FOR smearing the reputation of overseas Filipino workers by linking balikbayan or care boxes to smuggling, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday asked Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina to issue a public apology to all OFWs.
Marcos said he believes a public apology is necessary to correct whatever adverse impression the controversy had made on the positive image of the OFWS, modern-day heroes, according to the government.
“I am sure Commissioner Lina would understand the need to correct such misimpression because the jobs and collective image of our workers may be at stake,” he explained.
It was the senator’s father, the late former President Ferdinand Marcos, who issued an Executive Order granting OFWs–then referred to as overseas contract workers (OCWs)–the right to bring or send home tax-free care packages to their families provided the contents were not of commercial quantity.
Balikbayan Box Bill not a priority
President Benigno Aquino 3rd is in no rush to certify as urgent any proposal to enact a Balikbayan Box Law as there are other more important pieces of legislation that need to be passed in time, Malacañang said also on Wednesday.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said while they welcome Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto’s proposal, lack of time could hamper its early passage.
“It’s good that Senator Recto came up with that so that it can be discussed for the first time since the time it was implemented. It is high time for our lawmakers to review and identify the amendments that are needed,” Coloma explained.
“We will study the proposal so we can come up with a correct position on the issue,” he said.
The Recto bill seeks to raise the tax-exemption value of the contents of a balikbayan box from $500 to $2,000.
CBCP not impressed
THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is not impressed with Aquino’s action on the balikbayan box controversy.
Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos also on Wednesday said the President’s directive was only an afterthought that was meant to appease an irate nation, particularly the millions of OFWs.
“The Aquino government lacks compassion and respect for the OFWs,” according to Santos, chairman of the Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of the CBCP.
“If we did not raise our voice and concerned citizens did not protest, the government might have pursued it,” he said.
The bishop also joined calls for an investigation of the allegedly missing P145 million budget for X-ray machines.
With JOEL M. SY EGCO AND WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL