Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Government works for minimum compliance in campaign against human trafficking

Business Mirror
Wednesday, 03 August 2011 21:02 Mia Gonzalez / Reporter

MALACAƑANG said on Wednesday that it is “working overtime” to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, which it hopes would be enough to upgrade the Philippines’ ranking to Tier 1 in the global fight against the menace.

President Aquino made the commitment at the ceremony to hand over the petition to stop trafficking of children and young people—signed by some 470,000 Filipinos—at the MalacaƱang Heroes’ Hall, where he said he is working hard to improve the economy to make Filipinos less vulnerable to human-trafficking syndicates.

“I assure all of you that we will not cease in our efforts and that the Philippines will put in extra hours to make certain that we comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, so that we may rise to another tier,” he said.

The President said the human-trafficking situation in the country “is getting a bit better,” as shown by the recognition it received from the United States, which upgraded the Philippines from its Tier 2 Watch list to its Tier 2 list in the US 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report.

He assured those who attended the ceremony that the Philippines supports their advocacies.

“We are, and we will continue to fulfill the implementation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act to prevent human trafficking, and to provide protection and services to those who’ve already been victimized,” he said, adding that his administration has convicted 32 human traffickers in just a year, and “filed cases against many more.”

The President said that Filipino children seem to be prone to being trafficked because about 20 percent of country’s population live below the poverty line, which is why “the first part of my platform deals with job generation and we have been making significant inroads.”

“We have to improve the economy, make them less vulnerable. The economy provides us the resources to hire more personnel to go after all of these people who would seek to prey on the most vulnerable sectors,” he said.

Ecpat (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of children for sexual purposes) International, through its chairman Amihan Abueva, urged the President to develop sustainable and comprehensive community-based prevention programs aimed at the most vulnerable groups; allocate funding for the effective implementation of interventions and strengthen the capacity of social service providers.

Ecpat also urged the President to intensify specific programs for the recovery and reintegration of children victims of sex trafficking.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Actress accused by maids of abuse ordered to attend hearing

Philippine Daily Inquirer
1:35 am | Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Actress Maricel Soriano has been summoned by barangay (village) officials in Makati City to answer the complaint filed against her by two of her housemaids.

The two house helpers had accused her of physical and verbal abuse.

According to Michael Gonzales, Barangay Poblacion administrator, barangay chairman Benhur Cruz has ordered Soriano to attend a hearing at the barangay hall this afternoon.

A resident of Rizal Building in Rockwell, Soriano was warned that she may be barred from filing a counterclaim should she refuse or fail to appear at the hearing.

“But she has three chances [to appear],” Gonzales said, adding that the actress could not just send her lawyer. “She has to personally appear at the hearing.”

On June 30, May Cachuela, 22, and Camille Acojedo, 18, filed a complaint against Soriano with the barangay.

According to Cachuela, Soriano became angry and kicked her leg after she failed to arrange her clothes the way the actress wanted it.

Both claimed that Soriano would often curse them for no apparent reason.

Gonzales said that two other housemaids filed a complaint against Soriano in February but it was dismissed when they failed to pursue it.—Tina G. Santos

Monday, July 4, 2011

Maricel Soriano alleged to have verbally and physically abused helpers

Manila Bulletin
July 4, 2011, 10:03am

MANILA, Philippines – Two of actress Maricel Soriano's house helpers have accused her of verbal and physical abuse.

In a taped interview on “The Buzz” aired July 3, the 22-year old May Cachuela and 18-year old Camille Acojedo–who started work for the actress in her condo unit at Rockwell, Makati City just last June 18–claimed that Soriano had often dealt with them using harsh words.

“Bawat pasok ko po doon, laging mura ang naaabot [ko]. Laging mura, kahit 'yung nagpapaabot lang ho siya, magmumura siya.

“Si Ma'am ho, ayaw niya ng konting mangatwiran kami. Gusto niya ho lagi ho siyang tama. Siya lagi ang pakikinggan,” Cachuela said.

Meanwhile, Acojedo related, “Naranasan ko lang po kasi kay ma'am talaga 'yung pagmumura niya po kasi po hindi naman po namin masikmura talaga 'yung mura.

“Talaga pong ipapamukha pa niya kung ga'no kalutong... parang pinapakain niya po kasi sa 'min 'yung mura niya eh,” she stressed.

The tale of two helpers

The two first gained attention when they appeared as guest on Mon Tulfo’s radio show on DZIQ on Thursday. In the same “The Buzz” interview, Tulfo related how Cachuela and Acojedo sought their help.

