Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Filipinos urged to declare race in UK census

LONDON - As the British government conducts a census for 2011, Filipinos in the country are being encouraged to participate and declare their ethnicity.

The Philippine Embassy in London, together with One Filipino and Philippine Generations, are campaigning for Filipinos in Britain to specify their racial heritage in the ethnicity section of the survey.
“We’re motivating Filipinos in the UK to fill up the census form,” said Rina Atienza from Philippine Generations. “We urge everyone to write either ‘British Filipino’ or just ‘Filipino’ under Other Asian in the ethnicity section. The point of that is to raise awareness of the size and spread of the community, so that we can officially make our presence known.”
“By participating in the census, British Filipinos can help shape their future and be proud of their contributions to an increasingly multicultural Britain. It will improve integration into society, and we can play our part alongside other ethnic communities. By making ourselves recognized, the government could consider us in future policies.”
Held every 10 years in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the UK Census is a national survey that records a snapshot of the population at the beginning of each decade since 1801.
It provides vital information that affects public services on education, health and transportation, as well as government policies on equality, employment, and immigration.
“It’s very important that we put accurate information in these forms,” said Jean Cerbas, a real estate representative from Westminster, and supporter of the campaign.
“Considering the number of Filipinos in the UK and the strong presence of Filipinos in every sector, I think it’s about time that we include the Filipino ethnicity in every application form.”
Zenaida de Leon, a businesswoman from Tottenham, also added: “I’ve written Filipino in the census because I’m proud to be a Filipino. It is important to be recognized in this country.”
The 2011 census will reach approximately 25 million households in the UK, including an estimated 250,000 Filipinos living across the country.
Everyone living in Britain at the time of the survey is strongly advised to participate. A fine may be applicable to those who fail to comply. Completed forms must be submitted online or through the post as soon as possible.

No final word yet on fate of 3 China OFWs

MANILA, Philippines – MalacaƱang on Tuesday said they are still hoping that the Chinese government will commute the sentences of 3 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) set to be executed by lethal injection on March 30 (Wednesday).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, they have yet to receive any final word from China regarding the Philippines’ appeal on the 3 OFWs on death row.
"Apparently, the Chinese embassy last night said that there is still no final word from Beijing," Lacierda told reporters.
Lacierda said the government has not lost hope of a possible commutation.
"Tayo po ay umaasa pa rin. Hoping that similar to the last instance na nangyari na, when we felt that all hope was lost, nag-decide ang China na mag-postpone ang execution,” he said.
It can be recalled that China deferred the execution of Sally Ordinario Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain for humanitarian considerations after the visit of Vice President Jejomar Binay to China. The 3 were supposed to be executed last month.
“But we are still hoping within the realization that we are limited by what we can do. So we will leave it up to the Chinese authorities but, again, while the execution has not been carried out, we will still hope," said Lacierda.
Lacierda said the government is doing its best to stop OFWs from being used as drug couriers.
“The thrust right now between China and the Philippines is to have greater coordination in terms of drug trafficking and that's important for us. Looking forward, we need to make sure that there will be no similar incidents," Lacierda.
MalacaƱang said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) need to remind OFWs to shun drug traffickers.
"It's also a question of discernment and I think this should be emphasized by our agencies-POEA, OWWA-na 'wag hayaan ang mga Filipino OCWs na maging drug mules or gamitin bilang mga drug mules and I think this is being emphasized right now by these agencies po. Mayroon ganoong instructions po na ginawa ang Pangulo to make sure that hindi na maulit itong ganitong problema natin," Lacierda said.
Furthermore, he vowed that the government will go after recruiters involved in drug trafficking.
“Again, siguro may makakalusot but 'yung mga makakalusot, sigurado po tayo na hahabulin po natin ang mga recruiter nila. By the way, just to also tell the recruiters, do not use our OCWs as drug traffickers because we will go after you. It's one of the things that we are very concerned with right now. We are concerned about human trafficking, we are concerned about drug trafficking and this administration will not countenance these illegal activities," Lacierda said

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Kin, groups ask China to spare lives of 3 Pinoys

MANILA, Philippines - Families and workers' groups called on China to spare the lives of 3 Filipinos scheduled for execution this month for alleged drug trafficking.

