During the past two years, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay acted in various capacities, having been entrusted by President Benigno Aquino III with advisory, coordinative, as well as executive functions in three important areas: overseas Filipino workers, the President’s campaign against illegal recruitment and trafficking, and housing. The Vice President also extended social services through the various programs of the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
Hereunder are the significant accomplishments by Vice President Binay in these areas, towards the ultimate goal of a better life for Filipinos at home and abroad.
Reuniting OFWs with their families
As the President’s chief adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ concerns, Vice President Binay understands why Filipinos chose to leave their families in search for high-paying jobs abroad. At the same time, he recognized that government must ensure that their rights and welfare are protected while striving to generate sufficient jobs at home to make overseas employment an option rather than a necessity.
“Our migrant workers deserve all the support, attention and care from the government and their fellow Filipinos,” he said.
In his foreign trips, even when the official purpose was not related to OFWs, the Vice President always managed to squeeze in a meeting or two with Filipino communities despite his hectic schedule. Vice President Binay wanted to learn firsthand the concerns of the Filipino migrant workers as well as their living and working conditions.
In his trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in March 2011, the Vice President secured the nod of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud to repatriate 4,500 Filipinos. He also saw the plight of overstaying OFWs camped at the Hajj Seaport Terminal in Jeddah. He then requested President Benigno Aquino III to release around P24 million to fund their immediate repatriation.
Vice President Binay also secured preferential rates with Etihad Airlines for the flights of 799 OFWs from the Hajj Terminal. They flew home in batches from June 1 to 8, 2011, with the Vice President welcoming them upon their arrival.
In October 2011, he went back to Saudi to attend the burial of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz on behalf of President Aquino. There he learned from Ambassador Ezzedin Tago that more than 1,000 “overstayers” at the Hajj Terminal had already returned to the Philippines.
To further assist migrant Filipinos, the Vice President created the OVP OFW Special Concerns Unit. From the requests received by the OVP, 22 OFWs have been repatriated from 2011 to the present. This included Alfredo Salmos.
Salmos sustained severe burns in his body after being accidentally electrocuted in Saudi Arabia in 2010. The Vice President learned of Salmos’ condition through comments in his Facebook account (www.facebook.com/JCBinay). He then coordinated with consulate officials in Jeddah and secured the necessary clearances for Salmos to leave the Kingdom and come home on May 22, 2012.
Aside from repatriation efforts, Vice President Binay also helped reconcile the families of OFWs Jonard Langamin and Robertson Mendoza. Langamin killed Mendoza during a work-related dispute in Saudi. Through the intercession of the Vice President, the Mendoza family granted its forgiveness to Langamin, saving him from the death penalty.
The Vice President and a technical working group had finalized the guidelines on blood money or diyyah, which is paid as compensation for the private aspect of the crimes of murder, homicide and manslaughter committed by Filipinos in Arab nations. The guidelines are currently awaiting the approval of President Aquino.
Furthermore, citing humanitarian reasons, Vice President Binay in December 2011 appealed for the stay of the execution of a Filipino convicted of drug trafficking in China. He said it would be painful to the victim’s family and would dampen the Filipino people's spirits during the Yuletide season. However, the sentence was carried out as scheduled on December 8.
Revival of the au pair program
When the Vice President went to Sweden in July last year, he learned from Ambassador Ma. Zenaida Angara-Collinson the desire of the Filipino community in Lund to lift the deployment ban on Filipino au pairs.
“Au pair” is a French term that translates to “on par” or “equal to.” Filipinos under the au pair program “live on an equal basis in a reciprocal, caring relationship” with their host families, according to the Department of Labor and Employment.
Au pairs perform housework and child care. While not receiving a formal salary, they receive monetary allowance from their host families.
The Philippines stopped sending au pairs to Europe in 1997 after the Department of Foreign Affairs received reports of maltreatment including unfair compensation, excessive working hours, discrimination and sexual assault.
Vice President Binay met with concerned government agencies to discuss the possible lifting of the ban. He believed that the au pair program would provide more employment opportunities for Filipinos and raise additional revenues for the government.
