MANILA - An alleged victim of illegal recruitment and human trafficking filed a complaint against a Makati-based recruitment agency at the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning.
Twenty-nine-year-old “Amelie,” not her real name, accused Joseline International Manpower Corporation (JIMC), its president Joseline Bañoza and employee Flor Bongcawel of violating the Migrant Workers Act and the Trafficking in Persons Act when they allegedly promised her employment in other countries.
This is the same agency that was subjected to a raid and then sued by the National Bureau of Investigation in November.
Amelie said she was recruited in Zamboanga City in October this year to work as a household service worker in Oman.
With 15 other applicants, they boarded a ship bound for Manila and stayed at a house in Kaunlaran Village in Caloocan City, where, she said, they were subjected to strict security.
In her complaint, she alleged that almost all of their movements were monitored and they were not allowed to leave the house without a companion.
“Sobrang strict. Tapos kapag lumalabas sila, kinukuha mga cellphone namin, baka tatakas kami,” she told reporters before the filing of her complaint Wednesday.
She further alleged that during her stay in the house, 10 applicants left, leading to tighter security.
Some applicants, she said, were not allowed to get their passports and other documents and were also warned about getting blacklisted at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) if they tried to escape.
“These threats made by the agency had sown fear to (sic) me. I was forced to stay at the accommodation building as I know that they have my documents and do not have the money to pay them for their alleged expenses. I likewise feared that I might be blacklisted before the POEA or worse, criminal or civil cases against me,” she said in her complaint.
Amelie said some of the other applicants in the house had been staying there for 9 months.
Labor Undersecretary Jing Paras, the head of the labor department’s task force against human trafficking, said 9 months is too long a time to wait for deployment.
“Kung magrecruit ka parang maximum niyan dalawang buwan madedeploy ka na. Nine months parang masyado nang depriving of the freedom which is not allowed under RA 10364 yung law against human trafficking and illegal recruitment,” he said.
Amelie left the house only on November 21, after agents of the NBI and personnel of the Caloocan City Social Welfare and Development Office raided the house in response to a complaint filed by an applicant.
Paras said 93 applicants were rescued in that raid.
Of this number, 36 subsequently filed a complaint before the DOJ on November 22. The complaint alleged the agency was not licensed to recruit workers for overseas employment.
Despite the raid, Amelie said several employees of the agency continued to contact her, promising to send her abroad at their expense, in exchange for her signing of a settlement agreement.
She instead approached Philippine Anti-Crime Commission Chair Manuelito Luna who asked the help of Paras in looking into her case.
Paras and Luna accompanied Amelie in filing her complaint.
“We are warning them that sooner or later, the law will overtake them. After Christmas, we will start going after intensifying our efforts against these human traffickers,” he said.
Luna, meanwhile, said he is investigating the alleged involvement of an Isabela-based prosecutor who is supposedly protecting his live-in partner, agency owner Bañoza.
Luna however admitted, he has yet to verify the information.