Today, December 12, is the International Day Against Trafficking in Persons. In commemoration, Migrante International called for justice for victims of trafficking and for accountability from the Philippine government for failing to punish and prosecute perpetrators.
According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, labor trafficking of Filipino workers, especially women, is still rampant and operating in record-high levels in the Philippines yet the accountability of traffickers and their coddlers in government remains low.
“The PH government’s labor export policy that systematically and aggressively peddles cheap labor of our Filipino workers and professionals abroad, has become more entrenched and institutionalized under the present Aquino administration. In his four years in office, Aquino has indisputably become the ‘Trafficker-in-Chief’ of our Filipino workers,” Martinez said.
“The Aquino government’s labor export policy is the worst form of state-sponsored trafficking of Filipinos. Under the Aquino administration, abusive recruitment agencies and traffickers continue to operate and victimize Filipinos.”
Trafficked teachers to the US
Despite the US State Department’s upgrade of the Philippines from the Tier 2 Special Watch List to Tier 2 on its 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, Migrante International said that the Philippine government is still the top trafficker of its workers.
“In the US, the victims, direct- or agency-hires, all had approved job contracts that went through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). Concerned government agencies are just as accountable as the Manila-based traffickers because they were given license to operate. The government also has no mechanism to take action against the accomplices of the Manila-based recruiters in the US,” Martinez said.
In the case of Washington teachers, their trafficker Isidro Rodriguez duped them through his agency, Renaissance Staffing and Support, Inc., formerly Great Provider Service Exporters, Inc., with its US partner Green Life Care International, LLC. The PH Embassy in the US said that Rodriguez tops its list of most notorious illegal recruiters and traffickers.
Rodriguez’ victims are all licensed and professional teachers. They were all promised teaching positions in different schools in the United States, only to later learn that the said jobs were fictitious and all part of a grand trafficking scheme.
Rodriguez was able to collect a staggering average of Php500, 000. 00 from each of them as payments for their “processing, service, pick-up, housing and interview fees”. Most of the payments were made from their hard-earned savings, while majority of them resorted to borrowing money from relatives and friends, banks and loan institutions with high interest rates.
Last November, a Manila regional trial court sentenced Rodriguez to 11 years in prison for victimizing a Filipina teacher. He was convicted for just one crime when he has numerous other pending cases of large-scale and syndicated illegal recruitment and estafa lodged against him by some 500 Filipino teachers here in the Philippines and in the United States. Three batches of teachers have also filed cases of trafficking-in-persons against him at the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Rodriguez remains at large as of this posting.
For her part, Engelyn Belmonte, one of the trafficked teachers, said, “Now that he has been convicted, we expect authorities to launch an active manhunt for his arrest. We also call on our fellow teachers, supporters and advocates to join us in the manhunt for Rodriguez and our quest for justice. We call on our teachers, let us teach them, people like Rodriguez, a lesson.”
“Teach Them A Lesson”
The teachers, through their group GURO (Grupo ng Gurong Umuusig kay Rodriguez) and other advocates recently launched a global campaign entitled, “Teach Them A Lesson: A Campaign for Justice for Trafficked Teachers”, a year-long campaign against illegal recruitment and trafficking.
GURO said, “Through ‘Teach Them A Lesson’, we hope to push for the speedy resolution of specific cases of trafficking and highlight the gravity of the trafficking problem itself. We hope to make perpetrators like Rodriguez accountable. More importantly, it shall expose the government’s ineptitude and hypocrisy in the anti-trafficking campaign in the light of its continuing program for labor export.
Teach Them A Lesson aims to raise awareness and broaden support for victims of human trafficking. It shall stress the need for unity and solidarity between victims and survivors, on one hand, and their allies and supporters, on the other hand, by highlighting the importance of our teachers in our personal lives and in society.
Teach Them A Lesson means forging the broadest global unity possible against human trafficking through various activities and actions that would link international participation through grassroots activities, militant actions, global linkages, lobbying efforts, social media and other creative means of protest.
On December 18, International Migrants’ Day, Migrante International and members of its chapters from Asia, North America, Canada, Australia and Europe will march to Mendiola to protest the government’s failure to address the trafficking of Filipino workers abroad. ###