Bello looks into alleged corruption in POEA

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he is investigating alleged corruption inside the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) that favors migrant Filipino workers who wish to work on a direct-hiring basis despite restrictions.

POEA rules strictly impose that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) must be hired through an agency, except if they obtain clearance from the labor secretary.

In a news conference on Wednesday, April 26, Bello said his office has been receiving reports from aspiring OFWs who are seeking for his exemption.

"What I've been hearing is they are being asked of money and told to talk to the secretary [to seek for an exemption]," Bello said in Filipino.

"When a woman cries in front of me...telling me her employer is waiting for her, out of humanitarian consideration, I'll just sign it," he added.

According to Undersecretary Dominador Say, officer-in-charge of the POEA, there are fixers in a POEA division who are asking OFWs to pay P15,000 to P17,000 for their exemption documents to be processed.

Through Administrative Order 155, signed Tuesday, April 25, Bello temporarily suspended the exemptions for the direct hiring of OFWs until his investigation is completed. This order covers all pending applications for overseas employment certificates for direct hires.

"It would take me one or two weeks to investigate after May 1, when we have lots of activities," said Bello.

Section 124 of the POEA rules allow exemption for employers who are:

Among the factors that push OFWs to apply for exemption is to cut expenses in going abroad, such as paying recruitment agencies a number of fees. –

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.