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ATN foils helper’s bid to use it to shirk debt

05 January 2017

Not everyone who seeks help to recover her hocked passport from usurious lenders will get assistance from the Consulate, no matter how much tears are shed.

This was found out by Ditas (not her real name) on Dec 29 when she approached the assistance to nationals section for that purpose.

Vice Consul Alex Vallespin
After refusing her a travel document, the ATN reminded OFWs to avoid borrowing or acting as loan guarantors, and to never use their passports as collaterals.

The domestic worker asked the ATN for help in recovering her passport from a fellow OFW from whom she borrowed $15,000 last year to help pay for the placement fee of two of her friends who had moved to Canada. Plus the interest, the debt was $25,000.

The two friends who are now working in Canada have not paid back the money they borrowed from Ditas, and it is she who is being pestered by her creditor.

In the meantime, the lender reckoned that Ditas’ debt had ballooned to $34,000 so she had to pay $3,500 a month over the past three months to shrink it.

She went to ATN to ask for a one-way travel document, but Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, head of ATN, was not moved by her tears as she told her story.

“Gusto ko na pong umuwi dahil malaki na ang nababayaran ko pero lumalaki pa rin ang utang ko, pero paano po, nasa kanya ang passport ko,” the woman complained.

Vallespin told the woman running away from debt was not a good thing to do because that was her obligation.

“Kung uuwi kayo para takasan ang utang ninyo ay hindi po namin kayo matutulungan. Kaya nga, ang sabi ko ay patatawag natin siya para mag-usap kayo rito,” Vallespin told the domestic helper.

“Baka naman mapakiusa-pan nating huwag na niyang singilin ang interest, tutal nabayaran mo na ang prinsipal,” Vallespin said.

Debt has become the most common problem that OFWs bring up with the Consulate and is adding to the issues that the outpost has to settle, the ATN official said.

“Like that woman (Ditas), she’s trying to use the Consulate to run away from her debt. We’re not issuing travel documents to help people like her flee from their debtors,” Vallespin told The SUN.

He said the passport is property of the Philippine government and should not be used as collateral for loans.

“We’ll try to convince the lender to let (Ditas) just pay the principal so she could have her passport back,” Vallespin said.

He observed that some people borrow even if they don’t need the money personally.

“Let’s inculcate in them that if they don’t need to borrow, they shouldn’t borrow. There have been many variations of the story, we’ve seen a lot of cases. But why do they have to borrow?” Vallespin said.

“Huwag na kayong pumayag na maging co-maker o guarantor sa pautang,” he advised OFWs, adding that the workers should not lend money to other people to avoid debt collection problems.

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