By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Migrante International, the largest overseas Filipino workers organization, said the US Department of State report on terrorism was very ‘malicious’ when it cited that the Abu Sayyaf Group, a bandit group which has been involved in cases of kidnapping, bombing and beheadings in Mindanao, “may receive funding from external sources such as remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFW) .”
“Even if it was cited in the US State Department report as a possibility, it already constitutes an attack on Filipinos working abroad,” Migrante chairperson Garry Martinez told Bulatlat.
On October 29, a national daily reported that the Abu Sayyaf is being “funded through acts of ransom and extortion and may receive funding from external sources such as remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and possibly Middle East-based extremists.”
The organization’s chapter in the Middle East said in a statement that “such sweeping accusation linking OFWs as a source of ASG’s funds is unjust” as they were only forced to work abroad because of the lack of local employment opportunities in the country. Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona added that this accusation “poses a serious threat not only to the jobs of OFWs but to their rights, well being and safety.”
Migrante said the report might send a wrong signal to host governments especially in the Middle East, such as the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which has been intensifying its efforts against terrorist groups in neighboring countries like Yemen.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they “do not have the capability to confirm” the report of the US Department of State. AFP spokesman Brigadier General Jose Mabanta said in an ABS-CBN report that once remittances are sent home and received, “it is up to the family back (home) on how they want to use it,” adding that it is “difficult to monitor the arrival of funds from overseas, citing bank rules.”
Martinez, on the other hand, said this could also be one of the tactics of the US in spreading the specter of terror, while the Aquino administration is still crafting its counterinsurgency program. It is, Martinez said, also meant to justify the continuous presence of US troops in the country. (Bulatlat.com)