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5 labor attachés face recall for inaction on OFW issues

Five labor attachés from Taiwan and the Middle East have been ordered to report back to Manila to explain before Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III how they are addressing the "criticial issues" of OFWs in their areas of assignment.
“I instructed them to report here not later than March 15 because I want them to answer me personally on what they are doing on the critical issues of OFWs,” said Bello in a statement Wednesday.
Those ordered to report back to Manila were:
· Ophelia N. Almenario of POLO-Abu Dhabi
· David Des Dicang of POLO-Qatar
· Rodolfo Gabasan of POLO-Israel

· Nasser Mustafa of POLO-Oman, and
· Nasser Munder of POLO-Taichung
“Kakausapin ko sila at sasabihin ko na aksyunan ang mga isyu ng OFW sa kanilang lugar, lalo na iyong mga distressed at displaced,” Bello said. “Kung hindi pa sila susunod at maka-receive ako ng reklamo, ipapa-recall ko sila.”
Bello issued the instruction after receiving reports that some labor attaches are not mindful of the issues and situation of distressed OFWs in their posts.
He said one of the issues reported to him was the violation of the bilateral agreement between the Philippines and host countries in the Middle East, particularly on the $400 minimum wage of household service workers, by some employers.
“Dapat kapag may nalaman silang violation, i-blacklist na kaagad ang employer. Ang trabaho nila sa POLO ay bigyan ng tama at sapat proteksyon ang ating mga OFW,” said Bello. — GMA News

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UAE Filipinos: You are now exempt from airport terminal fees

Filipinos working and living in the UAE will no longer be chargedterminal fees when they depart from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The move, which marks the Philippines path to making travelling more convenient for its citizens, was met with praise by the Filipino community in the UAE. According to a television broadcast by TFC Middle East, operated by Philippine media conglomerate ABS-CBN, the airport companies signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday to remove the additional charge.

Initially, Filipino travellers buying their plane tickets were charged an additional 550 Philippine pesos (Dh40) as terminal fee. This amount would then be refunded to travellers upon departing from Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Due to the busy schedules many OFWs adhere to, claiming the refund is almost always forgotten. Add to that the fact that proper documentation must be shown in order to claim the aforementioned refund. It was also seen as an additional expense by many Filipino travellers.

According to local newspaper Manila Bulletin, Department of Transportation secretary Arthur Tugade said that it was the President Rodrigo Duterte's "gift to OFWs" and "a manifestation of his concern for their welfare."

Facilities housing the current terminal fee refund offices will be closed down. The policy will take effect starting April 30, 2017 and will apply to OFWs, pilgrims, Philippine Sports Commission delegates and those authorized by law and the Office of the President.

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NBI back in war on illegal drugs

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is back in the Duterte administration's war on illegal drugs after a month-long absence brought about by the implication of some its people in the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday said the NBI resumed its anti-illegal drugs operationson Tuesday after securing the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"I asked the President to allow the NBI to resume operation. Malaking kawalan ang NBI. You should remember that only last December the NBI seized the biggest shabu haul in history of almost 900 kilos worth P6 billion in San Juan City," Aguirre said.
Prior to this development, Aguirre indefinitely suspended the authority of the NBI to probe drug cases following the verbal directive of the President last month.
Aguirre issued Memorandum Circular 5 suspending Department Order 554 dated August 25, 2016, which mandates the NBI to conduct build-up of cases falling under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act or Republic Act 9165.
On February 2, Duterte announced that he had lost trust in the NBI, calling it a "corrupt" agency just like the Philippine National Police (PNP), whose controversial anti-drug operations had also been suspended for a month following the involvement of policemen in the Jee kidnap-slay last October 18.
The crime was reportedly carried out in the guise of the government's war on illegal drugs.
Some NBI people have also been implicated in the crime, prompting NBI Director Dante Gierran to relieve four of his men pending investigation by the PNP and NBI on the heinous slay. — GMA News
 
 
 
 
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DOJ returns to owners 183 stolen and sold cars in ‘rent tangay’ scam

Nearly 200 of the 300 vehicles,which were illegally sold as part of the "rent tangay" or car rentalscam, have been returned to their rightful owners.

The Department of Justice (DOJ)said 183 vehicles recovered by the National Bureau of Investigation have beenreleased, six of which were turned over in brief ceremonies led by Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday afternoon at the DOJ compound in Manila.

One hundred seventeen vehiclesremain under NBI custody.

“Today we restore the vehicles to their rightful owners. However, we do not stop there," Aguirre said.

"We want to ensure that weset a good example in bringing justice to all the victims in this case by effectively prosecuting the perpetrators and putting them away so that they will do no more harm," he added.

Aguirre said the NBI would soon file complaints for large scale estafa against the perpetrators of the scam.

Suspects Rafaela Anunciacion,Eleanor "Leah" Constantino Rosales, Tychicus Historillo Nambio,Jhennelyn Berroya, Anastacia Montes Cauyan, Eliseo Cortez, Marilou Cruz and Sabina Torrea are already facing large scale estafa complaints filed by the police.

