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Author Topic: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs  (Read 3327 times)

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By Nancy C. Carvajal
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The United States government has accused the founder and president of Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI), a group that has won international accolades for its campaign against human trafficking, of failing to account for P210 million in US aid, the National Bureau of Investigation said.

Based on the complaint of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the NBI has recommended the prosecution in the Department of Justice of VFFI president Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, according to NBI antifraud chief  Rachel Marfil-Angeles.
The VFFI provides education, shelter and psychological help to victims of trafficking. It receives funds from international donors such as the USAID, the US Department of State, Bill Gates Foundation and  Starbucks.

The NBI also recommended the filing of charges against VFFI directors, finance officers, bookkeepers and other employees.
Angeles said charges of falsification of documents were filed against the respondents on September 6, based on the complaint of Daniel Altman (special agent in charge of the [Europe and Asia] Office of the Inspector General-USAID), the testimony of two whistle-blowers and boxes of falsified documents seized in a raid on the VFFI office in Cubao, Quezon City.

The whistle-blowers said VFFI fabricated the receipts and contracts to justify the expenses charged against the P300 million donated by the USAID.
Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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hubag bohol

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2012, 04:20:00 PM »
Hala! Bisan sa pangalan lang daan sa foundation kadakong tamparos kanatong mga Bisaya kon tinuod man ugaling...

:P
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2012, 04:22:06 PM »
The United States government has accused the founder and president of Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI), a group that has won international accolades for its campaign against human trafficking, of failing to account for P210 million in US aid, the National Bureau of Investigation said.

Usa bitaw nis nag-unang grupo with this advocacy. Makabangon pa ba kaha...
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2012, 04:23:56 PM »
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2012, 04:33:13 PM »
VFFI is indeed an exemplary group:

Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda of the Visayan Forum Foundation is the first person to win the Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor, a new honor bestowed by the U.S. Department of Labor. Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda was presented with the award by Kristie Kenny, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines.

In 2005, Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda of the Visayan Forum Foundation received the Anti-Slavery Award from Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organization.

In 2009, the Visayan Forum Foundation was awarded the Eduardo Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution. --Wiki
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

TubagBohol.com with Ligalig Mike Ortega

Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2012, 04:33:13 PM »

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2012, 04:39:26 PM »


‘What I'm fighting for today is an extension of what I fought for before’





SHE CROUCHED in the foxhole that she and loyal Berto had dug with their bare hands, breathing heavily as she tried to fit her eight-month pregnant body sideways into its shallow hold. Above the roar of gunfire, she could hear the invading soldiers shout out the name that had come to be identified with her.

At near sundown, Berto, a former soldier from Mindanao who had defected to the New People's Army (NPA) and sort of acted as her security, crept up to her from his own foxhole. "We have to leave." She nodded. She knew it was only a matter of time before the soldiers discovered them. Berto said, "I'll cover you as you make your way up the hill." He had just fired two shots when a barrage of mortar fire rained down on them. Before her eyes, she saw her trusted aide dissolve into a mass of blood.

It was over in a matter of seconds. As the jubilant soldiers led her down the hill, some CAFGU (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit) members began grabbing at her long hair and snipping off some strands. They had captured the famed Kumander Liway and every lock was worthy of an amulet.

Today the long tresses are gone. Yet the memories remain, even if Ma. Cecilia Flores Oebanda, 46, has come a long way since that fateful day in September 1982, when the military overran her guerrilla camp in an eight-hour gunbattle in the mountainous interior of Hinobaan, part of the chain of six towns in Negros Occidental called CHICKS, where poverty and insurgency had long fed on each other.

At her air-conditioned office, a long shelf displays a collection of plaques and pictures that portray a new life. Occupying pride of place is a big frame that reads "Anti-Slavery Award, 2005." Last November 29, Oebanda received the award from Anti-Slavery International in London for the pioneering work of the Visayan Forum among the Philippines' modern-day slaves — the domestic helpers who are forced to work in Filipino households for little or no pay and are constantly at the mercy of their employers.

Oebanda is the president, executive director, and moving spirit behind the Visayan Forum. Set up in 1990 by former political prisoners and activists from the Visayas, the NGO evolved from discussing the plight of the four million Visayans in Metro Manila to focusing on internal migrants from the Visayan region and elsewhere, many of whom are female and employed as maids.