Edith Ordinario couldn't hold back her emotions as she held the picture of her daughter, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva.

Villanueva is among 3 Filipinos scheduled to be executed in China on March 30.

“Makikita mong nakangiti ang anak mo tapos bangkay na lang iuuwi mo,” Mrs. Ordinario tearfully said.

Mrs. Ordinario continues to stand by her daughter's innocence despite her daughter being convicted of drug trafficking charges in China.

“Ang sakit! Bibitayin ang anak mo ng wala siyang kasalanan! Ang dapat makulong 'yung mga bumiktima sa kanya, mga sindikato na yan!” she stressed.

Villanueva’ father, meanwhile, lashed out at the Department of Foreign Affairs for trying to hide them from the media.

"Alam nilang buhay ang pinag-uusapan. Sa kanila kaya mangyari ang ganyan at ako ang nasa pwesto nila," Villanueva’s father said.

Meanwhile, the family of Elizabeth Batain went to Vice President Jejomar Binay to seek his help.

Binay has already written to the Chinese government to ask for clemency for Filipinos on death row, citing humanitarian grounds and strong relations between the Philippines and China.

Binay again called on the Chinese government to spare the lives of the Filipinos.

Activist groups Akbayan and Migrante International also called on China to stop the executions.

"Sana naman ho the Chinese government will show mercy," Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said.

They say they respect Chinese laws, but the case of the 3 Filipinos must be studied further since they were victims of drug syndicates.

“Hindi naman hayop ang anak ko! Tao siya! Ang dapat lang kumuha sa kanya ay ang Panginoon, hindi tao,” Villanueva’s mother added.

On Thursday night, Migrante held a prayer vigil for the 3 Filipinos. Another vigil is also scheduled on Tuesday, a day before the scheduled execution.

Saudi stops hiring domestic workers--report

MANILA, Philippines - Saudi Arabia has stopped accepting domestic workers from the Philippines.

A source showed ABS-CBN a letter from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh which states that there would be no processing of household service workers until further notice.

According to an association of recruitment agencies, the notice has been posted at the embassy since March 3. However, the Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to confirm this.

“Nagpaparamdam na sila. Parang sinasabi nila hindi lang naman kayo ang source nito,” said Victor Fernandez, president of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI)

They suspected that this may have something to do with the increase in wages of Filipino workers from US$200 to US$400, and a report by the House of Representatives baring supposed abuses by Saudi nationals.

“Maso-solusyonan ito. I think it's only a question of discussing it, magka-paliwanagan,” said Vice President Jejomar Binay.

“'Yung description na nangyayari sa ating domestic workers ay talagang harsh doon sa ating report. Pero sa tingin namin, katotohanan 'yun,” said Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello.

Some 1.4 million OFWs are based in Saudi Arabia, the biggest number of Pinoy workers in the Middle East.

Filipino workers sue Carlton Cleaners

NEW YORK, NY – Dozens of Filipino migrant workers said to be employed at several locations of Carlton Cleaners in New York City claim to work below minimum wage and don’t even get overtime pay.

Guillermo Suarez and Ronaldo Pabello are among the workers who are suing their employer for allegedly violating the Minimum Wage Law and not paying them proper overtime wages

Suarez was hired as a delivery boy in January last year. He claims to work for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.

But when the owners sold their business last week, Suarez said he was among those terminated.

It was only after he sought the services of a New York lawyer Herbert Tan that he realized that his $5 dollars-an-hour pay was way below the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

“Ang habol ko lang magka-trabaho, so any way na makakuha ako ng trabaho, makakuha ako ng suweldo, masaya na ako. Hindi ako gaanong aware sa mga rights, like minimum wage,” Suarez said.

