Monthly Archives: July 2012

Worse than Iraqi invaders

DR. Fawzi Elhami Ali, one of OFW-Suite101 frequent visitors, observed it right when he noted in a previous Discussion:

“It’s a sad situation . . . that the Filipino officials entrusted with solving the OFWs’ problems are in fact prolonging their suffering and profiting from it. In this way, I find these officials no less cruel to the Filipino claimants than the Iraqi invaders of Kuwait!”

It is indeed a sad situation, and abominable, especially hearing such a comment from a non-Filipino!

The officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) manning the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat (PCCCS), since the mess involving fund distribution to claimants was exposed early last year, have continuously denied and vigorously covered their anomalous activities. But the facts and figures presented – in public at that – by the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) prove, without reasonable doubt, that the officials have indeed misused the compensation fund which should have been long distributed to the rightful claimants. One has only to read the numerous decisions, reports and recommendations, and press releases on the UNCC website in order to draw an intelligent conclusion. The tales of difficulties faced by and disheartening experiences of concerned Filipinos in the whole process of claiming their grossly-delayed compensation from PCCCS are also living witnesses to the anomalies committed by these Philippine government officials!

A long 11 years

IT IS eleven years today since Iraq invaded her neighboring Kuwait. For seven agonizing months, Iraqis occupied and ransacked Kuwait and terrorized her people. Imagine how those individuals battled the dangers – unfathomable ones – to their lives.

Soon after the liberation of Kuwait, the United Nations Security Council declared it just for Iraq to pay for its misdeeds (please read Resolution 687, 692, and 986). Thus the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) was created. The UNCC, after setting up rules and regulations, almost immediately sent out forms, through representative governments, for distribution to people and institutions affected. Members of the UNCC Governing Council, early then, deemed it URGENT that the people who suffered during the invasion be compensated for their losses! (Please read Claims Processing).

After January 1, 1995, through Decision 23: [S/AC.26/Dec.23 (1994); 21 October 1994], the UNCC stopped accepting further individual claims. Shortly thereafter, it began sending out payments to duly approved claimants, prioritizing Category ‘B’ claims (serious personal injury or death) through their governments. In October 1995, the UNCC approved to release to the Philippine government US$155,000.00 for distribution to 45 approved ‘B’ claimants. (Please refer to Decision 32: [S/AC.26/Dec.32 (1995); 12 October 1995], Decision 26: [S/AC.26/Dec.26 (1994); 15 December 1994], and Decision 27: [S/AC.26/Dec.27 (1995); 22 March 1995]).

The Philippine government sent out word about the release of fund only in the early months of 1996.The 45 names of those successful claimants were published front page of the maiden issue of Pinoy Expat News or PEN, an independent paper circulating in Kuwait in early to mid 1996. Filipino ‘B’ claimants, accordingly, began receiving their compensations shortly thereafter. Between 1996 to 1997, the PCCC was quiet while the UNCC continued to release funds to other governments whenever it received then from the 30% revenues from Iraq’s petroleum and other petroleum products sales. At the moment, UNCC is receiving 25% share under the “oil-for-food” provision of the UN Security Council.

Image

In early 1998, news came out from the DFA announcing new fund releases from UNCC for some 1,846 claimants under Category A and C. I was entrusted then, luckily enough, by Philippine Embassy officials in Kuwait, to disseminate the information. It was also published front page of the Pinoy News, another publication and the last of my failed newspapering ventures in Kuwait. Sadly, that was the last public announcement made by the DFA. It also ceased to make public the list of successful claimants.

Image

Approval of those 1,846 claims by UNCC was contained in two separate decisions: Decision 28: [S/AC.26/Dec.28 (1995); 22 March 1995] subtitled ‘Decision Concerning the Second Instalment of Claims for Departure from Iraq or Kuwait (Category “A” Claims)’ and Decision 36: [S/AC.26/Dec.36 (1996); 30 May 1996], ‘Decision Concerning the Second Instalment of Individual Claims for Damages up to US$ 100,000 (Category “C” Claims).’ Nearing the end of each of the UNCC’s decisions on claims approval, one may read the following:

Reaffirms that when funds become available, payments shall be made in accordance with Decision . . .” (Decision numbers change according to the claims type and installment bracket).

The missing link, presumably released between late 1996 till mid-1997, is the first-ever payments made to Category A claimants, totaling all to 550. The particular UNCC decision noted that US$2,192,500.00 in funds were approved for payment. The amount was later corrected to US$2,195,000.00.

Suspension of delinquent governments

The Governing Council of the UNCC ruled in Decision 18: [S/AC.26/Dec.18 (1994); 24 March 1994] entitled ‘Distribution of Payments and Transparency’ that each government, upon receipt of funds from the UNCC, shall distribute same to the claimants within six months. Thereafter, the government has another three months to report on its payment activities. Should it fail to do as specified, the Council “may decide not to distribute further funds to that particular Government.”

This pronouncement by the Council has lately been emphasized by its inclusion, beginning on its October 26, 2000 press release. Previous nine press releases on payments made by UNCC – the first of which was dated April 22, 1999 – didn’t include this particular provision. For easy reference, I would like to quote the statement (page 2, last paragraph) in full:

The Governing Council monitors the distribution of payments to claimants by the relevant Governments and international organizations. Governments and international organizations are obliged to distribute funds to the successful claimants expeditiously and to report to the Commission on payments made to claimants. Any funds undistributed to claimants by Governments and international organizations within twelve months of receiving payment shall be returned to the Commission. Further payments to the Governments and international organizations shall be suspended where they fail to report on the distribution of funds to successful claimants or fail to return undistributed funds on time.”

Fund releases by UNCC

On the UNCC website, release of funds for successful claimants showed to have been reported initially on April 22, 1999. In my long years of following up the payments, I still couldn’t find the dates of fund releases prior to the initial date shown. From April 1999 until the latest release dated July 19,2001 (very recent, take note), the UNCC has made 13 releases of compensation money, now totaling to US$12.6 billion. The dates mentioned are: April 22, 1999; July 8, 1999; September 23, 1999; October 14, 1999; November 1, 1999; February 17, 2000; March 17, 2000; June 8, 2000; September 6, 2000; October 26, 2000; January 25, 2001; May 17, 2001; and July 19, 2001.

Out of these 13 fund releases, only once – on February 17, 2000 – was the Philippines included among those countries given funds by the UNCC!

Suspended or not suspended?

The recent expose’ of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that PCCCS Secretary General Bayani Mangibin vehemently denied that the Philippine government was ever suspended by the UNCC. The same way that PCCCS Deputy Secretary General Sinforiano Mendiola denied, when I asked him during a face-to-face interview held in Manila last July 21, 2000.

According to PCIJ’s Alecks Pabico, Mangibin, when confronted with the issue, slipped and admitted that the Philippines was indeed suspended. But the suspension didn’t hold for long, he claimed!

Suspended or not suspended, the fact remains that thousands of Filipino claimants, who all received initial payments in 1997, are still awaiting release of their full payments by the PCCCS officials. The fund has long been released by the UNCC – on February 17, 2000 to be exact – yet majority of these claimants are still not receiving any single penny.

My wild guess? The Philippines has been suspended alright by the UNCC, countless times, I should say. As the deadline set by the UNCC had already lapsed (within one year after receiving the fund – released, as repeatedly mentioned, on February 17, 2000) the PCCCS was not looking for another suspension after having been suspended in the past. It happened before, it can happen again. Meanwhile, it keeps in the bank the US$15.5 million it received since early 2000. How much interest, do you think, has it incurred since then? The claimants? Ah . . . they can wait!

Poor Filipino claimants, victims indeed of their own government officials – DFA officials, who, in the first place, are supposed to protect their rights!

Dr. Fawzi is right, these officials are no less cruel than the Iraqi invaders of Kuwait. But I would say that these officials are worse than the Iraqi invaders!


OFW-Suite101, in the past 14 months, has extensively covered the subject on the compensation claims by Filipino victims of the 1990-1991 Invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War. For more detailed information, please visit the following articles:

On Gulf war comp claims – published on May 2, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…

Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 1 – June 6, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…

Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 2 – July 4, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…

Pinoy Gulf War claims, an update – October 3, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…

UNCC completes payments to Pinoy claimants – November 7, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: August 2, 2001

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My saga continues . . .

ONE way or the other, each one of us takes his/her own share of the world’s ills. Depending on our strength – gained or inherent – we either succeed or fail. But sure – we all fight in order to survive! Those who failed, I believe, didn’t gain enough “experience” to deal with the stress, or might have just started to have the experience and the problem being faced is already serious or life-threatening!

I consider myself blessed to have undergone a lot of trials in life and I’ve learned early on that I become a stronger person each time I overcome one. As in rainy days, my life’s “pours” come incessantly. Yet each pour has given me the experience to battle bravely the coming ones!

“I won’t be surprised if a bomb falls over my head right this very moment!,” I remember telling my husband after reading a report of my first post-operative CT scans. Complications, yes, but I tell you – not the first! Let me continue with my saga . . .

