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MANILA, Philippines - We have nothing to hide.
A non-government organization made this bold statement after it was accused by the United States Embassy in Manila of falsifying receipts for hundreds of millions of pesos in cash donations received from the US Agency for International Development (Usaid).
“Our conscience is clear. We have nothing to hide. Our committment is solid! We will continue to stand our ground, to provide services to victims and to fight traffickers,” the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF) Inc. said in a statement, citing its president and executive director Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda.
The multi-awarded organization, whose campaigns especially against human-trafficking have drawn admiration internationally, said it “felt betrayed by the lack of due process and rush to judgment.”
A report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said falsification charges were filed against the organization after the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) discovered that receipts it submitted to the US Embassy were fraudulent.
The receipts “were deliberately altered to show a different price,” the PDI report said.
Irregularities were found in an audit of P300 million in US donations to the group, the same report said.
For its part, the VFF said that the “final audit findings were not presented to us and we were not given the chance to clarify and explain our side.”
It added: “The accusations against the directors are false and unfounded. We will staunchly defend our integrity in court.”
“The body of our work speaks for itself—from lobbying of Batas Kasambahay and the ILO Convention for Domestic Workers, to fighting trafficking syndicates in airports and ports, and rescuing victims from exploitation,” the VFF statement said. “They claim that we do not have children in our centers but there are success stories of the children from the halfway houses and the Center of Hope that could best testify to the changes we have made in their lives.”