Aquino ally wants P2.6 billion cut on Labor budget

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An ally of President Benigno Aquino 3rd has pushed for a P2.6 billion budget cut in the proposed P 10.5 billion budget for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) amid the controversy on sexual abuses committed by Labor officials against distressed Overseas Filipino Workers.

Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan party-list made the pitch on Wednesday during the DOLE budget hearing before the House Committee on Appropriations.

Bello noted that it is baffling that the DOLE’s 2014 budget will be hiked at P10.5 billion from P8.1 billion this year, considering that Philippine Labor officials are found to have been involved in sexual abuses against the distressed OFWs in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait.

“The POLO officers who are supposed to help the distressed OFWs are the ones abusing them. That is unacceptable. This fact does not put me in the mood to approve your budget. If you will not be supportive of the of imposing criminal and administrative sanctions to your erring people, then I will be forced to seek for your 25 percent budget cut in 2014 thru a House Resolution,” Bello pointed out.

Bello cited that his proposal is way generous than the drastic proposal of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who earlier called for a P1 peso budget for DOLE.

“You should realize here that I am being merciful compared with Senator Estrada. Justice must be served and heads must roll in this case. I hope that you would not stand in the way of serving justice,” Bello added.

Bello was pissed because he claimed that the DOLE is apparently taking its time on filing the appropriate charges on its erring, high—ranking officials particularly: Mario Antonio and Antonio Villafuerte.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz countered Bello’s claims, saying that the investigating panel of the DOLE is about to release their report on Thursday after gathering 160 testimonies from three Philippine Labor offices in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Jordan and Kuwait, on top of accounts from embassy and labor office officials.

“They submitted their initial report on August 1 and I already tasked them to fast track the investigation. I expect them to make a report tomorrow. Based on that report, I will make my evaluation and recommendation on what cases have prima facie evidence and are ripe for appropriate charges,” Baldoz said.

“If the evidence warrants the filing of charges [against the officials], we’ll let it be. We are all under rule of law. There is no intention to delay [the proceedings]or whitewash. I will act on it accordingly,” Baldoz added. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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