Overseas Filipino workers call on Marcos for protection after abuse cases in Kuwait

Migrante International hosts a media forum with overseas Filipino workers in the Philippine capital, Manila, on Feb 10, 2023. (Migrante International)
Migrante International hosts a media forum with overseas Filipino workers in the Philippine capital, Manila, on Feb 10, 2023. (Migrante International)
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Updated 11 February 2023

Overseas Filipino workers call on Marcos for protection after abuse cases in Kuwait

Overseas Filipino workers call on Marcos for protection after abuse cases in Kuwait
  • More than 24,000 cases of violation and abuse of Filipino workers were reported in Kuwait in 2022
  • This week, the Philippine government halted the deployment of first-time workers to Kuwait

MANILA: Overseas Filipino workers called on the Philippine president on Friday to implement measures that would improve their safety and safeguard their rights and welfare in Kuwait after mounting reports of abuse, including murder.

More than 268,000 Filipinos, mostly women, live and work in Kuwait, where 35-year-old maid Jullebee Ranara was killed and her charred body found abandoned in a desert in late January.

The killing sent shockwaves across the Philippines, sparking calls for a deployment ban until a review of bilateral labor agreements. On Wednesday, the Philippine government halted the deployment of first-time workers to Kuwait, days after suspending the accreditation of new recruitment agencies in the Gulf country.

During Friday’s media forum in Manila, Migrante International presented a series of protection demands to the Philippine government and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., including the provision of immediate legal, medical and financial assistance to all distressed OFWs in shelters in Kuwait and Middle East, and support to their families.

HIGHLIGHTS

• More than 24,000 cases of violation and abuse of Filipino workers were reported in Kuwait in 2022.

• This week, the Philippine government halted the deployment of first-time workers to Kuwait.

The group is the main organization representing over 2 million overseas Filipino workers, whose remittance inflows account for about 9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

“The government must publicly release reports on the conditions of distressed OFWs in Kuwait and other Gulf states on the reported cases of rights violations and abuse, report on actions taken by the Philippine government, report on the status of cases and accountability,” Joanna Concepcion, Migrante International chairperson, said.

“(It must also) uphold the rights of OFWs pursuant to international labor standards and agreements and implement stronger protection, monitoring and enforcement mechanisms and policies that proactively uphold the rights of OFWs and effectively regulate recruitment and deployment industry.”

The media forum featured voices of Filipinos who joined online from Kuwait.

One of them, who identified herself as Ester from Surigao Del Sur province, has been working as a household helper for the past 10 months.

“Within those ten months, I have never had a day off. They also took my passport and civil ID. I only have five hours of rest,” she said. “I hope the president will look into the woes of Filipino domestic helpers here in Kuwait.”

Another Filipina, Analyn, was only waiting to be able to go home, but her employer had refused to return her to her recruitment agency until she paid back what had already been spent on bringing her to Kuwait.

“We don’t have a day off, we are overworked. My employer would even send me to another house to work,” she said. “My body is about to give up. I hope someone can help me.”

There were more than 24,000 cases of violation and abuse of Filipino workers in Kuwait in 2022 according to Philippine Department of Migrant Workers data — a significant increase from 6,500 such cases in 2016.

In 2018, the Philippines imposed a worker deployment ban to the Gulf country, after the body of Filipina domestic helper Joanna Daniela Demafelis was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment.

The ban was partially lifted that same year after the two countries signed a protection agreement for workers.

But it was again introduced in January 2020, after the 2019 killings of Filipina maid Constancia Lago Dayag and Jeanelyn Villavende, who was tortured to death by her employer.

The ban was lifted when Kuwaiti authorities charged Villavende’s employer with murder and sentenced her to hanging.

