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It’s back to manual contract processing at Polo after online system revoked

08 October 2019

Polo office building in Wanchai

By Vir B. Lumicao

From automated processing of  employment contracts, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office has reverted to going through the documents manually, all because the new system meant to make the work faster and more efficiently has been junked.

The electronic system that Polo used previously has already been disconnected, and was supposed to be replaced with a new one in line with a contract signed between former Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre and Polaris Tools Limited.

But since the agreement was scrapped by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III last month for supposedly being a “midnight deal,” the processing of work contracts has reverted to the  pre-2009 era, when the job was done by hand.
Polo Office-in-Charge Antonio Villafuerte said he and the rest of the Polo officers who check the work contracts are just awaiting instructions from DOLE on what to do next.

“Wala pa ngang instruction sa amin kung ano ang (gagawin), magku-query na lang kami kung ano ang gagawin namin dito,” he said.

“Mahihirapan kami kung mahihirapan kami. Doon sa mga submission ng contracts, yung checking ng documents ay nagma-manual na kami. Unlike before, they could submit through online, ngayon wala na,” Villafuerte said.
Before Polaris clinched the deal for the new system, all contracts submitted by employment agencies were processed with help from the old system installed by the previous provider, Employeasy.

Dela Torre said he decided to upgrade the system so Polo could also have a data base that tracked workers and employers on the watchlist, as well as agencies that violated the terms of their accreditation.
But after a selection process that resulted in Polaris bagging the deal, an unsigned letter addressed to Bello purportedly from “agencies seeking justice”, alleged irregularities and imputed corruption on Dela Torre.
 
Dela Torre (middle) signed contract with Polaris' Lindsay Ernst while welfare officer Marivic Clarin watched
On Sept 25, an investigation team led by Undersecretary Claro Arellano recommended revoking the contract as it was supposedly done with “manifest haste and a lack of transparency”.

Dela Torre has hit back at the decision, alleging lack of due process as the team did not talk to him, or anyone from Polaris. He has posted comments on social media saying he is contemplating legal action to clear his name.
With about 700 contracts being submitted to Polo each day, one would think the processing of the documents now takes longer than usual, and has overwhelmed staff.

Far from it, says Villafuerte, as his staff reportedly finds manual processing faster than electronic.

But he admits Polo now finds it difficult to keep track of employers who are on the watch list, meaning those with a record for abusive behavior or of committing contract violations, can now easily apply to hire a new Filipino domestic worker.


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