Instead of organizing poor peasants and indigenous tribes that once filled up her days, Oebanda now devotes her time and energy to making visible a sector whose lowly, scattered, and hidden plight has kept them from the public eye. She is especially proud of the formation in 1995 of Sumapi, the first domestic workers' association in the Philippines.

The rise of NGOs, fuelled largely by activists who were in the anti-Marcos movement, is one of the major developments in the post-EDSA era. Like other activists formerly in the underground who have directed their energies to NGOs, Oebanda sees this route as a valid way of working for social reforms.

"I see my work as an instrument of social transformation," she says. "I think protecting the domestic workers, teaching them their rights, providing them empowerment in terms of recognizing their worth in society through their economic contributions, somehow, it's part of the social transformation we fight for today to achieve in our country, but at another level, another approach. What I'm fighting for today, I see as an extension of what I fought for before."
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2012, 04:40:23 PM »




OEBANDA'S OWN personal struggle began in the slums of Bacolod City, where her family lived. Her father was illiterate and her mother was sickly. The second and eldest girl of 12 children, she started working at the age of five.

"I helped sell fish and I was also a scavenger along with my siblings," she says. "Until now when I talk of hardship, I can still feel the warm drippings down my face from the basket of fish that I carried on my head. I can still smell the stench of the garbage that clung to my clothes and my skin. That's my history, that gives me all the reflection that no matter how hard you work, if you come from a very poor family, you have a very slim chance of getting out of that situation."

But a combination of innate intelligence, diligent study, and swimming skills honed in the waters of the Bacolod wharf enabled the young girl to get out of the morass of poverty. "What I appreciated most with my parents, especially my mother, was that they valued education," says Oebanda. "I remember that even if my slippers were of different colors, one red, the other yellow, she required us to go to school." She made it to the Negros Occidental National Provincial High School, a top pilot school.

A swimming scholarship then got her to the Colegio de San Agustin in Bacolod, but she would be unable to finish her commerce course "because I was at a rally almost every day." Her faith and spirituality, a legacy from her religious mother (who would die later while Oebanda was up in the mountains), had found a new dimension in the teachings of liberation theology. She became an organizer for basic Christian communities as well as other sectors. But a crackdown in Bacolod in 1976 forced her to flee to the mountainous far south of Negros where the then fledgling NPA, made up of young students and other idealists, had found a home among the poor in the CHICKS area.

It was in these hinterlands, in the midst of meetings and more mass organizing where she met her husband, who was into education work. It was here where she bore her first child and experienced the agony of leaving him in the care of relatives to protect him from her dangerous life. It was also here where stories about the young, beautiful, and gutsy "Kumander Liway," one of three women leaders of the Negros underground movement, spread throughout the island. It was here as well where she was captured together with her husband that fateful day 23 years ago.

In the four years they would spend in jail at the regional constabulary headquarters in Iloilo City, she recalls, "Every time I went to sleep, I felt there were fireworks exploding in front of me, and the face of Berto would appear. I would struggle to breathe and I would wake up crying."

It was the memory of Berto's ultimate sacrifice as well as of the people who had made her life in the mountains possible, that kept her resolve. "What I can't forget and appreciate to this day is, no matter how hard life was, the masses followed us wherever we went," she says. "They would cook yams for us, or boil eggs. During the times when the military operations were particularly intense, but you had a chance to pass by their huts, they welcomed you. Even the seeds they were to plant, they would cook into food for you. Actually, this was my motivation. That if I owed loyalty to anyone, it was to the masses."
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

hubag bohol

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2012, 04:42:25 PM »



ON FEBRUARY 26, 1986, Oebanda, along with other political prisoners across the country, was released from jail. But the stresses of prison life and her decision to personally attend to her growing brood and make them her topmost priority had put a strain on her marriage. She and her husband eventually parted ways.

With four children in tow, including two who had been born in jail, she struggled to make a new life in Manila. She was able to put her kids through school with the help of supportive brothers who had made it good. But the call of service was already in her blood and too strong to ignore. The Ormoc tragedy in 1991, which killed 8,000 people in huge flashfloods and landslides, sparked the first joint activity of the Visayan Forum, which was now drawing more of her time. Tapping a growing circle of contacts among Visayan professionals and students in Metro Manila, they were able to send three planeloads of relief goods and supplies to Ormoc, Leyte.