The preliminary investigation on these complaints will begin on March 20.

The syndicate allegedly carried out the scheme by giving "fraudulent promises" of rental income only to find out later that their vehicles were either mortgaged or sold to different people without their knowledge and consent.

"We assure the public that we will continue to fight this modus and prosecute the offenders, and deter similar attempts. We ask the cooperation of the public to report similar incidents to the NBI or the police," Aguirre said. —GMA News

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More than half of Filipino drivers stupid, says Sotto

More than half of Filipino drivers will fail an honest-to-goodness driver’s examination, according to Sen. Vicente Sotto III.
Why?
Because they are stupid.

“Here in the Philippines, if we [give drivers an honest-to-goodness examination like those required in other countries, especially the United States], I expect more than 50 percent of [them] will not pass,” Sotto said during a hearing on road safety called by the Senate committee on public services on Tuesday.
“Terrible. They are not only reckless but they are also stupid, that’s why they will surely fail,” he said.
“In a real examination, 50 percent of drivers in the Philippines will fail,” he said, without explaining the sudden reduction in his estimate.

Road congestion
Filipino drivers who do not follow traffic rules contribute to the worsening congestion on the country’s roads, said Sotto, who drives his own car.
He lamented the parking of cars along city streets, which aggravates the congestion, especially in Metro Manila.
“Who’s responsible for that if not stupid drivers?” he said.
“They violate the law because they did not go through scrutiny. It’s so easy to get a driver’s license here,” he said.
Sotto then urged officials of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to enforce stricter rules for the issuance and renewal of drivers’ licenses.
Assistant Transportation Secretary Edgar Galvante, the LTO chief, admitted shortcomings in the qualification process, especially in the issuance of professional drivers’ licenses.

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Phl to China: Explain ship in Benham Rise

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines – through its ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago Santa Romana – has officially asked China to explain the reported presence of one of its vessels in Benham Rise in the Pacific, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

“The Philippines has expressed its concern about the reported presence of a Chinese ship in Benham Rise, which has been recognized by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as Philippine waters,” the DFA said in a statement.

“The Philippines has sent a note to the Chinese embassy seeking clarification on this,” it added.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose yesterday said that they are still awaiting the Chinese response through official channels, but cited the media statement of the Chinese foreign ministry regarding the matter.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang confirmed the reported presence of its ship in eastern Philippines last year but maintained that it was simply exercising its freedom of navigation.

“But this is purely carrying out normal freedom of navigation and right of innocent passage, and there were no so-called other activities or operations,” he told a regular news briefing. “Comments from individuals in the Philippines on this do not accord with the facts.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday expressed concern over the latest incursion of China on Philippine territory and ordered the Navy to accost or drive away Chinese ships if these are seen again in the area.

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Hundreds of MILF child soldiers released in Philippines

Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest armed group, ends recruitment of children as part of peace plan.

Hundreds of child soldiers have been released by the Philippines' main separatist rebel group, continuing its commitment to end the recruitment and use of children within its ranks.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), one of the most powerful armed groups in the country, released the children on Friday as part of an action plan with the UN.

Reporting from the disengagement ceremony in Lanao del Sur, Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan said Friday's release did not happen overnight.

"This is something that started eight years ago," she said. "It required a lot of ground work, a lot of investigations, a lot of re-education, not just of leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but also of parents who have had their children exposed to combat."

In 2009, the group signed an action plan with the UN to end the recruitment of child soldiers, a practice that extends over generations.

The first in a series of disengagement ceremonies took place in February and the group will eventually disengage more than 1,800 children, according to UNICEF.

Some of the children fought on the front line with the group, but the majority performed tasks as couriers and support staff.

Richard Heydarian, a professor of political science in Manila, told Al Jazeera it is important to remember that many of these child soldiers were born into the conflict.

"We have to keep in mind that this is not like South Sudan or Sierra Leone ... where you have these children ripped apart from their family and forcibly coerced to become child soldiers," he said.

"Many of these children are actually very much part of the fabric of the community that has been supporting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front."

The Islamic group, based on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, has fought for succession for decades, routinely recruiting and using children within its ranks, according to UNICEF.

Al Jazeera's Alindogan said Friday's ceremony shows the sincerity of the MILF in making sure the "third and fourth generation of children are not going to end up with the same fate as their parents and grandparents".

The children who are released will be offered scholarships to finish school, as well as support from the government and NGOs for full integration back into society.

"The release of children from the MILF is only the beginning of the next phase of their youth. The next step is to ensure that these children receive support," UNICEF's country representative Lotta Sylwander said last month.

Example for other armed groups

The number of child soldiers in the Philippines remains unknown. Mindanao is home to a number of armed groups who use and recruit combatants under the age of 18, according to the UN.

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Undocumented Filipinos Are Living a Special Nightmare in Trump’s America

Under fire from Washington, rejected by Manila, and overlooked by many Americans, undocumented Filipinos are linking arms with others in the anti-Trump resistance.

