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Labatt Jolly set to return to HK post next month

09 July 2018

Labatt dela Torre in surprise visit to Filcom leaders at Bayanihan Centre
(photo by Resty Suareza)

By Daisy CL Mandap

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre is set to retake his Hong Kong post on Aug. 1 -  assuming he secures an exemption from the ban on the transfer of government personnel ahead of national elections in May next year, and gets all the paper work done.

The order was in a memo issued on Jun 27 by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who recalled dela Torre on Mar 23 for still unknown reasons, sparking two angry protests by big community organizations in Hong Kong.

One of the protests held in March against Dela Torre's recall 
The reference to the election ban is, however, strange, as a resolution issued by the Commission on Elections in December 2015 imposed a freeze on the transfer of government officials and staff only from Jan. 10 to June 8 of the election year, a clear six months from now.

In the meantime, dela Torre’s designated successor, Leonida Romulo, is expected to arrive in Hong Kong by this Sunday, Jul 15, after her appointment was approved by the Hong Kong government.

But if dela Torre gets to return as scheduled on Aug. 1, Romulo, who only has a year to go before her compulsory retirement, would end up serving as labor attaché for just 15 days, unless both are somehow retained.

Dela Torre, who surprised many when he appeared unannounced at an event hosted by the Surigaonon Association yesterday, Jul 8, at the Bayanihan Centre, said he was not sure, either, of what to expect if Romulo was still in Hong Kong when he gets cleared to return.

He said he just came for a few days to attend to some matters and check his flat, which is still being paid for by funds from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.

Dela Torre who was recalled with no formal charges being made against him, is set to finish only the remaining period of his original three-year appointment to the post, which is March 14, 2019.

New appointments to the same post are now for five-year periods.

In several interviews, Bello had accused him of several misdeeds, from favoritism in giving accreditation to employment agencies, to issuing overseas employment certificates to Filipino workers in China, to outright corruption.

But those in the know say the real reason the labor attache Torre got into hot water was his decision to reject a second job order for "entertainers" in Wanchai, after a surprise inspection he ordered showed the women were working clad only in skimpy outfits.

Dela Torre returned to Manila in mid-April, shortly after a visit by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, during which two top officials expressed support for his reinstatement: Special Adviser to the President Bong Go, and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

But despite the top-level endorsements, Bello stood by his decision until late last month, when he suddenly asked dela Torre to report to the DOLE head office, and reportedly told him to apologize and admit organizing the spontaneous protests in his favor.

On hearing about this, several Filipino community leaders who co-organized the popular protests all volunteered to step forward to mollify Bello over the perceived slight.

“Sige, aamin na ako,” said one leader who was half-amused by the reported order. “Sa totoo lang, ang dami naming dapat sisihin kung kasalanan talaga yan. Basta ibalik lang si labatt.”

Among the organizations that took active part in the protests were Unifil-Migrante HK, Global Alliance, National Organization of Professional Teachers, Mindanao Federation, Domestic Workers Corner, and many others.

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