New York—Nearly one year after Marichu Baoanan filed a civil case of trafficking, forced labor and modern-day slavery against former UN Ambassador of the Philippines Lauro Baja, Judge Victor Marrero of the New York Southern District Court on Tuesday denied Baja’s motion to dismiss the case on the basis of diplomatic immunity.

The charges against the former Ambassador, his wife Norma Baja, their daughter Elizabeth Facundo and the Baja-owned LaBaire Travel Agency will proceed without the barrier of diplomatic immunity that has protected Baja.

Marichu states, “The fact that I was able to file a case in the legal system was already a victory. What’s an even greater victory is that the judge was not blind to the merits of the case. The truth will always prevail. This is all the more reason why domestic workers need to continue to speak out, not be in hiding and to fight.”

Led by DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association and its ally organizations, the campaign demanding justice for its member Marichu and all victims of trafficking and modern-day slavery mobilized local, regional, national and even international support. A website,, was also created to give campaign updates. According to DAMAYAN, Tuesday’s decision is the result of the media attention, grassroots organizing and community pressure demanding accountability, not diplomatic immunity.

The legal team, led by Attorney Ivy Suriyopas of (AALDEF) and Attorney Aaron Mendelsohn of Troutman Sanders, was also instrumental in the advancement of the case.

"I would like to extend my deep gratitude to fellow domestic workers and organizations for their relentless efforts in helping me legally, emotionally and physically in bringing these violations of my rights to the attention of the courts and to the world," says Marichu.

“This victory is a testament to the organizing work and the unity of Filipino domestic workers, and to the growing movement of domestic workers regionally and nationally,” said Mona Lunot, Chairperson of DAMAYAN.

The campaign work around the case has also helped to bring light to the abuse of domestic workers by diplomats with immunity.

Just weeks after Marichu’s case was filed, the Government Accountability Office published a report about the human rights of domestic workers. The report identified 42 domestic workers who alleged that they were abused by foreign diplomats with immunity, from 2000 through 2008. Recognizing that the total number is likely higher, the GAO cited diplomatic immunity as one of the main reasons why the cases do not come to light.

“The denial of diplomatic immunity in this case sets a precedent,” said Lunot. “The diplomat abusers should be afraid. We are going to continue to fight on behalf of our fellow domestic workers who have been abused and hold the diplomats accountable whether they have immunity or not.”

This development in the Marichu case is integral to the broader struggle of domestic workers for their rights locally. This struggle includes the NY State Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, now waiting to be introduced to a vote in the State Senate before legislative break on June 23. If passed, the Bill of Rights would provide basic labor standards to this vulnerable workforce. For information on the campaign and upcoming actions, contact DAMAYAN at

Human Rights Begin in the Home

Statement of DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association on United Nations Day
October 24, 2008

October 24, 2008 marks the 63rd year since the formal establishment of the United Nations, and the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this day, domestic workers from New York City and nationwide are marching to the UN to tell the world their human rights are under attack in the homes of UN diplomats.

A stark contradiction: diplomatic immunity
Like Marichu Baoanan, a Filipina nursing school graduate and caregiver who filed 15 counts of trafficking, forced labor and racketeering against former Philippine Ambassador Lauro Baja, domestic workers from around the world who are employed by UN representatives have first-hand experience of abuse, dehumanization, trafficking and enslavement.

An international organization that includes diplomats from 192 countries, the UN claims to promote peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and respect for human rights. But as more domestic workers come forward to tell their stories, a vastly different image of the United Nations has emerged.

Many UN diplomats have violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have violated UN General Assembly resolutions on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. They have violated UN resolutions on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. They have violated the UN General Resolution to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

The UN has done nothing to hold its own representatives accountable. Instead, it has given human rights violators protection and security through diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic immunity gives blanket protection to these violators and inhibits domestic workers from obtaining legal rights from the abuses they suffered. It also sends a message to the governments ultimately responsible for these diplomats—such as the US-backed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime in the Philippines—that human rights violations, trafficking and profiting from the people are tolerated.

The Philippines: Marichu Baoanan vs. Lauro Baja
It is time to speak up. Domestic workers are fighting and reclaiming their dignity and human rights, exposing the abuses and modern-day slavery they experienced in the homes of diplomats. Last August 1, Marichu formally submitted a letter to the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations requesting assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs, via the Philippine Mission. In addition, Marichu demanded a meeting with top Philippine officials who were in New York City for the UN 63rd General Assembly to deliver a message to waive Baja's diplomatic immunity so that the legal case can proceed. Baja is attempting to appeal to diplomatic immunity to dismiss the charges against him, his family and his business.

