Mabatid case tops list of OFW concerns relayed to DMW in online meet

 

Secretary Cacdac promised a regular meeting with HK complainants on the Mabatid case 

The long wait for the Department of Migrant Workers to
endorse the filing of charges against a former Cebu politician who is accused
of illegal recruitment and fraud by some 20 Filipino migrant workers in Hong
Kong dominated the town hall meeting hosted by Secretary Hans Cacdac early on
Saturday, July 6.

Secretary Cacdac opened the talks with Filipino community
leaders by disclosing recent moves by the DMW to look into other possible
destination countries for overseas Filipino workers, and efforts to help them
secure their incomes through sound fiscal management and safe investments.

He also said the DMW is looking closely at recruitment
costs, particularly the no-placement fee policy for domestic workers in places
like Hong Kong, and the corollary problems with debts.

But it was the case filed by the migrant workers
against Prisca Nina Mabatid, her partner Russ Mark Gamallo and OFW blogger
Bryan Calagui that became the center of discussion during the two-hour meeting,
with no less than four community leaders asking the DMW for updates on their
investigation.

Esther Bangcawayan, a case officer at the church-based
Mission for Migrant Workers which is helping the complainants pursue the case,
asked Cacdac why the Hong Kong cases have yet to be forwarded to the DOJ,
despite them having been filed more than a year ago.

Cacdac responded that there was no question that the
DMW was with the complainants in pursuing the case against Mabatid and company,
but the ball is now in the DOJ’s court, as they will be the ones who will
decide on whether charges ought to be filed in court.

Assistant Secretary Francis Ron de Guzman told the
meeting that most of the related cases referred to them had been filed with
prosecutors, and the complainants had been given counseling and legal
assistance.

Among the cases already pending are those filed
directly with the fiscal’s office in Laguna and Cebu, while the biggest bunch
of cases are already under review by the DOJ.

However, he had no ready answer as to why the
complaints from Hong Kong have not been forwarded to the prosecutors when they
were filed much earlier than the others.

Cacdac said that a separate meeting or caucus focusing
solely on the Mabatid case will be formed so the more general concerns of the
Filcom in Hong Kong could be pursued during the town-hall discussions.

Mabatid, Gamallo and Calagui are accused of collecting
P132,000 from each of the complainants in the guise of helping them obtain
student visas in Canada which they could use to secure jobs that would pay for
all their expenses once they get there.

Mabatid also allegedly promised to lend them Php1
million each as “show money” in applying for the student visa, which would be processed
in just three months. But after they paid the processing fee in full, the
complainants said they were sent a long list of requirements that were
impossible to fulfill. When they tried to get their money back, they were
threatened with lawsuits.

Online shot of some of the participants with Sec Cacdac

The other issue that sparked some heated remarks was
the plan to set up an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration center in Hong
Kong, which administrator Arnell Ignacio revealed during his visit to Hong Kong
last month.

At the time, Ignacio said he was seriously considering
renting an entire floor in the United Centre Building in Admiralty, which comes
with a price tag of HK$8 million a year.

Dolores Balladares, chairperson of United Filipinos in
Hong Kong, described Ignacio’s plan as “bulagsak,” or profligate, and
questioned why the funds meant to provide welfare assistance to OFWs were being
spent in such manner.

Others like Shiela Tebia of Gabriela HK questioned why
OWWA did not consult OFWs first before embarking on such an expensive project.

In response, welfare officer Marilou Sumalinog said
the money for the center will not come from OWWA’s coffers but from the
government’s general appropriations fund. She also said the planned center has
received widespread support from the community

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