OFW groups express opposition to Pichay appointment to OWWA

July 23, 2008

Arroyo offered post aside from SBMA, ex-solon says
By Veronica Uy, Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 19:01:00 07/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Overseas Filipino worker groups have expressed opposition to the possible appointment of a former congressman and losing administration senatorial candidate to the top post of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

The Center for Migrant Advocacy and the Philippine Migrant Rights Watch said they wanted someone from the ranks of OFWs to handle OWWA and its billions of dollars in OWWA membership fees which they feared might be used for the 2010 elections.

Reports are rife that former Surigao congressman Prospero “Butch” Pichay, who ran for senator under the administration ticket, could take over the helm of the OWWA.

Pichay confirmed to INQUIRER.net that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had offered him the top OWWA post and the chairmanship of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and that there were also other offers of Cabinet positions.

He refused to elaborate however on the Cabinet offers “in deference to sitting officials.”

“OWWA at Subic. Iyan ang talagang inoffer ng President — a few months ago pa [OWWA and Subic. That is what the President really offered — a few months ago],” said Pichay who was in Vietnam.

Pichay said that he was considering the OWWA post.

“Maraming offer [There are a lot of offers] but I’m still trying to think about all these offers. In a few weeks, makaka-decide na ako [I can decide]. Inaasikaso ko pa ang negosyo [I am just attending to my business].”

OFW groups which spearheaded the drive to pass the Overseas Absentee Voting Law several years ago have launched a campaign to put Mike Bolos, an accountant who has worked for more than 20 years in Saudi Arabia to head OWWA.

Heeding the government’s call for overseas Filipinos to return to the country and contribute to its development, Bolos has since returned to the Philippines to start several business enterprises.

Rashid Fabricante, of the Pinoy-abroad-forum and elagda-Riyadh, started the e-mail thread with the suggestion that OFW groups and migrant rights organizations should lobby for OFW representation at OWWA.

OWWA, which is tasked to promote and protect the well-being of OFWs, was previously headed by Marianito Roque until he was appointed secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment when his predecessor Arturo Brion became associate justice of the Supreme Court.

The attached agency of DoLE does not get any budgetary allocation from the government. It lives solely off the $25- membership fee of every departing OFW.

While the membership fee is supposed to be paid by the leaving OFW’s employer, the OFW in most cases pay for the amount.

OFW groups have sought more representation in OWWA and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the other DoLE-attached agency concerned with OFWs.

There are an estimated eight million Filipinos who live and work overseas while some 3,000 leave the country every day.

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President’s office fails COA audit

June 3, 2008

By Malou Mangahas Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Unliquidated cash advances, “loans” without records, donations diverted to uses not prescribed by donors, understated expenses and overstated accounts in the hundreds of millions of pesos, all sourced from taxpayers’ money.

These irregular transactions in clear breach of government accounting and auditing rules mark financial transactions in the Office of the President (OP) under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2007, according to a Commission on Audit (COA) report, a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

The report on the presidency for 2007 contained 11 qualified comments and observations on these erroneous entries – mostly the same errors COA had noted in its 2006 audit of the same office.

COA also pointed out that of the 11 audit recommendations it made in the 2006 audit, only four were fully implemented, three partially implemented, and four not implemented at all by Malacañang.

Thus, for the second year in a row, COA rendered “a qualified opinion on the fairness of the presentation of the financial statements of the OP.”

The OP Proper consists of “the Private Offices, the Presidential Assistant System, the Executive Offices, the General Government Administration Staff, the Internal Audit Service Unit, the Locally Funded/Foreign Assisted Projects, and the Other Executive Offices.” The OP also “directly supervises 58 other executive offices, agencies, commissions, and committees that warrant the special attention of the President.”

The OP kitty is obviously substantial. In 2007, the OP received total cash inflows of P3.38 billion, or 13 percent more than the P2.99 billion it got in 2006. Of the 2007 figure, P2.31 billion came from notices of cash allocation from the Department of Budget and Management. The OP collected another P1.06 billion as its share in the net earnings of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

The OP likewise raised service income of P9.3 million, interest income of P4.05 million, and miscellaneous income of P3.3 million.

