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  1. #11

    To the American who wrote Filipinos a love letter

    By Benjamin Pimentel

    1:40 pm | Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

    (American expatriate David H. Harwell’s moving piece “Love letter to Filipinos” was published in the Inquirer on Feb. 17. This is a response.)

    Dear Mr. Harwell,

    Thank you for your letter, for insights that remind us why, despite all its problems, the Philippines has many things to offer the world.

    You’re also critical of your homeland, the United States. In a way, I understand. I’ve lived in the US for nearly a quarter of a century. I’ve caught glimpses of the cold, heartless America you talked about.

    But you also said, “In America, our hands are full, but our hearts are empty.”

    That’s a stunning image. I must say, though, that I myself encountered a different America.

    You spoke of people who fell into what you called the American Trap, who chose to “live only to work, and work only to buy more things that we don’t need.”

    But not all Americans live that way.

    To be sure, many are struggling now. Like Filipinos in the Philippines, they do so for their children. For there’s talk now of “Generation Screwed,” of young Americans in their 20s and 30s for whom the future is bleak, who may end up being the first generation to have less prosperous lives than the ones their parents enjoyed.

    As the father of two young boys, I worry about that. But many things about the United States give me hope.

    Maybe it’s because I live in the Bay Area, where people tend to be hopeful and open-minded. I wouldn’t even use the word “tolerant.” To “tolerate” suggests being told, “Okay, you’re a strange, even offensive, bunch, but I guess we’ll just have to live with you.”

    In the Bay Area, the approach is more of to “engage,” to say, “Oh, you’re from the Philippines. So what’s life like where you’re from, and what of your country might we be able to use and learn from?” People here seem always eager to know what they learn from people from other lands.

    Some dismiss that as “political correctness,” but that culture of engaged openness is a key reason my wife and I have enjoyed living here.

    Actually, that culture even speaks to the good news that your letter underscored. Many Americans are not arrogant, clueless and narrow-minded as many believe. Many of them are like you: eager to learn from other peoples of the world. And as you explained in your letter, there is much to learn from the Philippines. On the other hand, there clearly are so many lessons the Philippines can learn from the American story.

    I’m sharing this with you because I worry about sweeping portrayals of either the Philippines or the United States, of Filipinos and of Americans, or of any other group or country.

    Many Filipinos now live outside the Philippines. Most of them, roughly four million, are in the United States. Most of them still love the Philippines, and hope to see the country succeed and prosper. But they also consider the United States home.

    You painted a glowing, life-affirming portrait of our homeland. But I worry that, particularly for the young Filipino-Americans, who may not know much of the Philippines, but also want to be connected to the country of their parents, the picture you presented is incomplete.

    This week, the Philippines will again celebrate the People Power Revolt that ended a dictatorship in 1986. Many of us took part in that historic uprising. And it was heartening for me to know, after I moved to the US, that many Americans helped wage that fight.

    Eventually, I realized why that was so. For fighting for justice has been part of the American story. I must tell you how moved and inspired I’ve been by the Civil Rights struggles in this country in the 1960s.

    Young Filipinos, in the Philippines and in the United States, can learn so much from those struggles. And I know many young Filipino-Americans want to know more about the Philippines.

    Right now, many of them on college campuses across California and the entire US are preparing for an annual Filipino Spring ritual unique to the US. They call it PCN, Pilipino Cultural Night, when thousands of young FilAms hold a night of music and poetry and plays celebrating their Filipino-ness.

    Some of them even take their commitment beyond those shows, travelling to the Philippines to work on social and political campaigns.

    They can learn so much from the Philippines. But they also can also learn so much from the story of America, with its complex, painful, but sometimes also inspiring story.

    Please don’t view this response as a rejection of your heartwarming insights into my homeland.

    Instead, I hope you see this as an affirmation of the strengths and even beauty of yours.

    This is, in many ways, my attempt to build on what you said.

    For I really believe, Mr. Harwell, that there are many lessons and stories, powerful and uplifting, that we can find and celebrate both in the Philippines and in the United States.

    Maraming salamat po.

  2. #12
    Phl must be half empty, British royal quips

    (The Philippine Star)

    | Updated February 22, 2013 - 12:00am

    MANILA, Philippines - Britain’s Prince Philip wonders if the Philippines is now “half empty” because of the large number of Filipino nurses working in UK hospitals.

    The comment drew mixed reactions yesterday, according to a report by BBC News.

