29 joint committee hearing, Comelec
commissioner Resureccion Borra forwarded a proposed budget
of P 596 million for the implementation of the absentee
voting law. The amount is broken down into: travel
expenses (P25 million), communication services (P125
million), supplies and materials (P156 million), education
and information campaign (P200 million), advertisements
and publications (P40 million), and miscellaneous expenses
the Department of Foreign Affairs, which will be a
relevant agency in the implementation of absentee voting,
did not present any funding proposal for the additional
work of the over-80 diplomatic units abroad related to
the Comelec’s proposed budget, nothing was allotted for
personnel services and honoraria for deputizing election
watchers, registration officials, and canvassers.
its part, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)
vowed to help in the information dissemination campaign.
However, administrator Wilhelm Soriano said OWWA’s
capacity to promote absentee voting is limited to the
2,885,628 members of the welfare fund agency.
Comelec’s budget proposal noted that there should be no
registration of absentee voters in embassies or
consulates, or any site abroad, which runs counter to the
proposal of the overseas Filipinos’ advocacy group.
their visit, the advocacy group saw to it that the
progress of the absentee voting bill is fast tracked. At
the Comelec on August 20, they told Comelec chair Alfredo
Benipayo that they are willing to share with the poll body
a computer software program suited for the registration of
(computer software program) is free of charge," said
OFW Net Foundation president Chee Garcia, a physician.
offer was also mentioned during the group's visit to the
Senate on August 21, attended by Senate President Franklin
Drilon and constitutional amendments committee chair Sen.
Edgardo Angara, who will oversee the chamber's proposals
on absentee voting. Angara welcomed the suggestion of a
computerized mechanism for voter registration.
consolidated House , however, that the government will
only allow the computerization of absentee voting after
the traditional modes – by mail or voting at the
embassies and consulates – prove successful.
a forum at the University of the on August 20, the
advocacy group threatened to stage a "remittance
boycott" if the bill does not move forward.
Empower head Marvin Bionat said that will have to be a
"very drastic" move as the convenors will first
stage other strategic campaigns for absentee voting.
"That (remittance boycott) will become an extreme
measure already for us," Bionat said.
if the absentee voting bill moves or is not passed by this
Congress, "we will consider strong options,"
her part, Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation
executive director May-ann Villalba disagreed with the
remittance boycott as it will affect the families of OFWs
and immigrants left in the country. In relation to
absentee voting, Villalba said it will be okay if the bill
is "delayed, but not derailed."
atin na ang bola (The ball is in our court), how
to ‘threaten’ our lawmakers," she pointed out.
example of a good advocacy campaign was the
postcard-sending project of Platform. According to Hacbang,
who is also executive director of the Netherlands-based
Commission on Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW), OFWs and
immigrants’ families and relatives in the Netherlands
have sent postcards to the senators and representatives to
appeal for the passage of the absentee voting bill.
biggest stumbling block
the biggest stumbling block to the OFWs' hopes is the
Senate. In 14-years of lobbying for absentee voting, NGOs
say that the Senate has been the more problematic
legislative branch. By contrast, the House passed the
absentee voting bill during the ninth and tenth Congress.
Estrada impeachment trial derailed the legislative
movement of the bill in both chambers during the 11th
said the NGOs here and abroad should be more vigilant in
lobbying the Senate to finally pass the bill. For her
part, advocacy officer Ellene Sana of the Kapisanan ng
mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino (Kakammpi)
admitted that the intellectual savvy of the Senate over
the House will determine the movement of the absentee
during the advocacy group’s courtesy visit, half of the
Senate came to meet the delegation. The courtesy visit
also became a bi-partisan event as both administration and
opposition lawmakers agreed to approve the bill.
delegation members said that it was like an "early
victory", with just one more senator needed to affirm
the absentee voting bill to get it passed.
Sen. Drilon said point-blank that the Senate cannot pass
the bill before December 2001 because "we have the
2002 national budget to work on.".
contrast, House Speaker Jose de Venecia said the House
will pass the overseas voting bill by December 2001.
According to him, "Eh Senado naman lagi ang
problema eh (The Senate is always the problem)."
the members of the advocacy group said their goodbyes on
August 23, they asked the local NGOs to continue the
advocacy that they have initiated. "This is why we
have to partner with our local counterparts," said
2001 advocacy visit was the biggest ever with a total of
50 overseas- and local-based delegates. Platform and
Kakammpi organized the 1999 and 2000 advocacy visits;
Empower and eLAGDA joined them as co-convenors this year.
his part, Butalid is hoping that the bill will finally be
passed. "Dapat wala nang advocacy visit next year
at nakakapagod na itong ginagawa natin (There
shouldn’t be any more advocacy visit next year because
this is tiring work)," he said.
will, however, depend entirely on the country’s
|Philippine Daily Inquirer,
Venecia Promises to Work for the Passage of Absentee Voting
Law Aug. 6 - By Rocky Nazareno
Filipinos in Town to Push for Right to Vote
Aug. 16 - EMPOWER Press Release
Vows to Give Priority to Bill on Absentee
Voting Aug. 22
Praises OFWs for Boosting RP Economy Aug.
27 - By Martin Marfil
Daily Inquirer/Inq7.net Editorial Aug.
Giving the Vote to OFWs
WHEN the two Houses of Congress finally find the time to
buckle down to the task of making laws, after spending much
time on inquiries in aid of legislation, they may want to give
priority to a measure which would allow absentee voting.
The bill, which was certified urgent by the President
in her State of the Nation Address, has been pending in
Congress for 15 years now.
Four presidents have
praised overseas Filipino workers as our ‘‘modern-day heroes’’
but up to now they are effectively denied the right to vote.
They who play a big role in propping up the economy are denied
a say in the election of officials who run the country.
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas says the OFWs
number about 7.38 million. This would be nearly 10 percent of
the country’s estimated population of 76 million.
Commissioner Jose Molano, however, says that only about 4.5
million of the OFWs would be qualified to vote. Some are
illegal workers and some have become permanent residents in
the countries where they are working.
