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POLO head to open communication lines

28 February 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao
(Second of two parts)

Acting Labor Attache Ma. Nena German has agreed to open communication lines with The SUN, after initially expressing misgivings about the newspaper’s supposed partiality.

In the latter part of our interview, German said she and staff at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office perceive this writer as being biased against them.

She said that in most of my reports about them I inject malice so they are put in a bad light. “When you write it should be based on records… Hindi ko nga talaga maintindihan itong ginagawa nyo sa amin eh...  it should be based on facts. Because when you write there is always an assumption of bad faith on our part. Bakit from that point of view? Gusto ko lang malaman,” German told this writer tearfully.

I explained to her that I was not targeting her or anybody else personally but that I based what I wrote on personal observation and what workers complain about.    

The matter of keeping communication lines open came up after I cited instances when I would go to her office to follow up a story or to look for new cases, only to be told nothing was happening. Later I would see information that was kept away from us being fed to the competition. 

German said she was okay with sharing information with us, but insisted it should be “factual”. She explained she had a “bad experience” with us writing stories that put POLO in a bad light.

She cited the case of Dexter Vargas, a former OFW who told The SUN that she did not get much help from POLO after she was terminated. After complaining about being forced by her recruitment agency to take out a loan to pay for a $9,000 placement fee, German reportedly only told the agency to pay the loan balance of about $4,000.

No word was said about the nearly $7,000 that she had paid, with German only saying the worker was already “quits” or had gotten even with the agency. German strongly protested this version of what happened, saying that Vargas’ case was still on file, “pending clarification”. 

“Noted... nandun po yun. Tapos sasabihin ko, quits?”

She also denied asking Vargas if she was willing to go with the agency’s suggestion that she go to Macau for new employment as she would have a hard time getting hired readily in Hong Kong because she had been terminated.

“(Kasi) gusto ko ng job order na balanse, POEA saka POLO, tapos sasabihin ko mag-Macau siya? Tanungin nyo yung mga ahensiya kung sino ang pinakamahigpit. Ako. Kung tirahin nga ako ng mga agency, ganun-ganun na lang, eh.”

German also accused me of writing reports where I allegedly misquoted or twisted information to make the officers look bad but did not give specifics.

In turn, I admitted having written a column about an OWWA officer giving newly arrived workers the misleading advice about letting their employers keep their passports. I found this so worrying that I even told a Consulate official to call the officer’s attention to this mistake because Hong Kong law forbids anyone from keeping the passport of another person.

There was also a time when an OFW came before an OWWA officer to collect payment due her from her employer. 

After the employer paid up, the recruitment agency representative who was also present, demanded that she be paid $6,000 of the money as her fee, and the OWWA officer allegedly prodded the worker to accede. 

The interview ended with German saying she was willing to keep an open line and that we should cooperate for the sake of the workers.

She added that in fact she wanted malpractices of the agencies, such as the use of sub-agents, to be exposed “so that it would send them a message. Kasi po ang mga agency nagbabasa po ng newspaper nyo eh.”
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