A group of Filipino workers and professionals here in the US together with an assembly of teachers based here Louisiana, in cooperation with this blog, have banded together as Bayanihan para sa Manggagawa at Migranteng Pinoy (BMMP). BMMP aims to educate our fellow Filipinos of the hard realities of working abroad. Below is a warning email that we are currently distributing online. Copy and paste the article below and send to your family, friends and network.
We are also embedding videos from The Filipino Channel (TFC) shared by an advocate and a supporter of our cause from www.consumersdomain.blogspot.com.
Please take note that at the end of this warning, we are asking you to support our efforts by signing in our online petition. Maraming salamat!
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A warning to all Filipinos intending to work in the USA
We are a network of Filipino migrant teachers and Filipino residents here in the US. We came together – victims, friends and family – to be able to educate others of the exploitative practices of some placement agencies. We want to spread the word as we don’t want more Filipinos to experience what many of us went through under some placement agencies whose operations are bordering on human trafficking.
We would like to call the attention of those who are planning to work in the US as teachers or any other profession. If not you, you may have a relative or a friend who is intending to apply for a working visa in the US through a placement or recruitment agency.
We want to underscore the importance of checking the background of these placement or recruitment agencies. It is not enough that these agencies are accredited with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). For while many of them are accredited, they may have a history of suspensions and violations; or even exploitative policies that have hurt a lot of Filipino workers, both financially and psychologically.
We advise you to get as much information about the placement/recruitment agency that you will be paying with your hard-earned money. Some placement agencies will also take advantage of your lack of familiarity about laws and processes regarding migrant labor.
Report filed by TFC correspondent Don Tagala featured in Balitang America, Sept. 8, 2009
Our experiences with Universal Placement International (UPI) and PARS International Placement are good examples. We want to be able to educate as many Filipinos as possible about the modus operandi of these agencies as we know how it feels to be deep in debt, deceived, harassed and exploited while in a foreign territory.
UPI, headed by Lourdes Navarro aka Lulu Navarro, is based in Los Angeles, California. PARS, headed by Emilio Villarba (brother of Navarro), on the other hand handles their operations in the Philippines and is based in Quezon City. These are two agencies that you have to avoid.
First and foremost, it is important to note that Lourdes Navarro is a notoriously devious and manipulative criminal who is a convicted felon in the State of California for fraud, grand theft, money laundering, and identity theft.
Secondly, UPI and PARS will make everyone believe that there is a job waiting for all approved applicants here in the US. Indeed your visa will indicate the name of your employer. The problem however is that these agencies qualify and approve more candidates than the slots required for a certain employer. Clearly, the more people they send, the more placement fees they collect. Thus many end up attending job fairs with the hope of being hired by another prospective employer.
Third, UPI and PARS will charge you exorbitant fees. Before leaving the Philippines, they will charge you upfront with 20% of your projected annual gross income, which is over the 10% and staggered basis allowed by law. This overcharging of placement fees and its premature collection is tantamount of illegal recruitment, a violation of a Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 and P.D. 442 or the Labor Code of the Philippines. As a way to circumvent these laws, however, these agencies will intentionally avoid being transparent as to what the payment is for and to whom the payment is due by issuing temporary or acknowledgement receipts.
Fourth, once in the US you will start to discover the anomalies about your transaction with UPI and PARS. For a start, immediately upon arrival they will require you to sign a contract with UPI that stipulates that you are required to pay 10% of your monthly salary for 24 months. This document was never provided nor was this information given prior to your trip to the US nor will UPI initiate a discussion on the contents of this one-sided contract. So, after borrowing money back home to pay 20% of your projected income, you think that your placement fee is already paid for. But you are wrong! Navarro will use this new contract to bill you another 10% of your monthly salary on your second year!
Fifth, Navarro will further milk you dry with her other tricks. To ensure she will get the most from you, Navarro will place you in a dilapidated apartment unit that she has pre-negotiated with the owner. To accommodate Navarro’s kickbacks, the rent is padded, so you end up paying very high rent for a rundown apartment.
Sixth, once you ask questions and start to complain about your situation, Navarro will now utilize her manipulative and harassment tactics. Navarro will threaten you that she can have you deported anytime, or that she can influence your employer to terminate you. She will intimidate you by calling you and berate you like a rabid dog. She will go as far as suing you knowing that you have no resources to defend yourself or network to be able to figure out a way to fight back. Known to flaunt her wealth and connections, she has been successful at instilling fear among many of us.
These are just the broad strokes of our experiences here. Our journey towards a dream for our families is now becoming to be a living nightmare. So we call on all our fellow Filipinos who are planning to work in the US or other destinations to be very careful about the choice of a placement/recruitment agency. Be very inquisitive and make sure that your investments are in good hands.
We also call that you support our cause as we are mustering our strength to fight back. We need your support to bring these shady recruiters to justice.
To express your solidarity, please include your name in our online petition to the concerned Philippine government agencies, the POEA, DOLE and the Philippine Embassy; and to the Philippine Congress. Visit this link: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/protect-filipino-migrant-teachers-and-all-migrant-workers.html.
For updates, please visit www.pinoyteachershub.blogspot.com. For messages of support please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please forward this email to all your contacts so more Filipinos will be forewarned.
Bayanihan para sa Manggagawa at Migranteng Pinoy (BMMP)
TFC's Adobo Nation featured our issue, Sept. 14, 2009. Lulu Navarro, panis ka!