MANILA, Philippines – An independent probe is necessary to look into the alleged connivance between the Philippine Overseas Employment (POEA) and licensed recruitment agencies, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said Wednesday.
"These are very serious allegations and no less than the reputation of the POEA and protection of every overseas worker are at stake,” said Susan Ople, head of the Ople Center. (Related story: POEA officials charged with human trafficking, corruption)
Ople expressed concern that factionalism and allegations of corruption and collusion have brought shame and demoralization to the institution.
"If we even need to watch the watchdog, then who can really guarantee that every job contract prior to the departure of an OFW has been 100% verified? The POEA is in dire need of administrative and structural reforms,” Ople said.
The former labor undersecretary cited the case of slain OFW Romelyn Ibañez, who was stabbed and fed acid by her employers in Saudi Arabia.
“Romelyn left on a job contract specifying her work as a nursing aide, but she died as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia. Until now, there has yet to be an investigation within the POEA on how this happened,” she said.
Trafficking complaints have been leveled against 5 POEA employees by a co-worker who has refused to be identified. (Related story: POEA execs cry harassment over trafficking, corruption raps)
"We are calling on the new POEA administrator to look into these charges and agree to an independent probe so that we can ferret out the truth. This will also spare the innocent from trial by publicity, while ascertaining which divisions and individuals are at fault for the rampant bloating and reprocessing of job orders involving a handful of licensed agencies,” Ople said.
The Philippines is in the Tier 2 Watch List of the United States Department of State report since 2009.
“We are in danger of falling into the Tier 3 category which would put at risk around $250 million in non-humanitarian assistance from the United States,” Ople said.