Tulfo urges massive campaign vs. online scams victimizing OFWs

By Leonel Abasola

September 26 2023, 5:50 pm

<p>Senator Raffy Tulfo <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Senator Raffy Tulfo (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Raffy Tulfo on Tuesday urged concerned government agencies to launch an all-out campaign against online scammers preying on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

At the hearing conducted by the Senate Committees on Migrant Workers, and Finance, Tulfo asked the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and other stakeholders to draw a plan to counter the online scammers.

This after former OFW and IT expert Romel Malapira pointed out the proliferation of the so-called “Online Paluwagan” encouraging OFWs to invest their hard-earned money.

"Online Paluwagan" is run like the traditional "paluwagan (Filipino money lending system)" with members taking turns receiving money from the pooled funds depending on the payout schedule. Facebook is the most common method used, and a promise of cash deposit, remittance, or wire transfer is the mode of payment.

“Kapag hindi nakabayad ang isang member, lahat ng kasali ay hindi nakakasweldo. At kahit magbayad din, wala pa din ibibigay na pera, kadalasan kasi mga kamag-anak, kaibigan din ang nagre-recruit (If one member fails to remit his share, all members will not get back their money. And even if they pay, no money will be given, because most of the recruiters are friends or family members),” Malapira said.

OWWA administrator Arnell Ignacio confirmed Malapira’s statement saying he witnessed a family member of an OFW recruiting another migrant worker in the online "paluwagan" investment scheme.

To counter the online scammers, Tulfo suggested that concerned agencies must engage in massive information dissemination in any form, especially in social media and, if possible, go to the provinces and inform the public about online scams and how to avoid them.

Tulfo, who chairs the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers, has earlier filed a measure seeking to provide free financial literacy training programs for OFWs as a pre-departure and post-arrival seminar to prevent them from being victimized by various investment and online scams.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 2078 seeks to promote and develop the financial responsibility and literacy of OFWs by providing them with the tools to better manage their finances.

Besides fighting online scams, Tulfo also asked stakeholders to coordinate with MIAA to fight taxis asking high fees from OFWs, as well as the conversion of all Very Important Person lounges in the airport into Balikbayan Hubs that will serve the country’s “modern-day heroes.”

DMW acting Secretary Hans Cacdac pointed out though that the agency has complaint desks in the airport, and the illegal taxis have already stopped due to the cooperation of MIAA and other agencies.

Ignacio and Cacdac meanwhile said VIP lounges are now being removed per agreement between the MIAA, DMW and OWWA, and are now in the process of being converted to Balikbayan Hubs. (PNA)