02/11/2009 | 07:25 PM
MANILA, Philippines – The biggest migrants’ advocacy group in the country accused the Philippine government of milking outbound overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by forcing them to register for the overseas absentee voting (OAV) prior to their departure.
Migrante International chairperson Gary Martinez told GMANews.TV on Wednesday that they have been receiving complaints from OFWs of the “additional burden” imposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Citing reports reaching him, Martinez said aspiring OFWs who are applying for passports are asked to pay P75 for the OAV fee.
“It could reach up to P250 on weekends,” Martinez added.
In an earlier statement, Migrante International reiterated that under the Philippine Passport Act of 1996, “the government has the duty to issue passport or any travel document to any citizen of the Philippines or individual who complies with the requirement of this act.”
“Clearly, this government is twisting the thousands of Filipinos who wish to escape grinding poverty here in the country by finding jobs abroad by the arm with this questionable requirement,” Martinez added.
DFA spokesperson Bayani Mangibin denied that the OAV registration was being made a “prerequisite” for those applying for passports.
“We are just inviting them to exercise their right to register and vote, that’s all. But we cannot force them. That’s not our policy,” Mangibin told GMANews.TV.
Mangibin did not mention anything about the alleged fees.
As stated in Section 5 of the law, applicants for a Philippine passport are required to secure the following documents: duly accomplished application form and photographs of applicant; birth certificate; marriage certificate; naturalization certificate (for naturalized citizens); for minors, affidavit of consent from a parent; a copy of the court order of adoption for adopted persons and; travel authority for government employees.
Mangibin countered the allegations, stressing that some groups exaggerate details and misconstrue facts to cast blame on the government.
“Minsan ina-angguluhan na lang para lumabas nga na ganoon [Sometimes they cast a different light on the matter],” he added.
The DFA has formally launched on Wednesday the OAV registration booth for outbound Filipino workers and immigrants at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Mangibin assured that the registration process would only take a few minutes and would not be an added burden to OFWs.
The OAV booth is located at the OFW lounge in NAIA and would be open until August 31. [Click here for additional information] – Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV