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Labatt Jolly returns, sets eye on newly accredited agencies

22 October 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre has said he will review the accreditation of more than 20 new local employment agencies, as he resumed work in Hong Kong on Oct. 21.

Labatt Dela Torre retook the top post at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office nearly six months since he was recalled to Manila to face a supposed inquiry about his alleged favoritism in dealing with agencies and other misconduct.

No such inquiry appeared to have taken place, but Dela Torre was unable to return to his desk sooner because he needed to get cleared all over again so he could be sent back to Hong Kong as the Philippines’ top labor official.

On his return, he was received warmly by many leaders of the Filipino community, mostly those who protested an order for his recall in May by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

“It’s good to be back in Hong Kong. A lot of unfinished business and discontinued projects to be resuscitated,” Dela Torre posted on his Facebook page at the end of his first day back at work.

In an interview with The SUN earlier in the day, he said he would check if the agencies given accreditation in his absence passed his framework for “ethical recruitment.”

His yardstick includes requiring agency owners seeking accreditation to undergo a seminar, sign undertakings to comply with legal recruitment guidelines, and agree to third-party assessment.

He also said he will act against Philippine agencies that charge excessive training fees from domestic workers coming to Hong Kong for the first time, or joining new employers.

Another concern was the shortening of work contract processing in POLO, which appeared to have taken its toll on staff.

“I need to meet all the staff kasi sa processing of contracts, mukhang na-shorten nila into one day pero at the expense naman ng empleyado, alas-10 o alas-11 umuuwi,” he said.

He said there is no point to speed up the work in POLO because it still takes the Consulate five days to complete the processing.

In the last three months of his absence, Labor Attache Nida Romulo took over POLO as officer-in-charge.

But after the formal turnover of the post back to him on Oct 22 at the Consulate, Labatt Romulo will head on to Malaysia, where she will also head POLO.

Dela Torre said Bello had given him no special instructions before he returned here.

“Wala naman. It’s just that make sure yung mga controversial cases na baka lumabas sa media, dapat agapan, ireport kaagad sa kanya,” such as sexual offenses against Filipina workers, Dela Torre said.

He said he told Bello that Hong Kong has existing mechanisms to deal with such cases.

Even as he hit the ground running, Dela Torre paused at the end of the day to thank all those who welcomed him back.

In his Facebook page, he said: “The spontaneity and warmth of the welcome of the community were overwhelming, and I was speechless. Faces both familiar and unfamiliar beamed and their smiles of recognition and gratitude lifted my spirit.

“I can only reciprocate by recommitting myself to the advocacies I have dedicated myself to pursue, and have pursued, before I left Hong Kong and went on a long vacation. It's like I never left at all.”

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