Thursday, 11 October 2012

COMMENTARY: Western Union – a tarnished name in Mambulao



 The SEND receipt
The RECEIVE receipt.

By ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ


FOR THE first time in its history doing business in Mambulao, Western Union got itself mired in a row that has tainted its reputation as a reliable global remittance service company.

All this because of one sub-agent (remittance outlet) who made a quick buck from the money sent to one Mambulaoan resident on December 24, 2011 – Christmas Eve.

When the beneficiary – Evangeline B Demasayao – claimed on Christmas Day the remittance over the counter of LSP Pawnshop – a Western Union outlet – it was less Php982.37, which was debited from the amount as “charges”.

The actual amount she received was P20,294.

Western Union doesn’t charge extra on the proceeds received by the beneficiary as it has already been taken care of by the sender.

The money in the original amount of 500 Canadian dollar was sent by her husband in Canada. Its peso proceeds on December 24, 2011 was p21,186.37.

Demasayao protested this deduction, but the staff who processed the fund transfer said she could not return the money as it had been posted on their ledger already as “charges”.

But there was no indication in the RECEIVE receipt on the nature of such deduction, except for the handwritten note (on the front face) indicating the actual money received by Demasayao.

Normally, this should be electronically printed out as it also serves as the official receipt.

But Danilo Cruz, the manager of the business development unit of the Direct Agent that runs the affairs of all Western Union outlets (as sub-agents) in Jose Panganiban and elsewhere in Camarines Norte, quickly defended Susan Velacruz  Galleta, the owner-operator of the three pawnshops LSP, LSG and SVG.

Earlier, the Western Union head office had placed LSP and LSG placed under investigation over the alleged malpractice and found proof that an infraction was committed.

“It’s just an isolated case,” Cruz, however, told me in a recent email as a reaction to an MWBuzz report on the case.

He said Galleta had nothing to do with the December 25 incident as it was handled by one of her frontline staff that day.

Cruz said that as far as their record at Western Union is concerned, Galleta’s operations have been alright as it did not show cases like what Demasayao has alleged.

He said Western Union is processing millions in pesos regularly sent to Mambulao beneficiaries through its sub-agents and there has never been any problem such as claimed by Demasayao.

Galleta has been in this business since 2006, according to Cruz.

I told Cruz that the infraction was committed by her staff, and being the owner and employer, she is culpable. Maybe, he has forgotten all about command responsibility under which Galleta has no way or escaping.

Being the Direct Agent covering Western Union outlets in Mambulao and other counters under his franchise, Cruz gets a commission from all money sent to Mambulao. 

Same thing with Galleta and other outlets.

If LSG/LSP/SGV were sacked by the head office for this offense, that means three pawnshops less from Cruz franchise in Mambulao, resulting in lesser commission for him.

Roy Fernandez, the operations director of Western Union South and East Asia with headquarters in Taguig City, told this blogger sometime ago that based on their investigation of Galleta’s operations – referring to LSP, LSG and SGV pawnshops – they have already determined her modus operandi.

 “We called her attention and she had been warned” against further incidents such as the one in question, said Fernandez.

Prior to this, I sent Fernandez copies of the Western Union SEND (the one in the possession of the sender) and RECEIVE (the one issued to the beneficiary along with the proceeds of the remittance) receipts.

Immediately after scrutinizing the entries on the two receipts,

Fernandez probe team saw something anomalous with the transaction.

That it was an isolated case as Cruz has claimed begged to be challenged.

Shortly after MWBuzz carried the first report on Demasayao’s complaint against LSP-LSG-SGV pawnshops, one Facebook user – an overseas Mambulaoan– posted a message saying his father in Mambulao had the same experience, courtesy of Galleta’s remittance service.

Unfortunately, his father had misplaced the RECEIVE receipt of the remittance showing an amount which was less than what the Facebook poster originally sent – as converted to Philippine peso against its US dollar amount.

 “My father did not bother about the receipt anymore, thinking that there was nothing he can do about it,” the Facebook poster told me.

Isolated case? 

One prominent Jose Panganiban resident who is currently serving as municipal councilor had the same experience – he claimed the money sent to him by a daughter in Canada and got less than what was originally shown in the SEND receipt kept by the sender. 

The councilor received his daughter’s remittance over the counter of LSP-LSG pawnshops.

He said he did not bother about this infraction as it could jeopardize his political standing in the community as currently serving municipal councilor. Anyway, he made it a point not to go back to the pawnshop in question.

Interestingly, Western Union head office, through its operations director Roy Fernandez, has urged Western Union customers in Mambulao to keep their remittance receipts and report any anomalies such as the ones committed by Galleta and company.

While Cruz has clarified that it was not Galleta who handled Demasayao’s transaction on December 25, 2011 but her frontline staff, the sister of Demasayao – Mary Fe Dearth, who is overseas – emailed to say otherwise.

Dearth said Cruz was mistaken in his claim as to who processed the money.

In a brief email to me recently, Dearth said it was Galleta who handled the fund transfer, adding that she was in Mambulao last December for the Christmas holidays and knew all what happened.

Anyway, Cruz told me that Galleta was willing to return the money to Demasayao and was actually trying to locate her address in Mambulao.

Incidentally, the address was shown in a temporary claim receipt stub required before any remittance processing could be entertained.

“If she (Galleta) was really serious in returning the money, she could easily find my sister’s house in Mambulao as they are known in the neighborhood,” Dearth said.

She told this writer “it’s not much with the money. It’s justice that my sister deserves for suffering this treachery”. 

Galleta, Dearth says, has somewhat tainted Western Union’s reputation in Mambulao.

Dearth said if they are able to recover the “stolen” money, they might as well donate it to charity or to the church.

But what can a Php900 plus do? 

Maybe it could buy half a sack of regular rice; or buy foodstuff enough to fill the fridge; buy a modest synthetic leather handbag; or buy a pair of an ordinary rubber shoes for the kid from a local store.

But whatever the amount was, it’s hard-earned money by someone breaking his back overseas, and the family where this money should go must benefit from it one hundred per cent.


For reaction, email the writer: ahernandez@thenational.com.pg  and alfredophernandez@y7mail.com








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