 

 


Indian startup goes viral with chief meme officer vacancy

Indian startup goes viral with chief meme officer vacancy
Updated 31 March 2023

Indian startup goes viral with chief meme officer vacancy

Indian startup goes viral with chief meme officer vacancy
  • StockGro started as a learning platform for millennials to become investment ready
  • Meme chief post has drawn more than 3,000 applications in past week

NEW DELHI: An Indian investment startup has been flooded with thousands of applications after its post to hire a chief meme officer went viral last week and turned into a meme itself.
The company, StockGro, was launched in Bangalore in 2020 as an experiential learning platform for millennials to become investment ready.
Its founder, Ajay Lakhotia, told Arab News that he wants to teach people how to invest because in Indian culture the focus is only on saving money rather than using it to gain profit.
“No one ever teaches us how to invest money, and there is a very large gap in our education system,” he said.
“If we want to build our nation, the money has to be rolled back through investment in different asset classes. I thought that this is something which is not just building a new startup, but also a nation-building exercise.”
Lakhotia, 41, began investing in stocks 20 years ago and noticed that most of his friends did not share his interest in finance.
As more than 65 percent of Indians are under 35, he decided to try to change perceptions surrounding investment and make it resonate with a younger, digital-savvy generation.
That is how StockGro came up with the idea to hire an officer responsible for memes — visual content, usually humorous, that goes viral on social media.
“Finance in people’s minds, when it comes to numbers, it’s not fun, it’s not exciting. That’s why we said, ‘Let’s break this whole monotony out there and let’s make it a little more fun. Let’s get someone who can add humor and satire to the whole finance sector,’” Lakhotia said.
“The new generation, their attention span is very small. If I throw 500-page literature at them, saying, ‘go read and start doing your options and futures trading,’ they will not do it. But if you make it bite-size content, if you make it fun for them, if you make it engaging for them, they will go after this.”
To the StockGro team’s surprise, the meme chief vacancy displayed on social media as an experiment has already drawn 3,000 applications, with candidates ranging from influencers to advertisers and college students.
All of the applicants, Lakhotia said, are “pretty much excited about this role.”
The successful applicant for the job, which comes with a monthly salary of $900, will be announced after the company runs a week-long test of shortlisted candidates’ skills.
“We will help them put out their memes, we will engage the audience and then we will know whose memes are working, whose concepts are working well, and accordingly we will move forward,” Lakhotia said.
If everything goes well, the company will venture into foreign markets, including the Middle East, where the demographics, especially in the Gulf region, are similar to those of India.
“The challenges are exactly the same,” Lakhotia said. “The market is very vibrant out there. The millennials actually are looking to invest in multiple asset classes and not just stocks, which is a very good time for us to enter these markets.
“That is what we are exploring, and we will probably be there in the next few quarters.”


Filipinos join hands to support Muslims during Ramadan

Filipinos join hands to support Muslims during Ramadan
Updated 31 March 2023

Filipinos join hands to support Muslims during Ramadan

Filipinos join hands to support Muslims during Ramadan
  • Muslims constitute roughly 5 percent of the predominantly Catholic population of the Philippines
  • Interfaith events during Ramadan are frequently organized by Muslims for non-Muslims and vice versa

