Pinoy human trafficking victims in US tell their stories
LOS ANGELES—Maria Rosario Dayan had signed up for a job as a special education teacher in Bertie County, North Carolina, but ended up mopping floors and cleaning bathrooms at a daycare center in Washington.
Dayan, who paid her Filipino recruiter more than $17,000 in fees, found herself sleeping on the floor in a crowded rat-infested apartment with no furniture. When she complained, the recruiter threatened to harm her family in the Philippines.
Dayan, 50, was one of five labor trafficking victims who gave their testimonies before human rights commissioners at a human trafficking forum at the Philippine Embassy in Washington last Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
“My life is OK now, but I’m telling my story to help stop illegal recruitment and human trafficking back home,” Dayan told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
The forum was part of the new partnership between the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Washington-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) in the fight against human trafficking.
The MHC has helped put perpetrators behind bars and obtained special visas for hundreds of trafficking victims so they could stay in the United States. It has partnered with the CHR to help the Philippine government combat human trafficking.
“Our partnership involves learning from the experience of victims and making policy recommendations to the Philippine government,” MHC executive director Arnedo Valera said.
CHR Commissioner Leah Tanodra-Armamento said one of their recommendations is to create a government task force in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to verify the legitimacy of job offers for teachers.
The task force will coordinate with the US Embassy in Manila in processing work visas for teachers who receive job offers from the US school system.
The CHR will also monitor the prosecution of trafficking cases and push for the extradition of Dayan’s recruiter, identified as Isidro Rodriguez, who escaped from detention in the Philippines and is at large.
A total of 21 illegal recruitment cases have been filed against Rodriguez and 41 recruitment violation cases have been filed against his company.
Maria Filipina Ecleo, another victim of Rodriguez, told the
Inquirer she testified at the forum so that what she experienced “won’t happen to other Filipinos seeking a better life here in the United States.”
“Be informed, educate yourself and do your own research. This is what I will advise my kababayan,” she said.
The CHR and MHC will work together to promote awareness of human trafficking and share lessons from the experiences of Dayan, Ecleo and the other teachers victimized by Rodriguez.
The forum was held a few days after Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. and acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas met with top US Department of State officials to discuss the Philippine government’s efforts at combating trafficking.
The state department is preparing to issue its 2016 annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.
“The state department’s TIP reports have been helpful in our efforts to prevent trafficking, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators,” Cuisia told Susan Coppedge, senior adviser to the US secretary of state in a March 16 meeting.
The Philippines remains in Tier 2 in the TIP report, which means it has not fully complied with the minimum standards to eliminate trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.
The Philippines should step up efforts to crack down on government officials involved in human trafficking, and provide more resources to help victims of modern-day slavery, the 2015 TIP report had said.
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