"Pakiramdam ko walang silbi ang Philippine Mission at Philippine Consulate," says Marichu. "Wala silang ginagawa." (I feel that the Philippines Mission and Philippine Consulate are useless. They are not doing anything.)

The case and campaign, led by DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association, has drawn international news and front-page headlines, as well as international outrage. More than 30 organizations from across North America have endorsed the campaign and are supporting the call to waive Baja's diplomatic immunity.

Most recently, over 500 letters, faxes and emails were sent to consular offices, UN Permanent Missions, and the Philippine government demanding a waiver.

"The Bajas' receipt of 250,000 pesos from Marichu and use of the Labaire travel agency to traffic Marichu to the United States clearly lies outside his diplomatic responsibilities," explains DAMAYAN organizer Ana Liza Caballes. "The Philippine government must act to hold Baja accountable for violating the human rights of Marichu."

DAMAYAN stresses that the abuse and violation of human rights of Filipino domestic workers by diplomats is a commonly-known problem among DAMAYAN's 500-plus membership and affirmed by the Government Accountability Office's report on diplomatic abuse.

Marichu concludes, "Pag nabalewala ang kaso ko, mas lalong aabuso sila Baja. Kailangang magkaroon ng hustisya para magkaroon ng pag-asa ang mga ibang inaabuso." (If the case is dismissed, the Bajas will continue to take advantage. There needs to be justice so that there can be hope for others who are also abused.)

Human rights and the global economic crisis
As the United Nations celebrates its 63rd year, the world faces a global economic crisis. Human rights and today's global crisis are closely related. The collapse of the banking sector and the massive job losses announced this week are just a few signs. This crisis may be new to the US, but it has long been a reality for impoverished countries like the Philippines. The working class and immigrant workers from the Third World have always been in crisis. They have constantly received the short end of the capitalist promise of prosperity in education, health, housing, and social welfare.

Undocumented immigrants in particular felt the looming economic crisis well in advance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as the US government desperately tried to find blame and ease the economic bust with deportations, detentions and attacks on the human rights of immigrant communities.

The labor of women im/migrant domestic workers frees bankers and other professionals from the "household" and devalued women's work of raising children, cleaning homes and caring for the elderly. Just as early capitalism in America was built on the backs of Black slaves in the 1600's, so it has advanced on the backs of women migrant workers today.

It is up to the people, especially women workers, to take up the fight against modern-day slavery, trafficking and abuse. It is up to the people to promote human rights and human dignity, fight for just wages and living conditions, and build a more humane society.

Justice for Marichu! Waive diplomatic immunity for human rights violators!
End the human trafficking of Filipino women workers and all women workers!
Pass the NY Domestic Workers Bill of Rights! End Modern-day Slavery!

For campaign updates:

This event is organized by: DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association, Domestic Workers United, Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Unity Housecleaners, CASA de Maryland, Domestic Workers from around the world, and our allies from across the country!

Campaign endorsers: Alliance of Filipino Workers, British Columbia Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Coalition for Defense of Immigrant Rights, Ecumenical Fellowship for Justice and Peace, Filipino Americans for Immigrant Reforms, Filipino Nurses Support Group (Canada), First Quarter Storm Network USA, Gabriela Network USA, International ANSWER Coalition, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jews United for Justice, Kabataan maka-Bayan USA (Pro-People Youth), Philippine Peasants Support Network, Philippine Women Centre of British Columbia, Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan/Linking the Children of the Motherland, Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance in Canada, and the Urban Justice Center's Human Rights Project.

Human Rights Begin in the Home

Human Rights Begin in the Home

Friday, October 24th, 2008
4:30pm Press Conference and Rally
6:00pm March from the Philippine Consulate
7:00pm Rally/Vigil at the United Nations

Philippine Consulate
556 5th Ave, Manhattan, New York
between 45th and 46th Streets

United Nations at Dag Hammarskjold Park
entrance between 46th & 47th Streets at 2nd Avenue

Working women of color have long suffered the brunt of the global economic crisis and human rights violations perpetrated by bad employers, diplomats, and institutions. Join us as we march to demand that domestic workers rights be recognized and respected, and help us put an end to the diplomatic immunity that allows employers to abuse us with impunity! March for justice for Marichu Baoanan, a domestic worker who was trafficked to the United States by her employer, a UN Diplomat – and help us demand rights and respect for all domestic workers!

