Today is Zero Remittance Day for Zero Pork

porkAt least 300 Filipino migrant organizations from 23 countries around the world are participating in today’s Zero Remittance Day against the pork barrel system and widespread corruption in Philippine government.

Overseas Filipinos from Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Malaysia, Macau, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, United Kingdom, Austria, Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US have expressed support and their participation in today’s global protest action.

The Zero Remittance Day is spearheaded by DEPORK! (Overseas Filipinos Demand Abolition of Pork), a broad network of Filipino im/migrants, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), seafarers, families, advocates and service providers around the world.

DEPORK! convenors are former Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Admin. Atty. Carlos Cao, Former Labor Sec. Marianito Roque, Comm. (Ret.) Dante Jimenez, Secretary-General of the Philippine Association of Maritime Institutions (PAMI) and founding president of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), Migrante International Chairperson Garry Martinez, Lito Soriano of LBS Recruitment Solutions Corp., Atty. Edwin dela Cruz of the International Seafarers Action Center (ISAC), Migrante Partylist chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado, Rev. Mirasol Villalon from the National-in-mission for Victims of Human Trafficking, OFWs and their Families-United Methodist Church and Bishop Bart Espartero of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

 Why September 19?

The Zero Remittance Day is a symbolic protest and a political exercise for Filipino im/migrants from different parts of the world to collectively show their outrage on issues that affect them. Today, September 19, is a significant date for OFWs as it is also the anniversary of the implementation of the Overseas Workers Welfare Assistance (OWWA) Omnibus Policies (OOP) that effectively made the $25 OWWA contributions mandatory per contract. The OOP also limited benefits and services provided by the OWWA to member OFWs.

The OOP had since been deemed anti-migrant. It is one form of taxation imposed on OFWs that has gathered an estimated P14 billion in revenue for the government from OFWs’ contributions alone. OWWA funds have long been misused and plundered by government. But despite resounding calls for a full audit, the Philippine government has kept OFWs in the dark on how their hard-earned contributions are being utilized. In fact, despite billions of OWWA funds and the $21 billion worth of OFW remittances, services and assistance for Filipino migrants in distress have gone from bad to worse under the Aquino administration. “Today, we raise our call to the government that profit from our taxes and remittances should be allocated to social services and greater state subsidy for OFWs in distress,” Connie Bragas-Regalado, DEPORK! convenor.

 “Sleeping elephant no more”

“OFWs and their families must unite so they can match their economic power with political influence. OFWs have long been the ‘sleeping elephant in the room’. But today, Filipinos around the world are marking their protest against the pork barrel system and corruption in government,” said Lito Soriano, DEPORK! convenor.

For his part, co-convenor Atty. Edwin dela Cruz criticized “those who have exerted all efforts to undermine and pre-empt today’s global action.” “Some have tried but failed to belittle overseas Filipinos’ participation in the Zero Remittance Day by saying that it will not have an effect on the economy, or that families are not supportive of today’s global protest. The mere fact that they have taken so much trouble to undermine the outrage and unity of overseas Filipinos around the world is a clear testament that our message has cut across.”

“This is just the beginning, and families of overseas Filipinos are with us until the pork barrel system is abolished, those involved in the pork barrel scam are prosecuted, and systemic changes in government are implemented to eradicate the rotten culture of patronage politics and corruption. More global protests are coming and OFWs are geared for longer Zero Remittance Days in the next weeks,” said Garry MArtinez, DEPORK! convenor.

Families of OFWs and returned OFWs from Saudi Arabia, Macau, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Syria and Dubai held a rally at Mendiola today in support of the Zero Remittance Day. DEPORK! will also be joining the big anti-pork barrel rally in Luneta on September 21. ###