JERRIE M. ABELLA, GMANews.TV
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has instructed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to investigate the recruitment agencies of the six Filipinos who died in a plane crash in Afghanistan on October 12.
In a statement posted on the DOLE website, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz asked the POEA to investigate why the six were deployed to the war-torn country despite the Philippine deployment ban there since 2005.
“The agency could be liable for ‘reprocessing’ the contracts or changing the original terms and conditions signed with the workers in the Philippines for which the POEA issued work permits to the workers," Baldoz said.
Baldoz said the six were supposed to work in a different destination.
Baldoz said the government has not lifted the ban on Afghanistan as a place for employment for Filipinos due to the volatile situation there.
As this developed, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) vowed to coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs for the earliest repatriation of the remains of the six Filipinos. OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon has likewise been ordered to expedite the OWWA insurance claims of the victims’ heirs.
Dimson said that repatriation assistance would proceed as soon as investigators have completed their search and retrieval operations and DNA-identification.
She also confirmed that the six fatalities were members of OWWA, and the agency’s regional officials have already gotten in touch with their next of kin.
The victim’s relatives are set to receive P200,000 for accidental death and P20,000 for burial expenses.
The six Filipino casualties were earlier identified as Captain Henry Beltran Bulos, 45, of Taguig City, a captain; Rene Estrada Badilla, 57, of Parañaque City, a first officer; Nilo Timpug Medina, 41, of Floridablanca, Pampanga, a load master; Wilo Montemar Elbanbuena,43, of Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, a flight engineer; Bernardo Gabayan Castillo, 46, of Lapu-Lapu City, an aircraft mechanic; and Eduardo Pagtolon-An Padura, 55, of Lapu-Lapu City, an aircraft mechanic.
The victims were on board a cargo plane carrying NATO supplies when it went down east of Kabul shortly after taking off on Tuesday evening from Bagram Air Field, the main US military base in Afghanistan.
The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known but weather conditions were clear at the time.
Despite the existing deployment ban and the volatile situation in Afghanistan, Filipinos continue working there due to offers of high salaries and benefits, such as insurance.
The US Central Command earlier ordered its contractors to remove third-country nationals, including Filipinos, from US military and other facilities in Afghanistan whose domestic laws prohibit their citizens from working there.
Government records show that there are about 1,800 Filipinos living in Afghanistan as of 2008.
Based on POEA records, only four Filipino workers were deployed in the country in 2009. The nature of these Filipinos’ work is unclear. - KBK, GMANews.TV