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      Pinay forced to sleep in toilet seeks $22k compensation from employer

      Posted on 07 November 2020 No comments

      By Daisy CL Mandap

      Grace's mattress on the floor is squeezed between the toilet bowl and a wall

      A Filipina domestic worker who sought help after being told to sleep in a toilet, has left her employers’ home in Happy Valley, and is now pursuing a claim for more than $22,000 from them.

      Grace, 32, told The SUN she was forced to call the police on Oct 15, after being told by her employers that she would be put on a flight back to the Philippines early the next day when she refused to withdraw the one-month notice she gave them five days earlier.

      By then, the Hong Kong newbie who left behind a husband and two teenage sons in La Pinas City, had been with her employers for just over a month.

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      Natakot ako kasi baka ano ang mangyari sa akin kapag sumama ako sa airport. Kung ano-ano ang pumasok sa isip ko kasi ang amo kong lalaki lang daw ang maghahatid sa akin” Grace said.

      (I got scared thinking of what might happen to me if I agreed to go to the airport. A lot of things went through my mind after I was told that only my male employer would take me there).

      On the pretext that she was packing her things, Grace said she secretly hid her telephone in a drawer and called 999 from there.

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      Five police officers responded to her call, and two checked out the toilet where Grace was made to sleep in.

      Pumunta sila sa CR (comfort room), tapos yung isa ang sabi, ‘You eat here?’ ‘You sleep here?’,” said Grace.

      When she replied in the affirmative, the officer reportedly could not help but respond with a shocked “Huh?”.

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      At first, her employers were reportedly hesitant to allow the police to come into their house. But left with no choice but to comply, the couple lay all of the helper’s things on their dining table, including her underwear, as they inspected each item.

      In an apparent attempt to further shame her, Grace said she was thoroughly frisked before she was finally allowed to leave, which took all of one hour.

      After being escorted out by the police, Grace was picked up by volunteers from the Mission for Migrant Workers, which has given her shelter and is now helping her with her labor case. 

      During the day, a stool was turned into a table where Grace ate her meals

      The Mission and an online group, Domestic Workers’ Corner, were the first to be told of Grace’s plight. Her husband reportedly got in touch directly with the Mission, while a friend linked her up with DWC, and subsequently, The SUN.

      Hearing her story, all the support groups advised Grace that she could leave her employment on the spot without having to worry about paying anything, as her employer was the one who violated their contract by making her sleep and eat in the toilet.

      But as that would have entailed calling the police which she dreaded, Grace chose to just serve a month’s notice on Oct 10.

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      Grace, who started working with her employer’s family on Sept. 4, said she immediately protested when she saw the tiny room where she was supposed to sleep, rest, do the laundry, iron clothes – and eat and defecate.

      The room was so tiny and narrow that when she lay down her mattress at night, Grace ended up sleeping with her legs folded, and her face right smack beside the toilet bowl.

      She was also forced to eat inside the toilet, saying her employers stared at her the first time they gave her food, until she was forced to retire there.

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      What made her feel worse was that there was a third room in the flat which the family used as a study room and was unoccupied at night. Grace said she would have been more than glad to sleep in that spare room, even if only on the floor, for a few hours each night.

      When she complained to her agency representative called William, she was told to be patient and not demand too much because she was just new in the job. The agent also advised her to stay put for at least six months, warning her that she would have difficulty finding another employer otherwise.

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      Conflicted, Grace followed the advice of a friend and told her employers about her concern, but they reportedly told her they couldn’t give her more than what she already had.

      The couple even told her that she should be grateful because other helpers were made to sleep in worse places like kitchen floors and cabinets.

      Left with no choice, Grace decided to terminate her contract.

      Suddenly, she said her employers became very good to her, giving her more nutritious food, gifting her with a hair dryer, and even offering to let her sleep in their prized study room.

      Her female employer also became lavish with her praises, reportedly telling Grace such things as, “I like your work, I like the way you clean our house.”

      Parang biglang bumaliktad ang sitwasyon,” said Grace.  (They became the exact opposite of what they used to be)

      Her employers told Grace she should be thankful she was given her own room

      But Grace couldn’t be moved.

      Kasi mahirap na silang pagtiwalaan. Kung hindi pa ako nagbigay ng notice, hindi sila magbabait,” she said. (I couldn’t trust them anymore. They became good to me only after I served my one month’s notice).

      Now, all she wants is to move on, and maybe ask the Philippine Consulate to ban her employers from hiring another Filipina so nobody would suffer the same sorry fate that she had.

      That wish may soon be realized, as Consul General Raly Tejada has expressed an interest in seeing her after learning about her case. 

