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Labatt vows to push limits to go after traffickers

23 January 2018

Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre
Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre has vowed to use his diplomatic immunity and all resources at his command to continue his crusade against human traffickers, as he expects more trafficking and third-country deployment cases this year.

He made his promise on the eve of the New Year, as he called out in a post on social media two employment agencies that he said were continuing to traffic Filipino workers from Hong Kong to other countries where they get no legal protection when in trouble.

The Consulate, as well as the Philippine Overseas Labor Office that Dela Torre heads, ended the past year grappling with human trafficking after starting 2017 helping an overwhelming number of OFW victims of job scams and other criminal activities.

Dela Torre’s daring moves foiled a Moscow-based Pakistani trafficker’s attempt to lure more Filipina workers to Russia in October, sending his Filipina partner/recruiter rushing back to their lair before she could talk to more victims.

The labor attaché says his campaign does not stop there.

“For 2018, I expect more human trafficking cases and more third-country deployment,” Dela Torre said in a post on his Facebook page on Dec 31.

“But I promise these criminals one thing – I will push the boundaries of diplomatic immunity to call you out, and brand you for the criminals that you are, in any forum, platform and opportunity, and using all the resources at my command and the combined strength of all the anti-human trafficking activists in the world,” he said.

He was obviously piqued by employment agencies that have been stubbornly recruiting Hong Kong OFWs to Turkey, Russia or Brazil despite the POLO’s persistent warning that they were recruiting and deploying the workers illegally.

The government wants any recruitment for jobs abroad to be processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, which ensures that the contracts are genuine and valid.

The labor attaché, in two separate online posts on Dec 27 and 28, specifically named Artellect Limited and East@West Employment Exchange by ASEAN Consulting as two agencies that have been trafficking Filipino workers from Hong Kong to Turkey, Russia and Brazil.

Dela Torre warned OFWs not to fall for promises of good employers and better pay in those countries that the two agencies make, as the Philippine government won’t be able to protect when they run into labor problems or fall afoul of the law basically because they work in those countries illegally.

But Artellect, which left Hong Kong after being convicted and fined $45,000 in 2015 for overcharging a job seeker, hit back with a post on its Facebook Page saying it had met with POLO Singapore and the city-state’s Ministry of Manpower to discuss the company’s operational plans.

“We have explained that Artellect Pte Ltd unlike many other agencies never sends applicants to overseas destinations without confirmed employer and a work visa. We don’t recruit on tourist visa or applicants based in Philippines. We have explained the risks of applicants who seek jobs with non-licensed online private recruiters or through friends, but not like licensed agencies like ours,” the company said.

Artellect said both POLO and the MOM “agreed that POEA procedures relate to applicants traveling from Philippines. In case of Singapore, procedure is prescribed by Singapore MOM and our company is 100% following it.”

Asked to comment on the statement, Labatt dela Torre told The SUN: “What can I say? I have already called it out on my FB page. I have alerted our POLO in Singapore, and they themselves can only warn our nationals in Singapore.

“There is no prohibition in Singapore on third-country deployment, just like Hong Kong. I will continue to call it out, and do my best to get witnesses and victims to testify.”

Dela Torre again reminded those who may fall to job offers from Artellect and East & West: “Just because someone you know is working okay in Turkey or Russia or Brazil doesn’t mean the rest of them are okay. This is wishful, illogical and fallacious thinking,” he said.

Dela Torre said the situation of OFWs in Turkey “is in fact dire... Although workers have a working permit, when they are terminated by their employers, there is no recourse to a government office which can fairly handle labor disputes.”

He said employers rely on the absence of a mechanism for labor dispute resolution and the language barrier to abuse the Filipino workers. 

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