Probe frequent free riders in govt repatriation, Migrante tells govt

PRESS STATEMENT, 22 August 2023

We are appalled and angered by the Commission of Audit COA finding that from April 2020 to March 2023, 3,707 supposed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) availed of emergency repatriation from two to five times, receiving free flights, lodging, and food from OWWA.

This finding is most disgusting, reeks of corruption, deserves immediate and thorough investigation, and should result in responsible officials being sacked and held accountable. Some people are going on travels, maybe even junkets, by using the people’s money, taking advantage of services devoted to distressed OFWs, and depriving OFWs and migrant Filipinos of funds for much-needed services. 

According to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) website itself, “Emergency repatriation is carried out in the event of any political unrest or natural calamities.” According to the Migrant Workers And Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, it is for distressed OFWs, who face a “medical, psycho-social, or legal problem requiring treatment, counseling, or legal representation.”

Emergency repatriation is therefore for OFWs who, because of widespread unemployment and poverty in the country, tried their luck abroad but faced unfortunate circumstances. It is repugnant that people will be travelling or going on junkets by taking advantage of services for said OFWs. Ang kapal ng mukha!

Furthermore, we at Migrante-International have repeatedly called for immediate repatriation of OFWs in distress, especially in Kuwait and the Middle East, during this time. We have also been demanding for services needed by OFWs and migrant Filipinos. Funds used for the free flights, lodging and food received by these supposed OFWs could have gone into services needed by OFWs and migrant Filipinos. Nagdurusa ang maraming OFW, may pondo naman pala, ginagamit lang ng iilan!

The fact that most of the frequent flyers come from Northern Mindanao raises many questions. Is this a case of patronage involving a high government official? Where were these supposed OFWs going? Some secret government project abroad perhaps? We demand an immediate and thorough investigation into this mess. Those responsible in high places should be sacked and held accountable. 

Amidst deliberations on the proposed 2024 national budget, we demand that the government be transparent with regard to the number of repatriated Filipinos, as well as the number of Filipinos who received government services in the past year and in previous years. We continue to demand higher budget for services for OFWs and all migrant Filipinos. ###