Group hits ‘midnight’ ban on new OFWs

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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 anti-illegal 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 unscrupulous 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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