October 24th is United Nations Day -- On this day, domestic workers from across New York City and across the globe will march on the United Nations to teach diplomats and the world the meaning of Universal Human Rights!

This event is organized by: DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association, Domestic Workers United, Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, CAAAV, Unity Housecleaners, CASA de Maryland, Domestic Workers from around the world, and our allies from across the country!

To participate, volunteer, endorse or get more information, contact:
Ana Liza Caballes at (347) 261—3042
Alexis de Simone at (301) 431—4185 x 252


*91 days after Filipina domestic worker Marichu Baoanan filed a case of trafficking, forced labor and peonage against the former UN Ambassador to the Philippines Lauro Baja and his family.
*79 days of international press and media attention on the Baoanan case and the issue of trafficking and modern-day slavery of Filipina domestic workers.
70 days after Baja filed a motion to dismiss the case based on diplomatic immunity.
57 days after the Government Accountability Office uncovered 42 similar cases of abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats with immunity.



Justice for Marichu! End Trafficking and Modern-day Slavery of all Domestic Workers!

On September 23, Philippine President Gloria Macagapal-Arroyo and Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo will be in New York City to deliver statements at the 63th United Nations General Assembly.

They need to hear the people's call: Waive the Bajas' diplomatic immunity! Accountability, not immunity!

From September 23 to October 1--the duration of the UN General Assembly debates--barrage the Philippine consular offices, the Philippine Mission to the UN, and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs by fax and email with the attached sample letter, demanding a waiver of Baja's diplomatic immunity. Justice must be pursued!

Since filing a civil lawsuit on June 24th, Marichu S. Baoanan has made public her experience of trafficking, forced labor, peonage and slavery in the New York City home of former Philippine Ambassador to the UN Lauro Baja (2003-2006), his wife Norma Baja, and their daughter Maria Elizabeth Facundo Baja, and the Baja-owned Labaire International Travel Inc. Marichu has led the way, along with DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association and allies, in a campaign demanding an End to Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery of Domestic Workers.

Marichu has highlighted the rampant abuse that domestic workers endure as employees of diplomats -- and as supported by a July 29th Government Accountability Office report. Women and workers who are contracted by diplomats around the world are survivors of severe forms of trafficking, abuse, enslavement and dehumanization, and most are afraid to come forward. Marichu's case is not an isolated incident. Marichu courageously speaks out about her case and joins the ranks of women im/migrant workers who are demanding accountability, justice, dignity and liberation.


Write a letter (see sample below)

[Insert date]

To whom it may concern:

I am deeply concerned about the charges of human trafficking, forced labor, peonage, and racketeering of Marichu Suarez Baoanan by former UN Ambassador to the Philippines Lauro Baja, his wife Norma Baja, adult daughter Elizabeth Baja Facundo, and the Baja-owned Labaire Travel Agency.

I support the call to waive the Bajas' diplomatic immunity. I stand with Marichu in demanding that justice be pursued and given its due course. The Bajas should not be allowed to cloak themselves with diplomatic immunity while abusing their power and position as supposed defenders and servants of the people.

This is not a request; it is a mandate. If the Department of Foreign Affairs is to remain true to its stated vision of social justice, human rights and fundamental freedoms, then it must waive the Bajas' immunity. Those ideals cannot be realized without taking a stand on this issue.

Marichu is not alone, and her case is by no means isolated. There are unnumbered voices still unheard in this rampant abuse, human trafficking and slavery of Filipino workers around the globe. Because of Marichu's courage, they are beginning to come forward, and the Philippines more in the spotlight for its export of Filipino women workers, by the recent release of the Government Accountability Office Report on abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats and by other news reports internationally in the wake of Marichu's case.

The Department of Foreign Affairs must act.

I echo the demand for accountability NOT immunity! Waive the Bajas' diplomatic immunity!


[city, state, country]

Email, fax and/or send by mail between September 23-October 1 to the following (For a list of Philippine consulates:
For a list of Philippine missions to the United Nations:

President, Republic of the Philippines
Office of the Executive Secretary
MalacaƱang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel, Manila NCR 1005
(632) 735-5334
Fax No. (632) 736-1076
Email Address:

Department of Foreign Affairs
2330 Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City
(632) 834-4000 / 834-3000
Fax No. (632) 832-0683
Email Address:

In New York:
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
Philippine Center Building
556 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10036

Cecilia B. Rebong
Philippine Consulate General in New York
556 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10036 US
Tel: (212) 764-1330
Fax: (212) 382-1146

Send a copy of your letter to DAMAYAN ( or email us to let us know you have taken action. You can also send hard copies of your letter to our office mailing address: Justice for Marichu Campaign, DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association, 410 West 40th, New York City, NY, USA, 10018.

