Faithful to its blog theme for 2012, “Social Media and I: Bridging the Past, Present, and Future”, PEBA continues to flourish meaningfully online. The internet is an important technology for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and expats to keep them connected with their families and friends back home and around the globe. They make use of social media as a powerful platform for their collective voice to advocate on issues that affect them. And for 2012, PEBA demonstrated its leadership and capacity to empower and engage voiceless OFWS and expats for policy changes and reforms using the internet and social media.
PEBA is not only prominent online but even in the traditional media it is being noticed as well. Its founding chairman Kenji Solis was featured at ABS-CBN’s Patrol ng Pilipino tv program on the episode “The Faces of OFWs” that featured different OFW families on their success and not so successful stories. PEBA was also interviewed in TV5 program of Ms. Marissa del Mar’s Buhay OFW aired last December 22, 2012.
Empowering OFWs through Social Media
OFWs equipped with a desktop or laptop connected to the internet or access to an internet café, as well as smartphones or mobile phones with wifi capabilities could not be silenced anymore. They will engage, give opinion and share suggestion when confronted with issues that affect them, their family and country. Their loud voices reverberate on the internet proving that indeed, time has come: OFWs are force to reckon with.
The House Bill 6195 authored by Representative Ma. Theresa Bonoan-David that seek to amend the migrant workers act to collect additional US$ 50 fee for each departing OFW for government to have additional funds in the emergency repatriation OFWs in war torn and conflict areas met strong opposition from among OFWs. It was considered as an additional burden for the already heavily laden migrant workers especially those who are earning very low income. With the deluge of online protest the good representative came out with a press statement shelving her proposed law.
This paved the way for PEBA to create its facebook online advocacy group called Global OFW Voices (GOV), that as of writing, it has now more than 12,300 members. After the victory of stopping Rep. David on her proposed law the GOV embarked on taking the Philippine Health Insurance (Philhealth) issue. Through the Philhealth Memorandum Circular 007 Series of 2012, effective January 2013, all OFWs are required to pay a compulsory PhP 2,400.00 from the previous PhP 1,200 among other fees they need to pay when they go for work abroad.
A sustained online protest campaign ensued that up until now is still ongoing. Also for the first time the GOV made its voice heard in a forum organized by the Blas F. Ople Policy Center held last July 31, 2012. Several Philhealth officials were in attendance. Ms. Brenz Pinosan read the position paper to the forum opposing the proposed increase. The position paper was made through the collaboration of Mr. Nj Abad, President of PEBA and Mr. Jigs Segre, PEBA’s International Coordinator.
Various banners, infographics, videos and other creative visuals were posted on Facebook that became viral as they got liked, commented and shared. Just recently through the vigilant and on-going online protests by members of the GOV, Dr. Eduardo Banzon the President and CEO of Philhealth resigned and the increase that should be effective this year was differed until Philhealth come up with a valid justification for the increase.
Another major victory that PEBA prides itself is the recent ruling by the Supreme Court to indefinitely suspend the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Law of 2012. Through its Manila Coordinator, Mr. Pete Rahon was PEBA’s representative and signatory to the petition filed last October 4, 2012 together with the rest Bloggers and Netizens for Democracy (BAND) members. The group is against the law because of its unconstitutional provisions that will greatly affect the exercise of freedom of speech online.
Also, Mr. Rahon, gave a presentation in one of the poster sessions of the World Social Forum on Migration held last November 27, 2012 at Mirriam College, Quezon City. The title of the topic was Social Media as Social Remittance among Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). The presentation highlighted on the advocacy of PEBA through social media and the importance of blogs in inspiring and sharing life lessons and experiences of expats and OFWs to Filipinos.
Since 2011 PEBA has been active in the call for OFWs and expats to register for the Overseas Absentee Voting. Posters from COMELEC and other information and updates were regularly posted on PEBAs Facebook fan page. PEBA will continue to actively engage in the education, campaign and election monitoring for the overseas absentee voters.
In May 2012, PEBA helped launched “Project Salmos and Operation: Let's Bring Mang Fred Home!” Mr. Alfredo Salmos, 52, an OFW in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia suffered from an electrocution accident at his work about two years ago. According to Mr. Salmos, he survived a 14,000 volts explosion of a breaker that he was trying to shut down. PEBA through its blog and Facebook made an appeal for global support through monetary donations for his repatriation and help for his corrective skin surgery.
Through PEBA's founding chairman Kenji Solis along with ABS-CBN Correspondent Frank Resma, and Marlene of Lakambini Group, Roy and Aaron of Elite Guardians, and Patnubay Riyadh and the owner of La Parilla Restaurant organized a meeting to provide Mr. Salmos assistance.
PEBA received from one of its donors the following heartwarming words: “I am always looking for an opportunity to serve others as long as my circumstances allow. Helping the kids is my humble way to give back what I have been blessed for.” With some funds raised coming from its sponsors, PEBA was able to support 4 students for the whole year of 2012 from kids supported by Believe International and youth from the Aeta community of Capas, Tarlac.
PEBA entered partnership with the Social Security System or SSS in February. PEBA served as one of the member of the board of judges in its monthly Member-get-Member Promo for OFWs raffle draw dubbed as “Sa SSS: Kasamahang OFW ay Protektado, Meron Pang Papremyo”. PEBA helped promote its aim to cover more OFW since it believes that through social security an OFW not only provides protection for himself but his family as well. And after he retires from work and reaching the age of 60 an SSS member is assured of a monthly pension aside from the other benefits SSS provides.
Through PEBA and SSS Partnership a photo contest was also launched with the theme "Miyembro, Bilib Kami Sa'Yo". The photo contest seeks to recognize photographs that appreciate the hard work and sacrifices of Filipinos all over the world. OFWs are persevering in jobs outside the Philippines to provide for their families' needs and their own personal security. These sacrifices must not go unnoticed for they are not only helping their families but the country as well. The winning photos were exhibited at the SSS Gallery for one month and the winners were awarded during the PEBA awards nite.
Blog Awards and Photo Contests
Unlike in the previous years of PEBA’s blog contest, this year fewer bloggers were nominated. It is observed that more people are now active in microblogging sites like twitter or updating post on Facebook. The theme for 2012 blog award was Social Media and I: Bridging the Past, Present and Future. There were only 7 nominees for the OFW Category and 10 nominees for the OFW Supporter or Home-based Category. For 2012 PEBA gave the top 3 winners some cash prize aside from gift packs. Reading through the entries one can fully appreciate how technology has changed the way Filipinos communicate with their friends and families. Social media, internet, mobile phone technology is not a luxury but a necessity and so much part of the daily lives of most Filipinos.
Aside from the SSS Photo contest, PEBA facilitated two other photo contests, the first was the VIPinoy FACES AND PLACES Photo Contest where OFWs where encourage to submit photos that show beautiful sights and spots in their host country. Another photo contest launched was the LBS at PEBA "Ang Pasko at Bagong Taon sa Abroad". Since Filipinos are fond of taking pictures and sharing them, PEBA and LBS decided to have their Christmas and new year celebration photos showcased on facebook through the contest.
The successful conduct of the Pinoy Expat/OFW Blog Awards 5th Annual International Blog and Photo Awards is attributed to the tireless officers and volunteers of PEBA from around the globe. Particularly those volunteers whose services were outsourced like artists who made poster and logo designs; made video teasers and presentations; assisted in the promotion of the event online/on facebook; secretariat work communicating with nominees and coordinating with judges for their scores and consolidating results; and other numerous but important tasks that helped a lot in making 2012 another milestone in PEBA’s history.
Commissioner Daniel Edralin of SSS welcomed the more than 200 OFW bloggers, their family and friends as well as other guests who attended the event last 15 December 2012 at the RM Hall of the Social Security System, Main Building at East Avenue, Quezon City. No less than Mrs. Cynthia Villar, the Managing Director of the Villar Foundation graced the blog awards coming from another event just to hand to winners their prizes. Other distinguished guests, network of PEBA and SSS officials attended the event.
PEBA is equally grateful to its sponsors. It continues to enjoy trust and benevolence of its long time sponsors. For 2012 PEBA forged partnership with SSS and availed sponsorship from communication giant SMART Communications, Inc., Villar Foundation, LBS Recruitment Solutions, Mega Manpower Corp., and VIPinoy. Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Patnubay Riyadh served as its institutional partners while Marissa del Mar’s Buhay OFW of TV5 and ABS-CBN Global Filipino were PEBA’s media partners.
©2013 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards