Bello says enemies want him out of DOLE, Ombudsman bid

MANILA, Philippines – Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that complaints against him are the work of his enemies who want to replace him as head of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

In a phone interview with Rappler, Bello denied involvement in the extortion complaint filed before the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) by Alie Dizon of the Kilusang Pagbabago National Movement for Change.

He said the complaint came at a time when he expressed interest in applying for the post of Ombudsman.

"Nangyari 'yan noong nag-apply ako noon [sa Ombudsman], baka gusto akong palitan [sa DOLE]. Ngayon, it happened na ganito naman, magkakaroon na nga ng desisyon ang JBC, maybe to [derail] my nomination," Bello told Rappler.

(It happened when I applied for Ombudsman, maybe [they] want to replace me in DOLE. Now, it happened when the JBC is set to release a decision, maybe to derail my nomination.)

Dizon alleged that Bello had "full knowledge" of the P6.8 million being asked from Azzizzah Manpower International Corporation, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) recruitment agency, based on an affidavit signed by the complainant.

The woman who signed the affidavit said it was resigned DOLE Undersecretary Dominador Say who asked for the money. 

"Probably, [this was done] to discredit me by the one who brought her to the President. The woman had a valid complaint – it was very specific. But she told me she never tagged me in the allegations when she spoke to the  President," Bello said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Bello said that the woman "signed the affidavit without reading it" and eventually sought audience with him to clear the labor chief of such allegations.

In a dzBB interview, Labor Undersecretary Jacinto Paras admitted that the woman from Azzizzah first approached him about the extortion allegation. Paras is connected to PACC Commissioner Manny Luna through the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

Despite this knowledge, Bello said his relationship with Paras has not turned sour.

"Wala naman sa akin eh. (It doesn't concern me.) If he’s not a good man, I am a good man. Ako’y nagtatrabaho lamang. (I'm only working)," Bello said.

Aside from extortion, Dizon also claimed that the Bello "failed" to help an OFW who left her baby in Saudi Arabia. The woman was following up on the status of a recruitment agency because she needed the agency to help bring her baby to the Philippines.

Despite the allegations, Malacañang said that Bello still enjoys the trust of the President.

"To my detractors, don't make false accusations. That's a sin. And there's karma," Bello said.

"And being an Ombudsman depends on the members of the Judicial Bar Council and the President. All applicants are qualified but why choose to discredit me?" he added. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.