News from home: Kuwait visa suspension for Pinoys, De Lima’s second acquittal

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
News from home: Kuwait visa suspension for Pinoys, De Lima�s second acquittal
A Filipina worker returning home from Kuwait fills out forms upon her arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila on Feb. 18, 2018.
Noel Celis / AFP, file

MANILA, Philippines — From the Kuwaiti government suspending the issuance of work and entry visas to Filipinos to the second acquittal of former Sen. Leila de Lima—these were among our headlines and news stories from the past week we think you should know if you’re a Filipino based abroad.

Overseas Filipinos

  • Kuwait has suspended issuing new work and entry visas to Filipinos after Manila allegedly broke provisions in the 2018 bilateral labor agreement. The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is already working to resolve issues. 

    Meanwhile, the Department of Migrant Workers said it is ready to assist Filipinos who are affected by the ban. 

  • President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said the Philippines has continuously been asking authorities in Indonesia for the clemency of Mary Jane Veloso, an overseas Filipino worker who has been behind bars for over a decade now for drug trafficking charges and was sentenced to death. This is a turnaround from the previous administration as Indonesian President Joko Widodo said former President Rodrigo Duterte has given Jakarta permission to execute Veloso.

    During his visit to Indonesia for the 42nd ASEAN Summit, Marcos Jr. said the Philippines may be the one to punish Veloso back home, even as migrant workers groups say she is a victim of human trafficking.

  • The Taiwanese government has assured the Philippines it is prepared in case of an attack from China, noting that Filipinos there are also in mind for their plans. Taiwan also has 89,000 shelters across the self-governing island in case Beijing strikes. 

Work and the economy

  • A Senate labor panel this week approved “in principle” the proposal for a P150 across-the-board minimum wage hike. A technical working group has been assigned to check a proposal for a graduated wage increase for MSMEs. 

    Calls for a wage increase continue in the Philippines as workers grapple with increasing commodity prices. Think-tank IBON Foundation pointed to the decline of labor unions in the early 2000s that led to historically low wages in the country.
  • Users of the digital wallet GCash last week aired frustration over several unauthorized transactions, with money sent to unidentified accounts with East West Bank and Asia United Bank. GCash however said there was no fund loss in the incident, and the amount supposedly transferred to a different account will be reflected in their accounts in the same day.

    A lawmaker at the House of Representatives has already called for an investigation of the incidents.

Politics and the nation

  • A Muntinlupa court has acquitted de Lima in the second drug charge against her on Friday, on what the former lawmaker called a “glorious day.” She has been acquitted for two cases now, and one more case is pending—after spending over six years behind bars in what supporters called “political persecution” for wanting to look into the Duterte administration’s "war on drugs."

  • Around 14 million households or over half of Filipino families considered themselves poor in the first three months of the year, according to a Social Weather Stations survey. This is on top of the 31% of families that considered themselves poor. 
  • A separate SWS survey showed that 47% of adult Filipinos think it would be dangerous to release content that is critical of the Marcos Jr. administration. The Philippines currently ranks 132nd out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index as journalists in the country continue to face threats and harassment.
  • In pageantry news: A new Miss Universe Philippines has been crowned. Michelle Dee from Makati will be representing the country in the 72nd Miss Universe pageant in El Salvador this year. 

You can view last week’s rundown here or sign up for the newsletter here.

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