Meantime, Pabello said Carlton Cleaners owes him $168, 620.40 in back wages and unpaid overtime.

“Ang gusto ko lang mangyari, makuha ko yung tamang binabayad sa amin,” Pabello lamented.

In a lawsuit filed on Friday at the US District Court of New York, Atty. Herbert Tan said his clients want to have a trial by jury and are demanding overtime pay.

“If you’re working in the US, even if you’re here illegally, let me make that very clear… you are entitled to protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act, also under New York’s Labor Law,” Tan said.

Tan added that there were others who backed out from the lawsuit because they’re afraid of jeopardizing their legal status.

Balitang America visited a few Carlton Cleaners, but employees and supervisors declined to provide the owner’s contact information.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Mayweather set to fight Pacquiao - in court

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Unbeaten US boxer Floyd Mayweather will fight Filipino star Manny Pacquiao after all, although it will be a legal dispute after a federal judge denied a motion to dismiss the case on Monday.

Pacquiao filed a defamation lawsuit against Mayweather, among others, that US District Judge Larry Hicks ruled can proceed because there is sufficient evidence of malicious acts in accusing Pacquiao of being a dope cheat.

"The truth did not stop Mayweather and the others," Pacquiao's lawsuit contends. "That is because they are motivated by ill will, spite, malice, revenge and envy."

"Mayweather and the others set out on a course designed to destroy Pacquiao's career, reputation, honor and legacy and jeopardize his ability to earn the highest levels of compensation."

Pacquiao has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) but in the 2009 lawsuit he claims that Mayweather, his father Floyd Snr and uncle Roger, promoter Oscar de la Hoya and his employee, Richard Schaefer conducted a campaign in a set of interviews to make people think he used them.

"Defendants argue that Pacquiao has failed to sufficiently allege malice because defendants could not have known one way or the other whether Pacquiao had actually taken PEDs when they made the alleged defamatory statements," Hicks wrote in the order upholding the lawsuit.

"However, the court finds that Pacquiao has sufficiently pled malice in the amended complaint."

Unbeaten Mayweather and Pacquiao were in talks to stage a megafight between two of boxing's biggest stars but negotiations collapsed over demands by Mayweather that both fighters have blood and urine tests up to 14 days before the bout.

Pacquiao said he would feel weakened by blood tests within 24 days of the fight and would not agree to tests any closer to a bout.

Mayweather Promotions attorney Mark Tratos said he would continue to push for dismissal of the case, saying comments at the time were made about Pacquiao's hesitancy regarding blood tests and did not claim he was a dope cheat.

Pacquiao attorney Dan Petrocelli said his client's career would suffer major damage if fans believed he used banned substances.

"Manny has an unblemished reputation and has earned all of his achievements through hard work and his natural-born talent and to call him a cheater is something he cannot and will not tolerate," Petrocelli said.

"None of these defendants have had any evidence to back up the assertion that he has taken performance-enhancing drugs because he didn't."

Mayweather, 34, faces an April 25 trial date on a battery charge over an altercation with a security guard for his homeowners association, who claims Mayweather poked him during a November argument regarding cars parking outside Mayweather's home.

Mayweather also faces a court hearing on April 28 on domestic violence charges that could send the fighter to prison for up to 34 years in prison if convicted of all charges, which include felony counts of grand larceny, coercion and robbery.

Mayweather is accused of striking and threatening former girlfriend Josie Harris, stealing her mobile phone and threatening two of their children in an incident on September 9.

Boxing fans have hoped that Mayweather, 41-0 with 25 career knockouts, would fight Pacquiao but Mayweather's legal woes have put such talk on hold.

Pacquiao, 52-3 with two draws and 38 knockouts and a winner of 13 fights in a row in the past six years, is set to face 39-year-old US fighter Shane Mosley, 46-6 with one draw and 39 knockouts, on May 7 in Las Vegas.

Azkals vow to do better vs Palestine, Bangladesh

YANGON - Thousands of fans cheered for the host country Myanmar in its game against the Philippines.

