2 February 2010
An alliance of overseas Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East today expresses serious apprehension safeguarding the estimated Php.12-B OWWA funds, a compulsory collection of US$25 per departing OFW, held in trust to the government through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), from the ruling administration’s encroachment and possible diversion to advance its own political and electoral agenda on the May 2010 elections.
“The misuse or illegal diversion of the now estimated 12-B OWWA funds, or a portion of it, for any electoral agenda by the ruling party is not remote; in fact, the Arroyo administration has already did it during the 2004 Presidential elections when it diverted the about 500-M OWWA medical funds to Philippine Health Corporation (Philhealth) by issuing “free” medical Philhealth cards wooing votes from the electorate during campaign sorties,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
On February 14, 2003, the President of the Republic signed Executive Order No. 182 that mandated the transfer of the Medicare Fund and the medicare functions of the OWWA to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) devoid of consultations among the migrant organizations and without the knowledge of the OWWA Board of Trustees as two of its members, POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz and Cora Carsola, the only OFW representative in the OWWA Board, had firmly disagreed to the transfer. Ms. Carsola was only informed of the existence of E.O. 182 on June 2003.
“Despite formal petitions and protests from OFWs and their families and pending investigations at the House of Representatives, OWWA Board Resolution No. 005 (s. 2004) dated February 2, 2004 proves that the transfer of OWWA Medicare funds to PhilHealth was railroaded by the administration’s executives in the labor portfolio – namely Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, former OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo, and PhilHealth CEO Francisco Duque,” Monterona recalled.
Monterona said the anomalous transfer of OWWA Medicare fund to PhilHealth and other big scams at the OWWA against OFWs and their dependents serves as a warning to all OFWs and their dependents to be vigilant and collectively act against any attempt by the ruling administration’s maneuvering of the funds just to advance its own political and electoral agenda come the May 2010 elections.
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 under the present Arroyo Administration
• 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 under the present Arroyo administration
• The alleged illegal granting of P40 million incentives and allowances to its officials and employees for the past three years (2005 to 2007)
• The POEA giving permission to its Executives and employees who were issued mobile phones to download about P796,000.00 worth of games, tones and picture messages and other unauthorized items.
“But when it comes to providing welfare services and social programs for OFWs, their dependents, and especially victims of abuses and maltreatment who have been repatriated, the OWWA has a ready answer of “No active membership, No OWWA welfare services”; where in fact there is only meager services provided to OFWs and their families by the supposed premier OFW welfare agency,” Monterona opined.
Monterona deplores OWWA Administrator Carmelita S. Dimzon when it said during yesterday’s case dialogue with Migrante International and OFW victims and relatives that some of the repatriated distress OFWs from Saudi Arabia working from Annasban Company is “barking in a wrong tree” as they could not demand indemnity from OWWA, but instead to their respective recruitment agencies.
“OWWA Admin. Dimzon misses the point. Distress and repatriated OFWs along with Migrante Intl. came to her office to seek for any assistance the OWWA could readily provide. As a premier welfare agency for OFWs and their dependents, the OWWA is duty-bound to provide assistance to any OFW victim regardless of one’s membership status to OWWA,” Monterona added.
Monterona further said OWWA’s services to OFWs and their dependents should not be defined by one’s membership status –of being active member or not.
“Clearly, the DoLE-OWWA under the present administration, like previous administrations, is only providing lip service to our new heroes, but being treated slaves in foreign land, whose remittances are keeping the economy afloat,” he ended. # # #
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator