Manila Times - Senate seeks to question OWWA on repatriation fund

12 July 2013

By Jefferson Antiporda | Manila Times

OFFICIALS of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) have a lot of explaining to do once Congress convenes next week. This after Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. called for a Senate investigation on the disbursement and utilization of the emergency repatriation fund under the control of the agency.

Marcos filed Senate Resolution No. 32, directing the appropriate Senate committee to investigate, in aid of legislation, the state of the emergency repatriation fund, evaluate its utilization and disbursement, and assess its effectiveness in addressing the prompt needs of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OWFs) worldwide.”

The investigation was called in connection with controversial “sex-for-repatriation” scheme allegedly involving embassy and labor officials assigned in the Middle East.

It was alleged that Philippine officials who were supposed to protect the welfare of OFWs in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and Syria are the ones abusing the migrant workers, offering them free airplane ticket home in exchange for sexual favors.

Marcos noted that under Republic Act 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995, plane tickets are provided free for distressed OFWs to be repatriated since the government is mandated to shoulder such expense.

The second paragraph of Section 15 of RA 8042 states: “The Overseas Welfare Workers Administration, in coordination with appropriate international agencies, shall undertake the repatriation of workers in cases of war, epidemic, disaster or calamities, natural or man-made, and other similar events without prejudice to reimbursement by the responsible principal agency. However, in cases where the principal or recruitment cannot be identified, all costs attendant to repatriation shall be borne by the OWWA.”

The same section, Marcos pointed out, provides the creation and establishment of an emergency repatriation fund under the administration and control of OWWA, initially to consist of P100 million.”

Marcos said there is a need to know how the funds were being disbursed by the OWWA and as well as how many distressed Filipinos benefited from it.

“The people handling this should explain and we have to hear from them to know what happened,” Marcos said.