Using their quickness on point passing and efficient offense, the Myanmar White Angels dominated the first half—recording seven goal attempts 25 minutes into the game.

Despite this, Myanmar went scoreless in the first half thanks to the heroics of Philippine Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

The Philippines appeared more aggressive on offense in the second half, sparked by the entry of Yanti Barsales.

In the 75th minute, Barsales was fouled hard in the penalty area by Myanmar’s goalkeeper, prompting officials to show a red card.

The foul also gave the Philippines a golden opportunity to score. James Younghusband took the penalty kick for the roughed up Barsales, who had to leave the game in a stretcher.

Younghusband scored on the penalty kick, giving the Philippines a 1-0 lead.

The Philippines seemed to have control of the game since taking the lead, but the slim lead was squandered when the Azkals’ Simon Greatwich was called for a foul in the final minute of extra time, thus opening the door for Myanmar to score via free kick.

“Very unfortunate. Personally, I don’t think it’s a foul but the team played well,” said Neil Etheridge.

The Philippines would have received three points for a 1-0 win. Instead, Philippines and Myanmar were both given a point each.

The Akzals promise to do better in their remaining games against Palestine on Wednesday, and Bangladesh on Friday.

The team needs six points to guarantee a spot in the AFC Challenge Cup in 2012, but the team has a chance to qualify even with 4 or 5 points.

'Adidas, balut' introduced in Arizona

PHOENIX, Arizona – Brian Webb did not only fall in love with his wife Margita when he went to the Philippines in 2009.

“I really like Filipino food. I’ve been a chef for 10 years and when I flew over to Mactan Island, I really fell in love with the food especially the barbeque and lumpia,” said Webb.

His wife Margarita said that right then and there, they thought of putting up a food business in the US. That plan was recently put in action. They started a small enterprise that sells Filipino street food.

These include grilled chicken feet in a skewer or in local speak, “adidas”; grilled chicken butt, chicken and pork barbeque, lumpia and the daring balut--fertilized duck egg, boiled with a nearly developed embryo inside the shell.

“One of the main reasons I chose to do a [food] truck is because I want to bring the street food to the streets. Also, Filipino food being unknown, I’m able to go to the customer and people are more willing to try the food that they wouldn’t have tried before,” Webb said.

They gave their business the name ‘Hey Joe,’ and the food truck has been in town for over a month. It has since gained a lot of attention.

“Some Americans, they come down, it’s like a challenge for them. They come down just for the balut,” Webb added.

The enterprising couple’s ultimate goal is for Philippine cuisine to get into the mainstream. They believe that by going around town in a mobile Filipino food truck, they’ll be able to achieve it.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Gasol fuels Lakers to win over struggling Wolves

LOS ANGELES – Pau Gasol scored a team-high 25 points and Andrew Bynum added 14 rebounds before being ejected to help the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-98 Friday.

Minnesota led 51-49 at halftime and then 94-93 with 3:52 left on the clock but Spanish forward Gasol knocked in a two-point jump shot to spark an unbroken eight-point run by the Lakers as they regained control in a physical encounter.

All-Star guard Kobe Bryant scored 18 points for Los Angeles, despite a sprained left ankle, while Shannon Brown contributed 14 from the bench on five-for-seven shooting.

The (49-20) Lakers, who have won 11 of 12 games since the All-Star break, move one game ahead of the (48-21) Dallas Mavericks into sole second place in the Western Conference.

"It was a difficult game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson told reporters. "We kind of anticipated it. The first half was erratic at best, second half we played a little bit better."

Wes Johnson top-scored with a career-high 29 points for the Timberwolves, who suffered their 15th successive defeat at the hands of the Lakers and now lie second-last in the West.

Seven-foot center Bynum was ejected with 6:16 remaining for a flagrant foul while driving past Michael Beasley, who fell to the floor.

"He was going to go block the shot but he was too late so he just bumped him, just gave up on the ball ... he didn't do it in a way that was malicious," Jackson said.

Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis agreed.

"That's playoff basketball, they're gearing up for it," said Rambis, a former player and coach at the Lakers.

"I thought it was good for our guys to see how rough and physical a game can be, that's a good thing for our learning experience.

"I thought our guys did a really good job when the ball came, offensively and defensively we played a very mindful game for the most part and gave ourselves a chance to win."

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Kobe hurt, Lakers top Mavs in key West clash

DALLAS, Texas – An injury scare for Lakers star Kobe Bryant didn't slow the two-time defending NBA champions as they defeated Dallas 96-91 in a key Western Conference matchup.

Bryant on Saturday shot just 6-of-20 from the floor, but his 16 points included six in the 9-0 scoring run that the Lakers used to take the lead for good in the second quarter.

Late in the third quarter, Bryant came down awkwardly on his left ankle after having a shot blocked by Shawn Marion.

He lay on the court as Jason Kidd parlayed the turnover into a basket and then Bryant rose, hobbled a few steps and called a timeout.

He went to the locker room, but returned in the fourth period. It wasn't immediately clear how serious his ankle injury was.

However, in the wake of the injury to Bryant, the Lakers didn't waver. They scored eight straight points to extend their lead to 10.

With the victory, the Lakers improved to 47-20 and moved within one-half game of the 47-19 Mavericks for second place in the Western Conference.

The two-time defending champions avenged a loss to the Mavs earlier this season and finished a tough four-game road trip 3-1.

The only defeat in the swing was a narrow loss at Miami. The Lakers had beaten the Western Conference-leading Spurs and Atlanta before they were out-hustled by the Heat.

"You've got to take it," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We wish we would have won the Miami game but that's past and we move forward.

"We have Orlando when we get home, so we're just not even taking a breath."

Jackson notched his 600th victory with the Lakers, becoming only the fifth coach in NBA history to reach that mark with one club.

Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 22 points and 15 rebounds, while Pau Gasol had 18 points and Ron Artest added 12.

Dirk Nowitzki and Marion had 25 points each for the Mavericks. Marion added 12 rebounds and Nowitzki 10 rebounds.

CHICAGO – Basketball Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen joined in another championship celebration on Saturday as the Chicago Bulls commemorated the 20th anniversary of their first NBA title.

Jordan and Pippen and some of their former teammates and coaches were on hand for a ceremony during halftime of Saturday's game against Utah.

A video set to Tom Petty's "Learning to Fly" featured highlights of that campaign: Jordan dunking over Patrick Ewing, Pippen harrying opponents and John Paxson draining jump shots.

Former Bulls broadcaster Jim Durham served as the master of ceremonies.

Dennis Hopson, Horace Grant and Paxson all received warm welcomes. The excitement level rose for Pippen and when Jordan was called, the roar was deafening.

Pippen thanked the club for bringing "back a memory that we all want to live again just one more time."

"This is very special for us," he said.

A beaming Jordan thanked the team for "allowing us to reunite".

"You guys are in store for a lot of other championships," added Jordan, now the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and someone who has touted Chicago's Derrick Rose as a Most Vaouable Player candidate.

"That kid has come into his own," Jordan said of Rose. "He has matured quite a bit. When he came into the league, everybody said he had speed and can get to the rim, but he can't shoot. Now, he can shoot the three as well as pull-up shots. He has very few flaws."

The current surging Bulls team is raising memories of the dominant Bulls era, which started when the 1990-91 team completed a 61-21 season and finally got past Detroit after falling to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals the prior two seasons.

They defeated Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers in five games to start the first of Chicago's two title three-peats.

Some key members of the first championship team were absent.

Coach Phil Jackson was on duty with his current Lakers team in Dallas.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Repatriated nurses in Crete appeal to Pnoy for help

CRETE, Greece- Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) safely evacuated in the Island of Crete aboard the Philippine chartered vessel are temporarily hold up on the Greek Island while Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) officials in charge of the repatriation facilitate and process their documents and flights back to Manila.

