Govt zeroes in on Afghan crash victims' recruiters
Vice President Noli de Castro Jr. said Thursday he has instructed Labor Secretary Marianito Roque to bring the recruiter to the Philippines to face the music.
"May nagre-recruit sa kanila doon [at] kilala na namin at yan pina-follow-up ko na kay Sec. Roque para ma-identify at maibalik sa Pilipinas. Kung ano ang papeles makikiusap tayo sa Dubai government (We have identified the Dubai-based recruiter of the Filipinos and I have asked Labor Sec. Marianito Roque to bring that recruiter to the Philippines. We will coordinate with the Dubai government on the paperwork needed)," he said in an interview on dzBB radio.
The Philippine government had imposed a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Afghanistan in 2007.
“May pangalan kami ng nagre-recruit sa Dubai. Ang amin lang gagawin hahanapin ang tao na ito at pananagutin natin (We have the name of the Dubai-based recruiter. What we will do now is to look for this person and make him or her accountable)," he added.
He also said they have identified the recruiter of at least one of the fatalities in last weekend’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed at least 10 Filipino workers.
While de Castro did not say if the recruiter is the same as the Dubai-based recruiter, he said the recruiter of the fatality would target Filipinos who had worked in Iraq.
"Yan ang hinahabol namin. Pero itong namatay, ito pala may nagre-recruit dito at kilala na namin. Pinahanap ko na sa task force. May lumalapit at nag-aalok. Target nila mga dating galing Iraq kasi ang Iraq siyempre kaunti ang trabaho doon umaalis unti-unti ang Amerikano, tapos na embassy. Sa Afghanistan may 2 military base ang US na ginagawa," he said.
(We are looking for that recruiter. So far we have determined this recruiter would approach Filipinos who worked in Iraq, and urging them to work on two US bases under construction in Afghanistan. I have instructed the Tfair to look for that person.)
He also said they are now trying to identify the Manila-based partners of the recruiters.
De Castro admitted talks with companies recruiting Filipino workers may be useless, as similar talks with recruiting firms in Iraq failed to stop Filipinos from being recruited there.
“Sa Iraq, nakiusap na kami sa mga kumpanya. Pero wala, hindi tayo pinakikinggan sapagka’t hinahabol nila ang manggagawang Pilipino dahil sa ugali natin at sa sipag natin. Wala silang pakialam dahil ang kanila ay matapos dahil bilyun-bilyong dolyar ang involved dito kaya nahirapan kami pakiusapan (In Iraq, we talked to the recruiting companies. But they did not listen to us because they want Filipinos for their skills. And their goal is to finish their billion-dollar contracts)," he said.
No other casualties
On Wednesday afternoon, De Castro said he received a report from the Philippine Embassy in Pakistan that there are no other Filipino workers injured or missing aside from the 10 killed in the crash at a NATO air base in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar.
Vice Consul Conrado Demdem Jr. said it was not true, as reported by an OFW based in the Afghan capital, Kabul, that three of the injured were Filipinos and that two more were missing.
De Castro, however, instructed Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos to “double check" or “make sure" that all Filipinos are accounted for in the crash.
“We want to double check this with our embassy officials, better to make sure that there are no other injured or missing Filipinos from the said incident," he said in a radio interview.
Demdem also reported that the remains of the 10 fatalities are now in the custody of the United States military base in Kandahar and will be flown to Maryland, USA any time soon for DNA testing.
From the US, it will take at least a week for the bodies to be repatriated to the Philippines, he said.
Aware of destination
Citing cases from the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment that he heads, de Castro said Filipino workers bound for Afghanistan usually fly to Dubai as tourists, then go to Afghanistan.
Only last July 14, Tfair agents stopped 13 Filipinos who were about to board a flight for Dubai, en route to work in Afghanistan.
De Castro said passports with “Afghanistan" markings showed the Filipinos were aware they were heading for jobs in war-ravaged central Asian nation.
He cited reports reaching his office that there are some 1,500 Filipinos working in Afghanistan, mostly illegals. Some have gone there before the Philippines imposed a deployment ban.
De Castro said Filipinos are inclined to work in Afghanistan despite the risks because of the high salaries. He said a carpenter can get a salary of $1,300 (P62,575).
In the meantime, de Castro said he is still waiting for the Philippine Consulate and the AIM company, which employed the 10 Filipino fatalities, to verify claims that there were three more fatalities in the chopper crash, and two others remain missing.
He also said the identification of the three fatalities may take some time as they will be brought to Maryland, USA, where DNA samples will be extracted for identification.
“Nakiusap kami medyo matatagalan sapagka’t ayon sa report dadalhin itong bangkay sa Maryland sa USA at kukuhanan ng DNA sapagka’t sunog na sunog ang buong katawan (It may take some time before the three burned bodies are identified. The reports I got indicate that the bodies will be brought to Maryland where DNA samples will be extracted to identify them)," he said. - GMANews.TV