COA said that the OP’s total cash outflows reported in 2007 amounted to P2.67 billion, or 13 percent more than the P2.36 billion in 2006.

Non-employees got money

Where those monies went can be gleaned from the COA audit – somewhat. In its latest audit of the presidency signed by COA Director IV Bato S. Ali Jr., the agency said that as of Dec. 31, 2007, Arroyo’s Malacañang had:

• Failed to liquidate a total of P632.9 million of cash advances and receivables from officers, employees and other persons, on account of foreign and domestic travels that the President made, typically with a large retinue of political deputies and allies. Of the total, P594 million represented “cash advances granted to persons who are not employees of the OP.”

• Diverted “donations” totaling P37.3 million to expenses “outside of intended purposes,” contrary to provisions of the General Appropriations Act of 2007.

• Erroneously remitted and deposited collections on income from OP Bus Service Fares (P1.86 million collected from Malacañang employees) and entrance fees for the Presidential Museum (P1.74 million) in a Special Account in the Bureau of the Treasury (Btr), and not in the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund.

• Granted “loans” from the President’s Social Fund (PSF) using money from Pagcor in CY 2003 and January 2004 totaling P269.5 million without complete records.

• Erroneously classified collections and disbursements on electricity and water expenses of other agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations in the books of accounts, resulting in the understatement of Other Payables account by P4.1 million, and overstatement of the Due to Other NGAs and Due to GOCCs accounts by P4.1 million and P21,422.23, respectively. (NGAs are national government agencies and GOCCs are government-owned and -controlled corporations.)

• Failed to reconcile physical count of office supplies, as well as of property and plant equipment, with balances per books, resulting in “the overstatement/understatement of various supplies” and “casting doubt on their reliability.”

• Failed to provide property, plant and equipment worth a total of P914.8 million with depreciation, “thus understating both the accumulated depreciation and depreciation expense accounts.”

• Enrolled balances of P186.7 million as “Due to Other NGAs” and P42.07 million as “Due to Other GOCCs” accounts that remain “doubtful” because of “unreconciled beginning balance” of P181.9 million, and P42.05 million, respectively.

Money changed hands

Of the P632.9 million in unliquidated cash advances and receivables, COA said P375.66 million was granted to various disbursing officers, including P222.98 million granted for foreign travels to just one Cashier.

Further verification by COA showed that “the Cashier who was granted such cash advances has not been a member or party to such foreign travels.” The practice, the report stressed, “is an indirect violation” of COA Circular 97-002, which says the “transfer of cash advance from one accountable officer to another shall not be allowed.”

The COA report added: “The cash advances on foreign travel granted to the Cashier who was not a party to the said travel could not directly/personally perform an act such as making disbursements and taking care of receipts where he/she is not present to such travel. This indicates that a person other than the one who was granted such cash advance made the disbursements abroad.”

Unbooked loans

Apart from unliquidated cash advances, COA for the second year in a row took issue with the unbooked “loans” that the presidency granted in 2003 and January 2004 under the so-called “Isang Bayan, Isang Produkto, Isang Milyong Piso” Program.

Arroyo institutionalized the program under Executive Order 176 in 2002, supposedly “to stimulate local economic activity and growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).”

Under the program, the President allocated a million pesos each to every city or municipality in the country. The amount went to individual “borrowers” who were reportedly granted not a doleout but a “loan” with six-percent interest, payable every three months to the Land Bank of the Philippines, across a four-year period.

Arroyo’s EO listed, among others, the Land Bank and the Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corp. (SBGFC) as funding sources, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as the lead agency.

The funds were in truth sourced from the President’s Social Fund (PSF), a discretionary account Arroyo controls, and which is funded by the presidency’s share in the net earnings of Pagcor and PCSO.

But the COA audit of the PSF showed deficiencies in the Fund. These include P216.5 million “loans” granted in 2003, and P52.9 million granted in January 2004 – all not recorded in the books.

