Filipinos have become more familiar with pork barrel funds after Benhur Luy blew the whistle on an alleged P10-billion scam involving the use of fake nongovernment organizations to siphon off the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of lawmakers.
He named the mastermind as businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who is now the object of a nationwide manhunt.
The court recently issued warrants of arrest against Napoles and her brother on charges they illegally detained Luy for three months. Luy was rescued by the National Bureau of Investigation.
Overseas Filipino workers are keeping abreast of the issue. They want to know the position of the representatives of OFW Family Club (OFWFC) party-list, especially since they will represent OFWs in the 16th Congress.
It is the first time the OFW sector will have a representative in Congress. The OFW Family Club secured two seats in Congress led by former Ambassador Roy Señeres. Rep. Johnny Revilla assumed the second post although a disqualification case is pending against him with the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).
When Bantay OCW asked OFW representatives if they were in favor of abolishing the graft-ridden PDAF, their unanimous answer was “no.” They said they want to avail of the pork barrel funds so they can use the money for the welfare of the OFWs.
Señeres said he will use the pork funds allotted for the OFWFC to help distressed OFWs who need to return home immediately. He added that he would also set aside funds for blood money, to provide medical assistance for OFWs and to finance livelihood programs for OFWs who want to start a new life in the country after being abused or maltreated abroad.
Señeres pledged full transparency, saying he would inform the public how he spends the pork barrel funds. However, if the majority of the lawmakers want to scrap the pork barrel for good, Señeres said he would support it.
Revilla shared the same view. He told Radio Inquirer he was also planning to spend the money to support the families of OFWs. He wants to allocate funds for retired OFWs and to start livelihood projects for them. Just like Señeres, Revilla promised to to open the books to the public.
The two representatives, however, do not share the same views on other related issues. Señeres does not like the idea of establishing a Department of OFW because he claims that this would merely duplicate the functions of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment. Yet he is in favor of creating the Single Maritime Administration.
Revilla, on the other hand, does not see any problem with putting up a Department of OFW. But he rejects the idea of creating an agency for the maritime industry.
Why do the two party-list mates sing different tunes on issues involving OFWs? This could spell conflict in the future.
Congress has yet to officially begin sessions but there’s already a gap between Señeres and Revilla. They have to get their acts together because the OFWs are watching.
Radyo Inquirer tried to get the side of Angkla party-list Rep. Jesulito Manalo, who represents the maritime sector. His staffer said his boss would return the call but the call never came. When we asked for an interview, Manalo’s staff told us to send a letter first.
We understand that Manalo is new in Congress. But we just want to let him know that most lawmakers make themselves readily available for live radio interviews—no letters of request necessary.
We hope that our OFW representatives will make themselves more available to the public so the people who voted for them can hear their voice and their take on urgent issues.
Susan Andes, aka Susan K. is on board at Radyo Inquirer 990 dzIQ AM, Monday to Friday 11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon & 12:30-2:00 p.m. with audio/video live streaming: www.dziq.am Studio: 2/F MRP Bldg., Mola St., cor. Pasong Tirad St., Makati City. Helpline: 0927-6499870 / 0920-9684700 E-mail: [email protected][email protected]