By Ben Rosario
The anomalous sale of identification cards to overseas Filipino workers should be enough reason for President Rodrigo Duterte to reject Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s bid to become the next Ombudsman.
ACTS OFW partylist Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III said he will no longer personally present evidence of anomalies to stop Bello’s possible appointment but vowed to continue exposing alleged irregularities at DOLE, especially those affecting OFWs.
In a press conference, Bertiz also chided Asst. Secretary Kristian Ablan of the Presidential Communications Operations Office for allegedly “peddling fake news” when the Malacanang official accused the solon of wrongfully criticizing the Duterte government’s mishandling of OFW affairs.
Bertiz said that during a Malacanang-sponsored conference for the preparations for Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), Ablan declared that the partylist lawmaker had complained that the Duterte administration is lacking of programs aimed at protecting and uplifting the lives of OFWs.
The lawmaker vehemently denied Ablan’s statement, saying that it was clearly distorted to put him in bad light.
“Mr. Ablan’s misrepresentation in the subsequent forum, which I did not attend, then gave Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello the excuse to attack me- malign my name and character,” said Bertiz.
Bello and Bertiz are apparently at loggerheads over the ID issue that the solon had exposed.
Bertiz blamed the labor official for allowing the charging of a P720 fee in exchange of the issuance of an OFW ID or iDOLE which will allow the quick processing of official work documentation for OFWs.
He estimated that those behind the sale of the ID’s could profit at least P900 million if not stopped.
He stressed that no fee should have been collected because the ID materials were donated to government by ACTS-OFW as a gesture of appreciation to Duterte’s accomplishments for Filipino workers abroad.
Bertiz said the fee imposed on iDOLE may have prevented OFWs to secure the cards, thus, making its issuance “absolutely useless as if it does not exist.”
In a radio interview, Bello said the issuance of iDOLE has been stopped because of the alleged irregularities behind the program.
Bello said he ordered the scrapping of the program after he was offered money to support it.
“We have to scrap it until we can find a system hat will provide an IDOLE card to our OFWs at no expense to the government and especially at no expense to the OFW,” he explained.