Diabetes

On the sixth day of my confinement at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center (KCCC), I was informed by the head of the Oncology Team assigned to my case, that my blood sugar was continuously elevated. This could be because of the intravenous fluids I’ve received, and was still receiving (his eyes focused on the 5% Dextrose currently running) or as a result of my body’s reaction to the stress. Oh, no, I said, unbelieving and dismayed, yet very aware of the possibility!

So, I have diabetes as well! I know that I got it from my mother, who, if you remember, had her right leg amputated last year because of a gangrenous foot.

It seemed that the list of my own share of the world’s ills was adding up by the leaps. Brittle bone disease (or Osteogenesis Imperfecta), deteriorating hearing loss, diminishing eyesight, cancer and now diabetes! Hmm . . . what next?

The rest of my 11-day hospital confinement passed by uneventful. The pains I endured from daily needle pricks; gradual removal of the various tubes connected to my body (with naso-gastric tube the worst of all!) and from the still fresh 18-cm long surgical wound on my tummy were all temporarily forgotten when I was finally discharged. Actually I asked to be discharged – ahead of the time-frame established by the onco team – because I was terribly missing my own bed!

You guessed it right. First thing I did upon reaching home was to connect to the internet. I was very excited about the emails which have accumulated in my mailbox. Although my husband had been supplying me daily (all throughout the 11 days I stayed in the hospital) with emails from known relatives and friends, a lot were still there waiting to be read, mostly from members of the three mailing lists I subscribe to. Of course, all the junk mails had already been deleted by my thoughtful hubby. He’s really an angel, you know!

When it was time for the stitches to be removed, I went back to KCCC, happy with the knowledge that I will soon be freed from the irritating dressing and tapes over my surgical wound. The first 14 stitches, starting from up (1 and ½ inches above my navel), went without problem. Grip, cut, pull, grip, cut, pull – so went the forceps and scissors continuously. I felt very less pain. Ah . . . but I was wise enough to take pain killers before leaving the house!

When the surgeon reached the last four remaining stitches, he felt something extra soft, pressed down the skin a little too hard and ‘snap’ went the third and fourth to the last stitches! Serous fluid then oozed out, a lot, believe me!

Voila! Good “new” diabetes was doing its job very well! With two pieces of gauze stuffed inside the opening, I was finally sent home with instruction to come for a daily dressing.

E. coli infection

The following day, I was informed that the culture and sensitivity report (from a body discharge taken prior to the surgery) finally arrived and showed positive for E. coli infection. Not again!

Ah well, I said, antibiotics can easily solve the problem – as it did to an E. coli infection of urinary tract I had over a year ago! The doctor prescribed antibiotics alright but alas not the tablet or capsule kind but the intravenous (IV) one, to be taken every 12 hours! Needle pricks again! Will I ever finish?

It really helped being a nurse. You know what I did? I asked for an IV line to be established – as I know I won’t be able to take the twice a day pricks into my veins. I already developed this “needle phobia” and besides, most of my veins were already collapsed. Now, picture me with this needle-guided thin plastic tube imbedded into a vein in my arm. The tiny tube was connected to a long bigger tube curled around and taped to the base of my left lower arm with a small plastic stoppage at the end. Each time I was due for the antibiotic push, I would remove the tapes, uncurl the tube, open the plastic covering the stoppage, and push the antibiotic solution via a disposable syringe, grimace a bit because of the pain felt as the cold solution passes through my vein and then do the action in reverse.

Oh, yes, I was doing it to my self at home – most of the time alone or with my husband’s assistance! Why not, I protested, when my husband initially refused for me to do the IV push in the house! It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last! I was referring then to the first one (in a series of many episodes) I did while serving a private hospital during the infamous invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq. (Please see related stories A call of duty, Part 1 and A call of duty, Part 2). Because of the scarcity of staff and the lack of time to properly imbibe food, I resorted then to giving myself an IV shot of Vit. C with calcium – alone in the ward! The fastest way I know to regain the strength continuously lost by lack of sleep and food – just like I was a drug addict!

Self-pity

During one of those recent IV pushing actions, I experienced this profound feeling of self-pity. It was actually triggered by my difficulty in removing one of the sticky tapes holding the curled tube in place. I was already using both my right hand and mouth but each time I made a move I was feeling the thin tube imbedded under my skin moving out of place. Exasperated, I almost pulled the whole thing out, especially after my right elbow accidentally pushed the syringe – full of antibiotic solution I prepared earlier – down to the carpet! Luckily enough, I managed to stop myself. I cried instead and all those unshed tears in the past days suddenly gushed out uncontrollably! Oh God, please help me, I shouted! Help me overcome this insignificant difficulty and please take me out from this pit of self-destruction and self-pity!

After I recovered from that soul-searching episode, I got up revivified, to prepare another antibiotic solution ready for another try. When it was time to remove the sticky tape, I didn’t encounter any difficulty. The tape just went easily! Unknowingly, the tears, which flowed down earlier to my left arm resting on my lap, sipped underneath the tape.

Oh, what a wonder! I then smiled and felt this unexplainable peace in my heart!

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: July 27, 2001

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Surviving cancer in a foreign land

IN the past 12 years of my stint abroad as an overseas Filipino worker, never did I think that I will ever face a “death” sentence. Yes a death sentence – not as a consequence of a crime committed but because of having the most dreaded and deadly human disease as cancer! Thousands and thousands of miles away from my immediate family and country, having had to face this life’s ultimate ordeal is something, in itself, very debilitating! I thought that I will have to deal only with earning dollars so I can provide the best for my family back home in the Philippines! I was wrong!

I admit that I was really caught off-guard with the shocking diagnosis I received that fateful day of November 16, 2000! Who wouldn’t, anyway! Foremost on my mind was not the fear of dying – it came to fore much later as I went through the process of accepting my fate. Ah, the fear I had then!

Who will take care of my ailing mother, old nanny and youngest sister? Who will look after my two children and adopted son? Who will provide the needs of my other siblings? Who will help those breadwinners under my employ? Who will look after the interest of our land which I painstakingly redeemed numerous times from various individuals? I fear the land will go because, sad to say, my siblings’ hard-up situation will force them to sell the land. Then my wildest dream of having the happiest and the most beautiful family compound will all go to naught!

Those were the questions I asked then. Of course, they were asked because I thought I will die soon! Funny, really, how the word ‘cancer’ can make us think immediately of death!

Actually, these very real responsibilities I have, were the ones which helped me fight back and stay convicted to live a long, long life! I tell you, there was once a time when I was in the last thread of hope that I asked God to end my life! Be quick with it, oh Lord, I prayed. Looking back, I strongly believe, that it was the time when I realized that God didn’t want to end my life. I strongly believe that He just wanted to shake me and tell me that: “Hey, you’ve been too much engrossed in helping others that you forgot to help yourself! Wake up and attend to your ailing body and reestablish your priorities in life!”

From then on, I faced my “death” sentence with renewed vigor! I promised myself that I will never, never allow my body to be wasted away by this dragon! As you know, some parts of my body were already removed and lately, as a consequence of another not-so-common human disease named Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) I inherited from my late father, two new bony areas are slowly wasting away. This, of course, along with my fast deteriorating hearing loss, is not connected to the cancer. I understand that some more parts will possibly be involved in the years to come but I don’t care! I will fight this monster until the last breath of my life! Even if I have to crawl in order to go to work! I want to be strong and I want to keep my body working for as long as it takes to function!

Since the publication of my article “Woes of an OFW” last December 5, 2000, so many people, known and unknown to me, have sent emails to ask about me. The steady flow of emails I received, especially the ones from the three mailing lists (two were created by me prior to my cancer diagnosis) I subscribe to, actually kept me going and amidst the trials I continuously faced, I slowly emerged from my temporary downfall into a stronger, positive and fighting demeanor!

The initial shock of the diagnosis started to wear off when I began to learn about my disease. The internet suddenly became my ally! I spent the next 10 hours or so, after hearing the bad news from my gynecologist, searching the web.

Leiomyosarcoma – such strange-sounding word! How do you get one, I asked then? Because I remember the doctor told me before that the fibroid is never malignant! Then how come I had a cancerous fibroid tumor? Leiomyosarcoma, or LMS for short, is a very rare form of cancer affecting the soft (smooth muscle) tissues of the body. And according to one of my readings, LMS is known for its high metastatic activity! Oh, my, what now? The tumor was already removed after invading my uterus. Where else can it go, I asked then.

More search and I was finally taken to this mailing list which later has become my lifeline as I struggled to accept my life-threatening ordeal. The mailing list – The Leiomyosarcoma (cancer) Online Support Group – has provided me with accurate information and the latest innovative management for my type of LMS! I really am thankful to God I found the list because it has saved me from having to accept from the not-so-knowledgeable-on-LMS oncologists in Kuwait their standard practice of subjecting a “high grade” cancer patient to chemotherapy and radiation. The caring members of the list warned me that LMS does not, if at all, respond to chemotherapy and radiation.

Another major surgery

Just over a month after undergoing my first ever major surgery – myomectomy, to remove the fibroid tumor from my uterus – I was again wheeled to the operating room last November 29, 2000. The operation, according to my husband, lasted for nearly five hours. The surgeons, after removing my uterus, two ovaries, two fallopian tubes and cervix, took their time in looking into my other organs for possible infiltration of the cancerous tumor. My appendix went, along with a very “suspicious” nodule above my small bowel.

What else did they remove? I remember asking my husband as soon as I regained consciousness. I was informed beforehand, and was made to sign a paper testifying to the knowledge, that the surgeons may remove other organs aside from our previously agreed ones (the whole reproductive organs) if needed. Did they remove my stomach, or part of it? What about my intestines? My liver? My spleen? My gallbladder? My kidneys? My urinary bladder and ureters? Oh my, you should see the expression on my husband’s face!

As related by my husband, he had difficulty controlling his tears, when he saw me after the surgery. It was too much for him to take and he wished no other husbands will ever be subjected to the same situation he faced! I was white as a paper, he said, and all kinds of tubes, bottles and bags were connected to my body. He could hardly see my face because of the oxygen mask covering almost all area of my tiny face. I have one large tube connected to my nose; another tube to the right side of my neck (central venous line) where three bottles of solution were simultaneously connected; a tube connected to my left arm where blood was dripping from a bag; a tube on both sides of my lower abdomen where drains from my abdominal cavity were pouring into weird-looking bags; and another tube for draining of urine. A funny-looking object was also connected to my right index finger (was reminded of ET, the movie) which gave off a sound every time my vital signs showed below or above normal. My chest was full of numerous small round patches connected, by tiny wires, to another machine which monitored my heart. And one tiny wire connected to my back – the only tube, in fact, which I welcomed gladly – which supplied my body with pain-relieving medication. In one hour, I was allowed to press the button four times, and the machine will pump the heavenly drug into my system.

I stayed in the Recovery Room (Intensive Care Unit) five days and four nights. By the time I was moved to my room in the Female Ward (of the Kuwait Cancer Control Center), I only had three tubes – the central venous line and the two ones connected to both sides of my lower abdomen for draining out the secretions from inside my cavity.

My saga continues, my dear readers, on the second part of this long-overdue story.

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: July 20, 2001

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Woes of an OFW

WHAT you are going to read this time is extraordinary. It is not what I planned to write about but because of my present predicament, which you will learn shortly, I feel unable to function normally as I should. I ask you, please, to read the following letter which I sent to the members of OFW Club mailing list I administrate. It is my wish to make you understand the woes of an OFW.

By the time this article comes out, I will still be in the hospital.

My dear friends and members of this Cyberkadahan,

Year 2000 – the Year of OFWs – so it seems, is not a good one for me. What I have been through so far could have made anyone lose hope and faith in God. Yet, here I am – physically and emotionally scarred and spiritually near-drained – still trying to understand why I have gone through (and still am continuing to) a lot of trials.

We have heard it often enough that a person can only take as much and that God, in all His unfathomable wisdom, won’t give us something we can’t handle. How true is this to each one of you? And how far, do you think you can go in facing the hurdles of life? Especially if they are given to you one after another?

Please bear with me, my dear friends, as this message will be a long one. I know that there are lessons to be learned from my story and I would love to share it with you all. I hope that there’s no one among you who’s facing more than I do now. I really don’t know because most of you had been very quiet recently. Some of you may also be going through a lot this year and I would like to believe that I’m not alone!

When I learned early March this year (just 3 weeks after suffering for the first time from acute urinary tract infection – ah the pain and the discomfort!) that the fibroid tumor (discovered still small last year) had started to grow uncontrollably inside my womb (uterus), and that both my fallopian tubes are blocked (crushing all my hopes of conceiving the natural way), I was devastated! Initially, the doctor advised removal of the tumor by surgery. Ever hopeful (Waleed and I) that I can still conceive through IVF (test tube), we asked for non-surgical option. In April, I commenced taking Inj. Zoladex and continued until mid-September. All along I suffered the side effects, which, believe me, had put a lot of strain in my inter-personal relationships with colleagues at work, and with Waleed, insofar as my marriage was concerned. Any ordinary man or husband could have, literally, thrown me out of his life! Through Waleed’s love and friends’ support, I passed through the six months period of treatment.

In early April, my mother was rushed to the hospital because of an infected wound in her right foot. Two weeks after my Mom was discharged from the hospital with a clean bill, I received news that my children’s Nanny’s father died. Soon after that my Mom’s foot was discovered gangrenous and she had to be rushed to the hospital again. By May 4, I was beside my Mom as she fought for the infection on her leg and lungs. May 6 when I experienced a chest-suffocating pain (similar to the one I felt when my father died in 1981) after seeing my Mom in the Recovery Room minutes after her right leg (from 2 inches below the knee) was amputated. May 8, my old Nanny (who used to be my Mom’s personal maid when she was younger) collapsed and had a convulsion because of high fever. She was also rushed to the hospital where my Mom was and subsequently treated for pneumonia and later for TB of the bones.

When I returned to Kuwait on May 19, I started to feel the side effects of the sleepless nights and unrelieved tension I went through while looking after my Mom and Nanny in the hospital. I experienced for the first time the worst headache you can ever imagine of! And also first time in my life that I spent my birthday (May 26) writhing in pain in bed!

The ensuing three months came out uneventful – except for a drained savings – as I needed to see my mother again (July/August). First week of September, my eldest son, who I excitedly and happily enrolled last May in college, dropped all his subjects and refused to go back to school! Then exactly a month after that, my nephew, whose college education I was financing, also dropped out just before the final exams! Gone with the wind the nearly P70,000 I spent for the two – tuition fees, dorm fees, food and personal allowances + books and personal things!

Then exactly a month after I took the last of the injections, it was discovered that the tumor didn’t shrink and it even grew bigger! Surgery was the only option left and on October 19, I was ‘knifed’ by a surgeon. I need not tell you the pain and discomfort I suffered after the anesthesia wore off! And while recovering, I still have to endure more pain because of gas accumulation in my stomach and intestines. And I still suffer from the gas pain up to this very moment!

Do you think all is well after the tumor has been removed? NO, and it’s for this that I’m now posting this long message to you all.

Yesterday (November 16, 2000), I was notified to see my doctor. When I went late in the afternoon with Waleed, we were told that the biopsy report turned out positive for malignancy! Oh yes, my dear friends, I have CANCER of the uterus! Although suspecting it all along, I was still in shock – not because I may be dying soon (I fully accept the fact that we will all die sooner or later and that it is not in our hands to decide when it will happen) –it’s more on the realization that I won’t ever, ever produce an offspring for my beloved husband! I will have to be knifed again, as you must have guessed by now, and this time the whole lot – uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix – will be removed! And it will have to be done ASAP – within this week, most probably, just a month after I was last cut surgically.

My main worries, aside from not being able to produce anymore a child for Waleed, are my children and family members: mainly my mother, my youngest sister and my old Nanny who are all medically unfit; my other younger sister whose husband is under my employ (my own special way of dole-out actually), my older sister with her two boys who I am temporarily supporting, and my only brother who is also dependent on my support. I also worry about the three family breadwinners under my employ: two as caretakers of my Mom, sister and old Nanny and another one as helper in the house. I also am worried about Arlo – my adopted son (a member of a cultural minority group) who is doing well in his studies (Vocational course). I promised him the last time that he’ll join me here in Kuwait as soon as he gets his diploma. What will happen to them all should my body finally waste off?

I can’t afford to die now! Please, oh Lord, not yet! My family needs me and I wouldn’t want to forsake them!

Sorry, I am being overly dramatic, I know, and I may sound corny to some of you. But, please, just indulge me this very moment. After all, we may never get to “see” each other in the future!

If you don’t hear from me in 2 to 3 days’ time – that means that I’m in the hospital again. All I ask of you is to pray for me: that the cancer cells have not invaded other parts of my body. I don’t want to run after every part of my body just to prolong my life. Let it be localized only in my reproductive organs and if it turns out otherwise, let me die the soonest!

Again, so sorry I am, my dear cyberfriends for giving you my worries.

In tears,

Freda

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: December 5, 2000

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

UNCC completes payments to Pinoy claimants

BEFORE anything else I would like first to mention a lesson in life which I FINALLY learned recently. It maybe just a case of coincidence but the message was clear enough for me, that is: not to foretell a definite action! Allow me please to explain further . . .

In my May 2, 2000 published article “On Gulf War comp claims” I wrote that I will continue to give pertinent information “in the next couple of days.” Two days after that I was on my way home to the Philippines to attend to my ailing mother whose right leg needed to be amputated. Then in my previous article “Pinoy Gulf War claims, an update” I also mentioned that I’ll present the information I gathered from the two other sources “within the following two weeks.” On the day I was scheduled to write the story – armed actually with fresh news gathered from another DFA official through a telephone interview conducted two days earlier – I had an appointment with my doctor and learned that I need to undergo surgery. Three days after, I was confined in the hospital and went through a major operation!

Actually these last two incidents (the only times, in fact, I foretold something in all my other previous published articles) were not the only ones I had in my life. The previous ones – although I realized each time that I was being taught a lesson – were simply ignored. Maybe because the “reasons” why a planned or foretold action was not done were not too serious ones like having a bout of migraine or diarrhea or suddenly having an unannounced visitor or receiving bad news from home and ending up crying myself out. But wait, I now remember that the only time I had my lower leg in plaster cast for a month (October 1992) was after I promised a friend of mine to join her in ice skating lesson. Funny, I actually broke my ankle while bowling and it happened just a day before the scheduled skating activity!

