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Angie M. Rosales

Demafelis’ body returns home

Saturday, 17 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The body of Filipina domestic helper Joanna Daniela Demafelis, who was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait, arrived home to a tearful welcome yesterday just days after President Duterte barred Filipinos from working in the Gulf state.
Demafelis, 29, was found earlier this month after her employers, a Lebanese and his Syrian wife, disappeared in 2016.
Her death triggered a diplomatic row between Kuwait and Manila, which announced a “total ban” on new employment for Filipinos in the oil-rich country and flew home hundreds of others, a move condemned in the Middle East.
Despite the deployment ban, Sen. Sonny Angara pressed for the appointment of social welfare attachés (SWA) in Kuwait and in other countries swamped with pleas for help from abused overseas Filipino workers (OFW).
Angara made the call noting the urgency to send more SWAs especially in the wake of series of reports on distressed OFW, some even resulting to death as in the case of  Demafelis.
Angara noted that there are only four social welfare officers deployed by the government across the globe where an estimated 2.2 million Filipinos are currently deployed.
The victim’s wailing sister threw herself at her sibling’s coffin after it was unloaded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport while her stunned brother Joejet Demafelis tried to comfort her.
“This is a huge loss for us. Her dream, she told my mother, is that she was leaving only because she wanted to help our parents and our youngest sibling,” the brother told reporters at the cargo terminal.
“My parents can’t accept this. Every so often, they start weeping,” he added.
“I hope they can find those who killed my sister”, he added.
Authorities say 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many as maids. Domestic workers in the country are not covered by ordinary labor legislation, and accounts of Filipinos being subjected to abuse and exploitation in the Middle East have long circulated.
A fiery Duterte lashed out at Kuwait after Demafelis’ death, alleging that Arab employers routinely rape their Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours each day and feed them scraps.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday the Kuwaiti ambassador had assured him his government was “outraged” over the killing and determined to find those responsible.
     Kuwait-RP ties ‘rocky’
Cayetano said while the death was tragic it would be a “rallying point” for governments to work harder to protect Filipinos overseas, while conceding that Philippine-Kuwaiti relations were going through a “very rocky period”.
He said only about three to five percent of Filipino laborers in Kuwait were having problems but acknowledged the government needed to do more.
The DFA said authorities were repatriating 10,000 Filipinos who had overstayed their visas in Kuwait, with more than 700 flown home already under an amnesty program announced recently by the Kuwaiti government.
Some 10 million Filipinos work abroad and the money they remit back is a lifeline of the local economy.
“We have so few and it would not be one SWA per continent,” said Angara, noting that SWA fill a gap in the country’s foreign posts.
“In the division of labor inside what is basically a multi-agency embassy, there are assigned personnel that can handle legal cases, liaise with local police, as well as military, trade, agriculture attachés, “ the senator explained.
Currently, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has deployed SWA in Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Malaysia while plans are afoot to send three more to Dubai, Qatar and Hong Kong.
Angara said that while there are assigned government personal to handle legal cases and liaise with local police military, trade and agriculture attachés, what is lacking is a trained professional who can provide the OFWs the three essential Cs – care, comfort and counselling – to Filipinos in crisis situation and in need of special protection.
“Traumatized Filipinos require the services of a trained professional. In short a lead malasakit (care) officer. This is the kind of skill-set that might not be found in the organizational setup of an embassy,” Angara said.
The presence of SWAs is a welcome addition to Philippine embassies and should not only be integrated but made a permanent fixture of the country’s foreign service, the senator said.     AFP                            

The anti-political dynasty bill would be hard to legislate because this would deprive a qualified person of his right to run for public office just because he is related to an elected official.