“May tumawag sa amin, 'yung ate nung May na taga-Zambales. Sinabi na binugbog daw 'yung kanyang kapatid ni Maricel Soriano. Sabi nung staff ko, patakasin mo, patakbuhin mo sa barangay.

“Kinaumagahan sinundo ng aking staff. Pina-medical, tapos isinumbong sa barangay,” he said.

As if the verbal abuse wasn’t enough, the two househelp claimed they also failed to take their meals at times because of Soriano’s alleged demanding nature.

“Kakaasikaso po kasi sa kanya kaya po hindi kami makakain sa oras, sa sobrang pag-aasikaso, sobrang pag-aano ng bahay niya. Minsan po hindi po namin alam 'di pa pala kami kumakain...” Acojedo said.

“Kasi doorbell siya nang doorbell. Hindi na po kami masyado kumakain kasi po doorbell siya nang doobell, tawag ho siya nang tawag,” Cachuela, in tears, continued.

The two females related to “The Buzz” what drove them to leave Soriano’s home last Wednesday. That day, Cachuela, Acojedo and two other maids were tending to Soriano’s things as the latter was scheduled for a recording.

“May hinahanap po siyang mga kulay yellow, so hindi ko ho alam na bitbit po nung isang katulong namin. Tapos may hinananap na naman po siya, bilog na pang-make up daw ho niya. Hindi namin mahanap so 'yun nagwala na ho siya, nagmumura, sabi ho niya 'Papatayin ko kayo,'” Cachuela said.

“[Pinaabot] ho niya 'yung cigarette case niya, 'I-abot mo 'yung cigarette case ko,' sabi niya sa 'kin. Eh, 'di, inabot ko sa kanya. Tapos ho nung inabot ko sa kanya, umiiyak po ako kasi hindi ko mapigilan.

“Lumapit si sir Chen [Soriano’s son who lives with her at the unit]. Tapos nung binigay ko ho 'yung cigarette case, sinipa niya [Soriano] ho ako...

“Nung sabi niya, 'Iiyak ka pa ha? Magpa-medical ka kung gusto mo.' Sabi niya, 'Hindi ako matatakot sa'yo, magdemanda ka? Sige magdemanda ka! Marami akong pera,' sabi niya. 'Hindi mo ako kaya,' sabi niya.

“'Babarilin kita!' sabi niya. Kukuha na ho siya ng baril eh. Nung malaman na ni sir Chen na kukuha na siya, pumunta ho siya sa 'kin. Niyakap niya ko, 'Please mom, don't do that,' sabi niya. 'Don't hurt her, ako na lang,' sabi niya. 'Please kung gusto niyong gawin yan, ako na lang. Unahin mo na lang ako,' sabi niya. 'Ako na lang saktan mo, sabi niya.'

“So yun, nagpapasalamat ako kay sir Chen. 'Sir Chen, please, 'wag mo kong iwan please. Dito ka lang,' sabi ko sa kanya.

“Hindi niya magawa dahil nandun si sir Chen. So umalis na ho siya [Soriano] dahil nagmamadali daw ho siya,” Cachuela continued at length.

At 11 p.m. that same day, Soriano was said to have returned home and asked to see Cachuela and Acojedo.

“Nung pinatawag niya kami, minura-mura niya ko. Sabi niya, 'Bakit, iiyak ka pa?' sabi niya. 'Bakit, magdedemanda ka? Sige. Hindi niyo ko kaya, May,' sabi niya sa 'kin. Isa ka lang hampaslupang katulong.'

"Nanginginig ho kaming dalawa, hindi namin alam gagawin namin.,” Cachuela said.

After this incident, the two escaped Soriano’s unit and sought refuge with the security.

“Nung dumating na 'yung dalawang katulong, tinanong namin sila kung gusto nilang bumaba rin. Kami ayaw na namin talaga. Nagpa-ano kami sa mga security guard, sa mga admin, 'Sir please tulungan niyo kami, tumakas lang kami so itago niyo ho kami please.' Tinago nila kami,” said Cachuela.

Allegedly, a seething Soriano called the building’s administration to ask for the two upon finding out that they've left the unit.

“Nagwala ho siya. Tumawag ho siya sa admin, sinasabi na pabalikin daw kami. Nung tinawagan ko 'yung driver nila, sabi ko, 'Kuya gusto ko ng umuwi, kuya please tawagin mo na si sir Chen, pababain mo na siya. Siya na lang mag-ano,” said Cachuela, adding that Chen was the one who signed their clearance.

