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Protest rally set Sunday as Labatt Jolly is recalled

23 March 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre has been recalled home by the Department of Labor and Employment and Filipino workers in Hong Kong are planning a mass protest this Sunday, Mar 25, to denounce his pullout

Labatt Jolly, probably the best-loved head of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Hong Kong by OFWs yet the most-hated by exploitative employment agencies and bad employers, told The SUN he received the order from Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Friday, Mar 23.

“Immediate ang nakalagay,” Dela Torre said when asked if Bello specified a date for his return home.

The official said he suspected that his recall was connected to a months-old job order for bar dancers from a well-known Filipino talent importer/supplier that Dela Torre had refused to endorse for obvious reasons.

With Dela Torre out of the way, whoever takes over his post, even as just officer-in-charge, might bend over and approve the job order.   

Dela Torre, who has fearlessly launched a campaign against human traffickers targeting Hong Kong-based OFWs with promises of better-paying jobs in Russia and elsewhere, said his departure would not halt the crusade.

“No, I don’t think so. Hopefully, the crusade will be continued by the PCG… I will continue it wherever I am, even when I’m no longer in government. I plan to do some writing,” said Dela Torre, a lawyer and writer.

He said he did not think his successor would ever have the courage to pick up the campaign against human traffickers.

“I think the agencies here were also scared of my new accreditation system where they have to be ethical recruitment-compliant and be certified to be so in order to get accreditation,” the labor attaché said.

Initial OFW reaction to the recall order indicated difficult times ahead for whoever will take over Dela Torre’s position.

Just a few hours after hearing about the recall order, leaders of Filipino community groups expressed their indignation, saying Dela Torre is being pulled out just when the genuinely pro-worker labor attaché had begun to improve the situation of OFWs here.

OFW groups will hold a mass protest starting at 10:30am outside the Mass Mutual Tower in Wanchai on Sunday in support of Dela Torre. Even volunteers, angered and saddened by the news, are planning a boycott of POLO this Sunday, Mar 25.

Eman Villanueva, chairman of Bayan Hong Kong & Macau, condemned the recall of Dela Torre in a statement to The SUN:

“Mariin naming kinokondena ang recall order kay Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre. Malinaw na nakapanaig ang interes ng mga recruitment agencies at human traffickers dahil sila ang pinaboran ng administrasyon ni Pres. Duterte at hindi ang mga OFWs.

“Balita din namin na isang taga-Davao regional office ng DOLE ang ipapalit. Malinaw na mas mahalaga ang palakasan sa administrasyon at hindi ang interes ng mga kababayan na magkaroon ng mga tapat na lingkod-bayan kagaya ni Labatt Dela Torre.

“Kasama ng iba pang mga grupo ng Filipino community sa Hong Kong, kami ay nananawagan sa lahat ng ating mga kababayan na sumama sa kilos protesta sa Linggo, sa ibaba ng POLO, upang tutulan ang recall ni Labatt Dela Torre.

“Ipapanawagan din namin na ang dapat tanggalin sa serbisyo ay ang pro-agency at overstaying na sa Hong Kong na opisyal diyan sa POLO na si Asst. Labatt Maria Nena German na wala namang ginawang mabuti para sa mga kababayan dito sa Hong Kong.

“Maraming nagawang mabuti para sa mga OFWs sa Hong Kong si Labatt Dela Torre. Iilan na nga lang silang matino sa serbisyo. Hindi dapat hayaan na maalis siya dito.”

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