Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today lauded former military budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa and former state auditor Heidi Mendoza for revealing widespread and high-scale corruption within the armed forces through the “pabaon” and “pasalubong” system.
“We admire them for having the courage to expose this can of worms. We hope this is the ‘push’ needed for the Aquino administration to finally prosecute major operators of corruption in the past administration. Kapag pinaglapas pa ni Pang. Aquino si Arroyo at iba pang kasangkot dito, iba na ang pahiwatig noon,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez said that it now is also a good opportunity to investigate the misuse and corruption of OFW funds, especially after former AFP chief-of-staff and current Special Envoy Roy Cimatu’s name has been dragged into the “pabaon” controversy.
Migrante International had earlier expressed concern over Cimatu having been put in charge to facilitate contingency measures in Egypt, saying that funds for evacuation are once again vulnerable to corruption.
“He has figured in numerous cases of corruption of funds meant for the use of OFWs and all remain unresolved to this day. Hindi lang pasalubong, hindi lang pabaon ang nakurakot niya, pati sa pera ng OFW may balato rin siya,” said Martinez.
He said that Cimatu failed to evacuate OFWs during the Iraq war in 2004 despite the allocation of $253,500 repatriation funds; and, instead, had spent said funds for the procurement of humvees, other military vehicles and food for Philippine troops deployed to Iraq.
“Walang nangyaring evacuation noon but the Arroyo administration through Cimatu sent 51 Filipino troops to Iraq. They were not there to facilitate evacuation but to aid US troops in their war of aggression. When we questioned this, Cimatu was forced to submit a liquidation report but that did not go through any auditing process from the Commission on Audit,” he said.
The migrant leader also cited Cimatu’s botched repatriation mission during the Lebanon crisis in 2006 when the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) released P150 million for the repatriation of OFWs.
Out of more than 6,000 OFWs, only 1,000 were repatriated by Cimatu, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was able to repatriate 4,000 OFWs. “When asked where the OWWA funds went, Cimatu was mum about it,” he said.
The incident prompted several Senate hearings and it was then discovered that P6.8 billion of OWWA funds were transferred to the Development Bank of the Philippines and Landbank of the Philippines (P3.4 billion each) without any consultations with the OFW sector. OWWA funds come from $25 contributions from all member OFWs.
Meanwhile, Martinez said that the $293,500 release documents was one of the evidences presented during the impeachment hearings of former president Gloria Arroyo. ###