Gordon said it is more important to work on making an “enlightened citizenry” to produce informed voters.
“You know I’ve always believed, as a matter of rational thinking, political dynasty bill would be difficult because if you look at lawyers, their children are also lawyers, the soldiers would have also children aspiring to become soldiers, the point there is that they were exposed when they were still young, so why will you deprive a person who is totally qualified just by reason of relation?” Gordon said during a hearing yesterday on political dynasties.
“What is more important is an enlightened citizenry. An election that provides everybody the knowledge. An informed electorate would not allow abuse but you cannot legislate that,” he added.
Sen, Sherwin Gatchalian agreed the passage of the measure would be “difficult” because many lawmakers would be affected.
Gatchalian said if a law is passed, he believes that the prohibition should be until 4th level of consanguinity.
“What we want here is to give a chance to others who are qualified and experienced,” he said.
“It will be difficult in reality. It will be a challenge because over the years the incidence of dynasties has grown since there is no law against it. We welcome this development because we always believe that in one point in time, opportunities should also be given to those who want to serve,” he added.
“I think, it’s really about time to talk about this and give full disclosure. Ako may mga kapatid din ako sa ano (politika), and whatever Congress or the Senate will formulate in terms of anti-dynasty, alam ko marami sa aming mga public servants ang susunod at sasang-ayon,” he added.
He admitted that an anti-dynasty law would have a strong effect on many politicians.
“Definitely, maaapektuhan kami. In fact, marami ang maaapektuhan. Marami sa Senado ang maaapektuhan. Kami rin, as a family, maaapektuhan but we welcome this development because we always believe that in one point in time may mga bagong mukha na magagaling, mas experienced and we welcome that development. We believe that opportunities should also be given to those who want to serve,” he added.
At least three senators supported the enactment of an anti-political dynasty bill to protect democracy and prevent elective positions from being monopolized by powerful clans in various parts of the country.
Sen. Grace Poe said dreams and careers of individuals should not be curtailed, adding the passage of an anti-political dynasty bill would prevent corrupt and devious individuals from abusing their positions.
“Dahil merong ginagawa nang negosyo ang pagtakbo sa gobyerno at hindi dapat ganun, at wala dapat monopolyo kung sino pwedeng tumakbo… Parang nawawala spirit ng demokrasya kasi nalilimitahan sa iilang pamilya at clan ang nagde-desisyon sa ating gobyerno,” she said.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV pointed to the need to strengthen the government’s anti-corruption agencies along with the passage of an anti-dynasty law.
“Kung maigting sana ang ating anti-corruption agencies, regardless of the surname, of blood relations of people elected to office, kailangan managot. Kasi hindi ibig sabihin na wala kang kamag-anak sa pulitika eh malinis ka na. Maraming mga first- timers, walang kamag-anak pero ganun,” he said.

Koko, JV back Rody’s junking of chopper deal

Thursday, 15 February 2018 00:00 Published in Nation

President Duterte’s allies in the Senate yesterday backed his decision terminate the P12-billion helicopter acquisition contract with a Canadian firm saying that the government should be free of any restrictions in its use.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Sen. JV Ejercito joined Duterte in protesting the move taken by the Canadian government which called for a review of the deal after learning that it will be used in internal security operations and not for disaster relief and rescue operations.
What I can’t understand is why the Canadian government had to interfere on how the Philippine government wants to use the helicopters. That is already a matter of internal security. So they should respect the Philippine government especially the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and DND (Department of National Defense) in their operations against internal threat,” Ejercito said in an interview with reporters.
“I think the President was right in his decision. The Republic or the government has to protect itself not only external but also internal threats and the purchase of choppers at any given time,” he added.
“Good decision (of the President) especially when there are lots of helicopter manufacturers anyway which we can deal with. But of course, when a sovereign country buys transportation item like helicopter, of course that would be for multi-use. How can you tie the hands of the buyer and say ‘you only use this for this purpose, use these during these days’,” Pimentel said.
Both senators said it would have been acceptable for the Canadian government to raise the issue if the said choppers were leased and not acquired by the Philippine government.
“If they are becoming hard to deal with and the President wanted to cancel it, then very good, it should be in the buyer’s market now,” said Pimentel.
“We’re buying and they needed to impose conditions? The seller should also be willing to let go of his product,” he added.
Ejercito, who had strongly lobbied for the procurement logistical support of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the choppers are needed more for internal security operations.
“Canada should have understood that the government has to protect itself from internal threats,” he said.
At any given time, Ejercito said the government needs between 40 to 50 running choppers for the operations of both the PNP and AFP.
Both Pimentel and Ejercito said the government should look for other supplier that does not impose conditions.
Reports said that the President directed the Department National Defense (DND) to formally terminate the P12-billion contract with Canadian Commercial Corp. (CCC) for the supply and delivery of 16 units of Bell 412 Combat Utility Helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
The DND said the Canadian government does not have any business on how the helicopters will be used stressing that the aircraft are being bought.


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