    “The Philippines must be half empty – you’re all here running the NHS (National Health Service),” Prince Philip was quoted as saying.

    The 91-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth was addressing a Filipino nurse he met during a visit to Luton and Dunstable Hospitals where he unveiled a new cardiac center.

    While some reports called it a “racist remark,” BBC noted that the Duke of Edinburgh is “well known for his outspoken and sometimes controversial comments.”

    A report recalled how Prince Philip asked a group of British students during a 1986 visit to China: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

    During a trip to the Cayman Islands in 1994, he asked a native: “Aren’t most of you descended from pirates?”

    Speaking to a student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea, the prince said in 1998: “You managed not to get eaten, then?”

    Meanwhile, the hospital’s spokesperson insisted that Prince Phillip would never intend to cause offense and liked to make odd jokes “to put people at ease.”

    The Filipino nurse, on the other hand, seemed to take Prince Phillip’s joke in good humor and laughed.

    Filipino nurses continue to work in the UK because of the high salary and other benefits.

    According to recent data, 16,184 out of the UK’s 670,000 nurses are from the Philippines.

    Meanwhile, data from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas showed a two-digit increase in the number of Pinoys abroad in 2011.

    A total of 10.46 million Pinoys are in 217 countries and territories as of 2011, the commission reported. This is a 10.7-percent increase from 9.45 million in 2010.

    The number is also equivalent to more than a quarter (25.4 percent) of the country’s workforce, pegged at 41.94 million as per Labor department data.

  3. #13
    We will be voted out of the Union.
    Understand? / ¿Entiendes?

  4. #14
    The Dynamic of the Filipino Diaspora

    By Rodel E. Rodis,

    5:22 pm | Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

    Organizers of the 2nd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora—set to convene February 25-27, 2013 at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City—hope that the conference will “track the progress and highlight the best practices of Diaspora engagement.” This is the broad mission laid out by the Summit’s principal sponsor, the Commission of Filipinos Overseas (CFO) which seeks to harness the resources and energy of the 12 million overseas Filipinos in support of its “flagship program- Diaspora to Development (D2D)”.

    CFO hopes that all this harnessing of global Filipino talents will contribute to domestic jobs generation and economic development. This will be accomplished, according to the CFO, by matching ventures of overseas Filipinos with Philippine business partners in areas like technology transfer (Alay Dunong), educational exchange (Balik Turo), Diaspora philanthropy (Lingkod sa Kapwa), tourism initiatives, medical missions and arts and cultural exchanges.

    Among those attending the Summit will be members of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) which was formed at the first Summit, members of US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) and other Filipino associations overseas along with recipients of the CFO Presidential Awards for Filipino individuals and organizations overseas; local Philippine-based participants, resource persons, speakers from the government, multi-lateral agencies, academe, and civil society.

    ‘Transnational community’

    While “Diaspora” generally describes historic mass dispersions of people with common roots like the Jewish, African, Indian and Chinese diasporas, it is also defined as a “transnational community” referring to a people with a shared identity as a singular ethnic group extending or going beyond the national boundaries of their country. They are united by how they are collectively viewed and treated by the people in the host countries they live in.

    The tipping point of the Filipino diaspora

    When overseas Filipinos were lobbying for the right to vote in Philippine elections in 2003, Rep. Teddy Locsin fiercely opposed the move by arguing that Filipinos who “abandon” the Philippines should not have the right to participate in its governance and, besides, he said, they do not have enough knowledge of Philippine current events.

    If Locsin ever watched Ted Unarce’s documentary “Modern Day Slaves” (, he would be disabused of the absurd notion that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abandoned the Philippines. If anything, it is the Philippines that abandoned the OFWs to their cruel fates just so that OFWs can remit huge chunks of their hard-earned salaries to the Philippines ($23.5 B in 2012).

    As to the other point raised by Locsin, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban noted that with interactive news websites, cable TV programs, social networks like Facebook and Twitter, cell phones, Skype, Magic Jack, e-mails, teleconferencing and other electronic wonders”, actual physical presence in the Philippines is no longer required to acquire a thorough knowledge of Philippine political life or to participate in it.

    Binary nationalism

    Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), those temporarily working in the Middle East and other countries, constitute only one group within the overseas Filipino community. Among those who reside and work permanently abroad, there are Filipinos who have integrated themselves in the countries they live in and who have acquired the citizenship of their adopted countries.

    Among them are those who Sorbonne French Prof. David Camroux described as those with “binary nationalism” which he defined as “a double mirrored identity in which a sense of one identity is contingent on a sense of the other, leading to dual – and indeed multiple – senses of non-exclusive loyalties”.

