24 August 2009

FRETILIN MEDIA REALEASE: Alleged graft involving Timor-Leste scholarships must be investigated

FRETILIN

FRENTE REVOLUCIONARIO DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE


MEDIA RELEASE

Dili, 25 August 2009

Alleged graft involving Timor-Leste scholarships must be investigated

Reports that the Philippines anti-corruption body is examining alleged corruption involving enrolment of student scholarship holders from Timor-Leste should also be investigated by Timor-Leste's Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice, FRETILIN said today in the parliament.

FRETILIN's deputy parliamentary leader Francisco Branco said the Philippines media reported that the country's Commissioner for Higher Education, Mr. Emmanuel Angeles was involved in enrolling 36 Timor-Leste student scholarship holders in the Angeles Foundation University, an institution owned by his family, according to a complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Mr Branco said ABS-CBN News in a report tilted 'CHED (Commission for Higher Education) chief faces graft raps over foreign student program' said: " The Philippine and East Timor governments earlier signed an agreement to allow Timor-Leste scholar students to take up college courses in qualified colleges and universities in the Philippines. The Timor-Leste government would pay $22,000 per scholar, which covers the student's tuition and board and lodging for four years.

"Last June, 109 East-Timorese students enrolled in various Philippine universities including Adamson University, Mapua Institute of Technology, and Centro Escolar University.

"With 36 East-Timorese scholars, the Angeles University Foundation cornered the most number of scholars from East Timor and will earn more than P37 million" (37 million Philippine Pesos, in excess of US$760,000) from the Timor-Leste state budget.

Mr Branco asked the Timor-Leste Ombudsman Mr Sebastiao Ximenes to assist Filipino authorities in order for the allegation to be fully and transparently investigated.

"We cannot afford to wait until the Gusmao administration sets up an anti-corruption commission before investigating this matter," Mr Branco said.

"Timor-Leste officials must have had some involvement in setting up the scholarship system at both technical and ministerial level, especially those Ministers who took a high profile in promoting and signing MOUs and such with the Philippines institutions, and diplomats on the ground.

"We know from media reports the Ministers for Foreign Affairs (Zacarias da Costa) and Education (Joao Cancio Freitas) and the Deputy Prime Minister, Jose Luis Guterres all had a hand in these arrangements.

"We have to ask, what did they know about the connection between Mr Angeles and this institution that enroled the highest number of our students?"

Mr Branco said it was a responsibility of Timor-Leste state institutions to uncover any misuse of its funds, no matter where it occured.

"The number of students on scholarships in the Philippines totals 109, at a total cost directly to the Timor-Leste state of in excess of US$2.3 million. That is a lot of money and we must ensure that the utmost probity and transparency prevails on both sides, so that we can have confidence that the funds are truly benefitting the students as intended when we approved the expenditure in parliament," Branco said.


For further information please call Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080
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