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Cayetano announces hike in legal aid fund for OFWs

20 December 2017

By Gina N. Ordona

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said the budget for legal assistance for Filipinos abroad has increased, during a forum held at Duke of Windsor House in Wan Chai on Dec. 10.

Speaking to a group of more than 100 overseas Filipino workers, Cayetano said that the budget for legal assistance fund (LAF) has gone up to Php 400 million from Php100 million, and assistance-to-nationals (ATN) fund to Php 1 billion from Php 400 Million.

“Ibinilin ng pangulo na kailangan kapag may legal problems ang ating mga kababayan ay asikasuhin agad. Kaya from any legal distress, puwede nang gamitin ang legal assistance fund,” said Cayetano.

He said that the implementing guidelines for making the bigger budget more accessible to OFWs in need are now being drafted. Under the new rules, the fund will be immediately available from the time of the distressed OFW’s arrest until the final resolution of the case.

Under Republic Act No. 10022 known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, the legal assistance fund will only be released to aid OFWs facing charges, in filing cases against erring or abusive employers abroad, or to pay for bail and other litigation expenses.

Cayetano also confirmed President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s announcement during his second state of the nation address last July that the ATN fund would be jacked up.

“Ang utos po natin ay huwag sayangin pero huwag tipirin.” Marami po kasi ang napapauwi, let’s say taga-Cagayan de Oro or taga-Gensan. Ang ticket po, hanggang Maynila lang. Wala man lang pangkain at ticket pauwi sa kanilang bayan,” Cayetano said. ATN fund is allocated for distressed Filipinos abroad for their transportation, food and other assistance.

Cayetano also unveiled the government’s plan to create a program that would protect the investments of OFWs in the Philippines. He said the Department of Trade and Industry will be providing up to Php1million “soft loan budget” for OFWs.

“I’ll try to give the guidelines right away to the Consulate. Kasi kung puwede naman na ang mga kamag-anak ninyo ang mangutang sa atin, bakit hindi. Una, it’s safer for you and that gives them also some responsibility,” he said.

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