|MIST- ABELLA 2.
So with the 2010 elections coming up are any of the candidates reaching out to people outside of the Philippines, like Filipinos in the Gulf. I know the campaign is going on now so are there any parties or candidates who are advertising?
Only through Fiji. Probably later; but as of now, nothing.
Are Filipinos outside of the Philippines allowed to vote?
You vote at the consulate?
Yes, but I think here voting is too much problems because they ask for documents. I don’t know why. They want us to prove that we are Filipino boater; registered.
But this one is very far, the Filipino embassy here. The officials from the embassy they go out direct to the Filipino company, then they will give a lecture; talk to them that you must register. But why don’t they go to the OWWU who holds the power? We have no chance to vote because we are very busy.
The embassy here also serves the OWWA. If there is no OWWA the embassy is nothing, right. We are the ones who make money for them through our family remittance. In our country if they can pay $25.00 each for insurance for us, we are also entitled to vacation; entitled to loans; training programmes, housing loans. In fact we have too much problems here. We cannot get nothing!
As of now in the embassy, in OWWA National Terrace, last month I counted up to 150-plus, there are 150 dates there in the centre, they are also waiting for money to send to the Philippines. I know there is money for repatriation. There is a fund. In the Philippines we have 3 billion pesos in the OWWA fund so why OWWA do not give to the Filipinos who want to go back to the Philippines?
And while they are waiting for that one, they cannot go any place because they have no plane ticket. How? What is the problem? All we have to pay is $25.00 each so that we have an entitlement for repatriation.
When persons go back to the Philippines from the Gulf, do you find that they open businesses there or they get better jobs there? Is it easy for them to get back into normal life?
It’s very hard. Before, in the Philippines, throuth the OWWA, we could have opened small businesses there but in the Philippines now, the crime rate is very high. But now the dinar changed to Philippine currency is 161; before it was 193. It is down. When the exchange rate id sown the crime rate is high. When the exchange rate is down how can we make it? It is very hard to manage because your salary (is small). It is very hard to make a living. The crime rate keeps going up but your salary keeps going down. . . how . . .?
I know that Indians and Pakistanis, if their children are born here they still don’t have Kuwaiti citizenship. Is it easy for Filipinos to register their kids as Filipinos?
No, no, no. . . there’s no chance at all. If Filipino child is born here it only says that they are born here in the state but they have no chance to be a Kuwaiti citizen.
But can they get Filipino citizenship easily? If you have a child born here, do they have Filipino citizenship?
Yes, yes, yes. It’s automatic. They must register at the embassy.
And that’s easy?
Yes. No problem. The main problem we have here is how to settle the issue of (dates) because the government did not give any money for them. There’s not enough being done for them. But this attorney Josephus Jimenez, he is very good but he has no support.
What about unions in the Philippines, do they help the OWWA as well? Do they represent their interest?
No, we have no unions here. We have no officials here, no members, nothing. It’s only those guys and ladies here; they ask for assistance from me. They want to call me then I will support them. I spend 40-60……. with my own expenses, but we have no unions here; we have nothing.
So there are branches of unions in Manila?
No, no, no. We have nothing.
What about the ILO here, the UN? Last year they had an Arab employment forum. They didn’t invite any of the groups?
No, nothing. We have nothing. We are only helping other people because we want to stop this misbehavior, this maltreatment for the next generation. As of now if we do not stop this habit, how much more for the next generation if nobody helps; if nobody works for it? They never help Jimenez in the Philippines.
They never help him enough in the Philippines. It’s like with me. If I don’t help people here . . .so for me I have to use my initiative to help other people. We have nothing here. . . we have nothing. We are not brothers but we must unite. We must unite.
So are there like clubs or groups? How do Filipinos organize; around the churches or are there sports clubs?
