Trafficked Pinoy teachers in US seek embassy's help

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at May 20 2014 12:46 PM | Updated as of May 20 2014 08:46 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, California – Representatives from the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, GABRIELA-USA, and Migrante Northern California met with Philippine Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco last Friday to demand justice for hundreds of trafficked teachers from the Philippines.

More than 200 teachers were allegedly duped by recruiter Isidro Rodriguez who reportedly promised them good-paying teaching jobs in America in exchange for more than $10,000 each in recruitment fees.

But these jobs did not exist.

These alleged victims of human trafficking are now furious that Rodriguez has been released from detention after being arrested last November.

They asked why the Philippine government isn’t taking a more active role in helping the Filipinos who have been victimized.

Ambassador Cuisia assured them that the Philippine government is doing what it can to prevent human trafficking and it needs the help of the community to do so.

“I would like to eliminate trafficking 100 percent but it might be impossible. I don’t know but we will do what we can,” Ambassador Cuisia said.

Two of those allegedly trafficked attended the meeting to tell the ambassador first-hand about their struggle.

They argue that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration endorsed Rodriguez and his agency which made it more credible for teachers to join the program.

"It was actually the agency that fixed my POEA requirements," one of Rodriguez’ alleged victims told Cuisia in the meeting.

"They did everything for me. That’s why I trusted them very much when I arrived here. I didn’t know I would end up doing house cleaning just to pay the interest of my loans. Until now I’m still paying my loan.”

The representatives presented the ambassador with a specific list of requests to ensure justice for the teachers.

They are requesting that the Philippine government prosecute Rodriguez, cancel their loans, and to shut down the recruitment agency.

The ambassador said that he wants to see Rodriguez in jail and that he will try to work with their organizations in fulfilling their requests.

"They came to me, many of them crying. Yes, we want to help them and we want to help you too. We have to see how we can help but I cannot tell you tomorrow the loan will be paid. We have to see what can be done," Ambassador Cuisia said.

After their meeting with Cuisia, the teachers and their advocates staged a silent protest outside of the consulate.

They hope to maintain communication with the ambassador regarding their requests.

"We definitely believe as a part of GABRIELA-USA that this is a much bigger problem, systemic, that’s actually facilitated by labor export program and these agencies like the POEA. Over 60 percent of the Philippine economy is held up by our overseas Filipino workers and yet they are the ones that not being protected by the government,” Tina Shauf, member of GABRIELA-USA, said.