The ACTS-OFW party-list group kicked off on Thursday its representatives’ bid for Congress in the May 2016 elections as it vowed to continue its fight for greater protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare of millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide.
John Bertiz, official spokesman for the group, said the OFW sector, which has always been heralded as the country’s modern-day heroes, has a great stake in choosing the new set of national leaders in the next six years.
“The millions of hardworking overseas Filipinos across the world are more than determined to have their voices heard in these elections. It is about time that we stand united in effecting government policies that impact on our lives and our families,” he added.
“Although many of us may be residing or working abroad, we are actively participating in this democratic exercise so that we would no longer be ignored in making important policy decisions in our government, especially in Congress,” Bertiz said.
Of the estimated 10-12 million overseas Filipinos, only 1.4 million of them are considered registered or qualified to vote under the 2003 Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Law.
Official period of voting under OAV Law starts from April 8 and ends on May 8.
Bertiz, a second-generation OFW in Saudi Arabia, noted how the OFW sector has not been consulted in the past on policies that affect them and address itheir concerns and problems, especially among the vulnerable sector.
“Our votes are as important and significant as the rest of the 54-million Filipino electorate. We contribute substantially to our economy through our annual remittances, and we should be consulted in every step of the government’s decision-making,” he said.
Among the issues that the OFW sector wants to be resolved include include exemption to pay the P550 airport terminal fee, safety and integrity of the balikbayan (returnee) boxes, protection against tanim-bala (bullet-planting) extortion rackets at airports and illegal medical referral decking system of Gulf Cooperation Council Accredited Medical Clinics Associations.
The ACTS (Alliance for Community Transformation and Service)-OFW party-list group is a coalition of land-based and sea-based OFW organizations and individual advocates committed to protect the rights and promote the welfare of the OFWs and their families here and abroad.
Its nominees are former and present OFWs.
They are Jun Adorna of ACTS Inc., John Bertiz of the OFW Advocates Coalition, Venancio Legaspi of Saudi Arabia-based NGO Patnubay, Nelson Ramirez of the United Filipino Seafarers, Ernesto Maceda of ACTS Inc. and Noli Pacquaio of ACTS Inc.
Founded in 2010, the ACTS-OFW party-list group has been providing scholarship grants to deserving OFW children, technology and skills trainins, jobs and livelihood opportunities.
It also leads in the fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking and helps in repatriation and reintegration of distressed OFWs.