Well, enough for lessons in life! I just hope that I really learned this last one. I hope too that whoever reads this article will learn a lesson from my experience.

And having said that – just now I thought of telling that this piece on UN compensation claims will be the last one I’ll write for Suite101! Here I go again . . . .

The other sources

Not only two, as previously mentioned, but three more sources of information will be presented hereon in connection with the 40,200+ claims for compensation by Filipinos from the UN as a result of Iraq’s invasion and seven-month occupation of Kuwait. The first two sources from where I gathered new information are UNCC’s latest press releases and a news item published online by ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Central, specifically under its OFW-related news. The third source is from another DFA official through a long distance telephone interview I conducted last October 13.

I would like to mention first the ABS-CBN news which was published online last week of September. Headlined ‘Senate panel seeks faster settlement of Gulf War damage claims’ the report focused on the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s recent discovery that “about 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have not received any compensation for losses and damages they suffered after they were displaced from their job in Kuwait” prompting Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, as chair of the body, to urge the PCCCS “to speed up the processing and approval of claims.”

Pimentel was quoted as saying that “the affected OFWs, represented by Migrante International, have a valid reason to complain about the gross delay in the processing of damage claims by the PCCCS.” It also reported that the Blue Ribbon panel found out that “of the 45,000 claims filed by displaced Filipino workers, only 21,172 claims with a total value of $55 million have been settled and paid by PCCCS.”

Another interview

In order to verify the report, I tried to contact Mr. Sinforiano Mendiola but he was out in a meeting when I telephoned the PCCCS office last October 13. I talked instead to Mr. Dalidig “Jack” Tanandato, assistant to Mr. Mendiola. Interviewing Jack gave me a feeling of the old days. It was like going back to the time when I was still actively writing for Kuwait Times way back in 1994/95 when he used to be the source of majority of the news item I wrote about the Philippine Embassy’s activities in Kuwait. Jack used to be assigned, among many others, to the Gulf War Compensation section of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait.

He confirmed that indeed the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee conducted an investigation on the reported misuse of the Compensation Fund. Twice, in fact, the officials of PCCCS, headed by DFA Undersecretary Benjamin Domingo, were called to the Senate hearing.

The ABS-CBN reference to the 21,172 claims so far settled and paid by PCCCS, Jack said, was not the latest figure as it was contained in a report dated April 2000. As of September 30, 2000, the total number of claimants given compensation has already reached 27,898 with a total value of US$67 million, Jack reported. The figure covers only those claimants under Categories A and C.

“Just recently, on October 10 to be exact, we sent out nearly one thousand notices to claimants whose compensation money has been received by the PCCCS from the UNCC,” Jack said. This now covers the second phase and includes full payment of claims under Categories A and C. Those notified were claimants initially given partial payments in 1997.

“The process will now be faster than before because the claimants have all been officially identified, with updated addresses and status,” Jack emphasized.

Before the end of our conversation, Jack reaffirmed Mr. Mendiola’s claim that there was (and is) no anomaly involved whatsoever in the Fund distribution or payment to the claimants by the PCCCS. He added that “whatever received from the UNCC for distribution to claimants as contained on a provided list is paid within the time-frame, with a few exceptions of those whose whereabouts are difficult to determine.” Any unclaimed money, he said, is being returned to the UNCC, as per rules and regulations followed. He likewise announced that the PCCCS headquarters will be relocated on November 2 to the PNB Financial Center, occupying the whole first floor of the building.

The UNCC report

According to a UNCC press release dated September 6, 2000, the second phase of payments has now concluded with its concurrent release of US$825,177,061.61 to some 30,951 successful claimants. Second phase payments, which prioritized individual claimants in Categories A and C while also providing meaningful compensation to claimants in Categories D, E and F, totaled all to US$4,860,461,112.60 made available to respective Governments for distribution to 870,816 individual claimants.

It maybe recalled that the first phase of payments involved an initial payment of US$2,500 to each successful individual claimants in Categories A and C, as well as payment of the full amount to all successful claimants in Category B. UNCC reported that US$3,252,337,997.09 were made available to 1,498,119 successful claimants under the first phase of payments.

In its latest press release, dated October 26, 2000, as read on its website, UNCC has “today commenced the third phase of payments by making available a total of US$1,275,020,540.47 to 38 Governments and one international organization for distribution to 1,538 successful claimants.” To date the overall amount of compensation made available by UNCC totals to US$9,414,912,436.73!

Analysis

Based from the data I gathered from the UNCC website, I am now compelled to give my analysis of the issue. I could be wrong but the figures given by the UNCC supercede whatever data provided by the DFA officials and other sources. What could be more official and reliable than the UNCC itself?

It may help to better understand whatever conclusion I’ll present shortly if I summarize the claims made by Filipinos and consequently approved for payment by the UNCC. The figures will speak for themselves, I would say.

All six categories (A,B,C,D,E,F) were filed by Filipino nationals and the Philippine government. Category A claims approved for payment total to 34,454 with UNCC recommended amount of US$135,528.000.00; Category B – 45 claims – US$155,000.00; Category C – 5,709 claims – US$31,115,480.67; Category D – 8 approved claims so far (12 in all according to Jack Tanandato) – US$498,860.67; Category E – 2 claims – US$55,104.00; and Category F – 3 claims – US$7,567,327.00. The over-all total of approved claims came up to 40,221 with recommended amount of US$174,919,772.66.

As mentioned earlier, the UNCC, as of September 6, 2000, has already completed the second phase of payments which involved full payments to all Categories A, C and D individual claims as well as E (claims by corporations) and F (claims by Governments). It has been reported that US$25,000 has initially been made available to claims reaching the US$100,000 limit under Category C then followed by releases of US$75,000.00 thereafter. This means that if a Category C claim is US$25,000.00 or less, the full remaining amount (minus the initial payment of US$2,500.00 made into effect during the first phase of payment) should be received by each individual claimant as approved. Please note that the UNCC is now on its third phase of payments, which commenced October 26, 2000, and involves initial payment of US$5 million, in the order in which the claims have been approved, to claimants in Categories D, E and F. Within this phase, payments of US$10 million will also be made, depending on the availability of funds, which as reported before, are derived from the “Oil for Food” mechanism of the United Nations.

I find it strange though that in the last 10 reported releases of Fund by the UNCC (from April 22, 1999 to October 26, 2000) only once – on February 17, 2000 – was the Philippines included among those Governments paid. And while the first reported release of Fund on April 22, 1999 involved payments under the sixth installments of both Categories A and C, the February 17, 2000 release of Fund to the Philippines and 49 other countries reported payments made available under the fifth installments of Categories A and C!

Try as I may to find a valid explanation to this occurrence, the same hunch as I had before – that the Philippines might have been suspended by the UNCC for its failure to distribute on time the Funds initially released in 1997 – continues to surface. Proofs which I can give are the following:

a) one out of 10 successive releases of Funds (within the past 18 months) by the UNCC was all the Philippine government has had;

b) while the UNCC completed the second phase of payments last September 6, 2000, which, by the way, commenced last September 23, 1999, only this October 10 the PCCCS sent out notices to nearly 1,000 claimants due for full payment under the second phase of payments;

c) the reported 27,898 Filipino claimants already given initial payments of US$2,500 (which also includes those who already received full payments with some receiving less than US$1,000.00) are way below the actual figures provided by the UNCC on its website, taking into consideration that the first phase of payments had already been concluded. Remember that approved claims for Category A alone totals to 34,454! If all had been paid initially as dictated by UNCC under the first phase of payments, then why only 27,898 had been reported paid as of September 30, 2000? And what about the 5,709 Category C approved claims?;

d) the DFA reported US$67 million paid out to successful claimants as of September 30, 2000 is too low a figure basing from the over-all US$174.9 million recommended amount for payment by UNCC. Categories A and C approved claims alone make up US$166.6 million of the over-all total; and –

e) as there was no UNCC-reported release of fund prior to and after the February 17, 2000 payment made to the Philippines, you may agree with me in claiming that what is now being – or maybe still to be – distributed by PCCCS (it’s nearly a month now since the October 10 sending of notices) comes from the US$15,559,311.09 reported release of fund by UNCC last February 17, which, by the way, has been identified in the UNCC press release as falling under the second phase of payment.

If I were to believe UNCC’s claim that payments under Categories A, B and C had all been paid as of September 6, 2000 I will sure wonder where the bulk of the Filipino claimants’ compensation money is. It’s not with the PCCCS – that’s clear enough according to the 9 out of 10 UNCC-reported releases of fund since 18 months ago. The UNCC, of course, can’t be quiet about its release of fund to the Philippine government, can it? Oh my, what am I heading to this time?

Will someone please give me the correct analysis of this very confusing issue?

