MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello on Sunday announced that he has temporarily suspended the processing of new directly hired overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Bello issued the order amid reports that some employees of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) have illegally collected fees from OFWs seeking to be exempted from a ban on direct hiring.
The government prohibits direct hiring, but the POEA allows it among certain categories of workers, including diplomats, professionals with authenticated contracts, and members of international organizations.
Labor Undersecretary Dominador Say, officer-in-charge of POEA, revealed fixers have charged up to P17,000 for processing the application of direct hires.
Bello said he has stopped the release of overseas employment certificates to directly hired workers through an administrative order signed Tuesday.
The suspension order, he said, covers all pending OEC applications.
"Mahigpit na naming ipatutupad ang ban sa direct hire. Wala nang exemption ang ipalalabas simula ngayong araw matapos kaming makatanggap ng impormasyon hinggil sa anomalya at iligal na pangingikil na nagaganap sa loob ng ahensya," he said in a statement.
(We are strictly implementing the ban on direct hires. No exemptions shall be issued effective today after we received reports of anomalies and extortion within the agency.)
Bello has also ordered a reshuffle of POEA employees and an investigation into the corruption allegations.
"Dapat nang matigil ang korapsyong ito. Nais nating matiyak na ang ating mga manggagawa ay protektado sa oras na sila ay umalis ng bansa. Dapat rin nating iiwas sila na maging biktima ng ganitong iligal na aktibidad," added Say.
(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 illegal activities.)