Stricter rules in OFW halfway houses out

Among the 8 measures under labor chief's Administrative Order 262: Distressed OFWs should not do household work for embassy and POLO officers and staff

MANILA, Philippines – Following the prostitution and sex-for-flight scandals involving labor officials and Filipino workers in the Middle East, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has put in place stricter house rules in Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) and the Migrant Workers and Other Overseas Filipino Resource Center (MWOFRC).

In a statement on Thursday, July 4, Baldoz said she issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 262 on Wednesday to be observed in the labor offices and halfway houses (Bahay Kalinga) abroad

“POLOs and Bahay Kalinga should reflect the ideal standards of how workers should be treated, served, and cared for. These places are the closest each OFW has for a home and, therefore, should feel like a home for them while, at the same time, continue to observe the highest form of professionalism,” Baldoz said.

Following are the rules under AO 262:

1) Distressed workers shall be prohibited from engaging in any work or employment, whether full time or part time, while under the custody of Bahay Kalinga.

2) OFWs are not allowed to work or perform volunteer work in the household of embassy and POLO officers and staff.

3) Only the designated female center supervisor is allowed to reside at the resource center. She is not allowed to bring along her family members.

4) The head of the POLO should approve all requests for repatriation tickets that have to be made to employers, foreign recruitment agencies, Philippine recruitment agencies, the Philippine Overseas Employment Adminstration (POEA), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and other sources.

5) The contact numbers of the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB), OWWA, POEA, POL, and the embassy should be conspicuously posted at the Bahay Kalinga and on the POLO website. These should enable OFWs to air complaints, suggestions, and other concerns.

6) The head of the POLO should conduct weekly dialogues with the Bahay Kalinga wards to update them on their cases and to address their needs and other concerns. The POLO is authorized to place local hires on preventive suspension.

7) The final settlement of cases shall be done at the POLO and status report on all cases handled by POLO and OWWA shall be submitted to the head of POLO.

8) The labor attaché should officially designate an organic staff as the head of the repatriation team. He or she shall accompany to the airport all wards for repatriation.

Baldoz said she expects “nothing less than strict compliance to the administrative order.”

The order came after last month’s exposé of Akbayan Rep Walden Bello of labor officials in the Middle East allegedly sexually abused distressed female Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in exchange of prioritized repatriation. 

READ: ‘Embassy staff prostituting OFWs’

On Tuesday, Baldoz submitted an updated report on the “sex-for-flight” controversy to President Benigno Aquino III. The report outlined the discussion she had with Aquino and the steps that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has taken since the allegations became public. – 

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