“There is an urgent need to strengthen alliances with our local partners towards an extensive nationwide campaign against illegal recruitment, and human trafficking to enhance the protection and welfare of our workers and their children.” This is the message of Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz waging an all-out war against the menace of illegal recruitment, and human trafficking in the country. “By empowering all local government officials from municipal mayors down to barangay captains, we make them not only as DOLE partners. We want to bring the fight down to their respective localities; and apprehend these illegal recruiters head on,” she added. Baldoz issued the statement shortly after Maria Cristina Sergio surfaced at the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police Office on Tuesday, 28 April,–hours before the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, a convicted Filipino drug courier. Veloso is a 30-year old mother, who went to Indonesia for a job as a maid but was duped into carrying drugs by an international drug syndicate. She was arrested in 2010 with 2.6 kilograms of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase. In a report of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac to Baldoz, an advisory has been issued strongly warning Filipino workers against accepting offers of employment without proper work documents or using the “the easy way out” via the “no tourist visa” arrangement with ASEAN Member States such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, and Thailand. Cacdac also reported that said human traffickers as well as drug traffickers can also make their recruits become seasoned drug mules by directing them to repeatedly carry drugs for a considerable amount of money. “The amount of money is used as bait for victims to commit the internationally recognized crime of drug trafficking,” Cacdac added. According to the latest statistics of the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT), there are a total of 153 convictions have been made from 1 July 2010 to 27 March 2015. This record extends to 174 convicted individuals dealt with the minimum penalty of 6-months community service to the maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The record also reveals that since the start of the Aquino Administration, the yearly rate of apprehended and convicted illegal recruitment have increased. The number of convictions and individuals penalized are, as follow: (a) July 2010 to December 2010 – 15 convictions, covering 12 individuals; (b) 2011 – 25 convictions, covering 32 individuals; (c) 2012 – 27 convictions, covering 32 individuals; (d) 2013 – 27 convictions, covering 37 individuals; (e) 2014 – 54 convictions, covering 56 individuals. For the first quarter of 2015, the POEA reported 2 convictions, covering 2 individuals. Also, in another report, at least 63 licenses of manpower and recruitment agencies have been revoked in 2014. A list of which is available for reference at the Licensing and Regulation Office of the POEA. “Remember that even if Southeast Asian destinations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Hongkong, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, and Thailand do not require visas for tourists, work visas or permits are still required in order to work in these countries or destinations,” Cacdac said. “Make sure that you are dealing with a licensed recruiter, and that you have a contract with a definite employer and a work visa or permit before leaving the Philippines,” he added. Toward this end, the labor and employment chief said “addressing illegal recruitment and human trafficking presents many challenges as these crimes happen at the level of communities. In this instance, local governments have a big role to play because they are on the ground. Close coordination between national efforts and local actions is, therefore, needed.” END/hjtg (with reporting from Director Robert Larga, Director, Licensing and Regulation Office, POEA)

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