This was also the time when cases of abused housemaids began being brought to the Forum's attention. Oebanda recounts cases of eight year olds whom they had rescued, their backs and thighs pressed with a hot iron by their employer. There were also cases of rape, those whose bodies were burned with cigarette butts, or sprayed with a fire extinguisher. She say, "I was like an umang, a crab, who had a backpack with me wherever I went, and planted myself wherever there was some vacant place in an office where I could make use of a computer to document these cases."

Today the Visayan Forum now has its own national office in Manila — plus a network of over 70 staff workers, six regional offices, and seven project areas at strategic locations around the highways and ports. Its program provides crisis services to child domestics and exploited adult househelp, such as a telephone hotline, medical and legal assistance, and shelters.

"Our focus is child domestics because of their vulnerability, but our advocacy is for the whole sector," says Oebanda. The Intenational Labor Organization estimates that locally, 2.5 million women work as domestic helpers in private households, constituting 14 percent of total wage earners in the private sector. More than 250,000 are hired overseas legally. The National Statistics Office reports around 300,000 children working as domestic help.

While her current work keeps her busy, Oebanda says she has no bitterness or regret over her years spent in the movement. She muses, "The stages of my life are written and carved in the names of my children — Eric, who is his father's junior; Kip, which is short for "dakip" or capture; Malaya, which means freedom; and Ani, which means harvest because she was born just after Edsa 1."

And through her work among the most silent and neglected by society, Oebanda has added more children to her brood, giving them a name and a face for everybody to see. — Fides Lim

Copyright © 2005 All rights reserved.
PHILIPPINE CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

hubag bohol

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2012, 04:44:09 PM »
Note: I read this article with fascination when it first came out. Sharing it with you, guys...
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2012, 05:21:03 PM »
mao man ning mga aktibista kono. pagmakasapi na, mausob ang idolohiya. malimtan na ang marcha-marcha kay busy na sa pagkwenta sa kwarta. ;D
Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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hubag bohol

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2012, 05:33:10 PM »
Pait palandongon, pero ubay-ubay pud kog mga kaila ang ingon ani ang gidangatan sa ilang kinabuhi...

:P
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2012, 05:50:43 PM »
dili diaw human trafficking ang advocacy ani, hubagz, kon dili "cash trafficking." ;D
Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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islander

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2012, 07:44:18 AM »
the other side, thankfully by the same news writer.

NGO founder ‘shocked’ at USAID rap of funds misuse

By Nancy C. Carvajal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
September 15th, 2012


MANILA, Philippines—An emotional Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda on Friday denied the charges filed against her by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for allegedly falsifying documents to hide the misuse of at least P210 million ($5 million) in funds donated to the Visayas Forum Foundation Inc. (VFFI), a nongovernmental organization she founded in 1991.

The VFFI president said she was “shocked by the malicious attack” on the NGO  that she had “built for 20 years with blood, sweat and tears,” but vowed to “continue to provide services for victims of exploitation and human trafficking” (and allow) “our body of work to speak for itself.”
Republic Act 8485 (Animal Welfare Act of 1998, Philippines), as amended and strengthened by House  Bill 6893 of 2013--- violation means a maximum of P250,000 fine with a corresponding three-year jail term and a minimum of P30,000 fine and six months imprisonment

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2012, 07:45:07 AM »
The USAID asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in August to probe the foundation over funds for the group’s projects that it said were missing.

“We have recommended to the Department of Justice the filing of charges of falsification of documents. More serious charges could follow,” said NBI antigraft chief Rachel Marfil-Angeles.

Angeles said the findings were backed by external auditors hired by USAID, which checked disbursements to the foundation covering the period 2005 to 2011.
Republic Act 8485 (Animal Welfare Act of 1998, Philippines), as amended and strengthened by House  Bill 6893 of 2013--- violation means a maximum of P250,000 fine with a corresponding three-year jail term and a minimum of P30,000 fine and six months imprisonment

islander

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2012, 07:47:41 AM »
Leading antitrafficking group

The foundation, considered the leading Philippine group in the fight against human trafficking, had also received financial support from international companies Starbucks and Microsoft.

Its founder has been tapped as an adviser to the Philippine government as it seeks removal from an international watch list where human trafficking remains rampant.

Angeles said the NBI has asked the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for records pertaining to VFFI, including those of the group’s beneficiaries.

“The auditor in her initial findings said there were indications of lack of beneficiaries and discrepancy in records submitted to other government agencies,” the NBI antigraft head said, adding that the result of one audit showed that the VFFI had listed 100 victims rescued, while the DSWD record only showed 30.

