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Labatt Jolly gets last-minute extension

03 April 2019


By Daisy CL Mandap
Filcom leaders handi over petition  for Labatt Dela Torre's retention   to /Congen Morales

Some of the biggest Filipino migrant groups in Hong Kong were rejoicing late on April Fool’s Day over news that Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre’s stint in Hong Kong had been extended indefinitely.

But the news was no joke. In a last-minute turnaround, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III issued a memo dated Apr 1 stating that Labatt Dela Torre was to continue in his post “until further notice.”

Labatt Jolly will serve "until further notice"

The order reversed an earlier directive dated Mar 28 designating Assistant Labor Attache Antonio Villafuerte as office-in-charge at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office effective Apr 5 “until the arrival of a new Labor Attache.”

The new memorandum addressed to Labatt Dela Torre stated: “Further to the Memorandum dated 28th March 2019, you are hereby instructed to continue to discharge your duties and functions in POLO Hong Kong until further notice.”

Bello reversed an earlier memo designating an POLO OIC 

The reason for the sudden change of heart was not clear, but it could be due to the Department of Labor’s failure to secure an exemption from the ban on the movement of civil service personnel during the election period, which for this year runs from Jan 13 to Jun 12. 

Eman Villanueva of Bayan Muna Hong Kong and Macau, has assailed the recall order for Dela Torre during the election period, calling it anomalous and “suspicious.”
But Labor’s flip-flop could also be to the widespread support given by the Filipino community to a petition to get Dela Torre stay in Hong Kong for at least six more months.

Dela Torre’s three-year tour of duty was supposed to end on Mar 31, but many Filipino community leaders had petitioned for his extension, citing the six months he was recalled by Bello to the Home Office to respond to apparently unfounded accusations of impropriety.
The leaders of the petition were elated by the news Dela Torre was to stay until a replacement for him was designated, a process that could take several months.

“To God be the glory,” said Bishop Gerry Vallo of the Global Ministers Association of Hong Kong in a chat group.

“Yes! God is really good. Ang saya saya!,” said Leo Selomenio, chair of Global Alliance.
“Yahooo…tagumpay. Napalukso ako,” said Merlinda Mercado of Metrobank and financial education speaker at POLO.

The move to get Dela Torre to remain in Hong Kong got off the ground about a week earlier, after he was issued marching orders, along with the news that he would be sent back to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he served as a deputy labor attaché in the early 2000s.
That news was not received well by Filcom leaders, as a Middle East post is rarely given to a senior labor envoy like Dela Torre, who apart from being a lawyer and administrator of note, is also well-regarded by the Filipino community in countries where he served. 

The leaders also want Dela Torre to stay so he can continue his various training workshops and personalized service to Filipino migrant workers.
Despite their misgivings, about 100 of the leaders gathered at a farewell tribute hosted in Dela Torre’s honor on Mar 25, at the invitation of Hong Kong former legislator Emily Lau and some of her fellow human rights advocates.

On Mar 27, the group submitted a copy of the petition along with some 5,000 signatures, to Consul General Antonio A. Morales, who assured them that he would favorably endorse the request to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin. 

An online petition urging Dela Torre’s extension of office was also started, and to this date, has been signed by more than 1,000 individuals, many of whom also left touching messages explaining their support for him.

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