    In his essay, The Philippine State and the Filipino Diaspora, Camroux asked: “Does a dual citizenship Filipino-American, for example, feel a sense of dual loyalties and allegiances, a kind of dual nationalism, concomitant with his/her dual citizenship?” Dual nationalism is like loving a mother and a father equally without deciding which love is greater than the other.

    Filipino Americans expressed this “binary nationalism” when they assumed the lead in mobilizing the global Filipino community to protest China’s encroachment in the Spratly Islands in 2011 with simultaneous rallies and demonstrations in front of China’s consular offices in North America and in Europe on July 5, 2011. This simultaneous protest action was repeated on May 11, 2012 after China invaded the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal (

    The Summit’s goal of “Diaspora to Development” (D2D) envisions overseas Filipinos contributing to the welfare and development of the Philippines. But, and this should be asked by the Summit delegates, what about the Philippines contributing to the welfare of Filipinos in the Diaspora?

    India provides the Philippines with a role model for how to engage its Diaspora. In May of 2004, a cabinet-level department was created, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), which its website describes as “dedicated to the multitude of Indian Nationals settled abroad.” It seeks to “connect the Indian Diaspora community with its motherland” by providing information, partnerships and facilitations for all matters related to Overseas Indians.”

    The MOIA established the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) in the 43 Indian Missions across the world in countries that have a significant overseas Indian population. This ICWF is “aimed at providing ‘on site’ welfare services on a means tested basis in the most deserving cases including: (i) Boarding and lodging for distressed overseas Indian workers in Household/ domestic sectors and unskilled labourers; (ii) Extending emergency medical care to the overseas Indians in need; (iii) Providing air passage to stranded overseas Indians in need; (iv) Providing initial legal assistance to the overseas Indians in deserving cases, (v) Expenditure on incidentals and for airlifting the mortal remains to India or local cremation/burial of the deceased overseas Indian in such cases where a sponsor is unable or unwilling to do so as per the contract and the family is unable to meet the cost.”

    The MOIA focuses on “developing networks with and amongst Overseas Indians with the intent of building partnership with the Diaspora.” It aims to “engage with the Diaspora in a sustainable and mutually rewarding manner across the economic, social and cultural space.”

    In the program of the 2nd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora, the issue of what can be done to help Filipinos in the Diaspora is covered in only one workshop – Global Legal Assistance – to be led by the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FILDEF) which provides free legal defense to Filipinos in the US facing criminal prosecution (notably a teenager in Texas facing the death penalty) and deportation. That’s it.

    Will there be any discussion about how the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) undermined overseas Filipinos by disenfranchising 238,455 OFW voters by a resolution passed in December of 2012? What about the clamor for Pres. Aquino to appoint an overseas Filipino to the Comelec to protect and advance the interests of Overseas Filipinos?

    Every departing OFW contributes $25 to a trust fund set up by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), an adjunct of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) which is mandated to provide programs and welfare services to OFWs and their dependents. This trust fund has now reached P14.8 B, including assets and investments.

    According to John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, this OWWA fund only covers those who are still legally working abroad who pay into the fund. Monterona’s group is advocating for OFWs to have lifetime membership in the OWWA Fund which “must serve the needs of OFWs — whether documented or not, whether with or without contract — and their families as well, through concrete services and benefits including medical assistance, burial, repatriation, social security, pensions and other welfare essentials.” Will the Global Summit advocate for these OFWs?

  5. #15
    ^^^ (Cont'd )

    Global Filipino diaspora council

    While it is understandable that the CFO cannot stake out political positions or criticize co-governmental entities like the Comelec and OWWA, this limitation does not apply to the Summit delegates who can advocate Filipinos in the Diaspora.

    An offshoot of the First Global Summit was the formation of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) which plans to organize overseas Filipinos in all the continents into a potent group advocating for the interests of overseas Filipinos. The first regional summit was held in Rome, Italy in September 2012 attended by Filipinos from virtually every country in Europe, resulting in the formation of the European Network of Filipino Diaspora (ENFiD). The next regional summit will be held in Dubai in 2014 to organize Diasporic Filipinos in the Middle East And Africa. Other continents will follow in the future.

    India views its Diaspora community as a ’bridge’ to access knowledge, expertise, resources and markets for the development of the country of origin. “The success of this bridge is often predicated upon two conditions: the ability of the Diaspora to develop and project a coherent, intrinsically motivated and progressive identity and the capacity of the home country to establish conditions and institutions for sustainable, symbiotic and mutually rewarding engagement.

