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Migrante holds HK-wide rally against Mabatid’s student visa ‘scam’

20 November 2023


The protesters call on the government to file charges agains the alleged scammers

It’s time the Philippine government took a firmer stance against Cebu City Councilor Nina Mabatid and her company, Opportunities Abroad, for fleecing millions of pesos from Filipinos who were lured by their false promise of student visas to Canada

This was the cry of protesters who joined a rally held simultaneously in several parts of Hong Kong and Canada on Sunday, 11am to 12 noon, against what they said was the illegal recruitment and human trafficking committed by Mabatid and her group.

Speaking at the main rally site outside the Philippine Consulate General in Admiralty, Unifil-Migrante Hong Kong chairperson Dolores Balladares called on President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr to step in and order the arrest of the alleged scammers.

Balladares also decried the failure of the Department of Migrant Workers and the National Bureau of Investigation to take action on the complaints filed by the victims of the said scam, who paid no less than P100,000 on the promise that they could secure the visas promised them in three months.

The protests were held simultaneously in 7 places 

The first to file complaints were some 20 Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong, who each claimed to have paid Php132,000 on February 19 this year when Mabatid personally came to offer them the student visas, and promised to lend them Php1 million each as “show money” to Canadian authorities.

She was helped in the alleged recruitment by OFW and known pro-Marcos blogger Bryan Calagui and her partner, lawyer Russ Mark Gamallo.

But after paying the amount in full the claimants said they hardly received any help from the group, even after they had produced the long list of documents they were made to submit.


Mahigit anim na buwan na, wala pa ring aksyon?,” Balladares asked. “Nais ba ng gobyerno na tatahimik na lang ang mga biktima?”

(More than six months have passed, but the government have yet to take action. Does it want the victims to just keep quiet?)

Shortly after confronting Mabatid when she returned to Hong Kong on June 18 for another round of recruitment for what she termed as “work-and-study” program in Canada, the claimants sought the help of the Philippine Consulate and the DMW.


They were later joined by irate applicants from several parts of the country led by Migrante International when they met with DMW Officer-in-Charge and Undersecretary Hans Cacdac in his office, who assured them that he would endorse the case to the NBI.

On September 15, the DMW issued an advisory naming Opportunities Abroad among eight visa consulting companies who were engaged in illegal recruitment. However, no arrests were made, nor sanctions imposed on any of the consultancies.

Last month, Senator Raffy Tulfo who heads the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers, also called a meeting with the complainants and promised them an inquiry. In his radio program the next day, he also stopped OA from holding another recruitment in Tagum City.


But since then, no further action has been heard from any of the government offices, apart from a few complainants being called to the NBI for a follow-up investigation.

Mabatid, in several Facebook posts, has denied any wrongdoing, and repeatedly said that in all the years that she has been in the visa and recruitment business, has never been sued or prosecuted for any wrongdoing. 

Unifil-Migrante HK chair Balladares (right) was at the Admiralty protest

Aside from the one outside the Consulate’s offices, separate protests were held simultaneously on Chater Road, City Hall and HSBC Headquarters in Central, as well as in Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan and Shatin in the New Territories.

A member of Migrante Canada also joined the online coverage of the protests to express support for the claimants, and promised to do whatever they could from their end to help them.


Unifil-Migrante’s vice chair Shiela Bonifacio ended the protests with a question of whether politics was behind the government’s feet-dragging in the case, especially since Mabatid and Calagui were known supporters of President Marcos Jr and his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

Malinaw na hindi ito prayoridad ng gobyerno,” (It is clear that this is not a priority of the government), said Bonifacio, explaining that the complainants have done all they could, and provided enough evidence to support prosecution.

She reiterated the call on the government to act quickly on the case, and prevent other Filipinos falling prey to the same modus.


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