Maricel’s PA tells a different story

However, according to Inday Castillo – Soriano’s personal assistant who apparently was the one who recruited the two as househelp – Cachuela and Acojedo allegedly stole from Soriano.

“Ang sabi ho ni ma'am Inday, nagkakalkal daw ho ako ng bag niya. So binabalikad ho kami ngayon. Sabi ko lang naman, kung magnanakaw ho kami, kung may ninakaw man kami, eh bakit wala silang nakita sa clearance?

“Kinakapkapan na ho kami ng mga security, pinicture-an 'yung mga bag namin, lahat ng mga dala namin... Wala ho silang na-ano eh,'" Cachuela reasoned.

According to the report, the two escapees have already filed a blotter against Soriano with the Brgy. Poblacion precinct in Makati. A hearing is already scheduled on July 6; if Soriano fails to show up twice, a case against her may already be filed by the police, according to the same “The Buzz” report.

Cachuela and Acojedo are determined to push through with the case.

“Marami na daw mga katulong na bumaba na sinasaktan ho niya, na sinabuyan daw ng mga mainit na tubig, pinukpok daw ng kung anu-ano. Hindi ho sila lumaban, 'yung mga katulong na'yon dahil, ewan ko, binayaran daw po sila.

“Kailangan naming lumaban para sa hustisya na namin. Hindi kasi ako makatulog sa gabi eh,” Cachuela tearfully said.

As of this writing, Soriano remains mum on the whole issue. Her business manager, Malou Choa-Fagar, told “The Buzz” that the actress is not planning to issue an official statement.

More, “The Buzz” reported that the remaining two househelp have left Soriano’s condo unit last Friday.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Congress to heed ILO resolution

Manila Bulletin
June 19, 2011, 5:37pm

MANILA, Philippines -- The chairman of the House Committee on Labor Sunday vowed to heed the International Labor Organization’s resolution seeking more benefits and better labor conditions for household helpers or kasambahay, saying that pending measures will be prioritized by the legislative body.

Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong, head of the Philippine delegation to the ILO convention in Geneva, Switzerland, said various legislative proposals that were filed before his committee will be immediately taken up as soon as Congress session resumes next months.

Among the bills filed are HB 4477 or the Kasambahay measured authored by Ong and House Bill 0003, a proposal granting scholarship and education benefits for deserving house helpers.

HB 0003 has been refilled by newly-inducted Ilocos Sur Rep. Ryan Luis Singson. Singson said the bill was originally filed by his elder brother, former Rep. Ronald Singson, whom he replaced following a special election held last month.

“The right to education should not be denied our kasambahay. Extreme poverty has denied many of them this right, we must help them regain it,” Singson said.

The new lawmaker lauded the labor committee for agreeing to prioritize pro-kasambahay measures even as he vowed to support other bills that would extend domestic helpers employed locally and abroad more benefits and better protection against abuses.

In batting for the approval of HB 4477, Ong cited a study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) indicating that around 215 million children are employed around the world.

HB 4477 prohibits the hiring of minors under 18 years old as househelpers.

Ong said the so-called Kasambahay bill protects minors against many forms of abuses committed mostly by employers.

“They do not go to school and have little time or no time to play. Many do not receive proper nutrition care, practically denied the chance to be children,” he said.

In the Philippines, the number of domestic workers ranges from 600,000 to 2.5 million.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Domestic help protected in new ILO convention

Business World Philippines
June 16, 2011 11:00:23 PM

GENEVA -- The International Labor Organization yesterday passed a landmark treaty giving protection to an estimated 52.6 million domestic workers across the world.

The new convention would ensure domestic workers enjoyed conditions "not less favorable" than other workers, requiring governments to ensure they understood their rights, preferably through written contracts.

Domestic workers get a full rest day per week and should not remain with an employer’s household during their annual leave or rest days.

The convention, which was adopted with 396 votes for, 16 against and 63 abstentions, will come into effect upon the ratification of two countries.

The Philippines and Uruguay have asaid they would ratify the accord.

"This is a historic moment at the 100th session of the International Labour Conference, and we are making an important turning point," said a United Arab Emirates envoy, speaking on behalf of Gulf states, all of which supported the treaty.

ILO data, which is a compilation of national statistics, indicate that there were at least 52.6 million domestic workers worldwide in 2010. But there are reasons to believe that the true number could lie close to 100 million, the agency added.

Joining the convention is only the first step.

Countries would not have to implement the treaty until ratification, while others can also opt not to sign up, which could reduce its bite.

