Saturday, October 27, 2007

Migrants group, OFW families slam Sentosa Agency

News Release
October 25, 2007
For reference: Maita Santiago, Secretary-General (0916-513-4366)

During picket-dialogue at POEA:
Migrants group, OFW families slam Sentosa Agency

An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families today slammed anew the Sentosa Recruitment Agency (SRA) with a picket-dialogue at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. The dialogue delegation was led by Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Liza Maza and along with Migrante, the relatives of the victims of the SRA and the Alliance of Health Workers participated in the protest.

“"The Sentosa Recruitment Agency is clearly guilty of large-scale illegal recruitment. Its operations should be suspended immediately and its license revoked permanently. We demand no less from POEA Admin. Rosalinda Baldoz,"” says Maita Santiago, Migrante International Secretary-General.

The Migrant Workers Act (section 6) deems that illegal recruitment is committed in large scale if it is committed against three or more persons. Large scale illegal recruitment is considered an offense involving economic sabotage. The Act (section 7) further states that the penalty for economic sabotage is life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P500,000 and not more than P1 million.

“"We also call on Admin. Baldoz to divulge the full extent of the political interventions at play which resulted in the grossly biased actions by the POEA against victims,”" she added, citing the letters by US Senator Schumer to POEA Admin. Baldoz, then-Labor Sec. Patricia Sto. Tomas, NY Consul General Ceclia Rebong and Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in behalf of the SRA – and the subsequent phone call reportedly made by then. Sec. Admin. Baldoz just prior to the POEA’s lifting of the preventive suspension order against the SRA on June 8 last year.

“"We wouldn’t be surprised kung may suholan sa Malacanang, mayroon din sa DOLE o sa POEA. Since the political interference by the powers that be into this case has already been admitted, the full extent of it must be exposed, investigated and the relevant charges filed against those guilty of this shameless abuse of power,”" remarked Santiago, citing the recent bribery expose at the Palace.

At least 32 nurses and a physical therapist have filed complaints at the POEA against the SRA. Currently, a Motion to Appeal the POEA’'s order to dismiss the first batch of complaints (Order dismissal released 4 September 2007) and an illegal recruitment case filed by a second batch (24 November 2006) are still pending.

During the dialogue, the families of the nurses submitted their Unity Statement and demands to POEA Admin. Baldoz.

"“Apart from this dialogue, we commit to intensifying global actions for this campaign through our member organizations and networks. In the US , the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns continues to gather widespread support for the nurses with the very influential NY State Nurses Association being the latest to affirm their support,"” said Santiago .

This October 29th, the NAFCON will lead a picket in front of the NY courthouse where ten of the nurses and their lawyer will face their first hearing on the criminal charges baselessly filed against them by Sentosa. For its part, Migrante International will also lead various actions to highlight the continuing oppression of our kababayans at the hands of Sentosa. #

* a detailed fact sheet is available upon request.



By the families of the victims of the Sentosa Recruitment Agency to

the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration

October 25, 2007

We, the families of the victims of the Sentosa Recruitment Agency (SRA), unite to express our alarm and opposition to recent POEA decisions which heighten the injustices committed against our loved ones by the SRA.

We believe that the SRA is clearly guilty of the illegal recruitment charges filed by the 26 nurses and 1 physical therapist against it last year 2006. The filing of similar charges by additional victims of the SRA strengthens this fact.

As such, we demand that the POEA issue an immediate preventive suspension order against the SRA at the minimum and at the maximum, their license should be revoked and their operations shut down. Otherwise, we fear that even more health professionals and their families will be victimized and forced to endure the grief, anguish and hardship that we now live daily.

As with countless other Filipino families, we were filled with great pride when our loved ones finally graduated as nurses and as a physical therapist. Given the worsening economic conditions in our country, we were also hopeful when they were given the opportunity to migrate to the United States as health professionals.

But instead of a better life abroad, our relatives were forced to endure a range of contract violations, discriminatory and unfair labor practices at the hands of the SentosaCare Agency in New York . Unable to suffer in silence and work under breached contracts any longer, they united and resigned from their positions.

It is deplorable that in Sentosa's bid to intimidate and criminalize our relatives, they retaliated by filing trumped-up criminal charges against 10 of the nurses and their lawyer. It is indeed a bitter reality that while the SRA continues to operate in the Philippines and its owner Francis Luyun remains scot-free – our relatives are being criminalized in New York .

We salute the courage of our loved-ones to stand up and speak the truth. We affirm our commitment to forward the campaign for justice for the Sentosa 27++ and all Filipino migrant workers.

Together with the growing number of people's organizations, other community-based groups and supporters of these health professionals from around the world – including the more than 2,000 who have signed an online internet petition for the victims of the SRA, we demand the following from POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz:

1. Immediate preventive suspension of the Sentosa Recruitment Agency;
2. Genuine investigation into the full extent of the SRA's illegal recruitment activities;
3. Permanent revocation of the license of the SRA and shut down of its operations; and
4. Investigation into Malacanang's intervention in the illegal recruitment case through a phone call by then-Sec. Michael Defensor to POEA Admin. Baldoz – which led to the swift lifting of the suspension order against the SRA and the long-delayed release of decisions in the complaints filed by the initial 27 health professionals and a subsequent batch of complainants.

Justice for the Sentosa 27++!

Justice for all Filipino migrant workers!


Francis Tulang

Step-father of nurse Noralyn Ortega

Elmer Gamiao

Father of nurse Claudine Gamiao

Maritess Delos Angeles

Sister of nurse Jennifer Lampa

Rhia Maulion

Sister of nurse Rizza Maulion

Mariano Morales

Father of nurse Juliet Anilao

Wilfreda Avila

Mother of nurse Harriet Avila

Mr. Garcia
Father of nurse Carlo Garcia