A labor attaché's desperate act
HONG KONG – You know that something is terribly amiss when one tries to cover up a misdeed by doing something stupid, like crudely tampering an official document.
This was exactly what happened when the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong started investigating allegations of impropriety against former Labor Attaché Dodong Roldan.
When the investigating team asked for certain papers to be handed over, including the latest work contract of administrative assistant and driver Donald Retirado, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) headed by Roldan gave a visibly tampered document.
No mention was made as to who exactly turned over the contract copy, but the attempt to mislead could not have been lost on the investigators.
The one-year contract was changed so the validity was only up to July 31 this year, when in truth, it was supposed to run until December 31.
Why July? Because that was when the accreditation of a placement agency registered in Retirado’s daughter, Frances, took effect.
The date was crucial because the logic apparently was, if Retirado was no longer connected with POLO, he or his boss, Roldan, could no longer be found guilty of violating the strict civil service rules on conflict of interest.
But the attempt to mislead was so crude it was almost laughable. The date change in the document, which was part of the thick attachments to the committee report, was done so badly that even a grade school kid would have noticed the difference.
Worse, the genuine document was kept within the Consulate itself, as it had been notarized by one of its officers, so there was no way this ruse could have succeeded.
But while the vain attempt was laughable at the outset, the implications should not be ignored. Forgery is a crime considered serious in any jurisdiction, and the fact that this was apparently done by a civil servant in an attempt to derail an official investigation makes the act all the more sinister.
There many other disturbing findings mentioned in the report. One was the committee’s own observation that it was “impossible” for Roldan not to have known that an agency that he verified and endorsed to POEA as being fit to recruit Filipino workers into Hong Kong was owned by Retirado’s daughter.
In his own memorandum, Retirado affirmed that Roldan did not know his daughter’s connection to the agency. Both also said that when the Labatt (Labor Attaché) learned of the agency’s true ownership, he told Retirado that it should not operate.
Unfortunately for both, the surname Retirado is not so common that it could easily be ignored, especially by an official tasked with the strict vetting of recruitment agency applications.
Further, as I said in my previous column, it boggles the mind why, having found out about the agency’s true ownership, Roldan did not do more than suspend its operations.
A document attached to the report also hinted that this supposed advice not to operate was just another cover-up. This was a letter dated August 8 in which Frances Retirado had asked POLO for an agency code and IDs for her liaison officers. Clearly, if there was really an advice not to operate, she would not have made the application.
Rather than wait to be sacked, Retirado opted to resign, though without a hint of regret or remorse. Instead of acknowledging his wrong, he lashed back at DOLE, citing previous delays in his salary as the reason for his decision.
But as correctly noted by the investigators, this resignation for whatever reason, did not cure the illegal act that had already been committed. The deed was done, the farce has been staged. The only course of action left now is to file charges, and punish those who are guilty. – 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 a migrants rights activist.
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