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: November 7, 2000

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pinoy Gulf War claims, an update

AS promised, I now present a follow-up report on the status of claims for compensation by Filipinos affected by the Gulf War. I managed to gather new information from three sources: a face-to-face interview with a DFA official (when I went for my yearly holiday to the Philippines last July); a UNCC’s September 28 press release; and an ABS-CBN news report published online less than a week ago. I will separate though the report from the last two sources and discuss the issues contained therein within the following two weeks.

The interview

Appointed Deputy Secretary-General of PCCCS (Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat) Mr. Sinforiano Mendiola, in an interview held July 21, 2000 at his office at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, disclosed some information which somehow clarified some of the issues mentioned in the past three related articles published here on OFW-Suite101 site.

“Our books are clean and every penny released or spent for operation purposes is recorded and copy furnished to the UNCC,” Mendiola said referring to the reported misuse of the Gulf War funds entrusted by the UNCC to his department. A certified public accountant before joining the DFA, he insinuated that his appointment to the present post was partly due to his long years of clean record as DFA’s assistant comptroller, regional fiscal representative and consul general (assigned to Mexico and U.K) in the past 37 years of government service. The Fund, he admitted, is indeed deposited at the Philippine National Bank (PNB) under the name of Undersecretary Benjamin Domingo in his capacity as head of the PCCCS. The PCCCS, as a body, he explained, has no identity as far as the bank is concerned.

Interest earnings of the Fund are being used for the whole operation of claims processing, Mendiola said, strongly pointing out that the UNCC is aware of the practice.

“We are, in fact, authorized by the UNCC to derive our operating expenses from the interest earnings of the Fund and this has actually saved every claimant from a 1.5% deduction from his/her claim money,” he explained.

I was aware of this 1.5% deduction from individual claims and am keeping on file this UNCC provision as contained in Decision No. 18, dated March 24, 1994 under the heading “Distribution of Payment and Transparency”, and I hereby quote:

Governments may offset their costs of processing claims by deducting a small fee from payments made to claimants. The Governments shall be required to provide explanations satisfactory to the Governing Council for any processing costs so deducted. Such fees shall be commensurate with the actual expenditure of Governments. In the case of awards payable to claimants in categories A, B and C, the fees should not exceed 1.5 per cent, and for awards payable to claimants in categories D, E and F, the fees should not exceed 3 per cent.”

High interest earnings

The PCCCS acting head related that the decision not to deduct any amount from the claimants’ money came about a few months after the Philippine Government received the first Fund from UNCC in May 1997. Because of the slow process of contacting the approved-for-payment claimants, which almost consumed the then allowable 6 months time-frame established by the UNCC for fund distribution, the interest earned by the Fund in the bank was discovered “surprisingly high”, Mendiola hinted. This prompted the then PCCCS chair Leonides Caday (now Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia) to “suggest” to the UNCC that instead of deducting the cost of operation from the claimants, the PCCCS shall then derive the cost from the interest earnings of the Fund.

“We got the approval from the UNCC and since then, had been regularly submitting reports, as required,” Mendiola reiterated.

He also explained that whenever they need to use the “interest” money, the UNCC’s approval is sought first. He disclosed a recent plan to move the PCCCS headquarters to a bigger area in order to accommodate the 300 to 500 people trooping the DFA building daily to claim, submit papers, inquire or follow-up payments. As soon as everything is settled, the office will relocate to the PNB Financial Center building (just opposite the DFA premises in Roxas Boulevard) and will occupy a whole floor. The now 24 staff members will have to be supplemented with additional workers in order to expedite the processing and release of payments to successful claimants, he announced.

Not suspended

Mendiola denied that the Philippine Government was ever suspended by the UNCC for “non-distribution or delayed distribution” of the Fund to the Filipino claimants. My presumption, as reported in Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 2, he stressed, was wrong!

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: October 3, 2000

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A call of duty, Part 2

A Curse

January 17, 1991 (Thursday) . Nobody came to report for morning duty and the night sisters were still in the ward when I came to the Nursery at 7 am. I sent all the night sisters home and called all the available staff staying in the Hostel. Bombings, which started early morning of the previous day, still continued and can be heard by us. This prompted the transfer of the patients and babies from the second floor to the basement. Because of the haste of transferring the babies in cribs, the sound created by the wheels and cribs bumping each other started the fear among everybody and soon panic was all over the faces of both patients and the hospital staff.

While the babies in cribs were being transferred to the basement and some of the patients to the lobby, I was left in the Nursery giving instructions to my staff what things and equipment to be transferred as well. When I finally reached the basement, I was met by a tragic sight – mothers who had just delivered were panicking and shouting. I felt a strong compassion and pity for them and when I saw the babies all crammed in two small rooms, I cried. I cursed Saddam Hussein for what he did! I had a hard time controlling my tears; I had to be strong as everybody was looking up to me for support.

Later on the babies were transferred to the lobby, nearer to where their mothers were. I was very very tired then but I had to stay. I couldn’t leave the makeshift ward – both the male and female patients were lying in trolleys in the lobby – separated only by a cloth divider. I attended to some of the patient while at the same time managing the temporary nursery.

Iraqi dinars

Early September 1990. The hospital management started to pay the staff in Iraqi dinars. They multiplied our salary in Kuwaiti dinars to four Iraqi dinars. I was getting then ID750 or more depending on the number of hours I worked overtime. Later on, I stopped counting my overtime as there was no time even for me to recall when and for how long I was called. All the Iraqi dinars I received were given to a few Kuwaiti friends and used to buy food distributed to some Filipinos. I even shouldered the hospital bill of one Filipina who delivered a baby in the hospital. I found no point in keeping the money as I was not sure whether I’ll survive the imminent war or not.

By end of March, more than a month after Kuwait was liberated, we were still paid in Iraqi dinars. I refused to take my salary but was later on forced to claim it in early August because I wanted to give the money to a Jordanian baby (whose precious life I also saved during the Invasion) who was leaving Kuwait for good with her family.

Whatever Kuwait dinars I received in August 1990 had never been used as they belonged to the currencies cancelled by the Kuwait government. I still am keeping until now over a hundred dinars and from time to time would give a note or two to friends for remembrance.

At Jabriya Media Center

Early March 1991. I volunteered as a writer and helped in the setting up of an English paper at the Media Center in Jabriya. The paper, bannered as “Kuwait News” as per my suggestion, unfortunately, never materialized because by then, its mother paper, the Arabic “February 26” was stopped by the government for lack of license. Nevertheless, some of my work was posted on a bulletin board to form a part of an exhibit shown at the center.

Although my work at the center was a brief one, I found it very interesting and rewarding as I had the chance of working with some of the Kuwaiti resistants who stuck it out in Kuwait all throughout the Invasion. I also had the chance of seeing in person some of the “big” people of Kuwait bureaucracy.

A meeting with UN officials

March 20, 1991. A dialogue was held at the SAS Hotel between officials of the United Nation’s Center for Human Rights and the Filipino community in Kuwait. I was the spokesperson for the paramedical group and I got the chance of airing the hard situation we encountered while working during the Invasion. I expected so much from that meeting. I was hoping for a solution to some, if not all, of our immediate problems. The most I got from the dialogue was getting hold of a copy of a fax sent by Mr. John Pace, one of the UN officials we talked to, to the Permanent Mission of the Philippines in the UN Headquarters in Geneva. Whether an action was done as per Mr. Pace’s recommendations or not – that I do not know!

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: September 5, 2000

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A call of duty, Part 1

TEN years ago today, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. Kuwait’s workforce which formed majority of the estimated 1.6 million residents then was consequently affected. Among the workers who rendered continuous service to the few remaining Kuwaitis and other nationals in Kuwait, after that ‘exodus’ during the first three months following the invasion, were health professionals. In fact, hospitals were the only major institutions functioning then and were manned by the very few doctors, nurses, technologists and other health personnel who selflessly chose to stay and heeded the call of duty.

Many people must have wondered how these health workers survived the hard work and the harsh situation and I believe very few stories surfaced after the liberation. What I am going to relate here is that story which I have dreamed too long to turn into a book and which I planned to publish today. Alas, time has not been that kind to me that I now end up giving instead some portions of what actually transpired during those difficult and challenging times.

First 24-hour duty

September 23, 1990 (Sunday). I reported to Nursery for my regular morning duty at 7 am. There were 16 newly-born babies. I was with one of the two remaining Indian nurses. The rest of the Indian nurses and staff didn’t report for work as they were all leaving Kuwait the following day. We were busy inasmuch as most of the babies needed special care having been born prematurely. I took off at 1.30 pm and came back at 2 pm for the second shift of duty. I was with two Filipina domestic helpers who were earlier hired by the hospital for help. In the ward, there were two Filipina nurses newly hired as well. I divided my work between the Nursery and the ward since the new nurses were new to the hospital routine. They were ex dental clinic nurses who chose to remain in Kuwait.

When the night shift came, I found myself alone with 22 female patients in the main ward; two elderly male patients one floor below; and 16 newly-born babies in the Nursery. I assigned two Filipina helpers (different from the ones in the morning) in the Nursery while I attended to patients in the ward. I only had one Bangladeshi (the only original “farash” or cleaner left behind) for help in the ward.

