DOLE order to recall labor attaché from HK making human traffickers happy: OFW groups

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Labor attaché Jalilo dela Torre, seen here in file photo from PASEI newsletter, has drawn support from many OFW groups who denounced the DOLE order recalling him from HK. ORIGINAL IMAGE FROM SUNWEBHK.COM

MANILA – Various OFW groups including victims of illegal recruitment from Hong Kong appealed to the Department of Labor and Employment to nullify its recall order for Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre.

In a press conference held Monday afternoon at the Blas F. Ople Policy Center in Pasay City, former labor undersecretary Susan Ople scored the labor department for not according due process to the Hong Kong-based senior labor attaché.

“Our workers in Hong Kong who believe very much in the integrity and dedication of Labor Attache dela Torre are extremely angry and demoralized. Civil society groups in Hong Kong, Manila and even in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are questioning this order given the unblemished record of service of labor attaché de la Torre,” Ople said.

The OFW advocate also lamented that the recall order has made human traffickers and illegal recruiters in and outside of Hong Kong delirious with joy. “An alleged human trafficker based in Turkey even posted on his Facebook page that our labor attaché deserved to be recalled.”

Leo Selomenio, chair of Global Alliance and a lead actor in the highly acclaimed documentary “Sunday Beauty Queen”, said OFW groups in Hong Kong would continue to stage rallies for the labor attache’s retention. The group shared a video of their rally last Sunday.

It was dela Torre who lobbied for a ban on dangerous window cleaning by migrant workers by including this in the job contracts of Filipino domestic workers. The Hong Kong government eventually adopted the ban as a policy, thus including it in the employment contracts of all foreign domestic workers.

Joining Ople in the press conference were: Luther Calderon of the Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino, Inc (KAMPI), Elsa Villa of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc (PASEI), Venecio Legaspi of the Saudi-based OFW Council of Leaders (OCL), Lito Soriano of LBS e-Recruitment Solutions, Fe Nicodemus of KAKAMMPI, and one of the victim of illegal recruitment from Hong Kong.

Luther Calderon, head of KAMPI which counts 8,000 members, cited the embattled labor attache’s long years of service at the labor department, making him one of the pioneer public servants in overseas employment. “

Based on a recent interview by a Hong Kong-based publication with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, the recall order stemmed from complaint made by an unidentified person that the labor attaché failed to process a job order for Hong Kong. However, the POLO-Hong Kong office decided against the approval of the said job order because it involves the recruitment of dancers, which could open the doors to prostitution.

In a signed petition letter addressed to Labor Secretary Bello, OFW leader Venecio Legaspi, representing the OFW Council of Leaders based in the western region of Saudi Arabia, said that DoLE should stop its current practice of recalling labor attaches without due process.

For the recruitment industry, PASEI backed the retention of Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre, citing his determined efforts to stop human trafficking and illegal recruitment. “For the first time, the Hong Kong police became aware of anti-human trafficking syndicates preying on our OFWs and deploying them to Russia and Turkey. This is a direct outcome of Labor Attache dela Torre’s campaign against human trafficking and illegal recruitment.”

Human trafficking victim “Raquel” issued her own appeal to Labor Secretary Bello. “Kabisado po ni Labor Attache dela Torre yung kaso naming dahil siya ang naglapit sa amin sa Hong Kong police. Huwag po sana siyang palitan lalo na’t umaandar na ang kaso naming laban sa nag-recruit sa amin (“Labor Attache dela Torre is familiar with our case because he brought us to the Hong Kong police. We would like to appeal for his retention especially now that the case that we filed against our illegal recruiter is now moving).”

Using hashtags like #NotoRecallOrder and #LetJaliStay, the different OFW groups said there will be no let up in their appeal to the DoLE.

“We are doing this without any coordination with the POLO office in Hong Kong or on the instructions of Labor Attache Jali. We believe that the DoLE recall order in this particular instance is uncalled for and without sufficient basis,” Fe Nicodemus of KAKAMMPI said.

Ople said the DoLE should focus its attention on other pressing concerns such as the continued imposition by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Ministry of Health of an additional $10 per OFW bound for the Middle East, as well as the rising number of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.