YEARENDER: Binay pursues advocacies for poor, migrant workers
Ghio Ong, Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - January 10, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - He quit the Cabinet and broke away from the administration, and his son was ousted as mayor of Makati over corruption accusations.

The past year was not the best for Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family.

But despite his resignation as housing czar and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns last June, Binay said he remains committed to advocating the rights of migrant workers and providing shelter to the poor.

The Office of the Vice President (OVP) provided assistance to 2,083 distressed OFWs and their families in 2015. Of this figure, 1,461 OFWs received assistance after Binay quit the Aquino Cabinet.

The OVP has also made 1,626 referrals on myriad concerns such as legal assistance, labor issues, repatriation of human remains, benefits claims, medical assistance and grievances against employers, recruiters and agents. Most of the referrals or 1,403 were done from June to November.

“It was a year we doubled our efforts on the ground, with the VP setting the pace for everyone,” said Joey Salgado, head of media affairs.

As adviser for OFW affairs, Binay interceded with foreign governments to ask for reprieve for Filipino migrants on death row.

Binay personally appealed to the Indonesian government to spare Mary Jane Veloso’s life.

Veloso, a single mother of two, was sentenced to death by the Sieman District Court in October 2010 for attempting to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia from Malaysia. She was given a reprieve last April 29.

Last June, Marilou Ranario returned home after she was saved from the death penalty in Kuwait. She was detained for 10 years for killing her employer.

“The OVP continued to cater to OFWs or their families who sought the Vice President’s help. This was due to the Vice President’s directive to never turn away anyone who asked for his help,” Salgado said.

Binay, who faces various corruption allegations, resigned from the Cabinet on June 22, a week after President Aquino ruled out endorsing him for the 2016 presidential race.

Low-cost housing

As chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, Binay had facilitated the rehabilitation of families affected by natural and man-made calamities.

As of April 2015, more than 220,600 families benefited either from permanent housing units or home materials assistance.

Under Pag-IBIG Fund’s Home Lending Program, a total of P182 billion worth of housing loans or equivalent to 254,201 housing units were approved from July 2010 to May 2015.

From July 2010 to May 2015, the Home Guaranty Corp. approved P188.85 billion worth of housing loans equivalent to 149,986 housing units.

With Binay at the helm, a total of P50 billion worth of housing program was released by the Socialized Housing Finance Corp. and the National Housing Authority for informal settler families living in high risk areas in Metro Manila.

As of April 2015, the NHA and the SHFC have provided housing for 78,601 out of the targeted 104,129 informal settler families.

The OVP has also provided medical and burial assistance amounting to P93.6 million and P1.3 million, respectively.

 ‘Ups and downs’

An official of the Binay-chaired United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) described 2015 as a year of ups and downs for the Vice President.

UNA spokesman Mon Ilagan said despite the continued political persecution Binay and his family experienced this year, the Vice President remained steadfast in his dream of uplifting the lives of Filipinos.

Ilagan said Binay’s immersion with the people especially the poor strengthens his resolve to seek the presidency this year.

“He knows what the people really need because he mingles with them,” Ilagan said of the Vice President’s frequent visits to provinces.

Ilagan said the Vice President has never stopped helping OFWs, whom he considers the real economic drivers.

Binay has regained his lead in the latest presidential surveys conducted by Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Stations.

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