RP mission in Malaysia gives pat on back for ending Sabah labor row
MANILA, Philippines — Thirteen of 50 Filipino workers seeking repatriation from a plantation in Lahad Datu, Sabah had been released upon the representation of Philippine officials, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.
An article on the DFA website cited a report of the Philippine Embassy to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo saying Labor Attaché Hassan Jumdain negotiated for the early release of the 13.
Some of the 50 Filipinos had been working at the plantation for nearly 20 years, it said.
Ambassador Victoriano Lecaros, the Philippine envoy to Malaysia, said the management of See Hoy Chan had "stopped talking with other parties" but Philippine government representatives got it to settle the dispute with its Filipino workers.
Lecaros said the 13 Filipinos, who decided not to proceed with their work, sought the Embassy’s help for their release and repatriation. “All 13 Filipino workers left Sabah for Iloilo last June 26," the DFA said.
A Hong Kong-based migrants rights advocacy group, however, was unimpressed by the DFA’s announcement and urged the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia to make a full disclosure of the results of the negotiation.
"What other benefits did the workers get from the embassy in addition to being repatriated?" asked APPM coordinator Gil Estrada.
He also wanted the embassy do disclose whether Labor Attaché Jumdain had filed a labor case on behalf of the workers for their wage arrears since their employment contract stipulated that they be paid RM800 – 1000 (P10,989 to P13,736) a month?
APPM quoted the workers saying the highest that they were paid in a month was only RM500 (P6,868) but there were more times that they were paid only RM100 – 300 (4,120).
"Did Jumdain also file a case against the employer for illegal deductions of their wages?" APPM asked, noting that the amount of RM125 (P1,300) had been deducted from the salary of each worker a month for a levy and their working permit and an additional RM200+ for their food and other supplies.
APPM further wants to the embassy to disclose whether the labor attaché has filed a criminal case against the employer for debt bondage, which is illegal under international laws, and against the recruiter for illegal recruitment?
APPM further bristled over the embassy’s claim that the management of See Hoy Chan Plantation stopped talking with other parties other than the Philippine government representatives to settle the labor dispute.
"There were no such talks in the first place," said the group, noting that it was only after migrant serving advocates including Gabriela Women’s Party made a lot of noise that the embassy looked into the workers’ complaint. - GMANews.TV