“I am pro-life and I remain so. I am not pushing for the death penalty because I firmly believe even the most-hardened criminal should be given a chance to change his ways and get back to his family and community to lead a transformed life,” Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz strongly said yesterday as she sought to clarify the news item saying the DOLE is pushing for the inclusion of illegal recruitment among crimes punishable by death.

“Never in any policy discussion at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, of which I am the chairman and its administrator for eight years before I became DOLE secretary, has the death penalty for illegal recruiters ever figured or occurred,” she said.

The outgoing labor and employment chief sought to allay fears her statement may have brought, explaining the context of her question and answer with reporters last week on the issue at the sidelines of the POEA launching of its mandatory Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar (PEOS)online system), during which she emphasized the need to fight illegal recruitment through the PEOS, which is an effective tool to prevent victimization of jobseekers.

She said her statement endorsing to the incoming administration the review of the heinous nature of the crime of illegal recruitment tantamount to economic sabotagewas a logical reply to observations by some quarters, including some from the media, that illegal recruitment seems to remain unabated despite government efforts to curtail the criminal activity, including the imposition of life imprisonment as penalty under the existing law.

“I said that if some in our society believe that the penalty under existing law for illegal recruitment is not enough, the next stiffest penalty to life imprisonment is the death penalty and the next administration may want to review the heinous nature of the crimeas basis for the imposition of the death penalty,” Baldoz elaborated.

“But I believe strong remedial measures must be implemented to complement preventive efforts, that is why we at the DOLE has never ceased coming up with ways, such as the mandatory PEOS online, to educate Filipinos about the illegal recruitment menace,” she said.

R. A. 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, as amended by R.A. 10022, categorizes syndicated (three or more conspirators) or large-scale (three or more victims) illegal recruitment as “economic sabotage” punishable by life imprisonment and a fine ranging from P2 million to P5 million.

“Illegal recruitment, as economic sabotage, is also  by nature a transnational crime that could involve countries of origin, transit, and destination. Even illegal recruitment involving just a single person destroys a family and a community. It saps the fabric of society and affects our efforts towards sustainable economic development and prosperity. Thus, it merits the review of the heinous nature of the crime by the incoming administration.” Baldoz added.

POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac agreed with Secretary Baldoz, saying illegal recruitment is repugnant to the nation’s norms of decency and morality and may, therefore, be considered as belonging under the category of “heinous crimes.”

“Given that President-elect Duterte, in his first press conference since winning the May 9 elections, announced he will ask our lawmakers to re-impose the death penalty for certain crimes, the possibility of linking the concept of illegal recruitment amounting to economic sabotage to heinous crimes could form part of the review,” he said.

“The possibility of this link should prompt a thorough discussion on the wisdom of re-imposing the death penalty. After all, records of the POEA indicate that only 16 of 725 illegal recruitment cases filed before the Department of Justice have resulted to convictions by the courts. Hence, with or without the death penalty, due attention should be given to faster resolution of cases (without sacrificing the Constitutional requirement of due process) and a more appropriate penalty for convicted illegal recruiters,” Cacdac said.

END

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