Migrante Partylist expressed deep dismay over the Ombudman’s dismissal of the P530-million plunder rap filed against former president Gloria Arroyo for the misuse, abuse and corruption of OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) funds.
“We demand that Arroyo be held accountable and give back to OFWs the millions in dollars of OWWA funds she used for her personal and political agenda. She deserves to be placed in a regular jail for her plunder of OFWs contributions and earnings,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist chairperson.
Bragas-Regalado said that they have long been calling for an investigation and full audit of OWWA funds, prompting Congress inquiries and several graft and plunder cases filed at the Ombudsman and Department of Justice – among them the recently-dismissed case filed by former solicitor-general Frank Chavez.
She said that aside from the P530-million plunder rap, Arroyo had time and again utilized OWWA funds for her own political interests.
She said that during Arroyo’s time, AFP chief of staff Roy Cimatu led a botched mission during the Lebanon crisis in 2006 for which the 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,” Bragas-Regalado said.
The incident triggered several Senate hearings and it was 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.
Arroyo also reportedly transferred P100 Million Livelihood Development Program from the OWWA to the National Livelihood Support Fund under the Office of the President in September 2003. Migrante also accused Arroyo 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.
“How ironic that this setback happened when just recently Pres. Aquino reminded OFWs in New Zealand of rampant corruption under Arroyo’s administration. Arroyo should be held accountable for plundering OFWs’ funds. The dismissal of the case is an obstruction of justice for OFWs under the Aquino administration,” she said. ###