But 4.5 million
is still a big number of voters, by any reckoning. In a close
election, they can spell the difference between a candidate’s
victory and defeat.
It’s time the OFWs were allowed to
vote in absentia so that they can participate in the election
of people who will run the country.
Some concerns have
been raised about absentee voting. It is said that the
administration party could manipulate the overseas vote in
favor of its candidates.
But the overseas workers
themselves can exercise vigilance and make sure that their
votes are correctly counted and reported.
always organize chapters of the Namfrel or some other watchdog
group in the countries where they are working.
are exposed to the more enlightened type of politics in some
of the countries where they are working. They know more about
the political and economic realities in the world.
is hoped that because of this exposure they will be more
politically sophisticated and therefore vote intelligently.
The next elections will take place in 2004, just three
years away. Now is as good a time as any to start
deliberations on the absentee voting measure so that
discussions may be conducted in a more dispassionate manner,
unaffected by proximate elections.
Voting Law Pushed Aug. 6
Backs Absentee Voting Law Aug. 23
the OFWs Are the New Heroes, Then Treat Them Accordingly
By Ernie D. Delfin (A Voice From America)
Aug. 26 - Year 2002 should be declared by President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo as the Year of the OFWs and Filipino
The entire Filipino nation, including the President, has
acknowledged the great contribution of the OFWs in (forced)
foreign remittances to the Philippines. They have been
informally honored as the bagong bayani but are they getting
the respect from our government with the way they are being
treated by many government agencies?
Many would say no. Our "new heroes" are being exploited
because they still do not have a united voice to harness their
great socio-political power. They deserve much more for their
great sacrifices and hard work as engineers, nurses, plumbers,
drivers, japayukis and domestic helpers in other lands.
Many sacrifice a great deal. Some are even imprisoned or
make the supreme sacrifice and are beheaded in a strange land.
It is very difficult to live a normal life with dignity and
honor under some reported sub-human conditions of exploitation
and abuse in some countries. But for lack of opportunities in
our homeland, many Filipinos are compelled to leave their
families to find work elsewhere. In Hong Kong, Italy, London,
The Netherlands, Taiwan and Singapore, Filipino college
graduates are underemployed as domestic helpers (DHs) or
restaurant waiters or busboys. Of course, they earn 10 times
or more than their fellow college graduates, who were lucky
enough to land a job in the Philippines.
Over lunch hosted by STAR publisher Max Soliven for his
visiting guests (including this writer) at the Phil-am Tower
Metro Manila, Vice President and DFA Secretary Teofisto
Guingona said that the OFW population could be as high as
eight million! That's a tremendous source of power – consumer
power that can be harnessed into economical, financial and
political will if utilized wisely and strategically towards
The overseas Filipinos workers must also be given an
essential role in nation building. For a start, Congress must
pass an overdue bill that will allow them to vote.
I have talked to many OFWs and sadly, they seem to harbor
more complaints than praises about their government. They
claim that many government employees who deal with OFWs in
conjunction with their paperwork in going abroad act as if
they are kings or slave owners.
When I was growing up, government employees and politicians
were referred to as public servants; somebody told me they are
now public tyrants! I also learned that about 80 percent of
their salary is automatically remitted to the Philippines, for
their families as well as to pay their premium contributions
to Social Security System. With the alleged corruption at the
SSS, it is probably better for these OFWs to be given their
money and let them invest it themselves, save for their house
and lot, invest in the equity markets, mutual funds or
whatever they want. They know what is important to them and
their family. The government should just give them that
personal choice and responsibility. It's their money in the
On the other hand, OFWs must also learn to be more
pro-active and assertive to demand what is due them. Ventilate
your frustrations but organize formally to have a stronger
voice – and demand better treatment and more efficient service
from your own government.
Internet makes it very feasible to organize, as the IT
International Group has done the last couple of years. E-mail
me and I will advise you how.
* * *
The overseas Filipinos have tremendous potential power to
collectively effect the socio-political landscape of their own
hometowns or barangays. Their hard-earned dollars, pounds, or
dinars can easily replace the P500 or even P1,000 being
invested by corrupt politicians to buy votes. It is still
common knowledge in many barangays that a local leader is
given X amount of pesos to buy votes for corrupt politicians.
As the barangay captain knows all the people in his
neighborhood, he can predictably "guarantee" whom he can
deliver to the trapo who gave him a bagful of cash.
Furthermore, from the taxes remitted by OFWs, the
government should allocate a substantial portion of this
government windfall to improve roads especially in many towns
and barangays, so that the transport of farm products, meat,
poultry or fish to other regions can become faster and more
efficient. Good roads as well as ports, harbors and airports
are the arteries necessary to sustain a progressive trade and
commerce domestically and internationally.
If our OFWs are to be recognized as the new heroes of the
country, the government must treat them as such. First when
they come home for a visit, they must be treated fairly and
with respect. Lagay (grease money) for their paperwork must be
stopped. Their agencies must pay them as per contract and on
time. The banks that use and float their money must give them
the highest interest possible. Banks or financial institutions
must compete over remittances business to the Philippines.
There should be a government OFW "ombudsman" whose sole
responsibility is to oversee the welfare of all OFWs.
* * *
Serving the needs of OFWs in Hong Kong, a visionary
Filipino businessman, Ricky Sadiosa, a Hong Kong-based
publisher of Global News and owner of a foreign remittance
business, has added another business called GlobalPinoyBiz
through which OFWs all over the world can order and send
appliances or merchandise through its catalogue or from its
website with the simple click of the mouse. Once the order is
paid via credit card or money order, the merchandise is
shipped from its Makati warehouse directly to the OFW family
anywhere in the Philippines. It is the most efficient way to
send goods and regalos to the OFWs families.