MANILA: Throughout Ramadan, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups in the Philippines are pooling their resources to support the Muslim community in their fast and observance of the holy month.
Muslims constitute roughly 5 percent of the nearly 110 million, predominantly Catholic population of the Southeast Asian nation.
The minority communities live mostly on the island of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago in the country’s south, as well as in the central-western province of Palawan, and the capital, Manila.
As Ramadan began last week, interfaith events, especially iftars to break fasts, have been frequently organized by Muslims for non-Muslims and vice versa.
One such meeting was held in Manila on Thursday evening by Uniharmony Partners, a coalition of churches and faith organizations. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus celebrated the special time together.
“There are a lot of programs and activities ... for people of different faiths just to come together appreciate one another and enjoy each other’s culture,” Dr. Pablito Baybado, Uniharmony coordinator and theology professor at the University of Santo Tomas, told Arab News.
The programs include mutual support that Muslims extend to Christians and other groups during Christmas and other major holidays, and that is reciprocated when the Islamic fasting month arrives.
“During Ramadan, you have the Catholic Church through the Quiapo Church, and then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pulling together resources so that every Sunday we go to some communities or Muslim communities in Metro Manila like Culiat, Taguig and Quiapo and distribute food packs,” Baybado said.
“During this time of Ramadan, we are doing this because it’s a way of showing respect to one another.”
For Alvaro Centuria, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Ramadan, besides inspiring a sense of unity, also has a spiritual dimension.
“It is it is very important because it reminds us, Christians, to also do fasting too ... It’s scientifically as well as religiously necessary,” he said.
“The essence of a meeting like this is that we are able to show that religions can unite for good, religious people can unite and can be in fellowship with one another.”
For Kerem Sadik, a Muslim member of Uniharmony, inter-faith meetings and activities, especially during Ramadan, which is not only the month of fasting but also charity, are a chance to foster a more tolerant and inclusive future generation.
“We try to nurture new generations from the start, without giving them any chance to grow stereotypes from the beginning rather than breaking them later,” he told Arab News, hoping that the examples set would foster mutual understanding and support.
“Now that we are in Ramadan, non-Muslim friends are also helping us in raising donations and they are getting out from their own community to reach our Muslim friends at this time of the year,” Sadik said. “This is what we did by helping the church community during Christmas celebrations.”


West in decline, focus shifting in Middle East, and rise of China the major geopolitical changes this decade, FII Priority told

John Chipman, director-general and chief executive at the International Institute for Strategic Studies
John Chipman, director-general and chief executive at the International Institute for Strategic Studies
Updated 31 March 2023

West in decline, focus shifting in Middle East, and rise of China the major geopolitical changes this decade, FII Priority told

John Chipman, director-general and chief executive at the International Institute for Strategic Studies
  • John Chipman speaking at the conference about the major geopolitical shifts the world is facing in the near future

MIAMI: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine carries the same existential threat to Europe and the West’s security order as Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 did for the Middle East’s, an international relations expert told the FII Priority conference in Miami on Friday.

John Chipman, director-general and chief executive at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, was speaking at the conference about the major geopolitical shifts the world is facing in the near future.

He highlighted that, while the West recognized that Iraq’s invasion could have begun a domino effect in the region, the “strategically illiterate” response from its key players to the crisis in Ukraine was symptomatic of a slow decline in its geopolitical influence.

According to Chipman, the West should have taken some action in the years preceding the invasion — and definitely once the invasion had started — to put the fear of escalation into the mind of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“What (it) did was talk too much about NATO, and not about UN article 51, and for that (the West) lost the Global South,” he said. “What we should have said from the beginning was that this was a Russian war of recolonization — an imperialist adventure.”

As a result of the Ukraine war, Chipman said, the geopolitical center of gravity in Europe will shift toward its east and north, as signified by Thursday’s admission of Finland into NATO; and more broadly speaking, Russia would become a “hugely reduced power.”

A secondary geopolitical shift underway is the downgrading of the Middle East region on the US’s list of security priorities, Chipman told the conference.

“Maybe 10 years ago, in the US’s strategic calculus, the Middle East was number one on the list of priorities, with Asia number two and Europe a distant third,” he said. “Now it’s been reversed, with Europe number one, Asia co-equal and set to overtake Europe once the (Ukraine) war is over, and the Middle East now a distant third.”

This shift is not necessarily a bad thing, Chipman stated, and has led to what he called more “strategic self-determination,” especially for Gulf states, adding: “Gulf leaders now do not begin their morning meetings with the question ‘What will the US think if we do this?’”

Tensions in the region still exist, in large part due to Iran’s “main asset” of networks of influence and destabilization and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Chipman said should be the main focus of the rest of the world, considering most attention is paid to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and its ballistic-missile program.