Yes there are some other Filipino groups. We have meetings through sports but most through the churches. But for me I never go anywhere; only to work, here, for sending money. But if somebody wants my help I will take up the complaint. There was this guy, his company did not give him six months salary. So I make a report, I take it to the company and after a month, there is no action. I talk to the embassy here, the embassy also talks to the company and they have to give the money for those months. Also they have to pay all his medical expenses. But suppose I had not taken action for that one. . .nothing.
Sometimes they tell me ‘You are helping. Why? Because you need money?’ I say no, no, no, I do not need your money. We are just only helping. Because some guys they thought we we helping because we need money. We say no, no, no. we are spending our own money when we go to the embassy. We must unite because this company does not care about us. If you are not connected. . . after a few months they would do nothing. Sometimes they ask you need money?. . .I say no, no. I do not need your money, we are just only helping. It is our expense; we are using our own money. We have no union here. We are only like social workers. As of now, me and my comrades now, we want to make an application for higher pay. I talk to the people and if they want to make an application, I recommend it and we go from there.
So are you granted access to lawyers in the Philippines?
No, no, no. Not now. We have no access.
What do you find is the average age of Filipinos working in the Gulf?
You have to ask that at the embassy; the Filipino in the picture. Her name is Yulie. I go there on Fridays sometimes . as I told you there are 150-plus at our shelter. There are these four women. . . in one week only two of them slept there. They ask me if I can get blankets for them.
Who runs the homeless shelter?
Filipinos. The Philippine embassy. That one is the OWWA shelter but only for women. But for us, for men. . .nothing. Some guys are saying they will to go Qatar. You know what happen in Qatar? They are leaving. There is no shelter for them.
So if a Filipino wants to take a case to court, how does he get representation? He can’t take it to court here?
Most times he can go to the embassy and tell them that this guy, that his case is in the court. But most times they are sleeping. But this man now, as I told you, this new one, he is not sleeping. When I talked to him he told me just help me and I will help you. We are helping each other, this new one in Kuwait. But before, de Jesus, he was not good. One lady there, inside the embassy, was slapped by the police. Why did the police go into the embassy? That is Philippine territory. I told her to go to the embassy. She was very lucky that when she went to the embassy with the police, the gate was open and this attorney Josephus Jiminez told them you cannot come in. This is Philippine territory; not Kuwait territory. He is very nice. But the police they told the agency they will close the agency. You cannot get any dates now.
Do you find that Filipinos who migrate, let’s say to Kuwait, will move around the gulf? Would they go to Qatar or Saudi to live or do they just stay in Kuwait?
Only some Filipinos, the ones who get the big salaries but most here are drivers. They are hiring mostly drivers here in Kuwait. Our passport is only valid for Iraq but not for Hera but this company will force the drivers to go to Hera and if something happens to they will charge that guy most of the time. Some companies give a bonus to some if they will go to Iraq, but if something happens to them, nothing, because that is illegal. They will blame the Filipino because why you go there? They cannot get anything from the OWWA, right, because their passport is not valid for there. If they go to complain they tell them you can go, you can go because they need money but in time of trouble, nothing.
This kind of thing happens all over because I have a friend, his daughter is in…………………. He asked me if I could do something for her. Her employer did not pay her for almost ten months and did not allow her to go on vacation. I had to send a lot of emails, take action, but at our own expense.
So what would suggest to government or businesses who want to help migrants? What are five things you would need most important?
I can ask only that the government is good to the old people all over and they must do their job. Right now they are doing the job only for the money. Why not help us? The government officials would not be seated in that position without us. And they wouldn’t have so much money without us. Only with us could they make such money for the Philippines so why they are not helping us?
So you would want like maybe a pension?
Yes, definitely. I would hope that the next president who is elected will be like Obama. Obama has a good spirit, yes. I like that! But what to do? If they will help us, nice. They have 12 billion pesos in the welfare fund for the OWWA. What did they do with that? They say we have enough money for repatriation for the Filipinos; that could be used during the war (?) but nothing.