Furthermore, GlobalPinoyBiz, through our California-based
PMA (Premier Marketing Alliance), is offering any OFW or their
families an opportunity to learn entrepreneurship and
marketing first hand by becoming a member so that they can
also become a distributor where they can earn a few hundred
dollars a month with minimal capital (to purchase a small
"inventory" of sample products).
In our executive meeting in Makati last month, Ricky
Sadiosa, the chairman of GlobalPinoyBiz and I, as the PMA
founder, were quite optimistic that this is one concrete way
to help the Philippines. We will teach and empower ambitious
Filipinos how to become entrepreneurs, to curb the tide of
thousands of college graduates just becoming lowly employees
of entrepreneurs or business-owners, who are often not college
As an entrepreneur-businessowner for over 20 years in
California, I challenge college graduates and white-collar
employees to also explore the vast opportunities offered in
the arena of entrepreneurship where a person is truly paid
what he is worth, not what his employer says he is worth.
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll instruct you how
to go about it.
* * *
E-mail this writer also at email@example.com or visit
his website at http://www.katipunan-usa.org/.
Voting for Our Overseas Filipinos By
Senator Loren Legarda
Voting Rights for 7 Million Pinoys Abroad
By Joe Guevara
Asks Solons to Give Priority to 16 Measures
Dollars, Overseas Votes Aug. 21 - By Gemma
Vote Bill OK Seen by December Aug. 23 - By
Opens 3-Day State Visit to Brunei Aug. 23 -
By Genalyn Kabiling
Filipinos Assured on Poll Bill Aug. 24
Voting for "New Heroes" Aug. 25 - By Hern
Philippine News Agency,
Stresses Need to Pass Absentee Voting Measure This
MANILA, Aug. 22 - House Speaker Jose de Venecia
today stressed the "absolute necessity to pass" an absentee
voting measure this year that will finally allow more than
seven million disenfranchised Filipinos abroad to cast their
ballots in the 2004 presidential polls.
The Speaker made the statement at the start of a joint
hearing of the House committees on suffrage and electoral
reforms and foreign affairs on seven absentee voting bills
filed during the past three weeks, one of which was jointly
filed by the Speaker with Manila Rep.Jaime Lopez.
"This piece of legislation, aside from being a mandate of
the Constitution, is long overdue. It will be passed into law
this year and not next year, so that our brother Filipinos
abroad can exercise their right of suffrage in 2004," said de
Venecia The pioneering work of de Venecia in the Middle East
and North Africa first opened the overseas job market to
thousands of skilled Filipinos in the late 1970's.
For his part,Minority Leader Carlos Padilla said that a
strong multi-partisan support for absentee voting, a version
of which was authored by de Venecia and passed by the House in
1998 but subsequently failed to gain Senate approval.
De Venecia pointed out possible roadblocks in the
implementation of absentee voting,among them the fact that
Filipinos are scattered in vast communities in countries such
as Japan, Libya,Saudi Arabia,Iraq,United States and other
countries in Europe and the Middle East.
He said that the physical distances make it impossible for
Filipino embassies abroad to enable expatriate Filipinos to
cast their votes. He added that the real policy question is
whether to first allow Filipinos living in concentrated areas
like Hong Kong,Macau or Singapore to cast absentee vote or to
test absentee voting globally in 2004.
The joint hearing was presided over by Iloilo Rep. Augusto
Syjuco,chair of the committee on suffrage and electoral
reforms and Negros Occidental Rep.,chair of the committee on
foreign affairs. Both gave the assurance that they would
facilitate committee work on the measures to meet the
Speaker's deadline for the passage of the bill.
Syjuco said that Filipinos who "reside and work abroad do
not make them lesser Filipinos to be stripped of their
fundamental right to vote."
On the other hand, de Venecia said that a Filipino does not
lose his right to vote by reason of his employment abroad to
look for greener pastures. Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)
account for more than $7 billion in remittances
annually,helping the dollar-starved economy and staving off a
series of crises from the martial law years in the 1970's to
the coup years in the late 1980's.
OFWs, whom the Speaker hailed as "modern day heroes", are
estimated to have remitted close to $60 billion since 1967
when de Venecia first conceived and implemented the
dollar-remittance program when he was economic counselor at
the Philippine Embassy in Vietnam.
|ABS-CBN, Pinoy Central
Filipinos Want to Vote
By Marj Magno
Aug. 23 - Seventy heads of local and international
organizations meet together for the Overseas Filipinos'
Advocacy Visit to the Philippines 2001 in Manila, August 19-23
with the common goal of pushing for the overseas Filipinos'
right to vote.
Last August 20, the delegation met President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo who endorsed the passage of the bill in her
State of the Nation Address (SONA). Being the first president
to openly address the issue, overseas Filipinos became
optimistic that they will be able to participate in the 2004
Delegates include representatives from Filipino communities
in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the United States.
According to Ellen Sana, Coordinator of the delegation, "They
have taken the time off from their work and allocated
resources for their coming home in order to personally and
directly relay their concerns to our government, in
particular, their strong clamor for the immediate passage of
an absentee voting law."
They also had a public forum with speakers Marvin Bionat
from Empower (Global Coalition for the Political Empowerment
of Overseas Filipinos), Nonoi Hacbang from the Platform of
Filipino Migrant Organizations in Europe (Platform), Vicente
Romano III of eLagda (Community of Filipinos connected through
technology) and Malu Padilla of Babaylan (Philippine Women's
Network-Europe) & Bayanihan to further address the
The issues discussed were the importance of political
empowerment, overseas Filipinos as voting block, barriers for
the Absentee voting law and measures to be undertaken when
worse comes to worst like remittance boycott.
According to Romano, advocates should focus on the
qualifications of the voters first because the registration,
voting and canvassing are administrative problems, which can
be dealt with when the law has already been passed. Elagda
whose two flagship projects are anti-graft commission and OFW
right to vote believe, "Without distinguishing between the
overseas Filipino as worker or non-worker, without going into
the nuances and implications of dual citizenship or Philippine
taxpayer status, and without embroiling ourselves in the
debates over whether one is less Filipino because he or she is
an undocumented alien in the host country, the only
determinant factors should be: if the overseas Filipino is a
holder of a valid document, issued either by the host country,
showing him/her to be a Filipino citizen, and if he were
qualified to vote at the time of the elections were he or she
in the Philippines, then he or she should be allowed to
register and vote in all national political exercise."