The VFFI, Angeles said, is a member of the IACAT whose members also include Vice President Jejomar Binay and the NBI.

Oebanda said she felt betrayed by the action of the US development agency, a partner of the VFFI in its antihuman trafficking campaign, but promised to clear the foundation’s name in court.
Republic Act 8485 (Animal Welfare Act of 1998, Philippines), as amended and strengthened by House  Bill 6893 of 2013--- violation means a maximum of P250,000 fine with a corresponding three-year jail term and a minimum of P30,000 fine and six months imprisonment

islander

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2012, 07:49:00 AM »
Funding suspended

In a phone interview on Friday, Oebanda said the VFFI was a USAID partner for more than six years but funding was suspended without prior discussion three weeks ago.  She added that she received a letter from USAID officials saying that their funding was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

Oebanda also clarified that what was being audited was USAID funding worth P97 million, not P210 million, which the VFFI received from 2005 to 2011.

Oebanda said she was thinking of returning the awards given her by the US for her pioneering work.

In 2005, the US Department of State recognized the VFFI as exemplifying one of the international best practices for its antitrafficking partnership with the Philippine government and private shipping companies, and cited its founding president and executive director for the impact of her work.

In 2008, Oebanda was named by the same US department as one of its Heroes Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery in its Trafficking in Persons Report. The US Department of Labor also presented her the first Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor in 2010.

The former leftist rebel known as “Kumander Liway” in the mountains of Negros in the late 1970s has denied NBI findings that a big portion of the money donated by the USAID to the VFFI is missing.
Republic Act 8485 (Animal Welfare Act of 1998, Philippines), as amended and strengthened by House  Bill 6893 of 2013--- violation means a maximum of P250,000 fine with a corresponding three-year jail term and a minimum of P30,000 fine and six months imprisonment

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2012, 07:50:57 AM »
Money accounted for

“The money was all accounted for and spent on beneficiaries, contrary to what they are saying,” she said.

Oebanda said the statement of the whistle-blower about her ordering that receipts be faked “were not true.”  She also denied that 32 boxes full of fake receipts were taken from the VFFI office.

“Audit was still on-going and the auditors did not present to us their findings so we could explain our side,” she said, adding that aside from the audit, “a parallel impact evaluation is also being done and (would) involve third person testimonies. (This) will show the Visayan Forum’s activities and contradict allegations (that there were) no beneficiaries.”

The VFFI official said she was looking forward to the hearing of the case so she could face her accusers and clear the foundation’s name.

“We are ready. We are not hiding anything,” Oebanda said.

Oebanda also dismissed as an “intrigue-sower” the whistle-blower who reported the alleged anomalies to USAID.

“She was with (VFFI) for four years, and when she was still here she was described as intrigera,” she said.

The charges have apparently started to worry some of VFFI beneficiaries.  A survivor of human trafficking interviewed by Inquirer said she was concerned that the controversy would affect the help extended her by the foundation.

“I was 14 when I was rescued by VFFI from a cybersex den. I am now 19  and studying (to be a) social worker in Philippine Christian University,” she said.

“Paano na ang mga katulad namin na tinutulungan ng foundation.  Sa mga sinabi nila, baka magsara ang foundation (What will happen to us now?  The charges might close down the foundation),” she said.

The foundation’s headquarters in a residential area in Cubao, Quezon City, is inside a compound where new two buildings are separated by a small garden.

VFFI employees hold office in a three-story building, while the other building is the foundation’s livelihood learning center, said the VFFI staff. With reports from Jhunnex Napallacan and Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; and AFP

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/
Republic Act 8485 (Animal Welfare Act of 1998, Philippines), as amended and strengthened by House  Bill 6893 of 2013--- violation means a maximum of P250,000 fine with a corresponding three-year jail term and a minimum of P30,000 fine and six months imprisonment

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2012, 02:57:51 PM »
Kinsa kahay namakak? Si Oebanda? Or ang USAID?
Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2012, 08:13:43 PM »
However this issue will eventually be solved, wingig na tawon ang foundation... :P
...than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

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Re: Visayan Forum Foundation VFFI Scandal Sets Bad Example for Philippine NGOs
« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2012, 08:39:30 PM »
Oebanda said she was shocked over the allegation by USAID. Di ba kaha na-shock kay nasakspan ra gyud?
Romans 8:38-39
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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