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Labatt Jolly likely to stay until Aug 11

18 April 2019

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre

By Daisy CL Mandap

A provision in the Philippines’ election law appears to have thwarted an attempt to recall Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre from Hong Kong at the end of last month.

According to Commission on Elections Resolution No 10312 dated Apr 27, 2018, the “transfer, promotion, extension, recall or otherwise movement of foreign service corps from current post or position” will not be allowed from May 13, 2018 to Aug. 11, 2019.

To prevent being covered by the election ban, the concerned government department should seek an exemption from Comelec, which however, should have been done on or before a date designated by the Commissioner in charge of overseas voting.

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The so-called “authority to recall” appears to have been overlooked by the Department of Labor so that, technically, Dela Torre will now have to remain in Hong Kong until Aug. 11.

The news that his term had been extended indefinitely was met with much rejoicing by some of the biggest Filipino migrant groups when they learned about it late on Apr. 1.

In a last-minute turnaround, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III issued a memo on this day stating that Labatt Dela Torre was to continue in his post “until further notice.”

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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.”

Despite the reversal to status quo, DOLE’s International Labor Affairs Bureau sent an urgent email to Consul General Antonio A. Morales on Apr 3 asking for a certification that was required by Comelec so Dela Torre could be recalled to the home office.

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But the request was apparently not met, or was no longer honored by Comelec for not meeting the deadline.

Dela Torre’s three-year tour of duty was supposed to end on Mar 31, but many Filipino community leaders had petitioned for his retention for at least six more months, the length of time he was recalled by Bello to the Home Office to respond to apparently unfounded accusations of impropriety.

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The leaders of the petition were elated by the news Dela Torre was to stay until a replacement for him was designated, or until after the lapse of the election ban.

 “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 stay 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.

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 immediately 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 well over 1,000 individuals, many of whom also left touching messages explaining their support for him.

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