STEP 4. Get more involved in the campaign and forward this action alert, all around the world, to your family, friends, classmates, co-workers and everyone you know who stand with Marichu and oppressed im/migrant domestic workers all around the world. Please visit our Justice for Marichu! End Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery of all Domestic Workers website (

ABS-CBN Global Coverage of August 1 Speak-out at the Philippine Consulate


Baoanan and Damayan Generate Media Hype!

Marichu Baoanan, the abused Filipina nurse of ex ambassador Baja, has caused media hype these past few weeks. And of course Damayan was also responsible to answer all the questions and promote the bomb that Marichu had dropped that made the Philippine government shudder.

Lately, the Bajas have been working so hard to defend themselves by trying to get certification from the Phil. mission and Phil. embassy that Baja was actually an ambassador. This certification would effect the immunity that would exonerate the Bajas from the crime they committed. They are busy covering up all their stinky mess in the Philippines and now here in the US.
As the US and its Phil. puppet pretend that they are against human trafficking, their laws have contradictions: diplomatic immunity paralyzes these governments from carrying out their own laws. Diplomats are not afraid to commit any atrocities, for they all know they can get away with it. This is ridiculous and unacceptable. The people should do something about this hole in this half-baked justice system.

How on earth does the Phil. mission in New York have the guts to say repeatedly in the media that Marichu Baoanan's case is an isolated one? This is absolutely a big tarradiddle! I know a lot of abused workers by diplomats here in NYC. If I would write their stories, one book is not enough to write down all the miserable experiences at the hands of their diplomat employers. Hello Elmer Cato of Phil. mission, are you ok?

Have you heard about an ambassador to Korea who stole some stuff in a department store in Korea? This sucker was also protected by immunity as an ambassador to the Phil. mission, and was also covered up by the Philippine government for the sake of their credibility and ignominies. And one more thing, this kleptomaniac also abused a house helper who is his distant relative. Working 24/7 for a bedridden elder, this domestic worker did all the house work, and took care of 2 children and received nothing but denigration from their family members. For more than 6 years she was a "slave". Abused domestic workers should learn their rights and gain the determination to escape or file an abuse case. And now Damayan is promoting the rights of Filipino migrant workers to raise their awareness to avoid such incidences.

Marichu's case now is a partial victory. For if not for her heroic revelation this will happen ceaselessly. Damayan demands revoke immunity, we insist accountability!

Justice for Marichu Baoanan!!

Monsi Ledesma
Damayan member
August 18, 2008


For immediate release
August 6, 2008

New York—Hundreds of people passing by the Philippine consulate during last Friday’s rush-hour heard the voice of Marichu Baoanan projected up and down Fifth Avenue, as she recounted her story of being deceived into modern-slavery in the household of former UN Ambassador Lauro Baja.

“What I want to say to people like me who were oppressed or will be oppressed: don’t be afraid to speak out or to come out in the open,” said Marichu. “Let us fight for our rights. We are not alone. We need to face people who abuse us and our weaknesses because if we do not speak up, they will continue to abuse us.”

Last July 15, Baja filed a motion to dismiss all 15 civil charges, including trafficking, forced labor and racketeering, brought against him, his wife Norma Baja, their adult daughter Maria “Beth” Facundo and the Baja-owned Labaire Travel Agency. Baja has invoked the Vienna Convention and is seeking the shelter of diplomatic immunity.

In front of the consulate, over sixty community members and allies held hand-painted banners and placards demanding accountability not immunity, and an end to modern-day slavery. They also distributed flyers and newsletters, and gathered signatures for a petition demanding that Baja be held accountable by RP’s Department of Foreign Affairs, the body ultimately responsible for Baja.

Though public cries have been made to waive Baja’s diplomatic immunity from within Philippine Congress, by Congresswoman Liza Maza, neither the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippine Consulate Mission in New York, nor the Philippine Mission to the UN in New York—Baja’s former post—has taken action on Marichu’s case, though they have publicly claimed that they do not tolerate trafficking and abuse.

