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Mabatid case tops list of OFW concerns relayed to DMW in online meet

06 July 2024


Secretary Cacdac promised a regular meeting with HK complainants on the Mabatid case 

The long wait for the Department of Migrant Workers to endorse the filing of charges against a former Cebu politician who is accused of illegal recruitment and fraud by some 20 Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong dominated the town hall meeting hosted by Secretary Hans Cacdac early on Saturday, July 6.

Secretary Cacdac opened the talks with Filipino community leaders by disclosing recent moves by the DMW to look into other possible destination countries for overseas Filipino workers, and efforts to help them secure their incomes through sound fiscal management and safe investments.

He also said the DMW is looking closely at recruitment costs, particularly the no-placement fee policy for domestic workers in places like Hong Kong, and the corollary problems with debts.


But it was the case filed by the migrant workers against Prisca Nina Mabatid, her partner Russ Mark Gamallo and OFW blogger Bryan Calagui that became the center of discussion during the two-hour meeting, with no less than four community leaders asking the DMW for updates on their investigation.

Esther Bangcawayan, a case officer at the church-based Mission for Migrant Workers which is helping the complainants pursue the case, asked Cacdac why the Hong Kong cases have yet to be forwarded to the DOJ, despite them having been filed more than a year ago.

Cacdac responded that there was no question that the DMW was with the complainants in pursuing the case against Mabatid and company, but the ball is now in the DOJ’s court, as they will be the ones who will decide on whether charges ought to be filed in court.


Assistant Secretary Francis Ron de Guzman told the meeting that most of the related cases referred to them had been filed with prosecutors, and the complainants had been given counseling and legal assistance.

Among the cases already pending are those filed directly with the fiscal’s office in Laguna and Cebu, while the biggest bunch of cases are already under review by the DOJ.

However, he had no ready answer as to why the complaints from Hong Kong have not been forwarded to the prosecutors when they were filed much earlier than the others.

But he agreed with the suggestion that the Senate Committee for Migrant Workers which has already held three hearings on the charges against Mabatid, should continue its inquiry. De Guzman revealed DMW staff and officers have also received threats of lawsuits being filed against them because of their decision to recommend the filing of charges against Mabatid and her co-accused.

Cacdac said that a separate meeting or caucus focusing solely on the Mabatid case will be formed so the more general concerns of the Filcom in Hong Kong could be pursued during the town-hall discussions.

Mabatid, Gamallo and Calagui are accused of collecting P132,000 from each of the complainants in the guise of helping them obtain student visas in Canada which they could use to secure jobs that would pay for all their expenses once they get there.

Mabatid also allegedly promised to lend them Php1 million each as “show money” in applying for the student visa, which would be processed in just three months. But after they paid the processing fee in full, the complainants said they were sent a long list of requirements that were impossible to fulfill. When they tried to get their money back, they were threatened with lawsuits.

Online shot of some of the participants with Sec Cacdac

The other issue that sparked some heated remarks was the plan to set up an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration center in Hong Kong, which administrator Arnell Ignacio revealed during his visit to Hong Kong last month.

At the time, Ignacio said he was seriously considering renting an entire floor in the United Centre Building in Admiralty, which comes with a price tag of HK$8 million a year.

Dolores Balladares, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, described Ignacio’s plan as “bulagsak,” or profligate, and questioned why the funds meant to provide welfare assistance to OFWs were being spent in such manner.

Others like Shiela Tebia of Gabriela HK questioned why OWWA did not consult OFWs first before embarking on such an expensive project.

In response, welfare officer Marilou Sumalinog said the money for the center will not come from OWWA’s coffers but from the government’s general appropriations fund. She also said the planned center has received widespread support from the community

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