There were three newly-operated (CS) patients admitted in rooms far apart from each other; two diabetics and four others awaiting delivery; a bleeding woman in her early stage of pregnancy; and a number of newly delivered mothers all complaining of pain. I was running from one room to another, to the Nursery and to the Male Ward one floor below. I do not know how I managed the work but I was sane enough when I endorsed the patients the following morning to a co-Filipina; the two male patients to an Egyptian colleague; and the babies to the Indian nurse in the Nursery. I managed to sleep afterwards for five hours then was called back again to attend to a premature baby and straight to night duty.

A challenge

September 25, 1990 (Tuesday). I just finished my second night duty – was again alone in the wards. The Indian nurse who was to take over the Nursery did not report as she was finally forced to leave Kuwait. I checked the premature baby (born the other day) inside the incubator and seeing her to be alright, I set to leave for a much-needed sleep uncertain whether I can report back or not to night duty that day. I gave instructions earlier to another three Filipina helpers to ask help from the two nurses in the ward and to call the Pediatrician who was attending to out-patients that day. On my way out, I met the father (a Kuwaiti) of the premature baby, bringing with him a bottle of breast milk. After learning that his baby will be left for hours under the care of three unqualified staff, and after finding out that I might not come back, he got furious and started to shout. He did not give me at all a chance to explain my situation. Feeling tired, sleepy and hungry, all I did was to listen to his angry outburst.

“What will happen to my baby and to all the other patients when all of you are leaving?,” he said.

I felt his anguish and was challenged at the same time. For a while, I forgot about myself and went back to the Nursery. I was later on sent up to the hostel to sleep by the Pediatrician who came to the Nursery for his regular check of the babies.

A miracle

September 27, 1990 (Thursday). I was again on night duty, my fourth in a row. It was 2 am and I just finished giving milk (through tube feeding) to the same premature baby and was halfway through my preparation of medicines and IV solutions for the patients in the ward when suddenly there was a power black-out. I immediately ran back to the Nursery to check the baby in the incubator. I found her completely blue and not breathing at all! By then the hospital’s emergency power was on. I asked one of the helpers to call a doctor while I resuscitated the baby. By the time the doctor arrived, the baby was already breathing, though a difficult one. After looking at the still bluish baby, I overheard him say: “What do I know about babies?” Stethoscope in hand, he listened to the baby’s chest, nodded his head and left in a hurry. A few minutes after he was gone, the baby suddenly stopped breathing again and turned completely blue.

The doctor was called back and I did the same resuscitative measures. Before he left for the second time, he told me not to call him again as there is nothing he could do. He was busy himself assisting mothers delivering babies and he was tired, hungry and sleepy as well. He said that the baby was lucky enough to have survived that long as she was only 32 weeks old and weighed 1.1 kilograms. But I did not give up. I sent one helper out to the main ward and I continued reviving the baby each time she had the apneic attack. I was praying and crying at the same time urging the baby to fight for her life. I was thinking then about the father, who, since her birth, would come early morning and brave the dangers outside just to bring the much-needed breast milk. I was thinking particularly of what he would do when he finds his baby dead. So I fought; and so did the baby! I did not leave her side even when the Pediatrician finally arrived at 6 am (he had been called continuously earlier). When the father arrived at around 7 am, this time with his American wife, the baby was already breathing normally.

As there was still a possibility for the baby to have the same apneic attacks and as I was the only qualified nurse to attend to her, the doctor decided to have the baby transferred to a government hospital. (Two weeks later, I saw the baby alive and strong when I went to transfer another premature baby. I went to her and I remember telling her: “Fight on baby! Your country will soon be free!”)

When I came back from the transfer at around 11 am, a Filipina friend of mine (married to a British who was in hiding then) was waiting for me at the Reception area. She was due to deliver her baby. I stayed with her until she delivered her baby girl at around 5 pm and with her baby in the Nursery for another two hours as the baby came out blue and having difficulty of breathing. When the baby was stable enough, only then I went to sleep after more than 24 hours of being awake.

A ward re-extended

Early November 1990. One early evening, I was called from sleep to settle a dispute between a staff nurse in the main ward and an employee in the Reception. A patient was admitted in spite of an earlier instruction to the Reception personnel not to admit anymore patients as the ward was already full. As it was, the main ward stationed in Female Section 2 (which is adjacent to the Nursery) was already extended to Female Section 1. And with only two qualified nurses on duty, it was really impossible to attend to all the patients. Helpers (all Filipinas), although numerous then, still lacked qualifications and training.

I found out that the newly-admitted patient to one of the rooms at Female Section 3, came by ambulance from Al-Amiri Hospital, one of the five government hospitals functioning then. She was pregnant and bleeding. I attended to her personally, fixing her IV drip and making her comfortable. She was crying and begging me to save her baby! I reassured her that we will do the best we can and told her not to worry. In between attending to her, I arranged for the re-opening of the FS3 in preparation for the coming patients. I understood then that all Kuwaitis were coming to our hospital for admission. By then there were additional staff hired and with enough supervision, patient care, although qualityless, went on.

The same patient delivered her baby in the hospital four months after. Kuwait was liberated then but because of a lack of qualified staff, my work was still heavy and exhausting. I was attending then to a particular sick baby and only when he was transferred to Sabah Hospital had I known that his mother was the same woman I attended to a few months earlier whose case started the opening of another ward which led to extended care for more Kuwaitis in need of hospitalization.

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: August 2, 2000

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 2

THE Governing Council of the United Nations Compensation Commission, as gathered from a press release posted on UNCC Website, held its 36th session last June 13-15, 2000 at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Presided over by Ambassador Hans J. Heinemann of the Netherlands, the Council, basing from three reports and recommendations of concerned Panels of Commissioners, approved payments for compensation in the amount of US$148,051,137 to 655 Category D (individual claims for damages above US$100,000) and 10 Category F (claims of governments and international organization) claimants. Including this session’s approved payments, UNCC, as of June 15, 2000, has awarded compensation of US$15,669,471,007 to 2,588,728 claimants.

As of UNCC’s latest fund release dated June 8, 2000, a total of US$6,807,546,431.12 has already been made available to Governments and international organizations for distribution to successful claimants. Those awarded compensation have now reached 1,501,855 in number, nearly half of the total number of claims already resolved. The UNCC still has to resolve claims numbering to 13,086, all under Categories D, E and F. The Commission aims to complete the processing of the remaining claims by mid-2003. There is no target date set by the Commission to complete payments of all compensation sought as fund needed is dependent on Iraq’s income derived from export of its petroleum and petroleum products. The UN Compensation Fund receives 30 per cent of the revenue, under the “oil-for-food” mechanism established by Security Council Resolution 986.

New claims and corrections to old

As previously reported, claims filed by the Philippine government for some 40,215 claimants fell under categories A, B, C and D only. With the latest session held by the Council, not only did I note changes in the number of claimants and the total amount of compensation approved for payment, I also learned that the Philippine government has filed for Category F and E claims. Claims were filed, in particular, by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Central Bank of the Philippines (CBP) and were all classified under Category F1. The Philippine Airlines (PAL) has also submitted claims under Category E3.

With this new information, my previous report now stands to be corrected: all six claims categories, and not only four, were covered in so far as the Philippine government and the Filipino claimants are concerned. As all claims under Category A, B, and C have long been resolved by the Commission, there are no changes in the total number of claimants as identified in my last report. However, as per UNCC Decision No. 99, dated June 15, 2000, awards of compensation under Category C claims, particularly in the last two installments (sixth and seventh), have been revised. Including corrections to Category A claims (under fourth, fifth and sixth installments), which I noted only lately to have been reported in Decision No. 95, dated March 17, 2000, the total amount awarded for compensation under Category A and C alone is US$166,643,480.99. Adding up the US$155,000 already paid to all 45 Category B claimants and the previously reported US$459,840.65 for seven Category D claims, the total is now US$167,258,321.64. In my previous report, the total was US$167,411,462.16.

More Category D claimants

I was wrong in my previous assumption that Category D claimants totaled only to seven and that the number of installments decided by the UNCC were only four in all. With the latest session held by the Council, another claim, falling under fifth installment, has been awarded compensation in the amount of US$39,020.02 . The claimant, as reported in Decision 97 dated June 15, 2000, has originally asked for compensation of US$110,847.00.

It now appears that claims under Category D by Filipino claimants will still increase in number as the Governing Council continues to resolve claims in two to three years from now. Unfortunately, I still can’t find any reference as to the over-all total of claims submitted by Filipinos. As of UNCC’s latest update of figures under Status of Claims Processing dated June 16, 2000, there are still 8,331 Category D claims to be resolved. In the same table, I noted that 2,397 claims have already been resolved and of this number, 2,201 claimants have already been awarded compensation.

As of June 15, 2000, the total amount recommended for payment to the now reported eight Filipino claimants is US$498,860.67.

Philippine government claims

As contained in the 81-page “Report and Recommendations Made by the Panel of Commissioners Concerning the Fourth Installment of ‘F1’ Claims” dated June 15, 2000, the Philippines was one of the ten Governments identified therein to have sought compensation in the “total approximate amount of US$425 million, including interest.” Covering nine pages (Paragraphs 164 to 205) of the said report, the Panel has clearly explained the proceedings of how the final total amount of awards for compensation was decided, along with other pertinent and interesting facts and figures.

