Displaying items by tag: OFW

'Trafficked' OFW sues for forced labor and abuse in U.S.

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipina victim of human trafficking filed a lawsuit against her employers for allegedly forcing her into “involuntary servitude for almost 3 years,” while suffering from “extreme verbal abuse” and overwork.

According to the Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles and Jenner & Block LLP, who filed a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of the victim, Edelynne Bergado was lured by Marlon and Nelle-Ann Velonza to the United States with promises of a well-paying job and a green card.

But instead, the Velonzas allegedly confiscated her passport and forced Bergado to "work over 14 hours a day and 7days a week, for virtually no pay, for almost 3 years.”

Abuse and overwork

Bergado also claimed to have suffered from “extreme verbal abuse” and that she was forbidden from leaving her employers’ apartment without supervision, prohibited from speaking to anyone outside, and was monitored through security cameras when left alone.

“Edelynne was treated like a slave,” said Laboni Hoq, Advancing Justice-LA’s Director of Impact Litigation. “The defendants in this case knowingly benefited from human trafficking. It is illegal to lure someone into the country, keep them effectively imprisoned, and make them work for pennies an hour.”

Bergado claimed that she had to cook and clean for the couple, their two children, and Mrs. Velonza’s brother, who lives with his family in an adjacent apartment.

Bergado also worked for a skin bleaching and facial business that Mrs. Velonza runs out of their apartment, where she "was regularly used as a guinea pig to test the skincare products made out of household cleaning products.”


According to her complaint, Bergado worked at a cosmetics factory operated by relatives of the Velonzas in Bani, Pangasinan. The couple asked her to accompany and care for Mr. Velonza’s elderly mother on a trip to the United States.

Bergado agreed and signed the contract to be the elderly’s caregiver for the duration of her trip, after being promised a Php 9,000 (177USD) salary and school tuition for her children. They also promised to help her obtain a green card, if she ended up working for them in the United States for at least a year.

Despite wanting to go home, the Velonzas allegedly refused to let Bergado return to the Philippines even after Mr. Velonza’s mother was already sent home.

Through intimidation and confiscation of belongings, Bergado said she felt compelled to continue working for them despite the inhumane conditions. In January 2017, Bergado escaped her traffickers when she was rescued by the police.

Edelynne Bergado is suing the defendants for violations of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the California Labor Code, and other violations of the law.

“We have seen that many Filipinos in the United States endure human trafficking, deceptive recruitment practices, and other forms of labor exploitation,” said Christopher Lapinig, Registered Legal Services Attorney at Advancing Justice-LA. “It is encouraging when, after escaping their traffickers, survivors like Edelynne stand up and seek justice. We hope that Edelynne’s bravery inspires other survivors to do the same.”

Rappler tried to reach out to Marlon and Nelle-Ann Velonza on Facebook for a statement and have yet to receive a response. – Rappler.com


5 labor attachés face recall for inaction on OFW issues

Five labor attachés from Taiwan and the Middle East have been ordered to report back to Manila to explain before Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III how they are addressing the "criticial issues" of OFWs in their areas of assignment.
“I instructed them to report here not later than March 15 because I want them to answer me personally on what they are doing on the critical issues of OFWs,” said Bello in a statement Wednesday.
Those ordered to report back to Manila were:
· Ophelia N. Almenario of POLO-Abu Dhabi
· David Des Dicang of POLO-Qatar
· Rodolfo Gabasan of POLO-Israel

· Nasser Mustafa of POLO-Oman, and
· Nasser Munder of POLO-Taichung
“Kakausapin ko sila at sasabihin ko na aksyunan ang mga isyu ng OFW sa kanilang lugar, lalo na iyong mga distressed at displaced,” Bello said. “Kung hindi pa sila susunod at maka-receive ako ng reklamo, ipapa-recall ko sila.”
Bello issued the instruction after receiving reports that some labor attaches are not mindful of the issues and situation of distressed OFWs in their posts.
He said one of the issues reported to him was the violation of the bilateral agreement between the Philippines and host countries in the Middle East, particularly on the $400 minimum wage of household service workers, by some employers.
“Dapat kapag may nalaman silang violation, i-blacklist na kaagad ang employer. Ang trabaho nila sa POLO ay bigyan ng tama at sapat proteksyon ang ating mga OFW,” said Bello. — GMA News

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