Bello orders probe of HK labor execs

August 25, 2019

THE Department of Labor and Employment will investigate officials in the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Hong Kong.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III ordered the probe of the officials following the replacement of an online system for processing, credentialing, welfare protection and data storage for overseas placement.

In an administrative order, Bello created a fact-finding team to look into allegations of improprieties in the selection of a new service provider said to be done without public bidding and consultation.  

The new online system will replace one that has been in place for 11 years and which has provided OFWs, employers, and accredited employment agencies data and information on POLO programs, projects, and services in real-time.

Reports said that to pave the way for the new system, the POLO in Hong Kong, on December 5, 2018, terminated the Service Agreement with EmployEasy Ltd., now Employeasy Group Ltd., the provider of the current online system, effective  December 30, 2018.

In his letter of termination, POLO Hong Kong Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre informed Employeasy that the POLO “intends to accept applications for the improvement of the current system” and “will soon make an announcement as to the minimum system capabilities requirements.”

Reports also said that a copy of the contract for the new system shows it was signed on March 7, 2019 between the POLO represented by Dela Torre and Polaris Tools Ltd., represented by Jaime Deverall, Chief Executive Officer, and one Lindsay Ernst. Two other officials of the POLO, Marivic Clarin and Joszua Villa also signed the contract.

There were alleged “haste” and “seeming lack of transparency” in the solicitation of the proposal and the awarding of the new contract.

The Lilac Center for Public Interest earlier asked the DOLE to conduct a thorough investigation into how a months-old Hong Kong company with a registered capital of 10,000 shares worth only HK$100 was able to clinch a five-year contract with the POLO to establish and provide an online system for contract submission, processing, credentialing, welfare protection, and data storage.

“We are suspicious about this contract for so many reasons, foremost of which is whether its provisions adhere to the stringent requirements of the Philippines’s data privacy law, or R.A. 10173, and the government’s procurement process,” said Nicon F. Fameronag, Lilac Center president.

Early in January 2019, the POLO issued a request for proposal for the new system, which was not even publicized, outlining January 10 as the date for presentation from the proponents; January 21 as the date of the decision to award the project; and February 15 as the date for system delivery, contradicting the new system delivery date of before or end January 2019 that the POLO told EmployEasy Ltd. in its termination letter of December 5, 2018.