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Labatt Jolly abruptly recalled, says he’s retiring after HK stint

06 July 2019

By The SUN

Image may contain: Jalilo Dela Torre, sitting
Labatt Jolly has been told his last day at his HK post is July 7

Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre has been recalled from his Hong Kong post yet again, and told that his last day in office is tomorrow, Jul 7.

The shock order was relayed to Dela Torre just days before he was supposed to give up his post at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office. Filipino community leaders who were set to throw him a farewell party on the last Sunday of July, scrambled to organize a send-off for him on his last day instead.

Dela Torre told The SUN he received orders to move to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where thousands of Filipino workers who knew him when he served there in the early 2000s, are also clamoring for his return. But he said he is planning to retire instead.
“I have orders to assume the post in Riyadh,” said Dela Torre, or “Labatt Jolly”, as he is fondly called by friends, colleagues in the service and the legion of OFWs who have protested his recall twice during his controversial stint.

“I plan to retire in my farm and do some writing,” said the 62-year-old bar topnotcher,  author, and chronicler of the Filipino workers’ journey through life, who was also a stage actor in his student days at the University of the Philippines.

“I have not closed the door on Riyadh, but my family (is) all against my continuing to stress myself over my work. My mother couldn’t sleep well because of what she perceives as my risky advocacies,” Labatt Jolly said.
But he said he has asked for a month's extension at his post to wrap up things, and also to comply with the required notice to his landlord.

Labatt Jolly's going into retirement puts a full stop to a career with Department of Labor and Employment that began in 1979, and was punctuated only by a three-year stint as a private lawyer in Cebu from 1995 to 1998.

He was first sent abroad to work as assistant labor attaché in Hong Kong in 1999, and later became labor attaché in Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Canberra. He was sent back to Hong Kong on Mar 25, 2016 to replace Nenita Garcia.  

But just two years into his current term he was told to return to Manila by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, purportedly to answer charges of favoritism in granting accreditation to employment agencies in Hong Kong.

Labatt Jolly complied with the order, but only after Filipino community leaders in Hong Kong held two massive protests supporting him, which were widely covered by both Philippine and foreign media.

The protesters had blasted Bello for the recall order, saying he had favored illegal recruiters and human traffickers instead of protecting vulnerable overseas Filipino workers.

They alleged the recall was instigated by a Hong Kong group that had applied for visas for sexy dancers in Wanchai, but was turned down by Labatt Jolly.

In October last year Labat Jolly was allowed to go back to Hong Kong after being asked to write a letter of apology to Bello, purportedly for instigating the rallies against his recall. 

A second attempt by Bello to recall him just before the mid-term elections in May was stymied yet again when it emerged that DoLE had not secured authorization from the Commission on Elections as mandated by law.

By the same law prohibiting the movement of civil service personnel before and after an election, Labatt Jolly is not supposed to be taken out of Hong Kong until early August.

But possibly the most loved labor attaché ever posted in Hong Kong is done resisting his recall.

Asked what he wishes his replacement would do, Labatt Jolly said: “I hope he will work hard to deserve the support and respect of the community. Particularly, the crusade against traffickers and rogue and abusive agencies.”

What advice does he have for the legion of Filipino workers here who feel being orphaned by his leaving?

“They just have to be strong and not to be afraid to exercise their rights, and to look beyond themselves to protect and help others in need. And to be always mindful of their health, while in Hong Kong, and to always be inspired by their own dreams and aspirations,” he said.

Apart from waging a relentless and vocal campaign against illegal recruiters, human traffickers and organizers of sleazy beauty contests, Labatt Jolly will be remembered by many in Hong Kong for his humility, accessibility, and genuine concern for Filipino migrant workers.

He responds directly to appeals for help using his private Facebook account and mobile phone number, and has gone on outreach missions to remote areas in Hong Kong to provide basic medical check-ups to OFWs, and information about POLO’s services.

His HealthWise project, through which thousands of OFWs have been given free tests for blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and uric acid levels, was made available at POLO six days a week, and during the outreach services.

Assistant LaborAttaché Antonio Villafuerte has been designated as officer-in-charge until a replacement for Labatt Jolly has been designated.
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