Migrante welcomes SC junking of Arroyo TRO bid

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos and their families Migrante International today welcomed the Supreme Court’s junking of the petition by Arroyo’s lawyers to nullify as unconstitutional a special panel that recommended the filing of electoral sabotage against former president Gloria Arroyo.

“We commend the Supreme Court for viewing the TRO for what it really was, a trap and a ploy to drag the SC into technicalities with the ultimate aim to undo Arroyo’s arrest. At this point, it is best for national interest and in aid of justice and accountability if the Supreme Court, the DOJ and the Ombudsman focus all efforts on the many other pending cases of graft, plunder and human rights violations against Arroyo,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Aside from electoral sabotage, Arroyo faces other multimillion graft and plunder cases, namely, the fertilizer scam, the NBN-ZTE deal, PhilHealth scam and misuse and abuse of OWWA funds, among others.  As of this posting, Arroyo has also been sued in a civil case for her alleged role in the gruesome Ampatuan massacre.

Arroyo allegedly misused, re-channeled and charged to OWWA funds various projects that had nothing to do with OFWs, among them the supposed evacuation of Filipinos from Iraq, Kuwait and Afganistan in 2003. “(Since) no actual evacuation of Filipino took place, (but) where did the money go?”

“Arroyo also transferred the P100 Million Livelihood Development Program from the OWWA to the National Livelihood Support Fund under the Office of the President in September 2003. The diversion of this program and its funds gave her the free hand to decide as to what projects she would do and where they would be allotted. This also did not benefit migrant workers,” he said.

Arroyo and the other respondents are also accused of electoral fraud by “intending, facilitating and ordering the diversion of migrant workers’ trust funds from the OWWA to finance her campaign machinery starting 2003” with regard the release of PhilHealth cards bearing Arroyo’s name and picture as an election campaign tactic in the 2004 elections.

The OWWA plunder case was filed in the Department of Justice by former Solicitor General Frank Chavez on April 26.

“Migrant workers pay an OWWA membership fee of $25 per contract and P900 for OWWA-Medicare contributions per contract.  This denotes that in 2004, the OWWA raked in $23,339,700 (P1,237,004,100) in membership dues and P840,229,200 in Medicare contributions from the 933,588 workers deployed. OWWA annually gets fresh direct revenue from migrant workers and these funds accumulated to as much as P6 billion in 2003.”

It was around the same time when, based on Migrante International’s database, at least 462 migrant workers who either had medical reimbursement or checks for pick-up that were rendered “pending” by the OWWA. “OWWA suspended its major services during the same time that funds were corrupted.”

 Martinez said, “These OWWA funds are trust funds to be administered for the specific and particular benefit of overseas and migrant workers. They are not general public funds that may be allocated for other purposes. Under the Arroyo administration and her direct instructions, these funds were diverted to other purposes and resulted in the denial of medical, livelihood and other forms of assistance to migrant workers and their families during her term.”

“We are still awaiting the results of investigations and processes of these cases. These cases should have been the priority of the Aquino administration early on. We are also studying the possibility of filing more charges against Arroyo with regard the misuse of OWWA funds and criminal neglect of our OFWs’ welfare during her term,” Martinez said. ###

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