The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice presented to media on Monday night the case of a Filipina worker who fell prey to human trafficking in Hong Kong, where she was forced to work without pay.
DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima said Joana (not her real name), a native of Agusan province, was rescued by the DOJ in coordination with the Bureau of Immigration and repatriated on board Philippine Airlines flight PR 307 from Hong Kong.
The DOJ will provide legal assistance and support to Joana, saying she wants this case “to highlight once more the resolve of the government to punish and eradicate elements engaged in human trafficking in the country”.
“We are mobilizing the resources of government and private sector partners to make sure there will be no repeat cases similar to this,” De Lima told newsman at the Terminal 2 Presidential Lounge of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
De Lima said the DOJ initially pursued the case of Joana before the Shatin Court in Hong Kong where she faced charges of overstaying and working without necessary permits. She quoted Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, head of the Inter-agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), as saying that Joana faced the charges after her voluntary surrender to Hong Kong immigration.
According to Salazar’s report, Joana entered Hong Kong as a tourist in 2008 after she was made to believe she was to work as a care-giver for the aging mother of her recruiter’s sister in law.
Salazar said Joana was made to work for a Chinese couple, who engaged her services for more than two years while keeping her passport from her. Joana fell ill and was not allowed to return to the Philippines despite repeated pleas, Salazar added.
She was allowed to leave only after her father died. Her employer warned her not to disclose the illegal status of her employment with them and the treatment she received, and gave her HK $5,000 to pay for her ticket and other travel expenses.
Upon learning of the case, De Lima assigned Salazar and other ICAT officials to assist Joana for her return trip to Manila. The NBI recommended the filing of a case against the local recruiter and is now with the DOJ.
De Lima was asked about the proposed amendments to Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, to remove a provision penalizing with jail terms (up to six years) and fines (P500,000 to P1 million) those mediamen who identify both victim and suspect in their story.
The Secretary said that an expanded bill sponsored by Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Pia Cayetano is expected to be approved within the year.