No subsidiary records were maintained for each “borrower,” and neither were accomplishment and financial and terminal reports required and submitted, the COA revealed.

When COA requested records on the “loans,” Malacañang’s Director of Finance gave a peculiar explanation. According to the report, “(the) Finance Director…stated that all these documents are being stored in the Office of the Special Projects at the Presidential Management Staff and which were not submitted/attached along with the Dvs (disbursement vouchers) due to the bulkiness of such documents but can be available for verification anytime.”

Bus, museum fees

Another unusual error that COA discerned was the remittance or deposit of collections on income from OP Bus Service Fares (P1,856,218.88); entrance fees for the Presidential Museum (P1,742,261.88); and other miscellaneous income (full payments of sale of unserviceable properties and 10-percent bid bond of winning bidders) in the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) as a Special Account (Fund 184) in the General Fund.

COA said that in the absence of any authorized law, these amounts should have been deposited in the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund, and remitted to the National Treasury.

When sought for an explanation, Arroyo’s deputies said the Palace maintains several buses to service the employees in going to their office and vice-versa. For the maintenance needs of the buses, fares are collected from the riding employees.

COA found out though that Malacañang had billed the repair and maintenance of the buses from the General Fund, and “not from this Special Account.”

Yet what might seem embarrassing and irregular at the same time is another COA finding: Arroyo had used P37.3 million in “donations” her office received for reasons “outside of intended purposes,” again in violation of the General Appropriations Act.

For the whole of 2007, the presidency received donations totaling P86 million:

• P80 million from the Manila Economic Cooperation Office in Taiwan;

• P5 million, with no particular purpose stated;

• P1 million for typhoon “Reming”; and

• P5,500 refund of financial assistance.

Of this total, COA said Arroyo disbursed P68 million, including P37.3 million for the following unintended purposes of the donations:

Purpose

Amount

1. Medical Assistance

P 13,433,078.35

2. Conferences/Seminars

P   2,761,800.00

3. Legal Assistance

P   1,214,103.91

4. Burial Assistance

P   1,104,500.00

5. Educational Assistance

P      443,000.00

6. Others

P 18,353,926.86

Total

P 37,310,409.12

It must be noted that years ago, a COA circular had disallowed using public funds as donations for burial assistance.

Why Arroyo had to use these donations for purposes other than that prescribed by donors is a puzzle. Her presidency has, in fact, functioned like a virtual social welfare agency: in 2007, it disbursed “donations” totaling P618.6 million, or an average of P51.5 million a month, using her own agency budget and cash inflows.

This amount is a significant increase from the P427.7 million in “donations” that the Palace disbursed in 2006, or an average of just P35.6 million a month. – With research by Isa Lorenzo


Hinaing ng mga Nigeria OFWs

May 21, 2008

This was last year 2007 efforts. And still no answer.

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Kagalanggalang at pinagpipitagang mga Lingkod ng Bayan,

Ikinagagalak po namin ang pagtawag ninyo sa amin bilang mga MODERN DAY HEROES. Bilang mga BAGONG BAYANI nawa eh pakinggan ninyo at paglaanan ng panahon itong aming mga sinasabi

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, Pilipinas lang ang bukod tangi at nag iisang bansa ang naglabas ng TOTAL BAN papunta dito sa Nigeria. Kung sa bawat bansa na may makikidnap ay magpapalabas kayo ng Ban sa pangunguna pa naman ni Kabayang NOLI eh siguro marapat din na mag BAN kayo sa ibang bansa. Tama po ba? Nung nakaraang lingo ay may namatay na pinay sa Canada, o bakit di kayo mag impose ng Ban doon para maipakita sa ating mga kababayan sa Pilipinas na CONCERN kayo sa aming mga OFW. Siguro sasabihin ninyo na isolated case iyon. Eh kung sabihin din natin na ang nangyari kay G. Bacani ay isolated case din.

