PART 1 of this series was published November 30, 2001. Part 2 is published only today, six months later. It is out of the norm, I admit, but natural and circumstantial events followed one after another in my ‘not-so-ordinary life’ since November 2001 that writing a follow-up story on time was not just possible.
A lot has transpired in the Gulf War comp payments scenario itself that it will take two to three series more in order to fully cover the current status. I can of course summarize everything in one go but that would mean a longer-to-read page for you readers and followers of this series. I would guess you would prefer shorter versions. (Not too short though as I am required to at least write each time a story of no less than 400 words.)
In the previous story, I shared the official response of DFA Supervising Undersecretary (of PCCCS) Merlin Magallona to the letter of complaint sent to President Gloria M. Arroyo by a number of Filipino claimants in August 2001. Along with the response came “Payment History” by category and date of remittance from the UNCC and claims status of the initial 65 signatories of the complaint letter.
I would say that the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat (PCCS), headed by Secretary General Bayani Mangibin was too generous to reveal the information. I couldn’t believe my luck at first, especially when I read and discovered the dates of remittance coming from the UNCC from the first batch in March 1997 up to August 2001. Right there in front of my eyes and then were the missing links to and dates of the UNCC payments to the Philippines, outside those published by the UNCC itself on its website! The missing data which I repeatedly looked for in the past many years!
It might be recalled that the very first payment released by the UNCC to the PCCCS was in late 1995 or early 1996 (?), for the 45 successful claimants of Category B (serious injuries or death). Actual date of release of payment by UNCC of the approved fund, in the total amount of US$155,000, was not identified anywhere in UNCC’s press releases posted on the web. As previously informed, fund release by UNCC was initially reported online on April 22, 1999. I found it strange that only once – on February 17, 2000 – was the Philippines included among the many countries paid by the UNCC.
With the PCCCS payment history generously shared to me last September 14, 2001, I discovered, to my amazement, that the UNCC remitted twice a year to the Philippines beginning in 1997! Under Category A claims which were divided into six installments by the UNCC, it was reported that remittances were received within a period of two years commencing on March 12, 1997 and ending on October 28, 1999. Category C payments, on the other hand, were reported received by the PCCCS between October 8, 1997 and October 28, 1999, also within a period of two years. All the above belonged to the first batch of UNCC payments of compensation.
Second batch of payments, as noted, was initially remitted by UNCC on the same day – October 28, 1999 – that the first batch concluded. On that day, the PCCCS received US$ 46,021,600.00, the highest single remittance ever received so far! Please take note that the over-all total of approved claims by Filipinos is US$174.9 million!
My contention in my previous stories that compensation payments to the Philippines had been suspended by the UNCC ‘numerous’ times now seemed to be incorrect. I have come up to the original conclusion because of the gross delay of payments to rightful claimants. With the figures in hand, I observed that UNCC indeed regularly sent money to the PCCCS, but whether those were paid out promptly to the claimants was not very clear.
Of course, as experienced by the claimants themselves – my self included – there really was a gross and deliberate delay in payments of the compensation money. The PCCCS officials were obviously keeping the money in the bank for quite a long period of time! For interest earning, of course, because after all, as repeatedly claimed, the PCCCS was sanctioned by the UNCC to derive their operation expenses from the interest of the money as a whole – not from the individual claimant. As ruled by the UNCC, service fee equivalent to no more than 1.5% of the total claims amount, shall be borne by individual claimant.
An official report from the Commission on Audit (COA) released early this year has proven that the PCCCS officials have earned interest of over a million US dollars from its operation from May 1997 to March 31, 2000!
Alecks Pabico of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) who has been working hand-in-hand with me in the past year in exposing the Gulf War comp funds mess, when he sent the COA report, had this to say:
“i feel vindicated that my own report’s findings, as well as freda’s and what all of us have been suspecting all along, correspond to what the coa’s findings are. coa has also recommended a follow-up audit of the missing financial statements.”
Should I say more?
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: May 30, 2002