    Diaspora to Development (D2D) is the goal of this Summit but the CFO should also look towards forging a “symbiotic” engagement with the Filipino Diaspora - ”Development to Diaspora” (D2D). These should be the “mutually rewarding” twin goals of the Global Summit in the future.

    Perhaps the Commission on Filipinos Overseas can be elevated to be the Department of Overseas Filipino Affairs following the mission of the MOIA as stated below.

    “The emergence of significant Diasporas has in recent years brought into sharp focus two key facts. First, there is a large expatriate population of skilled people from emerging economies in the developed world. Second, overseas communities can constitute a significant resource for the development of the countries of origin. The movement of the high skilled and low skilled workers from less to more developed economies and back opens several new opportunities for development. To view the Diaspora only through the looking glass of remittances and financial flows is to take a myopic view. Not all expatriates need to be investors and their development impact measured only in terms of financial contributions to the home country.

    An overseas community can and does serve as an important ‘bridge’ to access knowledge, expertise, resources and markets for the development of the country of origin. The success of this bridge is often predicated upon two conditions: the ability of the Diaspora to develop and project a coherent, intrinsically motivated and progressive identity and the capacity of the home country to establish conditions and institutions for sustainable, symbiotic and mutually rewarding engagement. Home countries are now beginning to recognise the need to pursue and promote the dynamic of the Diaspora and development.

    Inidan Community

    The overseas Indian community thus constitutes a diverse, heterogeneous and eclectic global community representing different regions, languages, cultures and faiths. The common thread that binds them together is the idea of India and its intrinsic values. Overseas Indians comprise People of Indian Origin and Non Resident Indians and today are amongst the best educated and successful communities in the world. In every part of the world the overseas Indian community is recognised and respected for its hard work, discipline, non-interference and for successfully integrating with the local community.

    Overseas Indians have made significant contributions to the economy of the country of residence and have added in considerable measure to knowledge and innovation. Overseas Indians share a strong bond with their country of origin. This is reflected in their language, cultures and traditions that have been maintained, often over centuries, and continue to be vibrant and unique. It is now being witnessed in the growing popularity of Indian films, dance, music, arts and culture on foreign shores, the strong surge in remittances back home, the return of many to live and work in India and in their increasing engagement with India’s development. The relationship between India and its overseas community is growing, new partnerships evolving and newer multi-faceted dimensions being explored.

    India’s engagement with its Diaspora is symbiotic, the strands of both sides of the relationship equally important to create a resilient and robust bond. To engage with the Diaspora in a sustainable and mutually rewarding manner across the economic, social and cultural space is at the heart of the policy of the Ministry. To create conditions, partnerships and institutions that will best enable India to connect with its Diaspora comprehensively is central to all our programmes and activities.

    As a new India seeks to become a global player of significance, the time has come for a strong and sustained engagement between India and overseas Indians. The time has also come for overseas Indians to benefit from the exciting opportunities that India provides. The time is now.”

  6. #16
    Comelec’s disenfranchisement of 245,000 overseas voters angers global Filipinos

    By Ted Laguatan

    2:35 pm | Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

    At the recently concluded Second Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora, a major conference of Filipinos overseas held at Makati’s Dusit Hotel, attendees expressed frustration and anger at the summary decision by Comelec to remove the names of some 245,000 Filipinos overseas from its qualified voters list.

    Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez stated that under Republic Act 4630 Section 19, “failure to vote in two successive elections is grounds for disqualification from the Comelec Voters List.”

    He added: “There appears to be no cogent or compelling reason not to apply the law.” To many, Jimenez’ statement displayed Comelec officials lack of sensitivity to the situations of Filipinos overseas and disregard for their voting rights.

    Here are nine reasons that are not only cogent, but are also compelling enough as to why the 245,000 Filipinos overseas voters (OVs) should not be disenfranchised:

    1. The aggregate contributions of OVs keep the economy of the Philippines afloat. The country owes them much.

    2. Without their sacrifices in going to distant foreign lands and cultures, family separation, loneliness, extreme weathers braving, harsh immigration laws, etc., millions in the Philippines would not have adequate food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care.

    3. By having registered to vote, OVs show their willingness to participate in the Philippine democratic process of electing leaders.

