Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III ordered yesterday the suspension of issuance of Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) for overseas Filipino workers who are seeking exemptions on the ban on direct hires.
Bello issued the order following reports that some employees of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) have been extorting money from OFWs in exchange for the processing of exemptions from the direct hire ban.
“We are strictly implementing the ban on direct hires. No exemptions shall be issued effective today after we have gathered information on the anomalies and illegal extortion activities within the agency,” an irate Bello said.
In Administrative Order No. 155, series of 2017 he signed on Tuesday, Bello said no processing and issuance of OEC for all directly hired OFWs shall be undertaken until further orders. All pending applications for OEC for direct hires as of the signing of the directive shall be covered by the suspension, he also said.
Labor Undersecretary Dominador Say, who serves as the POEA OIC Administrator said since he assumed office last year, fixing and illegal extortion activities were already taking place within a division in POEA.
“There is an existing rule on directly hiring OFWs. Although there are exemptions, these are strictly limited to a few circumstances. After I found out the anomalies in the agency, I immediately informed the Secretary, and since then, we have been thoroughly screening these applications,” according to Say.
He said there are fixers in a POEA division and these suspected fixers have been extorting around P15,000 – 17,000 to each applicant to process their exemption documents.
“We have initially reshuffled the directors in the agency and will continue to reshuffle the ranks of division chiefs,” Say added.
The POEA OIC also said he is heading the team that is investigating the anomaly as well as the processes, and the screening flow on the OEC applications to make sure that it will be free from corruption, and the OFWs will not be exposed to unscrupulous activities.
“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.
Based on the 2016 Revised Rules and Regulations on the Recruitment and Deployment of OFWs of the POEA, Section 123 states that ‘No employer shall directly hire an overseas Filipino worker for overseas employment.’
However, Section 124 provides the exemption to include those employers who are close relatives of the OFW, members of the diplomatic corps; international organizations; heads of state and government officials with the rank of at least deputy minister; and other employers permitted by the secretary of labor. –###