Israel sliding toward becoming a “theocaratic state” also threatens regional stability, he said, adding: “Perhaps the signatories of the Abraham Accords will need to play a role, quietly, to persuade Israel to keep its secular qualities.”

In Asia, an increase in Japanese defense spending, which Chipman said makes it a more extrovert power on the global stage, shows its growing distrust of Russia, China and North Korea.

In addition, China’s rise has become so important that “no country in the world, however big or small, can afford not to have a China policy,” he concluded.


At least 9 killed in Pakistan Ramadan donation stampede

At least 9 killed in Pakistan Ramadan donation stampede
Updated 31 March 2023

At least 9 killed in Pakistan Ramadan donation stampede

At least 9 killed in Pakistan Ramadan donation stampede
  • Fida Janwari, a senior police officer, said the stampede happened when needy women with children flocked to a factory distributing alms
  • The bodies of six women and three children were brought to the Abbasi Shaheed state hospital

KARACHI: At least nine people were killed in a crowd crush in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi Friday as a Ramadan alms donation sparked a stampede in the inflation-hit nation, officials said.
Pakistan has been wracked by economic turmoil for months, with the rupee crumbling and staple food prices shooting up nearly 50 percent as the country battles a balance of payments crisis which has forced it into bail-out talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Fida Janwari, a senior police officer in western Karachi’s Baldia Town neighborhood, said the stampede happened when needy women with children flocked to a factory distributing alms.
“Panic struck and people started running,” he told AFP.
The bodies of six women and three children were brought to the Abbasi Shaheed state hospital, spokesman Muhammad Farraukh said.
An official for the Rescue NGO told AFP an additional two bodies were sent to another hospital in the city.
Asma Ahmed, 30, said her grandmother and niece were among the dead.
“We come every year to the factory for the Zakat,” she said, using the Islamic term for alms.
“They started beating the women with clubs and pushing them,” Ahmed added. “There was chaos everywhere.”
“Why did they call us if they couldn’t manage it?” she asked.
Janwari said three factory employees were arrested after failing to inform police of the donation event in order to organize crowd control.
Last week, on the first day of Ramadan — when Muslims traditionally make donations to the poor — one person was killed and eight others injured in a stampede for flour in northwestern Pakistan.
Pakistan’s finances have been hobbled by decades of financial mismanagement and political chaos. The situation has been exacerbated by the global energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and crippling monsoon floods last year which submerged a third of the country.
The South Asian nation — home to 220 million — is deep in debt and must enact tough tax reforms and push up utility prices if it hopes to unlock another tranche of a $6.5 billion IMF bail-out and avoid defaulting.

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Biden declines to comment on Trump indictment

Biden declines to comment on Trump indictment
Updated 31 March 2023

Biden declines to comment on Trump indictment

Biden declines to comment on Trump indictment
  • Biden deliberately did not answer several questions on the subject from journalists
  • The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat, confirmed that it had contacted Trump's lawyers Thursday to "coordinate his surrender"

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden declined on Friday to comment on the indictment a day earlier of his predecessor Donald Trump, who became the first former US leader to face criminal charges.
Biden, who was traveling to Mississippi for the day, deliberately did not answer several questions on the subject from journalists gathered to witness his departure from the White House.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat, confirmed that it had contacted Trump’s lawyers Thursday to “coordinate his surrender” — with the felony charges against him to be revealed at that point.
Trump, who is seen to be the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 election, slammed the indictment as “political persecution and election interference,” raging against prosecutors and his Democratic opponents.
He also vowed that it would backfire on Biden — who is set to run again to stay in the White House.
The impact of an indictment on Trump’s election chances is unpredictable, with critics and adversaries alike voicing concerns about the legal merits of the New York hush-money case.
Detractors worry that if Trump were cleared, it could make it easier to dismiss as a “witch hunt” any future indictment in arguably more serious affairs — such as Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.
The Manhattan charges will also likely juice turnout among Trump’s base, boosting his chances in the party primary.