    4. The best voters are OVs. Warlord dynasty politicians cannot buy their votes nor coerce them. Thus they will independently vote for the most honest and competent candidates, leading to a better quality of governance which the Philippines desperately needs.

    5. It takes a lot of effort to reach Filipinos overseas to register as they are so busy working aside from the fact that thousands live and work far away from the nearest Philippine Consulate. Civic minded Filipinos, consulate officials and the Comelec itself – went to great efforts to enable them to register. Now, with a snap of their fingers, some Comelec officials remove 245,000 of them from the voters list. This does not make sense.

    6. The inadequate method used by Comelec to warn OVs that they will be removed from the voters’ list if they don’t indicate that they will vote in the next elections does not effectively give notice. They had this announcement published in two Philippine newspapers. How probable is it that OVs working in faraway foreign lands or working as seamen in ships – will get this message? Hardly at all. As a result, only 29 OVs complied.

    7. Philippine lawyers affirm to me that while Congress gave Comelec the power to remove voters from the voters list, it also has the power not to remove them. There are no legal impediments for the Comelec to not remove OVs from the voters list if the Commissioners choose that option.

    Congress gave them this discretionary power to enable them to use their common sense to make intelligent decisions based on the given facts. Preserving the voting rights of OVs who contribute much to the country compels Comelec not to remove them from the voters’ list.

    (Having acquired my law degree in the US and practicing American law, I need to rely on Philippine lawyers to give me the above information.)

    8. The Comelec has repeatedly announced that it is aggressively pursuing more voter registration for overseas Filipinos. Why then go against this supposed goal by dropping thousands of already registered OVs? Why waste considerable amounts of money getting them to again register in the future?

    9. Common sense, fairness, democratic principles, respect for citizens’ rights to vote, an understanding of the difficult physical locations and work situations of OVs, a recognition of the service and sacrifices of OVs to the country, the general interest of the citizenry and the Philippines – and for other unstated reasons – all these – compel the Comelec not to remove 245,000 OVs from the voters’ list.

    I could think of additional reasons aside from these nine but they should be enough to show that Comelec’s inability of not being able to come up with one single intelligent reason why they should not remove thousands of OVs from its voters’ list – shows the quality or more accurately, the lack of it – in Comelec’s policy and decision making process. It shows terrible insensitivity and disregard for the voting rights and concerns of hundreds of thousands of overseas voters who contribute enormously to the country’s welfare.

    Comelec’s announcement through its spokesperson that they could not find one single intelligent reason why they should not remove 245,000 OVs from its voters list is not so much an insult to the intelligence of Filipinos but may be an insult to the collective intelligence and decision making process of the Comelec itself.

    Some Comelec Commissioners may have been in good faith in carrying out this decision with some mistakenly believing that the law absolutely compels them to remove voters who are not able to vote consecutively twice in a row, which is not the case. Their discretionary powers allow them wide latitude.

    Comelec and other institutions or individuals should not be bound to carry out bad decisions when a mistake is made. We all make mistakes especially when we have wrong or incomplete facts. We should be humble enough to recognize our mistakes when we make them – and correct them.

    Here, Comelec made a serious mistake when it summarily removed 245,000 OVs from its voters’ list. The commissioners should reverse themselves and restore the names that were removed, as it is the right thing to do for the good of all and the country.

  7. #17
    SC upholds with finality Migrant Workers Act

    By Edu Punay

    (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 6, 2013 - 12:00am

    MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed with finality questions on the legality of several provisions of Republic Act 8042, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

    In a resolution released yesterday, the SC upheld its decision last Dec. 17 reversing a ruling of the Manila Regional Trial Court declaring sections 6, 7, 9 and the last sentence of the second paragraph of Section 10 of R.A. 8042 invalid.

    The SC dismissed the partial motion for reconsideration of the government.

    “The Court resolved to deny with finality the motion for partial reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General for the petitioners as the basic issues raised therein have been passed upon by this Court and no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision,” read the SC decision.

    Section 6 of R.A. 8042 defines the crime of “illegal recruitment” and enumerates the acts constituting the same. Section 7 provides penalties for the prohibited acts.

    Section 9 allowed the filing of criminal actions arising from illegal recruitment before the RTC of the province or city where the offense was committed, or where the offended party actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense.

    Finally, the last sentence of the second paragraph of Section 10 holds the corporate directors, officers, and partners of recruitment and placement agencies jointly and solidarily liable for money claims and damages that may be adjudged against the agencies.

    The SC stood by its earlier finding that “illegal recruitment” as defined in Section 6 of RA 8042 is clear and unambiguous.

