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OFWs mad at ‘pork’, won’t remit on 9-19

Church supports 9-11 ‘Edsa Tayo’ The stench of the pork barrel scam had apparently reached across the globe to millions of overseas Filipino workers, who are sending a clear message to the government by not sending home their hard-earned money, at least for a day. The disgruntled, angry OFWs, according to Migrante, would temporarily suspend their remittances on Sept. 19, which organizers dubbed as “Zero-Remittance Day,” in support of a growing nationwide movement to abolish the pork barrel system. The movement for the scrapping of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, also drew  support from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, which asked its faithful to join an “inter-faith” vigil against corruption at the the Edsa Shrine on September 11. “It’s about time that the people manifest their own conviction,” said CBPC president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said over Radio Veritas. “Ours is an expression of solidarity.” “It’s very obvious in principle… We want the PDAF to be stopped. Stop and find ways and means to reach out to the poor in many other ways,” Palma said. But Malacañang has questioned the timing of the September 11 event, saying the rally was timed on thebirthday of the late President Ferdnand Marcos. “I was wondering why they would time it on the birthday of (the late President Ferdinand) Marcos. What’s the significance of that?” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said. But he later backtracked, saying that he was only wondering out loud. “I don’t know. I don’t know who are the organizers, so I don’t know why they timed it on the birthday of Marcos,” he said. He added that while they are concerned on the possible inconvenience that would be brought about by the Sept. 11 gathering, the Palace respects the right of protesters to air their grievances. Migrante International chairperson  Gary Martinez,  meanwhile,  said  the ZRD on Sept. 19 gained momentum after 112 Filipino migrant organizations from all over the world had agreed not to send remittances to their families in the Philippines on the agreed date, to express their outrage against the “widespread corruption, patronage politics and social injustice” in the country. Migrante said it chose Sept. 19 for the event, because it coincides with the anniversary of the implementation of the Overseas Workers Welfare Assistance Omnibus Policies (OOP) that effectively made the $25 OWWA contributions mandatory per contract. The OOP also limited benefits and services provided by the OWWA to member OFWs. Migrante described the OOP as ‘anti-migrant.’ “Through the Zero Remittance Day (ZRD), we will make our voices be heard in the call to abolish the pork barrel and re-channel funds for the people’s interest, including more efficient services and welfare assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in distress,” he added. Martinez said the ZRD would serve as a symbolic protest and a political exercise for Filipino immigrants from different parts of the world to collectively show their outrage on issues that affect them. “While we are hardly surviving by the day due to the global crisis combined with the onslaught of price hikes, to learn that our hard-earned money is being plundered for patronage politics and self-serving interests of a privileged few is a huge injustice,” Martinez said. According to Bangko Sentral,  Filipinos living and working overseas sent home $10.7 billion in the first half of 2013, or higher by 5.6 percent from a year ago. This means that on a daily basis, the more than 10 million Filipino migrants and contract workers sent an average of $58 million or more than P2.5 billion a day to the Philippines during a six-month period. Organizers of the Edsa Tayo prayer vigil, meantime, said they have already met with the police and the Metro Manila Development Authority and discussed their plans about the protest action slated from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Edsa Tayo will only be kick-off a wider prayer vigil,” said one of the organizers Junep Ocampo, adding that the program was made shorter at the request of Rev. Nilo Mangusad, rector of the Edsa Shrine who was afraid the event would cause public inconvenience. MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino said the agency is ready to manage the traffic during the rally, even if it falls on a weekday. “If ever this pushes through, although details are still unclear, we will plan, prepare and do our job in coordination with the National Capital Region Police Office,” Tolentino said. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has been asked to celebrate a mass to start the event, which will also include organizations from other religious organizations, like the Philippine Council for Evangelical Churches,  youth groups, militants, and even the business sector. With  Ronald Reyes, Joyce P. Pañares and PNA
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