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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

With looming protest, Pag-IBIG backs out mandatory OFW membership Gabriela-HK calls to stop government exaction from overseas Pinoys

"It is a victory for the militant and vigilant OFWs resisting schemes for government exactions. While the GMA government is bent in squeezing more income from our labor, we shall always be there to fight its schemes every step of the way."
This was declared by Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, chairperson of Gabriela in Hong Kong, after Pag-IBIG president and CEO Jaime Fabiaña categorically declared that they will not force OFWs to become members of Pag-IBIG nor will it be made a requirement to process OFW documents. Fabiaña issued the statement in a forum with leaders of OFW organizations yesterday at the Philippine Consulate General.
According to Abdon-Tellez, the plan to make Pag-IBIG a mandatory requirement for OFWs came on the heels of their successful campaign opposing the forced membership of OFWs to the OWWA to enable them to get an overseas employment certificate. Since November last year, a moratorium has been imposed on the OWWA collection for an OEC.
"The militance that OFWs in Hong Kong have shown has forced Pag-IBIG to think twice about the mandatory membership. We shall surely be even more vigilant for while it will not be implemented now, there is always the possibility that it will be slyly enforced if we let our guards down," she added.
The Gabriela-HK chair hit the government for being a "consistent extortionist" to OFWs. She also noted that government exaction intensifies especially at the onset of every electoral poll.
"Just before the 2007 elections, the POEA Guidelines on hiring Filipino household workers was implemented that carried provisions for training and accreditation requirements which translated to more fees for migrant Filipinos. Now, a few months before the 2010 polls, here comes the mandatory Pag-IBIG membership. It is reasonable to assume that the GMA government, desperate to oil its faltering electoral machine, has its eyes again on OFW money," she remarked.
Additionally, the group recalled that in 2004, the GMA government forced the transfer of the OWWA Medicare Fund to PhilHealth after, then PhilHealth head and now, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque sent a missive to GMA saying that the transfer will have a significant impact to the year's elections.
"Together with progressive partylist representatives and other Philippine groups, we resisted the POEA guidelines that forced GMA to exempt current OFWs from the rule. We vow to work for a decisive victory against the mandatory OWWA and Pag-IBIG membership schemes. We were, and will be, consistent in our opposition against government exaction plans," she added.
The group said that they will use the scheduled proclamation rally of Gabriela Women's Party in Hong Kong this Sunday, February 7, to call for the scrapping of the mandatory Pag-IBIG membership provision of RA 9679. She said that the call, together with other concerns on government exactions, will be forwarded as an OFW agenda to Makabayan-Nacionalista Party senatorial bets Rep. Satur Ocampo and Rep. Liza Maza who will grace the coming rally.
"The mandatory Pag-IBIG membership is still a Damocles sword poised above our heads. Ocampo and Maza have championed the rights of OFWs in the past and we are sure that they shall do so again with this current government exaction scheme that will not be used for OFW interests," she remarked.
Abdon-Tellez said that they will oppose the new rule as vigorously as they resisted other government exaction policies.
"OFWs are sick and tired of being the milking cows of the GMA government and we look forward to the day that she is removed from power after the May elections. With this new order to make membership to Pag-IBIG mandatory, it is even more definite that there will be no love lost between OFWs and GMA once she is out of office," she concluded.

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