    The SC saw nothing unconstitutional with Section 9 of RA 8042, allowing offended parties to file the criminal case in their place of residence in addition to the place where the crime is committed.

    It held that the fixing of an alternative venue for violations of Section 6 of RA 8042 different from the venues set in the Rules of Criminal Procedure is “consistent with the law’s declared policy of providing a criminal justice system to protect and serve the best interest of the victims of illegal recruitment.”

    As to the last sentence of the second paragraph of Section 10, the SC said the “liability of corporate directors and officers is not automatic.

    To make them jointly and solidarily liable with their company, there must be a finding that they were remiss in directing the affairs of that company.”

  8. #18
    Widespread Philippine indifference towards overseas Filipinos

    By Rodel Rodis

    6:47 pm | Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

    MANILA – Delegates attending the 2nd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora held in Makati on Feb. 25-27 expressed great alarm at the widespread indifference of many Filipinos in the Philippines towards overseas Filipinos and a general ignorance of their conditions. How is it possible that just when the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) released figures showing record remittances by overseas Filipinos, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced the delisting of 238,455 overseas Filipino voters?

    While the Comelec’s December 14, 2012 resolution disenfranchising more than a quarter of all eligible overseas Filipino voters drew howls of protest from overseas Filipinos, the issue barely registered a ripple in the Philippine press.

    To be fair, not all local commentators exhibited this general indifference and ignorance. Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban was unabashed in his appreciation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

    “Our OFWs toil diligently in foreign shores, braving loneliness, illness, family separation and extreme weather. In the process, they collectively remitted last year a total of $21.4 billion, up 6.3 percent from the $20.1 billion sent in 2011. They are the single biggest source of foreign currency for our country. Their relatives here used these remittances to buy homes, appliances, motor vehicles, food items, clothing and toys, thereby keeping our vibrant economy the envy of the world.”

    But sadly, the Comelec commissioners proved to be the rule more than the exception in terms of its indifference to the aspirations of the estimated 12-15 million Filipinos who live and work outside the Philippines.

    Presidential disappointment

    Even Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III proved to be a disappointment when he declined to personally address the delegates at the Global Summit that was sponsored by his Commission of Filipinos Overseas (CFO). Greg Macabenta, former national chair of the National Federation of Filipino Associations in America (NaFFAA) lamented his absence in his column: “any indication of the importance of the conference, in the eyes of the President of the Philippines, may be gleaned from the fact that he has only sent a videotaped message to the delegates. One senses that this “Gathering of Heroes” is not important enough to merit his personal presence. Aquino also sent a recorded message for the first conference.”

    Comelec en banc session

    That was not the only disappointment. After the Philippine Congress finally approved the amended Overseas Voting Act (OVA) in the first week of February and sent the bill to Pres. Aquino for his signature, overseas Filipino convenors of the Summit requested Pres. Aquino to sign the OVA into law either at the Global Summit or during the week of the Summit to allow delegates to witness the signing of the bill that they had lobbied for since the greatly flawed Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) law was enacted in 2003.

    The OVA law carried an odious provision requiring overseas Filipinos who register to vote to sign an affidavit of intent to return back to the Philippines within three years or face incarceration of up to a year in jail. This provision discouraged overseas Filipinos – most of whom planned to live and work abroad for more than three years – from registering to vote.

    The resulting low registration turnout vindicated the self-fulfilling prophecy of the skeptics who predicted that overseas Filipinos were not interested in participating in Philippine politics. Despite this extreme disincentive, however, more than 350,000 overseas Filipinos registered to vote in the 2004 elections. But a lesser number registered for the 2007 and 2010 elections and only about 300,000 registered for the May 2013 elections bringing the total to less than 900,000 overseas vote

    New overseas voting act

    The approval of the new voting act with the removal of this voter-deterring provision was a source of great relief for advocates of suffrage for overseas Filipinos who wanted to be present when the president signs the new bill into law. But Malacañang Palace sent word that Pres. Aquino could not accommodate the request for them to attend the signing ceremony because he was too busy that week, perhaps campaigning for his Team PNoy senate slate. Did he not understand that a photo-op of him signing the OAV bill in front of overseas Pinoys would draw support for his slate from overseas Pinoys, like the 65% of them who voted for him in the May 2010 presidential elections?

    Perhaps Pres. Aquino should talk to one of his own Team PNoy senate candidates, Sen. Koko Pimentel, who announced in a press conference last month that he expects six million overseas voters to cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election following enactment of the Overseas Voting Act, which he sponsored in the Senate.