Before the action last Friday, Marichu and DAMAYAN met with officials of the Philippine consulate and submitted a letter to the DFA, the Philippine Mission to the UN, and the Philippine Consulate General to formally request for assistance as a Filipina overseas national.

“I am appealing to all of you to waive the diplomatic immunity that is being sought…” Marichu states in her letter. “I am an ordinary Filipino citizen, a struggling mother with three children but I had to file the civil suit against former Ambassador Baja to get justice for the abuses and sufferings that I endured… If Ambassador Baja believes that he did nothing wrong, he should have the opportunity to present his case in a court of law.”

DAMAYAN has stated that a lack of action by agencies responsible for the welfare of overseas Filipinos signals approval and complicity.

“The shelter of diplomatic immunity in this case must be waived in order to allow the pursuit of justice to continue,” said one worker who delivered a statement at the speak-out on behalf of DAMAYAN. “Many predatory employers, especially diplomats who are supposed to protect overseas compatriots, are allowed to exploit their vulnerabilities and walk away without facing consequences.”

“This happened here, in the US?” asked one passerby in disbelief. Two other tourists remarked that they had heard the story in Spain. Seven weeks after the civil case was filed by Marichu and her lawyers, Ivy Suriyopas of Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and Aaron Mendolsohn of Troutman Sanders, the campaign has made international news and gained international support.

The speak-out came on the heels of a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last July 29, 2008, which revealed a larger pattern of the abuse of domestic workers by diplomats with immunity.

One domestic worker, of Andolan Organizing South Asian Workers, testified at the speak-out about her two years of work for a former diplomat, who paid her $40 per month. According to the worker, that entire amount was sent directly to her family abroad, and she never laid eyes on American money for two years.

According to the DAMAYAN statement at the speak-out, the Arroyo regime in the Philippines remains silent on reports of abuses of Filipino women migrant workers from all over the world. A corrupt government bureaucracy with no accountability—of which Baja is part—remains a legacy of the Philippines that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo preserves.

Vowing to support the Justice for Marichu campaign, the following organizations attended and/or gave statements of solidarity: Ugnayan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Linking the Children of the Motherland), Gabriela Network, the Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines, the ANSWER Coalition, CAAAV's Women Workers Project, Domestic Workers United, Andolan Organizing South Asian Communities, Adhikaar for Human Rights, and the Socialist Part of USA-NY.

DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association will continue the campaign to demand justice for Marichu and all domestic workers in the fight against trafficking, forced labor and exploitation. DAMAYAN has released a campaign video, which is available for viewing at: For campaign updates, please visit: To sign the petition demanding that Baja be held accountable by the Philippine government, please visit:

Stand with Marichu Baoanan and DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association to demand justice and an end to trafficking and modern-day slavery!

What: Justice for Marichu Community Speak-out
When: Friday, August 1, 2008
Time: 5:00 – 8:00 pm
Where: In front of the Philippine Consulate, 556 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
Directions: 7 train to 5th Avenue-Bryant Park, F/V/D/B to 47-50 Rockefeller Center. Walk to 5th Avenue between 45th & 46th Street

Last June 24, Marichu Baoanan filed a civil lawsuit of 15 counts (including trafficking, forced labor, peonage and slavery) against her former employers, UN Ambassador to the Philippines Lauro Baja, his wife Norma Baja, and their daughter Maria "Beth" Facundo.

According to the lawsuit, Marichu was trafficked to the US by the Bajas and worked as a domestic worker in the Baja household for approximately three months, where she was forced to work at least 18 hours a day, seven days a week, with no days off, for merely $100—approximately 6 cents per hour. Labaire International Travel, Inc, owned by the Bajas, is also a defendant in the case for allegedly facilitating Marichu's travel from Manila to New York.

Invoking diplomatic immunity, the Bajas have asked the court to dismiss the charges.

Filipina domestic workers, allies and supporters will speak out on Friday, August 1 against the Bajas' use of diplomatic immunity and to demand that they be held accountable for their actions. The speak-out will also call for Phil. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to conduct a full investigation of the Bajas, and will support the demand of Marichu for her unpaid wages and a public apology from the Bajas for violating her human dignity and subjecting her to involuntary servitude.

Sign the online petition to support Marichu and help end human trafficking and modern-day slavery:
For campaign updates:

Justice for Marichu!
End trafficking of Filipino women workers!
End modern-day slavery!
Down with graft and corruption!

Study Reveals UN Diplomats Who Abuse Their Power

Watch Marichu and DAMAYAN on Eyewitness News: