Migrante International is dismayed by the ruling, saying said that by absolving labor attaché Romulo Salud of his verbal abuse of Agnes Tenorio, the DOLE is encouraging more such abuses in the future.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Overseas Filipino workers are dismayed over the recent decision of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) dismissing the complaint for abuse of authority and neglect of official duties which they filed against Philippine labor attache Romulo Salud, whose voice is heard on a YouTube video verbally abusing a Filipino domestic helper in Hongkong.
The DOLE “admonished and sternly warned” Salud to be more respectful in dealing with people to avoid similar incidents.
“We are dismayed, angry and offended with the DOLE decision,” Migrante International Garry Martinez said, “This is a virtual go-signal from DOLE to other labor attaches and government officials that they can neglect, abuse and maltreat our OFWs and get away with it,” adding that the decision not only “tolerated” but rather “exonerated” Salud for what he has done.
Agnes Tenorio was a first time domestic helper in Hongkong who sought the assistance of the Philippine Consulate General on October 2010. Her contract was terminated barely two hours since she arrived at her employer’s house. Unaware of her rights, Tenorio asked Salud, who was handling her case, to arrange for her immediate return to the country. Salud, on the other hand, did not inform her that under Hongkong labor laws, Tenorio may claim her unpaid wages from her employer.
Through her fellow OFWs and the Mission for Migrant Workers, an OFW group based in Hongkong, Tenorio learned of her rights and, with the new knowledge at hand, went back to Salud to consult him regarding the labor case she would like to file. In the said meeting, however, Salud shouted at her saying, “Don’t use the word ‘right.’ Because it is also my right if I am going to accept you or not.” Tenorio managed to record their conversation through her cellular phone, The recording, which was posted on YouTube, circulated in social and networking sites, and, as of press time, has reached nearly 150,000 views.
Tenorio, along with OFW groups who were supporting her, filed administrative charges for verbal abuse, abuse of authority and neglect of duties against Salud before the DOLE. They urged the said government agency to recall Salud from his post. DOLE, for its part, conducted an investigation, though United Filipino Workers in Hongkong, have earlier expressed their reservations on the said investigation. They quoted Labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz saying that it is the decision of people if they want to “blow (the issue) out of proportion” but they could not decide abruptly because he, referring to Salud, is also their employee.
On January 7, DOLE finally came up with its decision. They found Salud “liable for discourtesy in the course of official duties.” The decision further read, ” He is hereby admonished and sternly warned to be more circumspect in his dealings with the public to avoid a similar incident in the future other wise the same shall be dealt with more severely. ” The DOLE dismissed the complaints for abuse of authority and failure to perform official duties for “lack of merit.”
Martinez described DOLE’s decision as a mere perfunctory admonition for the injustice that he has done to OFW Tenorio. He told Bulatlat.com that it would engender a culture of impunity, as if there is none to begin with, in denying services to OFWs and their families, especially to those who are in distress.”
“I am afraid that such abuse and neglect on my fellow overseas workers would continue to happen, not only here in Hongkong but in other countries as well,” Tenorio said in Filipino in a letter addressed to Baldoz upon hearing the latter’s decision, “It seems that it is not enough that someone like me, who stood up against an abusive government official, files a complaint. How much more for those who do not have the guts to do so?”
On January 24, Migrante International trooped to the DOLE office in Intramuros, Manila to submit Unifil’s position paper regarding its decision, along with Tenorio’s personal letter. A week has passed, however, Dolores Balladares, chair of Unifil-Migrante-HK, said, they have “not received even an acknowledgment from Baldoz.
“If Secretary Baldoz can do this, it is really no wonder that she will exonerate the likes of Labatt Salud whose offensive treatment of Tenorio revealed his absurd understanding of his job as a public servant, got a perfunctory tap in the hand,” Balladores said, adding that they have been betrayed because no appropriate punishment has been meted on Salud.
“The watered down penalty for Labatt Salud insults Agnes Tenorio and sends an ominous message to OFWs who experience similar rudeness and neglect from overseas government officials,” Balladores said.
Tenorio and OFW groups have asked DOLE to reconsider its decision and come up with a more serious punishment for Salud. Commuting the punishment, Balladores said, is “highly irregular, anomalous, and an obvious move to favor Labatt Salud.” The Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, which DOLE states cited in its decision, stipulates that “discourtesy in the course of official duty” carries a reprimand for the first offense.