In February 2012, the Vice President announced the passage of new guidelines on the departure of Filipino au pairs.
“The new guidelines we have put in place will now facilitate the departure of Filipino au pairs and provide them with safety nets for their protection without restricting their rights to self-improvement,” he said.
In June this year, Vice President Binay also recommended to President Aquino that like OFWs, Filipino au pairs should also be exempted from paying travel tax and airport terminal fee.
Protecting Filipinos from trafficking and illegal recruitment
Vice President Binay is both chairman emeritus of the Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and chairman of the Presidential Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (PTFAIR). In these capacities, he made significant efforts in coordinating with various government agencies and law enforcement divisions to intensify the fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
The IACAT, as lead entity against human trafficking, coordinated and monitored the trafficking cases filed in court. By 2012, the IACAT secured 44 convictions for trafficking-related cases with a total of 58 persons convicted.
The IACAT Operations Center was also created during the Vice President’s second year in office, along with the establishment of a permanent IACAT office at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.
Furthermore, the IACAT launched the 1343 Actionline, providing a venue for individuals to report human trafficking activities locally and overseas. For 2011, the Actionline received 7,177 calls, resulting in 68 actual cases. The case calls made to the Actionline have also been instrumental in the repatriation of 111 trafficking victims.
In January 2012, the Vice President ordered the mandatory interview for all OFW repatriates from Syria, after IACAT discovered that a repatriate was a minor using another’s passport to pass herself off as over 30 years old.
With this discovery, the IACAT instituted several measures to combat human trafficking and illegal recruitment. Airport officials were ordered to scrutinize travel documents of exiting Filipinos to ensure that they went through legal channels and left for proper purposes. Those who attempt to leave for employment without proper documentation and visas, or those who leave under dubious circumstances were offloaded and denied exit.
To institutionalize this, IACAT crafted and subsequently implemented in January 2012 the New Guidelines on the Departure Formalities for International Bound Passengers in all Airports and Seaports.
“The offloading policy has contributed to our gains in the drive against trafficking,” the Vice President said, adding that the new guidelines sought to balance the right to travel with the intensified campaign against human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
Meanwhile, as head of the PTFAIR, the Vice President also took an active role in combating illegal recruitment.
In May this year, he led the closure of a recruitment agency whose license was cancelled due to collection of excessive placement fees. A month after, he announced the filing of 29 illegal recruitment cases against agencies and persons recruiting Filipinos to work in Syria despite a government ban. Show-cause orders were also filed against 25 Bureau of Immigration personnel for their alleged involvement in the illegal smuggling of Filipinos.
“This shows that our government is serious and sincere in its efforts to protect our kababayans and bring to justice those who try to take advantage of them,” the Vice President said.
However, he also cautioned Filipinos planning to work abroad to go through legal channels to avoid falling victims to trafficking and illegal recruitment syndicates.
“I am asking our kababayans, for their own safety, not to accept any employment offers in Syria. Your lives are not worth any amount of money that you may potentially earn there,” he said.
For 2011, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration received 106 cases of illegal recruitment, where 29 OFWs were assisted and sanctions placed against their licensed recruitment agencies. POEA also assisted 144 victims of illegal recruitment committed by unlicensed recruiters.
All these reforms led to the Philippines’ retaining its Tier 2 status in the 2012 Global Trafficking in Persons Report of the United States Department of State.
The report noted that “(t)he government made notable efforts to prevent trafficking, including through training public officials, strengthening and expanding structures to screen for trafficking indicators before Filipino migrant workers’ departure overseas, and negotiating bilateral agreements to protect its workers employed in foreign countries.”
"Our consistent performance is the result of the effective coordination of all member agencies of the IACAT," the Vice President said.
"We hope to sustain this consistency and improve upon our efforts to curb trafficking in persons in the country. We have taken note of the recommendations of the US State Department and will act on these at the soonest," he added.
