News: Not Just One Ambassador, Just One Consul

GABRIELA Network-USA / Mariposa Alliance Statement

Not Just One Ambassador, Just One Consul
DFA of Philippines is a Haven for Traffickers

Had Marichu Baoanan not filed a civil complaint against former
Philippine ambassador to the UN Lauro Baja, his wife, his daughter and
their travel agency, people of Philippine ancestry would have shrugged
off her story for its ordinariness.

In the more than ten years that GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance has
worked on the issue of trafficking, countless such stories have come
our way: of embassy and consulate personnel and their relatives
lugging, like so many suitcases, women from the Philippines,
extracting enormous amounts for a US visa, or a Saudi visa, or a
British visa or French or Italian – in other words, wherever the
government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has diplomatic representation.

There have been innumerable stories of Filipinas seeking sanctuary
from their brutal employers at consulates and embassies only to be
returned to the same employers; of Filipinas funneled into the sex
trade by embassy and consular personnel; of Filipinas traded as
domestic workers by embassy and consular personnel to their relatives
and friends as favors; of Filipinas coerced into paid-for marriages
and sex work to enable embassy and consular personnel to make enormous
profits.

It is a vast narrative of corruption and greed – the hallmarks of
bureaucrat capitalism – and of feudal/patriarchal anti-woman values
which underlie the sustained violence against women that is the
hallmark of the Philippines’ Labor Export Policy.

Every Filipino is familiar with this narrative. Every Filipino has
at least one tale of this miserable narrative, whether directly
experienced or indirectly experienced through family and/or friends.

When the first DFA personnel and/or the relative(s) thereof was
convicted of forced labor, peonage and/or trafficking, the Department
of Foreign Affairs should have immediately launched an investigation
to weed out the traffickers in its midst.

When the first diplomatic corps staff was shown to have been
connected, even remotely, to even one incident of trafficking and
coerced labor, the proper thing for the government of Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo to have done was launch an immediate crack-down on the
traffickers in its midst.

Instead both Macapagal-Arroyo and the DFA bosses chose to ignore such
incidents.

Now we know why; the DFA has been transformed into a sanctuary, not
for overseas Filipinos, but for traffickers. Trafficking profits
fulfill the lust for wealth of the bosses of bosses.

The overseas face of Macapagal-Arroyo’ s government accurately reflects
its character at home: corrupt, greedy, exploitative, a parasite
living off the wounds of the Filipino people, exacerbating injuries to
the body politic by blaming its victim. Marichu is poor and just “a
maid” and therefore should not speak truth to power.

One very simple question — how many diplomatic “red” passports for
alleged “domestic employees” does the DFA issue per year? – would have
immediately given anyone an understanding of the extent of this
corruption.

As for those who decry what they perceive to be attempts to sully the
reputation of “a citizen above suspicion” by a simple “maid,” bear in
mind that whitewashed tombs are beautiful outward but full of
corruption and “uncleanliness within.”

Marichu Baoanon’s story is common. GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance
has heard it over and over and over again. To fence-sit and do
nothing about it now is to be an accomplice in the exploitation,
commoditization and disempowerment of the Filipina. Do nothing, say
nothing and you conspire with the Macapagal-Arroyo government’s policy
of implementing globalization through sustained violence against women.

Therefore, GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance calls for a thorough
investigation, not only of the defendants in the civil complaint filed
by Marichu Baoanon but of the entire Department of Foreign Affairs and
of its embassies and consulates.

We demand that the DFA issue and implement a policy of zero tolerance
towards trafficking, forced and exploitative labor among its ranks.

Zero tolerance toward trafficking and peonage should be the minimum
policy of a government that survives on remittances from overseas
Filipino workers.

We demand of the United Nations as well a policy of zero tolerance
toward trafficking, slavery and peonage among its ranks. Nations
cannot be united if trafficking, slavery and peonage are allowed to be
visited upon more than half of the world’s population.

