Tulfo slams jockeying for DMW top post

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
Tulfo slams jockeying for DMW top post
Department of Migrant Workers officer-in-charge Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac attends the Senate public hearing yesterday on the proposed budget for the agency.
Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the designation of Department of Migrant Workers Undersecretary Hans Cacdac to temporarily head the DMW after secretary Susan “Toots” Ople died last month, jockeying for the position continues.

During the public hearing on the proposed budget for the DMW by the Senate finance sub-committee presided over by Sen. JV Ejecito, Sen. Raffy Tulfo said that there are individuals jockeying for the agency’s top post.

Tulfo, who chairs the Senate committee on migrant workers, specifically noted that he received information that supporters of DMW Undersecretary Patricia Yvonne Caunan are set to stage a rally to push for her appointment to the department’s helm.

Tulfo told Caunan to dissuade her supporters from staging any rally as she would have problems when she is appointed as DMW secretary.

“Tell your people not to stage a rally at the Senate to push (for) you. We know what we are doing. Nobody can influence me. Even if they tumble there … we senators are independent-minded and cannot be influenced to support anyone,” Tulfo said, addressing Caunan.

The senator noted that if Caunan’s supporters wanted to stage a rally, they could do it at Malacañang as the President has the power and prerogative to appoint a DMW secretary.

“Everyone in the DMW is qualified, so there is no need to rally supporters outside the Senate,” Tulfo said.

Caunan, however, clarified that it was the first time she heard about the effort to push for her to replace Ople as the next DMW chief.

“Personally, if there are those who expressed support, any of us in the department can be the DMW secretary based on the trust and confidence of the President, but Mr. Chair, on our end, as one of the undersecretaries tapped by the late secretary Ople, we are just focused on doing our job and make sure that we’re able to serve our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” Caunan said, addressing Tulfo.

“If I am approached by any group or any OFW and their plan is to do a rally, then I will discourage them,” Caunan added.

The senator also asked the DMW official if President Marcos was aware that she was a former lawyer of recruitment agencies, and Caunan answered that she has also been a lawyer for various OFW groups.

More names

Numerous names are still cropping up as the possible next chief of the DMW despite Cacdac’s recent appointment.

Among them are former Department of Labor Employment (DOLE) secretary and now Manila Economic Cultural Office chair Silvestre Bello III and Abdullah Mama-o, who himself had served as ad interim chief of the DMW.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Arnell Ignacio as well as the agency’s former administrator May Dimzon are also among those reportedly being considered to become the next DMW secretary.

Incumbent DMW undersecretaries Bernard Olalia, Anthonette Velasco-Allones are reportedly candidates for the post left vacant by Ople’s passing.

Ople’s daughter Estelle is also being eyed to replace her mother.

The local recruitment industry is leaving it up to Marcos to appoint Cacdac or not as the permanent DMW chief.

“President Marcos has the ability to be very impartial in selecting the members of his official family to run his administration. It’s colorless,” a recruitment leader said.

Confidential funds

At the same Senate hearing, Tulfo also expressed support for giving P25 million in confidential funds to the DWM to be used to hunt down scammers and fraudulent recruitment agencies and those who extort money from OFWs.

“I don’t agree with the proposal to give confidential funds to various government agencies … but for me, maybe it’s time to give this DMW a confidential fund. Why? There are so many illegal recruiters, illegal recruitment agencies that need to be hunted down, so many scammers, who are victimizing and extorting money from OFWs,” he said.

“We need intelligence information, DMW needs intelligence information to hunt them down, hunt down illegal recruiters, illegal recruitment agencies, hunt down these scammers. That’s why I believe they should have confidential funds,” he added.

The DMW originally asked for a P29-billion budget for next year.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) allocated P15.309 billion, with P3.359 billion going to the Office of the Secretary and the remaining P11.949 billion going to the OWWA as an attached agency of the DMW.

The DMW reportedly asked for P10 million in confidential funds, but the DBM did not allow it.

“Maybe, you could start with a small amount. I don’t know, from P25 million to P50 million… Maybe, to be fair, let’s give the DMW, as well. Not because I’m the committee chair of the DMW, but I saw the need,” Tulfo said.

While Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said there is nothing wrong with allotting confidential funds to the DMW, he pointed out that the agency must first prove that the current Migrant Workers Protection Bureau is up to the job of cracking down on scammers and abusive recruiters.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva agreed with Pimentel.

“If we are to put up confidential funds, I have yet to see the rationale and basis for it. Unless the bureau we established to do this task will not be able to do it,” Villanueva said.

DMW Undersecretary Allones told the panel: “I will be bereft of my personal honoring of secretary Toots if I don’t put this on record that when she was alive, she was against the taking in of confidential funds for the DMW because she believed that … if we work with law enforcement agencies, we will be able to do our mandate.”

Ejercito supported strengthening the DMW instead of allocating a proposed confidential fund of P20 million for the agency.

“We can strengthen the bureau instead under Undersecretary Bernard Olalia; anyway, the DMW is effective. So we don’t have to use confidential and intelligence funds. Let us set an example of a civilian department that does not need this.”

The senator emphasized that it might be more fitting to leave the request for confidential and intelligence funds to departments or agencies concerned with national security. — Mayen Jaymalin, Evelyn Macairan

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