DR. Fawzi Elhami Ali, one of OFW-Suite101 frequent visitors, observed it right when he noted in a previous Discussion:
“It’s a sad situation . . . that the Filipino officials entrusted with solving the OFWs’ problems are in fact prolonging their suffering and profiting from it. In this way, I find these officials no less cruel to the Filipino claimants than the Iraqi invaders of Kuwait!”
It is indeed a sad situation, and abominable, especially hearing such a comment from a non-Filipino!
The officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) manning the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat (PCCCS), since the mess involving fund distribution to claimants was exposed early last year, have continuously denied and vigorously covered their anomalous activities. But the facts and figures presented – in public at that – by the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) prove, without reasonable doubt, that the officials have indeed misused the compensation fund which should have been long distributed to the rightful claimants. One has only to read the numerous decisions, reports and recommendations, and press releases on the UNCC website in order to draw an intelligent conclusion. The tales of difficulties faced by and disheartening experiences of concerned Filipinos in the whole process of claiming their grossly-delayed compensation from PCCCS are also living witnesses to the anomalies committed by these Philippine government officials!
A long 11 years
IT IS eleven years today since Iraq invaded her neighboring Kuwait. For seven agonizing months, Iraqis occupied and ransacked Kuwait and terrorized her people. Imagine how those individuals battled the dangers – unfathomable ones – to their lives.
Soon after the liberation of Kuwait, the United Nations Security Council declared it just for Iraq to pay for its misdeeds (please read Resolution 687, 692, and 986). Thus the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) was created. The UNCC, after setting up rules and regulations, almost immediately sent out forms, through representative governments, for distribution to people and institutions affected. Members of the UNCC Governing Council, early then, deemed it URGENT that the people who suffered during the invasion be compensated for their losses! (Please read Claims Processing).
After January 1, 1995, through Decision 23: [S/AC.26/Dec.23 (1994); 21 October 1994], the UNCC stopped accepting further individual claims. Shortly thereafter, it began sending out payments to duly approved claimants, prioritizing Category ‘B’ claims (serious personal injury or death) through their governments. In October 1995, the UNCC approved to release to the Philippine government US$155,000.00 for distribution to 45 approved ‘B’ claimants. (Please refer to Decision 32: [S/AC.26/Dec.32 (1995); 12 October 1995], Decision 26: [S/AC.26/Dec.26 (1994); 15 December 1994], and Decision 27: [S/AC.26/Dec.27 (1995); 22 March 1995]).
The Philippine government sent out word about the release of fund only in the early months of 1996.The 45 names of those successful claimants were published front page of the maiden issue of Pinoy Expat News or PEN, an independent paper circulating in Kuwait in early to mid 1996. Filipino ‘B’ claimants, accordingly, began receiving their compensations shortly thereafter. Between 1996 to 1997, the PCCC was quiet while the UNCC continued to release funds to other governments whenever it received then from the 30% revenues from Iraq’s petroleum and other petroleum products sales. At the moment, UNCC is receiving 25% share under the “oil-for-food” provision of the UN Security Council.
In early 1998, news came out from the DFA announcing new fund releases from UNCC for some 1,846 claimants under Category A and C. I was entrusted then, luckily enough, by Philippine Embassy officials in Kuwait, to disseminate the information. It was also published front page of the Pinoy News, another publication and the last of my failed newspapering ventures in Kuwait. Sadly, that was the last public announcement made by the DFA. It also ceased to make public the list of successful claimants.
Approval of those 1,846 claims by UNCC was contained in two separate decisions: Decision 28: [S/AC.26/Dec.28 (1995); 22 March 1995] subtitled ‘Decision Concerning the Second Instalment of Claims for Departure from Iraq or Kuwait (Category “A” Claims)’ and Decision 36: [S/AC.26/Dec.36 (1996); 30 May 1996], ‘Decision Concerning the Second Instalment of Individual Claims for Damages up to US$ 100,000 (Category “C” Claims).’ Nearing the end of each of the UNCC’s decisions on claims approval, one may read the following:
“Reaffirms that when funds become available, payments shall be made in accordance with Decision . . .” (Decision numbers change according to the claims type and installment bracket).
The missing link, presumably released between late 1996 till mid-1997, is the first-ever payments made to Category A claimants, totaling all to 550. The particular UNCC decision noted that US$2,192,500.00 in funds were approved for payment. The amount was later corrected to US$2,195,000.00.
Suspension of delinquent governments
The Governing Council of the UNCC ruled in Decision 18: [S/AC.26/Dec.18 (1994); 24 March 1994] entitled ‘Distribution of Payments and Transparency’ that each government, upon receipt of funds from the UNCC, shall distribute same to the claimants within six months. Thereafter, the government has another three months to report on its payment activities. Should it fail to do as specified, the Council “may decide not to distribute further funds to that particular Government.”
This pronouncement by the Council has lately been emphasized by its inclusion, beginning on its October 26, 2000 press release. Previous nine press releases on payments made by UNCC – the first of which was dated April 22, 1999 – didn’t include this particular provision. For easy reference, I would like to quote the statement (page 2, last paragraph) in full:
“The Governing Council monitors the distribution of payments to claimants by the relevant Governments and international organizations. Governments and international organizations are obliged to distribute funds to the successful claimants expeditiously and to report to the Commission on payments made to claimants. Any funds undistributed to claimants by Governments and international organizations within twelve months of receiving payment shall be returned to the Commission. Further payments to the Governments and international organizations shall be suspended where they fail to report on the distribution of funds to successful claimants or fail to return undistributed funds on time.”
Fund releases by UNCC
On the UNCC website, release of funds for successful claimants showed to have been reported initially on April 22, 1999. In my long years of following up the payments, I still couldn’t find the dates of fund releases prior to the initial date shown. From April 1999 until the latest release dated July 19,2001 (very recent, take note), the UNCC has made 13 releases of compensation money, now totaling to US$12.6 billion. The dates mentioned are: April 22, 1999; July 8, 1999; September 23, 1999; October 14, 1999; November 1, 1999; February 17, 2000; March 17, 2000; June 8, 2000; September 6, 2000; October 26, 2000; January 25, 2001; May 17, 2001; and July 19, 2001.
Out of these 13 fund releases, only once – on February 17, 2000 – was the Philippines included among those countries given funds by the UNCC!
Suspended or not suspended?
The recent expose’ of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that PCCCS Secretary General Bayani Mangibin vehemently denied that the Philippine government was ever suspended by the UNCC. The same way that PCCCS Deputy Secretary General Sinforiano Mendiola denied, when I asked him during a face-to-face interview held in Manila last July 21, 2000.
According to PCIJ’s Alecks Pabico, Mangibin, when confronted with the issue, slipped and admitted that the Philippines was indeed suspended. But the suspension didn’t hold for long, he claimed!
Suspended or not suspended, the fact remains that thousands of Filipino claimants, who all received initial payments in 1997, are still awaiting release of their full payments by the PCCCS officials. The fund has long been released by the UNCC – on February 17, 2000 to be exact – yet majority of these claimants are still not receiving any single penny.
My wild guess? The Philippines has been suspended alright by the UNCC, countless times, I should say. As the deadline set by the UNCC had already lapsed (within one year after receiving the fund – released, as repeatedly mentioned, on February 17, 2000) the PCCCS was not looking for another suspension after having been suspended in the past. It happened before, it can happen again. Meanwhile, it keeps in the bank the US$15.5 million it received since early 2000. How much interest, do you think, has it incurred since then? The claimants? Ah . . . they can wait!
Poor Filipino claimants, victims indeed of their own government officials – DFA officials, who, in the first place, are supposed to protect their rights!
Dr. Fawzi is right, these officials are no less cruel than the Iraqi invaders of Kuwait. But I would say that these officials are worse than the Iraqi invaders!
OFW-Suite101, in the past 14 months, has extensively covered the subject on the compensation claims by Filipino victims of the 1990-1991 Invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War. For more detailed information, please visit the following articles:
On Gulf war comp claims – published on May 2, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…
Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 1 – June 6, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…
Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 2 – July 4, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…
Pinoy Gulf War claims, an update – October 3, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…
UNCC completes payments to Pinoy claimants – November 7, 2000 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/over…
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: August 2, 2001