End Modern-Day Slavery Privilege Speech on Human Trafficking Rep. Lorenzo R. Tañada III 30 November 2010 Mr.

Speaker, my dear colleagues: Human trafficking has long been both a cause and symptom of the cancers plaguing our society. Patuloy nitong nililihis ang ating landas tungo sa tuwid na daan. Imagine persons duping fellow persons, nay, Filipinos fooling our fellow kababayans in an attempt to gain out of malevolent means. It is absolutely abhorrent! In my recent trip to the United States, I personally met with victims of human trafficking who are currently under the care of the Filipino community in Los Angeles. Mr. Speaker, eleven of our kababayans are in L.A. after escaping from their ordeal in Mississippi. These individuals approached ADMAN Human Resource Placement and Promotions in Manila to be employed in the United States allegedly through ARAMARK, a Fortune 500 company, where they were placed under a “Seasonal Work Program” with a supposed “guaranteed wage” of $7.25 an hour. This is their story and ordeal: After paying around $7,000 for medical examinations, job placement, and work visas, Rufino de Guzman and his companions went to the United States in July of this year thinking that they will be working allegedly under ARAMARK, where they will be doing cleaning services in Virginia and Colorado. It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that their work visas were approved by the United States Embassy and the Department of Labor of the United States. When Rufino arrived in New Jersey, no one from the said company was there to welcome them. Others who were also recruited by ADMAN arrived in various points in the US, such as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. No one met them at the airport as promised. From these different locations, they contacted ADMAN here in the Philippines and were told to call a certain number and to follow instructions on going to a totally new place not within the bounds of their agreement. Wala na lang silang nagawa kundi sumunod. Mula sa iba't ibang lugar sa Estados Unidos, sumakay sila ng mga tren at bus papuntang Biloxi, Mississippi. Those who arrived at Los Angeles took a Greyhound bus to Mississippi for two and a half days. Nabanggit ni Imelda Nosa, isa sa mga biktima, na dalawa’t kalahating araw ang biyahe nila. Sa panahong iyon, dahil sa kagipitan, naghati-hati na lang daw sila sa isang boteng tubig at isang pack ng Skyflakes. Wala man lang silang kaalam-alam kung saan ang eksaktong patutunguhan nila at wala man lang sapat na dalang pera para sa pagkain sa mahabang biyahe. Ang bitbit lamang nila noon ay tiwala sa mga taong nagdala sa kanila sa sitwasyong iyon. Ang dala lamang nila noon ay ang kagustuhang makapagtrabaho para sa ikabubuti ng kani-kanilang mga pamilya dito sa Pilipinas. Nagulat na lang silang lahat. Instead of getting what they were promised, people from ADMAN said that they were going to work in Biloxi, Mississippi under Royal Hospitality Services, Inc. Instead of receiving $7.25 per hour cleaning hotels, they were going to be paid $4.75 per room.