We demand that these “whitened sepulchers” stop vilifying Marichu
Baoanon for being just “a maid” and for speaking out. This is public
verbal abuse and extremely disrespectful of the Filipina domestic worker.

We call for the affirmation and assertion of labor rights and women’s
rights for Filipinos at home and overseas.

We call for JUSTICE FOR MARICHU and all “maids” like her victimized by
the sustained violence of the Labor Export Policy.

We ask all friends of the Filipino people to stand with Marichu, to
stand with GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance, in opposition to the
continuing violence against women embedded in the Labor Export
component of imperialist globalization.

JUSTICE FOR MARICHU! JUSTICE FOR OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS! JUSTICE
FOR THE FILIPINA! JUSTICE FOR THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!
END TRAFFICKING AND PEONAGE NOW! ONWARD TO WOMEN’S LIBERATION AND THE
LIBERATION OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!

##


Annalisa Vicente Enrile
Chairperson, GABRIELA Network
Initiating Committee, Mariposa Alliance
PO Box 403, Times Square Station
New York, New York 10036
Tel: 1.619.316.0920
Email: chair@gabnet. org

The Mariposa Alliance is a US-wide alliance of individual women and
women’s organizations working on intersectional issues

One Response to News: Not Just One Ambassador, Just One Consul

  1. naija pinoy says:

    Bajas got P250,000 in exchange for work in US–accuser
    DFA concerned over charges

    By Veronica Uy
    INQUIRER.net

    Posted date: July 08, 2008

    MANILA, Philippines — The Filipina who filed a case against former Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja, his wife, and his daughter for forced labor, trafficking, and slavery, among others paid P250,000 in exchange for chance to work in the United States, the Department of Foreign Affairs has said in a statement.

    At the same time, the DFA expressed “concern” over the 15 charges filed against Baja and his family.

    “The DFA is concerned about the allegations against former Ambassador Baja. The Philippines has been consistent in its position against trafficking, slavery and forced labor,” it said.

    “The department is rigorous in the observance of rules and regulations pertaining to the hiring of private staff of DFA personnel posted abroad and will examine measures to strengthen further the implementation of those regulations,” it said.

    In her complaint filed with the United States District Court in New York, a copy of which was obtained by INQUIRER.net, Marichu Suarez Baoanan says Baja, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN between 2003 and 2006, his wife Norma, and his daughter Elizabeth Facundo “conspired to lure” Baoanan to the US with “false promises” that she would get a job as a nurse.

    This, according to the complaint, constitutes human trafficking.

    In previous interviews, Baja said Baoanan might have been motivated to file a case against him because she wanted to stay on and work in the US.

    In the same complaint, Baoanan, a nursing graduate from the Unciano
    Colleges and General Hospital, said Mrs. Baja, who owns the Labaire International Travel Inc., originally asked her to pay P500,000 purportedly to pay for air fare, visa, and authorization to work as nurse in the US.

    Labaire, with offices in Makati City, is a travel agency, not a recruitment agency registered with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

    Baoanan said she paid P50,000 to Mrs. Baja on Nov. 30, 2005; P100,000 to Labaire office on Jan. 4, 2006; and another P100,000

    still to the Labaire on Jan. 9, 2006.

    According to the complaint, Baoanan said she left for the US on

    Jan. 12, 2006 and worked for the Bajas as a domestic helper from January 13 to April 13 of the same year.

    She alleged that the Bajas forced her to work, usually 126 hours a week, in payment of the P250,000 balance she was not able to pay.

    Baoanan also said the Bajas made her sleep in a basement, confiscated her passport, and forbade her to leave the house alone.

    The 15 charges against the Bajas are: forced labor; trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor; slavery, peonage, involuntary servitude; unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of trafficking, peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, and forced labor;

    Violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization act;

    Alien Tort Claims Act; federal minimum wage violation; state minimum wage violation; unlawful deduction from wages; state overtime violation; spread of hours violation; fraud; negligent misrepresentation; conversion; and conspiracy.

    http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20080708-147204/Bajas-got-P250000-in-exchange-for-work-in-US–accuser

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