April 24, 2018 at 12:40 am
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte was supposed to fire Undersecretary Dominador Say of the Department of Labor and Employment for allegedly extorting money from local recruitment agencies deploying Filipino domestic helpers to the Middle East. One account has it that the incriminating information was given to President Duterte by a disgruntled recruitment agency owner whose license to operate had been canceled earlier by the DoLE. According to the agency owner, Say demanded money in exchange for an order reversing the cancellation of the agency’s license. A source close to the Palace said that the agency owner executed an affidavit to substantiate the allegation of corruption against the now ex-labor undersecretary.
Other reports have it that Say resigned before he was fired, in order to pre-empt what would have been an embarrassing dismissal from office.
Whether Say was fired or he resigned before getting fired is now an issue that is moot and academic. What is important is that his departure from the DoLE confirms President Duterte’s serious disdain for corruption, especially corruption in high places.
It is rather difficult to believe that Bello was unaware of Say’s activities because Say was Bello’s trusted consultant when Bello was still a party-list member of the House of Representatives from 2013-2016. Perhaps that is the reason why it was President Duterte who had to take steps to address the corruption attributed to Say.
Obviously, DoLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III did not act on the problem himself, and it had to take his boss, the President, to take remedial measures against the reported anomaly.
This is not the first time Bello failed to act seasonably on a problem of national concern in the DoLE.
Earlier this year, the Filipino people were shocked to learn that a domestic helper in Kuwait was raped by her Arab employer. After that, it was discovered that Joanna Demafelis, another Filipino housemaid working in Kuwait, was murdered by her two employers and abandoned in a freezer. Despite those disturbing events, the DoLE under Bello dished out its usual announcements to the media to the effect that DoLE officials in Kuwait will coordinate with Kuwaiti officials in the investigation of both crimes.
A furious President Duterte, however, ordered a total ban on the deployment of Filipino domestic helpers to Kuwait. Duterte’s ban forced the Kuwait government to promise reforms in the treatment of Filipino workers in that awful desert country, in the hope of getting Duterte to lift the ban. It was Duterte, not Bello, who compelled the Kuwaitis to promise reforms.
To pacify an angry President Duterte, the Kuwait government resorted to a cosmetic solution to the Demafelis case. A Kuwaiti trial court convicted Demafelis’ two employers in absentia, in a quick trial the uncharacteristic haste of which surprised even veteran diplomats. Although the trial court sentenced the two employers to death, the sentence was an empty victory for the Philippines and the Demafelis family because the convicted felons are currently outside the territorial jurisdiction of Kuwait—which means the death sentence cannot be carried out, unless the convicts are extradited to Kuwait.
Bello has not yet explained why his hand-picked DoLE officials stationed in Kuwait only found out about the Demafelis murder a year after the murder took place. Such inaction is a strong indication that Bello’s minions in Kuwait have been sleeping on their jobs. Those sloths should be fired.
It also appears that Bello has not bothered to make representations with the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs to urge the Kuwait government to extradite the murderers of Demafelis to Kuwait to face justice. That’s manifest dereliction of duty on Bello’s part.
Instead of pursuing the extradition of the murderers to Kuwait, Bello preferred to have the deployment ban earlier issued by Duterte lifted, and lifted quickly, so that even more Filipino domestic helpers can be sent to Kuwait.
Despite the way those barbarous Kuwaitis have been summarily treating Filipino domestic helpers working there—as confirmed by the way Demafelis was murdered—Bello has demonstrated unusual interest in continuing the deployment of Filipino housemaids to Kuwait. In fact, Bello and his personal stooges in the DoLE joyfully predict that the deployment ban will be lifted in May.
Equally appalling is that instead of decrying the hollow nature of the unenforceable ruling of the Kuwait court, Bello publicly praised it as if it was a just and final closure to the Demafelis murder case. As an ex-secretary of Justice, Bello should be ashamed of that remark.
Why is Bello so interested in getting President Duterte to lift the deployment ban against Kuwait? A source reveals that the president of a very influential association of recruitment agencies which deploy Filipino housemaids to Kuwait has very close ties with Bello.
This prominent recruiter, who also has connections with the Kuwaiti ambassador, is always present at press conferences called by Bello to take up matters involving the deployment of workers to Kuwait.
When Bello testified before the Senate weeks ago, this influential recruiter was also there. She was seen repeatedly whispering to Bello in the course of Bello’s testimony, almost as if she was Bello’s personal adviser. A recruiter who attended the hearing overheard her saying Bello needed help in answering the questions propounded to him.
Another source disclosed that although this influential recruiter’s license was earlier revoked by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Bello ordered its immediate renewal.
Since Bello does not deny that he is interested in running for the Senate in 2019, he should follow the example set by his good friend Say and leave the DoLE. Unlike Say, however, Bello can use his senatorial ambition as a convenient excuse to leave the DoLE soonest to prepare for his campaign which, incidentally, will require a lot of money. Hmmm.