      Hong Kong legislator Fernando Cheung is taking the step further, saying he wants to help Grace pursue a labor case against her employer.

      What she learned from her experience, says Grace, is that one shouldn't be afraid of reaching out for help, and to stand up for your rights when the situation calls for it.

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      All new arrivals in HK should stay in hotels starting Nov 13

      Posted on 06 November 2020 No comments

      By The SUN 

      All people arriving in HK from anywhere apart from China, will now have to quarantine in a hotel

      Starting on Nov 13, all passengers arriving in Hong Kong who had been in places outside of China for 14 days prior to departure, must spend their mandatory quarantine in a hotel.

      “A traveler who, on the day on which the traveler boarded a specified aircraft, or during the 14 days before that day, has stayed in a specified place outside China… must provide confirmation in English or Chinese of room reservation in a hotel in Hong Kong for not less than 14 days starting on the day of the arrival in Hong Kong,” said a government statement published on Nov. 3.

      “The relevant specifications will come into effect on November 13 and remain until further notice.”

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      The regulation covers even those arriving from countries not previously deemed as “high risk.”

      Passengers coming in from the high-risk countries which now number 15 with the recent inclusion of Turkey, are still required to produce a negative result for a Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before departure, in addition to a confirmed hotel booking for 14 days.

      The other countries previously placed in this category are Bangladesh, Belgium, Ethiopia, France, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

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      The only exceptions to the travel restrictions are transit passengers and those given exemption from the mandatory 14-day quarantine by the Chief Secretary for Administration.

      According to the government statement, the amendment to the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation (Cap 599H) is meant “to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 to household members during home quarantine of imported cases.”

      It comes amid a widespread fear of a fourth, and deadlier, wave of coronavirus infections sweeping across Hong Kong this winter.


      The government also cited figures showing that the global pandemic is “becoming increasingly severe.” From a daily infection rate of up to 100,000 in mid-May, the number has reportedly gone  up to around 550,000 in October, said the statement.

      “In view of the severe global pandemic situation, Hong Kong cannot afford to drop its guard on entry prevention and control measures,” the statement added.

      The tighter rules are taken amid fears of a new wave of infections this winter

      The government also warned of stricter enforcement of the travel restrictions.


      Airlines or any conveyances that fail to comply with the pre-boarding requirements, or their operators who provide false of misleading information may be subject to a maximum penalty of $50,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.

      Travelers who likewise provide false or misleading information are liable to pay a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for six months.

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      On arrival in Hong Kong, all travelers are given a Covid-19 test, and they are mandated to wait for the result in a place designated by the government.

      If their test results are negative, they will be allowed to continue their 14-day quarantine in their chosen hotel. If the results are positive, the travelers will be transferred to a hospital for isolation and treatment.

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      Filipina DH with symptoms tests positive for Covid-19 at HK Airport

      Posted on No comments

      By The SUN 

      The Filipina should have presented a negative test result before being allowed leave Manila

      A Filipina domestic helper who flew in from Manila with coronavirus symptoms was among six new Covid-19 cases reported today, Nov. 6, all of them imported.

      The 43-year-old Filipina arrived on Nov 4 via Hong Kong Airlines flight HX 782 and tested positive on arrival, so she was sent directly to a hospital. This was despite her having presented a negative result for a Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before departing Manila.

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      An Indonesian domestic worker who was found infected on her second test was also among the new cases.

      The 24-year-old Indonesian was in quarantine at O’Hotel in To Kwa Wan when she tested positive for the coronavirus. She reportedly flew in on Oct 24 via Cathay Pacific flight CX 798 from Jakarta.

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      Another newly reported case was a 27-year-old male air crew member of Ethiopian Airlines who flew in from Addis Ababa on Nov 4. His test result came in as he was in quarantine at Regal Airport Hotel in Chek Lap Kok.

      The three other imported cases were two male returnees from India aged 29 and 55, and an 18-year-old male youth who arrived from the United Kingdom.

      The ban on public gathering of more than 4 people remains in place

      Meanwhile, the current gathering restrictions imposed to combat the spread of Covid-19 which were due to expire today have been extended for another week, or until midnight of Nov 12.

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      These include the wearing of masks in all public transportation and public places, both indoor and outdoor, except for country parks, or when the person is doing strenuous activity, like jogging.


      No more than four people can gather together in public places and in bars, but restaurants can sit up to six diners at each table. Dining places can take in only up to 75% of their capacity, but are allowed to remain open until 2am.

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      Persons who manage business establishments that violate the social distancing measures will be subject to a maximum fine of $50,000 and imprisonment for six months.

      Individual violators are liable to a maximum fine of $25,000 and imprisonment for six months. 

