Employment firm in trafficking case has expired license

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011


DAVAO CITY -- The overseas employment agency that recruited 70 women, including 10 minors, believed to be victims of human trafficking, was operating on expired license, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said.

The POEA said the license for Davao City and Tacurong City operations of M.R. International Manpower Services Inc. already expired last March 15, 2011.

The branches with expired licenses are located at the First Door 6-Door Commercial and Residential Building, Roxas Avenue, Davao City and 2-A Notre Dame Centrum II National Highway, Tacurong City, said Lucia L. Villamayor, POEA Licensing Branch director, in a report dated August 5.

The POEA said only the recruitment agency's office at No. 1736-D&E, Dian Street, Palanan, Makati City has a valid license to operate until March 15, 2015.

Meanwhile, caretaker, who has been arrested and sued for illegal detention for refusing to release a 19-year-old woman to her uncle, is also facing additional charges because she is not in the list of recruiters for the agency.

Prosecutor Gaye T. Cañete-Magdagasang in a resolution dated August 4, said the evidence at hand clearly showed that the caretaker (real identity withheld on the perchance that this is in fact a trafficking in person case, the law of which prohibits identifying both the suspects and victims) has no authority to recruit as evidenced by the POEA certificate.

Thus, Magdagasang found probable cause to pursue large scale illegal recruitment and serious illegal detention charges based on the affidavits executed by the victims.

The woman and two respondents, who are still at large, were identified as the recruiters of five of the women who executed their affidavit-complaints before the Office of the Regional State Prosecutor.

Formal charges have been filed before the regional trial court on Monday.

In their complaints, the victims said they were recruited in Cotabato City. From Cotabato, they were brought to Butuan City and made to stay at Tinago Beach Resort while their recruiters "secure their birth certificates." After which, they were sent back to Cotabato City.

On July 23, the five women met at the house of the recruiter for their trip to Davao City.

From there, they were brought to the house on Molave Street in Juna Subdivision where they were introduced to a certain Ms. Line.

The caretaker instructed them to just stay at the "accommodation," confiscated their cellphones, and refused to let them out. They were also told to hide themselves from neighbors.

During their stay, the recruiter arrived and introduced himself as the boss of the caretaker.

He examined the girls' physical appearance and told the girls that since they are already at the "accommodation", they are not allowed to withdraw their application considering that their papers are already processed and that they will only be released if they pay a large amount.

On August 1, one of the victims, the 19-year-old woman, called her father using the cellphone of another recruit who was able to hide it from the caretaker.

The victim told her father in Cotabato City about their situation. Her father in turn contacted his cousin in Mintal and told him to get his daughter from the house at Juna Subdivision.

The cousin, the young woman's uncle, went to the house around 4 p.m. of that day, but the caretaker refused to release his niece to him unless he pays P15,000 for board and lodging.

The man sought the help of the media who brought the concern to the attention of the police. A rescue operation was staged by the police with the City Social Services and Development Office last August 2.

While authorities still do not want to confirm that the case they stumbled on is human trafficking, the victims' affidavits indicate as much.

In the 19-year-old woman's affidavit, she said, they were divided into two groups – those who look very young and those who look old enough.

The old ones were brought to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Butuan City for their passports while the young-looking ones who did not have birth certificates were made to stay at Tinago Beach where they stayed for two nights. They returned to Cotabato after that.

On May 2011, the recruiter called the victim and informed her that they will go to Butuan again to apply for their passports.

On July 20, the recruiter told her that all their passports were already released and they will be flying to Manila soon.

So, she and 30 others left Cotabato City in a "yellow baby bus" late evening of on July 23. They arrived in Davao City the following morning where they were turned over to the caretaker.

Aside from being told not to expose themselves to the neighbors' sight, the young ones were also warned never to go out of the house, not even in the yard. Only those in their late 20s and 30s were allowed to walk outside, but still within the confines of the property.

The gate was kept locked, she said.

She said that as days passed, meals were no longer regular and the caretaker was becoming abusive, scolding and cursing them when they make mistakes. That was when she called her father for help.

Among the warnings signs of trafficked persons are transported at night to temporary shelters or place of employment; poor living conditions; multiple people in cramped space (70 women in one house); employer is holding identity documents; are not allowed to speak to anyone outside the employment area or holding area; are kept away from public’s eyes; are fearful of law enforcement authorities; bear signs of abuse; and are under-18. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 09, 2011.

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