Filipino migrant groups in Hong Kong are demanding the recall of the appointment of OFW Joselito Sapio as land-based sector representative to the Board of Trustees of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
In a petition being distributed to other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide, the groups headed by the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante-HK) said the appointment was “biased" and “politically motivated."
Sapio was given the board seat only because of his personal relationship with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said the statement.
“We are aware of the controversies surrounding many appointments of (Arroyo) – from Supreme Court justices to National Artist awardees. We are alarmed that this trend of rewarding trusted allies has now been extended to an OFW post," it said.
The groups said Sapio headed the campaign of Mrs. Arroyo in Hong Kong during the 2004 presidential elections. He was also reportedly known to have organized events in Hong Kong for the President.
“During GMA’s (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s) frequent visits to Hong Kong, Mr. Sapio is known to have organized or participated in events held in her honor, such as the most recent one in June. That unexpected side trip was projected to the media as a consultation-meeting with OFWs but, in reality, was meant to merely celebrate Mike Arroyo’s birthday," said the petition.
See no evil
OWWA chief Carmelita Dimzon said she sees nothing wrong if Sapio was in fact a strong supporter of Mrs. Arroyo.
“The President appointed him. What is so wrong if he is a supporter of the President?" Dimzon told GMANews.TV in a phone interview on Friday.
Unifil-Migrante-HK said they were worried that this close connection with Mrs. Arroyo would only “consolidate (the President’s) hold" over the P12-billion OWWA fund.
“Now that the election is again nearing, we fear that OWWA’s money will again be used for purposes not related to providing concrete welfare services to OFWs," it said.
Dimzon, however, was quick to explain that Sapio would have no power to manipulate the OWWA fund for the use of the President.
“Hindi mangyayari yun (That would never happen). We have internal control," she said.
She said that aside from having other members at the Board of Trustees, they also have an auditor from the Commission on Audit who look after the agency’s fund.
The Board of Trustees is the policy making body of OWWA. It is a tripartite body composed of 12 members from the government, management, and labor sector.
The board is currently composed of Labor Secretary Marianito Roque as chairman and OWWA Administrator Dimzon is vice chairman.
Its members from the government are Labor Undersecretary Luzviminda Padilla, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban B. Conejos, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration head Jennifer Manalili, Budget Director Arturo Bumatay, and Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran.
From the non-government sector are Victorino Balais (labor), Rene Soriano (management), Gregorio Oca (sea-based), Bai Omera Dianalan-Lucman (women), and just recently Sapio (land-based sector).
Sapio replaced Corazon P. Carsola, who showed her true mettle as an advocate of OFW rights when she stood her ground in opposing the transfer of P530.38 million in OWWA Medicare funds to the PhilHealth.
She was outvoted, however, and as proposed by then PhilHealth president Francisco Duque (now health secretary), part of the fund was used to boost the re-election bid of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2004.
Dolores T. Balladares, chairperson of Unifil-Migrante-HK, urged other OFW groups and individuals worldwide to support the petition to have their voices heard.
So far, the petition has the support of the following organizations:
• Abra Migrant Workers Welfare Association (AMWWA-HK),
• Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society (ATIS-HK), Alay Kapwa Catholic Group
• Association of Concerned Filipinos (ACFIL-HK)
• Cordillera Alliance in Hong Kong (CORALL-HK)
• Cuyapo Association Hong Kong
• Filipino Friends in Hong Kong (FFHK)
• Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union (FMWU-HK)
• Filipino Migrants’ Association (FMA-HK)
• Filipino Women Migrants Association (FILWOM-HK)
• FMWU – Chater Garden Chapter
• FMWU – Chater Road Chapter
• Friends of Bethune House (FBH-HK)
• GABRIELA Hong Kong
• Gabriela – HSBC
• Gabriela – Chater Road
• Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI - Hong Kong) Mission Council
• Mars Balaoro, Filguys Association Hong Kong
• Migrante – HSBC
• Migrante – Naguilian (Isabela) Hong Kong
• Migrante – Shatin
• Pinatud a Saleng ti Umili (PSU)
• United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
• United Pangasinan Hong Kong (UPHK) - GMANews.TV
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