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Moves to reverse Labatt’s recall gain ground

28 March 2018

By Daisy CL Mandap

Various groups in Hong Kong have initiated steps to get Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre remain in Hong Kong, despite orders for his immediate recall on Mar. 23 by Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Among the groups trying to reverse the order is United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante) which has appealed to Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano for help.

Unifil spokesperson Eman Villanueva says Secretary Cayetano has given assurance that he will bring up the appeal directly with Bello.

Labatt Jalilo dela Torre makes an appearance at rally last Sunday, March 25.

Another group staunchly supporting Dela Torre reportedly met with Cayetano in Hong Kong on Mar 25 to ask for help, and submitted a joint petition by more than 30 Filcom organizations calling for the reversal of the recall order.

They have yet to get an update from Cayetano on their petition.

Both Cayetano and Bello are known to be among President Rodrigo Duterte's closest allies, and had worked closely with him during the 2016 campaign.

Another group is reportedly planning to present the Filcom's joint statement protesting the recall directly to President Duterte when he visits Hong Kong on Apr 12.

Yet another group, composed of non-Filipino students in Hong Kong , has started their own online signature campaign protesting dela Torre's recall.

The group that goes by the  name Students Against Fees and Exploitation, said it supported dela Torre's crackdown on rogue employment agencies.

Amid the outcry, The SUN sought Bello's reaction through SMS, and he replied with this statement, "I respect their iright to air their grievance but they (also) have to respect our mgt (management)/procedural due proess".

He declined to elaborate.

To other interviewers, Bello gave varying replies.  In one, he was quoted as saying dela Torre's recall was merely temporary.

This was the exact opposite of the letter he sent to Dela Torre on Mar. 23, which clearly stated: "In the interest of the service, you are hereby recalled to Home Office effective immediately."

Bello's letter also ordered Dela Torre to turn over all money, properties, equipment and accountable forms to Assistant Labor Attache Ma. Nena German, indicating the recall was final.

In a separate interview with the Blas Ople Center, Bello reportedly said Dela Torre was found to have engaged in "favoritism" in approving accreditation requests by employment agencies.

Earlier, he also suggested Dela Torre had violated rules when he issued overseas employment certificates to Filipinos working in Shenzhen.

However, an officer at the Consulate told The SUN there was nothing anomalous in the practice.

But the real reason why dela Torre got into hot water was apparently his decision to reject a second job order for "entertainers" in Wanchai, after a surprise inspection found the women workers clad only in skimpy outfits.

Asked how he felt about Bello's statements suggesting he ws found guilty of some misdeed, Dela Torre said, "I'd be happy to answer the charges if they are made known to me."

He admitted being surprised by the immediate recall order, as he had not been formally informed that he was under investigation.

He did learn from his staff, however, that a top-level delegation from the Home Office had visited Hong Kong while he was away on vacation in February, to check on his performance.
He reiterated he didn't have any problems getting marching orders, but he didn't want to go under a cloud of doubt.

The moves came amid extensive media coverage given to Bello's unceremonious sacking of his HK man, who has won wide support for his crackdown on illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

The interest heightened after a massive show of support given to dela Torre by various overseas Filipino workers groups in a protest held on Mar. 25.

Apart from the relentless posts on social media by various people, news organizations like Thomson-Reuters, South China Morning Post and Philippine TV networks ABS-CBN and GMA Network have all repoted on the case.

The Blas Ople Center also stirred interest when it hosted a news conference on Mar 26 where several  OFW groups extolled dela Torre and backed calls to retain him in Hong Kong.

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