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We would like to appeal to Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte to remove Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III from his post for the following reasons:

1.     He is shamelessly pro-recruiter and anti migrant worker. This is best shown by his refusal to listen to a popular and widespread call by various groups in Hong Kong to rescind his unceremonious recall of Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre. In all the posts that he has served, Labatt dela Torre is known for his integrity, intelligence, hard work, compassion and dedication to his job.  And yet, Secretary Bello has insisted on the recall by making vague references to his Labor Attache’s alleged misdeed, and by pathetically insisting that it was all part of due process. In truth, the recall appears to have been prompted by a complaint from a recruiter who failed to get the Labor Attaché to approve a job order for bar dancers in the red light district of Wan Chai.

Acting on the non-partisan protests that were held against the recall, the Office of the President and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs have given assurance that the recall will be rescinded, but Secretary Bello is adamant that Labor Attache dela Torre report back to Home Office to answer the phantom charges. Is this the result of money changing hands between the agencies and Secretary Bello? That could only be the case.

2.     He is callous and insensitive to the plight of OFWs. In shocking remarks he made after gatecrashing a meet-and-greet session between HK OFWs and Special Assistant to the President Bong Go on Apr 12, Bello told the OFWs that they should prepare well for their future, and not wait until they turned into “ice cream” like Joanna Demafelis - the Filipina who was killed and stuffed in a freezer by her employers in Kuwait – before they became self-sufficient. Bello said the relatives of Demafelis became instant millionaires because of the donations that poured in from people who were moved by the tragedy that befell the hapless OFW.

3.     He has failed to deliver on his promises to OFWs. First of all, the OFW ID has not been rolled out yet, despite his promise to deliver it by September last year. He has also backtracked on his promise to allow the direct hiring of OFWs to Hong Kong, the payment of cash rebates to members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration for at least 10 years, and to scrap the overseas employment certificate for OFWs returning to their workplace. What remains in place of the OEC is the BM Online system which continues to be a source of hardship for our workers who cannot go home and return to their work site without going through the process.

4.     His decision to suspend the issuance of OECs last year was disastrous as it led to the loss of many jobs for our OFWs. He said he was suspending the issuance of OECs for 60 days to purge the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration of corrupt employees, but what has he got to show for it? The sacking of a few janitors and security guards, and the transfer of some POEA employees supposedly involved in some anomalies? What could have been the real reason for this? Did money change hands while nobody was looking?

5.     He has taken over the approval of direct hire exemptions with a clear intent to gain. Many Filipinos, mostly professionals who have found jobs on their own overseas, have been made to wait for months for the approval of their direct hire exemptions, which have been centralized to the Office of the Secretary, and where money is said to change hands in exchange for the exemption. As a result, workers who couldn't come across or who got tired waiting have gone abroad as tourists to make sure they wouldn’t lose the job opportunity. Thus, the direct hire policy meant to protect workers overseas has been circumvented by the very tedious and corrupt process put in place by Bello.

6.     He uses his position to dispense favor to his own relatives or relatives of well-known and influential figures. Newspapers and online media have reported that at least three inexperienced labor attaches appointed by Bello recently are related to him or other Cabinet officials, and did not meet the minimum requirement of serving for at least two years in the Department of Labor and Employment. These three were appointed to key posts in Washington D.C., Toronto and Rome. Another recent appointee was said to be a former barangay captain in Davao City. Bello ignored a long-standing practice of giving the plum posts to those who have served competently as labor attaches in work-heavy posts in the Middle East and Asia, and who deserve to be rewarded with quieter posts on their way to retirement.

7.     He has sided with employers in the ongoing campaign to end work contractualization in the country. He has shown his true color by adopting the draft Executive Order made by employers’ groups, when as the Secretary of Labor and Employment, he is sworn to protect the rights of workers. His open collaboration with big companies and employers’ groups has served as the main stumbling block to ending contractualization, a key campaign promise by President Duterte.

8.     He has worked against the country’s interests by openly pushing for the lifting of the ban on deployment to Kuwait. Bello’s motive is suspicious to say the least, because his own top officials feel that the working and living conditions of our workers in Kuwait have not improved. This could only be due to the influence of his known close friend, Lucy Sermonia, president of the association of agencies deploying workers to Kuwait. Together, they have misled the President by persuading him to sign an MOU which is empty of substantive provisions. OFWs should be allowed to keep their passports and cellphones? These are just crumbs off the negotiating table, and should have been part of their work contracts from the beginning, as these are mandated by international labor standards. What is needed overall is a strong framework for protecting our workers, and a firm commitment by the Kuwaiti government to abide by an agreement to this effect.

For these reasons, we hereby affix our signatures to call for the immediate removal of Secretary Silvestre Bello III as Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) of the Philippines.




BAYAN Hong Kong & Macau

Filipino Migrant Wokers' Union (FMWU)

Global Alliance Hong Kong

Global Ministers Association

Mindanao (Hong Kong) Workers Federation (MinFed)

United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)