MANILA, Philippines – Five officials of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) who have been accused of human trafficking and graft and corruption before the Department of Justice (DOJ) cried foul Tuesday over the allegations.
In an e-mail sent to ABS-CBN News, Atty. Alejandro A. Padaen, Atty. Jesus Gabriel C. Domingo, Atty. Marieta S. Labong dela Cruz, Ernesto B. Vistro, and Nascel A. Gabito said there is “no case” against them.
“This is a case of trial by publicity. Our antagonists just want to subject us to ridicule when they caused the publication of the alleged case,” they said.
A complaint was earlier filed against the 5 POEA officials and recruitment agency officers Edgardo D. Wisco of Worldview International Services Corporation, Marichu Elagha of Future Careers Recruitment Agency Inc., and Amelita Villarosa of Shanlene Manpower and Recruitment Services before the DOJ for alleged human trafficking and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The complainant, who asked ABS-CBN News to temporarily withhold his name for security reasons, is an employee of the POEA.
The complaint alleged that "a total of 100 overseas Filipino workers [OFWs] were deployed in the year 2010 by the three (3) named agencies whose licenses were already cancelled by the POEA but whose penalty were not implemented by the respondents, head and officials of the POEA Adjudication Office and the Docket and Enforcement Branch, who are charged with the execution and release of orders issued against erring agencies and principals, within 15 days and, in fact, transmitted at least 30 days after signing by the POEA Administrator because the respondents intentionally, and for very long periods, conspired in the non-implementation of said orders to facilitate more deployment by agencies no longer authorized to deploy because of recruitment violations."
The complaint listed the names of OFWs deployed in the said period by these agencies, copies of cancellation orders signed by the POEA administrator, and proof of release of the orders from the Office of the Administrator to respondents.
Proof of late implementation by the respondents were also attached as evidence.
"There was human trafficking because OFWs were actually transported and recruited for overseas employment with the clear intent of exploiting them through forced labor and involuntary servitude as evidence by previous complaints against the same private respondents," the complaint read.
"These OFWs were subjected to exploitation, forced labor, some of them to prostitution, they were not paid, not fed," said Assistant City Prosecutor Raymond Jonathan Lledo, National Task Force chairman of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) in an earlier interview.
‘No trafficking took place’
The 5 POEA officials, on the other hand, described the complaint as “pure harassment,” claiming that no trafficking place.
“There is no way that we could have committed illegal trafficking. We do not personally know the agencies and the alleged victims mentioned by the complainant. And as we perform our official functions, we could not have profited from it except through our regular wages,” they said.
“The case filed against us is to cover up the illegal transactions of Jennifer Manalili and her cohorts including Stephen Cascolan and Tootsie Sebastian and to retaliate against our group who have filed charges of acts of corruption against them.”
The POEA officials said they were part of the campaign to oust Manalili as POEA administrator.
“We believe the case filed against us was a cheap and desperate shot and in retaliation to our success in thwarting their hidden scheme of taking full control of the whole POEA operations,” they added.
“Obviously, Manalili’s underlings orchestrated the filing of this 'human trafficking' case to humiliate us. Our families, co-workers and clients may not believe the accusations but harm has been done,” the POEA officials said.
They said that they consider the complaint against them as a “temporary annoyance” that “would not stand in court.”
“Nonetheless, we are waiting for the formal complaint to be served so we can clear our names as soon as possible,” they said.