MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday said all his overseas trips were work-related and authorized by President Rodrigo Duterte, as he faced a graft complaint filed against him by a radio commentator.
In a 78-page complaint, Adolfo Paglinawan said Bello made "at least 40 trips abroad from January 2017 to October 2019" and accused the labor chief of graft and corruption over his travels, which Paglinawan said cost government at least P40 million.
Bello, who just came from New Zealand to establish the first Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) there, said he was tasked to ensure the welfare of Filipinos abroad which entails having to visit them personally.
"Kailangan puntahan 'yan, hindi puwedeng i-delegate," he said.
(I have to go, it could not be delegated.)
"Hindi ba sila nagtataka kung totoo eh 'di matagal na sana akong tinanggal ng Presidente?"
(Don't they wonder if it was true then the President should have already fired me?)
The President had earlier filed officials for excessive trips and junkets.
Bello cited his other trips, such as one to Riyadh, where he had to negotiate the repatriation of 9,000 overseas Filipinos workers, and Kuwait for the case of slain migrant worker Joanna Demafelis.
The labor chief said he would also be in Japan on Nov. 27 and 28 to open another POLO and join the President on his visit to South Korea from Nov. 25 to 26.
Paglinawan also accused Bello of making a side trip to meet with Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison even after Duterte has permanently terminated peace talks.
According to Bello, all his talks with Sison had the President's consent, including some "backchanneling."