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End the political exclusion of more than 7 million of the nation's "modern-day heroes"!   The 1987 Constitution requires Congress to pass a law enabling overseas Filipinos to vote! After 14 years, where is that law?

  Last modified:  03/12/2005 07:51:14 AM

Media Mileage (Selected) and Political Gains of the August 2001 Delegation Visit

Note:  Thanks to the OFW-Vote e-group and the 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.)

Sources Items
Cyber Dyaryo

OFWs Push Hard for absentee voting bill

By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.


AFTER 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.

"Hay 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.

Robert 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.

"I 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 before.

Thanks 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.

No 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 Technology).

"Nag-uunahan 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.

According to Platform’s Nonoi Hacbang, the promises legislators made during the OFWs' five-day advocacy visit "must be translated into actual legislative processing."

With all the action in Congress regarding the Absentee Voting bill, it's passage may become the next victory of civil society.

Early developments

On 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."

Aside 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.

Suffrage 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.

However, 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.

Civil 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".


Among 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."

This proposed provision welcomes all kinds of overseas Filipinos – migrant workers and immigrants, documented and undocumented workers, sea-based and land-based workers.

Also 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.

Registration 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 Philippine government).

But 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.

Butalid 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."

Suffrage 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 immigrants.

Global delegation’s ‘wish lists’

The 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;
  • Campaigning abroad should be as free as campaigning in the Philippines;
  • Election boards set up at the Philippine diplomatic unit shall be headed by a senior career diplomat and joined by members of the Filipino community;
  • Simplification 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
  • The implementation of the absentee voting law should not be tied to the schedule of the Commission on Elections’ computerization of the elections.

Budget for absentee voting

In 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 (P50 million).

However, 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 absentee voting..

In the Comelec’s proposed budget, nothing was allotted for personnel services and honoraria for deputizing election watchers, registration officials, and canvassers.

For 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.

The 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.

Civil society tactics

During 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 voters.

"That (computer software program) is free of charge," said OFW Net Foundation president Chee Garcia, a physician.

This 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.

The 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.

At 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.

But 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.

However, if the absentee voting bill moves or is not passed by this Congress, "we will consider strong options," said Bionat.

For 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."

"Nasa atin na ang bola (The ball is in our court), how to ‘threaten’ our lawmakers," she pointed out.

One 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.

The biggest stumbling block

But 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.

The Estrada impeachment trial derailed the legislative movement of the bill in both chambers during the 11th Congress.

Esquela 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 voting bill.

But 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.

Some 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.

However, 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.".

In 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 advocacy continues

Before 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 Hacbang.

The 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.

For 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.

That will, however, depend entirely on the country’s lawmakers.


Philippine Daily Inquirer, De Venecia Promises to Work for the Passage of Absentee Voting Law  Aug. 6 - By Rocky Nazareno

Overseas Filipinos in Town to Push for Right to Vote  Aug. 16 - EMPOWER Press Release

Senate Vows to Give Priority to Bill on Absentee Voting  Aug. 22

Macapagal Praises OFWs for Boosting RP Economy  Aug. 27 - By Martin Marfil

Philippine Daily Inquirer/ Editorial  Aug. 28

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.

CFO 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.

They can always organize chapters of the Namfrel or some other watchdog group in the countries where they are working.

OFWs 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.

It 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.


Philippine Star Absentee Voting Law Pushed  Aug. 6

JDV Backs Absentee Voting Law  Aug. 23

If 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 expatriates.

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 nation building.

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 first place!

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 graduates themselves.

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 and we'll instruct you how to go about it.

* * *

E-mail this writer also at or visit his website at


Manila Bulletin Absentee Voting for Our Overseas Filipinos  By Senator Loren Legarda

Push Voting Rights for 7 Million Pinoys Abroad  By Joe Guevara

Arroyo Asks Solons to Give Priority to 16 Measures  Aug. 16

Overseas Dollars, Overseas Votes  Aug. 21 - By Gemma Cruz Araneta

Absentee Vote Bill OK Seen by December  Aug. 23 - By Ben Rosario

Arroyo Opens 3-Day State Visit to Brunei  Aug. 23 - By Genalyn Kabiling

Overseas Filipinos Assured on Poll Bill  Aug. 24

Absentee Voting for "New Heroes"  Aug. 25 - By Hern Zenarosa


Philippine News Agency,

JDV Stresses Need to Pass Absentee Voting Measure This Year

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 Overseas 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 elections.

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 issue.

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 Venecia. 


Abante Boto ng OFW

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. Sikolohikal.

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 tawag dito.

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 voting.

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 kandidato.

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 ng bansa.


Cyber Dyaryo,  Philippine Star OFWs 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 upcoming elections.

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 country.

"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.

The appeal

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 citizenship.
  • 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 being implemented.
  • 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 Economy

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 the Philippines.

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 abroad.

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 economic development.

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 workers.

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 years ago.

"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 airport.

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 and labor.

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 said.


Today & eBalita Will Absentee Voting Finally Make It?

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 year.

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 Jaworski.

Around 50 Filipinos arrived from Europe, United States and Asia to lobby Congress and the Executive Department for the bill.

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 Pilipino.

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 residence.

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 elect.

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 Filipino-American citizens.

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 Can We Pass the Absentee Vote Law?
also published by ABS-CBN News

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 fraud.

"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 OFWs: 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 abroad."

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 human-rights violation.

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 nonremittance campaigns.

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 ECMI findings.

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 Santiago.

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 Remittances Expected

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 member.

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 investment.

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 currency remittances.

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.


OFW Philippines Grant OFWs the Right to Vote (Reprint from a Manila Times editorial)


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 here yesterday.

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 destination.

''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 ''heroes''.

''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 migrant workers.

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 vice presidency.

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 August 2001 Delegation Visit Press Release



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