'Cut DOLE budget unless heads roll in sex-for-flight'
MANILA - Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello proposes a 25% budget cut for the labor department unless the personnel implicated in the alleged sex-for-flight schemes in the Middle East are held criminally accountable.
Earlier, Senator Jinggoy Estrada proposed a P1 budget for the agency. The agency wants a P10.24 billion budget from Congress, over 2% higher than 2013's P7.8 billion. The amount doesn't include automatic appropriations of P287-M.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz assured lawmakers that she is not condoning anyone and there will be no whitewash.
Baldoz said no presidential appointee is involved so the matter will be settled at her level. She said the results of the investigation will be endorsed to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal prosecution.
Baldoz said the NBI has already summoned Antonio Villafuerte, Mario Antonio and Adam Musa.
Baldoz has ordered the fast-tracking of the investigation into the alleged sex-for-flight scheme that victimized distressed overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East.
The DOLE chief said she gave the investigative team until tomorrow to submit their report. Originally, she gave them till the end of the month to submit their report.
Once she has the report, she will make her analysis, and by Friday, she may be able to make some announcements determining the next course of action, if there is prima facie evidence and appropriate charges.
Baldoz said the investigative team received the last pleadings on the case on August 1. They also went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait to bring home evidence, as well as interviews with 160 individuals from the affected individuals in the local Filipino communities, embassy and labor officials, employees and wards.
She said she updates President Aquino on the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan wants an increase in the P50-M budget for the repatriation of distressed OFWs.
Baldoz, however, countered the budget is just for undocumented workers.
Documented workers are the responsibility of the recruiters and employers when it comes to repatriation. Only workers whose agencies have seen their papers cancelled are also beneficiaries of the repatriation fund of the DOLE.
Aside from this, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), also has a P9.5-M repatriation fund for workers who are its members.
The labor and employment secretary was interviewed at the sidelines of the budget briefings of her agency at the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.
During the budget deliberations, Baldoz was asked to inform lawmakers what it has done to crack down on the "endo" or end of contract hiring scheme among private sector workers.
"Endo" refers to a scheme where private sector workers are subcontracted to other private agencies so these workers do not have to become regular employees.
She said they have amended existing department orders to require labor agencies to have a capitalization of P3-M before they can undertake legitimate outsourcing activities.
She added that previously, many labor agencies declare themselves to be "labor only" so their employees are declared as direct employees of the principal employer.
Baldoz said they have prohibited the practice of repeated hirings. Those who violate this will be declared to be in the practice of illegal subcontracting.