By Philip C. Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4:11 am | Monday, January 2nd, 2012
“Please give me some dignity,” said Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Carlos Cao Jr. Sunday.
A day before his expected departure, the POEA head said he had yet to receive official word about his removal from office.
Cao asked his superiors to at least give him some “dignity” and officially inform him that he was being replaced.
The militant migrant rights group Migrante expressed support for the beleaguered POEA chief, calling on President Benigno Aquino III to reconsider his dismissal.
“I serve at the pleasure of the President… and my only request from (the Department of Labor and Employment)—and I respect them all—( is to) give me the dignity of being formally advised whether or not I’m going to be replaced,” Cao said in an interview.
“The President gave me dignity by appointing me to this office and I’m extremely grateful for that,” he said.
Earlier, Cao said he had been verbally but unofficially informed by his bosses at the DOLE he was being replaced. Labor Undersecretary Hans Cacac is supposed to take over his post Monday.
“That is up to them but at least they should formally inform or advise me,” Cao said.
Cao countered claims that he was being replaced for “poor performance” or that that he was not “in control” of his people at the POEA.
Cao said he was a “hands-on manager” who, in his first year alone, cancelled the permits of nearly 300 recruitment agencies for abuses.
“Maybe that is why they are angry at me,” he said.
Cao also said he had closely followed the President’s directive to show “care” for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who followup their papers at the POEA.
“When I came here, the POEA lobby was like a talipapa (market place). Now it’s like the lobby of a hotel,” Cao said.
He said he streamlined the processing of papers of OFWs, resulting in “zero backlog” for land-based workers; and installed air-conditioning units, water dispensers and TV sets to make OFWs more comfortable.
“These are little things but these are what our workers appreciate. I think I’m the only POEA chief who has not been picketed by our workers. Yung iba nirarally araw-araw (Others were the target of daily protest rallies),” Cao said.
“I admit I’m not an expert in migration or that I’m not an old hand in DOLE but I’m learning. And I think that when you’re dealing with millions (of OFWs), you need a people-person to deal with their needs, and I’m a people-person,” Cao said.
He said the reforms he implemented led to a 3.74-percent increase in OFW deployment from 1,395,281 in the January to November 2010 period to 1,447,498 in the same period in 2011.
He noted there was a seven-percent increase in remittances from migrant Filipinos around the world from $15.4 billion in January to October 2010 to $16.5 billion in the same period in 2011.
Cao said he had big plans for a “more innovative, creative and proactive” deployment program this year, particularly for workers interested in joining the Australian labor market.
Australia least explored
He said Australia was one of the least explored labor frontiers and could be an alternative market for Filipinos should the political turmoil in the Middle East and the economic downturn in the euro zone and the United States continue.
Migrante spokesperson John Leonard Monterona urged President Aquino to “think twice or even more” before replacing Cao, which manifests the power struggle between the new and the old among P-Noy’s (Aquino) top labor honchos.”
“In fairness to atty. Cao, he has done a good job instituting bureaucratic reforms that streamlined the procedure of services to OFW stakeholders…and in the combat against illegal recruitment activities, among other things,” he said.
Monterona said he personally witnessed the “now more rationalized process” in obtaining the overseas employment certificate (OEC) as he lined up on December 27 at the POEA to get his OEC.
He said the process took him only “about 20 to 30 minutes.”
Monterona said that it was also Cao who busted a syndicate that produced fake OECs that were being sold to OFWs.
“(He) prevented large-scale human smuggling and illegal trafficking activity allegedly by some corrupt POEA officials in cahoots with illegal recruiters,” Monterona said. With reports from Tina Santos and Jerome Aning.