MigranteSectoral Partylist urged the Philippine government to prosecute and punish a diplomat Filipino couple who had fled Canada on charges oftrafficking their Filipina 26-year-old nanny at their home in Ottawa,Canada.
A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for Philippine Cultural AttacheBueneflor Cruz and her husband Robert Cruz. Bueneflor has been charged withhuman trafficking for purposes of labor exploitation while her husband Roberthas been charged with uttering death threats and mischief, including thewithholding of the identification documents of their Filipina nanny. It is thefirst time that human trafficking charges related to labor have been laid inOttawa, Canada.
Bueneflor worked as a staff member in the Philippine Embassy in Ottawabefore she and her husband fled Canada early this year.
The Filipina nanny was rescued in December 2013 after a third partycomplaint from another trafficked Filipina nanny, Leticia Sarmiento, called theattention of Ottawa police to her plight. The Filipina nanny was “controlled”by the couple for more than four years, her identification and passport wereconfiscated, and was working everyday for meager wages under slave-likeconditions. At the time, the Cruz couple had diplomatic immunity.
The Cruz couple have reportedly already surrendered their diplomatic IDsto the PH embassy and have gone back to the Philippines.
“It is always a cause for alarm and grave concern when the very peoplewho are supposed to protect and uphold the rights of our overseas Filipinoworkers (OFWs) are the ones violating them, especially ones like the Cruzcouple who are protected by diplomatic immunity. This is not the first timethat we’ve heard of cases of abuse and exploitation of OFWs by PH embassy andconsulate officials. However, sadly, most of the time, despite numerous complaints, they are merely ‘reprimanded’ or allowed to get off the hook by the PHgovernment,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Sectoral Partylistchairperson.
Bragas-Regalado cited the cases of sex-for-flight accused Labor AttacheAntonio Villafuerte; LabAtt Romy Saludwho was caught on video berating distressed OFW Agnes Tenorio; PH ConsulateGeneral Jose A.P. Campeso who was caught on video displaying drunken, unrulybehavior in Vancouver, Canada; and, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago whose recall frompost has been demanded time and again by OFWs in Saudi Arabia for continuousneglect and abuse of authority. “All these officials have either only beenmerely ‘scolded’ or given administrative sanctions, if any at all. None of themwere criminally punished. All their victims have not been given justice,”Bragas-Regalado said.
Bragas-Regalado said that they are presently trying to get in touch withthe relatives of the Filipina nanny to discuss possibilities of filing criminalcharges against the Cruz couple here in the Philippines.
Bragas-Regalado also called on Congress and concerned governmentagencies to conduct a comprehensive investigation on the ethical standards ofall PH diplomats and officials deployed in embassies and consulates abroad.
“Something as sinister as trafficking of our own OFWs has been done byno less than Filipino diplomatic officials. It is high time that the governmentconducts a massive and comprehensive investigation on the conduct andoperations of all PH officials abroad. This kind of abuse of authority makesour OFWs more vulnerable to exploitation and rights violations. Heads mustroll,” she said. ###