By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
CHICAGO, Illinois—Rep. Hermilando I. Mandanas (LP-2nd Batangas) appealed to Overseas Filipino Workers to channel part of their remittance into a single investment fund as he addressed the FilAm community in Chicago’s suburb of Rosemont, Illinois over the weekend.
Billed as “OFW Fund,” Mandanas, House Appropriation Committee Chair, challenged OFWs to unite and form an investment fund that could lend money to the Philippine government for its projects.
“If the OFWs can remit $15-B a year, a portion of that money can be channeled to an investment fund, which can be transformed into a lending agency,” Mandanas said.
He addressed Chicago FilAms who attended the Bayanihan Sa Amerika: Conference of Filipino Community Centers in the United States held at Sheraton Gateaway Hotel Suites Chicago’s O’Hare last Saturday, Oct. 27. It was hosted by the Philippine Consulate led by Consul General Blesila C. Cabrera.
Mandanas said OFWs can help out if they support the establishment of an investment house based on “patriotic desires.” He likened it to the War Bonds. The “OFW Bond” can be sold to wage war against poverty, corruption, Abu Sayyaf and the NPA but good governance will be needed for this war to succeed.
“The Philippine Congress has just passed P3-Trillion budget or US$25-B.” Mandanas said. “Out of this amount, the Philippines is paying P54-B for the interest to lending agencies; about one third of the national budget.”
If we can have the OFWs patriotic fund of $14-B annually in place, we will not need these lending agencies anymore and we will be respected.”
Out of the budget, there is a “low amount of money earmarked for education. Education is the No. 1 priority in Asian countries like Hongkong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan,” according to Mandanas. He added that the Philippines pays a hefty “social cost” for the misplaced priority allocation.
Corruption and Erap’s Pardon
At the same time, Mandanas appealed to the Philippine government to give teeth to its anti-corruption drive and be transparent in its dealing with the public if it wants to earn the trust of the people.
“Pardoning former President Joseph Estrada too soon is a signal that the government is soft in its anti-corruption drive. There is no time for boredom. We are always active,” the 63-year-old former Batangas governor quipped. “It also sends a signal that committing corruption is an easy thing to do because it goes unpunished.”
He said the Philippine government’s biggest task is its ability to fight graft and corruption. He admitted that when he was elected governor in 1995, he got many monetary offers to allow jueteng (illegal gambling) in Batangas. The offers fetched as much as P1.5-M a month and certain percentages from government contracts.
He also cited the pork barrel in Congress. He added that there are only very few congressmen require 10- 20% commission from their pork barrel allocations. Sometimes, there are even congressmen who would nominate the purchase of supplies like books and chairs and get commissions. They even take away the medicine from the mouth of the sick unless they get commissions.
Even the assignment of positions of public school teachers has also become a source of graft.
Mandanas said fighting foreign debt and over pricing of medicine, books and substandard training is a challenge to the government.