Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fil-Ams No Political Clout?

(ABS-CBN, The Philippine Star, By Jose Katigbak) - Filipino-Americans account for more than half of the foreign exchange that the Philippines receives annually from its overseas workers but lack the political clout to match their economic muscle.

From a handful of Filipinos who first arrived to work in the sugarcane fields of Hawaii 100 years ago, the community has grown to some 2.5 million, most of them naturalized US citizens or permanent residents. In addition there are about 200,000 illegal Filipino workers.

Their overall remittances to the Philippines last year totaled about $6.6 billion.

However, only 16,339 have registered to vote in the May 14 elections, said consul general Domingo Nolasco of the embassy in Washington.

The majority of these absentee voters are green-card holders, as permanent residents are known, while some are illegal workers and the rest, dual citizens.

The dual citizenship law of 2003 allows Filipinos who have acquired foreign citizenship to re-acquire their original citizenship enabling them to vote.

But the vast majority of Filipino-Americans have not availed themselves of this option in the mistaken notion that it will jeopardize their US citizenship, Nolasco said.

Whether it's voting in Philippine elections or US elections, the Filipino voter leaves much to be desired.

According to the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA), there are an estimated 1.8 million Filipino-Americans of voting age in the US.

However only 594,000 voted in the 2004 US presidential elections.

NaFFAA aims to mobilize Filipinos who are US citizens to register and vote in the November 2008 elections and to encourage those who are not yet citizens to go through the naturalization process.

"To influence policymakers, we need to get into positions of power by using our votes to elect officials who represent our interests, or getting elected ourselves," said NaFFAA head Alma Kern said.

"Political empowerment is about being able to better the lives of people by influencing legislation through our voices and collective strength," Kern said.

American Peace Corps Volunteer Missing in the Philippines

( - Taking a walk in the hills of one of the most dangerous countries in the world has led to the disappearance of Julia Campbell, a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. She was last seen on April 8.

Reports said that Campbell, 40, planned to hike alone in the hills last Sunday just a mile from the town of Banaue, Ifugao province, in the mountainous northern Philippines. But when she failed to show up for appointments in the following days, Campbell's co-workers started to worry.

According to U.S. Embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop, local officials, Peace Corps security personnel and embassy staff are already in the area where the missing woman was last seen, about 160 miles north of Manila. They are busy talking with people who may have seen her. At least four teams from the Philippine National Police have been deployed in Ifugao province and were already combing the countryside.

Police operatives also checked various traveler inns and hotels in Banaue, crosschecking the registries in the hopes of getting a lead on Campbell's whereabouts.

The U.S. Embassy main office in Manila is offering an undisclosed monetary reward for anyone who can provide information on the exact status and location of the Peace Corps volunteer.

The almost picturesque province of Ifugao is famed for its mountainside rice terraces constructed by ancient northern Philippine tribesmen thousands of years ago. There are also acres of pine forests making the area a tourist haven and vacation spot for wealthy Manila residents during the sizzling summer months of April and May... full story

We Are Desperate

( - THE Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has reportedly launched an investigation after a letter published in the GDN stated that young Filipinos were making their way to Bahrain from Cyprus to work as housemaids. The letter, by B Lady, published in March 26 said that a business associate noticed that the Larnaca Airport in Cyprus was "full of young Filipino girls" hoping to find jobs in Bahrain.

Filipino Ambassador Eduardo Maglaya confirmed that a notice was sent to the DFA in Manila shortly after reading the letter.

However, he called reports made by newspapers in the Philippines and another English newspaper in Bahrain inaccurate after they quoted him saying that these illegal activities were definitely happening.

The fact that Cyprus was the country mentioned in the letter brought on some doubts, said the ambassador.

"Filipinos require visas to enter Cyprus and the country has very strict policies.

"I have heard that workers are being brought to Bahrain by other means, such as through Dubai or another GCC country, but not Cyprus until recently."

Mr Maglaya said that investigations are also being made over allegations that Filipinos are being brought to Bahrain as skilled workers but upon arrival are forced to work as housemaids.

"We have heard reports that Filipinos are being brought to Bahrain to work as seamstresses, master cutters and other factory workers - and end up working as maids."

Embassy assistance-to-nationals in-charge and consular attaché Ramon Nerida said that the notice sent to the DFA was sent to officially inform authorities there about the claims made by the GDN reader.

"Of course the embassy would like to know if this is true, as of now, we still do not know if it is but an investigation is underway," he said.

"Unfortunately, the notice was probably picked up by newspapers in the Philippines and another English newspaper in Bahrain copied these reports."

Embassy officials said that they have concerns over the possibility that more workers would be brought to Bahrain through "illegal channels" after their country's government imposed the new minimum wage of $400 (BD151) for all Filipino housemaids late last year... full story here

The Day Stops In The Philippines

(The New York Times) - Manny Pacquiao, a championship super featherweight boxer, is largely known as a uniting force in his native Philippines. When he fights, it has been said, the streets clear, crime drops and people gather around their televisions.

But when Pacquiao recently announced that he would run for a congressional seat in the district where he grew up, the move caused ambivalence: Many people, including fans, have questioned the decision. Pacquiao, 28, received his high school equivalency diploma this year in the Philippines, and some wonder what he would bring to office.

"We've already noticed how many of his fans are against his decision to run," said Earl Parreno, a political analyst at the Manila-based Institute for Popular Democracy. "I think he will lose, because while he is popular, he cannot provide an answer to the one thing that most Filipino voters demand from their candidates: What's in it for us?"

In the ring, Pacquiao faces a more immediate obstacle. He will put his World Boxing Council international super featherweight title on the line tonight in San Antonio against Jorge Solis. The fight will be televised on a pay-per-view basis.

The combination of the fight and the impending May 14 election have created controversy in the Philippines. A lawyer for the political party of Pacquiao's opponent, the incumbent, Darlene Antonino-Custodio, recently petitioned to stop the fight from being televised in the Philippines, citing election laws meant to prevent a candidate from having an unfair publicity advantage.

Filipino fight fans opposed the move, and the election commission ruled the bout could be televised. But the commission stipulated that Pacquiao could not discuss politics during television promotions for the fight.

Still, he has found a way to get his political message out. He is doing it through his promoter, Bob Arum, who said he planned to visit the Philippines to help the campaign and said he would distribute political posters and buttons before the fight.

They have their work cut out for them. Among the criticism of Pacquiao's decision to run for office is a chain e-mail message written by Kristine Rose, a 19-year-old student at the University of the Philippines.

"He is that generous man who shares his blessings to others," the e-mail message read. "But does it mean that he could also be a successful politician? Will he be a uniting agent amid all the contradictions that occur in this country? Or does he even know what he has gone into?" ...full story here