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Govt gets flak for putting president’s photo on OFW ID

17 December 2017

Militant overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong have given the thumbs down to the newly launched OFW ID, also known as iDOLE, for featuring a big color picture of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in front, alongside that of the holder.

This was despite an announcement from Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello IIII that the ID would be given away free, in contrast to his previous statement in July that employers would be charged for the card, causing an uproar among OFWs.

Bello, in succeeding announcements, said the design will not be altered because there had been no formal objection.

Duterte himself had said in the past he did not want his picture displayed in government offices, as well as in government-issued documents.

“Kelangan talagang may mukha ng presidente ang OFW ID? Iilan pa lang ang nabigyan, baka pwede pang alisin ito,” said Eman Villanueva, chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Hong Kong and Macau.

Villanueva likened it to disgraced President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s move to put her picture on Philhealth cards which were given away free to poor Filipinos ahead of her bid for re-election in 2004.

Other OFWs posted on Facebook that they’d rather not have the ID, saying they didn’t want to keep Duterte’s picture inside their wallets.

Some Duterte supporters, however, said the President may not have approved of the card’s look himself, as he is known to have even ordered government offices not to display his photo on their walls.

The much-awaited OFW card was unveiled by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Dec. 7, who said he had issued it to a limited number of returning overseas workers, calling it President Duterte’s “best gift” to them.Bello said the OFW ID, which was on its first phase of issuance, was intended to test and secure the features of the Integrated Department of Labor and Employment eServices.

“This is only the first phase of implementation and will cater first to our Balik-Manggagawa until the system is ready for all OFWs. We are doing this to secure the database and for further improvements in the system,” Bello said.

Backtracking to a promise he made to OFWs in Hong Kong last year, he said that the OFW ID is free, as it will be funded by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

“This is free for our OFWs. We do not want our OFWs to shoulder the cost because this is a gift from the President to recognize their sacrifices and immense contribution to our economy,” he said.

During an interview with assistant secretary for communication Mocha Uson in July, however, Bello clarified that the ID was free for OFWs but employers would have to pay for the cost of production. A price of Php500 plus Php200 for postage was originally floated as the cost of obtaining one.

Balik-Manggagawa, or vacationing OFWs, are required to log into their BM Online accounts to apply for the ID, which they can use to avail themselves of travel tax and terminal fee exemptions.

 They can log in and create an account with the iDOLE.ph or the iDOLE One-Stop Online Facility/Portal and apply for the OFW ID by inputting their latest and valid OEC number. The unique ID is equipped with decrypted QR code for security.

 The DOLE said the ID will free OFWs from queuing up to transact with agencies for OECs, as they can access government services online in further phases of the iDOLE eServices implementation.

The first phase links DOLE with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, OWWA and the Bureau of Immigration.

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