As UN assembles, Filipinos protest "modern day slavery"


By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

September 25, 2013

NEW YORK – As Diplomats and United Nations officials convene in New York for the UN General Assembly this week, domestic workers and survivors of modern day slavery rallied in front of the Philippine Consulate to shine a light on the trafficking and slavery of women domestic workers victimized by Diplomats.

They are demanding legal reforms that would punish Diplomats who engage in labor trafficking and abuse of domestic workers.

Mauban, Quezon native Dema Ramos claims her former employer — a Kuwaiti Diplomat, brought her to the US from the Middle East in 2009.

She claims the Kuwaiti Diplomat took her passport from her, paid her $400 a month for working an average of 20 hours a day. She says she used to make $165 a month in Kuwait.

After filing a lawsuit against her former employer she now received a T-Visa but her employer allegedly got away with the lawsuit because of diplomatic immunity.

Labor trafficking lawsuits involving consuls are complicated because foreign diplomats hold full diplomatic immunity and can not be prosecuted in US courts according to the State Department.

Protesters are now calling on State Department Secretary John Kerry to hold foreign diplomat traffickers accountable through waivers of immunity and suspension of special A3 and G5 visas that allow foreign diplomats to bring domestic workers into the US.

“So those are two important tools that the Department of State has yet to implement which basically means that the Secretary of State and State Department and the US Government as whole has not taken the appropriate action against who have trafficked domestic workers,” Leah Obias of Damayan Migrant Association, “What we need to see is action, what we need to see is actually implementing the tools that they are empowered to have.”

Protesters are also calling on the Philippine Consulate to sign a memorandum of agreement that would enable the Philippine government to provide emergency resources for Filipino victims of human and labor trafficking.

“Ang inaasahan po namin sa Consulate ay protection, ‘pag ho kami ay tumakas mula sa mga traffickers wala po kaming pera, wala po kaming bahay, wala kaming pambili ng pagkain, wala kaming pambili ng metrocard so kailangan po namin ng emergency funding,” Linda Oalican of Damayan Migrant Association said, “Kailangan po na sana yung gobyerno natin ay tumulong naman sa mga so called Modern Day Heroes.”

“Those are the things that are still being studied at this point kasi when we talk about social services you know here in the US, even local governments provide social services particularly when you have labor trafficking issues or trafficking issues in general, kaya ang kuwan namin dito is to involve as many stakeholders as possible, ” said Philippine Consul General Mario De Leon

Protest organizers say, domestic workers, dubbed as “modern day heroes” in the Philippines need all the protection and assistance from both the Philippine and the US government so they don’t end up as victims of “modern day slavery.”

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com

3 Comments on this post.

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  • Ugnayan NY/NJ
    27 September 2013 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    From what Philippine Consul General Mario De Leon stated, it sounds like the Philippine government is not committing to protecting the rights and dignity of domestic workers who have experienced labor trafficking — the very same domestic workers who the Philippine government calls its “modern heroes,” the very same OFWs who remit more than $20B a year to prop of the Philippine economy, and the exact same women workers who are employed by diplomats to clean their homes / wash their clothes / prepare their meals and take care of their most precious belongings. Simply put, the Philippine government does NOTHING to protect Filipino workers while reaping the benefits of Filipino domestic workers’ enslavement, labor trafficking and sacrifice. This is outrageous!

    Ugnayan – NY/NJ reiterates and amplifies the BAKLAS: Break Free from Labor Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery Campaign demands:

    1) Provide emergency shelter, food, and clothing to workers escaping situations of labor exploitation;

    2) Provide stipends for legal, medical, and psychological counseling for workers who have suffered labor trafficking and other forms of extreme labor exploitation;

    3) Work with Damayan to provide outreach and provide education on workers rights to extremely isolated workers on A-3 and G-5 visas;

    4) Train Consulate employees in labor trafficking and exploitation; and

    5) Recognize the seriousness of labor trafficking as well as Damayan’s unique role and power as an organization in combating trafficking.

  • Damayan Migrant Workers Association » Around 100 domestic workers & allies join the interfaith vigil, march and rally from the UN Plaza to the Philippine Consulate
    1 October 2013 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    […] Don Tagala from Balitang America reported about the action.  Getty Images also featured a photo of Safe Horizon Intensive Case Manager Jessica Penaranda. More photos will also be posted soon. […]

  • Damayan Migrant Workers Association » Around 100 domestic workers & allies join the interfaith vigil, march and rally from the UN Plaza to the Philippine Consulate
    1 October 2013 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    […] Don Tagala from Balitang America reported about the action.  Getty Images also featured a photo of Safe Horizon Intensive Case Manager Jessica Penaranda. More photos will be posted soon. Please also see solidarity statements from some ally organizations below. […]

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