Sunday, November 30, 2008
- Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Information reached us that the convicted felon Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, who owns Universal Placement International, wants to shut this blog down. Navarro and Universal Placement International have filed a libel case against one of us teachers whom she suspects to be behind this blog.
We pity our colleague who, while also a victim of the harassment and schemes of PARS-Universal, has nothing to do with this blog and has not contributed any article to us. We however have high regard to this teacher, who has the guts to stand up for the truth, the courage to defend her rights and the conviction to resist oppression.
This crook Navarro who has been engaged in a lot of illegal and questionable activities would like to stop us from telling the truth because according to her: her reputation is being tarnished, her reputation is being damaged! Can you repeat that, Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro? What did you say, Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro?
We can’t seem to understand your point here, Mrs. Navarro. Forgive us if we don’t seem to comprehend the depths of your analytical scheming mind. The way we see it, you can only destroy something that is well and functional in the first place. The way we see it, you can only break something that is not broken in the first place. Come to think of it, you can only tarnish something that is clean to begin with.
Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, we think you need to do some serious reality checking. How can we damage your reputation if it’s already as good as thrash? How can we even taint your name when your name is already synonymous to fraud and intimidation? Simply put, how can we tarnish your “good” reputation if it is nothing but.
Please do not give this blog so much credit for something you have done to yourself. Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t deserve that credit. May we remind our colleagues and our readers of some undeniable facts below that will show that Navarro’s reputation suffered from self-inflicted damage.
1. Navarro’s conviction on felony counts of Medi-Cal fraud, grand theft, money laundering and identity theft in the State of California. (Click here to read complete news report.)
2. Navarro’s treatment of Filipino teachers deployed in California that led to an exchange of lawsuits but eventually to an amicable settlement.
3. Navarro’s treatment of Filipino teachers deployed in Louisiana. See other posts in this blog for more details.
4. The questionable operations and oppressive schemes of PARS Placement Agency and Universal Placement International that has victimized hundreds of Filipinos. PARS’ license in the Philippines was suspended at least once in connection with these shady methods.
5. Navarro’s unspeakable behavior against Filipino communities including here in Louisiana. Add to this, Navarro’s arrogant advice to Filipino teachers recruited through her agency that we should not reach out to the Filipino community, contrary to the advice of the Philippine embassy.
6. Navarro’s attitude of shouting and treating people like animals which many of us have experienced.
Lourdes Navarro, do not pretend that you are only trying to protect your reputation for clearly you are a lawbreaker and tyrant with a notorious reputation. What is clear is that you simply want to harass this blog so we will be cowed and stop from exposing more of your anomalies.
Our best defense against this attempt to silence this blog through Navarro’s frivolous libel lawsuit is TRUTH. This blog simply showcases our truthful and sad experiences under PARS and Universal, under the heartless and notorious Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro. Our postings here are all accurate and no one has yet given any intelligent and convincing argument against the information we have asserted in this blog.
Further, this blog just like any other publication and any other individual’s right to free speech is protected under this country’s constitution as well as other international human rights declarations. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution stipulates: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
While there are certain limitations to the right to expression and freedom of speech; sharing an experience, offering an opinion and exposing anomalies and abuses by the powerful are certainly not one of them.
Now, as we have previously declared, no amount of lawsuits can stop us from standing up for the truth; no amount of harassment can stop us from raising our fists for our rights. No amount of bullying can stop us from doing all we can to stop these exploitative recruitment practices, so other Filipinos who are hoping to find work as migrants will never experience what we went through.
Teachers, let us strengthen our ranks and buckle up for a bigger battle.
Mabuhay ang Gurong Pilipino!
Concerned Filipino Migrant Teachers
Thursday, November 20, 2008
We are dubbed as "Mga Bagong Bayani" ("New Heroes") for our remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat and our sacrifices result to our financially stable families. The sad reality however is that we are left powerless and vulnerable to abusive and greedy agencies like PARS International Placement and Universal Placement International.
