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Bello scored for likening dead OFW in freezer to ‘ice cream’

18 April 2018

Bello with  Presidential Communications Asst Sec Mocha Uson at the Bong Go event

By Daisy CL Mandap

Filipino community leaders in Hong Kong have begun an online campaign to get Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III kicked from his post, allegedly because of widespread corruption and his callous attitude towards overseas Filipino workers.

Among the grounds cited by the so-called “Oust Bello Movement” were the labor chief’s alleged use of the words “ice cream” to describe Joanna Demafelis, the OFW who was killed and stuffed in a freezer by his employers in Kuwait.

“He is callous and insensitive to the plight of OFWs. In shocking remarks he made after gatecrashing a meet-and-greet session between HK OFWs and Special Assistant to the President Bong Go on Apr 12, Bello told the OFWs that they should prepare well for their future, and not wait until they turned into “ice cream” like Joanna Demafelis…before they became self-sufficient,” said the group’s statement issued on Apr. 18.
MinFed officers with SAP Bong Go (in red shirt)
The allegation was supported by several leaders who were at the meeting, including officers of the Mindanao Federation, who organized the event. One MinFed officer told The SUN several guests, including those who were part of President Duterte’s entourage in his Hong Kong visit, had expressed shock at Bello’s insensitive remarks.

The statement further quoted Bello as saying that Demafelis’ family had become instant millionaires since many people moved by the OFW’s unfortunate death had given them money.

 Bello with HK employment agency operators
Foremost among the grounds cited by the group, however, was Bello’s firm stand on the recall of his Labor Attache to Hong Kong, Jalilo dela Torre. The group alleged that the recall “appears to have been prompted by a complaint from a recruiter who failed to get the Labor Attaché to approve a job order for bar dancers in the red light district of Wan Chai”.

Despite assurances from Go and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano that Dela Torre would not be removed from his post, the group said Bello is adamant his labor attaché must return home to answer allegations of impropriety.

“Is this the result of money changing hands between the agencies and Secretary Bello?,” asked the group. “That could only be the case”.

Five other grounds were cited by the group in calling for Bello’s sacking, including his failure to comply with promised relief for OFWs, such as the issuance of the OFW ID to replace the overseas employment certificate, and the payment of rebates to longtime members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administraiton.

In addition, Bello is accused of engaging in corruption when he abruptly halted OEC processing last year, and when he took over the granting of direct-hire exemptions to Filipino professionals who found their own jobs abroad.

Another ground cited was Bello’s alleged use of his position to appoint family members and relatives of influential people as labor attaches in key posts abroad, despite their lack of qualification and failure to meet the minimum requirements for the job. The group alleged that the prized posts are traditionally given as rewards to labor officials who had served well in difficult assignments in Asia and the Middle East.

More damning were the allegations that Bello had connived with agencies in an effort to trick President Duterte into lifting the deployment ban to Kuwait, and with employers’ groups to stall efforts to end work contractualization.

The statement alleged that Bello has gone against the recommendation of his own top officials who feel that the working and living conditions of Filipino workers in Kuwait have not improved.

“This could only be due to the influence of his known close friend, Lucy Sermonia, president of the association of agencies deploying workers to Kuwait. Together, they have misled the President by persuading him to sign an MOU which is empty of substantive provisions,” said the statement.

Bello was also accused of adopting a draft executive order made by employers’ groups in the long-running campaign to end work contractualization.

“His open collaboration with big companies and employers’ groups has served as the main stumbling block to ending contractualization, a key campaign promise by President Duterte”, said the statement.

Among the initial signatories of the campaign to get Bello booted from the Cabinet were Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, Mindanao Federation, Global Alliance, Unifil-Migrante Hong Kong, Filipino Migrant Workers Association, and the Global Ministers Association.

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