Go calls for transparency in Kuwaiti gov’t probe on death of Filipina worker

Robie de Guzman   •   January 3, 2020   •   367

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has called on Kuwaiti authorities to be transparent with their investigation into the death of another Filipina household worker.

The victim, Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende, allegedly died at the hands of her Kuwaiti employer.

In a radio interview on Thursday, Go condemned Villavende’s brutal killing and called on Kuwaiti authorities to make sure that the perpetrators in Villavende’s case will be punished according to the fullest extent of their laws.

“Kinokondena ko ‘yung pagpatay kay Jeanelyn at despite the May 2018 agreement between the Philippines and Kuwaiti government, there are still reports of violence and abuses committed against our fellow Filipinos in Kuwait,” he said.

“Masakit na iniiwan ng mga kababayan natin ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay upang makapagtrabaho lang sa mga malalayong lugar at mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang kanilang pamilya. Mas masakit malaman na sa kabila ng kanilang sakripisyo, sila ay patuloy na naaabuso at minsan namamatay pa,” he added.

The senator also expressed his sympathy for the family of the victim as he vowed to provide assistance for them, particularly for the medical needs of Villavende’s father, with the help of the Malasakit Center.

“Nakikiramay ako sa mga naulila ni Jeanelyn. Asahan na kaisa ninyo ako sa paghanap ng agarang hustisya sa pagkamatay ng inyong mahal sa buhay.”

Go also called on concerned government agencies to coordinate in regard to the immediate repatriation of the slain OFW.

“Kailangang masigurado din na maibigay ng gobyerno at maging ng private insurance company ang lahat ng mga benepisyo para sa mga naulila ni Jeanelyn, katulad ng livelihood assistance, death and burial assistance, scholarship sa naiwang kapamilya at iba pa,” he added.

Citing Villavende’s case, Go underscored the need for a separate department to deal with all overseas Filipino workers’ concerns.

In July 2018, he filed Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.

The proposed measure aims to establish a Department of Overseas Filipinos to serve as the umbrella agency to specifically address all the issues and concerns of Filipinos abroad and their families, to afford them full protection, promote their full and just employment, mitigate the social costs back home, and serve as a channel to address OFW issues and grievances.

The measure further creates an Overseas Filipinos Assistance Fund to provide financial support to Filipino migrants in distress, inclusive of repatriation and provisions for life-saving funds in times of great emergency or distress, and provides training and livelihood loans for OFWs returning to the Philippines for good.

The bill also mandates the creation of “OFW Malasakit Centers” in all provinces and major cities to ensure prompt and efficient provision of services to OFWs and their families, such as acquisition of government permits, validation of overseas job offers, grievance and complaints desks and reintegration services.

Under current laws, OFWs need to go to different government agencies scattered in several departments and offices to secure their needed documents and present their other concerns, such as employment and technical education.

If passed into law, the measure is seen to help in curbing issues and inconveniences experienced by Filipino migrant workers and will also provide better protection for them.

Go pushes gov’t aid for live events workers amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   June 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has called on the government to also provide support for displaced workers heavily affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, especially those in industries that cannot resume operations due to social distancing and community quarantine measures.

In a statement in Tuesday, Go said workers engaged in live events, entertainment industry, as well as those engaged in businesses that cannot operate at this time, must be given utmost attention by the government.

“Dahil sa COVID-19, may mga industriya talagang hindi makapag-operate ngayon. Bawal ang pagtitipon kaya tulad nung mga nasa live events organizing, kailangan maghanap ng ibang pagkakakitaan,” he said.

“Bukod pa diyan, ang mga tao sa entertainment industry ay apektado rin po, lalong lalo na ‘yung ordinaryong manggagawa tulad nung parte ng mga production crew bilang halimbawa. Ito po ‘yung mga kababayan nating bumubuhay sa industriya ng sining na ngayon ay hirap makabalik sa kabuhayan nila,” he added.

The live events industry consists of events, like meetings, conferencing, exhibitions, concerts involving international and local artists, theatrical productions, corporate, social, cultural, fashion, sporting, and club events, weddings and family celebrations, trade fairs and exhibits, and on-ground activation and sampling activities.

“Tulungan nating mapagaan ang pinapasan ng mga nasa ganitong uri ng industriya. Wala pong dapat mapabayaan sa panahon ngayon,” Go added.

The senator also expressed hope that once the health situation improves and the spread of COVID-19 is under control, more provinces and cities under modified general community quarantine can provide guidelines for these industries to resume operations in accordance with health protocols.

Go, former long-time aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, also urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Labor and Employment, and other concerned agencies to look into the situation of and provide assistance programs for the displaced workers.

He also suggested events businesses to avail of emergency loans and financing program for micro, small and medium enterprises.

The DTI is presently implementing COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program under the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) program, which aims to help enterprises stabilize or recover from losses due to the health crisis.

The National Live Events Coalition (NLEC) recently appealed for government assistance for their members, highlighting that the live events industry, comprised of businesses and industry professionals, institutions, agencies, technical and staging providers, concert and festival producers, wedding and social events planners, venues, performers and freelance production workforce, have faced lost opportunities and revenues due to COVID-19.

Live events organizing is a multi-billion industry that provides employment to several thousands. The NLEC said the industry is composed of 30,000 MSMEs.