It is true that we are not the only ones experiencing these horrible stories. News abound about migrant Filipino workers worldwide who are abused and oppressed in different ways. But that is not a reason for us to simply sit down and accept our fate as natural victims. Moreso, this should be a motivation for us to pursue our struggle to end the injustices perpetuated by PARS-Universal particularly that of its owner, Lourdes Navarro, as this will be our big contribution to the common cause of migrant workers in general.
Partido ng Manggagawa
For a paradigm shift away from labor export to domestic employment
For a global movement of workers to protect migrant rights and welfare
A funny thing happened on the way to the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). While the excesses and essence of globalization has been exposed with the unraveling of the financial meltdown and economic recession in the US that threatens to go global, the framework of the GFMD remains firmly in the grip of the neoliberal agenda.
The Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party) as the independent political party of the working class in the Philippines, oppose the GFMD for its framework on migrant workers is “economic development” not human rights. Behind its stated goals of “maximizing remittances and the benefits of migration” is the opportunist attitude that migrant workers are commodities for sale not humans with rights. Among its participants is a preponderance of big businesses with interests in the remittances of migrant workers.
Just last week a Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia was killed by beheading while another Filipino migrant is scheduled for a similar fate in the coming days. What can the GFMD do to save migrants workers? The main problem it is trying to solve is how to profit from remittances not how to protect migrants.
It is not an exaggeration to say that labor migration today is the modern-day form of slavery. Five hundred years ago the age of mercantilism saw the heyday in the trade of human slaves. In the era of globalization, millions of workers cross borders in search of greener pastures or simply to survive in the face of joblessness and destitution in their home countries.
The pull of a substantial wage differential between the sending and receiving country is enough incentive for massive labor migration. That has of course resulted in significant transfers of wealth and token alleviation of poverty in the home countries. Yet the fact that millions of migrants are involved and the reality of lack of protection for basic worker rights and respect for labor standards results in so many victims of abuse.
In the Philippines, no reliable data exists but it is common knowledge that migrant workers fall prey to excessive fees from labor contractors and employment agencies. Once abroad, many are underpaid or not paid their salaries at all. Some are forced to work 50 to 80 hour workweeks and usually without overtime pay. There are many abusive employers and some labor under unsafe conditions. Contracts are breached and migrant workers are without recourse for redress. In the worst cases, workers end up as bonded labor or sex slaves, if not incarcerated despite being innocent or dying in unsolved murders.
In many receiving countries, basic labor rights and standards are not respected and implemented. Even in advanced countries where there are formal guarantees of workers rights, baiting of immigrants and restrictive immigration policies lead to the proliferation of so-called illegals. As illegal immigrants, they are without the protection of the law and thus easily victimized. Moreover they are hunted by the governments of host countries and if caught deported back home with their dreams broken.
It is a glaring contradiction that in the era of globalization, goods, capital and information flow freely across the world and yet the free movement of labor is restricted. Trade in goods and capital flows are fully liberalized through multilateral agreements but labor migration is highly regulated through unilateral actions. This is one fundamental aspect of the grave inequalities and double standards under globalization.
Fact is neoliberal capitalist globalization is the key link in the flood of labor migration in recent times. There are an estimated 150 million migrants and immigrants around the world. Meaning 2.5% of the global population had to cross borders and oceans just to find their daily bread. In 2005, their combined remittances amount to $167 billion and could reach up to a quarter billion if those sent through informal means are counted.
Around 10% of Filipinos, almost 9 million out of a population of 80 million, are living or working abroad. Undocumented migrants and immigrants will bloat this figure further. About half are contractual workers, now called overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s), principally found in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. The other half has emigrated mainly to advanced countries like the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and the UK. In some families, there are already two generations of migrant workers with the next on the path of becoming the new batch of OFW’s.
More than $14 billion in remittances were sent to the Philippines in 2007 alone or above $1 billion per month. The figure would rise by an estimated 50% if money sent through informal channels were included. Just the official figure of $14 billion in remittances already constitutes 10% of GNP. That amount exceeds both official development aid and foreign direct investments received by the Philippines. Without the influx of dollar remittances, the country’s current account would be negative.