I doubt kung sakaling may ma rape sa Saudi ay mag impose kayo ng Ban doon. I doubt kung sakaling may namatay sa UAE ay mag impose kayo ng Ban doon.

  1. Sa bilang ng OFW sa lugar ng Niger Delta siguro eh maaaring meron na makasama na Pinoy sa makikidnap. Ratio and Proportion po, ganun kasimple. Pero bakit ang ibang mga nasyon ay di naglalabas ng total ban. May namatay po nung nakaraan na isang British National, pero bakit hindi sila naglabas ng ganyang kautusan. ILL- ADVISED.

  1. Kasabay ng pagkidnap kay G. Bacani ay nasawimpalad at namatay ang isa nyang kasamahan na Columbiano, PERO BAKIT hindi sila (Columbian Govt.) nag impose ng ban para sa mga overseas workers nila na nandito? Kayo lamang na mga administrador – Vice Pres, DOLE, POEA, NBI ang bigla biglang nagpalabas ng ganyang kautusan.

  1. Ang mga tao po dito sa embahada natin ay di man lamang hiningan ng inputs bago kayo nag implement ng ban na yan. May mga kasama po kami na nagtanong muna sa mga tao ng Embassy kung mag ba BAN ba, ng sa ganun eh hindi sana sila muna magbabakasyon gaya ng nangyari nung Pebrero ng taong ito. Since nagbigay sila ng GUARANTEE na hindi naman daw, sumulong ang iba naming kasamahan. Sa puntong ito lumalabas na TRINAYDOR sila. Nasaan sila, andun sa kanilang mga bahay, dumadalangin na sana ma-lift ang BAN. May iniaabot ba naman ang gobyerno sa kanila pra pangtustos sa kanilang araw araw na gastos. Saan sila ngayon kukuha ng pambayad sa eskwela, ang baon ng mga bata, ang pang monthly amortization sa bahay, sasakyan or lupa?

  1. Sa ginawa po ninyong ito ay inalisan nyo ng karapatan na magkaroon ng oportunidad na magtrabaho at iangat ang antas ng aming mga sariling buhay. Para kaming mga bata na inagawan ng kendi, buti sana kung may TOBLERONE kayong ipapalit dito, pero WALA naman. Ang nangyari tuloy ay napipilitan ang mga kumpanya na kumuha ng ibang lahi para sa sana eh mga posisyon at trabaho para sa Pilipino.

  1. Sabi ni Sen. Mar Roxas sa kanyang kolum sa ABANTE, “Payong kapatid lamang, siguro’y mas mainam na dito na lamang kayo makipagsapalaran sa ating bayan.”. Ang malaking katanungan po para sa amin ay kung sakali bang umuwi kami ng Pilipinas, may naghihintay bang trabaho para sa amin? May mga programa bang nakalaan para sa amin? Base sa nakaraang pag impose ninyo ng ban nung February 2007, may napala ba yung mga na-stranded dyan sa atin? May nakuha ba sila mula sa ipinagmamalaking OWWA, POEA at DOLE, wala po, ni SINGKONG DULING!

Madali pong sabihin para sa kanya dahil sa estado ng kanyang buhay. Pero naranasan na ba nyang pumila sa mga agency sa Malate, Singalong…Sa dami ng nag aapply gusto nyo bang makidagdag pa kami doon?

  1. Ang nangyayari na pagkidnap sa Niger Delta ay di natin pwedeng ikumpara sa sitwasyon ng Jolo, Sulu. Unang una, dito po ay ganitong sequenze ang nangyayari KIDNAP-RANSOM-RELEASE. Mas mainam pa rin kung tutuusin kesa sa pamumugot ng ulo na ginagawa ng mga bandido sa atin. Kahit po ang gobyerno ng America sa aking pagkakaalam (correct me again if I’m wrong) ay di naglabas ng Total Ban na magpunta dyan ang kanilang mga citizens, manapay isang ADVISORY LAMANG. Ano ang mararamdaman ninyo kung ang i-impose nila ay TOTAL BAN sa kahit saang sulok ng Pinas kasi magulo sa Sulu lamang.

