I always liked Migrante’s reportage on the corruption in government agencies that are supposed to provide protection to OFWs, and even for spearheading information campaign about the plight of distressed OFWs in various countries that would have, otherwise, been ignored by the government. But the recent press releases from Migrante-ME tinged with anti “Oust-Arroyo” color, just gave me the creeps.

Well, it is true that 80% of us would rather talk, complain and criticize the goverment. And it takes the 20% to galvanize us from our lethargy to take part in direct action to either force a change in government or compel the government to make changes in policies for the betterment of our country.  In this present case, OFW organizations & NGO Migrante, are launching multi-prong actions and initiatives to to effect both objectives: 1) removal of those corrupt officials; 2) effect a change for the protection and benefit of OFWs.

The first article is about the “no remittance” campaign that was an extension of the action started last November 2007 by disgruntled OFWs in ME and those from countries where Arroyo declared a ban.  This time, Migrante HK joined the action.

The second article about the misuse/abuse of the OWWA funds is highly informative.

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‘No remittance’ drive is legit and fair – Migrante

MANILA, Philippines – Migrante International defended on Tuesday its “no remittance” campaign as a “legitimate and fair” approach to showing discontent for the Arroyo administration compared with what it called the “numerous plunder” by the government.

“If Malacanang is bothered by our ‘no remittance” campaign, OFWs are much bothered by Mrs. Arroyo and her lackeys’ continued stay in Malacanang, which means continued plunder of our nation and people’s money,” said John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said on Monday that the “no remittance” campaign by Migrante International was “irresponsible” and “tantamount to economic sabotage.”

“It is wise, moral, legitimate, and fair for OFWs to campaign for no remittance just a day every month to put pressure on Mrs. Arroyo to step down,” Monterona asserted.

Bangko Sentral deputy governor Diwa Gunigundo admitted that the campaign would have tremendous effects on the economy, as he appealed to OFWs to resort to other means of showing disgust at the Arroyo administration.

Last year, overseas Filipinos sent home $14.4 billion through the banking channels. Daily remittances were estimated at $30 million.

A group called United Filipinos in Hong Kong, an affiliate of Migrante, begun the “no remittance day” campaign last Sunday, March 2, the first Sunday of the month when most OFWs in the Chinese administrative region remit their salary.

Migrante’s chapters in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates have set a “no remittance” week on March 3 to 8, coinciding with the observance of Women’s Day to show significance to the fact that seven out of 10 OFWs are women.

They have also agreed to set the fifth day of every month as “no remittance day” until Arroyo steps down, or is ousted.

Monterosa insisted that the campaign is legitimate.

Real economic saboteurs

“Who is irresponsible and have long been committing economic plunder to our nations, OFWs or the present administration run by a fake, immoral and plunderer?” Monterona asked.

Then, he said: “Even elementary pupils could surely pinpoint that the Arroyo government is irresponsible and plunderer, not the OFWs.”

“The Arroyo administration and its minions are the real economic saboteur as we have seen unto the numerous cases of corruption in the past, including this anomalous ZTE broadband deal,” Monterona cited.

The Migrante officer accused the administration of making money out of their position and political influence, transforming the bureaucracy into a “nest of plunderers headed by the fake and immoral President and First Gentleman, in cahoots with their political lackeys.”

“The Arroyos and their political lackeys are all but bureaucrat capitalists. Shame on them! They are the very cause of our nations’ poverty by allowing their greed to overprice government projects so that they could have a share in their big pockets. Then, right after, this government will impose additional taxes, again and again putting the burden for the costs of overpriced projects on our own shoulders, especially us overseas workers,” Monterona said.

“The Arroyo government is a big opportunist, too. Failing to generate jobs locally and realizing that the rate of unemployment is getting high, the Arroyo government intensified labor export, thus selling our labor cheap. The unemployed are left with no other option but to accept jobs in foreign lands, where this very government is criminally neglecting us anyway,” Monterona said.

Arroyo’s sins

Migrante has listed down some of Arroyo’s “sins” as follows:

— Plunging the country into worse poverty while corruption intensifies, bribery gets more widespread and human rights violations increase.

— Criminal neglect of distressed OFWs as shown on the cases of Marilou Ranario, Jocelyn Dunluan and scores of others who are on death row in the Middle East such as of Dondon Lanuza and the 122 stranded OFWs in Jeddah.

— Keeping OFWs milking cows through various government fees charged in the Philippines and even more charges paid in Philippine posts abroad;

— Implementation of the POEA Guidelines for Filipino domestic workers abroad that paved the way for worse overcharging of recruitment agencies;

— Implementation of the OWWA Omnibus Policies that took away many of the already limited assistance of the said agency to OFWs and family while giving a freer rein for Mrs. Arroyo and
his minions to plunder the fund;

— Inaction on issues that will at least alleviate the situation of Filipinos abroad including the call for wage increase, improvement of labor situation and protection of the rights of undocumented migrants;

— The rising exchange rate of the peso that has cost Filipino migrants P7,000 per month while prices of commodities in the Philippine soar even higher.