When they arrived at their new destination, for the measly compensation they got, they were given a minimum of fourteen rooms per day to clean in order to be paid $4.75. According to one of them, the most they could humanly accomplish was ten rooms. Maliban pa rito, pagkadating pa lang, puwersahan silang siningil ng renta sa titirhan nila kahit halos wala na silang pera. At some point, Rufino de Guzman, upon realizing that they were victims of human trafficking, fled to Los Angeles to seek the help of OWWA through their Welfare Officer, Mr. Alberto Adonis Duero. Rufino de Guzman, a native of Bulacan, was later on joined by fellow OFWs who were also recruited by ADMAN and transported to different parts of the United States before they were duped into working in Biloxi, Mississippi. They are Norman Paul Yaranon of Pangasinan, Ronilo Cruz of Nueva Ecija, Ricardo Jabagat of Negros Oriental, Vuenas Ian dela Puerta of Iloilo, Mario Abaday of Batangas, Manuel Jusayan of Samar, Imelda Nosa of Cavite, Arlene Dorotan of Ilocos Norte, and Eutropia Velasco and Khalid Anthony Velasco of the Second District of Quezon. They escaped from their employers in the middle of the night last September. Ayon sa isa sa kanila, binabantayan sila sa kanilang apartment kaya sila hindi agad nakatakas. Meanwhile, Mr. Duero, in his sincerity in helping his kababayans, which is part of his job as OWWA welfare officer, has earned him death threats received in his cellphone via a Philippine mobile number. In addition, he has been urging our labor attache in Washington, D.C. to provide financial assistance in order to cater to the needs of these eleven individuals who are far away from home and without any means to support themselves. It seems, Mr. Speaker, that Labor Attache Luzviminda Padilla has been showing reluctance in aiding our kababayans in dire need. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Department of Homeland Security, it could take more than a year for these workers to file a trafficking case which is currently under investigation. Instead, Ms. Padilla has decided not to grant Mr. Duero's request for assistance because according to her email, there might be a “better way” to spend OWWA funds. Sabi niya, pauwiin na lang daw ang mga kababayan natin imbis na gastusan pa nila. Ms. Padilla has apparently forgotten that these individuals are not only Overseas Filipino Workers, but victims of alleged human trafficking who are seeking justice. Moreover, Mr. Speaker, beyond being victims, they are witnesses to a possible crime who need due protection from our authorities abroad. On one hand, we have Filipinos who victimize fellow Filipinos. On the other, we have a Filipino in a position of power refusing to give aid to fellow countrymen. Mr. Speaker, Given all these circumstances, some queries are brought to our attention. The employment offer to these individuals was obviously fake. We are now faced with the question: Which government agency should have verified this? Was it in the Philippines or in the United States? Shouldn't the US Department of Labor certify if the employment offer in their own land was valid? Are other players in this charade that our own government and that of the United States are not aware of ? We cannot be certain at this point. For now, only one thing is for sure-- we have eleven kababayans, eleven out of many, who have been used and abused. We are in the Tier 2 Watch List of the US State Department's trafficking in persons report for not being able to fully comply with minimum standards in their Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Sliding down has a consequence of non-accessibility of aid from the US. It can be prevented by the concrete and sincere

cooperation with and of the United States government. However, this is simply no longer an issue of non-humanitarian aid. This, Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, is an issue of finally ending modern-day human slavery. Haven't we had enough? Month after month, we hear about cases of trafficking of Filipinos in various parts around the globe. The trafficking and slavery of our so-called Bagong Bayani-- that is extremely unthinkable! Yet, it does happen and continues to happen as I speak before you. Mr. Speaker, this is but the tip of the iceberg. ADMAN is an agency listed under the POEA. How many more agencies registered have been practicing this sort of manipulation against vulnerable Filipinos seeking employment for the future of their families? And how many are those agencies which are not registered but still manage to traffic our countrymen abroad? They say that numbers speak for themselves. However, in this instance, they don't. No matter how many agencies we register and suspend, trafficking in persons covertly occurs right under our noses. May ngipin nga ang batas ngunit kaunti lang ang nakakagat. We have the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act or Republic Act 9208, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act or Republic Act 8042, and even international statutes prescribed by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime where human trafficking has been designated as a crime against humanity. This, Mr. Speaker, is not just an issue of amending existing laws. This is a matter of enforcing the law to its fullest extent for the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of our Overseas Filipino Workers. This not about complying with other country's standards. This, Mr. Speaker, is a matter of having our own and following them with utmost respect for migrant workers. The supreme norms of justice are the following: to live honorably, not to injure others, and to render to every man his due. Let me edit them to fit this particular issue-- to live honorably (by not manipulating your countrymen for your own ends), not to injure others (through the trafficking of persons to suffer inhumane working conditions), and to render to every man his due (in employment that upholds and protects human dignity). These are principles that we should keep in our minds and hearts. Tungo sa tuwid na daan, kasama natin ang bawat manggagawang Pilipino sa ibang bansa. Nararapat lamang na pangalagaan natin sila. Iisa lang ang hinihingi natin para sa kanila. Sigurado akong kaya natin itong ibigay at ipaglaban-- Ito ay walang iba kundi katarungan! At kailangang natin itong ibigay at ipaglaban sa lalong madaling panahon. Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, let us finally put an end to modern-day slavery of Filipinos overseas! Mabuhay ang manggagawang Pilipino sa bawat sulok ng mundo! Maraming salamat po.

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