Curing a defective Romulo

Malacanang has reportedly “cured” Alberto Romulo’s “defective” appointment as Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary by simply antedating his appointment papers from August 10, 2010 to July 1, 2010.

But while defective appointments such as that of Romulo’s can easily be cured with just a slight of hand from Malacanang, can we ever cure a defective Romulo?

A relic from the previous Macapagal-Arroyo regime, Romulo was never a stranger to earth shaking controversies that rocked his leadership at the Foreign Affairs Department.

Beheadings

It was during Romulo’s term at the DFA that not one, but six overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were executed abroad. The six OFWs are: Antonio Alvesa, Sergio Aldana, Miguel Fernandez, Wilfredo Bautista, Reynaldo Cortez and Jenifer Beduya.

All of them were beheaded largely because of the DFA’s patented mishandling of their cases. In the case of Beduya, for example, the DFA only provided him with an interpreter and not a lawyer during the initial and most crucial stages of his trial.

Beduya was beheaded in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia October 2008.

Passport price increase

Romulo is also responsible for the meteoric rise in the cost of Philippine Passports. This was due to the onerous contract entered into by Romulo for the new electronic-Passports.

Migrante International, the largest alliance of OFW groups worldwide, has assailed the P857 Million E-Passport contract as “illegal, unethical and grossly overpriced“.

“Romulo has squandered millions of pesos in corruption via the e-passport project when the DFA had failed to provide welfare services, protection and assistance to OFWs, especially those in distress and facing death row,” Migrante said.

Thanks to Romulo’s onerous E-Passport contract, Passport costs shot up to P950 to P1,200 from P550 to P750 in the Philippines. Passports prices abroad  were higher and went up to as much as thrice the previous rates.

Budget cuts

Notwithstanding the left and right allegations of criminal negligence on the plight of distressed OFWs;  a cool, calm and collected  Romulo didn’t even raise any objection to the Palace instigated budget cut to the funds intended for helping OFWs abroad.

When Malacanang wanted to slash more than 50 percent to the combined budget of the Assistance to Nationals Fund (ATN) and Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) of the DFA, all Romulo can say was:

“In the spirit of teamwork and (because of the) gaping deficit…we abide by the decision of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to cut our budget… “

He said he is fully supportive of the President’s ‘austerity program’ to reduce the budget deficit “that’s why we are not going to ask for any increase in our budget.”

Never mind if the drastic budget cuts would spell doom to the more than 7,000 jailed; 10,000 stranded and 108 OFWs on deathrow.

Curing Romulo

Romulo, with his defective appointment finally ‘cured’, can now sleep soundly at night knowing that he can no longer be charged with usurpation of authority and misrepresentation for his acts from July 1 until August 9, 2010.

But then again, can an antedated appointment ever cure a defective Romulo?

If we are to ask an entire army of OFWs, whose condition has dramatically deteriorated with Romulo at the DFA’s helm, I think the answer is NO.

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The anti-OFW in Noynoy rears its ugly head

With the drastic slash in the funds intended to help overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in distress, President Noynoy Aquino has signaled his administration’s total abandonment of the rights and welfare of millions of Filipino migrant workers abroad.

It was learned during Wednesday’s budget hearing in Congress that Malacanang has trimmed down the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) allocation from P100 million to P27 million in the proposed 2011 national budget.

The LAF is used to pay mainly for the lawyers and interpreters who are hired by the government to defend OFWs jailed abroad, most especially for those who are languishing on death row.

Thus, the Malacanang instigated P73 million budget cut is a death blow to OFWs who are in desperate need of legal help from the government.

Currently, there are more than seven thousand jailed OFWs worldwide and about 180  more are awaiting execution in various death rows overseas.

If the observable indifference of Philippine posts to their plight is bad news enough for them and their families here in the country, it would be unspeakable if they hear about Noynoy’s plan to give our inutile embassy and consular officials more reason to abandon them!

Noynoy should rethink his plan to chop the DFA’s Legal Assistance Fund.

The move is patently illegal as it goes against the provision in the Migrant Workers Act that states P100 million are to be allocated for the LAF annually.

It is also immoral as the drastic budget cut completely flies in the face of more than ten million OFWs, whose “needs” Noynoy  had just wanted the DFA and other concerned government agencies to be more “responsive” to.

Is this what you mean by being “responsive” Mr. President? By chopping the only lifeline our hapless , desperate and locked up kababayans overseas have?

Feel-good stories

Early this week, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez implored the members of the media to come up with more ‘feel-good stories’ about Mrs. Gloria Arroyo in light of the global financial crisis.

“What our country needs today are feel-good stories, those that touch the heart,” he said in Filipino in an interview on dzRB radio.

Reached by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Golez said it was important “that the media show both the positive and negative stories, especially at this time of crisis when the media can be an instrument to unify our people.”

“What we need now is unity. We should unite to confront the same problem, which is the financial crisis,” Golez added in the phone interview.

But how the hell can the media report ‘feel-good stories’ if the Filipino people isn’t feeling good at all largely because of Arroyo’s skewed economic policies, unjust taxes and corrupt ways? In fact Filipinos feel ‘worse off now’ compared to last year, according to an independent poll.

Malacanang has gone this desperate and amateurish that they are demanding the impossible from the media. To borrow the Palace’s official heckler, DOJ Sec. Raul Gonzalez’s words, they are “squeezing blood from stone” with their request.

If Golez really wants to read positive stories in the papers, maybe he should convince his boss to step down or to consider early retirement instead.

Now this certainly is good news!

Freudian slip

Following the obvious Palace instigated Senate coup that saw the removal of Sen. Manny Villar from the Senate Presidency, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza’s prayer at the start of today’s cabinet meeting provides us a hint of what’s in store for us under the new Senate leadership.

“Bless the President so we will have forbearance, good health, the tolerance to lead this nation up to 2010 and perhaps who knows even beyond,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said at the end of the opening prayer he led at the start of a Cabinet meeting in the Aguinaldo State Dining Room on Tuesday.

Embarrased, Arroyo could only say, “Oh my God.”

So the cat is out of the bag. Arroyo wants to hold on to power even beyond 2010, of course, through charter change.

I hope “God” wasn’t listening when Dureza made the prayer.

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