DBM chief takes flak over scrapping of overseas absentee voting budget, P47-M DAP listed for Joker

September 30, 2014

Abad under fire

DBM chief takes flak over scrapping of overseas absentee voting budget, P47-M DAP listed for Joker
by Mario B. Casayuran & Ellson A. Quismoro (Manila Bulletin)

September 27, 2014

Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, already under fire over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), again took the flak yesterday over his decision to scrap the P89.6-million budget for overseas absentee voting and allocate P47 million in DAP funds to former senator Joker Arroyo.

An irate Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said Abad should be made to explain why the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) dropped the overseas absentee voting registration budget being asked by Commission on Elections (Comelec) given the already dismal turnout of Filipino migrant voters the past few years.
Bello said millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) could be disenfranchise unless the P89.6-million allocation is reinstated in next year’s budget.

“This is a slap in the face… to the lawmakers and the OFWs who fought for this law,” said Bello, chairman of the House Overseas Workers Affairs Committee, during a press conference at the House of Representatives yesterday.
The third-term party-list congressman said the P86.9 million intended for the implementation of the Overseas Absentee Voting Act, as requested by Comelec for its 2015 budget, was “arbitrarily” deleted by the DBM, which Bello cited has been beset with transparency woes.

“I’m glad that the DAP issue has brought to the fore the non-transparency of the DBM,” a visibly angry Bello told reporters.


Arroyo, the executive secretary of former President Corazon C. Aquino, lambasted Abad for allocating to him P47 million in DAP funds. He said this is the same amount he asked Senate to appropriate for his projects but was not included 2013 national budget.

“Abad was being disingenuous. Congress disapproved my proposal for P47-million funding. The budget secretary, in effect, overruled the judgment of Congress and appropriated P47 million to me from DAP,” Arroyo said in his press statement titled, “Abad’s bad DAP.”

Arroyo maintained that he never asked for and received the supposed P47-million DAP fund. However, Arroyo was listed by the DBM as among the recipients of DAP funds.

Abad, “by his lonesome self and at his level, does not have the authority to allocate at his discretion funds for certain projects and assign its disbursement to legislators, LGUs (local government units), and other agencies. This is the core issue of DAP,” Arroyo pointed out.

“Was Mr. Abad’s initiative bore out of altruism? No, it’s evil geniusness. I voted to acquit CJ (Renato) Corona in the impeachment trial. To show that the administration is impartial, Mr. Abad bestowed upon me, for appearances, P47 million of DAP funds to squander even if it did not even pass through me,” he added.

Arroyo said it would do well for the Supreme Court to take judicial notice into the “humungous amounts” involved so see how Abad distributed “with complete abandon” government funds not approved by Congress.
“We are talking of an estimated of P150 million of DAP. Nobody knows the exact figure because DBM has not been forthcoming,” Arroyo said.


Meanwhile, the Overseas Absentee Voting Act, considered a milestone upon its passage in 2003, recognized the right of Filipino migrants to choose their leaders. Amendments to the law in 2013 supposedly further strengthened this right of OFWs.

The Act covers the 10.5 million Filipino migrants spread across 238 countries all over the world.

“We want to make it clear that the right to vote by OFWs is guaranteed by the Constitution. The law only implements it. The original law says the appropriation for the implementation of the Act should be in the GAA (General Appropriations Act),” said OFW Noel Escuera in the same press conference.

Bello agreed with Escuera’s observation, saying “DBM is doing a violation of the law. Abad should be made to account.”


Ellene Sana, executive director of Center for Migrant Advocacy – an OFW rights advocacy group – said many OFWs feel neglected with the turn of events. “Many Filipinos abroad who have heard the bad news feel hurt. They feel neglected by their own country. This is no way to treat our OFWs, who we like to call heroes.”

Sana noted that the implementation of the Overseas Absentee Voting Act has been hampered by the lack of budget, particularly for information dissemination back in the 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 elections.

Bello said that the turnout for the absentee voters in 2013 was 20 percent lower compared to that of the previous election, which goes to show that “agencies do not have enough funds.”

Escuera, for his part, said the budget deficiency would severely impact the mobile registration program of the government, meaning there would be even less incentive for OFWs to exercise their right to vote.


Meanwhile, Bello called on his fellow legislators to reverse DBM’s “castration” of the Overseas Absentee Voting Act by ensuring the reinstatement of its P89.6-million budget.

“While the Senate has already made assurances in restoring the budget, I expect no less from my fellow legislators in the Lower House to do the same during the period of amendments and during the bicameral meetings,” Bello said.
“Both Houses passed a law recognizing our OFWs democratic rights. Now, both Houses must ensure it is back by sufficient funds for its implementation.”