Their visit also includes a dialogue with officials of DFA,
OLAMWA, CFO, DOLE, OWWA and POEA. They will meet with Senate
President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Jose de
By Susan Fernandez
Sa wakas, makakaboto na rin ang 7 milyong OFWs sa eleksyon,
plebisito at referendum. Kay tagal ding panahon ang hinintay
bago naisabatas ang nakasaad sa Saligang Batas.
May probisyon sa 1987 Constitution para isabatas ng
Kongreso ang sistema ng 'absentee voting' ng kwalipikadong
Filipino sa abroad. Sa loob ng 14 taon, nakaligtaan ng
kongresong tugunan ito. Ngayon may katiyakan na ang pagpasa ng
bill ukol dito.
Ang House Bill 7243 na panukala ni Rep. Etta Rosales ang
naglalaman ng probisyong 'absentee voting'.
Matapos iendorso ni GMA ang naturang bill sa kanyang SONA,
tila tuluy-tuloy na ang pagpapatupad nito. Noon pa sana
ito tinutukan. Alam naman natin ang samut-saring problemang
naeengkuwentro nila sa abroad.
Iba't ibang dimensyon. Pisikal. Emosyonal. Sekswal.
Sa kababaihan lang, laganap ang mga karanasan ng sekswal na
pangmomolestya ng mga amo. Mula sa Saudi Arabia at Hong Kong
madalas nating mabalitaan ito.
Palasak na rin ang mga kuwento ng panloloko ng mga
recruiter dito. Pinangangakuan ng disenteng trabaho sa abroad.
Pero pagdating doon, ibebenta sila sa mga taong naghahanap ng
serbisyong sekswal. Sekswal na trafficking ng mga babae ang
Sa aspeto naman ng emosyonal, maiisip nating matinding
lungkot ang karaniwang karanasan. Hindi madaling mahiwalay sa
pamilya ng ilang taon. Pagkait ito sa napakahalagang panahong
dapat kinakalinga ng magulang ang mga anak sa paglaki. Ngunit
dahil gipit ang ekonomiya, walang ibang opsyon kundi
maghanapbuhay sa abroad.
Tunay na malala ang epekto ng buhay-OFW sa pamilya. Ang
matagal na pagkawalay ay labis na pahirap sa isip at damdamin.
Madalas ang tuksong hatid ng sitwasyong ito. Tukso ng
paglinlang sa esposo.
Nariyan pa ang negatibong epekto sa mga anak. Dahil kapos
sa ganap na pagkilala sa magulang na dapat gumabay, nalilihis
ang mga landas. Ang kulturang banyaga ay nagdudulot din ng
komplikasyon sa buhay OFW.
Maaaring mahirap mag-adjust sa kakaibang tradisyon, ugali,
batas at estilo ng pamumuhay. Pati na sa klima.
Proteksyon sa mga karapatang pantao sa abroad. Pag-alalay
sa lahat ng pangangailangan ng OFWs. Suporta sa mga pamilyang
naiwan. Ito ay sapat nang dahilan para ipursige ang absentee
Inaasahang ang boto ng OFW ay isasalin sa mga batas na
tutugon sa mga pangangailangan nila. Ang pagboto nila sa
eleksyon ay humantong sana sa mas dekalidad na liderato ng
bansa. Ang isyu nga lang ay depende sa mga pagpipiliang
May saysay ang absentee voting kung tunay na may magbibigay
boses sa 7 milyong OFWs. Sa ehekutibo, kongreso at senado.
Higit sigurong makabuluhan ang absentee voting dahil sa mas
hihigpit ang ugnayan ng OFWs sa Pilipinas.
Kailangang maipaabot sa kanila ang mga usaping pambansa.
May pagkakataong magdiskurso. Mabibigyan sila ng oryentasyon.
Ang paglahok nila sa pulitikal na ehersisyong ito ay mas tunay
na pagkilala ng kanilang mahalagang kontribusyon sa kabuhayan
|Cyber Dyaryo, Philippine Star
Warn of "Controlled Remittances"
By Catherine G. Andraneda
Aug. 26 - Groups of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) served
warning that they will control remittances into the
Philippines should Congress fail to enact the Absentee Voting
Bill before 2004.
In a forum "Boto Ko, Isama N'yo" at the University of the
Philippines' Bahay ng Alumni last Tuesday, overseas Filipinos
from the United States, The Netherlands and other parts of
Europe, Hong Kong and China, among others, lamented that in
spite of their large remittances into the country that have
propped up the sagging economy, they continue to be
"politically disenfranchised" in every Philippine election.
Aided by non-government organizations and militant groups
who supported their call to action on the proposed measure,
the OFWs cited Article V of the 1987 Philippine Constitution
as the legal and constitutional basis for their right to vote.
The Constitution states that, "suffrage may be exercised by
ALL citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by
law. . . "
The forum was organized by Kakammpi (Kapisanan ng mga
Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc.), eLagda
(Community of Filipinos Connected Through Technology), Empower
(Global Coalition for the Political Empowerment of Overseas
Filipinos), and Platform (Platform of Filipino Migrant
Organizations in Europe).
Overseas Filipinos claim to remit around $4 billion into
the country every year through various banks and they bring in
approximately another $8 billion in cash or "padala."
