July 31, 2006
Ongoing Lebanon evacuation fiasco
OWWA funds are treated as discretionary funds by Malacañang; US$293,500 missing since 2003
Melbourne, Australia – Bayan Muna Representative Joel Virador encouraged senior colleagues in the House of Representatives “not to succumb to Malacañang pressure to either shelve or water down a comprehensive and thorough investigation on high officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on the ongoing fund mess on the evacuation of distressed OFWs in war-torn Lebanon.”
“The House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Overseas Workers Affairs should take the side of overseas Filipino workers who are being shell-shocked in Lebanon. Among the things that Congress should consider is the alleged systematic depletion of the OWWA trust funds by the current administration that got worse in 2003. This has affected the evacuation efforts in Lebanon and the already paltry services that OWWA gives to all the OFWs,” said Rep. Virador, who is on official business in Australia until August 7.
“It is also essential for Congress to look into government’s so-called contingency and preparedness plan on OFWs in the Middle East and other countries threatened by war. Also, Congress must oblige Mr. Roy Cimatu to explain how he spent the US$293,500 (P15.56 million) support fund from the OWWA when not one OFW was evacuated from Iraq in 2003. Please note that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Virador said.
“An open and complete accounting of the P8.1 billion OFW funds held in trust by the OWWA is in order. It is urgent that the House investigation look into how much has been collected by the OWWA since its inception, how much was disbursed and how many employees are actually in its plantilla since they are funded by the OFWs’ US$25 annual membership dues,” Virador added.
It is public knowledge that that before the 2004 elections, Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the illegal transfer of health funds of the OFWs to PhilHealth, which then issued cards, similar to her her campaign posters, showing her cradling an infant.