Visayan Forum seeks to clear name

From a report by Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2013 09:05 PM | Updated as of Feb 22 2013 05:21 AM

MANILA – Visayan Forum has filed perjury charges against its former bookkeeper who claimed that the non-government organization is misusing donations from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The president of the NGO, Cecilia Oebanda, arrived in the Quezon City Hall of Justice Thursday morning, along with victims of human trafficking the NGO had rescued.

She admits that the organization may not be able to maintain the scholarships and shelters they provide for their wards.

Oebanda said that after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed a case against the Visayan Forum last September for allegedly doctoring receipts on the grants donated by USAID, other organizations followed suit and stopped funding the NGO's programs.

“They want us to explain kung ano itong nangyari,” said Oebanda.

According to Oebanda, they used to rescue 100 victims of human trafficking every month around the country.

However, in the past 6 months, they have not been able to rescue even one victim.

They were also forced to downsize their anti-human trafficking operations in the provinces for lack of funds.

“Wala kaming kahit anong bahid ng anumang intriga. Itong dumating na ito ay talagang we were caught [off guard], talagang na out of balance kami,” said Oebanda.

Oebanda said they are now out to clear their name.

Included in the complaint is the independent auditor USAID hired to audit the NGO's books.

Oebanda is pleading to donors not to believe her former employee, and to help them continue the fight against human trafficking instead.

“Kung wala naman talaga, linisin nila ang pangalan namin kasi kailangan namin ituloy ang laban,” she said.

The court, however, denied the motion of Oebanda's camp to quash the search warrant the NBI used to obtain the alleged falsified receipts from the NGO's office.

The Visayan forum will appeal the decision. -- ANC