Here, some nurses are still in direct communication with their friends in Libya, using their local mobile phone lines to call and send message by text. One of them is Sandra Anne Lavinia Cortez.

Cortez sought the assistance of ABS-CBN news to call on DFA officials and President Benigno Aquino III to help the remaining stranded OFWs in Benghazi, particularly the Filipino nurses at Hawari General Hospital. Cortez, who broke down in tears, fear for the lives of her friends and co-workers. She said they were not allowed to leave the hospital when MV Ionian Queen, the chartered ship sent by the government to evacuate stranded OFWs, docked in Benghazi to fetch Pinoys.

An estimated 500 OFWs, most of them medical workers, decided to stay in Benghazi because they wanted to keep their jobs. They were also enticed to stay with the promise of a trebled salary. But a significant number were left behind because they were barred by their employers from leaving the vicinity of the hospital.

Minister and Consul General Constancio Vingno Jr of the Philippine Embassy in Greece told ABS-CBN News that with the help of community leaders in Tripoli and nearby cities, they are hoping to evacuate more Filipinos via the second trip of the government’s chartered ship. The ship is expected to arrive in Crete on Sunday morning. He could not say for sure if there will be a third trip to Libya.

DFA Undersecretary and spokesman Ed Malaya announced over radio dzMM that the ship's trip to the seaport of Tripoli maybe the last trip.

A group of Filipino nurses working for Rasco Oil Company in Raslanuf, the biggest oil refinery in Libya said some of their friends and co-workers decided to stay put because they did not want to forfeit the benefits and unpaid salaries that they have yet to collect from their employer.

On Friday, it was reported that Libyan rebels had seized the town of Raslanuf. It is 200 kilometers (120 miles) east of Sirte, Qaddafy’s hometown.
Watching this development in the news, the nurses felt despondent for the lost lives and the devastation in the city.

Rosemarie Magat said Libya will always be in her heart and she is coming back when the situation gets better.
Gina Valenzuela said she has formed great friendships with the locals and it was sad to see on television the scenes of carnage in Raslanuf.

Veteran nurses Rosemarie Magat, Adoracion Galang and Trifina Laoisla appeal to Pinoy in this video. They are hoping that when the tension and conflict die down, they will be able to collect their back pay and gratuity, an entitlement for the likes of them who have worked in Libya for two decades.

NZ quake victim ID may take months

CHRISTCHURCH - It may take months before the remains of earthquake victims in New Zealand can be identified, according to the New Zealand Police.

This was revealed as recovery operations at the collapsed CTV Building in Christchurch wound up last Saturday. Eleven Filipinos got trapped and died at the building.

Atty. Giovanni Palec, Charge d'Affairs of the Philippine Embassy in Wellington, said authorities just want to be methodical and accurate in identifying victims' remains.

The Sumalpong couple, parents of earthquake victim Rhea Mae Sumalpong, will be returning to Australia empty-handed. They said they will just come back when the remains of their daughter have been identified.

Relatives of some of the other Filipino victims, meanwhile, are scheduled to arrive in Christchurch from the Philippines on Wednesday.

They are Roberto Bensurto, father of Valquin; Alexander Amantillo, brother of Mary Louise; and, Joanna Chua, relative of John Christopher Chua.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is giving them a place to stay. King's Education Ltd., the language school in the CTV Building attended by the Filipino victims, paid for their air fares.

Christchurch is known for its picturesque vistas, but in the middle of its beauty, fear and anxiety now grip the Filipino community.

The 6.3-magnitude earthquake has resulted in extensive damage, and some Filipinos are worried they may lose their jobs.

A few rest homes are already closing their operations, forcing nurses working as caregivers--while they are not yet licensed to be registered nurses--to be worried about their future.

Some of the workers were sent by agencies to New Zealand to be students, and they were promised jobs as nurses in exchange for fees amounting to almost P500,000.

It will take awhile before the earthquake victims get to recover from the tragedy at Christchurch, as they face uncertainty over their future.