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HK gov’t assures Emry’s will be prosecuted

25 September 2016

Secretary Bello blends serious talk and jokesas he apprises POLO staff on the goals of the DOLE under the Duterte admnistration. He was formally welcomed to Hong Kong by Consul General Baernardita Catalla.
By Vir B. Lumicao

Hong Kong labour officials have assured Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III that Emry’s Service Staff Employment Agency will be prosecuted over claims of scamming hundreds of Filipino applicants for purported jobs in Britain and Canada.

Labour Secretary Matthew Cheung gave the assurance during his dinner-meeting on Sept 23 with Secretary Bello and his entourage, according to Labor Attache Jalilo de la Torre.

However, a criminal prosecution of Ester Ylagan, former co-owner of Emry’s and sole proprietor of Mike’s Secretarial Services, apparently is still being considered.

“Ang sabi ni Secretary Cheung, the police are still investigating,” he said.

Secretary Cheung reportedly met the Philippine delegation over dinner and discussed problems concerning Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong, on top of which was the life-endangering task of cleaning windows.

The Hong Kong delegation included Cheung, Police Commissioner Stephen Lo, and Permanent Secretary for Labour Annie Tam. The Philippine side was made up of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Hans Cacdac, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration head Rebecca Calzado, Labatt dela Torre and Vice Consul Fatima Quintin.

“The Secretary of Labour assured us that there will be prosecution and that they will issue summons against the erring agency,” Labatt De la Torre replied without naming the agency.

However, Secretary Bello himself deflected The SUN’s query about whether the Emry’s/Mike’s alleged jobs scam was discussed with the Hong Kong officials.

In the meantime, Emry’s/Mike’s have been suspended by both sides, Administrator Cacdac butted in.
Labatt dela Torre also said that Emry’s counterpart agency in the Philippines is also under investigation.

“Sa claims naman, we will make a representation with the (Small) Claims Tribunal na i-consolidate nila yung mga kaso para hindi sabog ang ating monitoring,” he added.

Bello said his team and the Hong Kong side discussed ways to help the 187,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong.

When asked by media about whether he discussed with Cheung the workers’ clamor to ban window cleaning, Bello said the other side promised to study Polo’s recommendation to strike it out of the list of domestic workers’ duties.

“Pag-aaralan nila, although very positive sila but wala siyang (Cheung) commitment,” Bello said.
“Tinitingan pa nina Labor Attaché Dela Torre ang tungkol sa paglilinis ng mga workers ng bintana. Kasi sinasabi naman nila hindi rin maiiwasan kasi kung minsan na ang mismong may-ari kailangan din niyang maglinis,” Bello said.

“Wala tayong magagawa. Lalo na kasi ganyan talaga ang mga bahay dito. Sa Pilipinas one-story lang ang mga bahay natin, dito hindi eh,” the official added.

At this stage, the window-cleaning ban is still a recommendation and that Polo should make a representation with Hong Kong authorities to exclude it from the domestic chores stipulated in the contract, Bello said.

Asked whether he had taken up with his Hong Kong counterpart illegal fees being exacted by agencies on workers such as forced loans from lending companies, Bello said he had not yet heard of such issue.

“Hindi pa nakakarating sa akin ang reklamong iyan pero kung meron mang ganyan, meron din namang legal remedies at pwede nating habulin iyan,” he said.

Bello said the Hong Kong side is “grateful na meron tayong mga overseas workers dito dahil malaking tulong din sa kanila at they prefer Filipino migrant workers dahil masisipag at magagalang at sinisiguro nila na gagawin nilang lahat para maproteksiyonan sila.”

When asked by one reporter how Hong Kong officials regard the new government of President Rodrigo Duterte, Bello said they were cordial.

He said in fact, he told them that Duterte might visit China and that he might be able to convince him to stop over in Hong Kong.

Baka makumbinsi natin na dumaan dito para masalubong niya naman ang mga mahal niya sa buhay. Mahal na mahal niya ang mga migrant workers, eh. Aba, mahal kayo niyon ha. Palagi niyang iniuutos sa akin na huwag kong pabababayaan ang inyong kapakanan,” Bello said.

He visited Bethune House in Sheung Wan for about an hour on Sept 24 to see for himself one of the two shelters managed by executive director Edwina Antonio. Earlier, he paid a visit to the OWWA-run Filipino Women’s Refuge Center in Kennedy Town.

Bello spoke with each of the 12 Filipina clients of Bethune about their particular problems, promising to assist them in getting jobs if they decide to go home. He endorsed to either Calzado, Cacdac or De la Torre the clients’ concerns.

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