Senators Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. and Ma. Lourdes “Nancy” Binay recently declared that they are pushing the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to increase the allocated budget for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in need of legal assistance.
According to both senators, the current administration has failed to provide adequate support for OFWs facing legal difficulties. It is the government’s responsibility, they say, to offer financial help for OFWs facing criminal charges in different countries.
In a Manila Bulletin interview, Senator Marcos said “We don’t even give them the support they deserve. We don’t help them enough, all the illegal trafficking that goes on, and when our nationals are in trouble there is little assistance provided. We come to [attend to the] cases too late. He or she is already convicted, before the government steps in.”
Who is to blame for this problem? Marcos goes on to explain “I don’t think this is the fault of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), but the government really has not attended to the fund.”
Senator Binay, on the other hand, said she will do her best to continually advocate the cause of OFWs as she pushes the inclusion of legal fund into the 2016 budget of DFA. Previously, DBM only had a budget of P30 million for the 2015 budget. Senator Binay wants it to be P100 million.
The two senators have criticized President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s administration for not being sensitive to the needs of the OFWs. Aside from the lack of funds for OFW legal assistance, it was also under his leadership that the Balikbayan boxes issue took place. Also, OFWs are asked to pay P550 terminal fees at the airport when the law (RA 10022) clearly exempts them from that.
“You have presidents before going to the airport to greet the OFWs to show how much we respect their sacrifices,” Marcos said. “But this is what this government gives in return.”