The growth of remittances has been explosive, commensurate to the number of migrants and immigrants. Back in 1993, about half a million OFW’s were deployed while the remittances were worth just $2.5 billion. Yet even then this was considerable since it already equalled half of the foreign debt service.
The Philippine government actively promotes labor migration. In fact, the export of labor is part of the yearly target for employment creation. About a million migrant workers are deployed yearly. Everyday almost 3,000 Filipinos leave to work abroad.
The number of women migrant workers has been increasing and in 2007 they constitute half of new hires. Many are domestic helpers like in Hong Kong, entertainers like in Japan, and nurses like in the US. The feminization of labor migration and the lack of protection for migrant workers have led to rising cases of abuse, harassment and rape.
While the pull factor in labor migration is mainly the wage differential—a fact that exists even before globalization—the push factor is principally the deepening poverty and worsening unemployment brought about by near universal enforcement of neoliberal policies worldwide. The policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization have led to the collapse of local industry and agriculture. Together with policies of cheap labor, labor flexibility and others associated with globalization, workers are encouraged if not forced to look for work abroad despite all the dangers, hardships and costs.
Still labor migration is a right that workers must enjoy in a globalized world. Even more than goods and capital, labor must be able to move freely across the world. Labor must be mobile in order to seek better wages and working conditions.
We insist on internationally enforceable rights and standards for all migrant workers. All internationally recognized basic labor rights and standards—as enshrined in the ILO conventions including the right to organize, bargain and strike—must be extended to all migrant workers wherever is their host country. The freedom to migrate should be a guaranteed right and discriminatory immigration polices must be cease.
A key element of the promotion of migrant workers rights and welfare worldwide is the establishment of a global movement of workers and global unions that transcend borders, race, gender and nationality. This is the challenge that the international labor movement must face squarely.
We call for an end to the promotion of overseas employment. The decades-long policy of labor export has not redounded to national development and instead has resulted in grave social costs and has exacerbated the collapse of local industry and agriculture. As a means of job generation, it has become a sorry excuse for government to abandon the goals of full employment and local industrialization.
We demand a stop to the deregulation of labor export. While government has promoted labor export, it has left migrant workers at the mercy of the scams of private manpower agencies and the whims of host country regimes. The exploitation for profit of labor export and the train of abuses it necessary entail must halt.
Decades of promoting overseas employment has not led to social progress in the Philippines and other labor-exporting countries. In fact from a long-term perspective, the social costs and the brain drain may offset whatever economic benefits accrue from labor migration.
The policy of labor export promotion must be reversed and instead governments must ensure full employment in their countries. Such a policy change can only be realized as part of a paradigm shift away from neoliberal capitalist globalization. Without falling into the trap of autarky, the domestic economy must be strengthened so that local industry and agriculture can generate decent jobs and a living wage for all the people.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
How to Avoid Illegal Recruitment
1. Do not apply at recruitment agencies not licensed by POEA.
2. Do not deal with licensed agencies without job orders.
3. Do not deal with any person who is not an authorized representative of a licensed agency.
4. Do not transact business outside the registered address of the agency. If recruitment is conducted in the province, check if the agency has a provincial recruitment authority
5. Do not pay more than the allowed placement fee. It should be equivalent to one month salary, exclusive of documentation and processing costs.
6. Do not pay any placement fee unless you have a valid employment contract and an official receipt.
7. Do not be enticed by ads or brochures requiring you to reply to a Post Office (P.O.) Box, and to enclose payment for processing of papers.
8. Do not deal with training centers and travel agencies, which promise overseas employment.
9. Do not accept a tourist visa.
10. Do not deal with fixers.
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Clearly the PARS-Universal tandem violated numbers 5 and 6 above. So to all defenders of Lourders Navarro, how in heaven's name, can you defend an illegal recruiter?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
We checked the records at the California Secretary of State website again. We found out that Universal Placement International, Inc. (UPII) is different from Universal Placement, Inc.(UPI), though both used the same business address. The former is still "ACTIVE" while the status of the latter is "DISSOLVED".
The registered agent or offical for UPI was Lourdes Navarro, and the agent for UPII is a third party company named GKL Corporate/Search, Inc. which was obviously hired by Navarro also.
