Group hits ‘mid­night’ ban on new OFWs


A PUB­LIC in­ter­est group has ac­cused the Depart­ment of La­bor and Em­ploye­ment ( DoLE) and the Philippine Over­seas Em­ploy­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion of be­ing re­miss in their jobs in pro­tect­ing the in­ter­est of ap­pli­cants for over­seas jobs from il­le­gal re­cruiters.

The Lilac Cen­ter for Pub­lic In­ter­est (Lilac) pointed this out on Tues­day, say­ing the DoLE and the POEA’s help­less­ness was ev­i­dent in last week’s di­rec­tive of La­bor Sec­re­tary Sil­vestre Bello 3rd, who sus­pended pro­cess­ing of all new ap­pli­ca­tions for over­seas em­ploy­ment cer­tifi­cates (OECs), in­clud­ing those of di­rect- hire work­ers.

On Novem­ber 9, Bello is­sued Depart­ment Order (DO) 185, Se­ries of 2017, sus­pend­ing for 15 days the pro­cess­ing of all new ap­pli­ca­tions for OECs “in view of per­sis­tent re­ports of il­le­gal re­cruit­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing di­rect hires, and in order to pro­tect the pub­lic from per­ni­cious ac­tiv­i­ties of un­scrupu­lous in­di­vid­u­als prey­ing on Filipinos de­sir­ing to work over­seas”.

Lilac Cen­ter pres­i­dent Ni­con Fameronag de­scribed Bello’s move as “mid­night pol­icy” that dis­re­gards the plight of thou­sands of over­seas Filipino work­ers (OFWs) abruptly an, cuts short their dreams.

“This is a mid­night pol­icy. Be­sides, you don’t burn a whole house be­cause a part of it is rid­den with ter­mites,” Fameronag, a for­mer DoLE un­der­sec­re­tary for em­ploy­ment, said of Bello’s order.

He ex­plained that if the DoLE is so con­cerned about il­le­gal re­cruit­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, what it should do is to em­power and en­able more the POEA’s anti-il­le­gal re­cruit­ment branch (AIRB) by as­sign­ing to it more per­son­nel and money so that it can in­ten­sify and ex­pand its an­ti­il­le­gal re­cruit­ment cam­paign.

The Lilac Cen­ter ex­ec­u­tive also doubted that the DoLE can get to the root cause of il­le­gal re­cruit­ment in only 15 days--the life span of DO 185.

“Il­le­gal re­cruit­ment is the un­wanted husband of the gov­ern­ment’s over­seas em­ploy­ment pol­icy. It has been there since and we won­der what Sec­re­tary Bello’s in­ves­ti­gat­ing team can un­lock and undo in half a month,” Fameronag said.

Bello ear­lier said that some un­scru- pu­lous em­ploy­ees of the POEA were in ca­hoots with il­le­gal re­cruiters, earn­ing as much as a quar­ter of a mil­lion or P250,000 from ap­pli­cants for OECs but did not clar­ify if the amount was monthly or yearly.

He said an in­ter­nal purge would be un­der­taken and heads will roll af­ter an in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­mit­tee has submitted its re­port on the racket.

“In the mean­time, we have to stop the pro­cess­ing of ap­pli­cants. That’s how se­ri­ous the prob­lem is. Some peo­ple in the POEA are earn­ing a quar­ter of a mil­lion or more in said ac­tiv­i­ties. We would be re­miss in our job if we won’t do this,” Bello added.

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