    Pimentel said that the Senate’s approval of the bill on February 5 “was a red-letter day for the over 13 million overseas Filipinos…Maybe not in this coming election in May, but once the OVA amendments take effect, overseas Filipinos may soon be able to register and vote using mail, whether postal or electronic, fax, and other secure online systems.”

    Pimentel added: “In 2016, when Filipinos come together as one nation to decide on the next administration, one of our biggest legacies to voters around the world is an OVA law that offers flexibility in terms of new technologies,” Pimentel said. Under the amended Overseas Voting Act, “the participation of overseas Filipinos in the election of national officials would be as easy as their turning on their computers and connecting to the Internet to register or to vote.”

    Former Filipinos?

    Global Summit delegates trooped to the Philippine Senate building on Feb. 28 to personally thank Sen. Pimentel and Sen. Loren Legarda for their support of the OVA bill. During a roundtable discussion about issues of concern to overseas Filipinos, Sen. Legarda encouraged “former Filipinos” to invest in the Philippines. At that point, I said “Senator, there is no such thing as a “former Filipino”. You can be a former Philippine citizen but never a “former Filipino”. Once a Filipino, always a Filipino.” Sen. Legarda readily agreed.

    While Sen. Legarda and Sen. Pimentel were meeting with the Summit delegates, another Team PNoy senate candidate, Cynthia Villar, was busy putting her foot in her mouth. When she was interviewed on TV by host Wennie Monsod, she was asked why she intervened in favor of nursing school diploma mills in 2005. Villar replied that she did so because she believes there is no need for Philippine nurses to graduate with Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees since they only want to become “room nurses” or caretakers anyway.

    The social networks of global Filipinos exploded with fury. Here is one comment, among thousands that were posted: “Telling your precious Pinay nurses that they don’t even need to have a BSN because they only want to work abroad as a room nurse and that they don’t really need to be good because they are only there to be a caretaker for others is utterly degrading and demeaning. And by the way, there’s no such thing as a “room nurse”. Operating room nurse, yes. Emergency room nurse, yes. But a room nurse? Seriously?”

    Villar should not underestimate the gravity of her gaffe and the influence of outraged Philippine nurses working abroad who remit billions of dollars of their salaries to their families in the Philippines. One word from them to their relatives and Villar’s hopes to succeed her husband in the Philippine senate will be dashed.

  9. #19
    ^^^ (Cont'd )

    Dismal alternatives

    Unpalatable as some of Aquino’s Senate candidates may be, the alternatives offered by the opposition UNA slate are even more dismal. One UNA candidate, Nancy Binay, has only held one job in 39 years – being the personal assistant of her father, Vice-President Jojo Binay. Another UNA candidate, Jack Enrile, son of Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, was questioned by Karen Davila on TV about his involvement in killing three people (his bodyguards were “over eager” in the first two and the third, movie actor Alfie Anido, committed suicide, he claims). And another candidate, JV Ejercito, son of convicted plunderer, former Pres. Joseph Estrada, is running a very public feud with his half-brother, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. He said he is pro-RH but voted anti-RH to please his mother.

    Despite the absence of inspiring candidates to vote for, representatives of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) still sought to get the Comelec to reconsider its decision to disenfranchise 238,455 overseas voters.

    At a scheduled meeting at the Comelec headquarters in Manila on March 1, GFDC delegates from the United Kingdom (Gene Alcantara) and Norway (Nitnit Hogelshom) explained the difficulties that overseas Filipinos encounter in having to travel all the way to the nearest Philippine consular office just to register and then to vote. Another explained that 250,000 Filipinos serving in maritime vessels around the world find it next to impossible to vote in the consulates they originally registered in.

    GFDC spokesman Ted Laguatan pointed out that the provision of the law Comelec relied on to delist the overseas voters was simply discretionary, not mandatory, as they may have believed. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. acknowledged that perhaps the Comelec may have been too hasty in its interpretation of the 2003 OAV law.

    Overseas voters re-enfranchised

    On March 5, the Comelec reconsidered its decision and voted unanimously to reinstate the 238,455 overseas Filipino voters it had ordered delisted in December.

    It was a major victory for the GFDC which was formed only in September of 2011 and which last year organized a European Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora attended by over 250 delegates from 29 European counties. The GFDC plans to hold a Summit of Filipinos in the Middle East and Africa in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on Oct. 15-18, 2014. Singapore is the projected site of the Diaspora Summit of Filipinos in Asia.set for 2016. Meanwhile, in February of 2015, the 3rd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora will return to Manila.

