Police says going high-tech vs. illegal-recruiters

by WILLIAM IMPERIAL
www.ofwjournalism.net

QUEZON CITY—POLICE officials in one of the key metropolitan cities said they are going to be aggressive in weeding out illegal recruiters, using surveillance cameras and other advanced equipment.

Superintendent James Brillantes, Quezon City Police District’s Intelligence Investigation Division chief, told the OFW Journalism Consortium the move comes with an increase in the number of cases his group has monitored and worked on.

Brillantes cited that in 18 months up to June this year, his group has arrested 50 illegal recruiters –some of who, he said, are members of “big-time” syndicates.

Under Presidential Decree No. 2018, illegal recruitment is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring and/or confederating with one another in carrying out any unlawful or illegal transaction, enterprise or scheme. Illegal recruitment is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three or more persons individually or as a group.

No bail is recommended for those caught engaging in the latter kind of activity.

The total number of those arrested by Brillantes’ group meant an average arrest of two illegal recruiters a month beginning January last year.

These recruiters have been paid by some 79 victims a consolidated total of roughly P7 million, with victims coughing out an average P87,859.50 each (see Table 1).

Brillantes cited that the victims told the police the jobs offered were domestic help or housekeeping, factory work, entertainment, and nursing.

Brillantes said a worker applying for a factory job in Taiwan was asked to pay P120,000.

Such amount is in excess of the authorized fee, which is the equivalent of a worker’s one-month pay, plus P5,000.

The victims, Brillantes said, concentrate on the promise of jobs sans doubts they are being duped.

“By the time they realize their mistake, it’s already too late. Nasayang na iyung savings na nagamit to pay [the illegal recruiter],” Brillantes told the OFW Journalism Consortium in a phone interview.

Depression

ACCORDING to Brillantes, illegal recruiters choose Quezon City as base of operations because of the city’s high rate of informal settlers and the unemployed.

This is supported by a recent study conducted by Task Force Sikap-Buhay, a local government’s social welfare arm, which showed that 50 percent of those living in the city are informal settlers Laraine Abad-Sarmiento, the task force chief, said that out of the 2.3 million people residing in Quezon City, almost half live in informal settlements or squatters’ areas.

She said most of these settlers lived in provinces near the country’s former capital, which connects Manila and the south to northern parts of the Philippines.

Nonetheless, Brillantes said that a number of skilled workers and professionals, like architects, accountants, nurses and even doctors had also been duped by illegal recruitment syndicates in recent years.

“Some of the victims graduated college and are living comfortably. Their dreams of earning big abroad are what illegal recruiters capitalize on,” he explained.

He said cases of estafa and violation of Article 38 (b) in relation to Article 39 (a) of the Labor Code by PD 2018 were already filed by the police against the suspects in various Quezon City and Manila courts.

“As far as we know, the cases filed against these illegal recruiters and syndicates are still being heard in various Quezon City courts. The wheel of justice is rolling against them,” he said.

Still, the wheels churned slow to bag a certain Lorenzo Alvarez Sosa, also known as “Roberto Carpena Alvarez”, of 33 B Datsun St., Greater Lagro, Fairview, Quezon City.

Table 1: Case profiles on illegal recruitment in Quezon City (January 2005 to June 30, 2006)
No. of victimsPromisesMoney paid eachTotal money paid4work in ItalyP350,000P1,400,0005work in ItalyP350,000P1,750,00012work overseas, money for alleged visa processingP8,700P1,104,4004work in South KoreaP250,000P1,000,0001 P40,000P1,040,0001 P95,000P1,095,0003work abroad in USAP50,000P1,150,0008factory work in South KoreaP20,000P1,160,0008work in FranceP175,000P1,400,00033work in the US and Middle East, money for alleged stamping of visa and processing feeP25,500P1,841,50079*  P6,940,900** *P87,859.50 average amount paid by a victim
**US$138,818 (at US$1=P50)

In a six-page joint complaint of large-scale illegal recruitment and estafa by 25 of 35 of his alleged victims, Alvarez remained missing with roughly P1.36 million they paid him as “processing fees” for promised work in Saudi Arabia.

The complainants said they learned that Alvarez’s wife was also no longer living in the address Alvarez gave them.

These complainants, mostly engineers, architects, and accountants, said they paid P27,500 each to Alvarez in December last year.

His promises of flight were replaced by reasons for delays –even using his mother’s alleged death on July 10, the last time each heard from Alvarez.

Task, force

IN his first press conference as new Labor Secretary, Arturo D. Brion said he would continue what his predecessor Patricia Sto. Tomas has begun but with “serious focus” on illegal recruitment.

“I won’t say that not enough is being done but we should fine-tune the efforts in illegal recruitment,” said Brion, who was also undersecretary for special concerns at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The DFA attached agency, later on, was mandated by government to lead an anti-illegal recruitment task force (see sidebar story “Skepticism greets CFO task force”).

This is something that Brillantes said was also part of the plan at the local government level, particularly at the Quezon City Police Department which would also form a task force.

Brillantes said the team, to be composed of members of his unit, will be armed with advanced monitoring and surveillance technology. He, however, didn’t cite what type of equipment and gadgets would be used.

Still, Brillantes said no technology is better than checking first with official sources the information on jobs abroad peddled by recruiters.

“[People contemplating of working abroad] should make a background check on these persons first for them to determine if they are accredited [to recruit] by the POEA. If they suspect that these persons are engaged in illegal recruitment, we urge them not to hesitate and ask for police assistance,” he said.

Brillantes added that Brion’s pronouncement is timely.

Still, with Brion’s department expected to hike employment by an additional one million jobs this year, the overseas labor market remains an option.

“On overseas employment, we will focus on marketing, marketing, marketing,” Brion said adding that “with some fine-tuning and new initiatives,” he is optimistic the jobs target would be met.

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OFW Journalism Consortium, Inc.