"Although it may be hard to force a 100 percent boycott, I
think a regulated campaign to boycott (remittances) would be a
strategy," said Marvin Bionat, Convenor of Empower. Apart from
the regulated decline of remittances into the Philippines,
overseas Filipino groups are likewise prepared to mount
another method to pressure the government to enact the
absentee voting bill by exerting their immense influence on
their families here on whom they should vote for in the
A political block
The groups claimed that the almost eight million Filipinos
overseas, who comprise 10 percent of the total Filipino
population, would be a major political block that could have a
very significant effect on the electoral process in the
"Indeed, we weathered the Asian economic storm better than
our neighbors largely because of the direct economic benefits
of decades of many broken families, heartrending diasporas of
our workers," read a statement issued by Empower. "But we are
not asserting our right to vote only in the context of our
economic value and as a matter of political quid pro quo.
Beneath the simmer of our resentment is a raging desire to be
recognized and treated as full-fledged Filipino citizens, not
as an apolitical constituency easily made giddy by patronizing
labels and by the welcome-home-modern-day-hero drama at NAIA,
the Empower statement added.
The forum delegates stressed that even if they are away
from the country, they remain "connected" to it and its
transactions. Thus, they insist that they must be given a "say
in the affairs of the government."
According to eLagda. "Every Filipino, wherever located,
deserves a say in the choice of leadership and in the shaping
of national policy. This empowerment may not solve all our
problems, nor soon. But if it will help ensure greater
participation by a wider community of Filipinos and reawaken
is a keystone for national stability."
For its part, the militant Sanlakas acknowledged at the
forum that the enactment of the proposed measure granting
voting rights to overseas Filipinos would be a major and true
electoral reform for the country.
Even as they urged the President and Congress to enact the
bill immediately, the delegates made the following concrete
appeals to the government:
- Ensure equal opportunity and access to all qualified
overseas Filipinos in the exercise of suffrage regardless of
their location, work category and residency status abroad.
It must cover all Filipinos abroad who possess valid
Philippine passports and have not renounced their Filipino
- Include all national elections or any plebiscite,
referendum or initiative on any national issue.
- Provide for a system of registration abroad or by mail
supervised by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in
Manila even as the system of continuing registration is
- Allow for the exercise of suffrage in all countries and
destinations worldwide where Filipinos are found and where
embassies and/or consulates are located; special
arrangements may be made for those areas with few OFWs or
where the Philippines has no embassies.
- Allow for the participation of Filipino organizations
and individuals abroad to assist the government in
election-related matters and activities; Comelec may
deputize such groups for this purpose.
|Inquirer News Service
With reports from TJ Burgonio and Agence France-Presse
|Macapagal Praises OFWs for Boosting RP
By Martin P. Marfil
Tired but happy
SINGAPORE, Aug. 26 - A big crowd of cheering Filipino
workers mobbed President Macapagal-Arroyo Sunday like a movie
star as she lauded them for boosting the Philippine economy.
Ms Macapagal, looking tired but happy, returned to Manila
at 6:30 p.m. Sunday to report on the gains of her five-day
state visit to Singapore and Brunei.
At the end of her three-day visit to Singapore, Ms
Macapagal called on all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to
serve as individual ambassadors promoting the country as a
safe tourism and investment destination.
On two occasions, she stressed that the Philippine economy
would remain heavily dependent on the 8 billion dollars that
OFWs remit home yearly.
"The Filipino people are thanking you," Ms Macapagal, who
wore a purple suit, told Filipino workers when she opened a
new education center for them in Singapore.
More than 1,000 maids stood under the blazing tropical sun,
waving Philippine flags and placards saying "We love you."
Many screamed and wiped away tears as they jostled to shake
the President's hand or take her picture.
"We are very happy that she appreciates us," said Ester
Villalon, a Boholano who has worked as a maid in Singapore for
11 years. "We are very proud if we can help the Philippines
through the work we do here," Villalon added. Labor Secretary
Patricia Sto. Tomas said Filipino professionals residing in
Singapore would join the staff of the new training center.
The professionals will volunteer their time to teach
computer proficiency, cosmetology and other skills to maids
and other low-skilled Filipinos working in the wealthy
city-state. Sto. Tomas said upgrading the skills of OFWs would
allow them to take higher job positions upon their return to
More than 120,000 Filipinos, about 80,000 of them maids,
work in Singapore. "Some of them earn more than I do," Sto.
Tomas said of the maids who earn an average of 250 dollars a
month--more than double the average starting salary for a
professional in Manila. More than 7 million Filipinos, many
driven by poverty and lack of jobs at home, work as
professionals, seafarers, nurses, entertainers and maids
They send home an average of 8 billion dollars a year.
Their remittances have helped prop up the Philippine economy
in times of crises, the most recent of which was the Asian
financial meltdown in 1997 and 1998.
The money "invigorates the economy... so you are a new
breed of economic investors," she told another group of
Filipino workers at the Mandarin Hotel ballroom. "Thousands of
homes are being built" in the Philippines with overseas
workers' money, Ms Macapagal said, adding that the funds also
finance education, new business start-ups and other kinds of
Protection of migrant workers
"We will strengthen bilateral relations with countries
hosting large numbers of Filipinos," she added.
On another front, she promised to campaign for the
ratification of the 1999 UN Convention on the Protection of
Rights of Migrant Workers and their families and the adoption
of a UN resolution for the protection of female migrant
The President said she would work for the passage of a bill
allowing overseas Filipinos to be able to vote.
In her speech, however, Ms Macapagal said about 4 million
Filipinos were now out of jobs, compared to only 2.5 million
four years ago. According to her, 40 percent of the population
is now mired in poverty compared to only about 30 percent four
"Now is the time to prove our mettle as a nation and as a
people and we can start our economic rebirth wherever we are
by thinking Filipino, buying Filipino and investing Filipino,"
Ms Macapagal said to resounding applause.
After her speech, thousands of her fans lined up the street
outside the hotel to cheer her convoy on the way to the
Ms Macapagal started off Sunday by attending an early Mass
at a Singapore church. She and First Gentleman Jose Miguel
Arroyo also strolled through Singapore's botanical gardens. Ms
Macapagal arrived here Friday on the second leg of a Southeast
Asian swing that also took her to Brunei, where she held talks
with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
She held meetings with Singapore President S.R. Nathan,
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and influential Senior Minister
Lee Kuan Yew. She witnessed the signing of 20 agreements,
covering tourism, information and communications, air traffic
During her trip, Ms Macapagal, her economic team and a
50-member business delegation appealed for Singapore
investments to help lift the economy.
