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More than P530 million was indeed transferred from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) through an executive order from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, records from the Commission on Audit (COA) showed. Based on the COA annual report in 2006, Arroyo signed two separate executive orders authorizing the transfer of P530,382,445 supposedly meant to fund health benefit packages for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Executive Order No. 182, signed on Feb. 14, 2003, transferred the Medicare functions of OWWA to the PhilHealth. "This same EO mandates the transfer of Medicare funds administered by OWWA to [PhilHealth]," according to the COA report obtained by GMA News Online. A second order, Executive Order No. 382 dated Dec. 28, 2004, was made to amend EO 182 and provided "that the fund to be transferred shall be in the amount actually needed to fund the basic OFW Medicare Program for a period of one year to ensure continuity of services to OFWs." The amount that was transferred was approved by the OWWA Board of Trustees on February 24, 2005. The transfer also came in two installments of P300 million (transferred on March 16, 2005) and P230,382,445 (transferred on April 19, 2005). The fund transfer from OWWA to PhilHealth was among the basis of a plunder complaint filed by former Solicitor General Frank Chavez and the migrants’ right group Migrante International against Arroyo. Arroyo vacated the highest post in the Philippines in mid-2010 and is currently serving as congresswoman for Pampanga's Second District. The 22-page complaint accused Arroyo of violating Republic Act 7080 or the "Plunder Law" for allegedly misusing P530 million from OWWA for "questionable" acquisitions to fund her re-election bid in 2004. Aside from Arroyo, also named respondents to the case were former Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, former OWWA administrator Virgilio Angelo, and former PhilHealth president Francisco Duque III. Chavez's complaint was the second suit filed against Mrs. Arroyo this month, the first being the civil case slapped against her in connection with the arrest and detention of 43 health workers suspected of being communist rebels. A COA official who refused to be identified because the official was not authorized to speak on the matter told GMA News Online in an interview that the 2006 COA report "only proved that funds were transferred from the OWWA to the PhilHealth." "As to whether the same fund was used allegedly for 'questionable' purposes like to fund Mrs. Arroyo's election campaign, that's a totally different story and not covered by the COA report for OWWA," the official said. The official said that the COA report only showed that "there was a covering legal paper — through the EOs — to legalize the transfer." - KBK, GMA News
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a resolution that would direct the Senate to conduct an inquiry on the need to audit the billion-peso Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Fund. Senate Resolution No. 169 directs the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resource development to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the supposed need to audit the OWWA fund. "The clamor to have the OWWA funds audited has long been a pressing concern; the legislature should therefore address this by creating measures and guidelines that will direct the auditing of the fund, aside from merely leaving it to the Commission on Audit," Santiago said in the measure. SR 169 was filed even before Solicitor General Frank Chavez and migrant rights group Migrante International filed a plunder complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for supposedly diverting over P550 million worth of funds from the OWWA to the former president's campaign kitty in 2004. Santiago’s resolution is still pending at the committee level. The P13-billion OWWA trust fund is sourced from the $20-contribution of OFW employers for every two-year contract. - Kim Tan/KBK, GMA News
Miriam wants inquiry on need to audit OWWA funds