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      Two Filipino men among 7 new Covid-19 cases in HK

      Posted on 05 November 2020 No comments

      By The SUN

       

      Passengers waiting for their test results at HK Intl Airport

      Hong Kong confirmed six imported coronavirus cases and one untraceable local case today, Nov 5, bringing the city’s total tally to 5,356.

      The new infections included two Filipino men who arrived on the same Philippine Airlines flight on Monday and tested positive at the airport.

      Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said in today’s briefing that one of the Filipinos was a 32-year-old seafarer returning to his ship in Hong Kong.

      The occupation of the other Filipino, aged 37, was not mentioned.

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      She said the two arrived on PR300 flight from Manila on Nov 3 and submitted deep-throat specimen at the airport testing center.

      The seafarer was asymptomatic while the other Filipino showed symptoms on arrival. They were both sent to a hospital after they tested positive.

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      The other imported cases were a newly arrived 50-year-old Indian domestic helper, a 35-year-old female cabin crew of Turkish Airlines flight TK070 from Istanbul, a 34-year-old male air crew of Aeroflot flight SU212 from Moscow and a 23-year-old man who flew in from Brazil via KL 847 from Amsterdam.

      Today’s lone local case is a 40-year-old aircraft maintenance technician at the airport whose source of infection is not known. The man lives in Shui Lau Tin village in Kam Tin and he last went to work on Oct 27.

      Chuang says it's not known how the aircraft mechanic acquired his infection

      Chuang said the patient was tested after developing sore throat on Oct 31. He was in close contact with some cargo plane crew members, among whom were confirmed cases. CHP is tracking his other close contacts.

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      Asked during the press briefing if the patient’s young son who played football with other children posed a risk to the kids and their parents, Chuang said the boy had symptoms but tested negative.

      The other members of the family will also be tested and if they are positive, then there’s a risk of infection to others, she said.

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      Dr Linda Yu, a general manager at the Hospital Authority, said that as of 9am today, eight Covid-19 confirmed patients were discharged from hospital, bringing the total number of recoveries to 5,126.

      A total of 87 confirmed patients are currently confined in 20 public hospitals. Of these patients, eight are in critical condition, three are in serious condition and the remaining 76 are in stable condition, she said.

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      Bicolano OFWs, Unifil-Migrante launch relief ops for Rolly victims

      Posted on No comments

      By The SUN 

      Poster for BMA HK's donation drive for Bicol region

      At least two big Filipino community organizations in Hong Kong have launched donation drives for the victims of super typhoon Rolly (international name: Goni) which slammed into the Bicol and Southern Luzon regions early on Sunday, Nov. 1.

      The world’s strongest typhoon this year left at least 24 people dead and hundreds of thousands of people dislocated from their homes.

      As of Nov 3, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that at least 106,642 families were still displaced.

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      In Bicol alone, nearly 80,000 homes were affected, including nearly 21,000 that were totally destroyed.

      Damage to infrastructure was placed at Php5.7 billion, and Php1.1 billion to agricultural crops.

      Leading the relief operation in Hong Kong is Bicol Migrant Association which is asking for donations of cash, clothes, groceries and food items for the typhoon victims.

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      The donated items may be brought to exit E of the Central MTR station this coming Sunday, Nov 8, starting at 9am.

      According to BMA President Bebs C. Leonardo, her group has also started receiving cash donations through online transfer, and so far, about $1,800 has been passed on to her, just two days after they aired their appeal on social media.

      Leonardo said the money will be used to buy food and other grocery items to be packed in boxes that will be sent to Bicol after Sunday’s donation drive.

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      She said that so far, three door-to-door boxes have been donated to her group for the relief drive, but a lot more are needed due to the number of people who have promised to bring donated goods this Sunday.

      Leonardo may be contacted through her phone number, 98437250, for any donations.

      Unifil-Migrante HK's poster soliciting donations for the typhoon victims

      Also doing a relief drive is Operation Migrante Sagip Kababayan, which has been conducting such an operation for years, each time the Philippines is devastated by a major calamity.

      Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

      Dolores Balladares Pelaez, chair of United Filipinos in Hong Kong – Migrante, is asking for donations in cash and in kind for the victims in Bicol and Southern Luzon, not only of Rolly, but also of tropical storm Siony.

      She said her group will set up a collection box at the offices of the Mission for Migrant Workers in Central and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants in Jordan, where people can drop their donations.

      “May box kami courtesy ng AFreight para sa mga magdo-donate at doon na rin iempake sa collection point, sabay padala,” said Pelaez.

      She said their collection effort is tied up with Migrante International’s relief missions mainly in Bicol and Catanduanes, but open to other ravaged areas.

