Migrante International urged the Philippine government to prosecute and punish a diplomat Filipino couple who had fled Canada on charges of trafficking their Filipina 26-year-old nanny at their home in Ottawa, Canada.
A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for Philippine Cultural Attache Bueneflor Cruz and her husband Robert Cruz. Bueneflor has been charged with human trafficking for purposes of labor exploitation while her husband Robert has been charged with uttering death threats and mischief, including the withholding of the identification documents of their Filipina nanny. It is the first time that human trafficking charges related to labor have been laid in Ottawa, Canada.
Bueneflor worked as a staff member in the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa before she and her husband fled Canada early this year.
The Filipina nanny was rescued in December 2013 after a third party complaint from another trafficked Filipina nanny, Leticia Sarmiento, called the attention of Ottawa police to her plight. The Filipina nanny was “controlled” by the couple for more than four years, her identification and passport were confiscated, and was working everyday for meager wages under slave-like conditions. At the time, the Cruz couple had diplomatic immunity.
The Cruz couple have reportedly already surrendered their diplomatic IDs to the PH embassy and have gone back to the Philippines.
“It is always a cause for alarm and grave concern when the very people who are supposed to protect and uphold the rights of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are the ones violating them, especially ones like the Cruz couple who are protected by diplomatic immunity. This is not the first time that we’ve heard of cases of abuse and exploitation of OFWs by PH embassy and consulate officials. However, sadly, most of the time, despite numerous complaints , they are merely ‘reprimanded’ or allowed to get off the hook by the PH government,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez cited the cases of sex-for-flight accused Labor Attache Antonio Villafuerte; LabAtt Romy Salud who was caught on video berating distressed OFW Agnes Tenorio; PH Consulate General Jose A.P. Campeso who was caught on video displaying drunken, unruly behavior in Vancouver, Canada; and, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago whose recall from post has been demanded time and again by OFWs in Saudi Arabia for continuous neglect and abuse of authority. “All these officials have either only been merely ‘scolded’ or given administrative sanctions, if any at all. None of them were criminally punished. All their victims have not been given justice,” Martinez said.
Martinez said that they are presently trying to get in touch with the relatives of the Filipina nanny to discuss possibilities of filing criminal charges against the Cruz couple here in the Philippines.
Martinez also called on Congress and concerned government agencies to conduct a comprehensive investigation on the ethical standards of all PH diplomats and officials deployed in embassies and consulates abroad.
“Something as sinister as trafficking of our own OFWs has been done by no less than Filipino diplomatic officials. It is high time that the government conducts a massive and comprehensive investigation on the conduct and operations of all PH officials abroad. This kind of abuse of authority makes our OFWs more vulnerable to exploitation and rights violations. Heads must roll,” he said. ###