Sep 10, 2013

OFWs to stage ‘Zero Remittance Day’ stir

MANILA As many as 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are to join the planned ‘Zero Remittance Day’ to dramatise their protest against the alleged misuse of $250 million allocated to lawmakers to help improve the lives of poor Filipinos particularly those living in the countryside, according to organisers.

Eman Villanueva, the secretary-general of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong-Migrante, reported that OFW groups based in the Middle East, Europe, North America and other neighbouring countries in Asia have expressed support for the protest set on September 19.

Villanueva pointed out “Our money is not meant to feed the greed of the corrupt and the plunderers. The billions of dollars of remittance that we send and the billions of pesos more generated from the long list of fees that the government charges from OFWs … are not meant to keep a thriving corrupt system of governance.”

Villanueva was referring to the alleged $250 million scam involving the annual “pork barrel” allocation of lawmakers.

Congress has renamed the allocation the Priority Development Assistance Fund apparently to deodorise the stench it created as one of the major sources of corruption among lawmakers.

The scam was allegedly masterminded by detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles who set up fake non-government organisations (NGOs) through which these funds were channeled to help poor Filipinos in rural areas.

However, state auditors said that they uncovered a paper trail in which the intended beneficiaries like farmers did not receive assistance such as free kits containing certified seeds and fertilizers to help them increase their yields.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said initial investigation showed that three senior members of the chamber – former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, former Senate president protempore Jinggoy Estrada and Senator Ramon Revilla – channeled most of their PDAF allocations worth more than $5 million annually, to the fake Napoles NGOs.

Abigail Valte, the deputy presidential spokesman, said the OFWs and other concerned Filipinos were free to choose the platform they want to air their grievances and advocacies against the government.

But Valte also pointed out that, if evidence would warrant, President Benigno Aquino has already ordered the filing of appropriate criminal charges against the lawmakers and others involved including the non-bailable plunder complaint which also carries the maximum penalty of life imprisonment.


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