OFWs in NZ tell Arroyo, Congress: Get Busy With Pro-Poor Bills, Not Cha-cha

“OFWs in New Zealand and around the world would be happier if Arroyo and her allies in Congress would get busy pushing for pro-poor legislation that will benefit OFWs rather than the Charter Change maneuvers.”

This was the message of Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand to Malacañang and Congress on the occasion of Arroyo’s Sona. In an open letter, members of Migrante Aotearoa and concerned Filipinos in New Zealand declared: “Instead of pushing for Cha-cha agenda, we urge you Madame President and all members of the 14th Congress to heed the clamour for pro-poor legislation and urgent reforms that will address the chronic economic crisis that pushed millions of Filipinos to work abroad.”

The letter noted that HB 5657 should be immediately deliberated and passed to benefit OFWs. HB 5657 which aims to expand the scope of, and upgrade the Department of Foreign Affairs’ program to provide legal assistance to migrant workers – both documented and undocumented – and overseas Filipinos in distress. Sponsored by Bayan Muna partylist, this bill upgrades the position of “legal assistant for migrant workers affairs” (under Section 24 of the RA 8042) to Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, and providing an annual budget of P2 Billion to support functions such as provision of free legal assistance services to all OFWs and Filipino migrants (in distress) facing any type of case in the country of destination and to pursue civil, administrative, criminal, labour and welfare cases.

Distressed Filipinos in New Zealand will certainly benefit from this bill considering that the average lawyer’s fee is around NZ $250/hr.

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“It is deplorable that Arroyo and her allies have been busy with the Cha-cha scheme. We say NO to Arroyo term extension through Cha-cha or any other scheme leading to No Elections in 2010. We continue to demand full accountability of the Arroyo administration over unresolved cases of large-scale corruption including the misuse of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), fertilizer and PhilHealth funds during the fraudulent 2004 elections,” Migrante Aotearoa national coordinator Dennis Maga stated.

“We say NO to Cha-cha because the corrupt-ridden president Arroyo will remain in power and evade accountability over the scandalous cases of electoral fraud, corruption, betrayal of public trust and human rights violations. We also stand against the removal of economic provisions in the Constitution that aim to protect national sovereignty and patrimony, including allowing 100% foreign ownership on public utilities such as water, electricity and transportation. These will mean ever increasing rates thus additional burden for OFWs and families.” Mr Maga stressed.

“Under Arroyo’s Cha-cha, allowing 100% foreign ownership on land is a total sell-out that will worsen landlessness of poor Filipinos. Cha-cha perpetuates economic conditions that breed widespread poverty and unemployment that force many Filipinos to work abroad. Cha-cha benefits the country’s economic and political elite, not OFWs and the poor majority,” the group added.

“If the Cha-cha proponents will insist on holding a Senate-less constituent assembly to amend the Constitution, we pledge to join OFWs around the world in declaring Zero Remittance Day to express our opposition against this ungraceful step that will bring many more years of corruption and economic misery under Arroyo,” Mr Maga concluded.

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