Dito, inimpose nyo na buong Nigeria samantalang sa iisang lugar lang may nagaganap na kidnap for ransom na sitwasyon. Kung ikukumpara naman sa atin di hamak na dito di ka maga alala na ma-snatch ang celfone mo. Di ka kinakabahan pag naglalakad ka sa kalye na baka may holdaper. Subukan nyo pong magpunta dito para makita at maranasan nyo ang aming mga sinasabi. Ika nga ni Kasamang Manny G. Figueroa, bukas ang kanyang bahay para sa inyo.

  1. Ngayon, kung talaga naman na di na kayo matitinag sa inyong desisyon, siguro (I don’t know If everybody will agree with my proposal here), Papirmahin nyo na lang kami ng waiver, any OFW who will go to NIGERIA is obliged to sign it. Waiver na magsasabing kung may mangyari sa amin dito ay wala kayong sagutin. DAHIL SA TOTOO WALA NAMAN TALAGA KAMING AASAHAN SA INYO. Ano po ba ang napapala namin sa pagkuha ng OEC (Overseas Employment Certificates) ? Maliban sa libreng Kape sa airport, nakakatipid lang kami ng mga 600 siguro. (700 po kasi ang tax pag walang OEC minus 100 kaya 600 hindi pa kasama dito ang pamasahe at pagkain sa pagpunta sa POEA Centers). Isipin nyo din po na sa bawat bakasyon namin na kukuha kami nyang OEC ay isang araw ang nawawala sa amin.

Since tinuturing nyo rin naman na kami eh BAGONG BAYANI, sana maramdaman namin yun. Ikaw nga ni Sen. Roxas sa banding huli mas mainam pa rin ang gawa kaysa saita. Siguro panahon na rin na bigyan nyo kami ng proteksyon. Ito ang panahon para kayo ay magpa POGI. Dahil kayo ay mga mambabatas, bakit di kayo bumalangkas ng mga programa para sa mga OFW.

Muli po, correct me if I’m wrong kung ang mga sasabihin ko ay mali or ang mga programang aking babanggitin ay existing na pala. Ito ay sa kadahilanang hindi ko alam na meron na pala,or hindi lang siguro nabigyan ng wastong kaalaman ukol dito.

  1. Ang bawat OFW na umaalis ay natitigil ang pagbabayad ng SSS, maliban na lamang kung ikaw ay boluntaryong maghuhulog nito. Siguro dapat nating paalalahanan ang mga agency na i-discuss ito sa mga taong pinapaalis nila, dahil saying naman yung mga ilang taong paghuhulog mo tapos mababalewala na dahil di ka naman na inform. Maaari din naman sigurong i-obliga ng ating batas na magbabayad din ang OFW kaalinsabay ng pagbabayad ng kumpanyang kanyang pagta trabahuhan. Di po ba sa atin ay ganyan ang kalakaran, ang kumpanya at ang empleyado ay parehas na may share sa contributions. Bakit hindi rin natin ito gawin para sa mga BAGONG BAYANI?

  1. Sa kawalan ng proteksyon, marami pong cases na ang mga properties ng isang OFW (kotse, bahay, lupa) ay nahahatak ng bangko. Kahit pa sabihin halimbawa na 3 buwan na lamang ang di mo pa nahuhulugan, walang awa nila itong hahatakin. Sana po magkaroon naman ng kaunting konsiderasyon para sa isang BAYANI na tulad namin. Kaunting flexibility kumbaga. Alam kong maraming factor kayo na i-co consider pero sana mabigyan nyo ng panahon na pag aralan ito.

  1. Ang ibang mga nasyon na nagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa ay may mga insurances na kasama sa benefits nila dahil obligado ang kumpanya na mag provide nito. Bakit ang Pilipinas ay walang ganito?

