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POEA sets new hearing on Findstaff case

21 March 2017

Gerry Vallo and his friend, Gerry Garay, meet with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello on Feb. 24 to ask for an early resolution of the case against Findstaff.  They were told to return the next day; poea officials were told to speed up the case.

By Daisy CL Mandap

The two-year old ruling by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) awarding nearly Php600,000 to a group of overseas Filipino workers from Hong Kong who were  charged excessive placement fees may soon be implemented.

The POEA set down the hearing of the case against the now-defunct Findstaff Placement Services, Inc. to Apr 26 and May 4.

This was after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello met on Feb. 24 with Christian Bishop Gerry Vallo who asked that the POEA decision finding Manila-based Findstaff guilty of overcharging and ordering the refund of excessive placement fees to seven HK OFWs be issued with finality.

The POEA decision issued on Nov. 19, 2015, was appealed by Findstaff directly to former Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, who, after a few months, sent the case back to POEA for a rehearing.
It had stayed there since.

Vallo recently sought a meeting with Bello, hoping to get the original POEA order issued with finality.

At their initial meeting, Vallo said Secretary Bello was visibly upset when he learned how the case was put on hold for so long for no apparent reason. The secretary then asked Vallo to return the next day so they could both meet with officials of the POEA.

At the subsequent meeting, Bello reportedly told the acting POEA administrator Dominador Say to immediately resolve the case.

“Ang tagal na nito, dapat may aksyon na ito. Desisyunan na iyan,” Bello reportedly told Say, who immediately said yes.

Also called to the said meeting was former POEA administrator Hans Cacdac who issued the original order shutting down Findstaff and awarding the claims of the seven OFWs from Hong Kong.
Cacdac, who was moved by Bello to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration shortly after he assumed the post of labor chief, reportedly expressed surprise that the case was remanded to POEA, where it remained unresolved.

The suit against Findstaff arose from the complaints of about two dozen OFWs in mid 2015 who said they had been made to pay $21,000 each by the agency’s counterpart in Hong Kong, Satisfactory Employment and Travel Services, which had offices in Tai Wai, New Territories.

The OFWs sought help from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in May then headed by Labor Attache Manuel Roldan, who did not immediately act on their complaint.

Failing to get relief from POLO, 10 of the complainants - Manayon I Agcaoili, Joevelyn A. Balaoing, Maria Belen C. Barcena, Maria Aurora Cabania, Ruth R. Daria, Jennifer D Singit, Jovelyn D. Sion, Anastacia D. Soriano, Crisanta G. Tamiana, and Mylene R Tolentino - turned to the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section for help.

Bishop Gerry Vallo of the Jesus the Living God church, who had by then been approached by some of the complainants, referred the matter to ATN head, Vice Consul Charles Macaspac, who helped execute affidavits of complaints.

Vallo forwarded the affidavits to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who in turn immediately filed a resolution calling for an inquiry by POEA and other relevant goverment agencies.
This prompted Roldan to refer the complaints to POEA in July that year.

In their affidavits, all 10 complainants said Satisfactory had told them on arrival in Hong Kong that they each had to pay $21,000 in seven monthly installments of $3,000.

The money was to be collected through ATM withdrawals from the Hang Seng bank accounts set up by the agency for them.

In their supplementary affidavits submitted to POEA, seven of the complainants said the fee collection was with the knowledge or consent of their Philippine recruiter, Findstaff.

Two failed to respond to summons from POEA while a third did not file a supplemental affidavit.
In his decision, Cacdac said the complaints of the seven was enough to impose the severest penalty of licence revocation against Findstaff, which had been in operation for 42 years.

He also ordered Findstaff, along with its surety Country Bankers Insurance Corp-oration, to pay back nearly Php600,000 in fees collected by its Hong Kong counterpart, Satisfactory Employment and Travel Centre Limited, from the complainants. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Labour Department prosecuted Satisfactory on the basis of complaints filed by four Filipina claimants who met the six-month time bar for filing a complaint.

On Mar. 2, 2016, Satisfactory was fined a total of $8,400 by the Shatin magistrate Chan Chi-kim after it pleaded guilty to collecting a total of more than $58,000 from complainants Manayon Agcaoili, Ruth Daria, Agnes Capili and Cristina Ogaya.

All four said they were charged a placement fee of $21,000 each, to be paid within seven months of their arrival in Hong Kong. The monthly fee was to be collected through ATM withdrawals from the bank accounts that Satisfactory’s manager Susana Ho had set up for them.

Agcaoili and Daria both completed the payment but Capili and Ogaya stopped paying after three months. All were awarded their full claim, minus the legally allowed 10% of their first monthly salary. Satisfactory shut down voluntarily seven months before the case was heard.

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