Press Release
March 4, 2015

Nancy to Abad: Clarify 'conditional implementation' of OFWs'
P100M legal assistance fund

"Would funding for the legal assistance for migrant workers now fall under Secretary Abad's discretion, too?"

This was the question asked by Senator Nancy Binay 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) under the President's veto message on the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2015 dated December 23, 2014.

The lady senator was referring to the following item under the President's veto message:

"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 in Section 29 (3) of the Constitution, which states that "(a)ll 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."

Binay in particular wanted explanations on the conditional implementation to Special Provision No. 11.

"How do we interpret this conditional implementation of funding to be used to provide legal aid to our OFWs? Hindi ba parang nagpapakita ito ng kawalan ng concern para sa mga kababayan nating nangibang-bansa para maitaguyod ang mga pamilya nila?" she asked.

Binay also questioned why it was deemed necessary to create a "special fund" when funding for legal assistance for migrant workers has existed since the 2011 GAA.

"Kaysa outright na magamit ang pondong inilaan para sa legal assistance, kailangan pa munang dumaan sa DBM ng 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," Binay lamented.

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.

The senator 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."

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 argued 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?" asked the senator.

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