August 22, 2007
Reference: Rico Foz, Executive Vice President, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, email: nafconusa @ yahoo.com
Drop All Charges Against the Sentosa 27! -NAFCON
Fil-Am Group Welcomes Senate Probe on Illegal Recruitment Agency
The Filipino-American alliance known as the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns or NAFCON acknowledged today that while they welcomed the Philippine Senate probe on the case of the Sentosa 27, they demanded the current criminal and civil charges be dropped against the 27 healthcare professionals who were falsely contracted to work in New York for various facilities that differed from the employers they signed to work for.
The alliance, which took charge of the case this year along with the Sentosa 27 themselves and their lawyer Felix Vinluan, has been coordinating an international campaign along with various nurses associations, labor groups, immigrant rights advocates and Philippine-based groups calling for justice and a shutdown of both Sentosa Care LLC in Long Island, New York and Sentosa Recruitment Agency at the Ortigas Center in Manila.
A campaign blog and online petition garnering thousands of support signatures are available at www.justiceforsentosa27.blogspot.com.
"In light of the fact that Philippine Senator Panfilo Lacson is calling for a probe on the fraudulent operations of the Sentosa Recruitment Agency, where clients have well expressed their disdain over false contractualization, and the inactivity of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency on the matter, we firmly believe the Sentosa 27 and their lawyer, Felix Vinluan, should be relieved of all civil and criminal charges that have been put upon them," states Rico Foz, Executive Vice President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns or NAFCON.
Upon moving to the United States and realizing that none of the terms of their contracts pushed through, the 26 nurses and 1 physical therapist filed a civil case with the Labor Attache in Washington DC. The move prompted a fierce backlash from Sentosa owner and manager Bent Philipson to file counter civil charges against the 27 for breach of contract.
After enduring months of deplorable working conditions under false and violated contracts, ten of the Sentosa 27 resigned from their posts. The move caused a bigger stir, prompting Philipson to press criminal charges against the 10 for so-called patient endangerment. The 10 nurses maintain they did not place their patients in danger or plot for a collective "walk-out", but in fact made sure the nurses from the next shift were at hand. The nurses also reported that the working conditions under Sentosa required inhumane and impossible patient to nurse ratios that climbed as high as 100:1.
"This is not as much about the possible criminal activity but about preserving quality patient care for the Sentosa facilities in New York," states Foz continued. "With such high patient-to-nurse ratios and work conditions that aggravate the welfare of nurses--- backwages, long hours, no overtime-- nurses are impaired from performing optimumly and patient care is jeopardized."
"As Senator Lacson pushes forward with his investigation of the delay of action with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency on this matter, another necessary investigation must still be on the political interference of Mike Defensor and US Senator Charles Schumer for obstructing the avenues to justice initially pursued by the Sentosa 27 last year," Foz added.
NAFCON has been seeking public clarification from the offices of Defensor and Schumer for their well-documented roles in calling the POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz urging a lift of the suspension she issued on Sentosa after the Sentosa 27 filed case against the agency last year.
"The saddest part is illegal recruitment is not only commonplace from the Philippines, but that these types of criminal agencies are supported and protected by US and Philippine government officials, exposing a deeper and more systemic malaise for the export of our healthcare professionals that the Philippine government so prides itself on," Foz ended.
A court date for the criminally charged 10 is set for tomorrow, August 23 in Riverhead, NY.
Other vocal US-based supporters of the Justice for the Sentosa 27 Campaign include the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA). ###
Friday, August 24, 2007