By Rhony Laigo/BNS

Deputy House Speaker Erin Tanada said the U.S. government may also be responsible for the illegal trafficking of Filipinos who ended up working for a hotel service provider that will pay them less than the promised rate instead of getting employment from a Fortune 500 company that “petitioned” them.

During a visit with some of the victims in a safehouse somewhere in Southern California early this week, Tanada told the Filipino victims that he sensed that the U.S. Department of Labor may have also failed in doing their job in verifying documents submitted to the agency. He said that if it’s proven that the claim of Aramark, which supposedly was the petitioning company, that the employment offer was “fake,” “then which government agency should verify that?”

Tanada also lamented the fact that there is no financial support that is being extended to the victims who, according to Tanada, “are witnesses and not just victims to a crime.”
According to Tanada, it was the U.S. that placed the Philippines under the list of countries where human trafficking is rampant. He said “the Philippines was placed in Tier 2 in the (2007) Department of State’s trafficking in persons report for not fully complying with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards to prevention of human trafficking.”

“But in this case,” Tanada said, “I think there is complicity as far as the federal agencies are concerned.”

Tanada recognized that though the U.S. Embassy in Manila that granted the working visas for the Filipinos, “the U.S. Department of Labor was the agency responsible for certifying that the employment offer is valid.” He said “If Aramark said the documents were forged and therefore fake, it was the DOL’s job to find out if these were indeed fraudulent and should not have endorsed it to the U.S. Embassy in Manila. If not the DOL, then the Department of Homeland Security (should have determined otherwise).”

The deputy speaker, who was in the U.S. on vacation, said the DHS is “very stringent” as far as granting the issuance of visas, “especially to countries such as the Philippines which is under Tier 2.” Tanada said he found out about the case of the victims after reading it from BALITA, which has been exclusively publishing articles regarding the plight of the 11 victims who only rely on donations from Filipino-American organizations, the Philippine Consulate and from a group of pro bono lawyers who are assisting them in their case.

The second highest-ranking official in the House of Representatives also said the victims should be given the opportunity to work legally in the U.S. while the federal agencies involved are trying to establish if there is a case of human trafficking. “But the fact remains that they were given valid U.S. working visas, which means, that there was supposedly valid employment offers to these Filipinos,” Tanada said. The visas of the victims, according to Philippine Consulate officials, will expire in the next few weeks.

BALITA MEDIA earlier reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the DHS and the U.S. DOL are all investigating the case of the 11 Filipino victims, who each paid an average of $6,000 to a recruitment agency in the Philippines for what they believed were Aramark hotel job positions.

The promised jobs, however, proved to be nothing more than another case of human slavery as another company, Royal Hospitality Services Inc., came to meet them and offered a wage rate that is probably illegal under DOL laws.

Under the Aramark employment offer as approved by the DOL, they were supposed to be paid $7.25 per hour. The Royal Hospitality Services Inc. contract said they will be paid $4.75 per room with a quota of at least 14 rooms to clean.