“After four years of corruption, mendacity, puppetry, oppression and human rights violations, Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III (BS Aquino) has once again roused the Filipino people into collective action and determination to exercise their democratic power to bring about regime change as mounting calls for his ouster continue to gain strength around the country and all over the world,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez said that the latest development on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is “the last straw” for Filipino migrants and their families. “Filipinos around the world want BS Aquino out. We do not want him to stay until 2016. He can resign, be impeached or ousted.”
Martinez said that it is unjustifiable and unforgivable how Aquino and his cohorts squandered P177 billion in DAP while scrimping on funds for Filipino migrants in distress and their families. “DAP is not savings. DAP is not good. DAP was not done in good faith. DAP did not produce good results. What BS Aquino did through DAP was to pull in millions of pesos into a huge sum of presidential pork. DAP was used for bribery, patronage politics and to consolidate BS Aquino’s clique in government.”
In the past four years, the BS Aquino government slashed funds for OFW welfare services and closed down embassies and consulates allegedly as austerity measures. OFWs have experienced criminal government neglect, the biggest budget cut for OFW services, more exorbitant state exactions and fee impositions, diplomatic blunders that have placed OFWs’ welfare at stake and unending price hikes that continue to cripple OFWs and their families.
Martinez enumerated BS Aquino’s promises in past SONAs for the OFW sector, and the real state of migrants under BS Aquino:
|BS AQUINO’S SONA PROMISES||REAL STATE OF MIGRANTS UNDER AQUINO|
|Promise 1: To enforce a state policy of not pursuing overseas employment as a development strategy||Reality 1: BS Aquino has enforced a more aggressive labor export policy. By 2012, at least one-fourth of the country’s labor force has gone abroad to find work. There are now 15 million Filipinos abroad.According to the POEA, 1.5 million Filipinos were deployed abroad in the start of BS Aquino’s term. Since 2010, the number of OFWs leaving the country increased from 2,500 daily to 4,884 in 2013. Last year, the BS Aquino government has breached the two million mark in deployment of OFWs for a year, the highest record in history since labor export was enforced in the 1970s.|
|Promise 2: To improve OFW services in Philippine foreign posts||Reality 2: BS Aquino closed down at least 10 Philippine foreign posts as part of its so-called “austerity measures” to incur government “savings”.|
|Promise 3: Protect OFWs from fixers, scammers and traffickers||Reality 3: BS Aquino is the “trafficker-in-chief” of OFWs. Trafficking of Filipino workers is still rampant and operating in record-high levels yet the accountability of perpetrators and their coddlers in government remains low. The Philippines remains as one of the top source/sending countries for trafficking in different parts of the world.|
|Promise 4: To strengthen reintegration programs for returning migrants||Reality 4: There is a lack of comprehensive and sustainable reintegration program for returned OFWs. What the BS Aquino government offers are mere dole-outs and band-aid solutions that are not long-term solutions to unemployment, low wages and lack of social services.Most of the government’s reintegration programs for returned OFWs are made up of loans and one-time livelihood programs. Most recently returned OFWs are complaining about the P2 billion OWWA reintegration program that BS Aquino inaugurated in 2011 because of its stringent requirements for collateral and onerous interest rates.|
|Promise 5: To review the budget of OWWA||Reality 5: BS Aquino failed to investigate allegations of misuse and corruption of the OWWA funds. The plunder case filed against former president Arroyo for misuse and corruption of OWWA funds, for instance, was initiated by private citizens and organizations and not the Aquino administration.OFWs are also suspicious as to the source of the DAP funds. OFWs fear that they might have been sourced from OWWA and other welfare funds.|
|Promise 6: To address OFWs’ financial and social problems||Reality 6: BS Aquino signed Administrative Order 31, calling on all government heads and agencies to “rationalize the rates of their fees and charges, increasing their rates and impose new fees and charges”.Since 2010, the BS Aquino government has been collecting an average of at least P26,267 from every OFW processed by the POEA. This amount is higher than the average P18,000 the government collected in 2010.With the recent increases in the Philhealth premium, NBI clearance fees, e-passport fees, barangay clearance fees, and the mandatory contributions to Pag-Ibig, OWWA and mandatory insurance, among others, the average cost for every OFW for the processing of the Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) has reached an estimated P31,000 per OFW.|
|Promise 7: To maximize partnership with the United States||Reality 7: OFWs continue to be placed in dangerous conditions in conflict-ridden countries due to US interventionist or US-backed wars, and BS Aquino’s dogged support for the US continues to place them in perilous situations.OFWs in conflict-riddled countries – Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Kuwait, Afghanistan – are caught between the devil and the turbulent sea. They left despite risks posed in working in these countries because of worsening domestic unemployment. And like before, a number of them will surely opt to stay because no jobs await them should they decide to return.|
“Pinagkait ang serbisyo para magamit sa kapritso ni BS Aquino. Malinaw ang holDAP. DAPat managot si Noynoy sa kanyang pagnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan,” Martinez said.
Martinez said that Filipinos in Hong Kong, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Italy and the United States are also simultaneously holding their SONA protests today.###