MANILA, Philippines-The degree of anger against pork barrel has made Migrante International, a global alliance of 122 Filipino migrant organizations, to launch a “Zero Remittance Day” on September 19, calling it a “symbolic protest and a political exercise” for all OFWs to collectively show their outrage on issues that affect them.
The event means that OFWs will refrain from remitting to demand the following: Abolish the pork barrel system; scrap the presidential and congressional pork barrel; investigate agencies; and prosecute and punish all officials involved.
The group also demanded that government must re-channel funds to the people’s interests, providing OFWs in distress free, more accessible and more efficient services and welfare assistance.
“On this day, Filipino immigrants from all over the world will once again send a united message against the pork barrel system. Our remittances that keep the economy afloat are being plundered by greedy officials.”
“Through the Zero Remittance Day, we will make our voices be heard in the call to abolish the pork barrel and re-channel funds for the people’s interest, including more efficient services and welfare assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in distress,” said group’s chairperson Gary Martinez in a statement.
According to Martinez, his group is more than willing to lead in the international condemnation against corruption and the plunder of the OFWs’ hard-earned money.
“While we are hardly surviving by the day due to the global crisis combined with the onslaught of price hikes, to learn that our hard-earned money is being plundered for patronage politics and self-serving interests of a privileged few is a huge injustice,” the group said.
On choosing September 19 for the event, Migrante International said the date coincides with the anniversary of the implementation of the Overseas Workers Welfare Assistance (OWWA) Omnibus Policies (OOP) that effectively made the $25 OWWA contributions mandatory per contract. The OOP also limited benefits and services provided by the OWWA to member OFWs.
“The OOP had since been deemed anti-migrant. It is one form of taxation imposed on OFWs that has gathered an estimated P14 billion in revenue for the government from OFWs’ contributions alone. OWWA funds have long been misused and plundered by government.”
But despite resounding calls for a full audit, the Philippine government has kept OFWs in the dark on how their hard-earned contributions are being utilized, Martinez added.
“In fact, despite billions of OWWA funds and the $21 billion worth of OFW remittances, services and assistance for Filipino migrants in distress have gone from bad to worse under the Aquino administration.”
According to the group, the power to send or not to send remittances rests on Filipino immigrants and OFWs alone.
“By not remitting for one day, Filipinos all over the world will use their economic power to make a stand against corruption, patronage politics and social injustice,” Martinez said.
With all the madness going on with how the government squandered public funds thru the pork barrel scam, the group sees “September 11 Zero Remittance Day” as a method of protest to the Aquino administration.
The group had done this first on October 29, 2008 as protest against the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Manila when they accused the GFMD and the government’s promotion of modern day slavery through its labor export policy, and secondly, on July 26, 2009 against then Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s attempts to implement charter change through a constitutional assembly.
The country has an estimated 10 million OFWs with an average of 4,200 Filipinos leaving daily for work.
In 2012 alone, personal remittances from OFWs had reportedly reached a whopping US$23.8 billion, keeping the Philippine economy afloat.