Do you find when people move back they move to the cities or do they move to the provinces? Do they move into the rural areas?
I have a friend working for this company; various companies would work for the embassy and possibly they would give us more salary but sometimes these companies are bogus. If anything happens to me there I cannot get anything. They have no papers. That is the trend here. I told him you have to be concerned about the Philippine embassy because if you go there and something happens to you the embassy will wash their hands. We have to send more money to our wives to get her to doctor and so. That is our responsibility. . . . . we must exit the country first.
Do you find that with the economic crisis Filipinos have found it harder to get work in the gulf, or that people at home are asking for more money?
Yes they are asking for more money. Some Filipinos here their rate is lower but in the Philippines the rate is higher.
On arrival here the company force you to sign a contract but you do not know what is in the contract because it is in Arabic. How will you know?
How do Filipinos learn Arabic? Are there classes?
Most of what you hear is Arabic, so you learn to speak it. If you hear it you can learn fast but if you don’t like to learn it’ll be a little difficult. But you can learn to speak it and to write it accurately. If you are living and working here you have to adapt to the culture or if you want to change your religion because if you are a Muslim you must know it. There is a lecture.
So there is no place in the Philippines where you can learn Arabic? When I was at ……………college the largest number of Filipinos are in Saudi Arabia
But there is no place for a Filipino to learn Arabic before they leave the country?
No. we only learn Arabic in the gulf. Even Muslim people do not know how to speak Arabic. They only know how to read the Qur’an but to speak Arabic, they cannot speak it either.
So the Filipino representatives, do they have relationships with Indian groups that represent Indian workers or Pakistani workers or is it just Filipinos alone?
Only ones that approach me. I am not a coordinator here but if they want some help from me, no problem; I’m just helping. That’s all. Any time they want support, I also support them.
Do you know whether the Indian community has a similar organization like yours?
Yes the Indians, they have a group similar to us. The Indian community they are also fragmented but in terms of the embassy, if there are any problems they tell me ‘your embassy is good.’ Indians – nothing.
What about the Filipino International School. Can Filipinos nationals learn their language? If you have a child going go school there can they study the Filipino language?
Yes, they can study it from there, but in ………………….., I don’t think there is a public school. No.
That’s the one going down . . . .down towards. . .on Gulf Road.
On Gulf Road is Cambridge school.
There is an Indian school and a Filipino school right next to it.
Ah!. . .there is?
Yes. What area do you work in?
Well I send money, if there are any problems, I go to the embassy.
Where is the embassy?
In Gibria (?)
Yes, it’s like you call me, you tell me you want to meet I meet you here. I will do you the honours, just wait for me here.
There was a Filipina last December, there was a young lady she had an operation only a week before. They called her to work but she was only crying. How could she do a good job when she just had an operation? So they told this guy here, then this guy told me what can we do for this lady?
So we told her to wait outside the house, we will pick her up and take her to the embassy. I told them to see what action they can take for this lady. If she stays with her employer in this condition she will die. That’s why I told you this (Jiminez) is good.
I told her just tell them I am the one who sent you. She go, Abella told me blah, blah, blah, blah. I told them to take the lady to the hospital. This attorney now, he take action, he make a report. That’s why I told you this attorney is good. Even the diplomats, they believe in this guy, this attorney. He is very nice. But the public is only for the ambassador.
So there are no NGOs? I met a few NGO’s who work in the Philippines for migrant workers. Are the NGOs in the Philippines in contact with you?
Yeah, yeah. That’s why I told you about the guy, when he had the problems with his salary. He had stopped working and I called them. But how much more can we take here. Anything happen to them the company must support and must stand our medical expenses.
There was this guy, after working for six months he got an injury; his knee was swollen. They sent him to the Philippines and after four weeks he was dead. That one injury maybe (gangrene?). Yes.
If nobody help us here. . . but now, as I told you this guy, this Josephus Jiminez. . . it’s not like before.