Sunday, November 23, 2008

August 1, 2008

Group: Get 'insider' not Pichay as OWWA chief

(UPDATED 9:20 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - An umbrella organization of recruitment agencies in the Philippines appealed to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday to appoint a career official instead of a losing senatorial candidate to lead the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

In a phone interview, Jackson Gan, spokesperson of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters (FAME), told GMANews.TV that they are endorsing former OWWA deputy administrator Angelo “Jijil" Jimenez to the top OWWA post.

The position of OWWA administrator became vacant after former OWWA chief Marianito Roque was promoted and appointed by the President as secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment last month.Gan said FAME had sent a letter to Mrs Arroyo endorsing Jimenez as the OWWA administrator.

The President is the only appointing authority for the top OWWA post."Although we respect that appointing officials in the government is President’s prerogative, we hope our endorsement can guide her to make the right choice," he said.Gan expressed apprehension after receiving information that Mrs Arroyo has already signed the appointment paper of defeated senatorial candidate and former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay to replaced Roque."Nothing personal, but aside from being a politician wala na kaming alam kay Mr Pichay (we know very little about Mr Pichay).

Aside from the welfare of about eight million overseas workers, OWWA is handling billions of OWWA funds. Kaya dapat may malawak na kaalaman yun uupo sa OWWA kaya dapat insider hindi outsider (That's why only someone with broad knowledge should take the top post. It should be an insider not an outsider)," Gan added.

The Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) also expressed its opposition to the possible appointment of Pichay to the OWWA’s top post.In its statement sent to GMANews.TV it said: "After the failed bid to clinch control of the cash-rich Customs Bureau last December 2007, former Surigao Rep. Prospero 'Butch' Pichay is reportedly being eyed to head the OWWA and thus take control of OWWA’s P10 billion peso fund." The CMA noted that, “Our fears are not without basis.

A few months before the last 2004 elections, on 2 February 2004, Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, the acting OWWA chairperson at that time, and OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo signed a resolution transferring P530 milllion from the OWWA medicare fund to the PhilHealth. The money enabled Pres. Arroyo to give away PhilHealth cards to non-OFWs during her pre-campaign sorties.

"The group urged its colleagues in migrants' rights advocacy and Filipinos abroad should be vigilant in protecting the OWWA funds from misuse. “Let us assert our right to participate in the appointment of the next OWWA administrator. Let us insist on transparency, integrity, and credibility in this exercise.

"It added that, “the next OWWA chief must be able to consolidate the agency, and come up with effective mechanisms to monitor, defend and invigorate OWWA’s mandate and properly use its fund. We enjoin all OFWs and their families, migrant organizations and other stakeholders in these efforts. Let us unite and join forces, and make our voices be heard."At least two separate online petitions endorsing Jimenez and Riyadh-based doctor Mohammad Ali Carlito Astillero as OWWA chief.Petition for Jimenez as OWWA chief already garnered more than 3,700 signatories, compared to Astillero with 1,130 signatories as of Aug 1.

Choose an OFWMeanwhile, chairman emeritus Rudy Dianalan of Kasapi Congress, an umbrella organization of Filipino community groups in Jeddah, pointed out that there is clamor from overseas Filipinos abroad for the next OWWA Administrator to come from the ranks of OFWs. According to him, OWWA is a critical lifeline for OFWs so their concern is paramount. He suggested that "the diagnostic also delve on how OWWA measures up to the expectations and aspirations of OFWs from the agency."

A consultation with OFW communities on the appointment of the administrator would show the government's consideration, he said. OWWA qualificationsJeddah Assistant Labor Attaché Adam Mussa said that the next OWWA administrator must meet the qualification of the former administrator.

He said that to qualify for the top post he must have the following criteria to meet the requirements:1) Somebody with the working knowledge on overseas employment specifically on welfare and protection of the overseas Filipino workers worldwide; 2) Somebody who has the trust and confidence of the national government and the president for that matter;3) Somebody who is educationally qualified and competent to serve the OFW; and4) Somebody who has the vast experience in the protection and advancement of the overseas Filipino worker.

Aspirants for the top position were asked to lay down their planned "program of action" so that overseas Filipinos could decide intelligently who to endorse.Reports said that aside from Jimenez and Pichay, former labor undersecretary Anthonette Allones is also being considered to the post.

Atoy Esguerra, current chairman of the Overseas Filipino Workers Cooperative Council (OFWCC) in Jeddah wanted Labor Attaché Des Dicang to be included also in the list. According to him, Dicang gave his best in serving the interest of OFWs. Dicang, the current head of the Philippine Embassy's Eastern Region Office based in Alkhobar, served for two years as assistant labor attaché in Jeddah from 2004 to late 2005.

Crizelda Zamudio and Chelly Balasbas, who work at Saudi German Hospital in Jeddah, said they an OFW who has a "genuine heart" for fellow migrant workers OFWs. "We will go for someone not only administratively educated but has the first hand experience as OFW in order to get the assistance we OFWs need," Balasbas said. - GMANews.TV

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