Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal

by Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 02 2014 02:54 AM | Updated as of Jan 09 2014 12:21 AM

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal

With more than 10% of the Philippine population overseas, each year is bound to have good and bad or happy and sad stories about them. 2013 was no exception. The biggest story of the year was about how some Filipino women are taken advantage of by some officials who are supposed to protect them. Meantime, an exclusive story by ABS-CBN News about a Filipino woman's "horror" trip to the US went viral in October.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 1

Sex-for-flight scandal exposed


The probe continues on the controversial sex-for-flight scandal that rattled government, nongovernment organizations and other stakeholders as new witnesses came forward with their stories of abuse at the hands of people sworn to protect them.

Last December, new witnesses faced off with their alleged tormentors at a House of Representatives committee on OFW affairs hearing. The labor department issued a 4-month suspension order against a labor attache in Jordan involved in the controversy.

The issue prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the DOLE to impose measures to prevent similar cases from happening again.

Among the reforms instituted by the DOLE involve the Migrant Workers and Other Filipino Workers Resource Centers, also known as Bahay Kalinga. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) also suspended 4 recruitment agencies.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 2

Diplomatic tensions


The fates of many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) hung in the balance in 2013 after diplomatic controversies threatened their futures in their host countries.

In Taiwan, the death of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-chen, who was killed by personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard in disputed waters off Batanes last May 9, sparked anger and placed the lives and employment of thousands of Filipinos working there in danger.

The issue was only resolved after Taiwan accepted President Aquino's formal apology. Those involved in the shooting were also brought to justice.

Meantime, in Hong Kong, the government is still bent on exacting justice and reparation for the Manila bus hostage tragedy that killed 8 Hong Kong tourists and left 7 others wounded three years ago.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 3

Filipina drug mule executed in China


Despite repeated warnings by the government, there are still kababayans who end up as drug mules or couriers of illegal drugs.

Last July, a Filipina drug mule was executed in China. She was nabbed on January 25, 2011 at an international airport. Authorities found in her luggage 6.198 kilos of heroin.

Vice President Jejomar Binay was all set to go to China to personally deliver President Aquino's letter of appeal to Chinese President Xi Jingping, but the trip got cancelled.

But while the government continues to appeal to authorities on behalf of Filipinos on death row, one senator believes that their punishment would serve as warning to other would-be drug couriers.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 4

New beginnings for Dondon Lanuza


Rodelio 'Dondon' Lanuza has 13 years of catching up to do with his family and friends.

He was sentenced to death in 2001 for killing a Saudi Arabian man but he claimed self-defense.

Years of pleading to save his life--from government, non-government organizations and citizens--did not come to waste.

He was pardoned after paying the equivalent of P35 million to the victim's family. The money came from people's donations, contributions from the Philippine government, and from Saudi King, His Royal Highness King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, who shouldered the bulk of the remaining blood money.

There are, however, other OFWs languishing in jails in Saudi Arabia. Joselito Zapanta's time to raise the needed P44-million in blood money has run out. The deadline was set November 3, but his family and the Philippine government were only able to raise P6 million.

Despite this, Zapanta is still hopeful that he would be forgiven by the family of the Sudanese national he killed in 2009.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 5

Strife in Yemen


Overseas workers carry with them the burden of providing for their families back home when they leave for work abroad. While they worry about their families' socio-economic needs, those who work in countries undergoing armed conflict also have to worry about their own safety.

In Yemen, 7 Filipino medical workers were killed when terrorists attacked the Yemeni Defense Ministry Complex in Sana'a. Eleven other Pinoys were wounded in the attack. The OFWs were working in a hospital inside the complex. Even Filipinos deployed in peacekeeping missions weren't spared from threats. Filipino UN peacekeepers in Golan Heights were abducted on two occasions. The first set, composed of 21 Filipino peacekeepers, was taken in March, followed by a group of four last May. They were all eventually released after a few days. Last January, 8 overseas Filipino workers died in the hostage crisis at the Amenas Gas Complex in Algeria. Most died from gunshot and explosion wounds. The OFWs were employees of Japan Gas Corporation and the rest worked for British and French companies.
Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 6

Tragedies and accidents


Former beauty queen-turned-cowgirl, Melanie Marquez, figured in a vehicular accident last December after her truck slid on clear ice and fell into a canal near the Utah-Arizona border.

