The fight continues, Part 1

IN my ‘Too many a fight’ article published August 24, 2001, I mentioned that “there’s another major struggle brewing up, but I would like to discuss it separately.” Time really flies, and how FAST, and one would really miss noticing it if faced with a lot of challenges in life, as I am. That particular fight is on the rights of Filipinos affected by the 1990-1991 Gulf War to their compensation awarded by the United Nations Compensation Commission which was denied far longer than necessary.

Followers of the OFW-Suite101 topic are aware of the Gulf War compensation mess which I boldly exposed and relentlessly followed up in the past 18 months or so. The seven related stories I wrote since May 2000 – this now will be the eighth – will prove to this claim. Those interested to learn more may visit the following links:

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…

Worse than Iraqi invaders – published on August 2, 2001 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/3728…

Pinoy claimants air grievances – September 7, 2001 http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/3728…

PCCCS responds to complaints

Following the public reading last August 21, 2001 of the Filipino claimants’ letter of complaint addressed to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during a dialogue between key government officials and a small group of representative overseas Filipinos at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) premises in Manila, an official response from the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat (PCCCS) was received. The response was religiously followed up, on behalf of the Filipino claimants, by the Overseas Filipinos Worldwide Net Foundation, Inc., based in Manila, in particular, by Dr. Rachelle Garcia. For clarity, I am taking full liberty of publishing the letter, as follows:

14 September 2001

Madam:

With reference to your joint letter to her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dated 19 August 2001 concerning the payment of the Gulf War compensation, I wish to clarify on the following concerns you mentioned in the said letter.

A. “Deliberate delay of payment of our claims …” Please be informed that PCCCS never intentionally delayed the release of the Gulf War compensations to the bonafide claimants. The Office started paying war compensations in May 1997 when it first received a fund remittance from the UNCC. Subsequent tranches were expeditiously released to the claimants after the processors/representatives from the Department of Justice, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and Philippine Information Agency have established the identity of the claimant.

The claimants who are able to present the required documents are paid the amount authorized by the UNCC accordingly. However, in many instances, some claimants cannot readily submit to the processors valid documents (passports, travel documents used during the Gulf War) or other documents to establish that they are indeed the rightful owners of the war compensation. This delays the release of the check payments.

Attached are copy each of the UNCC payment history to the Philippines by category and by date of remittance to indicate the continuous remittance of payment of Gulf War claims. Also, enclosed is the updated status of the first two phases of payments on Gulf War claims.

For your information, the average number of claim checks being released per day starting August and September 2001 ranges from 300 to 400 compared to the previous 100 to 150 per day. PCCCS starts its service exactly at 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. without lunch break and many staff members work overtime up to 8 P.M. everyday to ensure that the attached “Tentative Schedule of Appointments” is achieved with a hope that phase 2 of the Gulf War payment will be finished by mid-October 2001 and PCCCS could be moved up to phase three for the full payment of categories “D”, “E”, and “F”. PCCCS also hopes to locate the more than 7,000 Gulf War claimants under category “A” Installments 4 and 5.

Attached is the status of the Gulf War claims of the persons who conveyed their concern through a letter to Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

B. “Claimants have been, and still are, easy preys to fixers proliferating unabated within PCCCS…” The PCCSC is not aware of the existence of “fixers” in the office. PCCCS Secretary General Bayani Mangibin must have been misquoted in his interview with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), that one staff member had been lately terminated when discovered. There was not a single staff member who has been found guilty of any irregularity much less dismissed from the service. There is, however, one representative from one of the five participating government agencies who is presently under investigation as a result of a complaint under oath filed by one claimant. It would be appreciated if your group could help us identify any corrupt official or employee in the PCCCS in order to take immediate action.

C. “There are those cases of claimants not receiving a single penny until now because their check are nowhere to be found.” There was not a single check lost in the PCCCS. The payment checks are prepared after the beneficiary has been duly identified. The PCCCS has not lost a check since it started paying the war compensations. Rest assured that the PCCCS always does its best in discharging its mandate.

Very truly yours,

(Signed) MERLIN M. MAGALLONA Supervising Undersecretary, PCCCS

Denials

After reading the above letter and going through the attachments, I remember feeling the more angered. The outright denial of the claimants’ pronouncement that the PCCCS officials resorted to ‘deliberate delay of paying the compensation’ was that which made me mad. Mr. Magallona’s statement contradicted the ‘Payments History’ he sent as attachment. I can see no reason why a claimant would take six months to one year, as shown in the table, to produce the necessary documents if he/she was informed immediately of the availability of compensation funds. If you were a claimant, aware that the UNCC has started paying compensation since six to seven years back, will you not be prepared to present your papers when notified early or immediately of your approved claims? I, for one, when notified, nearly one year from PCCCS’ receipt of the fund from the UNCC as I noted in the PCCCS attachment, immediately flew to Manila. And this despite my earlier trip, three months back, to the Philippines!

The delay of payments was admitted alright by the PCCCS official but that it was claimed to be “never intentionally” delayed. He should tell this to the most stupid and dumb person but not to those who actually experienced, and still are, the gross delay of its release of payments.

Mr. Alecks Pabico, the reporter of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has this to say on Mr. Magallona’s denial of the ‘fixers’ activities within the PCCCS:

“pls find below the transcript of my interview with sec-gen mangibin. this is to dispel the notion that he was misquoted, as claimed by usec magallona, and reveals other pertinent issues the pccc has not been able to explain thoroughly. the fact is, he’s also been recorded on camera (abs-cbn) saying such things. now the dfa tries to cover up his statements by seeking refuge under trite excuses of being misquoted or taken out of context.

alecks”

Here’s that part of the interview as taken from the transcript sent by Alecks:

Alecks: How about yung mga fixers daw within the PCCC? [How about those alleged fixers within the PCCC?]

Bayani Mangibin: Well, please give me the name. As long as under oath, by the way, meron na kaming isa na pinatanggal… [by the way, we already have one dismissed]

A: Masud daw… [Masud, I gathered]

BM: I don’t want to give the names kasi may karapatan din yung tao. [I don’t want to give names because that person has also rights.]

A: Is he still under investigation?

BM: Wala na yung taong yun. Kasi nga under oath. So we are requesting the public, the claimants, please put it under oath para maaksyunan yan. Kasi may karapatan din naman yung mga tao, huwag naman natin basta sila akusahan. Meron din tayong due process na sana masunod natin. [That person in no longer here. Because under oath. So we are requesting the public, the claimants, please put it under oath so it can be acted upon. We have the due process which I hope we can all follow.]

You will read more about the issue as I continue with the fight . . .

 

Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: November 30, 2001

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