  1. Ang embahada po ng Pilipinas sa Nigeria ay nasa Abuja samantalang ang entry point po ng mga OFW ay nasa Lagos (ang pamasahe po papunta dito ay humigit kumulang sa 100 US Dollar or 4400 pesos). Siguro yung nabanggit ni Se. Roxas na budget ay maaari nyang ilaan dito. Maglagay ng kahit isang munting opisina sa Lagos.

  1. Bigyan ng proteksyon ang buying power ng OFW. Isarado sa 50 pesos = 1 dollar hanggat di tumataas ang dollar rate.

  1. Bigyan ng wastong kaalaman ang mga OFW tungkol doon sa MULTIPLE OEC? Sa mga di po nakakaalam, meron daw na multiple OEC, ibig sabihin kung sa loob ng isang taon ay 2 o mahigit pa na lumalabas ka ng bansa, pwede ka ng kumuha ng maramihan nito. Meron nga ba nitong multiple OEC? Bakit di ini-explain or ipost man lang sa mga POEA Centers? Kung ang isang OFW ay may 15 days na bakasyon, 1 araw nito ay gugugulin nya sa pagpunta sa POEA para makakuha ng OEC. Bakit hindi po kaya natin ilagay yung POEA for 24 hours operation sa NAIA. Yung tipong paglabas namin ng eroplano ay pwede ka ng kumuha ng OEC. Yung sinasabi ni Sen Roxas na dagdag na budget eh siguro pwedeng ilaan sa mga empleyado na magta trabaho sa ganitong purpose.

Pagkalampas po ng Customs sa NAIA sa banding kanan ay may booth doon ang POEA, nakasulat po na napakalaki 24-HOURS ON DUTY. Ng itanong ko sa Security Guard, eto ang kanyang sagot “Ay hanggang 5pm lang po sila”. Kalimitan po 10 or 11 PM dumadating ang mga OFW na galing sa Nigeria, kaya siguro marapat na totohanin ang ganitong programa na 24 HOURS na may POEA para dun na kami kukuha ng OEC. Sayang din naman kasi ang oras, pagod sa pagbyahe at gastos sa pagpunta sa POEA sa Ortigas or sa mga branches nila. Tama po ba?

Sana mabigyan nyo ng pansin itong aming hinaing. Salamat po. Yun lang.

Nagmamahal,

PBB (Pilipino Bagong Bayani)


OFW’s Appeal to “LIFT the BAN” on Deployment to NIGERIA

May 4, 2008

H.E. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

H.E. Vice President Noli De Castro

There is a lot of pressure and stress experienced by all of us (OFW in Nigeria) due to the issuance of the travel ban to Nigeria. It is quite sometime now that this travel ban was imposed. Our quest for help to lift the ban through various options is not being heared and actioned by the respective responsible authorities in our Government. We hope that your intervention will result in a positve decision to lift the ban with effect immediately.

We work on this as a joint endeavour among our Filipino community here in Nigeria to bring us to a level of comfort in finding a wayforward solution by seeking help from our Government on this problem situation, unfortunately, it has taken a long time now and our effort in soliciting our Government officials to act positively on this issue has no success until todate.

The attach petition letters are very generous request that highlights what we need from your end. Our situation here in Nigeria is better than other troubled countries and could comparatively compete with our country in terms of peace and security situation. In fact during this recent news in our country, relating to the political issues, we feel that our present Government is getting into a situation where people in your cabinet needs to change. We sympathize with you on the current situation caused by other officials who never think of good things for the Government, but for their own benefits.

In closing, we would appreciate your concern and prompt action on this matter. Rest assured that our community and families are in support of your plans. Thank you very much.

Respectfully Yours,

Filipinos in Nigeria

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Nigeria OFW’s 2nd Appeal

H.E. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

H.E. Vice President Noli De Castro

Malacanang Palace

Manila

Philippines

Your Excellencies,

This is the second time in the last two weeks that the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in Nigeria make use this medium to cry and appeal for your urgent intervention on the issue of the Total Ban on the Deployment of OFWs to Nigeria.

