Ex-labor attaché to HK 'probably guilty' – PH lawmakers
HONG KONG – Guilty most likely. This was the initial assessment of a group of Philippine legislators who visited Hong Kong recently to look into allegations of impropriety and abuse of power against former labor attaché Manuel Roldan. (READ: Philippine labor attaché to HK under fire)
The group told a forum with about 100 Filipino community leaders on March 15 that their initial reaction to the evidence presented to them by the complainants and a fact-finding team formed by the Consulate was that Roldan was guilty as charged. (READ: A labor attaché's desperate act)
The case against the former top labor official in Hong Kong centered on 4 main allegations:
1. That Roldan misused his position and authority in allowing the accreditation of an employment agency registered in the name of a daughter of Donald Retirado, his driver and a locally-hired staff of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
2. That Roldan accredited nearly 100 recruitment agencies in violation of an existing ban, and possibly as a way to win favors
3. That his mismanagement, poor negotiations and lack of foresight led to loss of the Filipino Workers Resource Center which was provided free of charge by the Hong Kong government
4. That the Philippine Overseas Labor Office’s (POLO) conciliation of money claims by Filipino workers may be illegal and inefficient
Resigned Akbayan Rep Walden Bello, who led the team from the committee on overseas workers affairs of the House of Representatives that looked into the case, said: “On all four charges, we in the committee say na may pagkakamali ang ating labor attache.” (Our labor attaché erred)
Despite this, he gave assurances that Roldan will be allowed to give his side to Congress within the next two weeks as part of due process. (READ: Report indicates illegal acts by PH ex-labor attaché in HK)
“Ipa-follow up ho natin ito (we will follow this up) because we cannot condone such acts,” said Bello, who added that the case will be pursued with concerned government agencies like the DOLE.
DOLE reportedly extended word to the committee in February that it was also investigating the case against its former top official in Hong Kong, who has been posted to an adjunct office in Tacloban, Leyte, since his return to the Philippines.
Bello's last visit
Bello took the chance to say goodbye to the Filipino community in Hong Kong, saying it was his last public hearing as legislator. He stood down from his post just days earlier, after announcing that he had lost his trust in President Benigno S. Aquino III who is a political ally of Akbayan party-list, which he represents in Congress. (READ: Bello: Aquino can 'scratch me off his list of allies)
Bello was joined in his Hong Kong visit by committee vice chairman Wes Gatchalian of Alay Buhay, Gabriela’s Emmi de Jesus, Ang Nars’ Leah Paquiz, OFW Family’s Johnny Revilla, and Angelina Tan of Quezon’s 4th district.
The congressional probe was prompted by a report released on September 29 by the Consulate’s fact-finding committee which suggested Roldan may have breached civil service laws when he allowed his former driver, Donald Retirado to operate an employment agency.
The report also pointed out that Retirado’s work contract which was submitted to the committee as part of its investigation appeared to have been tampered with, in an apparent attempt at a cover-up.
Further, that Roldan did allow 90 additional employment agencies in Hong Kong to recruit Filipino workers, despite his insistence that the power of accreditation rests solely with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in Manila.
Roldan was also blamed for the untimely return of the rent-free FWRC to the Hong Kong government, and for expanding, rather than halting, the apparently illegal practice of conciliating the money claims of OFWs against their recruiters.
The committee report was submitted to DOLE and the Department of Foreign Affairs for further action, and copies were furnished to Roldan and the Coalition of Service Providers for Ethnic Minorities (CSPEM), which initiated the complaint. But it took DOLE several months to start its own investigation.
During the congressional visit, the legislators also met with Hong Kong labor and immigration officials.
Bello said his group was assured by the host government that it was doing its best to protect the interests of its migrant community, including the Filipino domestic workers.
When they mentioned the recent case of abused Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, the Hong Kong officials reportedly said it was an “isolated case.”
But, Bello said, “we were skeptical,” likening the abuse of the Indonesian maid to the “torture” of foreign domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.
He called on OFWs to be courageous in exposing any abuse or injustice they may have suffered.
“We should always realize that if we keep pushing for our rights, they will be given to us,” he said. – Rappler.com