She also sought to dispel the Philippines' image as unsafe
for tourists and businessmen because of the spate of
kidnappings for ransom.
"Our biggest prospect is Brunei's willingness to
participate in a 500-million-dollar petrochemical consortium
project that the Department of Energy is organizing in
Bataan," Ms Macapagal said upon her arrival at the Ninoy
Aquino International Airport.
"The tide of opportunity is flowing in our direction. Let
us seize the day with hard work, diligence and integrity," she
|Today & eBalita
||Will Absentee Voting Finally Make
By Malou Talosig
Aug 26 - It took three months for Congress in 1995 to pass
a Magna Carta for Filipinos Overseas, extending them
protection from their foreign employers and host governments.
But it was the hanging of domestic help Flor Contemplacion in
Singapore, curiously timed before midterm elections in May
1995, which propelled its enactment.
The hastily passed Magna Carta for Filipinos Overseas did
not cover, though, the mechanics for absentee voting.
Last week, as the clamor for electoral reforms grew louder
once more and, coincidentally, people wondered aloud about why
millions of Filipinos who have been hailed for saving their
economy for decades have no voice in picking their leaders.
Congress leaders thus promised to pass the bill allowing
the 7.38-million Filipinos overseas to vote by the time
national elections are held in 2004.
Senate President Franklin Drilon told groups of Filipinos
workers and migrants, however, that owing to lack of time,
they will not be able to pass the overseas voting law this
He added that the Senate has to pass the national budget
for 2002 first and this will eat into the time for other
legislations. Nonetheless, Drilon said, senators will start
committee work this year to help advance the bill.
"It is not an easy task to pass the absentee-voting bill
but I can assure you, this will be passed before year 2004 and
you will be able to vote," Drilon told the leaders of private
groups working for migrant workers' causes.
Nine other senators coming from the administration and
opposition parties attended a dialogue with nongovernment
organizations (NGOs) concerned with migrant workers—Majority
Leader Loren Legarda, Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.,
Sens. Edgardo Angara, Juan Flavier, Rodolfo Biazon Jr., John
Osmeña, Sergio Osmeña III, Francis Pangilinan and Robert
Around 50 Filipinos arrived from Europe, United States and
Asia to lobby Congress and the Executive Department for the
They earlier met President Arroyo and paid a courtesy call
on the elections commissioners on Monday, held a dialogue with
officials of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Labor, and
then proceeded to the Senate and House yesterday.
The NGOs that organized the meeting were the Platform of
Filipino Migrant Organizations in Europe, Global Coalition for
the Political Empowerment of Overseas Filipinos, e-Lagda and
Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang
Drilon said it was difficult to pass the absentee-voting
bill because of concerns that massive electoral fraud in the
Philippines will be exported to the migrant workers. "Our main
concern is that the results of the absentee voting must be
truly reflected in the election returns." A valid concern,
indeed, considering that so many questions remain unresolved
even about last May's elections.
The NGO leaders had proposed that to preserve the integrity
of the absentee ballots, "senior career diplomats" should be
appointed to head the board of election inspectors, and not
the political appointees.
But, Osmeña said, "There is no such thing as a career
diplomat," adding that when he was in exile in the US during
the martial law, most officials in Philippine consulates were
"very, very partial. As far as their professionalism and
partisan considerations were concerned, they were no different
from political appointees." That, therefore, is something the
Congress and the Department of Foreign Affairs must address as
the absentee-voting bill is hammered out.
There more than a dozen absentee-voting bills introduced in
both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate
had deliberated on it and consolidated a report in the past
Congress. The House, meanwhile, was supposed to hold plenary
debates and discussion for the second reading of the bill when
the impeachment trial against Estrada started in October last
year and dominated the country's political agenda.
Loretta Ann Rosales, former Akbayan party-list
representative, said her colleagues in the past Congress had
been lukewarm to the bill. "They were afraid that whoever
controlled the government would manipulate the overseas votes
in their favor. They argued that massive cheating could take
place given little control over the counting and canvassing of
overseas ballots," she said.
Such fears of fraud are not unfounded. Cheating has become
more massive every time there is an election. Evidence of
dagdag-bawas, a technique of shaving and padding
tallied votes, continued at the recent May elections even
after its discovery in 1995. It is also highly likely that
overseas voting can be as dirty; and worse, could alter the
results of the elections with a large bloc coming from five to
seven million potential voters.
A comparative study conducted by the Commission on
Filipinos Overseas on six countries that have absentee voting
showed that New Zealand and Sweden allowed their citizens who
are permanent residents in other countries to vote in
absentia. Australia, Canada, Indonesia and the US, on one
hand, limit the absentee voting to their citizens of temporary
Some bills introduced in Congress have excluded Filipino
permanent residents and those who have lost or renounced their
Filipino citizenship. Only Sen. Vicente Sotto III proposed a
bill in the Senate for Filipino permanent residents overseas
to be granted the right to vote. He required them, though, to
return to the Philippines every three years to show they
intend to come home despite their long stay abroad.
This requirement of showing intent to return to their
motherland is employed by Australia and Canada for their
absentee voters. In Sweden the length of residency of the
absentee voter determines the level of offices that they can
The Sotto bill also touched one of the unresolved issues
involving Filipinos overseas: dual citizenship. In his bill
Sotto said Filipinos born in another country and have Filipino
parents can exercise their right to vote.
Legal experts often argue that the Constitution merely
prohibits "dual allegiance" and not "dual citizenship" and
there are cases wherein Filipinos have dual or even multiple
citizenship simply by operation of the law. While the
Philippines determines Filipino citizenship by blood, others
bestow automatic citizenships to those who have been born in
their respective countries like the US. Thus, for instance,
children of a Filipino parent born in the US can be considered
Diplomatic officials said there should be a "clear
government policy" on dual citizenship since there are
countries that recognize dual citizenship and would have no
problem with Filipinos who have become their naturalized
citizens to vote in absentia in the Philippine elections.
