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HK OFWs protest anew against Labatt dela Torre’s recall

09 April 2018

By The SUN

Some 200 OFWs staged another rally outside the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Wanchai on Apr 8 to protest the recall of Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre for reasons that remain unclear.

200 OFWs from various organizations joined the rally
In a story published in the South China Morning Post on the same day, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said it was President Duterte who ordered the investigation of Labatt dela Torre. However, Bello again failed to clarify what the accusations against Dela Torre were.

Protesters clearly did not buy Bello’s latest explanation for the recall. They booed his claim in the SCMP report and called him a “liar” for not giving a straight answer to what had prompted his decision to recall Dela Torre on Mar 26 “with immediate effect”. 

They also hinted that corruption was the real reason for the recall, which was ordered with a full year still left on the labor attache’s three-year term.

“Serbisyo, serbisyo, hindi negosyo” was a chant that was repeated throughout the hour-long protest that was punctuated at one stage by a minute-long noise barrage.

The labor attaché himself remained puzzled on what his supposed misdeeds were, saying he was never told of any charges against him.

“I wish I knew so I could clear my name,” Dela Torre has told The SUN.

In a hurriedly called meeting last Saturday, Apr 7, acting labor attaché Ma Nena German was reportedly overheard telling POLO staff that the protests against dela Torre’s recall were “useless” because he had already been told to return to Manila by Apr 10.

But Dela Torre disproved this, saying he was yet to receive word on when he is expected back in Manila, although he has already cleared up his desk and has turned over the post to German, who was designated officer-in-charge by Bello.

Pending an order on when he should return to the Home Office, Dela Torre has decided to stay put.

On Thursday, Apr 12, President Duterte is meeting with Filipino community leaders, many of whom have vowed to take up the cudgels for Dela Torre. The Filcom representatives also said they would try to clarify whether it was really Duterte himself who ordered Dela Torre’s investigation, and if true, why.

Protesters came from across the political divide
At the protest, many of the speakers again extolled Dela Torre for working hard to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

Suzette Bagatua, an officer of Global Alliance HK and volunteer at POLO, said every worker knows what Dela Torre has done to help them, foremost of which was his unilateral decision to ban dangerous window cleaning. The initiative was eventually adopted by the Hong Kong government in its standard work contract for foreign helpers.

“Huwag lang po sana biglain angpagpapauwi sa ating labor attaché. Bigyan po sana ng tamang hustisya, tamang paraan ng imbestigasyon kung bakit. Matatanggap namin itong lahat basta nasa tamang paraan,” Bagatua said.

Nootenboom called dela Torre a
dedicated public servant
Another speaker, Pieter Nootenboom of the Knights of Rizal, expressed disgust at the recall of Dela Torre, and earlier of his deputy, Henry Tianero, who he said were both very dedicated public officials serving the workers.

Bello, who had apparently underestimated the backlash from OFWs in Hong Kong, had earlier cited varying reasons for sacking Dela Torre.

He said the probe on Dela Torre which he ordered in late February came as a result of a complaint, but did not specify who made it, or what it was all about. He also has been unable to answer queries on why the investigation was conducted while the attaché was on holiday in the Philippines.

However, various reports quoted him later as saying that the investigation was in response to charges of “favoritism” in granting agency accreditation leveled at Dela Torre.

Bello also cited as reason Dela Torre’s act of granting overseas employment certificates to OFWs in Shenzhen. However, even Consulate officials say there is nothing irregular with the said act.

Dela Torre said it could have been his refusal to approve additional job orders for bar dancers after his staff who did a surprise inspection found the 25 Filipinas whose job orders he had cleared were wearing skimpy outfits in the pub where they worked.

He said the women were deployed by Williams Production (HK) Limited, a Filipino supplier of entertainers in Hong Kong’s red light districts.

 “I think ‘favoritism’ is a charge that they are floating to hide the fact that the real issue here is my disapproval of the (job orders) for bar dancers,” Dela Torre said, adding that he did not remember having refused any accreditation.

“In fact, I have recently installed a new system of accreditation called 8Ps to take away the discretionary aspect of the accreditation process and make it more transparent and more in tune with ethical recruitment standards,” he said.

He said Williams is not a recruitment agency but a direct employer or supplier of dancers.

A second batch of 63 job orders for dancers submitted by Spear International Manpower and Trading were approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration on Oct 18 last year.

Dela Torre said that was the batch he did not approve, a clear indication that the POEA could override his decision.

As of Apr 6, three batches of 123 verified job orders for dancers to Hong Kong, including the batch from Spear, were posted on the website.

The POEA approved 32 such job orders from Archangel Global Solutions Inc on Feb 21 this year, after allowing a batch of 28 from the same agency on Jan 22.

In a post on his Facebook page, Dela Torre reminded his detractors of the law of karma.

“We all reap what we sow. If you sow kindness and good deeds, it will come back to you in greater measure. If you, however, sow treachery, duplicity and bad faith, your karma will make you regret the actions you have taken. If you did everything for money, your punishment will be ten-fold,” the labor attaché said.

“I am just glad that in the bosom of the Filipino communities I have served as labor attaché, I found warmth and comfort and affirmation. How many labor attachés can say that?” he asked.
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