Atty. Darlene Marie Berberabe: Pag-IBIG Fund’s Call to All Overseas Filipino Workers

Do you worry or are you confused or wary about your Pag-IBIG Fund contributions? Are you still not a member of the Pag-IBIG Fund? Do you feel that your mandatory contribution is a rip-off?

The President & CEO of Pag-IBIG Fund, Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe, recently visited Bahrain and Cyprus to address such concerns of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Filipino Life Magazine was able to sit with Atty. Berberabe for a comprehensive discussion on the relationship of the Fund and OFWs. We also got an honest glimpse of her life values that enable her to be a successful and effective leader.

What do you hope to achieve in your trip to Bahrain?

My trip actually covers Bahrain and Cyprus. I will be meeting with Filipino Communities in both places to promote Pag-IBIG Fund’s housing and provident programs, which include investment products suitable for OFWs.

This trip will also be an opportunity for us at Pag-IBIG to meet with our remittance partners in those areas and the Philippine embassy officials and staff, as well as the Philippine Overseas Labor Officers who are our dependable partners in bringing the programs of Pag-IBIG closer to our OFWs.

Are there new Pag-IBIG Overseas Programs? What are they and how will OFWs benefit from them?

Pag-IBIG Fund has twin mandates of providing an effective savings mechanism for its members as well as affordable shelter finance to help them realize their dream of homeownership. Aside from the mandatory monthly membership contribution required by Republic Act No. 9679 or the “Home Development Mutual Fund Law of 2009,” Pag-IBIG Fund now provides another savings program that our OFW members can participate in. We call it the Modified Pag-IBIG II or MP2 Program. It is a savings mechanism designed to provide Pag-IBIG members with a higher yield than the regular Pag-IBIG savings program because of the higher annual dividend rate. For just a minimum initial contribution of P500.00 and with tenor of 5 years, an OFW’s savings can earn more than the regular dividend rate. For example last year, the MP2 earned 4.68% per annum. Our OFWs may opt to save more than the minimum P500.00 savings. There is no maximum. In fact, we already have several members who chose to invest their savings under our MP2 Program rather than depositing their hard-earned money in banks. After all, saving under the MP2 Program is not only tax-free but also government-guaranteed.

There are still many who are not convinced with the mandatory membership, that includes OFWs, with the Pag-IBIG Fund (R.A. No. 9679). What can you tell them?

By saving P100 monthly, you get so much more value for that amount. You are able to get it back after the membership period and you get to multiply it by at least 3 times or up to 6 times (if you opt to maintain the Fund membership longer). The Fund also has done a lot of reforms in our services and programs, especially in the last 5 years, that will benefit them.

Pag-IBIG gave more to its members without increasing the monthly premium of P100.00. Pag-IBIG doubled the maximum loanable amount for housing loans (HL) to P6 million, reduced HL interest rates from 11.5% to 6.9%, provided subsidized HL interest rate to minimum wage earners at 4.5%, and reduced calamity loan interest rate from 10.75% to 5.95%, the lowest in the market.

The increase in our maximum loan capacity from the previous P3 million to P6 million for our Home Loan Program enables our members to increase their purchasing power and to have better options in the location, size, or even the kind of homes they plan to acquire for their family.

Pag-IBIG Fund has also improved its services by harnessing the power of technology in order to reach and serve its members.

Especially for our OFWs whose mode of communication is mostly through the internet, our online services are now available to allow them to register online, verify their contributions, and even pay their membership contributions or loan amortizations online.

We have also launched the official Pag-IBIG Fund Facebook account, which allows us to post announcements about our services and also to serve as a venue for us to answer the queries of our members.  The YouTube Pag-IBIG Fund Official Channel also features instructional videos on various services, as well as the latest advertisements on our programs.

We’re more aggressive now in our efforts to communicate our programs and services to our members.  For a more personal and face-to-face communication with our OFW members and prospective members, we have established Pag-IBIG overseas desks in various posts abroad. For Bahrain, the Pag-IBIG post is located at The Philippine Embassy, Villa No. 939, Road No. 3320, Manama, Bahrain. We hope that our presence in the countries where our overseas workers are based demonstrates our commitment to be available for them to serve their needs in savings and housing.

We assure our OFWs, whether they are already Pag-IBIG members or are still planning to register as Pag-IBIG members, that they can trust Pag-IBIG Fund, the same way that 15 million members have already placed theirs with us. 

In return, they will find Pag-IBIG Fund as a government agency where both excellent performance and integrity are practiced, without sacrificing one over the other.