On 16th November 2007, our first Petition Letter on this subject jointly addressed to Your Excellencies was published on the pages of a Philippine newspaper. This publication was arranged by and paid for through the combined efforts and pooled contributions of the OFW community in Nigeria.

The entire community erupted in jubilation and happiness when the Department of Labour and Employment announced in the papers on 17th November 2007 the partial lifting of the deployment ban for OFWs in Nigeria and three other countries. We fervently prayed and waited for this announcement as this meant so much to us, specially those who have already planned and arranged for their home leaves and Christmas vacation this December 2007. At last, we could travel to the Philippines to see our loved ones with the assurance that we could return to our employment in Nigeria after our vacation.

But our joy was very shortlived because one day after this announcement, the Department of Labour, in a press release, issued another directive announcing the deferment of its first one until further notice. The reason for such deferment, as stated in its second directive, is the refusal of the Department of Foreign Affairs to issue a Certificate of No Objection to the partial lifting of the deployment ban on OFW to the mentioned countries.

Your Excellencies, we really do not know what is going on between these two government departments. We do not know the protocol in their consultations, deliberations and communications with each other. We do not know if they are coordinating on this issue or if there is a communications gap between them. If it is there, then it is indeed very sad that this lapse will become the cause for the deep and unspeakable disappointment within the OFW community in Nigeria. We do not know and we find it very difficult to understand why a public directive, so eagerly awaited and so much prayed for by so many, can easily be reversed less than forty eight hours after its issuance.

But what we simply know, Your Excellencies, is the fact that this counter-directive from DOLE has caused so much anguish and pain in our community. Most of us have prepared months ahead for our Christmas in the Philippines. Our wives, our children, our parents, our relations and friends in the Philippines have made their own preparations and are eagerly anticipating our homecoming this Yuletide Season. Please do not disappoint them, do not disappoint us, further.

We kindly request to call to order these aforementioned agencies and come up with a final decision on this deployment ban. By their unfortunate actions, the OFWs in Nigeria are being treated like misbehaving children. All of us here are professionals, responsible, mature and industrious. We work hard for our families and for the progress of the Philippines. At the same we have made ourselves worthwhile ambassadors for our country as we have made positive impressions in Nigeria.

Lastly, Your Excellencies, Nigeria is a safe place, safer that other countries in the region. Most of us have stayed in this wonderful country for decades. Our children were born here and have finished their education here. The reported incidences of social problems in the Niger Delta is not a mirror of the security situation for the entire country. In our earlier petition letter, we have amplified this and other reasons why the ban on the deployment of OFW in Nigeria should be lifted.

We wish you a Joyful Christmas and a Prosperous Coming Year and we hope, Your Excellencies, will grant the same wish to the OFWs in Nigeria and their waiting families in the Philippines.

Very respectfully yours,

Overseas Filipino Workers in Nigeria

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Nigeria OFW’s 1st Appeal

H.E. Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Malacañang Palace

Manila

Philippines

Your Excellency,

We, the signatories to this open letter, are Filipino Overseas Workers (OFW) employed at various places in Nigeria and we earnestly appeal for the lifting of the current ban on the deployment of OFWs to Nigeria.

We are constrained to address this letter direct to your attention and through this medium with the sincere hope that your urgent and kind intervention will finally provide succour to our plight. We have written letters, sent numerous e-mails and made so many calls to our Embassy in Nigeria, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labour and Employment and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration regarding this issue, but sadly it remains unresolved. We have contacted members of Congress for their assistance but it is even more sad that our appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

First of all, Madam President, we request full clarification on the real nature and intent of this ban as there seems to be conflicting interpretations. Initially we understand that this was a partial deployment ban to cover only those OFWs coming to Nigeria for the first time and therefore their travel documents will not be processed by POEA. Now, it is a total ban wherein we are made to understand that those OFWs currently in Nigeria who intend to go for their home leave or Christmas vacation will no longer be allowed to return to their employment in Nigeria. This also covers those who already travelled to the Philippines but are stranded and cannot go back to their work.

