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OFWs’ list-up budget scrapped; Abante protests

“Are the rights of Filipinos here different from the rights of Filipinos overseas?”

This was the question posed by former Manila Rep. Benny Abante after Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes revealed at an interview at the House of Representatives that the Department of Budget and Management had removed the funds the COMELEC had proposed for the registration of new voters overseas.

“The last I heard, only Congress had the right to pass laws. But here is a department in the Executive, trying to circumvent the Constitution. First there was the DAP, now they are trying to amend the Overseas Voters Act on their own,” said Abante, former vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

According to Abante, Chairman of the Bayan Mamamayan Abante Movement, 89 million pesos should be allotted for the voter registration of OFWs under the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003. Comelec said that this was included in the budget for overseas absentee voting and online registration, which was part of the original budget proposal submitted to the DBM, but this was removed in the 2015 National Expenditure Plan (NEP).

Abante, Chairman of the Bayan Mamamayan Abante Movement, said that “in the eyes of the law, all Filipinos are equal, whether they live here or abroad. All deserve to exercise their right to suffrage.”

“Our OFWs remit around one trillion pesos to our economy, but the DBM is ignoring their contributions to the country, sad proof that this Administration does not value those who have done much to prop up our economy,” lamented Abante.

Abante hoped that Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, would convince his allies in the House to support calls for the restoration of the COMELEC’s budget for OAV registration.

Official government data pegs the number of registered overseas voters at 737,759. 

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz prodded  Filipino household workers to file their complaints against their employers to the Hong Kong Labor Department after Hong Kong officials assured her of immediate action on such grievances.

Baldoz said that Philippine Overseas Labor Office  in Hong Kong headed by Labor Attache Manuel Roldan, and the Philippine Consulate headed by Consul General Bernardita Casalla, met with officials of the Hong Kong Labour Department  to formulate cooperative agreements to address the concerns of OFWs in Hong Kong.

The Philippine officials met  with Commissioner Donald Tong, Deputy Commissioner Byron Ng, Assistant Commissioner Nicholas Chan, and Queenie Wong, a senior administrative officer of the Hong Kong Labour Department to resolve rising abuse complaints against OFWs from their Hong employers.

Roldan said the Philippines continue to maintain “no-placement fee” policy but some of accredited Hong Kong-based employment agencies still collect placement fees from workers in violation of Hong Kong laws, which allows only a service fee of 10 percent of a worker’s first month’s salary. With Vito Barcelo

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