In 2014, the German firm TÜV SÜD gave Pag-IBIG its third ISO 9001:2008 re-certification for its Membership Registration Process that now covers all 11 National Capital Region branches, after setting the record in 2011 as being the fastest to complete certification process among Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), at only three months and 19 days. The Commission on Audit issued a second consecutive Unqualified Opinion on Pag-IBIG’s Financial Statements for 2013, and for 2012 previously. All Pag-IBIG branches surveyed in the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA) Report Card Survey again enjoyed a 100% passing rate, with 26 branches receiving Excellent scores in 2014. These are testaments to Pag-IBIG Fund’s firm commitment towards providing the best service to its members, as the Fund officers and employees live the standards of excellent performance and good governance.

What are the ongoing promotions and programs that OFWs should know about?

Aside from the MP2 Savings Program and the Home Loan Program which I have mentioned earlier, our OFW members are also entitled to avail of our Short-Term Loan (STL) Program, which includes the Multi-Purpose Loan (MPL) and the Calamity Loan Programs.

The MPL allows them to borrow, at most, 80% of their total Pag-IBIG savings or total accumulated value (TAV). The TAV is the total of the contributions they have saved with Pag-IBIG plus the accumulated annual dividends that the said savings has earned.  If they were previously employed in the Philippines prior to becoming OFWs and were already Pag-IBIG members at that time, their TAV also includes their employer counterpart.  The MPL loan proceeds may be used as additional funds for the member-borrowers’ vacation, as payment for the tuition and other school fees for their children’s enrollment, as additional capital for their business, or other purpose that they have in mind when availing of the MPL Program.

The Calamity Loan Program is for members who reside in places back in the Philippines that are declared as areas of calamity.  OFW members can avail of these if their official residence is in these areas.  They can borrow up to 80% of their TAV.  The interest rate has been reduced from 10.75% to 5.95%.  If the OFW members are overseas when calamity struck the country, they can issue a Special Power of Attorney so that their Attorney-in-Fact can file the Calamity Loan application in the Philippines.  OFW members abroad can also directly file at the Pag-IBIG overseas desks.

We will also be launching soon the Pag-IBIG Loyalty Card nationwide. It is a reward program for our members, providing up to 50% discount on medicines from partner-pharmacies, up to 20% discounts from partner-schools, P10.00 discount on LPG, and many more perks. We came up with the Pag-IBIG Loyalty Card to make Pag-IBIG more relevant to our members. Previously pilot-tested in Baguio, Cebu, and Davao with 34 partners, we now have 58 partners and still growing.

In the past two years, 2013 and 2014, Pag-IBIG offered the “OFW Dagdag-Ipon Raffle Promo” to OFW members to encourage them to increase their savings with Pag-IBIG, clean-up their membership records, and increase their awareness on the benefits of Pag-IBIG membership.

More OFW members participated in the promo’s second run in 2014, compared with the first run in 2013, despite the minimum savings amount to be remitted being doubled from P300.00 to P600.00 monthly, for OFW members to join in the raffle promo.  In 2013, 17,100 OFW members joined to save almost P437,000.00 with Pag-IBIG, while 46,157 joined in 2014 to save P467,000.00 within the promo period of July to December for both years. The grand prize was worth US$10,000.  There are already plans of again offering the promo this year, and I encourage our OFW members to wait for the mechanics.

Atty. Berberabe successfully conducted a meeting and an open-forum last Friday, April 22, 2015 at the InterContinental Regency Hotel with Pag-IBIG Fund members, OFWs, and leaders of the Filipino Community in Bahrain. She also held meetings with Philippine embassy officials to express gratitude for their assistance in reaching out to the OFWs in Bahrain.

Prior to being head of Pag-IBIG Fund, Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe is already a highly accomplished individual both academically and professionally. She has a notable background that had her recommended as Pag-IBIG Fund President & CEO back in 2010. It is a challenging post and greatly differs from her previous placement in the private sector, but one that she accepted after realizing the opportunity to serve her countrymen. As she humbly put when she took over the Fund, “I am deeply honored to be of service to the Filipino people. I am committed to lead Pag-IBIG with the highest standards of professionalism in dealings with its members and stakeholders. Transparency, good governance, and integrity shall be synonymous with Pag-IBIG. The Fund exists for the members and so we shall serve, always with the best interests of the members in mind.”

A bureau or an organization is a reflection of its leader. As OFWs and members of the Pag-IBIG Fund, Atty. Berberabe, through Filipino Life Magazine, freely shares with you the core values that make her an efficient leader of the institution – the institution where you entrust your savings on. She also talks about the controversy that she and the Fund is currently facing.