Your Excellency, we truly believe that this deployment ban, be it partial or total, should be urgently reviewed and the directives of the POEA and DOLE on its implementation should be reversed immediately because of the following reasons:

1. The incidences of kidnapping of expatriates are confined mainly to a small area in Nigeria known as the Delta Region and they happen at remote swampy areas, creeks and lagoons of the region’s two states, Rivers and Delta. However, these incidents are certainly not daily occurrences but rather isolated cases which government security agencies have categorised as criminal activities and are not reflective of the entire security situation of the country.

However, it is very comforting to note that the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the current administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua, has put a high premium on the resolution of this social problem and the dividends are coming to fruition. This can be indicated by the increasing visits of the country’s Vice-President to the region for in-depth discussions on security and development programmes with the major stakeholders including multinational companies.

2. Multinational companies operating in the said region, in cooperation with government agencies, have very stringent and well-planned security and surveillance arrangements for all their expatriate and indigenous workers. Aside from such arrangements, these companies have updated contingency plans and evacuation procedures for said workers in the event of emergencies cropping up.

3. The Delta Region is far from Lagos and Abuja, the financial and political centers of the country. It is also far from other major urban centers like Ibadan, Benin, Abeokuta, Aba, in the south and Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Ilorin, in the north. These places are homes to big communities of OFWs and their dependents – are peaceful and quite; daily life and business activities go on normally. True, there are social problems therein, but they are also the same problems that are in the Philippines and other countries, perhaps worse than what is in Nigeria.

We are in the best position to know these things because most of us OFWs have stayed in Nigeria for more than five years. A good number of us have stayed for decades, have raised our families and have considered Nigeria a home away from home.

4. The employment benefits of OFWs in Nigeria are far better and higher than those offered in the Philippines and in the Middle East. OFWs in Nigeria have made very positive impressions on their employers and are most likely to be re-hired. However, this current deployment ban will certainly affect such re-employment. It is because those who are to go on home leave are requested to defer such leave, just wind up their contract and go home for good. Employers fully know that their Filipino workers can no longer return for employment because of this deployment ban. As a result, companies will source their skilled manpower requirements from other countries.

5. If we, OFWs in Nigeria who travel for home leave in the Philippines, are barred from returning to our employment (including those who have travelled before and now stranded in the Philippines), how can we meet our numerous financial commitments – monthly payments for mortgaged houses, children’s school fees, feeding for the family, water and electric bills, financial support for aged parents, etc?

Are there employment opportunities in the Philippines which can provide us far greater benefits than what we receive from our employers in Nigeria?

6. It is only the Philippine Government which has imposed travel restrictions on its citizens who seek for gainful employment in Nigeria. Other countries, whose citizens have been subject to much sever cases of abductions/kidnappings, issue travel advisories. This situation makes us a laughing stock among the expatriate communities in Nigeria.

Most of us, Madam President, have already made preparations to travel to the Philippines for our home leave or Christmas holidays this December 2007. Allow us to enjoy, even for a brief period, our cherished tradition of reunions with our families and loved ones without worry and anxiety but with the assurance that we can return to our employment in Nigeria for their further betterment.

Your Excellency, we will try to understand the rationale of this deployment ban in the same manner that you will try to understand our feelings and sentiments on the issue. While its reconsideration may not be forthcoming as speedily as we wish it to be, allow us to propose our humble suggestion in the interim:

The Philippine Embassy in Nigeria is our government’s frontline source of information on the host country. The Embassy is in the best position to ascertain the real situation affecting the welfare of Philippine nationals in Nigeria and as such, it could issue a Certification that an OFW in Nigeria is employed and working in a safe and secured area in the country. This will allow the OFW to proceed on home leave or Christmas vacation with the assured return to the place of employment in Nigeria.

Kami pong lahat na OFW dito sa Nigeria ay masayang bumabati ng MALIGAYANG PASKO AT MANIGONG BAGONG TAON sa inyong lahat.

Maraming salamat po.

Lubos na gumagalang,

OFWS in Nigeria