Filipino migrants disparage confidential funds, Marcos budget in light of state neglect faced by overseas Filipino workers and families
UNITED STATES – On September 27, over 100 Filipino migrants, workers, youth, and other community members across the United States joined an online forum to share their concerns about the Philippine national budget, which passed the House of Representatives upon its third reading just a few hours beforehand. The forum was organized by BAYAN USA and Migrante USA.
“Kung titingnan natin ang nangyayari sa deliberasyon na nangyayari sa kongreso hinggil sa badyet, manlulumo ka (If we look at the budget deliberations happening in congress, you’ll be disheartened),” said Nelson, an organizer with the Hawai’i Workers Center. During the forum, he shared the plight of Filipinos in Maui, hundreds of whom were affected by the devastating fires that destroyed towns with majority Filipino populations, such as Lahaina. The Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu still required Filipino nationals living in Maui to spend $150 for obtaining new passports destroyed in the fires, despite many having lost everything.
“Nasaan ba ang prayoridad ng paggasta ng gobyerno, kung noong 2022 ay gumastos ang Office of the Vice President ng P125 million sa loob ng 11 na araw, pero walang ma-i-disburse na wala pang sampung libo para sa mga nasunugan sa Lahaina? (Where are the spending priorities of the government if in 2022 the Office of the Vice President spent P125 million in just 11 days, but not even P10,000 was disbursed to those affected by the fires in Lahaina)?”
The Commission on Audit’s revelation that Sara Duterte spent the entirety of her 2022 budget for confidential funds in less than two weeks drew widespread criticism. It eventually led to the cutting of confidential funds for 2024 from both the OVP and Department of Education, of which she is the secretary. Duterte continues to defend her actions, calling critics “enemies of peace.”
But while Duterte laments over cuts to her budget, overseas Filipinos were dismayed by the Marcos administration’s proposed budget cuts to services and assistance programs of both the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and its embassies and consulates, as well as the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and its overseas Migrant Workers Offices. Attendees of the forum were shocked to learn that President Marcos’ proposed travel budget — a hot topic during the Office of the President’s budget deliberation — was more than that allocated to the DFA’s Assistance to National (ATN) Fund meant to provide assistance to overseas Filipinos in distress: P1.41 billion compared to P1.26 billion.
“Humihingi kami ng tulong [sa konsulado] dahil doon sa nangyari sa amin na insidente (We requested help [from the consulate] because of the incident that happened to us),” shared Nerissa, a victim of anti-Asian violence in Los Angeles and recipient of ATN. “Pero noong natapos na ang kaso, doon lang sila nagbigay ng tulong, at hindi naman sapat yung binigay nilang tulong. Para kaming namamalimos sa kanila (But it was only after our case was over that they gave us assistance, and even then it wasn’t sufficient. It’s like we were begging them).” Nerissa and two other family members who were also victims of the attack only received $200 each, despite racking up thousands of dollars in medical expenses and lost income.
All speakers noted that, despite it being the Philippine government’s responsibility, it was community organizations and institutions who were the ones that came to the aid of Filipino workers and migrants in need. “Kailangan ng gobyerno na malaman na kailangan nilang gawin ang trabaho nila. Nandoon sila para tumulong sa atin, hindi lamang para display (The government needs to know that they need to do their jobs. They are there to help us, not just for display),” asserted Nerissa.
Attendees of the forum resolved to continue raising the demand of Filipinos across the U.S. for a “people’s budget” that allocates sufficient funding not only for services for Filipinos overseas, but also for food security, livelihood, education, health care, and social services for their families facing hardship in the Philippines. Budget deliberations will resume in November after the Congressional recess, this time in the Senate. ###
Take action today by signing on to our unity letter, “Filipinos in the U.S. Demand a Pro-People Philippine Budget“: tinyurl.com/peoples-budget-2024.