Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sentosa nurses seek audience with Arroyo in New York


Sentosa nurses seek audience with Arroyo in New York
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

NEW YORK -- Several Filipino health professionals, who have become collectively known as the "Sentosa 27++", are seeking an audience with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her visit here to bring to her attention their differences with their recruiter, Sentosa Recruitment Agency.

At the same time, the nurses said they would appeal the order of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) that dismissed the complaint against Sentosa for misrepresentation, contract substitution, and violation of Philippine recruitment rules and regulations.

The POEA ruling that cleared Sentosa was signed September 4.

In a news conference here, Maricelle Dealo, one of the members of Sentosa 27++, said they are seeking an audience with the President through the Philippine Consulate here.

Leandro Lachica of the office of the Consulate General in New York said a request for a meeting between the nurses and the President was being worked on.

However, he said he has yet to get a commitment from the President as Arroyo's schedule here would be very tight.

Arroyo will arrive at the Newark International Airport in New Jersey at 4:00 am then will motor to the Waldorf Towers where she would be staying.

Arroyo will deliver a report at the 62nd UN General Assembly, attend the Clinton Global Initiative, deliver a speech at the Women Leaders Working Group, and meet with several business leaders.

Dealo said she hopes Arroyo can look into the plight of the nurses here.

"As prime exports to the US, it was important that the Philippine government give the nurses protection and ensure that they are not exploited by their recruiters," she told reporters.

Felix Vinluan, lawyer of the Sentosa 27++, said that Philippine-based lawyers assisting the nurses will also file an appeal on the POEA decision within the week.

Vinluan assailed the POEA's ruling, saying it had not been fair to the nurses because of "political intervention."

Quoting an article from Newsday, Vinluan said the preventive suspension on Sentosa was immediately lifted by the POEA following a call by former Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor.

Vinluan said Defensor also admitted that he called the POEA administrator "to give her guidance" after MalacaƱang received a letter from US Senator Charles Schumer on behalf of Sentosa Care.

Vinluan said he hopes the Senate would push through with an investigation of the Sentosa controversy so that remedial legislation can be done to help the nurses.

The nurses were among the registered nurses brought to the US through the Sentosa Recruitment Agency in November 2005. Five months later, they resigned, saying that the agency had lied to them, exploited them, and forced them to work under unsafe conditions.

Ten of the nurses who had worked at the Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center were charged by the Suffolk County District Attorney for patient endangerment when they left their work.

Vinluan, who will attend a hearing of the case at 2 p.m. Wednesday (New York time) said he hopes the charges would be dismissed.