They were victims of illegal recruitment, having been sent to UAE with mere visit visas and forced to work for 10 to 20 hours a day for a fraction of the salaries promised to them. Worse, three of the 10 victims were even charged by their employers and arrested by the police. The alleged culprit, the Princess House Party Organizer, a company based in Dubai.
BY AUBREY MAKILAN
Vol. VIII, No. 10, April 13-19, 2008
They were victims of illegal recruitment, having been sent to UAE with mere visit visas and forced to work for 10 to 20 hours a day for a fraction of the salaries promised to them. Worse, three of the 10 victims were even charged by their employers and arrested by the police
Illegally recruited, exploited
At least 10 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have filed complaints of illegal recruitment against their agent Zandra Villamora of the Princess House Party Organizer. Based on a fact sheet prepared by Migrante International-United Arab Emirates (UAE), the OFWs were hired to work by Villamora in different hotels in UAE using only visit visas. They were promised a working visa once they landed in UAE.
The OFWs paid the agency amounts, ranging from P26, 500 to P75, 000 ($637 to $1,803 at an exchange rate of $1=P41.595) for their visas, plane tickets and escort fees.
Upon arrival in UAE, their passport and visas were collected by a representative of Princess House and were asked to sign contracts in Arabic. In the affidavits obtained by Migrante-UAE, the OFWs worked for six months with just visit visas. Since a visit visa is valid only for two months, they needed to exit to a nearby country in order to obtain another visit visa.
The OFWs said they were told initially that their salary would be from P30,000 to P 35,000 ($721 to $841) a month. But when they arrived at the UAE, they were told that they would be paid 750 Dhs. (P8,250 or $198), and that they will work 10 hours a day, with 5 Dhs (P55.00 or $1.32) per hour additional for overtime. Two women OFWs were promised a P9,000 ($216) monthly salary, and one male OFW P13,000 ($312).
But, the OFWs said in their affidavits, they were forced to work from 20 to 30 hours straight, were not allowed to have days off, and were allowed to eat only once a day. If they refused to follow instructions, their salaries were withheld, aside from receiving “verbal abuse” from their employer. They also said that Villamora locked up the women OFWs in their quarters on different occasions.
Migrante-UAE said the OFWs complained before the Ministry of Labor in UAE and were given three options: 1). Go back to work; 2). Go home and face an entry ban and; 3). Pursue their case in court.
The OFWs also approached the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), through Labor Attaché Virginia Clavez, but was allegedly told by POLO officials that they cannot do anything since the OFWs are just visit visa holders, thus, not covered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Policy.
On March 11, Migrante-UAE said the victims decided to accept the second option offered by the labor ministry hoping that the Philippine Consulate and POLO-OWWA would back them up.
At the labor ministry, their employer delivered their personal belongings and gave them their remaining salaries. But they were not given plane tickets for their deportation.
The Ministry of Labor ordered them to leave the UAE not later than April 10.
Upon learning of their plight, Migrante-UAE helped them bring their case to the attention of the Philippine Consulate in Dubai.
But instead of being able to go back home, three of them were arrested in Dubai.
Nhel Morona, Migrante-UAE secretary general, said two women OFWs were accused of scratching a page in the Koran, the holy bible in Islam, and were arrested.
On April 7, OFW Renato Garcia was picked up and handcuffed by Dubai Police in front of the Philippine Consular Office after seeking its assistance on a case filed against him by his employer.
The three are now languishing in jail.
“…Sa harapan mismo ng ating Consulate Office sa pagkalabas na pagkalabas ng pinto ng gate ng Consulate natin dinampot ng police ang isa sa mga victim ng Princess House (si Renato Garcia), at mismong sa tungki ng ilong ng mga walang silbi nating opisyal dito kinuha ang ating kababayan at wala silang nagawa kahit konti at ang sabi e bukas na lang daw aasikasuhin,” (He was arrested by the police right in front of the Consulate office just outside the gate. He was taken right in front of the noses of consulate officials and they were not able to do anything. They merely said that they would just follow up his case the next day.) said Morona, clearly disappointed, in an email he sent to Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.
“What irked us was that when Vice-Consul Mendoza and other consulate staff were informed about the incident, they hesitated to go out of the office to provide assistance to OFW Renato,” said Morona.
Morona was also puzzled how the Dubai Police knew that OFW Garcia was in the consulate office at that time. “We are not discounting the possibility that the consulate staff have tipped off the Dubai Police that OFW Renato is at the consulate at that time, as he was immediately identified by the Police, and was promptly picked up and handcuffed.”
Monterona said that POLO-OWWA promised the OFWs that they would ask the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) office in Manila to provide their tickets. As of April 10, Monterona said there is no response yet from POEA Manila. He added that the Philippine Consulate and POLO/OWWA-Dubai were passing the buck as to which office would send the request to Manila.
While five OFWs from among the ten victims were able to raise money to shoulder their airfare, Migrante-UAE said, the other five OFWs do not have the means.
“Kailangan lang talaga nung ilan sa kanila ay yung ticket pauwi at overstaying na yung dalawa sa kanila (Jefferson Binulirao at Janice Arante) at malapit na ring mag-overstay ‘yung asawa ni Renato (Garcia),” (What the others need are their tickets to fly back home as two of them are already overstaying and the wife of Renato is about to be declared as overstaying also.) worried Morona.
Even if all the OFW victims would be sent back home, Migrante-MiddleEast and Migrante-UAE have posed their other concern.
“What would happen with the Princess House Party organizer? Would they be held responsible for the illegal recruitment of the 10 OFWs? Someone should be liable for what happened to the 10 OFWs,” said Moterona. (Bulatlat.com)