"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

Marichu Baoanan vs. Lauro Baja Controversy, a case of Domestic Help Dispute?

There is something very wrong with how the Marichu Baoanan vs. Lauro Baja controversy, a case of Domestic Help Dispute as other seems to portray it. This is definitely not a domestic help dispute, sadly there is more to that than what is portrayed by the Philippine madaya errr media with some even pointing out the frustration of Foreign Service people over losing “control.” Losing control as in more likely to get pirated by others once their domestic help reached their foreign country assignment, which some liepapers failed to elaborate. Mr. Palengke Roxas in a praise errr press release seems to almost get it and I quote:
When a Filipino domestic helper is offered a job by a foreign employer, that employer must strictly adhere to the policies of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. And when she suffers abuse or is maltreated by her employer, our embassy becomes her first place of refuge. In that sense, we can not have a set of standards for foreign employers and none at all for Filipino diplomats because this affects the confidence of our own workers in the objectivity, humanity, and professionalism of our own Foreign Service.
The allegations are too serious and to confuse this as a domestic help dispute is totally missing the point. In the first place even the POEA minimum wage requirement of US$400 for domestic help is not good enough to qualify for a US visa. The problem is that even our liemakers seems to miss the point that some or perhaps most of the Philippine diplomats and consulate officials stationed in the US pay their maids slave wages. Domestic help brought along by Philippine diplomats and consulate officials are paid below the US minimum wage and this is the reason why they lose "control" when Filipinos in the know pirates' their maid for higher wages. Here is a hint, check the visa application and you will see that the salary stated by the diplomats and consular officials does not tally with the actual salary paid to the maid. The arrangement is fraudulent in the first place with some resorting to keeping their domestic helpers' passport for "safekeeping" as a counter measure. This is exacerbated when the employers abuse their position and fleece their domestic help like predators to unsuspecting victims who for lack of opportunities in the Philippines out of desperation enter into fraudulent bondage arrangements. These diplomats and consular officials should realize that they are from a third world country, thinking rich and acting rich when they can't afford high living in their country of assignment should they want the luxury must pay accordingly. What a shame or maybe they have no shame at all being hypocrites I should say but to expect Philippine public officials to play by the rules is like expecting hell to freeze over.

Not only do they not go through the process like the rest of us mortals but what is alarming is when the very institution that distressed Overseas Filipino Workers seek refuge are no different from the criminally exploitative and abusive employers they are escaping. That can be likened to being thrown in the lions den and if the migrant worker is not aware of her rights she then suffers alone and in silence.

Marichu Baoanan Sues Former UN Envoy from RP

Obviously, there are no set standards when it comes to Philippine diplomats hiring and bringing along domestic help in their foreign assignments unlike domestic help hired by foreigners going through the bureaucratic red tape process with government agencies. Diplomats and consular officials do not go through any processing except "abide" by the visa requirements of the country where they are headed. So now there will be more requirements and laws to be enacted by grandstanding pork barrel hungry Philippine legislators, but the question is will having more laws and regulation solve the problem when they fraudulently skirt the visa requirement in the first place?

Marichu Baoanan Sues Former UN Envoy from RP - Part 2

The problem is we have government officials that are clueless on the meaning of accountability so without the necessary guidelines, arrangements are then made between just the employer and employee. Having no clear guidelines and in a government that eats corruption for breakfast, lunch and dinner resulting in perverted mindsets said private arrangements naturally will result in problematic situations, to quote the US-based Mariposa Alliance and GABRIELA Network USA at AJLLP blog:
There have been innumerable stories of Filipinas seeking sanctuary from their brutal employers at consulates and embassies only to be returned to the same employers; of Filipinas funneled into the sex trade by embassy and consular personnel; of Filipinas traded as domestic workers by embassy and consular personnel to their relatives and friends as favors; of Filipinas coerced into paid-for marriages and sex work to enable embassy and consular personnel to make enormous profits.
Party List Representatives Liza Largoza-Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan in a resolution filed in the 14th congress to look into the allegations of trafficking using Consular Privileges as shown in the case of Marichu Baoanan and Arlene Gado cited some serious allegation which I quote:
WHEREAS, in her complaint Baoanan claims she was told by Norma Baja that she would arrange for Baoanan to come to the US and work as a nurse and that for Php 500,000.00 she would get a plane tickets, a US visa, work authorization and assistance in getting employment in the US;

WHEREAS, on December 2005, Norma Baja took her regular passport and accompanied her and a certain "Dorie" to the Department of Foreign Affairs to apply for a new diplomatic passport as Ambassador Baja's personal employees;

WHEREAS, Baoanan was able to produce Php 250,000.00, issued a diplomatic passport and upon arrival in the US on January 2006 was told that she had to work for the Bajas as domestic helper for six months to pay off the remaining Php 250,000.00;
The alleged P500K required by Lauro Baja change the picture entirely, if true then it is not just a simple case of dispute between an employer and domestic helper but one of a victimized person deceived and lured on a "promised" nursing job only to end up in bondage for the "remaining balance".

Baja is facing so much scrutiny due to this scandal and now it appears that Labaire International travel the agency that Norma the wife of Lauro Baja owns also a respondent to the human trafficking case filed by Baoanan are no stranger to labor disputes, to quote an Inquirer article:

The party-list group said in a statement that the Baja-owned Labaire International Travel, which Baoanan reportedly initially approached to help her go to the United States, had been involved in cases dealing with alleged noncompliance with labor standards and breach of contract.

It said the labor department in Metro Manila in 2003 found Norma Baja and Elizabeth Baja of Labaire guilty of noncompliance with labor standards involving former employees who were supposedly forced to sign cash vouchers and quit claims in exchange for their salaries amounting to P298,481.15.

The group added that in 1995, the Manila Regional Trial Court found Labaire guilty of breach of contract for failure to comply with a travel and tour package to Palawan which had already been partially paid for by the complainants.

The Court of Appeals later reversed both decisions.

Baja, in a phone interview, said he did not know about those cases, saying the travel agency was a corporation.
What is really odd or maybe this is normal in a society where corruption is so endemic you see the wife of a respected diplomat owning a travel agency, have they not heard of conflict of interest or is “delicadeza” dead nowadays?

The allegations of deceit, fraud, peonage, bondage or forced labor, racketeering and human trafficking are very serious federal offense in the US. What is ironic if Baja is found guilty is that the Philippines being a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women which guarantees the rights and welfare of women makes a mockery of what the nation supposedly stands for. To make matter worse the Philippines way back in 2003 it appears has an Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 penalizes trafficking of persons especially women and minors for forced labor, sex and prostitution, institutes policies and establishes mechanisms to prevent the proliferation of trafficking and yet this scandal crops up.

This case is definitely not a simple case of domestic help dispute if indeed the allegations are true. There is a need to to look deeper and see if if we need more laws and regulations and ton loads of bureaucratic red tapes to hurdle for our Overseas Contract Workers? The Philippines definitely have so many laws in place but what is obvious is that the Philippines has a dearth and short supply of honest respectable public officials and no amount of complicated legislative mambo jumbo will do the trick until we see decency and propriety among the nations leaders.

Online petition - Justice for Marichu! End Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery of All Filipina Domestic Workers!

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