Senator Raffy Tulfo on Monday proposed allocating confidential funds for the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to combat illegal recruitment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Siguro panahon na para mabigyan din ng confidential fund itong DMW. Why? Napakaraming mga illegal recruiter d’yan. Illegal recruitment agency na dapat tugisin. Napakarami d’yang mga scammer na ang bini-victimize ay mga OFWs. Love scam, pineperahan, kinikikilan kaya karamihan sa mga OFWs pagbalik dito, wala na’ng pera, ubos na ang pera dahil niloloko ng mga scammer. Inuubos ang kanilang pera,” Tulfo said at the Senate finance committee hearing on DMW’s proposed budget for 2024.
(I think it is time for the DMW to be given confidential fund. Why? There are so many illegal recruiters out there. Illegal recruitment agency that should be busted. There are a lot of scammers victimizing OFWs. In love scam, OFWs were duped to give money so when they return to the country they no longer have any money.)
“Hindi ako pumapalag pagka ‘yung iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno nabibigyan ng confidential funds… Kung ‘yung other government agencies nabibigyan ng intelligence, confidential funds, wala ko problema d’on. Why not DMW? Mas kailangan nila ang confidential fund,” Tulfo, who chairs the Senate committee on migrant workers, said.
(I don’t oppose when confidential funds were given to different government agencies…I don’t have a problem with other government agencies receiving intelligence, confidential funds. Why not DMW? They need confidential fund more.)
He said there is a need for these funds and raised the possibility of allocating P25 million to 50 million for DMW’s confidential funds.
Senator JV Ejercito, who presided over the hearing, also acknowledged the problem of OFWs being victimized by unscrupulous individuals.
“Marami talagang nagsasamantala. Kawawa ‘yung OFW, bago pa umalis, binukulan na. Marami na nanloloko talaga,” Ejercito said.
(There are so many unscrupulous individuals victimizing OFWs even before they leave the country.)
DMW officer-in-charge Hans Cacdac disclosed to the committee that they had requested P10 million worth of confidential funds in their original budget proposal for fiscal year 2024. However, the allocation was not included in the National Expenditures Program (NEP) that was crafted by the Department of Budget and Management and approved by the President.
“In the past we relied on law enforcement on confidential funds, but of course, with the wisdom of the Senate, pwede po, we had initially proposed sa tier 1 at P10-M, confi fund, pero hindi po naisama sa NEP. But of course, we will be subject to the wisdom (of the Senate),” Cacdac told the panel.
While the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has the so-called “extraordinary expenses,” OWWA Administrator Arnel Ignacio said they were not given any confidential funds.
Currently, Cacdac said the DMW has a Migrant Workers Protection Bureau which has the capacity to shut down or close illegal recruitment agencies.
The said bureau has the capacity to do surveillance and investigations especially when there are complaints against the supposed illegal recruitment agencies, he added.
For 2023, Cacdac said the bureau was given around P6 billion and they were able to take down four agencies.
Asked by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel if they would be more effective if they would be given a bigger budget for 2023, the DMW officials answered in the affirmative.
At the end of the hearing, Ejercito suggested strengthening the bureau instead of giving the DMW confidential funds.
“We also want to be an example that civilian departments, medyo allergic sa confidential fund at intel fund kasi ang ating minority leader, we can use probably, we could strengthen na lang ‘yung ating bureau under Usec. Bernard Olalia. Tutal epektibo naman kayo e,” he said.
“So that we don’t get to use anymore, we don’t have to use confidential and intelligence fund. Maging example tayo na civilian department do not do this. Dapat iwan na lang sa mga departments and agencies that are concerned in national security,” he added.
Responding to this, Migrant Workers Undersecretary Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones said that even the late DMW Secretary Susan Ople is against the allocation of confidential funds to the new agency.
“I will be bereft of my personal honoring of Secretary Toots if I don’t put this on record that when she was alive, she was against also taking in confidential funds for the DMW because she believed that within our mandate and if we work with law enforcement agencies, we will be able to do this mandate in accordance to the law,” she said.
Pimentel then told the DMW officials to show how they can achieve the objective by not using any confidential funds.—AOL, GMA Integrated News