    Greg Macabenta reported in his Business World column that “the new organization has lined up a set of goals and programs that should have considerable impact on the country down the road. When that happens, perhaps the President of the Philippines will consider it fit to honor Global Filipinos with his personal presence.”

  10. #20
    US Immigration reform needed but compromise bill a tough sell for all

    By Emil Guillermo

    11:59 am | Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

    On my first visit to the Philippines, well after my father and uncle died, I met my aunt for the first time.

    She had me over for a family meal in her middle class home in the Manila suburbs.

    And because I was American, I was naturally served whisky.

    That was her view of Americanos.

    I looked at my aunt, and had a “there but for fortune” moment. When my father immigrated to the US, it was with a sense of youthful male bravado. He went with his brother, sister stayed home.

    What if my father stayed home?

    Then I would be a Filipino in the Philippines and have a totally different life.

    My father never petitioned for my aunt. Never had the money. And she never felt compelled to leave her home and her family in the Philippines.

    At least the option of family reunification was there.

    Now as we look at the new Immigration reform bill introduced by the so-called “Gang of 8,” we’ve got a compromise that’s typical of a compromise. You love it as much as you hate it. Do you pass it?

    The bill really changes the nature of how Filipinos have traditionally viewed immigration.

    Like other Asian Americans, immigration generally has been about the one’s individual betterment, but only as a means to better the entire family. Family unification has always been key.

    But that has resulted in long waits for visas, as long as two decades.

    Brothers and sisters could be petitioned for. As well as children, all of them.

    So in true compromise fashion, the new bill allows for an unlimited number of immediate family members to join an immigrant, eliminating backlogs.

    But before rejoicing the new V family visa, here’s what the bill will change.

    You won’t be able to petition brothers and sisters. Nor will you be able to petition for adult children over age 30. And if you are LGBT, forget it. There’s nothing in the provision for you.

    The family portions are the biggest concerns among Asian Americans. But just those changes, changes the nature of immigration.

    The goal used to be more humanistic. The Statue of Liberty’s inscription said it all:

    “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless…”

    Forget that. Lady Liberty’s not holding a torch shining a pathway to citizenship. She’s folding her arms and making you prove your worth. That’s modern immigration reform for you.

    If the new bill passes, there’s even a merit visa. Citizenship is going to be like applying to college.

    The real test of immigration shifts from the accommodation of one’s yearning to be free to your proving your value to America.

    What do you bring as an H1B STEM worker, as a temporary or agriculture worker? You’re a good person? We’ve got plenty of those.

    Remember the bill was primarily instigated to deal with illegal immigration, an estimated 11-12 million people. So the bill is tough. Ten year, 13, maybe 15 year waits will be normal if security triggers aren’t met. The triggers set the bar at a 90 percent apprehension rate at the border to allow for the provisions of the bill to kick in.

    Why so tough? Because no one wants you to confuse any of this with amnesty.

    You pay a fine (about $500), all back taxes, have no criminal record or of voting illegally, and then you start the path out of your TNT status and toward what will be known as the “Registered Provisional Immigrant.”

    An RPI from the RP? If you pass all the background checks. (Odd that the Senate seems to be for background checks for those here illegally, but not for people who may use guns illegally).

    There are some good parts of the bill.

    You get a break if you’re a lowly ag worker who qualifies for a new “Blue” card. Or if you were young when you entered the US and qualify under the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act will finally pass and it will extend to older dreamers where previously it was cut off at 29.

    Both Dreamers and blue card workers are eligible for green cards in five years.

    But the big winners here are the growers who need workers, as many as 400,000 estimated in California alone, and the tech workers who come in with H1B visas. The caps have been lifted and can now be as high as 180,000.

    The big losers may still be workers and small businesses who must submit to a faulty process known as E-Verify, a system prone to mistakes and could actually prevent people from working.

    If the bill passes, immigration will definitely be different, and if laws were as strict as this proposal 20, 30, 50 years ago, many of us would still be in the Philippines.

    There’s still a chance some of the bill could change for the better, especially on the family reunification issues.

    But there’s also the sense that with the Boston story developing, those who want to ditch the bill will have more political cover than ever to do so. And so much needed reform in a system may not be achieved.

    That’s how dysfunctional politics is in America, and I wonder if it has the effect of making people abroad all the more willing just to stay put.

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