Education for the youth
Having risen from humble beginnings, Vice President Binay says he owes much of his success from the education he earned in the Philippine public school system. His conviction that education is the greatest social equalizer informs much of his priorities in his current capacities. For instance, he has allotted part of his P200 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for a scholarship grant-in-aid program for deserving students.
In 2011, the Vice President signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and representatives of State Colleges and Universities (SCUs) in the country. The MOA indicated that Binay’s office, through CHED, will provide P9,000 annual educational assistance to 10 scholars for each of the 109 SCUs nationwide.
“We will give priority to those who will be enrolling in agriculture, education, commerce (entrepreneurship), engineering, and information technology,” he said.
The OVP also partnered with private learning institutions to provide more scholarship grants. Under the MOA, the OVP will endorse candidates for scholarship to AMA Computer University/ACLAC/ABE, St. Jude College & Medical Center, Manila Central University, Manila Business College and University of Batangas.
For School Year 2011-2012, 960 freshmen from SCUs and 30 from private institutions availed themselves of the program. The University of the Philippines-Diliman also listed two scholars from the School of Urban and Regional Planning, and five from the College of Law.
For SY 2012-2013, the OVP earmarked P18 million from the first tranche of its PDAF to offer 2,200 scholarship grants to SCUs, including 20 slots for UP undergraduate students.
Serving the elderly and the marginalized
Also within the period, the Vice President acted on his advocacy for the welfare of the elderly.
“Our elderly links us to our past and serves as our guide towards the future. We should thank them for their valuable contributions to our country,” he said.
In 2011, Vice President Binay allotted P150 million of his PDAF for the construction and repair of 300 senior citizen centers nationwide. For the first tranche of his 2012 PDAF, his office also set aside P50 million for the same purpose. The centers serve as venues for assemblies, recreational and sports activities and medical missions for the elderly.
Aside from caring for the elderly, the Vice President also sought to provide social and health services as well as livelihood assistance to families who have less in life, particularly those in 4th to 6th class municipalities.
Last year, the OVP earmarked P10 million to provide emergency and immediate relief assistance to indigent families affected by typhoons and other calamities. The VP personally led the relief operations in some areas, particularly in Bulacan after typhoon Pedring submerged a few towns as well as in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, both of which were severely affected by typhoon Sendong.
For the first tranche of 2012, the Vice President’s office also allocated P10 million for relief operations as well as other social services, including the provision of school supplies and burial assistance.
The OVP also held medical missions in and provided medicines and medical equipment to 4th to 6th class municipalities in the country. Vice President Binay’s office set aside P30 million for this purpose in 2011 and P12 million for the first tranche of 2012.
Lastly, the Vice President’s office, in partnership with the Technical Skills Development Authority, Department of Labor and Employment, and the concerned local government unit, sought to provide livelihood assistance to establish self-reliant families and individuals.
The OVP earmarked P10 million from its 2012 PDAF to hold specialty trainings and promote employment programs for micro and small scale entrepreneurship, focusing on dressmaking/sewing, cosmetology, hair-cut, reflexology, health and wellness, personal grooming (manicure, pedicure, etc), and cellular phone repair.
Partnerships for sustainable housing
The Vice President envisioned addressing the 3.6 million housing backlog within 10 years. However, he saw that for the housing sector to be able do so, it needs the support and assistance of various sectors.
In 2011, he led the launching of the Pabahay Caravan, a nationwide campaign aimed to enhance the partnership of the national government and the local government units (LGUs) in the delivery of housing services.
From Tuguegarao to Zamboanga, the Vice President and other housing officials presented the national government’s housing programs and services to LGUs. The housing czar encouraged the LGUs to partner with the key shelter agencies (KSAs), which could provide them with technical assistance and financing resources for their own housing projects.
“Pabahay Caravan is our way of coming to your doorsteps bearing the good news of housing. We offer the partnership of the national government in bringing the benefits of home ownership to your own constituents,” he told the LGU leaders.
The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), of which Binay is chairman of the board, introduced a cluster approach to fast-track the preparation or updating of Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs) and Zoning Ordinances (ZOs) of the LGUs.