Marvin Bionat, a Filipino editor in Boston who founded a
Web-based global campaign for absentee voting in the
Philippines, said dual citizenship is a more controversial
issue and could derail the passage of the absentee-voting
bill. "For practical reasons, we are archiving the dual
citizenship issue for now [although there may be other groups
that will push for it]. It seems logical to first claim our
right to vote and then, as a voting bloc, push for the more
controversial dual-citizenship proposal," he explained.
|Today, Cyber Dyaryo, ABS-CBN News
We Pass the Absentee Vote Law?|
By Butch Fernandez
Aug. 27 - Senate President Franklin Drilon has assured that
passage of the proposed Absentee Voting Law would be a
priority of the Senate in the Twelfth Congress. He said
several bills to allow overseas Filipinos to exercise their
right of suffrage, mostly refiled from the previous Congress,
have been referred to the Committee on Constitutional
Amendments chaired by Sen. Edgardo Angara.
"The Constitution which we ratified in 1987 mandates the
passage of a law to implement absentee voting. But 14 years
have passed and we have yet to pass a law," Drilon admits.
Drilon, however, explained that "it is not an easy
legislation to craft. A lot of concerns have been raised in
the past Congresses in the debates on this bill," among them
the need to install adequate safeguards to prevent poll
"But it is time that we buckle down and really address
these concerns," he told Senate reporters after a meeting
between senators and representatives of migrant Filipino
workers last week. "We gave them the assurance that we will
give this bill our top priority," said Drilon.
Angara also gave his own "iron-clad" assurance that
Congress could pass the law that would empower the estimated
10 million migrant workers the right to vote in the 2004
elections. Angara said the law that Congress will pass would
respond to the specific needs of overseas Filipino workers and
professionals, adding that Congress could not continue to
ignore the rights of millions of migrant workers, who are
considered "modern-day heroes."
Angara noted that overseas Filipinos have been consistently
propping up the national economy with their regular dollar
remittances, the annual total of which comprise more than 8
percent of the Gross National Product.
Drilon, underscoring the overseas Filipinos's role in the
economy, said: "The remittances of these workers have kept our
country afloat. And it is only proper that we work hard in
order that the absentee-voting law be enacted soon," he said.
In response to the senators' commitment, representatives of
migrant workers vowed to help lawmakers in crafting the law.
|Today, ABS-CBN News
Why Are We Not Allowed to Vote?
By Malou Talosig
Aug. 27 - Still in his mid-twenties, Alex Bello joined
millions of Filipinos who flew to Saudi Arabia at the height
of economic recession during the Marcos regime in 1984. Since
then, he has found a secure and high-paying job, raised his
own family, and has never returned to the Philippines.
But his thoughts remain on the fate of his motherland.
Bello, a purchasing officer of the Asea Brown Boveri in
Riyadh, is still keen on every major events happening in the
Philippines. Most often, to his disdain, he would find that
nothing much has changed since he left. "Vote-rigging,
political dynasties and patronage" continue to prevail in
almost every elections, he said. He wished he could do
something to change the country even while he is abroad.
At the very least, he said, he could help choose the
leaders of the country. Since he is in Riyadh, he could not do
so. "Why are we not allowed to vote? We could make a
significant change in the way officials are chosen. We have
the numbers, we don't need to sell our vote," Bello said in an
e-mail sent to Today.
Bello is just one of the more than 7.3 million Filipinos
who have been deprived of the basic political right to vote in
the elections. A fitting tribute to the so-called modern-day
heroes who continue to contribute 8 percent to the country's
gross national product through their remittances.
The right of suffrage for Filipinos overseas is not only
inherent, but is explicitly defined in the Constitution. Aware
of the residency requirement for voters, the framers of the
1987 Charter specifically inserted a provision granting
Filipinos overseas the right to vote and required Congress to
provide "a system for absentee voting by qualified Filipinos
For lack of political clout, the 7.3 million Filipinos,
dispersed geographically in about 135 countries worldwide,
continue to be neglected. Fouteen years and four Congresses
have passed since the 1987 Constitution was ratified, still,
they are disenfranchised. Even the US State Department has
regarded this disenfranchisement of Filipinos overseas as a
With the advances of information technology, Filipinos
overseas have become more aggressive in their clamor for more
political rights. Websites and e-groups have been created to
keep them informed on the developments in the Philippines.
Some Filipinos in Hong Kong, Australia, the United States,
Canada, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Europe have
become active, too, in the campaign to oust former President
Estrada by joining street rallies and participating in
A worldwide survey conducted two months ago by the
Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), an attached agency of
the Department of Foreign Affairs, showed an overwhelming
response of Filipinos in favor of absentee voting. Initial
findings showed that 83.42 percent favor an enactment of an
absentee-voting law. CFO executive director Catherine Maceda
said the results were tallied from 248 respondents from the
US, Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, France, United
Kingdom and Japan.
"We expect about 50 more survey forms to come from the
Middle East and other parts of Europe, but this initial result
is already overwhelming and cannot be overturned," Maceda said
in an interview.
The 300 respondents taken from various countries, where
there are large concentrations of Filipinos, are already "good
universal representation" of the sentiment of the millions of
Filipinos overseas, Maceda said.
Most Filipinos who are not interested in their voting
rights said they are still willing to help the country through
other means, she added.
A Church-based coalition of nongovernment organizations,
called the Episcopal Commission on Migrant and Itinerant
People (ECMI), also got a similar response from Filipino
workers in a survey it conducted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan,
Italy and Denmark in 1997.
"A great majority [66 percent] favors that OFWs be allowed
to vote and simply because to vote is a right. More than 30
percent consider it important to exercise the right to vote,
and 50 percent consider it very important," a summary of the
Interestingly, 61.9 percent of the Filipino workers said
they will "take time" to cast their ballots if they will be
allowed to vote overseas. Only 15.5 percent said they will not
bother to go to polling precincts, while a significant 22.6
percent said they are not sure.
