GLOBAL Placement Services Inc. said it is merely an agency that facilitates visa applications to the United Kingdom and not a recruiter that asked applicants to pay a huge amount of money in exchange of lucrative jobs.

These were sentiments aired by the contending parties during the first joint hearing Monday of the City Council committees on labor and management and overseas workers chaired by Councilor Sonya Verdeflor and the committee on human rights chaired by Councilor Archie Baribar.

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Councilors Verdeflor and Baribar were joined by Councilors Elmer Sy, El Cid Familiaran, Catalino Alisbo and Em Ang.

The complainants, led by Maritess Manayon, presented their complaints on how Global Placement offered them a "too good to be true" opportunity of a greener pasture in London.

Global Placement was represented by its legal counsel, lawyer Andy Hagad, and its public relations consultant, Gil Severino.

Councilor Caesar Distrito at first joined the committees conducting the joint hearing, but Councilor Baribar requested him to desist from sitting as a member of the panel considering that Distrito was named by the complainants as having allegedly served as legal counsel for Global Placement.

Distrito vehemently denied the charge during the hearing, stressing that he only rendered notarial services to two applicants of the company.

He pointed out that the presence of Hagad as the official counsel of Global Placement in the hearing should be proof enough that he (Distrito) is not the legal counsel of the agency.

Manayon retorted that, as a member of the City Council, Distrito is supposed to help the complainant-victims, considering that they are his constituents. He should not sue them for libel, she said.

Distrito earlier filed a libel case against the complainants for dragging him into the controversy as allegedly a former legal counsel of the company. Distrito asked the court for P1 million in damages.

But on Monday, Distrito inhibited from the hearing. He was the first to go out of the session hall.

Evelyn Canlas, officer-in-charge of the City Permits and Licensing Division, said Global Placement was first issued a Mayor's Permit in September 23, 2010 to engage in professional services. The company was again issued a Mayor's Permit in April 13, 2010.

Manayon pointed out that Jocelyn Dableo Lantron, the company's director, made the complainants pay the money prior to the issuance of the Mayor's Permit.

"Mrs. Lantron already accepted payments from us August to September 6, 2009. But prior to those months, there were already initial payments made to Mrs. Lantron but she never issued a single receipt to us. Our proof of payment is only the bank deposit slips," Manayon said.

For Hagad, Global Placement is properly registered in the UK to engage in facilitating student and volunteer visas. It is not a recruitment agency, he stressed.

The complainants-applicants were already accepted by a college in Northwest England but there were changes in visa laws of the UK that were beyond the control of Global Placement. This led to the suspension of such privilege given to that school to accept foreign students, including the complainant-applicants, said Hagad.

Since the delays were imputable to the causes that are not the act of Global Placement, the company should not be blamed for it, Hagad stated.

On the other hand, Global Services' PR consultant Gil Severino said the word "placement" is just a marketing language. The applicants will be there to either study or do volunteer work.

However, Manayon said Global Placement understands that the applicants' real purpose for going there is to work.

"We have families to feed. Why will we go there and study? I have already obtained two degrees. Why should I study there?" she pointed out.

The applicants applied for a Tier 4, which is a student visa, and Tier 5, which is a volunteer visa.

All the complainants have allegedly paid Lantron the initial payments of more than P100,000. They agreed to pay a package of P300,000 for the Tier 4 visa and P250,000 for the Tier 5 visa. They were promised that within two months upon payment of the package, they will leave for London. But nothing happened until now.

Manayon said they have loaned money just to pay Lantron but they ended up with nothing.

Mark Yamoyam, another complainant, asked for a refund.

Councilor Baribar said the hearing will aid them in drafting a measure to address the growing problem on illegal recruitment.

The City Council, he added, will make a report to be given to the British Embassy for its guidance in matters like this.