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MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) on Thursday, September 7, shut down the operations of a consultancy firm allegedly conducting illegal recruitment of seafarers.
The firm, RTM Maritime Consultancy Services Corporation based in Parañaque, allegedly asked its clients for large sums in placement fees. According to DMW Undersecretary Bernard Olalia, seafarers are not supposed to be asked for placement fees at all.
A document shown to reporters by director Geraldine Mendez of the DMW Migrant Workers Protection Bureau said that the firm had been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission since April 2021.
However, DMW officer-in-charge (OIC) Hans Cacdac said that the agency had yet to confirm if the firm was able to deploy any Filipino workers.
Robin, not his real name, told reporters following the closure on Thursday that he learned about the firm from group chats of seafarers on social media. He said the company identified itself to him as a consultancy firm, but that it had a recruitment agency as a partner.
Robin paid the firm around P120,000, believing he would be deployed as a third officer in an Asia-plying vessel.
“May pamilya tayo… siyempre itataya mo (We have families… You would take risks),” said Robin. “After seven months, wala pa rin nangyari (nothing happened).”
The seafarer was following up on his dealings with the firm on Thursday morning when the DMW officials implemented the closure order.
According to the DMW, at least two workers approached the department to complain about the firm, and surveillance operations were conducted around March to July.
“Una, may recruitment na nangyari, at pangalawa, walang lisensya mula sa DMW para mag-recruit. At meron pang isang napakalaking kasalanan – nanaga ng placement fee sa halagang higit-kumulang P100,000 ang tinaga sa mga complainants natin,” said Cacdac.
(There was recruitment that occurred, and they didn’t have a license from the DMW authorizing them to recruit. And they have an even bigger sin – they asked for placement fees of around P100,000 from our complainants.)
Cacdac added that they discovered documents that implied large-scale recruitment. The DMW also referred the case to law enforcement.
“Kakasuhan natin ng illegal recruitment ‘yung mga salarin, at tutulungan natin ‘yung mga biktima. Bibigyan natin ng ayuda, at ganap na tulong na rin sa paghahanap ng this time, legal o lehitimong trabaho sa legal at lehitimong kaparaanan,” said Cacdac.
(We will file a case of illegal recruitment against the culprits, and we will assist the victims. We will give them aid, and assistance to find legal and legitimate work through legal and legitimate means.)
The Thursday closure is Cacdac’s first order of business as OIC, following his designation by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday, September 6.
Illegal recruitment is an issue that continues to plague Filipino workers looking for work abroad, although its scale has not been widely tracked. The Supreme Court decided on 17 cases of illegal recruitment and estafa from 2015 to 2019, according to a 2021 Commission on Human Rights study.
In February 2021, then-labor chief Silvestre Bello III admitted to the Senate that there have been “very few convictions” of illegal recruiters of overseas Filipino workers. – Rappler.com