Fr. Graziano Battistella, head of the Scalabrini Migration
Center and who prepared the summary of the ECMI survey, said
the center had 411 respondents who answered their
questionnaires. Despite this number, he was hesitant to
consider the number as "representative of Filipino migrant
population." The sampling was selective as they were polled
from those who attended the Sunday mass.
Nonetheless, Battistella said, "at best the findings of the
survey can be taken as an indication of how a particular group
of migrants views the issue of absentee voting."
A disturbing note in the ECMI survey revealed that more
women are less favorable in giving the Filipinos the right to
vote. Most of the surveyed Filipino women voted in 1992
presidential elections that eventually led to the slim victory
for then defense secretary Fidel Ramos against Miriam Defensor
The Filipina respondents said the absentee voting could
also be tainted with cheating. They also think that Filipinos
abroad may no longer have the capability to discern the right
candidates. "They also give less importance than men to
participation in voting and have less intention to participate
in an election if allowed to," the ECMI report added.
The CFO survey also echoed the same sentiments from
Filipino migrants. About 51 percent of those who favored
absentee voting expressed doubts on the credibility in the
electoral process. Among their concerns are the possible
failure of government officials to protect the sanctity of
ballots, disenfranchisement of other voters because of poor
implementation of the overseas voting, late arrival of ballots
to Manila, lack of information on voting procedures and the
candidates and the distance from the consulate or embassies to
their residence or work place.
"These are serious issues that should be worked out in the
absentee voting bill," Maceda said.
|Philippine News Agency
||Solon Says Drastic Cut in OFW Foreign
MANILA, Aug. 28 - The amount of foreign currency
remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) is expected
to face drastic reduction by $1 billion to $2 billion next
year as OFWs are having problems depositing money abroad for
individual investments,according to a ranking House
Tarlac Rep. Jesli Lapus, vice chair of the House
appropriations committee and member of the labor committee,
today said that the drastic reduction has been reflected in
the 2002 macro budget prepared by the administration's Budget
Coordinating Council (BCC).
In her recent trip to Singapore,President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo hailed the OFWs numbering some seven million
worldwide for helping prop up the economy and said that the
country will remain dependent on their foreign remittances
amounting to about $8 billion yearly.
Lapus said that the BCC has forecasted that the remittances
would be less than the normal volume because of the "wait and
see" attitude of OFWs on converting their dollars as many of
them have problems depositing their money abroad for
In view of the heroic role OFWs play, Lapus said that the
government should continue working for their welfare and
protection. He proposed that a common trust fund be set up to
help those who may have misinvested or those whose savings
have been squandered by other people.
He also proposed that boarding schools be created for
children of OFWs to cater to their social needs which are not
being provided adequately by their foster families. He said
that the social problems of OFWs should be addressed. For his
part, Cavite Rep.Gilbert Remulla,another labor committee
member, said that President Arroyo was just being real when
she said that the OFWs will remain the major source of foreign
Remulla said that the government should continue giving
utmost importance to OFWs because of the vital role they play
to save the economy. He added that he strongly supports the
absentee-voting proposal of House Speaker Jose de Venecia.
OFWs the Right to Vote (Reprint from a Manila
|Tempo, Agence France Presse
||RP Economy Still Dependent on OFWs'
Remittances - GMA
SINGAPORE, Aug. 30 - The Philippine economy will remain
heavily dependent on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) sending
home some US $8 billion annually, President Gloria Arroyo said
Ending a three-day state visit overshadowed by the
country's image as a kidnap-prone area, Arroyo also urged
Filipinos working abroad to act as individual ambassadors
promoting the country as a safe tourism and investment
''The Philippine economy will be, for the forseeable
future, heavily dependent still on overseas workers'
remittances,'' said Arroyo, a US-trained economist swept to
power in January following the ouster of Joseph Estrada in an
army-backed popular uprising.
More than seven million Filipinos, many driven by poverty
and lack of jobs at home, work as professionals, seafarers,
nurses, entertainers and maids abroad and send back an average
US $8 billion a year.
Their remittances have for years helped prop up the
Philippine economy in times of crises, the most recent of
which was the Asian financial meltdown in 1997 and 1998.
Overseas workers are referred to as the country's modern-day
''We will strengthen bilateral relations with countries
hosting large numbers of Filipinos,'' Arroyo said to more than
1,000 Filipino workers waving miniature Philippine flags at a
hotel ballroom here. On another front, Manila will also
campaign for the ratification of the 1999 UN Convention on the
Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers and their families and
the adoption of a UN resolution for the protection of female
The diminutive Arroyo, wearing a purple suit, was mobbed by
adoring fans, some of whom attempted to have their pictures
taken with her--reflecting her popularity at home which she
has parlayed into electoral victories for the Senate and the
The President, who departed for Manila later yesterday,
said she would work for the passage of a bill allowing
overseas Filipinos to be able to vote, and stoked the
nationalist fire in her nationals working abroad.
''Now is the time to prove our mettle as a nation and as a
people and we can start our economic rebirth wherever we are
by thinking Filipino, buying Filipino and investing
Filipino,'' she said.
Arroyo arrived here Friday on the second leg of a Southeast
Asian swing that also took her to Brunei, where she held talks
with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. She held meetings with Singapore
President S.R. Nathan, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and
influential Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and witnessed the
signing of 20 agreements, covering tourism, information and
communications, air traffic and labor.
Earlier Sunday, she visited Singapore's botanical gardens.
During her trip, Arroyo, her economic team and a 50-member
delegation that included the country's top business leaders,
appealed for Singapore investments to help lift the economy.
She also sought to dispel the Philippines' image as unsafe
for tourists and businessmen because of the spate of
kidnapings for ransom.
|Pinoy Central OFW News, Philippine Star
2001 Delegation Visit Press Release