News from home: Manila Post Office fire, TeleRadyo shutdown, OFWs vs ex-Syria envoy

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
News from home: Manila Post Office fire, TeleRadyo shutdown, OFWs vs ex-Syria envoy
Firefighters respond to a massive fire razing the iconic Manila Central Post Office building in Manila on May 22, 2023.
Miguel De Guzman / The Philippine STAR

MANILA, Philippines — From the fire that engulfed the Manila Central Post Office, the shutdown of the former top AM radio ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo, up to overseas Filipino workers who were trafficked suing a Filipino diplomat before the Office of the Ombudsman—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

  • OFWs who were trafficked to Syria as domestic workers have lodged a complaint against Alex Lamadrid, former Charges d’Affaires at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, and four others over allegations of abuse and neglect. Lamadrid has already denied their statements, but Migrante Philippines has called on the diplomat to stop playing innocent and be held accountable for his actions.
  • Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople, who was in Saudi Arabia last week, said the around P29.2-billion worth of Saudi funds to pay off unpaid wages of at least 10,000 Filipino workers are already with its Ministry of Finance. With this development, Ople said it is “just a matter of time” before OFWs can finally get their claims.
  • The government’s job-matching program for OFWs affected by Kuwait’s suspension of new work and entry visas for Filipinos began last week. The first batch consisting of 32 out of the 815 OFWs the Department of Migrant Workers logged got their P30,000 assistance package and the processing of their job placements.

    President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. later said that he is not in favor of imposing a total deployment ban of workers to Kuwait. The Philippines earlier halted the deployment of new household workers to the Gulf state following the death of Jullebee Ranara.

  • Filipino cyclists, along with Indian cyclists, were among those reported hurt in a hit-and-run incident in Kuwait last Friday. The Department of Foreign Affairs said the country’s foreign service post there had already reached out to those injured and their families, while a lawyer has been contacted and investigation into the incident is underway.

  • The government will be sending assistance to the families of five Filipino sailors who perished after fishing vessel Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028 capsized in the Indian Ocean last week. The incident left no survivors and rescuers faced harsh weather conditions during its search-and-rescue operations. 

Work and the economy

  • Three years after the Duterte administration denied ABS-CBN’s franchise, the media giant is pulling the plug on TeleRadyo “to prevent further business losses” as it can no longer sustain the AM radio station’s operations. All of its 70 employees will be laid off by end-June, most of whom are TeleRadyo producers. 

    In a separate disclosure, ABS-CBN announced that it will be entering a join venture with Romualdez-led Prime Media Holdings to create a new company separate from the verticals of ABS-CBN. An insider told Philstar.com’s Xave Gregorio of fears that it may limit the independence of the network. 

  • Marcos Jr. has certified as urgent the bill pushing for the creation of the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund. This means that the legislature may bypass the requirement under the constitution that requires bills to be approved within three days after its approval on second reading. 

    Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said that the upper chamber is set to approve the creation of the sovereign wealth fund by next week.

  • Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panginaban said it was Marcos Jr., who also sits at the helm of the Department of Agriculture, who gave instructions to “import through selected importers of sugar” amid the rising price of the commodity.

    Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin emphasized that the sugar importation ordered by the chief executive is not irregular as an order is not needed to bring sugar in the country.

Politics and the nation

  • The nearly century-old Manila Central Post Office burned last week, with authorities declaring fire out after 31 hours. There were 18 people who were injured due to the fire, majority of whom were firefighters from the Bureau of Fire Protection. 

    Heritage advocates mourned the damage—which was pegged at around P300 million—brought onto one of Manila’s key landmarks designed by renowned Filipino architects Tomas Mapua and Juan Marcos de Guzman Arellano with American architect Ralph Doane. 

    Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan assured the public that no other structure will be built on its place and said the local government unit is already working with national authorities to restore the Manila Central Post Office.

  • Janet Lim Napoles will remain in detention despite the Sandiganbayan clearing the plunder convict of 16 cases of graft related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund projects of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Remulla Jr. 

    The Sandiganbayan said Napoles has already been convicted in a separate plunder case since the pieces of evidence presented are the same.

  • Jose Art Tugade resigned from the Land Transportation Office citing differences with the Department of Transportation. This comes as the agency faces issues of a shortage of plastic cards for driver’s licenses. 

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

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