Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Petition against Philippines recall of Hong Kong labour attaché gathers numbers as many recognise Jalilo Dela Torre’s achievements 

Recall of Dela Torre, who was outspoken against human traffickers and rogue employment agencies, comes just weeks before President Duterte’s visit to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2018, 11:20pm

A petition launched by a group of students from the University of Hong Kong, urging Manila to reconsider its decision to recall the city’s labour attaché, Jalilo Dela Torre, has already gathered hundreds of supporters.

The rare recall of one of the most important officials in the consulate was received with shock by a community that includes more than 203,600 Filipino domestic workers. 

Many have connected the decision of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration with Dela Torre’s denunciation of human traffickers and rogue employment agencies.

“We want to further pressurise the Philippine government to reconsider this decision,” said Rachelle Lau, 21, a Hong Kong business and law student and a member of the group that launched the petition. “[Dela Torre] is really hardworking. He has helped the community a lot and he has taken steps to punish the agencies and combat human trafficking,” the student noted.

Dela Torre has taken steps to punish the agencies and combat human trafficking
HKU student Rachelle Lau

As of Thursday, the petition started by Students Against Fees and Exploitation, or SAFE – a group that has investigated the abuse of domestic workers in Hong Kong – had more than 870 signatures. 

“He has stopped human traffickers, stamped out illegal black market recruitment agencies and vigorously advocated for the plight of overseas Filipino workers. Jalilo has the respect and support of the entire Filipino community and deserves an award not a recall,” the petition read.

Meanwhile, 92 organisations and nine individuals issued a statement also criticising Manila’s move.

Dela Torre received an email from Philippine Secretary of Labour and Employment Silvestre Bello last Friday saying he had been recalled to the home office in the Philippines, effective immediately, but no justification was given. He might leave the city in early April, after serving two years of his three-year term. 

His recall comes just a few weeks before Duterte is expected to visit the city, on April 12.

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The declaration highlighted some of Dela Torre’s achievements in the city. Under his leadership, the labour office “opened its doors to our compatriots in need of its help even beyond the regular working hours”. 

They also noted that the diplomat fought for a ban on window cleaning in high-rises as part of domestic workers’ chores and that he has worked to put in place a more stringent accreditation system for employment agencies.

This week, Dela Torre said in a post on his Facebook page that there was “a silver lining in the controversy”.

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“I have seen the overwhelming support of the community in Hong Kong and in other posts [Israel, Saudi Arabia and Australia] I have served, and heard [testimony] of what I have done in the past two years … and it is really something I will cherish to my grave. 

“For the first time, the community has joined hands, regardless of affiliations and orientations, for a common cause. My family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” he said.

Soon after receiving the news about his recall, Dela Torre told the  Post : “Whatever the outcome is, I will continue to fight human traffickers and rogue agencies wherever I am.”