The House is expected the pass the proposed 2015 national budget on second reading early Saturday morning.



November 12, 2012

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JULY 20, 2012 – Overseas Filipino Workers will use Facebook and Twitter to protest the impending plan of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) to increase its premium. Dubbed as Global Webwide Protest to Stop Philhealth Increase which will run from July 20 – 25, 2012 in different social media platforms, the online protest was initiated by Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards founding president Kenji Solis who is based in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has now adherents from 67 countries majority are OFWs from the Middle East or Gulf countries, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Philhealth Board recently issued Circular No.022 imposing a 150% hike in health premium for OFW members from PhP 900 to become P2, 400; OFWs find this increase extremely exorbitant and inconsiderate because not many of OFWs were consulted. Through its Facebook page Global OFW Voices – the voices of more than 10,000 OFWs, is being mobilized to stage synchronize protest on the different social media platforms of Philhealth, government officials including the President PNOY and other government agencies to air a unified message against the increase.

OFWs globally plead to stop and immediately implement a moratorium on imposing the increase until a comprehensive and genuine consultation with most OFWs and other stakeholders have been conducted. The government has to consider the mobile or transient nature of OFWs, and recognize their unique circumstances where majorities do not directly benefit from the insurance since most of them are already provided with far better and superior health insurances by their companies. In particular, Philhealth should be more sympathetic on OFWs who are earning meager salary like domestic helpers, laborers, janitors, food servers, or those categorized as unskilled workers who find the increase as an added burden to pay before they leave abroad. The said increase is a direct violation of RA 10022, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 that “prohibits increase in government fees for services rendered to OFWs and their dependents.”

It is unfair for OFWs to be treated as revenue mill or as OFWs consider themselves as government’s milking cow. With their dollar remittances that keep the Philippine economy afloat including the strengthening of peso against the dollar, it is unfortunate that the government continue to levy additional fees on this sector. Although OFWs do not oppose government’s plan to provide universal health insurance to the poor, it is immoral to use solidarity to burden the already suffering workers overseas.

The group calls for a comprehensive discussion with Philhealth and other government agencies to agree on an equitable premium among OFWs and stop the increase until a mutual agreement has been reached.

For more information on this protest, visit:
Webwide Protest Against Philhealth Premium increase
Friday, July 20 at 7:00am in UTC+03 at Worldwide

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‘Zero remittance day’ to cost govt millions – group

October 21, 2008

10/21/2008 | 05:45 AM

zero-remittance for OFWs

zero-remittance for OFWs

MANILA, Philippines – Militant groups are eying hundreds of millions of pesos in “lost” revenues for government when they hold a zero-remittance day protest action on Oct. 29.

Gary Martinez, spokesman of Migrante International, said Monday this will be a reminder to the government that its claim of migration being used as a tool of development will not wash.

“Sa loob ng isang araw, maliwanag aabot ito sa daang milyong piso. Sa isang buwan $1 billion pinapadala ng OFW. Kung kukuwentahin sa 30 araw daang-milyon piso ang di papasok sa ating bansa (In a single day we expect government to lose hundreds of millions of pesos in remittances. In a month, OFWs bring in $1 billion in remittances. Divide it by 30 and we can see hundreds of millions of pesos in lost remittances in a single day),” Martinez said in an interview on dzBB radio.

He said they expect millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in 192 countries to take part in the Zero Remittance Day next Wednesday.

Martinez also questioned the government’s offer of a retraining program for OFWs who may lose their jobs due to the global financial crisis.

According to him, the government issued a similar retraining program offer in 1997 but OFWs did not benefit from it.

“Wala kaming nakuhang retraining program. Di na bago ang sinasabi ng pamahalaan sa pangyayari sa aming kasamahan sa labas ng bansa (We got no retraining program. So the government’s offer is not new),” he said.

Earlier, migrant groups composed of 112 organizations worldwide will declare Oct. 29 as a “Zero Remittance Day” to signify its opposition to “forced migration and systematic exploitation of cheap labor.”

In a statement released on Sunday, the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) said its symbolic protest action would coincide with the opening of the Global Forum on Migrant Development (GFMD) that would be hosted by the Philippines in Manila.

IMA said that through the Zero Remittance Day, the organizations would be sending out united message of protest from millions of migrants worldwide “who are forced to leave their homelands and subject themselves to cheap labor and exploitation out of desperation.”

The alliance said the message would discredit migration as an effective tool for development, and unmask it as a “result of continuous unemployment, landlessness, and lack of basic services in sending countries.”

Migrant organizations worldwide will also hold the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) on October 29 to oppose the GFMD.- GMANews.TV


BI’s last resort vs trafficking: Warn would-be illegal OFWs

September 16, 2008

BI’s last resort vs trafficking: Warn would-be illegal OFWs

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: September 15, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Immigration has set up what it calls its “last line of defense” against the trafficking of overseas Filipino workers.

Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, in a statement, said the bureau’s agents stationed at airports and sea ports, who have little or no evidence to detain suspected “tourist-workers,” would instead brief them on the hazards faced by undocumented workers in foreign countries.

“We call them tourist-workers because they are not leaving the country for pleasure but to work without proper documents,” Libanan said.

“[Suspected illegal workers] will also be asked to sign a waiver, releasing from any responsibility the immigration officer who will process their exit papers after the briefing‚” he said, adding that illegal OFWs have “zero knowledge” of the risks involved in working in foreign countries without proper papers.

Waivers will only be required when the traveler’s purpose of travel is in doubt.

Several factors will be considered in profiling suspected “tourist-workers,” such as the absence of a hotel booking, zero funds, the lack of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration clearance and, if accompanied by a foreigner, who might be the employer.

“We are hoping the briefing-and-waiver tack will discourage tourist-workers from taking unnecessary risks overseas,” Libanan said.

Repost: There’s The Rub : Insanities

August 27, 2008

There’s The Rub : Insanities

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: August 27, 2008

The logic of Catch-22 was absurdly brilliant. From Joseph Heller’s novel explaining the concept:

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22.”

I remembered this after I read about the group Migrante complaining angrily about the proposal of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to subject all departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to a psychiatric test. Migrante of course put its detraction in quite a different way. My own reaction was to see in it a reverse of Catch-22:

“There is only one catch and that is Catch-as-Catch-Can, which specifies that a concern for one and one’s family’s welfare in the face of hunger that is real and immediate is the sign of a rational mind. Juana is sane and may fly abroad. All she has to do is undergo the DFA test. But as soon as she does, she ceases to be sane, proposing as she does to throw herself willy-nilly into unknown dangers in unknown lands, and deserves to be grounded. Juana would be sane to avoid risking untold dangers and would be crazy to do so, but if she is sane then she is qualified to go abroad and risk untold dangers. If she prefers to stay here, she is sane and may therefore go abroad; if she wants to go abroad, she is crazy and may only stay here. We have to marvel at the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-as-Catch Can. ”

But as I said, Migrante put it differently. Specifically, Migrante said: “(It’s the) DFA officials who should have their heads examined if they really believe mandatory psychiatric tests could help prevent OFWs from snapping in the workplace. (Their proposal) essentially typecasts OFWs as lunatics. By refusing to acknowledge the realities of OFW work—deplorable working conditions, verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, torture and nonpayment of wages—and by conveniently glossing over the fact that most of the time OFWs commit crimes to defend themselves while others are simply framed, the DFA in essence is condemning our OFWs. If we followed their logic, then Sarah Balabagan, Mary Jane Ramos and Joselito Alejo were lunatics and not heroes, as they were hailed when they arrived home from their overseas ordeal.”

It’s a good point, and one we would do very well to ponder. The question is whether the person you are sending out is loony-tunes or the place he is going to is bound to make him so. Or put another way, the question is whether the person you are sending out is a risk to the community you are sending him out to or the conditions of work you are sending him out to are a risk to the person you are sending out. In many cases, the second is truer than the first. It’s the deplorable working conditions, the verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, the torture, the nonpayment of wages that make OFWs snap and go berserk. That is probably more the rule than the exception. No exam is going to change that.

I do think a pre-departure orientation seminar is in order. Many OFWs do go out without an appreciation, or even bare knowledge, of the place they are going to, and many sources of conflicts have to do simply with clashes of cultures. I know that because my friends from FASAP (Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines ) have a lot of horror stories about it. They often had to take on the job of the DFA, admonishing OFWs on board flights to fundamentalist Muslim countries to leave their Bibles and religious icons or paraphernalia in the plane. Those items will be confiscated at Immigration anyway, if their possessors do not end up enduring nightmarish ordeals at the airport. A modicum of understanding of the ways of others should go a long way toward keeping sane in straitened circumstances.

But there is a larger point here, which is what my reference to Catch-22 is meant to suggest. That is the spectacle of following logic in an illogical situation, or enforcing sanity in the part while madness riots in the whole. It goes by many names: Catch-22, the tail wagging the dog, micro-sense micro madness.

There is something sublimely absurd about making sure that only sane people are sent out to do insane work. There is something violently contradictory about guaranteeing that people are able to keep their family together by exposing them to conditions that guarantee they will tear their family asunder. There is something maddeningly insane about assuring that people are sufficiently sane to carry out the insane task of keeping a country afloat by sending its people to work abroad.

