MANILA — An overseas Filipino workers alliance called on the House of Representatives to oppose Malacanang’s proposal to slash by half the budget for legal assistance to OFWs in distress.
“It seems that OFWs can no longer rely on (President Benigno S. Aquino III),” Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez said, “If we are taking the right path, why then would OFWs need to suffer in return?”
From P50 million ( $1.13 million) this year, the fund for legal assistance would be slashed by half to P27 million ($615 thousand) for 2011, should the House of Representatives approve the budget cut. Martinez said the budget cut is a “gross violation of Republic Act 10022, or the amended Migrant Workers Act,” which mandates that there must be at least P100 million ($2.27 million) earmarked from the funds of the Department of Foreign Affairs to cover repatriation, medical assistance and other welfare services for OFWs in distress.
Migrante International, the largest OFW group, urged the government to review its priority as 108 OFWs are in death row, 7,000 are in jails abroad and at least 10,000 are stranded and seeking repatriation in the Middle East alone.
Recently, Migrante reported that there are five OFWs in China who was sentenced to die by firing squad. “We have to make sure that they are given a fair hearing (by providing them legal assistance),” Martinez told Bulatlat.
Martinez said with the P32.8 billion ($747 million) collected from OFWs yearly, “the government owes OFWs much more.”
Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona, on the other hand, threatened Aquino with an internationally coordinated protest action if the budget cut would push through. “…If we will make our actions a concerted effort, internationally, (it would be) enough for President Aquino to hear (it) even if he is inside Malacanang.”
Monterona added that OFWs have expressed their strong opposition to the budget cut as soon as they heard about it on Thursday.
“Our various Migrante chapters in the Middle East, along with other OFWs organizations and the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Libya, and Israel are now discussion what specific actions we would take to show our strong opposition against this first anti-OFW act by the Aquino administration,” Monterona said. (JAE / Bulatlat.com)