How do you handle the work and pressure that accompany your work?

I recognize that my job entails a lot of work because it is an organization that is 5,000-employee strong and has millions of members. I cannot run the organization on my own. I place a lot of respect on my colleagues especially on the officers, whom many have been with the Fund for 25 years or more. I am not afraid to ask questions if there are things which I don’t understand. Empowering our people is also key because I need to be able to rely on the rest of the organization to perform their role well. Moreover, I don’t stop learning. I make time for more study so I can be better at my job.  I also make sure to constantly connect with the stakeholders, developers, and partners who work with us in the housing industry.

Your credibility as well as that of Pag-IBIG Fund is being dragged into the current political issues. Do you have any words of assurance for the Pag-IBIG Fund members concerning these issues?

It is quite unfortunate that the name of Pag-IBIG Fund has been dragged into controversies due to political reasons. I ask our detractors to look at our numbers because they don’t lie when it comes to performance; I ask them to listen to the developers who transact with us and confirm if they have heard of any corruption within Pag-IBIG; I ask them to ask our members if they have doubts as to how honestly we do our work. I am proud to say there is none. It is best when you hear it from them. We, at Pag-IBIG Fund, are firm in our resolve to protect the name and reputation of our institution. We continue to answer their questions, issue our statements, and present data and firm evidence that our transactions and dealings are legal, implemented strictly according to the prescribed process, and performed with integrity.

Similarly, I would like to assure our members that we continue to uphold the integrity and excellence by which we operate the Fund.

Our pride in our reputation has also been validated and confirmed by other government agencies and industry partners. We received a back-to-back Unqualified Opinion by the Commission on Audit for our Financial Statements in 2012 and 2013, which means that our financial records are all in place and well-accounted for. We also received a Seal of Excellence from the Civil Service Commission, which validated that Pag-IBIG Fund adheres to the Anti-Red Tape Act. Various shelter organizations have affirmed their support to Pag-IBIG Fund. Had Pag-IBIG Fund been remiss in its duties or shady with its dealings, these real estate organizations would have been the first to cry foul and denounce us. That they have vocally supported us signifies the trust and affirmation that they are extending to the Fund.

Being a CEO of an organization holding billions of funds of millions of members, you are not just responsible in earning and maintaining trust for yourself but for the Fund as well. How do you do this?

Atty. Berberabe: I do the right thing even when no one is looking. Even before I came in, the culture of integrity was already being practiced by the Fund. I only need to reinforce and remind the employees to maintain that culture. I also make sure that I lead by example. I am transparent in my dealings. I always communicate with my Pag-IBIG family. If there are issues and controversies being hurled at us, I make sure that each employee understands the issues and know exactly where we stand in that issue. This way, we support each other and work together towards a common goal – that of maintaining the good name of Pag-IBIG Fund through integrity and excellence.

What has been your biggest challenge in the four years as head of Pag-IBIG Fund?

The Senate hearings are the biggest collective challenge that I have faced because these hearings raise questions on the integrity of Pag-IBIG Fund, as well as its officers and employees. First was the Globe Asiatique controversy which I faced right after taking the post as Pag-IBIG Fund’s new CEO in 2010. And today, Pag-IBIG Fund is back in the Senate because of alleged anomalous transactions linked to Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, who is also the Chairman of the Pag-IBIG Fund Board of Trustees.

With the controversy in Globe Asiatique, the new management of Pag-IBIG Fund through the direction of our Chairman, Vice President Binay, has put in place all the necessary controls in our operations which led us to delivering excellent performance in the past 5 years. They have found nothing against Pag-IBIG Fund so I feel vindicated but nevertheless, it has been tough because I value the Fund’s good name.

How do you promote and maintain honesty and credibility among the Pag-IBIG Fund employees?

Pag-IBIG Fund reaffirmed its commitment to excellent performance and good governance by holding a simultaneous recitation and signing of the Integrity Pledge among Pag-IBIG officers and employees in celebration of our 34th anniversary last December 14, 2014.

The corporate-wide event is a testament that the whole Pag-IBIG workforce believes that a public office is a public trust. More than 5,000 officers and employees in 76 branches nationwide affixed their signatures in the Integrity Pledge. The event was witnessed by guests from the Makati Business Club (MBC) and Good Governance Advocates & Practitioners in the Philippines. The Integrity Initiative campaign is implemented by the MBC and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

In 2012, I first signed the Integrity Pledge on behalf of Pag-IBIG. As a signatory, Pag-IBIG pledges to combat graft, uphold ethical standards, promote transparency, punish erring employees of all ranks, and deal only with reputable entities in procurement activities.

