Veto on OFW Legal Aid Fund Shows No Concern for ‘Heroes’ – Nancy
Senator Ma. Lourdes “Nancy” Binay yesterday asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to explain the “conditional implementation” of the legal assistance fund for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Sen. Binay was referring to President Aquino’s veto message on the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2015 as she sought clarifications on the “conditional implementation” of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) P100-million legal assistance fund for overseas Filipino workers (OFW).
The government, she said, should clarify its interpretation of Special Provision No. 11, the rules on the Legal Assistance Fund which was vetoed by the President.
The following item under the President’s veto message reads: “To ensure that the implementation of Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)-OSEC, Special Provision No. 11 “Legal Assistance Fund,” Volume II-A, page 1166 is align with budgeting laws, rules, and regulations, the appropriations herein for the legal assistance fund shall be used in accordance with R.A. 10022 (An Act Amending Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995) and remain to be part of the General Fund.
“The creation of special funds require the identification of income sources which are then earmarked for specified purposes as provided for in Section 29 (3) of the Constitution, which states that “all money collected on any tax levied for a special fund and paid out for such purpose only.” Thus, the appropriations in this Act for the legal assistance fund clearly suggest the lack of income sources to justify the creation of a special fund.”
“How do we interpret this conditional implementation of funding to be used to provide legal aid to our OFWs?” Binay asked.
“Hindi ba parang nagpapakita ito ng kawalan ng concern para sa mga kababayan nating nangibang-bansa para maitaguyod ang mga pamilya nila? (Doesn’t this show their lack of concern for our fellowmen who are going abroad to help their families?)” Binay asked.
FUNDING FOR LEGAL ASSISTANCE
“Would funding for the legal assistance for migrant workers now fall under Secretary Abad’s discretion, too?” Binay pointed out.
Binay said she is also surprised why it was deemed necessary to create a “special fund” when funding for legal assistance for migrant workers has existed since the 2011 appropriations bill.
“Kaysa outright na magamit ang pondong inilaan para sa legal assistance, kailangan pa munang dumaan sa DBM ang request para madepensahan ang ating mga kababayang OFWs. Sana naman po, alalahanin nating sila ay mga magulang, kapatid at anak ng ating mga kababayan dito sa bansa, (Instead of tapping the funds set aside for legal assistance, they now have to course through the DBM their request to defend our OFWs. I hope they take into consideration that they have parents, siblings, and children here in the country,” Binay lamented.
P30M TO P100M FUND
It was Binay who asked that the legal assistance fund for OFWs be raised from P30 million to P100 million during the deliberations for the 2015 national budget in the Senate.
She maintained that there was no “substantial change as to the legal assistance fund that has been increased in the GAA of 2015” and that the change was “only an increase from a meager P30-million in 2011 to P100-million in 2015.”
6,000 IN JAIL ABROAD
Data from the DFA showed that as of June 2014, there are 6,002 Filipinos in jail abroad. Some 807 of them are facing drug-related cases, 79 are accused of crimes punishable by death, and 3,407 are victims of human trafficking syndicates.
Binay reasoned out that last year’s P30-million budget for legal assistance was a stark contrast to the amount remitted to the country by OFWs year after year. Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed that from January to August last year, OFWs had remitted a total of $17.232-billion.
“Ang laki po ng naiaambag ng mga OFWs sa ating ekonomiya tapos ipagkakait pa natin ang tulong sa kanila? Ano pong implikasyon nitong ‘conditional implementation’ na ito sa paghahatid natin ng legal assistance sa mga kababayan nating OFWs na may hinaharap na kaso? (Our OFWs contributed so much to our economy and yet the government is withholding their benefits? What is the implication of this conditional implementation in our efforts to provide legal assistance to our OFWs who are facing serious cases abroad?)” asked the senator.