Rape, forced labor, battery in Malaysia Trafficked women OFWs recount tales of suffering and abuse

Days before Women’s Month, at least 30 women OFWs who were trafficked to Malaysia told Migrante International about their traumatic experiences in the hands of their employers and foreign agency.

Remedios Miralles was forced to work for 10 employers. She did not receive her salary for three months and was forced to sign a contract each time she changed employers. She worked for at least 17 hours each day under inhumane conditions. She had no proper sleeping accommodations, was forced to eat rotten vegetables and expired noodles and canned goods and was forbidden to use her cellphone. She is currently stranded in a “safe house” owned by the foreign agency and requesting immediate repatriation.

Cherry Rose Garcia worked for 10 to 17 hours a day without food. She also suffered emotional and verbal abuse from her employer. When she ran away to the foreign agency to complain, they locked her up for two weeks and made her eat rotten food. When she told the agency that she wanted to go home, they said that she had to pay for her plane ticket. Desperate, Garcia borrowed money from her family and was able to return this January.

Marites Paloma has bruises and lumps in her chest from constant beatings from her employer. She was “detained” for two months at the foreign agency “safe house”.  Hazel (not her real name) suffered a mental breakdown after she was raped by the son of her employer.

Sharon Agmata was slapped in the face on a daily basis by her employer. Jamila Marin and Cinderella Sanchez were victims of contract violations. They worked under slave-like conditions and were made to eat three-day old leftover food. Cherry Abad’s passport and other documents were confiscated from her and she was not given a copy of her contract.

Mary Grace Guira was deprived of proper medical attention when she was diagnosed with acute cholecystitis (presence of gall stones in the gall bladder). Her passport was confiscated from her by a certain Atty. Gracilla Mona Lumang because she was unable to pay her hospital bills.

At least 15 of them were able to return to the Philippines after they ran away from their employers. All were deployed to Malaysia by at least six licensed recruitment agencies, namely, Jedi Placement Agency Inc. (Guillen MGT & SVCS Inc.), MultiStar International, Inc., Global Skilled Workforce Inc. (formerly Kotobuki International Promotions Inc.), SML Human Resources Inc., LNS International Manpower Services Corp. (formerly LNS International), and Pacific Business Ventures Inc. allegedly owned by a Marisa Flores and actor Victor Neri.

“We greatly suspect that these agencies are human traffickers disguising as licensed recruitment agencies. Most of them have changed their names, possibly after being suspended or cancelled for numerous violations in the past,” said Gina Esguerra, Migrante International secretary-general.

The OFWs have already filed administrative cases against their local recruitment agencies and the foreign agency at the POEA. They are also set to file cases before the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking in Persons) in preparation for criminal charges against their recruiters.

Some of them were deployed to Malaysia under tourist visas. When they ran to the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, officials advised them to return to their foreign agency where they were again deployed to work for other employers. Every day, the women said, more and more OFWs came to the foreign agency’s “safe house” after running away from their employers. The Philippine Embassy, they said, did nothing to assist in their repatriation.

“These women are clearly victims of large-scale human trafficking. We are outraged and horrified by their traumatic tales. They were forced to leave under desperate circumstances with the aim to provide for their families here only to suffer terrible conditions abroad,” Esguerra said.

Esguerra called on senatorial bets to take a stand against human trafficking. “It is time to end the cycle of trafficking of our Filipino workers. Traffickers should be punished. Heads must roll among coddlers in government. Changes should be made in a system that forces our workers to seek desperate measures abroad in order to survive.”

Tomorrow, February 21, the OFWs will stage a picket-protest at the POEA. ###