human trafficking

DMW, AMLC team up to help victims of illegal recruiters

Michelle Abad

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DMW, AMLC team up to help victims of illegal recruiters

AGREEMENT. Anti-Money Laundering Council executive director Matthew David and Department of Migrant Workers Officer-in-Charge Hans Cacdac sign an agreement to step up efforts against illegal recruitment on January 11, 2024.

Department of Migrant Workers

Aspiring OFWs who deal with illegal recruiters often pay them tens to hundreds of thousands of pesos, and even when they report to authorities, restoration of their money is not guaranteed

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) are jointly working on “new mechanisms” to help Filipino workers seeking jobs abroad get their money back from illegal recruiters and scammers.

The DMW and AMLC on Thursday, January 11, signed a memorandum of agreement seeking to ramp up efforts to fight illegal recruitment and human trafficking. In a press briefing on Friday, January 12, DMW Undersecretary Bernard Olalia noted how the AMLC’s capability to freeze accounts of people involved in money laundering would particularly safeguard OFWs’ hard-earned money.

“One of the major challenges faced by AMLC [and] the DMW…is how to restore the amounts of money illegally collected by these illegal recruiters. So this is what we came up with – because AMLC has freeze-order capacities, they can [request] to freeze…track, and forfeit the accounts,” Olalia said in a mix of English and Filipino.

In the DMW, the Migrant Workers Protection Bureau will take charge of the new collaboration with the AMLC.

Sila lang ‘yung may mandate na kung saan puwede nilang ma-recover ‘yung mga amounts na nakolekta nila, for example, sa ating mga OFWs, no? At ang pinaka-importante nito, maibalik natin, ma-restore natin ‘yung mga pera na siningil ng mga illegal recruiters na ito,” said Olalia.

(They are the only ones with the mandate that would allow them to recover the amounts collected by recruiters, for example, from our OFWs. And the most important part is that we restore the money the illegal recruiters collected.)

Olalia added that in the present handling of illegal recruitment at the DMW, the department cannot track deposits when the money goes out of the Philippines, or when money is transferred through e-wallets like GCash.

He said that the AMLC has “connections” to be able to track these.

‘Welcome’ development

Aspiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) dealing with illegal recruiters often pay up to hundreds of thousands of pesos in processing and placement fees. Some are even deployed through tourist visas, but find that the work promised to them does not exist.

Lisa, not her real name, is a part of a group of Filipinos who sought work in South Korea as seasonal farm workers. The “agent” they spoke to online collected around around P20,000 to P60,000 from the group in 2023. But they were never deployed, and have not been able to recover their money.

Lisa said that the new partnership was a welcome development.

Mas maganda po para sa aming mga biktima na ini-implement po nila ‘yun (The implementation of these measures is welcome for victims like us),” she said in a phone interview with Rappler on Saturday, January 13.

The group of at least seven Filipinos from various provinces are being sheltered by OFW rights group Migrante International in Manila as they seek redress for their case.

The group has filed a case with the DMW, but they have not gotten any guarantee that they will get their money back from their illegal recruiter. They said the department offered them some financial assistance for the meantime, but for them to even avail this, they needed to submit requirements that they left in their provinces.

Lisa said the multiple requirements to avail of assistance was a big inconvenience for the group, who currently have no income and no way to provide for their families.

Together with Migrante, the group is working on securing funds to return home and retrieve the requirements.

Sana isa kami sa matulungan [ng agreement] (I hope we will be among those who will receive assistance from the agreement),” Lisa said. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.