Some employees of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) connive with illegal recruiters for the issuance of overseas employment certificates (OECs), earning them up to a quarter of a million or P250,000, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd disclosed on Friday.
He did not say if the amount is a monthly or a yearly take.
The alleged racket prompted Bello to order the temporary suspension of the acceptance and processing of all new applications for the OECs amid persistent reports of rampant illegal recruitment activities of land-based Filipino migrant workers.
“To give you an idea how serious the problem is, we received reports that 90 percent of direct hires are victims of illegal recruitment,” he said in a news briefing.
Bello added the suspension would last for 15 days, from November 13 to December 1, but may be extended if the circumstance warrants, depending on results of an investigation by a committee headed by Labor Undersecretary Bernard Olalia..
The directive covers all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including direct-hire workers.
Exempted from the coverage of the suspension are workers who are being hired by international organizations and members of the diplomatic corps, which include members of royal families, and sea-based recruitment agencies.
Also exempted are pending applications for Bello’s signature or by the officer in charge of the POEA.
The Labor chief said a reshuffle would be implemented in the POEA as part of an initial measure to stop the illegal activities.
An internal purge, according to Bello, would be undertaken and heads will roll after the investigating committee submits its report.
He said POEA employees involved in irregularities would be charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law, and even large-scale estafa and bribery.
“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,” the Labor chief added.
According to Bello, some 75,000 applications of would-be OFWs are affected by the suspension order but said the problem “has to be nip[ped]in the bud or else [it]would further worsen.”
He assured aspiring overseas workers though that the suspension is only temporary and acceptance and processing of the OECs would commence as soon as possible.
The order will be implemented by the POEA, for compliance by all land-based private recruitment agencies.
Last April, Bello also suspended the issuance of exemptions to direct-hire OFWs over reports linking employees of the POEA to alleged irregularities in the processing of documents.
It, however, was lifted after a month upon conclusion of investigation of reported corrupt practices in the processing of documents for direct-hire workers.