Monterona said these were enough reasons for OFWs and their families to completely withdraw their trust and confidence in the Arroyo government. – GMANews.TV

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An alliance of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East lambasted the Overseas Welfare Workers Administration (OWWA) headed by Administrator Marianito Roque saying that the premier agency tasks to advance OFWs welfare has nothing done good in his capacity as OWWA Administrator but only too good to blindly obey the wishes of his bosses, DoLE Secretary Brion and Mrs. Arroyo, to misuse of the P10-B OFWs funds held in trust by the government.
 
“Mr. Roque, in his capacity as administrator of OWWA, since he has been in office year 2005, did not secured the OFWs funds from misuse and did not even develop programs and services that will advance OFWs and their families welfare and protection,” says John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

migksa_logo21.jpgMigrante said that the creation of OWWA emanates from the Constitutional mandate for the State to affirm labor, local and overseas, as a primary social economic force, and to guarantee the protection of the rights of overseas workers and the promotion of their interests and general well-being.

“Despite this constitutional mandate, OWWA was created as a self-sustaining agency where all its operational costs have been taken from OFWs contribution amounting to US$25 each OFWs and without a single allocation coming from the national government” Monterona added.

Monterona said that though OWWA fund is a trust fund, previous administrations including the present Arroyo administration have attempted and some have succeeded, to divert the use of these funds in a form of investments and creation of task forces presumably to help distressed OFWs abroad during emergency situation and war for OFWs immediate evacuations.

 Migrante’s records revealed some of the anomalous investments and misuse of OFW funds:
•          Buy out of Frederick Hotel during the time of President Cory Aquino
•           Loan guarantee to Landoil Resources during the time of Pres. Cory Aquino
•            Smokey Mountain Rehabilitation and Development Project during Pres. Fidel Ramos
•          Transfer of P4B OFW Medicare Fund from OWWA to Philippine Health and Insurance Corporation by virtue of a secret issuance of Executive Order 182 devoid of consultations from OFWs as stakeholders of these funds.
•          The P260M bogus claims exposed by then OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo himself just to justify OWWA Medicare fund transfer to Philhealth
•          The un-audited US$293,500 for the Middle East Preparedness Team headed by General Roy Cimatu during the US war of aggression to Iraq where repatriation of OFWs never took placed anyway.

“Aside from the aforementioned anomalous investments and misuse of OFWs fund, the OWWA Omnibus Policies, this was one-sidedly implemented devoid of consultation from member OFWs and as a brain child policy of former Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Thomas practically removed almost all welfare programs that were previously availed by OFWs and families; what remains available is the Family Assistance Loan and Education and Training benefits,” Monterona said.

Monterona said that he himself is a victim of this policy when he asked his wife to call OWWA last month regarding OWWA’s Family Assistance Loan so that he can avail the said program but to his surprised the Family Assistance Loan according to OWWA staff has been temporarily suspended. For what reasons, OWWA did not tell.

 “I am just one of the thousands victims of this anti-OFW OWWA Omnibus policies implemented under the Arroyo administration. This anti-OFW policy is a clear manifestation of Mrs. Arroyo’s neglect and disservice to OFWs and their families,” Monterona added.

“The 200 plus stranded OFWs including the 40 women OFWs inside the deportation centers, and others who are languishing in jails greatly need these OFWs funds. Why OWWA can’t disburse an amount to attend on their needs such as food, medicines and air fare tickets,” Monterona added.

Monterona said that having a look on OWWA Budget allocation system for the year 2002, we can see a meager 11% from its yearly budget is allocated to OWWA’s major programs and direct benefits to OFWs and families, while 43% is allocated to service operational cost of OWWA and 27% is allotted for its Staff on-site wages and allowances.

Monterona said that OFWs and families are urging and challenging OWWA Admin. Roque to initiate the removal or repeal of OWWA Omnibus Policies and other policies or programs hostile to OFWs welfare and interests or he better come into the open to tell any hidden and un-dig anomalous investments and placements with regards to the P10-B OFW funds as he pointed out it is being handled by the Land Bank of the Philippines, a clear violation to OWWA’s mandate.

“Coming into the open and telling the truth like what Mr. Jun Lozada did, OWWA Admin. Roque is most welcome and will be cherished by our nation’s modern heroes. On the contrary, if he remains to be on blind obedience to the most corrupt and most anti-OFW Mrs. Arroyo, then the Filipino people will chastise them sooner,” Monterona ended.

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