x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE Filipinos in white shirt protest

Protests against the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund were held in the US, Canada, Hong Kong and different cities in the Middle East.

Filipino engineers, inspectors and document controllers yesterday joined the protests calling for the scrapping of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which they say have been misused by legislators at home. Courtesy Lira de Luna
Filipino engineers, inspectors and document controllers yesterday joined the protests calling for the scrapping of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which they say have been misused by legislators at home. Courtesy Lira de Luna

ABU DHABI // Filipinos in the UAE have joined compatriots around the world to protest against what they call misuse of public finances known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

They say politicians treat the money as their own funds to finance projects for their constituents and help their re-election, rather than for the benefit of the poor. The structure of the funds makes it easier for politicians to divert money.

Yesterday, a Million People March was held at Manila’s Luneta Park on National Heroes Day in protest against the misuse of the funds.

Protests were held all over the world, including in the US, Canada, Hong Kong and various cities in the Middle East.

Because mass actions are banned in the UAE, migrant-rights group Migrante UAE decided to hold a silent protest in Deira on Sunday.

“Migrante International has urged all its branches all over the world to join this anti-corruption campaign,” said Nhel Morona, the UAE co-ordinator for Migrante.

“Our Filipino lawmakers should focus on crafting and enacting laws, and should not have direct access to these funds.

“The system should be totally abolished and we propose that it be rechannelled to fund services in health, education and for us, overseas Filipino workers.”

The group has also called on the Philippine president, Benigno Aquino, to give up his own discretionary fund, which is far bigger than the politicians’ fund.

“We want genuine services,” Mr Morona said. “It’s high time that we abolished the system.”

In Abu Dhabi, members of the Filipino community wore white shirts in the workplace to express their solidarity with the Million People March.

The event was triggered by opinions posted on Facebook about the misuse of the fund, and a clamour to end corruption in the Philippines.

Lira de Luna, an administrative assistant in Abu Dhabi, said Filipino engineers, inspectors, document controllers and other staff chose to wear white to work.

“Even if we’re here in the UAE, we still care about our country,” Ms de Luna said.

Ernesto Refugio, president of Bayanihan UAE, which represents 55 Filipino community groups in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Region, said his colleagues all wore white shirts at their Al Shamkha project site.

“We’re here to support the Million People March and anti-corruption drive,” Mr Refugio said.
“It’s something we feel so strongly about.”

Filipino groups’ Facebook pages were filled with messages of support for the Million People March movement.

“We support calls for the PDAF to be scrapped,” said Sam Magsombol, a radiographer and chairman of the Abu Dhabi chapter of the Philippine Guardians Brotherhood group.

“It has become a source of graft and corruption in our country.”

rruiz@thenational.ae