Some MSMEs related to the industry may have to close down or operate only at 10% capacity.

Although the live events industry is not specified in the latest Senate version of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, Go is urging the administration’s economic managers to look into the matter and explore more opportunities for the government to extend help to this sector in these trying times.

“May mga provisions sa Senate version ng Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) para sa mga subsidies, loan programs at iba pang social assistance na pwedeng makatulong sa mga empleyado ng ganitong industriya,” Go said.

Go renews push for OFW department amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Friday reiterated his call for the establishment of the proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) amid challenges posed by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to migrant workers.

In a statement, Go said that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the world economy, resulting in significant losses of jobs for Filipinos abroad.

Go has been pushing for the creation of a department that will manage the welfare and address concerns of OFWs.

“Noon pa lamang ay marami nang mga issues ang kinakaharap ng ating mga kababayang nagtatrabaho abroad. Ang paglipat-lipat ng ahensya ay naging pabigat na proseso sa kanila mula sa pagkuha ng kanilang mga permit, hanggang sa pagbigay ng tulong para maresolba ang mga problemang hinaharap nila sa ibang bansa,” he said.

“Mas lumala pa ngayon dahil sa hirap na dulot ng COVID-19 crisis. Kung mayroon pong DOFWs, mas mapapadali sana ang koordinasyon ng mga ahensya at may iisang departamento na tututok sa mga pangangailangan nila,” he added.

Go filed a bill seeking for the establishment of OFW department in 2019. The House of Representatives has passed its version in March this year while its Senate counterpart remains pending in the committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

His proposed Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019 proposes to put government agencies dealing with OFW affairs under one umbrella.

The measure also aims to address perennial issues, such as the need to ease the coordination among offices concerned with OFW affairs; immediate legal assistance to OFWs in distress; lack of full migration cycle approach in promoting migrant’s rights from pre-employment, onsite and reintegration services; and lack of shared database system that contains all information of all OFWs to aid in tracking their status and fast track delivery of assistance to distressed workers.

Currently, services and information about OFWs are scattered throughout several offices.

“Madaming dinadaanan pang iba’t ibang ahensya bago makaresponde ang gobyerno sa mga OFWs na humihingi ng saklolo. Iba-iba ang concern, iba-iba ang kailangang lapitan pa mula DFA, OWWA, MARINA, at iba pa,” Go said.

“Nalilito ang ating mga OFWs sa pangkasalukuyang sitwasyon. Sa oras na kailangan nila ng saklolo, hindi na nila alam sino dapat lapitan kaya sa media o Facebook sila nananawagan,” he added.

If a department for OFWs will be created, Go said this will make government more efficient and responsive to the concerns of Filipinos abroad.

“If mayroon na tayong department for OFWs, iisa na lang ang lalapitan at iisa na lang ang makikipag-coordinate na departamento. Magiging mas maayos ang pagresponde sa mga krisis at mas mabilis nating matutulungan ang ating mga kababayang humihingi ng saklolo,” he stressed.

The lawmaker stressed that the challenges currently faced by OFWs and the difficulties experienced by the government in responding to their needs show the relevance of the proposal to establish a department with a sole mandate to handle the concerns of our “modern day heroes”.

“Nakita po natin ang mga pagsubok na pinagdaraanan ng ating mga OFWs dahil sa COVID-19. Napapanahon na talaga para magtatag tayo ng departamento upang mas maprotektahan ang kanilang kapakanan,” Go said.

OFWs displaced by the public health emergency have been repatriated to the country through flights facilitated by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Labor and Employment have extended assistance to qualified OFW beneficiaries under the government’s livelihood and other assistance programs.

The Maritime Industry Authority, for its part, is implementing its Seafarers Uwi Pamilya program where seafarers stranded in Metro Manila are assisted in going home to their families in the provinces, subject to quarantine and other health protocols.

Senator Bong Go, several Cabinet execs to go on quarantine after exposure to virus-infected solon

Robie de Guzman   •   March 26, 2020

FILE PHOTO: Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go | PVI/Cerilo Ebrano

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Bong Go and several members of the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte will undergo a self-quarantine after exposure to a congressman who recently tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement issued Wednesday, Go said they have initiated contact tracing, particularly those present during the meeting he attended last Saturday.

“Wala naman po akong nararamdamang sintomas ng sakit. But since protocol requires that those who were directly exposed to persons positive for COVID-19 need to undergo self-quarantine, I am left with no choice but to comply,” Go said.

ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap’s confirmation that he contracted the coronavirus disease only came days after getting tested on March 15.

He apologized to those whom he may have exposed to the virus when he attended some meetings while his test results were still pending.

The congressman revealed he led a meeting of the House Committee on Appropriations on March 10; he also attended a meeting in Malacañang on March 21, as well as the House of Representatives’ special session on March 23.

House lawmakers who were exposed to Yap during the special session have been placed under home quarantine.

Cabinet members who were physically present during the meeting in Malacañang last Saturday also decided to undergo self-quarantine.

These include Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who serves as the spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), will also undergo a self-quarantine due to second-level exposure.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, on the other hand, said he had no contact with Yap during the meeting, and that he was wearing a face mask and observed social distancing.

The officials assured they will continue to perform their tasks and attend meetings via teleconferencing to discuss matters relating to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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