GMA News Online
Pinoy Abroad

Migrante asks Arroyo to look into Baja’s case

July 6, 2008 10:33pm

MANILA, Philippines - Migrante International has urged the Arroyo administration to look into the civil suit filed against former Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja Jr. by his former house maid.

The civil complaint was filed in the US by Marichu Suarez Baoanan, 39, who claimed that Baja and his family were engaged in trafficking and forced labor.

Aside from the former envoy, Baoanan also sued Baja’s wife Norma, daughter Maria Elizabeth Baja Facundo.

In a statement, Migrante International chair Connie Bragas-Regalado called for a thorough probe into Baja’s involvement in maltreating Baoanan.

Baoanan alleged that the Bajas forced her to work 16 hours daily but she was paid only $100 for three months and another $100 for taking care of Facundo’s son.

She also said she was made to sleep on the basement of the Philippine Consular residence in New York with only a thin blanket to shield her from the cold floor. She also complained of verbal abuse from Norma Baja.

Baoanan said that she arrived in the United States in January 2006, using a red diplomatic passport that Norma Baja arranged with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after payment of P250,000 fee. The original package, Baoanan said, costs P500,000.

She claimed she was made to believe that the fees would cover transportation costs, a visa and work permit for a nursing job in the US. But when she arrived in New York, she was told by Baja that she has to work as a domestic helper in the ambassador’s household for six months to pay the money she owed.

“This modus operandi of our erring diplomatic officials trafficking Filipinos so they may take them as slaves has got to stop," Regalado said.

She said just last year, a mother of a consul official in the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco pleaded guilty of exploiting another Filipina and has agreed to pay her $78,000 in back wages.

Regalado said that Baja’s case would be a“ litmus test for the Philippines that recently won the vice-presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council."

“We challenge the newly elected Vice President to the UNHRC Erlinda Basilio to take the lead in investigating the charges against the former UN Security Council President and to ensure that no white wash takes place, if indeed the Philippines is bent on upholding human rights in the UN body," said Regalado.

Baja, meanwhile, denied Baoanan’s allegations, saying that the maid was not a victim of human trafficking because she was given a red passport and a US visa.

The former envoy also disputed Baoanan’s claim she was underpaid. Baja said the maid’s pay slip would belie her allegations. - GMANews.TV
Go to comments