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‘Duped’ job applicants seek tribunal help in getting refund

08 August 2016

The Small Claims Tribunal is in this building
At least 35 Filipino domestic workers have gone to the Small Claims Tribunal to seek the refund of between $5,000 and $20,000 they claim to have paid veteran jobs recruiter Ester Ylagan for apparently non-existent work in Britain and Canada.
They are among the more than 200 Filipinos who have sought help from the Philippine Consulate and the Hong Kong Labour Department, claiming to have been duped into paying for the fictitious jobs.
All the complainants named Ylagan, using her solely-owned company, Mike’s Secretarial Services, which used to have a shop on the third floor of World Wide Plaza in Central, as the one who briefed them about the jobs supposedly on offer.
During the briefing, Ylagan reportedly introduced herself as the “boss” of Mike’s and Emry’s Service Staff Employment Agency, which had an adjacent office. She reportedly told the applicants she would not risk the solid reputation built by Emry’s in its 30 years of experience in the recruitment business, by offering them spurious jobs.
Latest records obtained from the Inland Revenue Department, however, show that Ylagan has been replaced as co-owner of Emry’s by her son, Ridge Michael Ylagan, as of July 15 this year, two days after its Central office was shut. Ricardo Ylagan is the other co-owner.
Mike’s records show on the other hand, that “international recruitment” was added to its nature of business as of June 17 this year. Before this, its business activities were limited to “typing, xeroxing and internet surfing”.
Ylagan allegedly collected $10,000 from those applying for the jobs in Britain, and $15,000 for those bound for Canada. Most paid the total amount in cash, while a few asked to pay by installment. At least two of the claimants said they paid for themselves and another person, thus the claim for $20,000 each.
No receipts were issued to the applicants by Ylagan, who allegedly said she did not want to be taxed by the Hong Kong government. She said the money she collected would be sent to her partner in London for their FICC or foreign immigrant clearance certificate.
However, Ylagan reportedly made them fill up “bio-data” sheets and recorded their payments on slips of paper. Some of these documents have apparently been retrieved by officers of the Employment Agencies Administration of the HK Labour Department, who have given copies to the concerned applicants.
The applicants started asking for their money back when the “job order” reportedly promised by Ylagan did not come as expected in June. 
The claims are set to be heard at the Tribunal over several days starting on Aug. 29.
Meanwhile, both the Consulate and the EAA have continued their separate investigations into the allegations.
EAA officers have called about a dozen applicants for interviews on various dates, and have reportedly asked them to act as witnesses in the case that would be filed against Ylagan and Emry’s.
Ylagan was also reportedly asked to appear for an interview, but she sent a solicitor in her stead.
The Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, on the other hand, says it continues to receive signed complaints from Ylagan’s recruits, some of whom have decided to return to the Philippines after being reportedly told they could return to Hong Kong as tourists and fly out to their destination with the others.
Mike's shop in WorldWide Plaza is now empty
The developments came as solicitors acting for Emry’s and its “co-owners” Rick Ylagan and Ester Ylagan sent a “cease and desist” letter to Labor Attache Jalilo de la Torre, The SUN publisher Leo Deocadiz and this author, in relation to the jobs scandal.
In the letter dated August 8, 2016, Wong &  Co. Solicitors demanded that all three “cease and desist all defamation of character and reputation of Emry’s, Rick and Ester”.
The demand stemmed from Labatt de la Torre’s act of suspending the processing of work contracts by Emry’s due to Ester’s alleged violation of Philippine laws against third-country deployment by recruiting Filipinos for jobs in Britain and Canada.
The SUN, its editor and publisher were accused of acting with malice in reporting about the complaints against Ylagan and of conspiring with Labatt de la Torre in making defamatory statements against her, Rick and Emry’s.
Asked for a reaction to the solicitors’ letter, Labatt de la Torre told The SUN: “I will not be deterred by a letter from a solicitor in pursuing what I think is necessary to advance and protect the interests of OFWs in Hong Kong”.
The SUN’s own stance is clearly reflected in this article. - Daisy CL Mandap




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