Direct hiring of OFWs temporarily suspended –Bello
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has ordered the temporary suspension of direct hiring of OFWs pending the result of the investigation on the anomalous deployment of directly hired OFWs not covered by the exemption.
"Nag-issue ako ng order suspending the processing ng direct hire while I'm investigating the so many reports and text messages reaching my office regarding some shenanigans in that office," Bello said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Bello was referring to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), some employees of which are said to be facilitating the illegal deployment of directly hired OFWs in exchange for fees.
Administrative Order No. 155 series of 2017, signed on Tuesday, suspends all processing and issuance of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) for all directly hired OFWs. The order also covers pending applications.
Filipinos who applied, already passed their requirements, and qualified for exemptions before the ban will still be issued OECs for deployment.
Bello said the suspension will likely be repealed after one to two weeks, or once the investigation that will start on May 1 is finished.
"Siguro it will take me one or two weeks to investigate," he said. "After itong May 1 kasi marami kaming inaasikaso. Tututukan ko 'yan. In fact we [will] go there and investigate, and after that we will get our findings and come up with our decision."
According to Bello, the Department of Labor and Employment has a list of POEA employees who will be under investigation.
The temporary ban follows the reshuffling of POEA directors and employees after DOLE discovered 100s of OFWs directly hired by employers were deployed despite strict rules on direct hiring.
Bello admitted that being directly hired by employers under these exemptions is beneficial to prospective OFWs as these options are safer and they will not need to go through recruitment agencies.
"Favorable in the sense na well-protected ka," Bello said. "Yung nagha-hire sa 'yo mga member ng diplomatic corps, yung mga high government officials. Siyempre mahirap silang mang-abuso sa inyo."
However, Usec. Dominador Say claimed in a statement that fixers in the POEA have been extorting around P15,000 to P17,000 to each applicant to process their documents for positions that are not covered by exemptions for direct hires.
Section 123 of POEA rules and regulations states that "No employer shall directly hire an overseas Filipino worker for overseas employment." This rule, however, does not cover highly-skilled workers like doctors and nurses.
Exceptions, as stated by Section 124, include members of the diplomatic corps, international organizations, heads of states and government officials with the rank of at least deputy minister, close relatives, and other employers as may be allowed by the DOLE Secretary.
"This corruption has to stop. We want to be sure that our workers are protected when they leave the country. We should prevent them from being victims of anomalous schemes," Say said. —KBK, GMA News