While it has secured the support of countries ranging from the United States, Indonesia and Brazil, others, such as Britain, abstained. -- AFP

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trafficking of Filipinos in Haiti worsens

The Manila Times
June 12, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Human traffickers are running circles on Philippine authorities, despite a crackdown on the illegal deployment of Filipinos for non-existent jobs in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, according to diplomatic sources.

The sources said at least 40 more overseas Filipino workers were reported to have arrived in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince since the embassy exposed the illegal deployment of 26 workers last year.

Many of these workers remain jobless or are able to find only part-time work, and at rates much lower than the $2,000 to $3,000 managerial posts promised them by the recruiters, leaders of the small but closely-knit Filipino community (FilCom) in Haiti said.

Ambassador Alfredo Maximo, charge d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Havana (Cuba), which has diplomatic jurisdiction over Filipinos in Haiti, said the recruiters are now deploying the OFWs by getting them tourist visas in nearby countries like the Bahamas. From there, they are given visas tourist visas, believed to be spurious, to get to Port-au-Prince.

“The recruiters have found a new way to deflect immigration scrutiny. They hide the true destination of the OFWs,” Maximo, who visited Port-au-Prince on May 15-22, said via email. “They bring them first to Nassau, Bahamas before sending them to Port-au-Prince, probably using fake stamped visas. Cuban immigration officials have found such fake visas in the past from OFWs who were coursed through Cuba by their recruiters.”

The ambassador said the recruiters falsify the Bahamian visa, including the signature of the Bahamian Consul in Havana, adding that embassy officials have already met with Bahamian diplomats in Havana to warn them about the current modus operandi used by recruiters to bring in hapless OFWs to Haiti via Nassau.

“Take note that the Haitian government does not require visas for Filipinos in the Caribbean who want to travel to Haiti as tourists. This loophole is currently being used by illegal recruiters to bring in undocumented workers to Haiti,” Maximo explained.

Maximo said they have already reported the suspected illegal recruiters to authorities in Haiti. However, the Haitian bureaucracy tends to be slow and it is saddled by the more urgent task of rebuilding from the devastating earthquake and its attendant challenges.

Maximo failed to identify the illegal recruiters, but other sources said some of the new arrivals were recruited by the group of Leo Maning, who has been reported by Philippine consular officials to Haitian authorities.

The same sources said another recruiter, a certain Armand Palisoc, is illegally deploying Filipino workers for non-existent jobs. Palisoc is said to be a U.S.-based operator who moved to Port-au-Prince, after the earthquake last year, to recruit OFWs to Haiti.

“Palisoc also figured prominently in the recruitment of the 50 OFWs who worked for one year at E-Power (the Haitian power company) last year,” said another source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“When said OFWs arrived in Haiti, they found out that they were receiving considerably less salaries than what was stipulated in their contract with their recruiter, a Korean company named DEECO, which has periodically surfaced in previous cases of illegal recruitment to Haiti, including that of Jesus “Jess” Laurenaria,” the source added.

Consular and community leaders, including Honorary Consul Fitzgerald Brandt, FilCom president Frankie Bagadiong and Filipino missionary priest Fr. Andrew Labatorio, are trying to reach out to the newly-arrived OFWs to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

Charge d’affaires Maximo said “the main selling point [used by illegal recruiters] in bringing people to Haiti is the impression that Filipinos over there have managerial and supervisory positions.”

That impression, of course, is wrong.

“Nowadays, finding jobs in Haiti is becoming very difficult as many of the newly-arrived recruitment victims have found out,” Maximo said.

Maximo admitted that the embassy or the Philippine government can only do so much without a formal complaint of a case being filed by the victims.

He added that so far, he is only aware of one case filed against the alleged perpetrators, but the case is not moving because the complainant is still in Haiti trying to look for a job.

Maximo was referring to the lawsuit filed by Laurenaria through her sister, Lourdes Laurenaria, in Manila.

According to Maximo, the embassy recently repatriated two of the trafficking victims — Edward Acosta and Joselito Miranda, who requested that they be returned to the Philippines.

Maximo and FilCom leaders said they are hoping Acosta and Miranda would file charges against their recruiters, so they could be prosecuted and sent to prison.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Binay calls for tougher stance against human trafficking

Business Mirror
Thursday, 28 April 2011 20:03
Butch Fernandez / Reporter

VICE President Jejomar Binay on Thursday batted for a tougher government crackdown against human traffickers as he called on judges, prosecutors and law enforcers to deliver “greater results” in the combating human trafficking.

