Palace letter addresses Pichay as OWWA chief

MANILA, Philippines – A memorandum from Malacaňang Palace addressing losing senatorial candidate Prospero Pichay as administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has caused an aspirant for the post and his campaigners to pull out of the race in dismay.

The memorandum bearing the signature of Assistant Secretary Ma. Lourdes P. Varona, head of Malacaňang’s correspondence office, referred to “Administrator Pichay” an e-mail by a Filipino community leader in Riyadh requesting review of the “pending and aging cases of OFWs filed in Philippine embassies, consulates and labor offices in the Middle Eastern region.

Rashid Fabricante’s e-mail was dated August 6 and Varona’s memorandum was dated Aug. 7 and released on Aug. 11. A digital copy of the memorandum was circulated via e-mails.

Memo address to Mr. Pichay

Memo address to Mr. Pichay

 A check with Malacaňang’s Correspondence Office on Friday revealed that the letter was genuine but there was nothing definite about Pichay’s appointment.

Liam Tinio, presidential staff officer of the correspondence office, said that at the time the memorandum was written, “it was announced that Pichay would be taking over OWWA.”

Tinio did not elaborate on who made the announcement but he said he called OWWA office and was told that the officer-in-charge was still Albert Valenciano.

“This can be considered as a wrong address,” Tinio said.

GMANews.TV also checked with the OWWA and learned that Valenciano was in charge. Calls to the administrator’ s office were not answered.

The top OWWA post was vacated with the recent permanent designation of Marianito Roque as labor secretary.

Pichay’s name as Roque’s replacement cropped up last month as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo started appointing her losing senatorial candidates in the 2007 elections to key posts in government.

Among the senatorial election losers who were given key posts were Mike Defensor as head of a task force at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). He later relinquished the post alleged amid infighting with other officials sidelined by his appointment.

Another loser was Ralph Recto, who was named socio-economic planning secretary and director general of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

Because of the Palace memorandum to “Administrator Pichay,” a Riyadh-based medical doctor being endorsed by various OFW groups withdrew his nomination to the top OWWA post.

“Thank you for all the support. I cannot forget your efforts although everybody knows what would be the outcome. As I told you from the beginning we have a very slim chance of being appointed,” said a part of Dr. Mohamad Carlito Astillero’s e-mail to his supporters.

Francis Oca of the OFW Congress in Riyadh suspected that the Palace memorandum “smells of a ploy orchestrated by some hidden hand to divide the OFW community supporting the nomination of Dr. Astillero.”

Oca noted that the date of the memo was August 6, the time the supposed screening committee headed by former Labor Secretary Pat Sto. Tomas was just looking into the “qualifications” of the nominees.

“We feel something is wrong with this whole scenario, including the sudden launching of an Online Petition in Kuwait supporting the nomination of Angelo Jimenez,” he said, referring to OWWA’s deputy administrator whose online nomination was reportedly endorsed by many placement agencies. – GMANews.TV