Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of various overseas Filipino workers' group in the Middle East, today urges the Aquino government to be transparent and immediately instruct to properly account all the concerned government agencies holding public funds intended for OFWs' welfare programs and services.
M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said his group prompted to issue the calls for transparency and proper accounting of all public funds intended for OFWs in the light of various misuses and illegal diversion of the funds by corrupt govt. officials who are supposed to protect the funds from misuses and corruption.
On Monday, the Office of the Ombudsman has recommended the filing of four counts of malversation of public funds against former PH ambassador to Nigeria Masaranga Umpa that steemed from an alleged misuse of the Assistance to the Nationals fund totaling to an amount of $96,856 (around P5-M) intended for the repatriation of undisclosed numbers of abducted OFWs in 2007.
Last month, former Solicitor General Atty. Cesar Chavez and Migrante Intl. filed a plunder suit against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria M. Arroyo and other 6 officials of her Cabinet for the illegal transfer of P551-M OFWs' trust fund to Philippine Health Insurance Corporations.
"The audit of the OWWA fund, for instance, had been promised by Pres. Aquino and had been in its 22-point labor and employment agenda he issued upon assumption to the presidency. What happened to this now?" Monterona averred.
Ten out of the 22-point agenda pertained to OFWs.
Monterona referred to item No. 11 on the agenda, which states: "Audit the OWWA to rationalize the management of its funds, in terms of the benefits provided as well as how the funds are invested."
Monterona added: "The OWWA funds come from the compulsory collection of $25 membership fees from all deployed OFWs. Under the regulations, the membership fee should be paid by the foreign employer, but OFWs often end up paying the fees prior to their departure."
Monterona noted the OWWA funds continuously grow as there are 3,500 OFWs deployed daily.
"Despite the accumulation of the OWWA funds, programs and welfare services to cater the needs of OFWs on-site and their dependents back home are still wanting."
"During the Arroyo regime, several OWWA programs and services were stopped when DoLE-OWWA implemented the OWWA Omnibus Policies," Monterona added.
Migrante-Middle East challenges Aquino to implement mechanisms that would protect govt. funds for OFWs and the OFWs funds held in trust to OWWA.
"If P-Noy is on the right track of his 'straight path', then he must ensure that government funds and the OFWs funds be safeguarded from misuses and corruption," Monterona added.
Monterona said the President should instruct the head of all concerned govt. agencies holding public funds for OFWs including DFA and DoLE-OWWA to ensure that OFWs funds will be spared from misuses and corruption.
"P-Noy talks a lot about graft and corruption; it is now time to stop the talking. What the Filipino people would like to see is concrete results," Monterona concluded.