Addressing the multiagency Summit on Trafficking in Persons, Binay said: “We must demonstrate greater results in efficiently investigating, prosecuting, and convicting both labor and sex trafficking offenders involved in the trafficking of Filipinos in the country and abroad.”

He pressed concerned agencies to increase efforts to “vigorously investigate and prosecute government officials complicit in trafficking, dedicate more resources and personnel to prosecuting trafficking cases and devote increased resources to victim and witness protection.”

Binay added that as the presidential adviser for overseas workers’ concerns, it is also his “personal advocacy to see that we increase our efforts to engage governments of destination countries, through diplomatic and law enforcement channels, in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders.”

In attendance at the summit, convened by the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, were officials of the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Immigration, the Department of the Interior and Local Governments and the Philippine National Police, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Judicial Academy.

According to Binay, who serves as chairman emeritus of the Interagency Council Against Trafficking, “human trafficking remained one of the most pressing challenges to the Philippines” adding that “cooperation between law enforcers, prosecutors and judges was crucial in addressing the issue.”

He advised the summit participants to focus on “prosecution, protection and prevention,” which were the three key result areas outlined in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report of the United States State Department.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Aquino claim on trafficking corrected

Manila Standard Today
April 27, 2011
Eric B. Apolonio

THE American Embassy in Manila on Monday corrected reports that the United States had removed the Philippines from its watch list of “Tier 2” states that do not fully comply with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

In an e-mail message sent to several publications, embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Brown Thompson said an interim report cited the “significant progress” that the Philippines had made in combating human trafficking, but mentioned no change in its status as a Tier 2 state.

The next tier ranking will be in the next annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which is scheduled for release in June.

The embassy statement contradicted President Benigno Aquino III’s announcement earlier this month that 22 convictions in human trafficking cases helped remove the Philippines from the US watch list. Mr. Aquino made the announcement in General Santos City during the national convention of the Prosecutors League of the Philippines.

The Philippines has been in the United States’ Tier 2 category since 2008.

A US State Department assessment says “there are many cases of overseas Filipino workers all over the globe who are victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.”

Filipino women are often lured abroad with false promises of legitimate employment, and are subjected to commercial exploitation in destinations throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America, the assessment says.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Phl boosts campaign against human trafficking

The Philippine Star
April 21, 2011
By Edu Punay

MANILA, Philippines - The government has boosted its campaign against human trafficking operations in the country after joining forces with US-based human rights organization International Justice Mission (IJM).

In a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed yesterday afternoon, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and IJM committed to collaborate in combating trafficking and other violent exploitation of Filipino women and children through intensified rescue of victims and prosecution of perpetrators.

Under the MOA, the IJM would provide assistance to concerned agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, DOJ’s law enforcement arm, in terms of technical, legal and logistic support, capacity-building training, and prosecution of cases.

The non-government organization based in Washington also vowed to train NBI agents and DOJ prosecutors based on an updated manual on anti-human trafficking law enforcement and prosecution.

IJM national director for the Philippines Andrey Sawchenko said the move was part of their group’s commitment “to actively seek the protection of the law for those who most need it.”

“For those who are even now suffering in silence, victimized by traffickers and unable to win their own freedom, well-intentioned words will not be enough. They need rescue. They need security. They need to know that the public justice system will be working on their behalf,” he said.

The DOJ, for its part, vowed to strengthen anti-trafficking operations in Metro Manila, Cebu City and Angeles City in Pampanga - key areas identified to have relatively high rates of trafficking activity.

It is also tasked to prioritize resolution of human trafficking complaints and monitor the cases when they reach the courts. The department and IJM, under the MOA, would coordinate on capacity-building projects.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in her message during the signing of MOA at the DOJ, cited the importance of IJM’s assistance in the government’s campaign against human trafficking operations.

“For so long, the Philippines has been seen as a haven for human traffickers, who use our nation as a source, destination and transit point for their operations. They’ve been met with so much success that trafficking in human beings is now considered worldwide as one of the most profitable criminal activities, next to the arms and illegal drug trade.

“Our aim is simple: succeed in removing the Philippines from their ‘trade route,’” said De Lima, also chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, DOJ official-in-charge of IACAT operations and human trafficking cases, also welcomed the MOA.

Earlier, DOJ officials have expressed optimism that the country would be removed from the Tier 2 watch list on human trafficking of the US State Department.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rights Handbook

The Manila Times
April 2, 2011

Commission on Human Rights Chairman Loreta Ann Rosales and Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Executive Director Daisy Arago shows to media the Human Rights Defender Handbook during its launching at The University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City on Friday.