UNCC Claim No. 5000276 was how the Philippine Category F1 claims was identified in the report. Originally, it said that “the Republic of the Philippines sought US$32,017,236 as compensation for the costs incurred and losses suffered by two Government departments – the DFA and OWWA – and by the Central Bank of the Philippines.” I found the following statement very interesting and I further quote:

In a submission dated 8 July 1999, the Claimant attempted to increase the total amount of its Claim to US$42,124,039. The claims of each entity, as reclassified by the Panel, are addressed in turn.

In the end, the UNCC has awarded US$7,567,327 as compensation for the consolidated Philippine Government claim: US$1,047,998 for evacuation costs incurred by DFA; US$4,599,072 for OWWA which includes claims for property loss, payment or relief to others and evacuation costs; and US$1,920,257 for CBP. PAL’s Category E3 claim was contained in Decision 61 dated March 18, 1999. The amount of compensation recommended is US$52,224. Originally, PAL sought US$998,872.

I would like to mention that all of OWWA’s approved claims for “payment or relief to others” in the amount of US$570,926 are supposed to cover the cash loaned to some 5,800 individuals or families evacuated from the Middle East. I learned that those who availed of the financial assistance are being asked by OWWA to pay – thru automatic deduction from the total amount of claims payment received. Now that OWWA’s claim for compensation has been awarded, it should return back to the claimants the full P2,500 taken, as soon as funds are made available by the UNCC. And it should stop from now asking repayments for the loan from those who are still to receive their compensation.

In summary, the over-all total of compensation awards approved by UNCC to the Philippines has now reached US$174,916,892.66: US$135,528,000.00 for Category A claims; US$155,000.00 for Category B; US$31,115,480.99 for Category C; US$498,860.67 for Category D; US$52,224 for Category E; and US$7,567,327 for Category F.

Issues

To be honest, I feel inadequate to discuss the issues I mentioned the last time affecting the Filipino claimants as a whole. Difficult as it was in the beginning to report on something learned from someone else’ report, I somehow managed to sustain my interest and lose not the hope of finding something I can base my story from when I discovered the UNCC homepage on the web. Having full access to the Internet at home, I relentlessly attacked the site and gobbled all the information I could get. Yet some of the data I need couldn’t be found in there.

The most important issue, and by which the writing of these last three related stories was inspired, is the reported misuse of the Compensation Fund by one high-ranking DFA official, obviously, in cohorts with some other undisclosed personas in the government service. After that May 8 Senate hearing, supposedly to question the officials involved, no word was ever heard reporting on the said investigation. The efforts I exerted in the past months to gather the needed information, sadly, were all in vain. In the end, I had to rely on my own resources, both natural and “webby”, that is.

Using my analytical mind, largely honed from long years of experience in investigative reporting, I got some answers to most of the questions as I went along with the study of quite a number of UNCC documents printed. When I noticed that the Philippines was not included among those given funds for payment to successful claimants in UNCC’s five consecutive releases of funds between April and November 1999, I found it strange that it should be the case. I patiently “looked around” and I found the answer from the following statement released by the Council on the closing of its 31st session last March 18, 1999:

”The Council also discussed the issue of distribution of payments to successful claimants by Governments and international organizations. The Council expressed concern over the significant amount of funds being held by some Governments that have not yet been distributed to claimants within the one year time limit set by the Council and are due to be returned to the Commission. The Council decided to withhold future payments to those Governments failing to distribute monetary awards to the claimants or to return undistributed funds to the Commission.

Without even mentioning names, one can easily surmise that the Philippine government was one among those suspended by the Council.

And now what? Just as the Commission recommenced giving payments to the Philippines last February 17, 2000, the news about the anomalous use of the Fund surfaced. It is no wonder then that in the last two UNCC’s release of fund, dated March 17, 2000 and June 8, 2000, the Philippines was again not included!

With regard to the less than the UNCC-prescribed initial payment of US$2,500 received by quite a number of Filipino claimants, I still believe that the occurrence was not the course of event the Commission would expect. I found a basis to this belief from my readings through each UNCC’s report of a latest decision to award or release fund for compensation. Please read the following pronouncement quoted from the Commission’s latest press release, dated June 15, 2000:

“The priority accorded to individual claimants in categories A and C in the second phase of payments follows the earlier first phase of payments, which involved an initial payment of US$2,500 to each successful individual claimant in categories A and C, as well as payment of the full amount to all successful claimants in category B (claims for death or serious personal injury).”

The officials at the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat (PCCCS) were claimed by victims of this ‘anomalous procedure’ to have retorted, when asked, that what was given was what had been originally claimed and approved, accordingly, by UNCC. When I went to the PCCCS office last year to claim my partial payment, I had a chance of sitting beside a claimant whose notice received was for a full payment. I remember asking her then if she already received her initial partial payment and I was surprised to learn that it was her very first notice received. We were both waiting then to be called for submission of documents and “interview” prior to the release of check. She was called first and when she came out she told me that the check she received was just for over US$1,000! She was told inside that the amount she received was based from what she originally claimed. You should see the look of sadness and unbelief on her face! I felt so helpless as I couldn’t give her any help. The only thing I did was to ask one DFA official previously assigned in Kuwait and he told me the same. And I believed him.

We don’t know for sure how the DFA official was discovered to have deposited the Fund in his personal account. My guess is that in his effort to protect the interest gained by the big amount of money, he withdrew it at the time the principal was about to be withdrawn and given out to the rightful claimants, with strict orders, for sure, from UNCC. I could be wrong, but who cares?

I’ll leave you now dear readers and co-claimants to make your own conclusions. Meanwhile, I continue to wait and hope for a glimpse of good news from the UNCC or from the Philippine government officials themselves. I wonder where Senator Blas Ople is?

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: July 4, 2000 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 1

ARMED with accurate and reliable data accessed from the numerous resolutions, decisions, recommendations and press releases open for scrutiny at the UNCC Website, I am now ready to enlighten everybody on the status of claims for compensation by thousands of Filipino claimants. The task of reading through all the official reports, not to mention the time spent in printing out documents (with some totaling to nearly 150 pages), I would say, was enormous. Still suffering from after-effects of a trauma brought about by my mother’s and old nanny’s recent near-death experience, I almost gave up writing about the subject. But as promised the last time, and this time inspired by the truth discovered, I would like now to share what I learned from the UNCC itself. Had it only been possible for me to interview the UN Secretary-General, I would have done so, my dear readers. But alas, the Secretary-General or the Head of the UNCC Governing Council for that matter, I believe will not oblige or honor my humble self! As it is, the letter I sent to the UNCC, through email, remains unanswered. And I doubt, really, if it will even be acknowledged at all! Well, never mind, let us all just make good use of what I have gathered so far. Anyway the truth is there and the UNCC is good enough to report its activities in public. I should really not complain, you know . . . . But let me tell you that there are some data missing – the information needed could have been provided before the establishment of the UNCC website. Nevertheless, I felt confident to speculate and draw conclusions to some missing facts based from the latest data provided. You would know what I mean in here as we go along with the discussion.

The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC)

We already know that the UNCC is that body tasked by the United Nations Security Council (SC) to process claims and pay compensation for losses resulting from Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait. In its Resolution 687 dated April 3, 1991, the SC made Iraq legally responsible for the losses:

“Iraq is liable under international law for any direct loss, damage, including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources, or injury to foreign Governments, nationals and corporations, as a result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait”.

It is interesting to note that Iraq accepted the terms and the legal responsibility for damage directly caused to different entities by its invasion and occupation of Kuwait three days after the adoption of Res. 687. As a result, the SC adopted Res. 692 on May 20, 1991, establishing the UNCC and the UN Compensation Fund. On August 15, 1991, Res. 705 was adopted by the SC approving the Secretary-General’s recommendation that “the compensation to be paid by Iraq, through the Fund, should not exceed 30% of the value of its exports of petroleum and petroleum products”. However, it was only in December 1996, through Res. 986 of April 14, 1995, that the “oil-for-food” scheme was finally launched and the UNCC began to receive 30% of the proceeds of Iraq’s oil sales. Before that, the Commission’s works were carried forward through its access to amount advanced from the Working Capital Fund of the UN, to reimbursable voluntary contributions from Governments and to the proceeds of Iraqi oil sold after the invasion of Kuwait that had since been frozen by various Governments.

The Claims

The UNCC received approximately 2.6 million claims since 1991 and the compensation sought exceeds US$300 billion. There were nearly 100 Governments which submitted claims for their nationals, corporations and/or themselves and some 13 special UN offices also filed claims for “individuals who were not in a position to have their claims filed by Governments”. As of its latest press release dated March 17, 2000, the UNCC has already made available a total amount of US$5,918,127,474.61 to 2,244,513 successful claimants.

Claims were categorized into six: four individual claims (Category A, B, C and D), one for corporations (Category E) and another one for Governments and international organizations, which also includes claims for environmental damages (Category F). As far as the Philippine government and Filipino claimants are concerned, the first four categories (Category A,B,C and D) were the only claims submitted to the UNCC.