I don’t know of any country today that is so dependent on overseas work. That has for its lifeblood overseas work. That cannot survive for one day without overseas work. Absurdity piles up on absurdity. I don’t know of any country today that is so desperate for overseas work it is willing to send its citizens to places God or Allah forgot. I don’t know of any country today that has turned whole universities into nursing schools, or turned entire departments into adjuncts of the nursing one. I don’t know of any country today that doesn’t even mind selling itself, quite apart from its people, to the highest bidder, piece by piece, parcel by parcel, lot by lot, just to survive—or to make its officials happy.

And we want our OFWs sane.






Pinoys in top 10 foreign populations of 16 countries

June 28, 2008

By Madelaine Joy A. Garcia
First Posted 12:27:00 06/27/2008

A recently-released report by the World Bank has identified Filipinos among the top 10 foreign populations in 16 big and small countries in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America.

The WB’s Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008 says that Filipinos lead the number of foreigners in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Cyprus, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Oman, Palau, Saudi Arabia, the Solomon Islands, and the US.

Five of these countries are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The World Bank revealed data on the estimated number of migrants – or what it calls “immigrants” – based on the 2005 United Nations Population Division report.

The tiny island of Palau some 800 kilometers east of the Philippines, a diving haven and home to some 20,000 people, hosts the most number of Filipinos among the foreigners.

Data from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) show that there are 4,495 Filipinos in Palau. Twenty-one of them are considered permanent residents; some 4,434 are temporary migrant workers. CFO estimates that the rest are undocumented.

Meanwhile, Filipinos are now the second biggest foreigner group in Malaysia, Brunei and the U.S., according to both the World Bank report and CFO estimates.

The US, the top source country of remittances to the Philippines, has some 38.4 million foreigners, says the WB. Filipinos are behind the US neighbor, Mexico, in terms of numbers there, and CFO estimates that there are now 3.4 million Filipinos in the US.

Of Malaysia’s 1.6 million foreigners, 100,233 are Filipinos, the WB report showed. CFO’s June 2007 data confirms this.

Brunei for its part has some 124,193 foreigners, with 22,939 of them Filipino, estimates CFO.

In Korea, 50,165 Filipinos in a total 551,193 foreigners make them the third largest number of foreigners. The Marshall Islands in the western Pacific Ocean have a thousand Filipinos, also making them the third biggest group in an estimated total of 1,667 foreigners.

The Solomon Islands have some 3,279 foreigners among some 489,000 people. CFO estimates 758 Filipinos there.

Filipinos are the fourth-biggest group in Italy, which has roughly 2.5 million foreigners. Some 119,083 Filipinos are estimated to be in Italy, says CFO.

An estimated 1,016,820 Filipinos in the work force make them the fifth biggest immigrant group in Saudi Arabia according to the CFO. This Muslim nation of some 24 million has some 6.36 million immigrants.

Filipinos are the fifth-largest immigrant group – an estimated 313,291 among 2.05 million foreigners in Japan – according to the World Bank report.

In Cyprus, estimated to have some 116,137 immigrants, Filipinos are ranked sixth. CFO data show 12,406 Filipinos there.

Filipinos – 33,000 of them – are the sixth-biggest group in Oman, which has some 627,571, by CFO estimates.

In Canada, with a total of 6,105,722 foreigners, Filipinos are the seventh-biggest group (789,943). Seventh largest (1,400) is also their ranking among Iceland’s 23,097 foreigners, according to CFO.

The eighth-biggest group of foreigners among Australia’s 4.1 million and Cambodia’s 303,871-immigrant population are Filipino, estimated to number 232,447 in the former, and 1,572 in the latter country.

–OFW Journalism Consortium

For comments, email of wjournalism@gmail.com and editor@ofwjournalism.net

For undocumented OFWs in Nigeria

June 8, 2008

I wrote an email inquiry to POEA if there is possibility of OFWS in Nigeria who came in using tourist or business visas to be registered in POLO offices in the Embassy.

This is the reply:

This has reference to your e-mail dated 13 May 2008 regarding undocumented workers in countries where there is a prevailing ban such as Nigeria and Afghanistan .

Please be advised that there is a Memorandum issued by the Secretary of Labor and Employment wherein there shall be a total ban in the deployment of all workers to the following destination countries:


However, our welfare assistance to workers already in those countries (except for Iraq where there is no significant GRP presence) will continue, or may even be supplemented, as demands of OFW protection may require.

Under these circumstances, there is no way that we can legitimize their status as undocumented since deployment to this country is prohibited.

In short, even these workers will take vacation back to the Philippines , their travel papers will not be processed or allowed by POEA because of the ban.

For your perusal and guidance.

Very truly yours,


Director II

Legal Research, Docket and Enforcement Branch

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