As paranoia spreads over the Trump administration’s promised immigration crackdown, there’s a video circulating around California’s immigrant communities.

In it, two people — Lolita Lledo, an immigrants rights activist, and Steve Angeles, a reporter — are making rounds in a Los Angeles neighborhood. Lledo has of late been bombarded with rumors of immigration officers poking around local businesses. To keep the hysteria at bay, the two have been investigating the claims.

Lledo’s organization is erring on the side of caution — a day later they run a “know your rights” workshop for locals. Someone posts a picture on Facebook, grabbing only the backs of participants so that it’s a sea of black hair. “Standing room and fully-packed,” the caption reads.

Lledo has a reason to be on-edge. Recently, headline-grabbing ICE raids were carried out on Asian-American communities like theirs.

Yes, Asian communities. Lledo and Angeles are Filipino-American — or Fil-Am, as many in the community shorten it.

Donald Trump distinguished himself last year by calling Mexicans rapists and vowing to build a wall along the southern border. Elected into office, he ante-ed up on the anti-Mexican demagoguery with a travel ban on Arab and African Muslim travelers. But promises to end undocumented immigration target so-called “model minorities” too.

In fact, in addition to having the fastest-growing documented immigration rate in the United States, Asian Americans also have the fastest growing rate of undocumented immigration. A sizable number of these, like the nervous residents of Lledo’s community, are Filipino.

According to American governmental agencies, there were 2.1 million Filipino immigrants in 2015, making it the fourth largest immigrant community in the U.S. The Commission of Filipinos Overseas, an agency of the Philippine government, pegs the number even higher, at 3.5 million.

The number of undocumented Filipinos, or TNTs — for tago ng tago, literally “in perpetual hiding” — is also in contention. The Department of Homeland Security places the number at 310,000, but other estimates range as high as 800,000.

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Undocumented Filipinos Are Living a Special Nightmare in Trump’s America

As paranoia spreads over the Trump administration’s promised immigration crackdown, there’s a video circulating around California’s immigrant communities.

In it, two people — Lolita Lledo, an immigrants rights activist, and Steve Angeles, a reporter — are making rounds in a Los Angeles neighborhood. Lledo has of late been bombarded with rumors of immigration officers poking around local businesses. To keep the hysteria at bay, the two have been investigating the claims.

Lledo’s organization is erring on the side of caution — a day later they run a “know your rights” workshop for locals. Someone posts a picture on Facebook, grabbing only the backs of participants so that it’s a sea of black hair. “Standing room and fully-packed,” the caption reads.

Lledo has a reason to be on-edge. Recently, headline-grabbing ICE raids were carried out on Asian-American communities like theirs.

Yes, Asian communities. Lledo and Angeles are Filipino-American — or Fil-Am, as many in the community shorten it.

Donald Trump distinguished himself last year by calling Mexicans rapists and vowing to build a wall along the southern border. Elected into office, he ante-ed up on the anti-Mexican demagoguery with a travel ban on Arab and African Muslim travelers. But promises to end undocumented immigration target so-called “model minorities” too.

In fact, in addition to having the fastest-growing documented immigration rate in the United States, Asian Americans also have the fastest growing rate of undocumented immigration. A sizable number of these, like the nervous residents of Lledo’s community, are Filipino.

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Ombudsman orders dismissal of 5 officials of Muslim-Filipino commission

MANILA — The Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of 5 executives of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) after they were found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service over the allegedly anomalous use of the P3.8-million Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF).
Ordered dismissed were NCMF commissioner Mehol Sadain, director Galay Makalanggay, acting chief accountant Fedelina Aldanese, acting chief Aurora Aragon-Mabang, and cashier Olga Galido.
The administrative case stemmed from former Maguindanao congressman Simeon Datumanong's PDAF, which is intended to finance livelihood programs such as soap-making, candle-making and meat-processing for the municipalities of Mamasapano, Ampatuan and Datu Abdullah Sanki.

NCMF was the implementing agency, while Maharlikang Lipi Foundation Inc. was the partner non-government organization.
But the Commission on Audit found that the foundation was chosen without public bidding, thus violating the auditor's selection rules.
The Ombudsman said the dismissed NCMF officials participated in the preparation, processing and approval of the memorandum of agreement and the PDAF documents governing the project implementation and fund releases to the foundation.
"The funds in question could not have been transferred to the MLFI if not for the recommendations as well as certifications, approval, and signatures found in the corresponding disbursement vouchers and checks," the Ombudsman's decision read.
"[There was] extraordinary accommodation extended to MLFI in the examination, processing and approval by the concerned NCMF officers of the PDAF releases as show by the unnumbered and undated disbursement vouchers; and issuance of check prior to execution of the Memorandum of Agreement."
The dismissed officials have been perpetually disqualified from holding public office, and will have to pay fines equivalent to their annual salaries in case of separation from the service.

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