Our hypotheses is that they dissolved UPI and registered UPII so that the name of Lourdes Navarro will be kept from the public. Probably this is because of her conviction on an earlier fraud case. Or probably it is another move to circumvent some legalities.
Here is the record of Universal Placement International, Inc. (Active):
Here again is the record of Universal Placement, Inc. (Dissolved):
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We checked the status of Universal Placement, Inc. with the state of California. According to the website of the Secretary of State of California, Universal has been "DISSOLVED".
According to the same website "DISSOLVED" means: "The California corporation has voluntarily elected to wind up its operations and has completely dissolved its business as a corporation."
Please click on link below.
So to those who are planning of renewing their visas through Universal, please hold your decision. The corporation has no juridical personality to transact on your behalf.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
From $310 per individual per month, we were able to force the greedy Lourdes Navarro of Universal Placement to lower our rent to $275. From $1800 to $2000 per individual, we were able to force the gluttonous Lourdes Navarro of Universal Placement to lower the renewal fee to $1000.
Now here are questions for us to answer: Do you think she did these out of the goodness of her heart? Do you really think that this monster had undergone a real change in her outlook in life and decided to treat all of us fairly and humanely? Do you think that she would have done this without us exposing her abuses in this blog? Do you think she would have done this without the force of our voices?
With her notorious track-record of exploiting us, of treating us as slaves, in violating and getting around laws, both of the state of California and the Philippines, the sad answer to those questions above is a resounding NO!
No, she did those because of our united front of challenging her through our blog! She did those to calm down the anger that is being released in your comments and rejoinders in this blog! She did these out of trying to save her skin. She thinks that if she lowers those rates then we will treat her like a hero, a savior sent from heaven above.
Lourdes Navarro, we are not dumb! We are teachers, remember? Here is the simple math. For Savoy South: $275 x 4 people per unit = $1100 per unit, real rate = $800 per unit. For Savoy North: $310 x 4 people per unit = $1240 per unit, real rate = $940 per unit. Lulu, as swapang as she is, still earns AT LEAST $300 per unit per month. So let’s say there are only 40 units: $300 per unit x 40 units, that is $12,000 per month!
Gentle ladies and gentle men, Lourdes Navarro is cheating on us with at least $12,000 per month! She is forcing us to live in an old decrepit apartment at a higher rate while she continues to gather the fruits of our labor. We checked out other apartments in the area and at $1100 or $1240 a month, the Savoy units we are now occupying looks like an old worn out doormat.
Further immigration lawyers are now even entertaining $600 per person as we are a big group.
Fellow teachers, see what we can achieve by voicing out our common concerns and demands. We just made the oppressor blink and back track from her unfair and oppressive policies. See how in a simple concerted action, by simply exposing her wickedness, we can make the oppressor stop and think before unleashing more of her monstrosities.
What is clear now is that Navarro is simply trying to pretend that she understands our plight, that her heart bleeds for us. But what is obvious is that she did these as a smoke screen to the real issues – which is her violation of our contract, her violation of a Philippine Law (R.A. 8042), her overcharges, her threats and intimidation, her illegal and suspicious opening of our SSN documents, her forcing us to lease an apartment of her choice. She thinks that we will stop our call for justice and forget our demand for fairness once she gives us loose change.
Let us not be blinded by the real issues here, fellow teachers. The fight for real justice goes on! Let us remain courageous and united as we are confident of the victory of good over evil.
Again, congratulations to all of us teachers! May this development not dampen our resolve to seek justice but rather strengthen our commitment to truth and fairness.
Mabuhay ang gurong Pilipino!
Concerned Filipino Migrant Teachers
P.S. To all teachers please do not fall for Navarro’s threats of silencing this blog. We are not afraid of her threats to sue us. On the contrary, Navarro’s actions make our determination even stronger. What we are doing here is an exercise of our right to free expression – a right that is protected under the Constitution of this country. Remember, what we are doing here is simply voicing out our experiences. It is clear that this blog did not just exist to malign somebody but to share our factual experiences. If they think what we are saying here is false, then all they have to do is answer them in this blog or in another blog. But clearly truth-telling is not one of their virtues and the only way they can respond is threaten us with their cash and lawsuit.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Our WORDS, now shared with everyone, serve as first tangible liberating step from the paralyzing grip of the perverse soul-sick lulu whose anchorage to the adoration of money serves as her principal drive in life. The words we uttered surely hit the agency right through its heart…so hard, giving us a bit of satisfaction, a taste of justice.
