‘A whitewash,’ says crusading bishop
HONG KONG – The preventive suspension imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on two employment agencies found to have colluded in charging their Filipino recruits up to HK$21,000 (P115,000) did little to appease Bishop Gerry Vallo, who has been helping the complainants fight their case.
Vallo said the move by the Philippine regulatory body failed to answer the “root of the problem” – the failure of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Hong Kong to act immediately on the complaints.
“It was not mentioned that from November 2013 to April 2014, POLO took no action to address the issues raised in the complaints,” said Vallo.
He said that despite the first complaints against Satisfactory filed in November 2013, it was only in May 2014 that POLO arranged for a conciliation meeting between Satisfactory and the complainants.
During that meeting, then Deputy Labor Attaché Elsa Olgado reportedly did nothing while Susana Ho, the mother of Satisfactory’s owner Vivian Ho, kept shouting at Filipina complainant Jennifer de Guzman.
Afterwards, Olgado reportedly told Vallo that there was nothing that POLO could do because Ho had denied the allegations.
This prompted Vallo and the complainants to seek help from Vice Consul Charles Macaspac of the assistance to nationals section, who immediately helped execute their affidavits. In some of the affidavits, the complainants mentioned that Ho had bragged about being friends with Labor Attaché Manuel Roldan, which deterred them from seeking help from POLO.
By the middle of June, Vallo got a boost when Senator Alan Peter Cayetano took up their case and even passed a Senate Resolution calling for an immediate investigation into the matter.
During a subsequent meeting in early July, Senator Cayetano reportedly told Vallo that the POEA Administrator had sent a letter to Labatt Roldan asking him to explain his side, and to conduct an investigation.
Labatt Roldan announced by mid-July that he had already halted the processing of work contracts by Satisfactory as of July 10. He reportedly forwarded the notarized complainants to POEA on July 17 for further action.
In an email to The SUN, Roldan said “this is to deter the agency from further committing the alleged violation and to protect the Filipino workers from being victimized by the alleged illegal act.”
But Vallo said Roldan’s move was too little, too late, and was just a “papogi (brownie) point” since he did nothing to address the issue earlier.
“The only real action was the one taken by POEA on August 4,” said Vallo.
But even with this, he remains uncertain if genuine justice would eventually be served to the complainants, many of whom have already lost their jobs while fighting for what they believe is right, and just. – Rappler.com
The author is a veteran journalist, having worked for various newspapers and TV stations in the Philippines and in Hong Kong. She is also a lawyer and migrants rights activist.
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