11 Pinoy victims of human trafficking in US provided assistance, says DOLE
Davao City (11 November) -- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday belied a published report saying that DOLE officials have not been acting on the request for assistance of 11 displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are suspected to have been victims of human trafficking in the United States.
"The DOLE, together with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Washington, D.C., has provided assistance to the OFWs pending the filing of formal charges against the alleged illegal traffickers," said Nicon Fameronag, director of the DOLE Labor Communications Office, in a statement.
Fameronag said that labor attaché Luzviminda Padilla, in a telephone call, explained that she had already recommended to the OWWA in Manila to provide subsistence allowance to the workers, and clarified that what the 11 OFWs might be complaining about was their request, coursed through Adonis Duero, the welfare officer in Washington, D.C., for the OWWA to provide them financial assistance to rent a house where they could stay in Los Angeles.
The request is being studied carefully by the OWWA because the length of time in which the OFWs might stay in Los Angeles is indefinite. Also, OWWA had instructed Welof Duero to coordinate his activities in Los Angeles with Labatt Padilla, her superior, who had recommended the consolidation of the complaint of the 11 with the case of other 18 trafficked victims who have stayed in Biloxi, Mississipi to pursue and monitor their cases.
According to Padilla, the government authorities of Mississippi have not yet decided when to proceed with the filing of a case on behalf of the 11 OFWs, although she said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had already interviewed three of them and had submitted the results of the interview to Mississippi authorities.
"We are waiting for the decision of the authorities of the State of Mississippi on this matter," Padilla said.
She also disclosed that she is set to meet with trafficking officers of the US Department of Justice on Wednesday, together with the political officer of the Philippine Embassy, specifically to coordinate with the FBI's and the US Department of Homeland Security's continued probe against the perpetrators of the alleged crime of human trafficking.
It can be recalled that it was DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz herself who first disclosed to the public last September the case of another 18 OFWs recruited by ZDrive, Inc. which promised them jobs in Florida but were instead brought to Biloxi, Mississippi where they were made to endure sub-human and sub-standard conditions of work. The 18 OFWs were assisted by the Catholic Charities in Mississipi, which had hired Atty. Elaine Carr to work on their cases.
On the other hand, the 11 OFW were originally in Mississippi, but fled to Los Angeles, California where they are currently under the care of a Filipino-American pastor. They were recruited in the Philippines by Adman Human Resources Placement, Inc., the recruitment license of which had since been cancelled by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Labatt Padilla said the 11 OFWs when they were still in Mississipi were offered help by the POLO, the Catholic Charities, through Atty. Carr, and the US Department of Homeland Security. She said the 11 refused the offer for help.
"Had they stayed, they would not have been hard up in Los Angeles. It would have been quicker for the US authorities, the POLO, and the Philippine Embassy to facilitate their cases and to assist them," she said.
On the part of the DOLE, Fameronag said the department is cooperating with the private law firm of Atty. Boyet Medina and the Blas F. Ople Policy Center for the filing in the Philippines of anti-human trafficking cases against ZDrive officials and their principals in the US. (DOLE) [top]