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HK agency in deeper trouble over illegal fees

07 March 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Hong Kong recruitment agency is in deeper trouble as more Filipino domestic workers have emerged in recent weeks complaining against its alleged collection of excessive placement fees which they were made to pay by borrowing from a lending company.

The Philippine Overseas Labor Office says it has endorsed the complaints of seven helpers against Best Choice Employment Centre Co Ltd to Hong Kong’s Labour Department for “appropriate action and assistance”.

POLO has also referred the cases to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for the suspension or cancellation of the agency’s accreditation.

In the meantime, Acting Labor Attache Ma. Nena German said she has also suspended the verification of all documents submitted to POLO by Best Choice.

The new cases were reported about a month after The SUN reported the case of Filipina helper, Dexter Vargas, who filed a complaint against Best Choice with Labour’s Employment Agencies Administration for allegedly charging $9,000 in placement fees.

Hong Kong’s laws allow the collection of only 10% of the domestic worker’s first monthly salary.
Vargas alleged that the agency forced her to borrow money from a lending firm upon her arrival in Hong Kong on Aug 23 so she could pay the fee. It was the same modus allegedly used by the agency in exacting illegal fees from the latest batch of complainants, although the amounts they were forced to borrow from the lending firm varied.

On Feb 11, German endorsed to both the EAA and POEA a complaint filed by Jacquiline G. Bernardo, who alleged that the agency charged her $10,600 which she was made to pay upon her arrival by taking out a loan from the lending company.

Bernardo had sought help from The SUN and POLO on the night of Feb. 4 so she could leave her employer’s house after terminating their contract. Bernardo said she did not wish to go with the agency’s representative who had been called by her employer to fetch her.

On Feb 14, six other helpers went to POLO and filed their complaints against Best Choice. They were Wong Rachel l C. Frio, Noralyn A. Ternate, Monaliza B. Adarayan, Gladys Mae G. Villegas, Mary Ann J. Buna and Mariel Joy G. Juan.

Asked what action POLO could take against erring agencies aside from referring cases to to POEA, she replied: “Cancellation of accreditation is within the jurisdiction of POEA. We stop processing, hindi na sila makakapag-process. So it has also the same effect as accreditation being cancelled.” 
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