      Members of Migrante-Asia Pacific have launched similar relief operations in countries and territories where they are based, including Australia and Taiwan.

      Pelaez said the priority beneficiaries of the relief operation are those places and families that have not been reached by government relief agencies. She said Migrante is still setting up the places where relief goods would be distributed.

      For cash donations, Balladares said there are designated bank accounts under the Mission for Migrant Workers where donors can deposit the money. She said receipts will be issued for every $100 donation as the Mission is a registered charity.

      For more information, donors may call Pelaez directly at 9747 2986.

      In a press statement issued earlier, the Unifil-Migrante leader slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for hardly doing anything to help the victims of super typhoon Rolly, and for not even attending his government’s press briefing the day after the disaster struck.

      “The Philippines is hit by at least 20 typhoons and storms annually. Yet we are hit by the same scenes and stories of people affected and communities damaged, year after year. Where is President Duterte in all this? In his swanky house, sleeping,” she said.

      “Why was there little disaster preparedness training done? Because the safety of the people is not the priority. How come a briefing was done after Goni has done much damage? To merely save face,” she said.


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      Meanwhile, Migrante-Asia Pacific reiterated a call for the reallocation of  the billions of pesos allotted to a task force formed to end communist insurgency to emergency relief operations, rehabilitation efforts, and Covid-19 response. 

      FDHs qualified for jury service, Justice Dept clarifies

      Posted on No comments

      By The SUN

      Jury trials are currently held at the High Court and Coroner's Court

      All Hong Kong residents, including foreign domestic helpers, are legally bound to render jury service as long as they meet the criteria set for the role, according to the Department of Justice.   

      A DOJ spokesman made the statement in reply to a query from The SUN after repeated inquiries from Filipina helpers who recently received notices from the High Court Jury Service requiring them to enlist as jurors.

      “The Jury Ordinance, Cap. 3 provides that a person is liable to serve as a juror if he/she meets the qualifications stipulated therein. Those qualifications include being a resident of Hong Kong and having sufficient knowledge of the language in which the proceedings are to be conducted,” the spokesman said.

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      “Foreign domestic helpers, as a class, are not exempt from juror service and it is our understanding that a Notice of Jury Service would be served on them as it would be on others who meet the section 4 requirements and are not exempt under section 5 under the existing mechanism in compiling the list of jurors,” he said.

      Most of the enquiries came from FDWs who became apprehensive after receiving the  letter from the Registrar of Jury Service. Most did not know what the role of the jury entailed, and wanted to know how they should respond to the notice.

      The letter informed the FDHs that they would be included in the list of jurors unless they notified the Registrar within 14 days that they should be exempt from jury service under sections 4 or 5 of the Jury Ordinance.

       

      Notice of jury service sent to one Filipino domestic worker

      Section 4 sets out the qualifications of jurors, such as (1) being of sound mind and not affected by disabilities such as blindness or deafness; (2) aged no less than 21 and not more than 64 years old; (3) of good character; and (4) having sufficient knowledge of the language to be used in the court proceedings.

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      Section 5 lists down the jobs or professions of those exempt from jury service, such as members of the Executive or Legislative Council, judges and officers of tribunals, lawyers and journalists.

      Most of the letter recipients eventually said they wrote to the Registrar asking to be exempted because they felt they were not well versed in either English or Cantonese, the two languages used in court proceedings.

      Others said they could not leave their employers’ houses on weekdays because they had to look after children or elderly wards, or those who are sick and cannot be left by themselves.

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      Milane Balzon, a helper who responded to the notice and applied to be registered as a juror, received a follow-up letter from the High Court registrar asking her to submit a copy of her passport.

      Initially she was excited about the notice, but her employers mistakenly told her she was not qualified because she was not a resident.

      Malabo po na papayag sila, kasi sila pa po ang nagsabi sa akin na di puwede iyon dahil kasi di ako resident dito,” a dejected Balzon said, adding they should know because their son is a lawyer.

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      The DOJ spokesman said those who wish to find out more about the practice in compiling the list of jurors may consult the Law Reform Commission’s report on “Criteria for service as jurors”.

      He said parts of the LRC Report’s Chapter 1 are devoted to an examination of the system through which the current legal framework operates.

      While the report has no specific recommendations as regards any policy on the inclusion of FDHs as potential jurors, there are detailed provisions under section 28 of the Jury Ordinance that deal with exemption from juror service or removal of names from the list of jurors for valid reasons, the spokesman said

      It appears that enlisting the FDHs for two types of functions, as jurors in High Court jury trials and in a Coroner Court inquest, is a new development in Hong Kong. Previously, the jurors were mostly local men and women of various occupations and professions.

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