The CLUP and the ZO identify land areas for residential—particularly socialized housing—agricultural, industrial, commercial and institutional purposes. They also incorporate measures for climate-change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction and mitigation.
From July 2010 to May 2012, HLURB assisted 977 LGUs with their CLUPs and ZOs. The agency exceeded the target of 665 for the same period and aims to reach zero backlog by 2013.
At the financing side, the KSAs also tied up with institutions to generate alternative funds, making it easier for beneficiaries to afford buying or building their own homes.
First, the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig) teamed up with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to create a credit facility wherein Pag-IBIG could administer GSIS funds for housing.
GSIS released an initial P5 billion to finance the housing loans of its members and pensioners through the Pag-IBIG Fund. At the same time, Pag-IBIG put up a special lane for GSIS members and pensioners to facilitate the processing of their housing loans.
Second, the Home Guaranty Corporation (HGC) provided guaranties to private banks and financial institutions to make their housing loans risk-free. This aimed to encourage them to participate actively in housing production. The HGC also extended its guaranty to rural banks and microfinance institutions to enable them to reach out to the low-income sector.
To date, HGC has provided retail and developmental guaranty on about P60 billion in housing loans of private financing institutions, translating into approximately 36,850 housing units.
Lastly, the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC) pursued its Housing Loan Receivables Purchase Program to liquefy private developers and generate capital for the housing sector. The NHMFC purchased mortgages and contract-to-sell from developers. These are then packaged into an asset pool for eventual issuance of securities or bonds, called the “Bahay Bonds,” for sale to the capital market.
The NHMFC has pooled receivables worth P915.173 million, equivalent to 4,516 housing units. The agency will securitize P600 million of these mortgages, and is set to issue and list the first retail housing-backed securities in August.
Meanwhile, the housing sector also joined forces with the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to further improve its programs and fast-track the delivery of its services.
In 2011, HUDCC’s collaboration with private developer and real estate groups resulted in the increased ceiling of house and lot acquisitions exempted from the value added tax (VAT) from P2.5 million to P3.19 million. Without the payment of the VAT, houses are made more affordable to the common Filipino.
The HLURB also recognized the contribution of NGOs in housing production. The agency considered the construction of socialized housing projects by accredited NGOs as a mode of compliance for the 20 percent balanced housing requirement. The HLURB also exempted them from the requirements of License to Sell.
Housing services for all
The Vice President aspired to enable all Filipino families to acquire homes they could call their own. He pushed for programs that would provide even low-income households with opportunities to avail the housing services of the government.
In 2011, the housing sector announced the first ever housing program for the Indigenous Peoples (IPs). The National Housing Authority (NHA) approved a P14 million funding to build an initial 350 homes for Aeta families in Floridablanca, Pampanga, with the provincial government providing counterpart funds. To date, 16 housing units have been completed.
Binay said the housing sector also intends to provide homes to Mangyans in Occidental Mindoro and other indigenous communities. He also directed HUDCC to tap the private sector to provide jobs and livelihood opportunities for IPs near their housing sites.
Meanwhile, Pag-IBIG expanded its membership to include public utility drivers and operators, as well as domestic workers.
In December last year, the Fund entered into a memorandum of understanding with six transport groups, giving an opportunity to drivers and operators to avail themselves of the Fund’s "rent-to-own program".
Under the program, the monthly rental paid for a house selected from Pag-IBIG will be used as downpayment in case the lessee decides to buy the house. The program is expected to benefit some 200,000 drivers and operators.
“The transport groups are instrumental in widening Pag-IBIG's membership base and disseminating knowledge on the Fund’s programs, especially that of saving,” Binay said, adding that an increase in membership translates into an increase in savings that will fund short-term and housing loans.
Pag-IBIG also opened its membership to domestic workers, allowing them the benefits of multi-purpose, calamity and housing loans upon completion of 24-monthly contributions.
