By Ernesto M. Maceda
Acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada who is the chairman of the Senate committee on labor and employment expressed his anger at DFA and DOLE for the discovery of their officials operating a prostitution ring in their embassies. The charges have now widened to Saudi Arabia as 2 OFWs told a DZMM reporter that they have been recruited also for prostitution by their POLO officer.
Jinggoy said “Like many others who now know of the scandal of a story, I am outraged having learned that there are officials at our embassy at Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) who have engaged in the flesh trade and have victimized our countrymen working as OFWs. This is outrageous as these officials are the very ones our OFWs run to in the hope of fighting for their rights and yet these officials have been the very ones victimizing them.”
Rep. Walden Bello has presented evidence against officials of the Philippine embassies in Jordan, Kuwait, and Syria.
Assistant POLO at Jordan, Marco Antonio denied the accusation against him, but Rep. Bello said he will present conclusive proof against him.
DZMM and other media agencies are encouraged to join the search for OFWs who have been victimized. A victim in Jordan said $1,000 a night was charged for an engagement with half going to the embassy officer.
The bottom line. This outrageous situation has been allowed to happen because of the slow action of the government to repatriate the abused OFWs in their embassy shelters.
We repeat. A top level mission must be sent to the Middle East to negotiate for the release of the thousands of OFWs now waiting for their exit visas and airline tickets.
This is the biggest scandal to hit the Aquino government. It must be given the highest priority. It is an embarassing black mark on the Philippine foreign service.
Abolish oversight committees
Sen. Vicente Sotto has proposed that 50% of the 35 Senate oversight committees be abolished. That’s a good move. In fact, they should all be abolished as they are just duplicating the work of 36 regular Senate committees.
One other approach is to limit the budget of oversight committees to P5 million. In that way it will save about P300 million of the P500 million total budget for Senate oversight committees.
The Senate and House budgets are bloated. They should be reduced substantially.
Electricity rates are up. Water rates are petitioned for big increases. Gasoline prices are up again. Commuters are stranded for hours during rainy days.
So what does the Administration propose? Increase LRT and MRT fares? Public transportation is traditionally subsidized. They should be further subsidized. Government should be the last one to impose additional hardship on the population.
Reduce the budget and allowance of executive officials, corporate and government executives, Senators and Congressmen. Stop the smuggling in the Bureau of Customs and increase revenues. Do not pass on to the commuting public the needed amount of LRT and MRT.
Let us also subsidize the price of rice. The P27 per kilo should be reduced.
Not valid excuse
DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson now comes up with the excuse that the relocation of squatters from riverbanks and esteros has been delayed upon request of local politicians who asked that they be deferred until after the May 13 elections.
President Aquino had ordered their immediate relocation. Why did Singson agree to the local politicians’ request? He should have turned them down.
The bottom line, we have floods in Metro Manila because DPWH has not done its job. It has not finished 70 drainage systems now under construction.
Pagasa Administrator Nathaniel Servando has resigned. He has accepted an offer of a teaching job in Qatar.
Servando had a salary of P68,425 a month plus P2,000 allowance. He was reportedly offered a salary of P600,000 in Qatar.
Once again the low pay of government engineers and technical personnel is an issue. Didn’t President Aquino himself go to Pagasa to promise an increase of allowances for Pagasa personnel?
This is a problem we will continue to have unless government will increase salaries.
Misuse of cellphones
The Commission on Audit (COA) found that the office of Sec. Ricky Carandang spent P1.36 million in mobile phone charges last year.
This is one of the abuses in all government offices, the misuse of mobile phones for private calls. Malacañang should take the lead in checking this overspending of government funds for mobile phones.
COA found that Carandang’s office was using 42 mobile phones with a monthly billing of P90,000.
Looks like everybody in Carandang’s office has been assigned a cellphone.
20,000 or 104,000
National Housing Authority General Manager Chito Cruz said P10 billion a year has been allocated for the relocation of squatters until 2016. This is contrary to DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson’s statement that 20,000 squatters would be relocated within the year.
There is not even a definite figure of how many squatters there are in Metro Manila. Atty. Chito Cruz says the number is 104,000. Earlier, Malacañang used the figure 60,000. Now Singson has promised to resettle 20,000 only. Which is which?
The latest US State of Department report has again placed the Philippines at Tier 2 in the Human Trafficking Awareness Index.
It found that the government “did not, however, make significant progress in addressing the underlying weaknesses in the judicial system which stymied efforts to hold trafficking officers accountable and the overall number of prosecutions and convictions disproportionately low for the size of the problem”.
This is a clear signal for the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court to improve the performance of prosecutors and judges.
Mayors and Barangay officials should be more active in stopping illegal recruitment in their localities. Most of the victims come from the rural areas of Mindanao and the Visayas.
Tier 2 in human trafficking, Tier 2 at the airport.
Tidbits: Looks like there is no “tuwid na daan” even in the office of the Ombudsman. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the dismissal of Administrative Officer III Juan Dita dela Cruz for accepting a P30,000 bribe from a police officer with a pending case at the Ombudsman.
DILG Sec. Mar Roxas announced he is buying 2,500 police cars at a cost of P2 billion. That’s a lot of money. Maybe he should also buy some motorcycles.
Congratulations to Atty. Jorly Manalo, a newly elected Mayor of Lobo, Batangas.