But we should not at all be laughing out loud yet because the real battle against this evil devouring all our financial potentials and drying up our dignities as humans much more as teachers has just started. And like any other battle, we should always be ready…in DEEDS.
Teachers unite! Not just in thoughts, not just in words but also most importantly in action! Let us continue to move with purity in motive and in unison finally crush the devil.
Monday, November 10, 2008
We are a small axe,
ready to chop you down,
to chop you down..."
- Bob Marley
To whom do we attribute the predicament that we teachers are in now? We posed this issue to a lot of our fellow teachers. The common sentiment is that the problems that we are facing now lead us back to the doorstep of PARS and Universal. Simply put, whichever angle you look, the fingerprints of PARS and Universal are all over.
While there are allegations of inappropriate relations between the School District and the greedy agency, those are unfounded and not substantiated. We still believe in the integrity of the School Districts. We do not have any reason to doubt that the School Districts will always act for the best interests of the children of Louisiana.
All teachers have positive experiences about their respective schools. Many have affirmed that the school is well intent in providing quality education to its students. If follows that we are positive that the School Districts will be able to evaluate us based on our individual performances. And we are very confident that the skill and knowledge of the Filipino teachers will prevail. Not only that, but what is abundant in our hearts as teachers is our burning commitment to impart knowledge, skills and attitude to the children that we pledged to serve and support.
So teachers, our struggle for justice should be targeted against the real oppresor. Let us put our energies together as our enemy is indeed a big big tree. We are a small axe but with our combined strenght we can surely chop this rotten tree down.
- Gurong Kritikal
Saturday, November 8, 2008
"You can chain me, you can torture me,
you can even destroy this body,
but you will never imprison my mind."
This day is a special day. I was looking for something that I did not even noticed I lost. I kept on waiting for it to return because I know deep in my heart that I lost something and I want it back. I almost gave up. Im not sure what it was but I know there is something missing, a void in my consciousness.
But then I started to share my fears, my apprehensions, my angst, my agonies. Suddenly others did the same. Sharing. Describing their fears. Listening. Acknowledging each others' wounds.
Indeed, the oppressor can break my bones, torture me and even deny me food, but they can never control my mind, they cannot restrain me from dreaming of a brighter tomorrow, they can never stop me from aspiring for justice.
Then out of nowhere, something struck me. Suddenly I realized that I finally found what I am looking for... my STRENGHT.
- Sinag ng Tala
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II. ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT
Sec. 6. DEFINITIONS. - For purposes of this Act, illegal recruitment shall mean any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, procuring workers and includes referring, contact services, promising or advertising for employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by a non-license or non-holder of authority contemplated under Article 13(f) of Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines. Provided, that such non-license or non-holder, who, in any manner, offers or promises for a fee employment abroad to two or more persons shall be deemed so engaged. It shall likewise include the following acts, whether committed by any persons, whether a non-licensee, non-holder, licensee or holder of authority.
(a) To charge or accept directly or indirectly any amount greater than the specified in the schedule of allowable fees prescribed by the Secretary of Labor and Employment, or to make a worker pay any amount greater than that actually received by him as a loan or advance;
(b) To furnish or publish any false notice or information or document in relation to recruitment or employment;
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This provision is surely one that has been violated by the agency. The agency has overcharged us and collected the charges prematurely in violation of section (a) above.
Here we are Filipino teachers having the time of our lives down south in lovely baton rouge, gud ol’ US of A, noooottt! Well yes sure its wonderful to have this opportunity to teach and live in the place where we’ve always dreamed of making our family’s lives better. And people here are just treating us just right! Bless EBR and the wonderful people of Louisiana.
