MANILA – Overseas Filipino workers who have been victimized by the alleged ''tanim-bala'' (bullet planting) scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport need not secure a formal request from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to get help.
In a press statement released Friday, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz announced the creation of the DOLE Inter-Agency team to monitor and respond on reported cases of OFWs who are alleged ''tanim-bala'' victims in international airports.
"We want to protect our overseas Filipino workers from being victims of the 'tanim-bala' or 'laglag bala' scheme. This deplorable modus operandi is sowing fear among our OFWs who are either going abroad for employment, or coming home to their families for a vacation," said Baldoz.
The inter-agency team is composed of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA); Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB); Legal Service (LS); and Labor Communications Office (LCO).
"The main responsibility of the Inter-Agency team is to assist overseas Filipino workers who will be apprehended for alleged possession of ammunition/bullets," said Baldoz.
On Thursday, the lawyer of OFW Gloria Ortinez questioned why it took OWWA 10 days before reaching out to his client who was apprehended for allegedly possessing a bullet in her bag during her connecting flight to Hong Kong last October.
"Nung tinanong ko bakit ngayon lang, eh kasalanan po namin, kasi 'di po kami nag-formally request sa kanila ng tulong. Siguro magpapaumanhin na po ko sa kanila dahil 'di kami nakagawa ng sulat para humingi ng tulong para sa isang bagay na automatic na dapat," said Atty. Spocky Farolan.
Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III is tasked to lead the DOLE Inter-Agency Team which will coordinate with concerned government agencies, such as the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Office for Transportation Security (OTS), Philippine Aviation Security Group, Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (PNP-AVSEGROUP), Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
Baldoz said that if an OFW is apprehended for alleged possession of ammunition/bullets, the POEA and OWWA shall, through their respective Labor Assistance Center and Welfare Officers stationed at the airports, immediately assist the concerned OFW.
The DOLE assistance shall include legal advise; psycho-social counselling; free communication lines to immediate family, friend, recruitment agency, or lawyer; and food and accommodation.
The POEA and OWWA shall immediately advise the ILAB of any OFW apprehension or involvement in the said modus operandi. ILAB, on the other hand, will communicate with the concerned Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) to advise the foreign agency or employer on the OFW’s situation and, if possible, request that the OFW be given reasonable time to thresh-out the issue.
The POEA shall also inform the OFW's recruitment agency of the incident for any assistance, such as coordination with the foreign principal/employer and possible placement to other employer in case the OFW's employment is forfeited. It shall also issue advisories to recruitment agencies and OFWs on preventive and precautionary measures to avoid being victims the said scheme.
The OWWA shall include in its Pre-departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS) the consequences of possessing ammunition/bullets in their departure and measures on how to avoid being victims of the alleged scheme.
The DOLE Legal Service shall assist Undersecretary Lagunzad in the inter-agency coordination. It shall also provide legal advice to concerned OFWs. The LCO, on the other hand, shall ensure that the advisories are well communicated and disseminated to the media and the public.
Baldoz also said that the OWWA 24/7 Operations Center with contact numbers 551-6641; 833-6992; 551-1560; and 0917 898-6992 shall serve as hotlines for OFWs on the said matter.