She sustained a fractured spine and sternum. Luckily, her son Adam, who was also in the vehicle when the accident happened, sustained only minor injuries.

In May, a group of 9 women were out partying when tragedy struck. The limousine they were riding caught fire along San Mateo Bridge in San Francisco Bay Area. Five of them died of smoke inhalation and four where left injured.

But the probe result concluded that the fire was accidental in nature.

The women were celebrating a friend's wedding. The bride was among those who perished in the accident.

Meanwhile, a Filipino family's tour of Beijing also turned into a nightmare when a car plowed into a crowd at Tiananmen Square. Among the victims was a Filipino family of four. The wife died, and husband and two daughters were hurt.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 7

Crackdown in Saudi


Undocumented Filipino workers are abandoning their dreams in Saudi Arabia after the government implemented a crackdown against illegal migrants working in the kingdom.

To allow illegal foreign workers to correct their status, the government of Saudi imposed a period of amnesty . The initial deadline was extended, giving undocumented workers more time to fix their legal status.

However, when the grace period ended on November 3, the Saudi Arabian government no longer gave an extension despite appeals from several governments of sending countries.

Thousands of undocumented foreign workers, including OFWs, have been deported from the Kingdom. Fearing arrest, hundreds of undocumented OFWs camped outside the consulate office in what they called the Tent City. The harsh weather, poor sanitation, lack of food and water made many of them sick.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that as of November 6, 4,587 undocumented Filipinos had been repatriated from Saudi Arabia. Over a thousand were still waiting for their exit visas, and around 450 were staying at temporary shelters.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 8

Horror trip to the US


The harrowing story of a 63-year-old Filipina at the hands of American immigration officers at the Seattle International Airport last October went viral.

The Pinay, who was traveling with complete valid documents, claimed she was harassed, insulted and deported by American immigration personnel.

She was interrogated for 6 hours without food and water.

Her experience generated a lot of reactions from Filipinos, especially on social media.

The family of the deported Pinay said they were not after punitive action but only wanted an apology for the ill-treatment Grande was subjected to.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 9

Giving back


When super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) struck central Philippines, among those who immediately responded were overseas Filipinos from all walks of life.

Filipino communities all over the world, and even those without ties to the devastated areas, united for a common cause: to extend help in whatever way they can to those affected by the calamity at the soonest possible time.

They organized relief missions and fund-raising activities. Many also supported those who had yet to hear from their relatives in typhoon-hit hometowns.

They likewise pushed for measures that would help Filipinos overseas whose home towns were destroyed by the typhoon.

They likewise pushed for measures that would help Filipinos overseas whose home towns were destroyed by the typhoon.

Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 10

Landmark cases


In Canada, a Filipina caregiver attained justice after her former employer was sentenced to one-and-a-half year jail term for human trafficking, employment of a foreign national without the proper papers, and misleading immigration officials.

The sentencing was a significant landmark in Canada as it set a precedent by being the first case of human trafficking conviction under the Immigration and Refugee Act.

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, progress was achieved in pushing for more protection for household service workers.

The agreement covers the recruitment, deployment and assistance for runaway workers, and those who want to go home can avail of various government programs for returning OFWs.

The President Aquino also signed in February 2013 Republic Act No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.

The government hopes to improve the standing of the Philippines in the US Department’s Global Trafficking in Persons Report with the new law.


Overseas Pinoys in 2013: Tensions, tragedies, and a scandal 11