Fil-Ams march for Mary Jane, migrant workers on May Day

SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino workers and their advocates joined thousands of others across the world as they took to the streets on International Labor Day.

These kababayans say they march to uphold workers’ rights and to call for an end to wage theft.

They also march for overseas Filipino workers who are forced to leave because of lack of opportunities in the Philippines and victimized by their employers once they arrive in a foreign land.

“We want more jobs in the Philippines so there won’t be so many more of us who have to leave the country but there are no good jobs being offered by the Aquino government,” said Bernadette Herrera of Migrante Northern California.

“We want to say that life is also hard here in America but we are still trying to give money to our families back in the Philippines even though our wages are low,” said Rowena Viray, a caregiver.

These kababayans also march for overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso who is an alleged victim of human trafficking.

Veloso, now imprisoned in Indonesia, was sentenced to die via firing squad, but was spared after her alleged recruiter surfaced to seek police custody due to alleged threats to her life.

“She’s a victim,” said Viray. “She is struggling. No one wants to struggle. No one wants to be born in poverty.”

“We will continue to fight because we believe is a victim of human trafficking and we hope she will come home from Indonesia to the Philippines so she could be with her family,” said Herrera. “All of us around the world must fight for what’s happening in the Philippines.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, during a proceeding with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Veloso’s alleged recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio and her live-in partner, Julius Lacanilao, opted not to submit any defense on new charges of human trafficking, illegal recruitment, and estafa filed against them.

Sergio and Lacanilao questioned the validity of their arrest because the charges were brought by the Veloso family, and not by Mary Jane herself.

However the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) maintains that human trafficking charges may be filed by a victim’s kin.

Some of Sergio’s alleged victims surfaced after they were traced and convinced by the NBI to file charges of human trafficking and large-scale illegal recruitment against Sergio.

Follow Rommel Conclara on Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.

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