Binay said employers are mandated to register their house help as members of Pag-IBIG and to pay a counterpart contribution. Domestic workers shall contribute one percent of their salary if they are earning P1,500 and below, and two percent for those earning P1,500 and above. Their employers are required to contribute two percent as counterpart.
Pag-IBIG also signed separate agreements with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA) for a Home-Matching and End-User Housing Loan program.
Pag-IBIG will regularly provide DepEd and PGEA with housing inventories. DepEd and PGEA, on the other hand, will furnish the Fund with a list of employees who do not own a house and their corresponding net disposable income. Intended beneficiaries may then avail themselves of the End-User Housing Loan, which offers low monthly amortizations and a salary deduction payment scheme.
Furthermore, President Aquino launched the Armed Forces of the Philippines/Philippine National Police Housing Program for military and police personnel. Phase 1 of the project, which was completed in February 2012, provided 21,000 housing units for police and soldiers in Metro Manila. Phase II involved the construction of 31,200 units in various sites in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and is expected to be completed in 2013.
Building climate change-resilient homes and sustainable communities
The Vice President pursued his belief that a house is not merely a four-walled structure with a roof. This structure should keep a family safe against natural elements, and serve as its nest for growth and development.
For this, the Vice President recognized the need to incorporate into housing plans and programs measures for climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction and mitigation.
HUDCC piloted a project with the UN-Habitat under the Millennium Development Goal-F 1656 Joint Programme, which designed a climate change-resilient human settlement in Sorsogon, a coastal city.
The initiative involved the localization of housing policies, guidelines on site planning, and house construction, with specific attention to local climate change scenarios, urban development and housing trends, and the capacity of the poor to cope with disasters and extreme events.
“Throughout the process, the LGU of the target community must engage the poor in defining risks and appropriate actions, taking particular account of the special needs of women, children and the elderly who are usually the least able to cope during calamities and emergencies,” Binay said.
The housing czar also identified the need to develop, integrate and promote indigenous and green building technology in the construction of houses. Under Binay’s direction, the housing sector started processing the accreditation of indigenous technologies for housing (AITECH). The plan on prototype projects to showcase to LGUs and private partners the use of green technology and its affordability is also underway.
In addition, HUDCC, through the assistance of the World Bank, is formulating the National Informal Settlements Upgrading Strategy (NISUS) that will be used to create a Comprehensive Shelter Plan for informal settler families (ISFs).
The shelter plan will ensure that ISFs will have access to basic social services such as schools, public markets, health care centers, and livelihood opportunities at the resettlement areas. It will guarantee that resettled families will have decent homes that will nurture their hopes and affirm their dignity.
Homes and jobs
From July 2010 to May 2012, the housing sector was able to provide security of tenure to nearly 200,140 households. Of this, almost 40 percent or 79,330 families belong to the low-income group and lived in or along identified danger or risk areas.
Also, based on estimates that one lot generated and one housing unit constructed provide work to at least eight persons, the consolidated housing production of the shelter agencies has resulted in the creation of 1.559 million job opportunities for urban and rural workers. This is on top of the 18 additional jobs generated in other sectors for every 100 jobs created in the construction industry.
Cleaning the house
In his two years as head of the HUDCC, Vice President Binay has been steadfast in pushing for reforms to facilitate efficient delivery of housing services and weed out corruption. Most notable of these is the filing of 27 counts of syndicated estafa against property developer Globe Asiatique (GA). Pag-IBIG also charged some of its officials involved in the scandal with administrative cases.
GA was found using ghost borrowers and fake documents to siphon more than P6 billion loans from Pag-IBIG. The Vice President monitored the progress of the case, the first major case involving misuse of public funds under the Aquino administration.
In May 2012, warrants of arrest were issued against GA owner Delfin Lee and his co-accused. However, Lee went into hiding and authorities failed to apprehend him.
“The victims of Globe Asiatique are demanding justice. I am disappointed that Delfin Lee remains at large a month after the court ordered his arrest,” the Vice President said.
Nonetheless, he remained optimistic that Lee will be caught soon and justice will be served.