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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pres. Aquino's Cut in Legal Assistance and OFW Social Services Fund


SUPPORT THIS ONLINE PETITION NOT TO CUT OVERSEAS BUDGET FOR SOCIAL SERVICES OR THE DFA's LEGAL ASSISTANCE FUND or LAF. JUST CLICK 'LIKE'






Below is an excerpt from Susan Ople's blog, an OFW advocate explaining the impact of this budget cut to the OFWs





"So in cutting down (or chopping off!) more than half of the DFA’s budget including that to be used for legal and other forms of assistance to Filipinos overseas, the consequences may be the following:


1. The task of repatriating trafficked victims and other distressed OFWs shall now fall on: 1) individual politicians from senators to mayors; 2) OWWA which are made up of contributions of workers who left the country legally; 3) the very individuals and agencies that conspired to victimize these workers thus diminishing the crime and reducing the entire matter into a bargaining situation.
I would have added the NGOs except one can really count on one’s fingers the number of NGOs that could afford to repatriate workers even from neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore.
No. 1 weakens institutional governance because it would lead to the politicizing of welfare assistance to OFWs in distress; it will also cause enormous lag time in providing onsite assistance – time that could mean the death or survival of an OFW.
2. RA 10022 or the amendments to the Migrant Workers’ Act states that the DFA can now use its legal assistance fund to file cases against abusive and exploitative employers and agencies outside the country. The Ople Center and other NGOs were happy to know this because the filing of such cases would greatly boost our anti-trafficking efforts. But with only Php 27-M for an entire year, how can the DFA even hope to pursue such cases? And what about the 3,000 Filipinos in jail, some of who have been detained more than their penalty calls for? If the current legal assistance fund is insufficient in looking after the legal rights of our OFWs, what more just a quarter of that amount? For an entire year!
3. Our foreign posts serve as the refuge of trafficked and maltreated workers. In Dubai alone, the welfare center is overflowing with at least 200 stranded workers at a single given time. A video taken of appalling conditions in Saudi Arabia for workers awaiting repatriation stresses the need for more funds, not less particularly for posts with a high concentration of Filipino workers. If we cannot afford change, then how can we see it? In this case, the OFW sector is not asking even for more funds — though it has every right to do so. But at the very least – a status quo. For now. Especially for a sector that brings in billions in dollar remittances that makes for a positive credit rating from international credit rating agencies. Why cut social services for OFWs?
Unless — the unjustified cuts are but another symptom of internal conflicts driven by magnified, puffed-up bureaucratic and political hurts. Read:factionalism. This may be a valid observation because of how deep the cuts are. Too deep to be superficial; too ruthless to be developmental. The cuts were made to hurt, and hurt bad – except that the wounds are being inflicted several times over on the bodies of the innocents.
We do want to hope again. The yearning is there, it is unmistakable, and while we are watchful, it is a watchfulness for both the bad, and most especially for the good. Honestly, I would prefer the inconvenience of a noisy wang-wang to the heart-wrenching wail of an OFW unable to come home despite numerous beatings from her employer. NFA – no funds available. So what else is new?
This latest move of chopping off millions meant to protect the rights and welfare of our OFWs is simply unjustifiable. When a child leaves home, a parent does what is humanly possible, despite the distance, to make sure that he or she is alright. The Assistance to Nationals Fund and the Legal Assistance Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs is the budgetary equivalent of that.
With such drastic budgetary cuts, this administration might as well have cut lives short.
“Kayo ang boss ko!” Prove it to millions of OFWs and their families here at home, Mr. President. This is in your power to change. Do not cut the budget for the DFA’s assistance to nationals and legal assistance fund."




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