20th Nat’l Migrants’ Day marked with protest

June 5 rally at the Department of Foreign Affairs
June 5 rally at the Department of Foreign Affairs

Two days before National Migrants’ Day on June 7, Migrante International held a picket protest at the Department of Foreign Affairs to mark the sector’s protest against the worst state of Filipino migrants under the Aquino administration.

June 7 also marks the 20th year of the implementation of the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers, or Republic Act 8042, amended by RA 10022, which was enacted in 1995 shortly after the death of Flor Contemplacion.

“Twenty years have passed since Flor was executed in Singapore but despite the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos our OFWs are more beleaguered than they ever were before,” said Sol Pillas, secretary general of Migrante International.

She said that 20 years before, Migrante had said that the Magna Carta was a ‘ticking bomb’ for OFWs because it remained to be seen if the law would indeed serve to protect migrant workers or simply further institutionalize the policy of labor export. “20 years after and the bomb has exploded on our faces. What we feared has happened, and worsened under the present Aquino administration. Aquino’s labor export policy continues to wreak havoc in the lives and welfare of migrant workers and their families.”

“It is just on paper, but in reality, the government does not protect OFWs and services for them are most dismal. Labor export is more intensified under the present administration because OFWs continue to salvage the country’s deteriorating economy. The government has forsaken the lives of OFWs in exchange for remittances and big businesses,” she added.

Pillas scored Pres. Aquino’s recent speech in Japan saying that there are less OFWs now than in 2010 owing to a “developing economy”. She said the number of OFWs leaving daily to work abroad has tripled since Aquino took office– from 2,500 daily in 2010, 4,500 in 2012 to 6,000 by the end of 2014 (IBON data).

“Because of the Aquino  administration’s desperation to further seek job markets abroad due to the country’s worsening economic situation brought about by its unreformed policies, its only recourse has been to intensify its labor export program at the expense of the rights and welfare of OFWs. It has become more clear that the labor export policy is nothing but a big business venture from which the government profits, with OFWs as the milking cows,” Pillas said.

Aquino veto on LAF in 2015 budget slammed

Pillas also probed Pres. Aquino’s veto of the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) for the 2015 budget. In his Veto Message last December 2014, Aquino included the LAF in items in the General Appropriations Act 2015 placed under “conditional implementation” and subject to the approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The president’s veto also called for a creation of a so-called “special fund” for the LAF, suggesting that funds for the LAF will be sourced elsewhere other than what is stated in the law.

The Magna Carta for Migrant Workers requires a P100-million LAF in the national budget sourced from the following: P50 million from the Presidential Social Fund, P30 million from the Contingency Fund of the President and P20-million from OWWA. He said that only an average of P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since Aquino became president in 2010.

She also demanded an explanation from the government on why funds for the LAF has been slashed since 2010, while there have been reports that at least P52 million in legal funds for OFWs were unused since 2011. “Kailangang magpaliwanag ni Aquino. Ibig bang sabihin nito pati ang LAF na-DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) na?” Pillas said.

Only P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since Aquino became president in 2011.

She added that based on DFA disbursement reports, the DFA has at least P6-billion unused funds from 2010 to 2013. She revealed that a large chunk of the so-called “savings” were from the “underspent” allocations for the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) and the Assistance to Nationals (ATN).

From 2010 to 2013, only 34% of the appropriations for the OAV was used up. As for the ATN budget, disbursement totalled only to P741-million while P19-billion was allocated for the budget item “protection of national interest of Filipino nationals abroad.”

This were the same period when the DAP funds were accumulated, Pillas said.

“We have enough reasons to suspect that the Aquino administration may have siphoned billions of unused funds of the DFA for DAP. May pera sa DAP pero wala para sa mga serbisyo at proteksyon sa OFWs. Bakit magkakaroon ng savings ang DFA samantalang libo-libo ang mga migrante ang nagrereklamo na hindi sila natulungan ng gobyerno,” she said. ###