Unfortunately Queen Latifah back west and her minions just loves to make our lives a living hell. Having charged us twice or even thrice the usual placement fee sure gave them the label of certified public fuck ups! I wonder how they sleep at night. Which brings me the question do they ever sleep at all? Those blood, money sucking shit heads deserve fifth world maximum penitentiary treatment .
Intimidation, a word they so lovingly adore, “they” would try every avenue and use it to try to scare us shitless.
Oh! And did I not mention that she’s getting commissions from the overcharged rents we’re getting here? We’re talking about them almost doubling the normal rate of the cost in staying in this decrepit, constricted, old apartment block in one of the not so nice neighborhoods in the city. Well, fuck u very much queen latifah, those ridiculuos commissions should get you more reward points from going straight into the gates of hell. Have fun and make our day!
Well, guess what , she aint playin’ us for a fool. Not only is she the dumb one, she’s just makin’ it clear that she is one of the crookedest mutha fuckin bitchy bastards in the world. As she boasted, “we are highly qualified Filipino teachers”, now your getting a taste of our being highly qualified. Now eat shit dumb fuck! You’ll be hearing more from us and you’ll be so full of charges and complaints from us you’d be drowned with disdain, disgust, and embrassment not only from the Filipino communities around the United States but from every nook and cranny of the educational microcosmic world of the United States of America!
I hope you enjoy being a bitch in prison when the dust settles. Yes, we are thankful to be here through you but it doesn’t give you the right to fuck us up even more. 10 percent of our monthly salary during our second year of teaching here should equate to 20 percent of your life taken every month during that year.
We are in a dawn of a new era queen latifah, we’re doin somethin righteous and fightin for our freedom just as the ethos of the forefathers of this wonderful nation has so rightfully fought. So to the Filipino teachers reading this, stand up, get up, don’t get fucked up! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! No other nation on earth would it be possible for us teachers to fight justifiably for our good cause than here in this bedrock of freedom and liberty! Yes we can! Yes we can!YES WE CAN!
---- Orgasmic Chagrin
Friday, November 7, 2008
Louisiana Teachers, we need to meet soon (very soon). To those who are willing to attend please send your email address AND cell phone number to our blog's email (email@example.com). We do not want to post the schedule and venue of the meeting in this blog so we will send the details through email or text messages. We will be sending the meeting details tomorrow (Friday, Nov 7) afternoon up to the evening, so make sure you send your info immediately.
We would like to insist that before we go public (sending emails to media, government offices, etc.) we need to be able agree on the strategy to take and to plan out our action. We simply don't want to voice out our issues. We also want to score big gains in the process...
Hoping for your cooperation.
Concerned Filipino Migrant Teachers
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
An open letter to our fellow Filipino Migrant Teachers
Why we need to act together.
We left our country to work in a foreign land. Many of us were reluctant to leave our families and communities behind but the promise of a brighter future for us and our children led us to where we are now. We are here because we are trying to secure a life that is full of opportunities, not only for ourselves but also for our loved ones.
In the pursuit of our aspirations, we encountered challenges but we always resolved to face these problems for we know that a persistent attitude is the only way to go forward. Before we made our decision to come here, many of us were faced with the dilemma of leaving our families – sacrificing the company of our respective spouses and kids for a shot at the future.
Before we came here, we have to hurdle several interviews, seminars and backbreaking reviews and examinations. Many of us were short in finances but we sold our properties or even placed ourselves deep in debt so as not to derail our plans to become financially stable in the future.
In short, we gave all that we could, so we can start building a dream for ourselves and our families. We discovered however that the beautiful pictures that were painted in our imagination are not as what they seem to be. Now we discovered that the Recruitment and Placement Agency who we entrusted with our dreams is not acting with the best, or in fact not even a fraction, of our interests in mind.
Firstly, there was a lack of transparency in the process that we underwent as we are preparing our documents for our deployment here. The fees and charges were not even clear to us as the agency seems to invent new ways to empty our pockets every week. Many of us were not even able to read and study our contracts with the agency as we only received a copy of it on the eve of our flight.
