No immunity for Baja in slavery case

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2009 11:51 AM | Updated as of Jun 18 2009 03:36 AM

A New York judge on Tuesday rejected a motion to dismiss a trafficking and modern slavery case filed against former Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja.

Judge Victor Marrero of the New York Southern District Court rejected Baja's motion to dismiss the case on the basis of diplomatic immunity.

The case stems from charges filed by Filipino nurse Marichu Suarez Baoanan against Baja, his wife Norma, daughter Maria Elizabeth Baja Facundo and the Baja-owned Labaire International Travel Inc. last June 24, 2008.

In her complaint, Baoanan accused the Bajas of modern day slavery, saying that she was forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week in the Baja residence in New York.

"The fact that I was able to file a case in the legal system was already a victory.  What’s an even greater victory is that the judge was not blind to the merits of the case.  The truth will always prevail. This is all the more reason why domestic workers need to continue to speak out, not be in hiding and to fight," she said.

A 2008 report by the US Government Accountability Office has revealed the abuse of foreign diplomats of a system that allows them to bring household helpers to work for them.  

According to the GAO, its probe has so far identified 42 household workers with A-3 or G-5 visas who alleged that they had been abused by foreign diplomats with immunity from 2000 through 2008.