Last year, the Pag-IBIG Fund Board of Trustees approved our “No Gift Policy” in accordance to the Code of Corporate Governance for Government Owned and Controlled Corporations and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.  The “No Gift Policy” directs all our employees not to receive any gift, token, or reward – in any form.

Atty. Berberabe recognizes the views of most of the ordinary Pag-IBIG Fund members. As such, she would like to impart her own realizations on the Fund. She also imparts valuable advice to all OFWs on saving for their future.

FLM: Prior to being head of Pag-IBIG Fund, have you given much thought on the importance or the details of your Pag-IBIG contributions? Now a CEO of the Fund, what do want to inform the millions of its ordinary members?

Prior to my appointment, I think I am like many of the Pag-IBIG members who thought that the Pag-IBIG contributions they pay every month was just another way for the government to get a portion of their hard-earned money from them. That changed when I learned more about the Fund’s savings mandate. I learned that Pag-IBIG Fund is really an instrument for Filipino workers to save and prepare for retirement eventually, as well as to acquire decent shelter for them and their loved ones. It is not geared towards providing a pension; rather, it is a convenient way for the common Filipino worker to save. I really hope that Pag-IBIG members will realize that, after the membership period, they will be able to withdraw and get back not only what they contributed with Pag-IBIG Fund, but also the accumulated dividends which their contributions earned through the years, as well as what their previous employers contributed as employer counterpart.

As head of an agency that promotes saving, what personal advice can you give to Filipinos abroad on saving for their future?

Atty. Berberabe: For our ‘kababayans,’ our modern-day heroes, our esteemed OFWs, we recognize the hardships that you endure, the loneliness of being separated from your family, and the danger that you are constantly exposed to being in a foreign country – all for the purpose of providing a comfortable life for your family back in the Philippines. I hope, though, that while you think of your family as you work abroad, may you also not forget yourself. While it is important to provide for your family, it is not bad to also think about your own future. I hope that you are able to set aside a portion of your income as savings. I hope that you have plans of setting aside funds to purchase a piece of land or build a house where you can go home to when you come back to our country.

Pag-IBIG Fund is here to help you achieve these things. We have available funds you can tap should you want to purchase the land or build the house you can call your own. Save with us by putting a portion of your income, even as low as P100.00 per month, for your Pag-IBIG contribution, so that after twenty (20) years, there is a significant amount you can withdraw from Pag-IBIG Fund that will allow you to start a small business or supplement your well-earned vacation. It simply starts with your registration as a Pag-IBIG member.

Undoubtedly, Atty. Berberabe spends loads of energy in serving her fellow Filipinos through her work. However, her work is not her biggest achievement but her only daughter, Jamie Christine B. Lim. An achiever herself, Jamie Christine is a world karate champion at age 12. Atty. Berberabe makes it a point to attend her daughter’s competitions, especially when these are held abroad. Just like any other mom, she wishes the best for Jamie Christine and hopes that she will grow up to be a good person. Their mother-daughter team loves to go out, travel, and experience new things together.

Atty. Berberabe spends her holidays and weekends baking and cooking. She likes to try out new recipes and shares them with family and friends. She also makes time to work out making sure that her library is updated with every extreme fitness DVD’s.

So how does a successful woman like Atty. Berberabe balance her work and family life; her public and private life? Atty. Berberabe answers, “I have a good sense of focusing. So when I spend time with family, I make sure it is quality time. Conversations on the dinner table are important. Setting aside time deliberately is also the key. Just like when you make work appointments. So think of your day as being divided into units.

Balancing a career and family is a tricky thing. You must know where your priorities lie. Next, you must have the discipline to allot enough time and energy for both. Finally, you must also know how and when to delegate the tasks that you are asked to do. Empower the people around you so that they may be trusted to take on the tasks that may otherwise overwhelm you. It is your life, you should have the final say as to how it should be run.

As for balancing my private and personal life, sometimes there’s really a certain degree of privacy that I have to let go because I am now considered a public figure. Ultimately, however, the degree or amount of the personal matters that I share is still my decision.”

With high integrity, intellect, and grace, Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe is committed to her mission to serve the Filipinos through her post in Pag-IBIG Fund. She has extended wishes and gratitude to the Filipino Life Magazine for serving as an additional medium (for government agencies like Pag-IBIG Fund) in reaching out to Filipinos abroad.

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