MANILA, JULY 30, (TRIBUNE) By Charlie V. Manalo - A senior member of the minority bloc at the House of Representatives yesterday called on President Aquino to uphold the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and not meddle with its affairs.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman (Photo) said Aquino should respect the independence of the Ombudsman and avoid putting on the spot newly appointed Ombudsman retired Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales by giving her a marching order to go all-out in prosecuting former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“President Aquino must respect the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman by not putting on the spot Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, by suggesting that she should pursue the mission of the scuttled Truth Commission in prosecuting the former President,” Lagman said.

To further highlight his veiled instruction, Lagman said Aquino even went to the extent of announcing that the documents and evidence against the former President and her officials which were submitted to or gathered by the infirm and disbanded Truth Commission will be transmitted to the new Ombudsman.

“The President is virtually giving the new Ombudsman marching orders to prioritize the prosecution of his immediate predecessor,” Lagman said.

Such actuations of the President, according to Lagman, “only demean and politicize the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body, which should be allowed to voluntarily assume jurisdiction, freely conduct its own investigations and judiciously resolve complaints.”

Ironically, Lagman added, while Aquino had denounced Arroyo for allegedly co-opting now retired Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, he himself is effectively pressuring the new Ombudsman with his importuning.


SoNA hurts OFWs in HK By JC BELLO RUIZ July 29, 2011, 6:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — A group of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs ) in Hong Kong found “insulting” the part of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s second State-of-the-Nation Address (SoNA) urging Filipinos to thank nurses who chose to stay in the Philippines for a lower pay rather than working abroad to serve foreigners in exchange for higher salary.

“We detest the implication that OFWs chose to serve foreigners instead of their countrymen,” said Dolores Balladares, chairman of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE HK).

“We protest the underlying contempt of President Aquino toward migrants who had no choice but to work overseas, separated from our families and communities, because the past and the present administration failed miserably to provide jobs and livelihood and denied basic social services to the Filipino people,” she stressed.

The subject of their protest is the part of Aquino’s SoNA last July 25 stating: “Kung magkasakit ka at makita mo ang nars na nag-aruga sa iyo, sa halip na magserbisyo sa dayuhan kapalit ng mas malaking suweldo, pakisabi rin po, ‘salamat po’ (If you get sick, and you see the nurse who takes care of you, instead of serving foreigners in exchange for higher salary, please also say thank you.)”

“Bago ka umuwi galing eskuwela, lapitan mo ang guro mong piniling mamuhunan sa iyong kinabukasan kaysa unahin ang sariling ginhawa; sabihin mo, ‘salamat po’: (Before you go home from school, approach the teacher who chose to invest in your future instead of prioritizing her own welfare; say ‘thank you’.),” Aquino also said.

“Now we understand why Aquino totally ignored our letter stating the OFWs’ demands to act on them in his first year in office. It is quite outrageous that he has the guts to deride our contribution to the economy through billions of dollars in remittances and to treat us with disdain despite earning huge profits through the mandatory insurance, OWWA membership fees, OEC, employment agency fees, etc.,” she said.

The group also criticized the part of the SoNA which stated: “Dati, nakapako sa pangingibang-bansa ang ambisyon ng mga Pilipino. Ngayon, may pagpipilian na siyang trabaho, at hangga’t tinatapatan niya ng sipag at determinasyon ang kanyang pangangarap, tiyak na maaabot niya ito. (Before, our foremost ambition was to work in another country. Now, the Filipino can take his pick. As long as he pursues his dreams with determination and diligence, he can realize them.)”

“Obviously, Aquino is out of touch from the reality that more than 4,000 Filipinos are leaving the country every day to work abroad. Had he visited the POEA Ortigas office, he would see a sea of Filipinos enduring bureaucratic processes and mountains of fees just so a livelihood can be had by their families,” Balladares said.

The group said that because of Aquino’s “continued subservience to foreign interests through his private public partnership, conditional cash transfer, and other globalization policies that fail to provide jobs and livelihood to the people, poverty worsened in his first year resulting from regular oil price hikes, 200% tuition increases, rising cost of commodities, and inadequate social services.”

“Aquino’s hollow ‘wang-wang’ had served its purpose. It’s time for him to act on our pressing issues and define the straight path to the provision of welfare and rights protection to OFWs,” Balladares said.

Balladares said that the lack of mention of OFW concerns in the SoNA “is telling of the government’s lack of attention to the situation of migrant Filipinos and their call for action.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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