DMW: Confidential funds to help drive vs illegal recruiters
The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) on Tuesday said it was capable of handling its own confidential funds after Sen. Raffy Tulfo vowed to sponsor its inclusion in the agency’s 2024 budget to strengthen its fight against illegal recruitment.
Tulfo said he was willing to push for P20 million to P50 million in confidential funds for the DMW.
“There are so many illegal recruiters and illegal recruitment agencies that must be hunted down. There are so many scammers who are victimizing OFWs (overseas Filipino workers). Most OFWs return here without money because they are cheated by scammers,” Tulfo noted.
For 2024, the DMW is asking Congress for a P15.542-billion budget without any allocation for a confidential fund.
“We are ready to receive confidential funds. But even without confidential funds, we have been performing our duty and role,” Migrant Workers Undersecretary Bernard Olalia said at the Laging Handa briefing.
The DMW, Olalia noted, has a Migrant Workers Protection Branch, previously called the Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch, tasked to run after illegal recruiters preying on OFWs.
According to Olalia, the confidential funds will help the DMW gather intelligence information to determine how these unscrupulous groups work.
Another state entity, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), has P100 million in confidential funds meant to combat illegal gambling but has spent only about one-fourth of this as of the third quarter of 2023.
Aside from the fund’s dismal utilization rate, lawmakers also noted the absence of PCSO General Manager Melquiades Robles, who was the best person to answer questions on confidential funds, during Tuesday’s House appropriations panel’s hearing on the agency’s budget.
According to lawyer Reymar Santiago, an executive assistant at the Office of the General Manager, the agency taps a confidential fund for intelligence-gathering activities against illegal gambling, especially in the provinces.
“This is processed by the management, and they coordinate with law enforcement agencies to help eradicate illegal gambling activities,” he pointed out.
He was responding to a question by House dangerous drugs committee chair Rep. Robert Ace Barbers about the PCSO’s policy against illegal gambling.
On further questioning by House appropriations committee senior vice chair Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, PCSO Assistant General Manager Lauro Patiag said the agency had allocated P100 million for its confidential fund in 2023 and that “P25 million was spent as of this year.”
Barbers remarked that the PCSO was “probably not performing very well because there is still illegal gambling,” noting the agency’s own admission that the illicit activity was still rampant.