Press Release
April 24, 2007

Recto urges govt to give scholarship, med insurance, jobs to kin of Abu Sayyaf victims

While the Abu Sayyaf bandits who beheaded seven poor construction workers in Sulu must be hunted without let-up, government must also pursue means that will ease the burden of the families the victims left behind.

Sen. Ralph Recto aired this appeal as he expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the recent victims of the al-Qaida-affiliated terror group.

"Attention must not be on the killers alone but the concerns of the kin of the victims must be addressed as well. Let us cheer our soldiers as they battle the bad guys but let us also comfort the bereaved, " he said.

So the victims' children will not stop going to school, government should give them scholarship grants all the way to college, Recto said.

He noted that this year alone government has allocated P10 billion in tuition and stipend of tens of thousands of state secondary, vocational and college scholars.

Recto also called on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to enroll the kin of the victims in its indigent medicare program, "so when illness strikes there's a safety net waiting for them."

With the loss of their breadwinners, jobs must be given immediately to the sons, siblings or widows, "from an array of employment programs the government is implementing so they won't be relying on charity forever, " Recto added.

The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Social Welfare and Development can give the victims a "Tindahan Natin" franchise, Recto suggested, referring to the community store that sells NFA rice and other affordable foodstuffs, Recto said

"Or they can be taken in as workers in the Road Users' Tax-funded highway maintenance program or in any of infrastructure projects the government will undertake this year," he said.

Other employment prospects are in the Food-for-Work initiatives by various agencies, the summer employment program of public offices for the youth, and "even enlistment in the Armed Forces by an able-bodied relative."

If some of the kin would, however, opt to become entrepreneurs rather than employees, government should give them training, financing and marketing assistance.

"Today alone there's this news that government is planning to loan out P35 billion to small, medium and micro enterprises. Perhaps, the families, if they have a feasible project, can be assisted in making their dreams come true," Recto said.

Recto stressed that any assistance should be a "hand up, not a hand out. We want them to become independent and not mendicants reliant on government aid. This isn't merely the equivalent of feeding them fish for a day, but teaching them to fish for the rest of their lives."

Recto said assistance can also come from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as a provision in the national budget allows any of its units to use part of its savings to help victims of terror attacks.

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