Secondly, the agency is defrauding us with our hard-earned wages. Our contract stipulates that 10% of our monthly gross income for two years shall be paid to the agency. In reality however we were made to pay in advance 20% of our “expected” gross income for one year. To add insult to injury the “expected” gross income is bloated so as to make us pay the maximum advance payment. This overcharging of placement fees and the premature collection of the same is tantamount to illegal recruiting and is a violation of a Philippine law, the Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.
Further they say that the excess payment will be applied to the following year while we are not even sure of being renewed for the next year or if we would even opt to use the same agency next year. What the agency is doing, apart from milking us dry, is to indirectly restrict us from pursuing our other options as they intend to continue exploiting us.
Thirdly, the agency has instituted schemes that are grossly immoral and unfair to us teachers. One blatant example is its effort to corner many of us into borrowing from its partner lending agency that charges excessive interest rates. The agency is charging us illegally with steep placement fees, then turns around and refers us to its partner lending agency to charge us once again with exorbitant interest rates.
Fourthly, we are dismayed by which we are treated virtually as modern slaves. The agency cramped us up in dilapidated apartment units. What makes it even painful is that we are being overcharged with the rent for these unspeakable living quarters that were simply forced upon us. While the published rent of a unit is only around $800 a month, we are all charged $310 each with each apartment unit housing 4 individuals and at times up to 8. We have a right to a safe and clean place of dwelling. And we have a right to choose a place that we deem is best for ourselves as we are the ones spending for it in the first place. The agency however decided to simply disregard these rights and make money in the process.
Fifthly, many of us have experience first hand the threats and intimidation employed by the agency and its owner to force us to shut our mouths up and simply swallow the oppression. The agency even discourages us from communicating with other Filipino groups or else our contracts will not be renewed.
Sixthly, we are aware of some of our colleagues who, weeks after they arrived here, are still without school assignments but instead need to attend job fairs for placement. They were duped into believing that a job is waiting for them here for how else can they be issued working visas. For the meantime, interests payments for their debts pile up every day.
Further there are so many other individual issues that we are sure you have experienced with the agency as well. They have unlawfully opened our SS document without our consent, they have bullied us and treated us as if we are not responsible adults who can decide for ourselves, and much more. We share many of these horrible stories yet here we are appearing disorganized if not helpless.
Now what are we to do? Some of you may be thinking of just keeping silent and swallow whatever pride that is left within you. Some of you may take a step of getting a lawyer to secure your immigration papers. Or maybe you are one of those who are thinking of seeking justice against the agency in your individual capacity.
We are in a foreign land and unfamiliar with the environment. No doubt we can easily adapt like we Filipinos always do – but will we simply allow these injustices to continue to happen, not only to us but to the next batch of our fellow teachers? We don’t know any public officials here who can help us or a radio or a media organization that we can turn to – but will we simply join in the chorus of silence and inaction?
We strongly believe that it is in our best interest to act collectively. The same way that it is in the interest of the agency to keep us separate and scattered, to keep us vulnerable and powerless. The reason why the agency forbids us to talk to one another, or with any other Filipino groups for that matter, is precisely because the agency is afraid that we share our horrible experiences and in the process unite us into action.
We need to stand up. We need to act as a group. And here are the main reasons why:
First, we share a common goal in this struggle – a goal that we may be able to pursue our dreams for our families. When we coordinate our action, our effort will be much more effective as we have more brains, and hands and hearts working for our common objectives.
Second, these efforts require not only our time and energy but also our financial resources. Securing a lawyer alone to handle our immigration papers and pursue our case will involve a lot of expenses. And most of us are now drowning in debt caused by the exorbitant fees the agency is charging us. If however we act as a group, we have the power to negotiate a favorable arrangement that will make the shared burden lighter.
Last and more important, we very much know that in numbers there is strength. It is only through a united action can we achieve true empowerment. It is only through a concerted effort that our voice will be heard loud and clear. It is only through a unified struggle can we effectively protect our jobs and our future.
Again, it is an imperative that we act together. It is an imperative that we act now!
Mabuhay ang gurong Pilipino!
Concerned Filipino Migrant Teachers