Group vows ties with Visayan Forum to remain-A A +A
Sunday, September 16, 2012
AN OFFICIAL of the Regional Inter-agency Council against Trafficking (Riacat) said Sunday that its partnership with the Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI) is not affected amid allegation of fraud hurled against the institution by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).
Regional prosecutor Antonio Arellano, chair of Riacat, said he was saddened by this report, but their battle against human trafficking in the region will not be hampered.
Instead, he said his group, together with the Visayan Forum, has to beef up their campaign against trafficking.
"VF (Visayan Forum Foundation Inc.) is VF. It is already an institution with track record in human rights and dignity advocacy. Besides the issue raised is now a legal issue. Let the due process take its course," Arellano said Sunday.
"In the meantime, the evil of human trafficking lurks in the dark corners of our community, thus the fight against this modern form of human slavery should not lose steam. With more reason that now the advocacy should intensify! More should join and take the cudgels," he said.
Arellano said there is no money dealings involved between the Riacat and Riaction.
The USAid complained against VFFI president and executive director Ma. Cecilia Flores Oebanda for allegedly failing to account for P210 million in aid and for submitting fake receipts.
In a separate interview through e-mails, Peter John Cabanilla, VF regional coordinator for Davao region, said they are shock and sad of the allegations against them.
"What I'm worried about is the facilitation of our services because the funds from the USAid, which is the bulk of it ay sa mga halfway houses operation namin, ay freeze sa ngayon," Cabanilla said, adding they have eight centers all over the Philippines.
He said their halfway house in the region is located at the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) compound in KM. 10, Sasa, Davao City.
He said it is a partnership of PPA-Gender and Development, which provided the building and equipment, and Visayan Forum, which provided by the manpower.
He said the organization's anti-trafficking program, including the involvement of task forces and anti-trafficking formations in Davao Region, is funded by the USAid since 2005.
He said the financial support of the USAid is "enough to sustain the operation of the Halfway House in Davao when it comes to sheltering, life skills training, repatriations and Anti-trafficking trainings, seminars, capacity building to the multi-sectoral partners and creating task forces at the ports."
"Definitely, this would blemish our advocacy in the whole country. Kaya ang panawagan namin wag sanang husgahan ang VF. There are a lot of people who chuan attest to our good existence, especially our partners and the victims we served," Cabanilla said.
In a press statement, Oebanda said they feel "betrayed by the lack of due process and the rush to judgment," claiming the final audit findings were not presented to them and they were not given a chance to clarify and explain their side.
"We will vindicate ourselves in our courts of law," Oebanda said.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 17, 2012.