OFWs are angry over the continuing corruption, slow prosecution of culprits, and Aquino’s special treatment of Janet Lim-Napoles, while Filipino migrant workers are deprived of basic support and services to protect their well-being and human rights. – United Filipinos in Hong Kong-Migrante
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – More overseas Filipino workers are expressing their support for the Zero Remittance Day on Sept. 19, to press for the abolition of pork barrel and have the funds re-channeled to basic social services.
“We are dismayed by the corrupt practices happening in our country. The money that is supposed to go to public service projects are being pocketed by a few,” Nhel Morona, spokesperson of Migrante – United Arab Emirates, said.
Earlier this week, Migrante International called on Filipino migrant workers all over the world to not send their remittance on Sept. 19 to press the government to abolish the pork barrel system. The OFW group said that Zero Remittance Day would show how Filipinos can “use their economic power to make a stand against corruption, patronage politics and social justice.”
Members of the House of Representatives and senators have been linked to the scam involving the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or more commonly known as pork barrel. According to both media and Commission on Audit reports, legislators channeled their pork barrel to fake non-government agencies.
OFWs, though working abroad, have earlier expressed their call for the abolition of the pork barrel system. During the Aug. 26 rally in Luneta, Filipino migrant workers held their own protest actions in their worksites and at Philippine embassies and consulates and posted their photos online.
Sept. 19 marks the implementation of the omnibus policy of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, which paved the way for the mandatory $25 contribution levied on Filipinos leaving to work abroad, per contract. Migrante International has long called for the full audit of the said OFW funds, amounting to no less than P14 billion ($333.33 million).
Morona, in a statement, added that members of Filipino communities in Dubai, Northern Emirates and the Bayanihan Council in Abu Dhabi also sent word that they would participate in the Zero Remittance Day.
There are about 600,000 Filipinos working in the United Arab Emirates.
Filipino migrant workers in Rome, Italy, in a photo release, declared that they would also participate in the Zero Remittance Day on Sept. 19. In helping spread the word, they distributed leaflets on Sept. 8, calling on other Filipinos there to join the protest action.
“We do not work overseas and endure separation from our loved ones just so government officials can plunder public funds or so that Aquino could uphold the corrupt pork barrel system,” Eman Villanueva, secretary general of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong-Migrante, said.
Villanueva said the money OFWs send to their families, “is not meant to feed the greed of the corrupt and the plunderers.”
“The billions of dollars in remittances that we send and the billions of pesos more generated from the long list of fees that the government charges to OFWs that help keep the economy afloat are not meant to keep a thriving corrupt system of governance,” Villanueva added.
Filipinos in Hongkong will also participate in the Zero Remittance Day on Sept. 19.
Villanueva said OFWs are angry over the “continuing corruption, slow prosecution of culprits, and Aquino’s special treatment of Janet Lim-Napoles” while Filipino migrant workers are “deprived of basic support and services to protect their well-being and human rights.” He added that many OFWs are in danger because there are no sufficient funds for their repatriation. Their families back in the country, on the other hand, are struggling to make ends meet.
“Aquino’s unwillingness to totally abolish the pork barrel system comes from the fact that his own pork barrel is the biggest and he uses it to maintain and strengthen patronage politics to ultimately serve the comprador and landlord elites benefiting from a system that remains backward and foreign-dominated,” Villanueva said.
In reports, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda belittled the Zero Remittance Day, saying that, “I don’t think that will happen. That is hard to execute because their own families would suffer.”
But Migrante International believes that it is not just the migrants’ families who would suffer but also the government and its reliance on OFW remittances to keep the economy afloat.
Villanueva said that while it is true that the money they send go directly to their families, the government is also using their remittances “to bloat up its earnings that, in turn, improve its credit standing. We supply the dollars that prevent the peso from total collapse.”
“Aquino and his mouthpiece Lacierda are not fooling us with their uncaring projection, for the truth is they are scared out of their wits by the zero remittance day action,” he added.
In a previous statement, Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, said the government earns 0.15 percent for every P200 ($4.55) remittance. He cited the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration data that shows that the government earns about $1.4 million monthly from the documentary stamp tax of OFW remittances.
In 2012, OFW remittances amounted to $21 billion.
“That is $57.5 million a day, or Php2.5 billion from which the government earns 0.15% for every P200 remittance. That’s just for the DST. Other taxes and cuts generated by the government from banking transactions are not yet included,” Martinez said.
Aside from the documentary stamp tax, foreign and local banks also charge service fees for the remittances.
“It goes without saying that withholding a day’s worth of OFW remittances will have a direct impact on the economy. It is the government’s revenue from OFW remittances that would be reduced. It is nothing compared to the small remittances families receive,” Martinez added.