Category A claims are those submitted by individuals who had to leave Kuwait or Iraq between August 2, 1990 and March 2, 1991. Category B claims are claims submitted by individuals who suffered serious personal injury or death as a result of Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Category C claims are individual claims for damages up to US$100,000 each while Category D claims are those for damages above US$100,000.

Claims filed by Pinoy claimants

You would want to know first, of course, the total number of claims filed by Filipinos before anything else. This information, in fact, was one of the first I looked into and I actually created some tables, making use of Microsoft Excel, summarizing all the information pertaining as well to the total number of claims approved per installment and the corresponding amount recommended for payment by the UNCC including the actual payments made so far. The tables will sure eat up a lot of space and unfortunately I won’t be able to include any of them here. But I am too willing enough to share them to you and if you so desire to keep a copy, you only have to send me an email and I’ll send the tables to you as attachment.

The Filipino claimants share a mere 46,187 of the estimated 2.6 million claims received by the UNCC. Category A claims total to 39,584; only 68 for Category B; 6,528 for Category C claims; and a mere seven claims under Category D. The total number of Category D claims approved for payment was taken from UNCC Decision reports dated June 24, 1999 (S/AC.26/Dec.68) and December 10, 1999 (S/AC.26/Dec.81). All Decisions of UNCC Governing Council could be accessed on the following URL address: http://www.unog.ch/uncc/decision.htm but you need to download a special software in order to open any of the 95 decisions made from the very first, dated August 2, 1991 to the last one, dated March 17, 2000.

Not all claims submitted were approved by the UNCC though. Oh, yes, my dear co-claimants, it’s true! Now we know for sure that the news we heard before that quite a number of claims made by Filipinos were disapproved is true. And do you know how many claims were disapproved? Quite a lot, I’m afraid. It’s 5,972 in all! And this doesn’t include claims denied under Category D, if there was any, that is, as I couldn’t find anywhere any reference to it. There were 5,130 claims in Category A alone disapproved; another 819 in Category C and 23 in Category B. Actually the official number recorded under disapproved claims in Category B is 19. Two claims were duplicates then another four were classified under “other” claims and one as suspended. The suspended one, so it appeared, was granted after all as the total Category B claims approved in the end was 45, not 44 as it was initially reported in one of its decisions.

In all, the number of Filipino claims approved for payment by the UNCC is 40,215 with an over-all total recommended amount of US$167,411,462.16! Broken down into category claims, the following figures, I would claim, are accurate enough, as the numbers were all taken from UNCC’s official reports:

Category A claimants total all to 34,454, drawing a staggering amount of US$135,832,000.00 duly recommended for payment by the UNCC. There were six installments established and every total number of claimants and the corresponding recommended amount for payment was decided during certain meetings identified by dates. First installment, with US$2,195,000.00 recommended for payment to some 550 successful claimants was decided last October 20, 1994; Second – US$5,763,000.00 – 1,453 claimants – dated March 22, 1995; Third – US$5,487,000.00 – 1,542 claimants – May 17, 1995; Fourth – US$30,465,000.00 – 7,778 claimants – October 11, 1995; Fifth – US$31,112,000.00 – 7,778 claimants – December 13, 1995; and Sixth – US$60,810,000.00 – 15,353 claimants – October 15, 1996. Please take note that the last payment made available by UNCC to successful Filipino claimants was last February 17, 2000 in the amount of US$15,559,311.09. Of the total amount, US$11,665,500.00 was in payment for Category A claims belonging to the fifth installment bracket. As reported above, fifth installment payment should be US$31,112,000.00. This means that the UNCC still has to pay US$19,446,500.00 in order to complete its total recommended amount under fifth installment.

Category B claimants, on the other hand, total only to 45 with US$155,000.00 as total amount recommended for payment. There were only three installments decided and Filipino claims were reported under second installment – both part 1 and 2. Second installment, part 1 was decided last December 14, 1994 with only one approved claim for the amount of US$2,500.00. Second installment, part 2 was for 44 approved claims in the amount of US$152,500.00, decided on March 22, 1995. Funds for all 45 claimants had already been released in full by the UNCC as of October 11, 1995. As mentioned in my previous article, this payment for Category B claimants was reported and published in April 1996 on the front page of the maiden issue of Pinoy Expat News, one of my three failed newspapering ventures in Kuwait. All 45 names of claimants were then identified in the paper. Please take note of the date the UNCC released the fund to the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee (PCCC) and the date the information for payment was disseminated by the Philippine government. Granting the amount was finally received, let’s say, a month after the UNCC’s reported payment, there’s still a difference of five months to the time the government released information on the approval of payments!

Category C claims approved for payment were 5,709 in all with a total amount of US$30,964,621.51 recommended for payment by the UNCC. There were seven installments for payment decided by the UNCC and the claims made by Filipinos fall under the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh one. Second installment in the total amount of US$1,329,974.64 for 396 approved claims was decided last May 29, 1996; Fourth – US$727,345.97 – 219 claimants – December 17, 1996; Fifth – US$7,871,819.05 – 2,093 claimants – June 24, 1997; Sixth – US$10,691,744.59 – 1,994 claimants – July 1, 1998; and Seventh – US$10,343,737.26 – 1,007 claimants – June 24, 1999. Included in the last fund release made available to PCCC last February 17, 2000 was an amount of US$3,749,331.09 under Category C, fifth installment. The fund released was short of US$4,122,487.96 from its earlier reported recommended payment of US$7,871,819.05.

Category D claimants were only seven in all with a total recommended amount of US$459,840.65. There were four installments reported and Filipino claims were decided under the last two. Third installment, decided on June 24, 1999 was for only one claimant in the amount of US$20,884.42. Originally, the amount of compensation claimed by the individual was US$106,342.82 but the recommended amount given by the UNCC, as per Decision No. 68 (1999), was US$48,957.18. For reasons known only to them, this amount was again reduced to US$20,884.52, as gathered from UNCC Dec. No. 80 (1999). Fourth installment, part 1, decided on December 9, 1999, reported six claims approved for payment with recommended amount of US$438,956.23. As of the latest release of fund reported February 17, 2000 by the UNCC, US$144,480.00 was partially made available under the fourth installment. A total of US$294,476.23 has still to be funded by the UNCC in order to complete its obligation to the rest of the seven claims approved for payment, granting, that is, that the third installment amount had already been paid. I didn’t find any reference made to the release of fund for the recommended amount.

The same holds true to the previous payments under Category A and C, if any, made available by the UNCC prior to its only reported fund release for the Philippines last February 17, 2000 on its website. Luckily, the last news item I wrote about Gulf War claims approved for payment was based from PCCC documents handed over personally to me by Welfare Officer Ofelia Castro-Hudson in January 1998. According to that report which was published on the front page of the Eye Catchers’ Pinoy News, dated March 1-15, 1998, there were 1,846 claims approved for payment: 1,450 under Category A and 396 under Category C. There was no mention in the news item about the installment number nor the total amount recommended for payment. It was only during the time I encountered the data, in one of the UNCC’s decisions I’ve printed and studied, that I came to know of the said missing information. I’ve filled in the numbers to one of my created tables and in there I noted that my last reported news item fell under second installment of both Category A and C. There was a difference though in the number of claims approved under Category A as reported by me in 1998 and as identified in the UNCC Decision No. 28, dated March 22, 1995. The Pinoy News report showed 1,450 while the UNCC decision report showed 1,453. Three claims were missing! (Don’t tell me that the PCCC deliberately took off three names from the original list coming from the UNCC and kept the fund somewhere?) Category C claims were both reported as 396. By the way, the total fund made available then to the Philippine government by the UNCC, presumably between the months of July and December 1997, was US$7,092,974.64 – US$5,763,000.00 for the 1,453 Category A claims and US$1,329,974.64 for the 396 Category C claims.

As the information already given here is quite long and because there are still a number of interesting subjects not covered, say, for example the current total amount of fund already released by the UNCC to the Philippines or the actual minimum amount paid to individual claimants, I decided to divide my article into two parts. However, depending on the availability of some data missing, which I have a feeling will eventually be filled up by an incoming UNCC decision report and press release (the latest one, by the way, was March 17, 2000), the article can even be continued to Part 3. And if you noticed, I haven’t discussed yet in depth the problems I mentioned in my previous article like the delayed notification of those who already received initial payments and the non-receipt of notice for payment by still quite a number of claimants. And of course, there is that problem encountered by those who already received full payments and yet the amount paid was less than the US$2,500.00 set by UNCC as initial payment. If nationals from other countries – like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – uniformly received a check for US$2,500.00 as initial payments, why did then some Filipino claimants receive even as low as US$500.00 and already considered paid in full by the PCCC? And there is this original problem pertaining to the misuse by government officials of the compensation fund itself. It seems that the government had been quiet about it lately and there was no reference so far made as to decisions came up with by the Philippine Senate, as reportedly a session was to be held last May 8. I have a feeling, my dear readers, that the Filipino Gulf War claimants’ money really “talks”, and loudly, I guess, that’s why everybody’s silent?

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: June 6, 2000 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized