Stand with Marichu Baoanan and DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association to demand justice and an end to trafficking and modern-day slavery!
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: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/justice-for-marichu-end-trafficking.html
For campaign updates: http://endtrafficking.blogspot.com
Justice for Marichu!
End trafficking of Filipino women workers!
End modern-day slavery!
Down with graft and corruption!
As a staff member of Damayan Migrant Workers Association, I wish to respond to the editorial entitled "The Motive" about the case of Marichu Suarez Baoanan and charges of human trafficking and forced labor against former UN Ambassador Lauro Baja, Jr and his family. The editorial appeared in the July 7 - July 13, 2008 issue.
The editorial asks, what was Marichu's motive? The answer is simple: justice. It is also Damayan's motive in supporting Marichu in this case.
I believe it's important for the readers to know Marichu's motives, but the Bajas's motives should also be scrutinized. According to the legal case, Baja and his family were paid P250,000 by Marichu in exchange for the so-called "package deal" that ultimately led to her trafficking and 3-month enslavement in the Baja household. This means that the Bajas profited from Marichu not just from her money, but also from her labor.
Is it so unbelievable that a Philippine government official is capable of greed, corruption and abuse? Or is so unbelievable that a women migrant worker would have the courage to stand up for her rights?
At the press conference organized by Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) on July 9, a reporter asked the same question about Marichu's motives and whether they were connected to her trafficking visa. Marichu answered very clearly. When she courageously escaped the Baja household, she knew she was out of status. She had been in the country just three months. She knew nothing of legal recourse or trafficking visas. Marichu's immediate concern, and the concern of any out-of-status immigrant mother, was for her family. This is her primary concern over and above her status, revenge or any other motive of which she is covertly accused by a few local media.
At the press conference, Attorney Ivy Suriyopas followed up with a logical and obvious, and yet completely neglected point. Marichu and her family already have the trafficking visa and visa derivatives. She does not need to pursue a legal case, except to win justice and affirm her human dignity.
The editorial's point about receiving a lead about this case many months ago was also addressed at the same July 9 press conference. Marichu could not go public until the case had been filed. Her concern was also for her family. Knowing that the Bajas are powerful people in the Philippines, she needed to ensure that her children were in the US safely before pursuing the case.
Damayan’s primary interest is to support Marichu and her family, and to empower other Filipina domestic workers to gain courage to confront abusive employers, including those who wield their power and position to abuse and profit from the vulnerability of women workers. With that said, Damayan could not go public with this case before Marichu and her family were ready. This would be a violation of the organization's principles of building the leadership of its members.
As sensational as this case has become, it is not only about Marichu and the Bajas but, more so, about the rampant graft and corruption in the Philippines. The inutile Philippine government is responsible for the widespread poverty that drives 1.24 million Filipinos like Marichu to go abroad yearly. Filipinos pay an estimated 13 billion in Philippine pesos to various government fees in order to go abroad. This year alone, Filipino im/migrant workers will send more than $16 billion in remittances to the Philippines through formal channels, and more than $20 billion including informal channels. Migrant workers support the Philippine economy and should demand their rights and protection from the Philippine government.
Once abroad, im/migrant workers are susceptible to abuses and violations of their human rights. According to the preliminary results of the Damayan survey of 210 Filipino domestic workers in New York City, 63 percent reported wage and hour violations, and 34 percent of survey respondents reported being abused.
For too long, our community has been silenced by the overwhelming odds against them. Marichu, along with the voices of other Filipina domestic workers, is now seeking justice, and her struggle is the same as millions of Filipina domestic workers in the US and around the world. Damayan stands with Marichu and all domestic workers fighting for justice, dignity and liberation from modern-day slavery.
DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association
The case filed last June 24 exposes the hypocrisy of the US-Arroyo regime and its policies and its bureaucracy in its failure to protect Filipino workers abroad and the sad fact that its instrumentalities who are supposed to safeguard their rights are the ones who oppresses them and take advantage of them like in the case of Marichu Baoanan from New York..
It is also a hard fact to note that Baja Jr, a holdover from the US-Marcos regime owned the travel agency and like other DFA and Philippine government officials and oppresses and exploit their country mates with impunity.
The AJLPP expresses contempt over the highhandedness of Baja who said that “in this case, he is the victim, not Marichu Baoanan”
How can Baja say that he is the victim when Baoanan who was recruited as a nurse was made to work as a maid. Baonan also said she was made to work 18 hours daily, seven days a week, in the Baja household and was paid only a total of $100 for three months of work and suffered abuse from the Baja family.
The AJLPP is aware that the Baonan case is not isolated like what Baja or the US –Arroyo regime potrays. There are still many cases out there here in the United States and all over the world.
As the US-based Mariposa Alliance and GABRIELA Network USA, pointed out :"There have been innumerable stories of Filipinas seeking sanctuary from their brutal employers at consulates and embassies only to be returned to the same employers; of Filipinas funneled into the sex trade by embassy and consular personnel; of Filipinas traded as domestic workers by embassy and consular personnel to their relatives and friends as favors; of Filipinas coerced into paid-for marriages and sex work to enable embassy and consular personnel to make enormous profits".
The AJLPP and all its organizations expresses wholehearted support and will extend all necessary means and resources to help Marichu Baoanan and all compatriots to seek justice and equality in the United Sates and will fight systemic racism everywhere it rears its ugly head.
July 10, 2008
DFA of Philippines is a Haven for Traffickers
Had Marichu Baoanan not filed a civil complaint against former Philippine ambassador to the UN Lauro Baja, his wife, his daughter and their travel agency, people of Philippine ancestry would have shrugged off her story for its ordinariness.
In the more than ten years that GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance has worked on the issue of trafficking, countless such stories have come our way: of embassy and consulate personnel and their relatives lugging, like so many suitcases, women from the Philippines, extracting enormous amounts for a US visa, or a Saudi visa, or a British visa or French or Italian – in other words, wherever the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has diplomatic representation.
There have been innumerable stories of Filipinas seeking sanctuary from their brutal employers at consulates and embassies only to be returned to the same employers; of Filipinas funneled into the sex trade by embassy and consular personnel; of Filipinas traded as domestic workers by embassy and consular personnel to their relatives and friends as favors; of Filipinas coerced into paid-for marriages and sex work to enable embassy and consular personnel to make enormous profits.
It is a vast narrative of corruption and greed – the hallmarks of bureaucrat capitalism – and of feudal/patriarchal anti-woman values which underlie the sustained violence against women that is the hallmark of the Philippines' Labor Export Policy.
Every Filipino is familiar with this narrative. Every Filipino has at least one tale of this miserable narrative, whether directly experienced or indirectly experienced through family and/or friends.
When the first DFA personnel and/or the relative(s) thereof was convicted of forced labor, peonage and/or trafficking, the Department of Foreign Affairs should have immediately launched an investigation to weed out the traffickers in its midst.
When the first diplomatic corps staff was shown to have been connected, even remotely, to even one incident of trafficking and coerced labor, the proper thing for the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to have done was launch an immediate crack-down on the traffickers in its midst.
Instead both Macapagal-Arroyo and the DFA bosses chose to ignore such incidents.
Now we know why; the DFA has been transformed into a sanctuary, not for overseas Filipinos, but for traffickers. Trafficking profits fulfill the lust for wealth of the bosses of bosses.
The overseas face of Macapagal-Arroyo's government accurately reflects its character at home: corrupt, greedy, exploitative, a parasite living off the wounds of the Filipino people, exacerbating injuries to the body politic by blaming its victim. Marichu is poor and just "a maid" and therefore should not speak truth to power.
One very simple question -- how many diplomatic "red" passports for alleged "domestic employees" does the DFA issue per year? – would have immediately given anyone an understanding of the extent of this corruption.
As for those who decry what they perceive to be attempts to sully the reputation of "a citizen above suspicion" by a simple "maid," bear in mind that whitewashed tombs are beautiful outward but full of corruption and "uncleanliness within."
Marichu Baoanon's story is common. GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance has heard it over and over and over again. To fence-sit and do nothing about it now is to be an accomplice in the exploitation, commoditization and disempowerment of the Filipina. Do nothing, say nothing and you conspire with the Macapagal-Arroyo government's policy of implementing globalization through sustained violence against women.
Therefore, GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance calls for a thorough investigation, not only of the defendants in the civil complaint filed by Marichu Baoanon but of the entire Department of Foreign Affairs and of its embassies and consulates.
We demand that the DFA issue and implement a policy of zero tolerance towards trafficking, forced and exploitative labor among its ranks.
Zero tolerance toward trafficking and peonage should be the minimum policy of a government that survives on remittances from overseas Filipino workers.
We demand of the United Nations as well a policy of zero tolerance toward trafficking, slavery and peonage among its ranks. Nations cannot be united if trafficking, slavery and peonage are allowed to be visited upon more than half of the world's population.
We demand that these "whitened sepulchers" stop vilifying Marichu Baoanon for being just "a maid" and for speaking out. This is public verbal abuse and extremely disrespectful of the Filipina domestic worker.
We call for the affirmation and assertion of labor rights and women's rights for Filipinos at home and overseas.
We call for JUSTICE FOR MARICHU and all "maids" like her victimized by the sustained violence of the Labor Export Policy.
We ask all friends of the Filipino people to stand with Marichu, to stand with GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance, in opposition to the continuing violence against women embedded in the Labor Export component of imperialist globalization.
JUSTICE FOR MARICHU! JUSTICE FOR OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS! JUSTICE FOR THE FILIPINA! JUSTICE FOR THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!
END TRAFFICKING AND PEONAGE NOW! ONWARD TO WOMEN'S LIBERATION AND THE LIBERATION OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!
Republic of the Philippines
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Second Regular Session
House Resolution 649
Gabriela Women's Party Representatives LIZA LARGOZA-MAZA and LUZVIMINDA ILAGAN
RESOLUTION DIRECTING THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES THROUGH THE
COMMITTEES ON WOMEN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND OVERSEAS FILIPINOS TO LOOK
INTO THE ALLEGATIONS OF TRAFFICKING USING CONSULAR PRIVILEGES AS SHOWN
IN THE CASES OF MARICHU BAOANAN AND ARLENE GADO AND RECOMMEND MEASURES
WHEREAS, the recognition of human rights is a valuable tenet in the
1987 Philippine Constitution which states: "the State values the
dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human
rights" (Article II, Section II);
WHEREAS, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 penalizes
trafficking of persons especially women and minors for forced labor,
sex and prostitution, institutes policies and establishes mechanisms
to prevent the proliferation of trafficking;
WHEREAS, the Philippine government is a signatory to the Convention on
the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women which guarantees the
rights and welfare of women;
WHEREAS, On June 24, 2008, Marichu Suarez Baoanan filed charges of
trafficking, forced labor, peonage and racketeering against former
United Nations Ambassador Lauro Baja, Jr., Norma Castro Baja, his
daughter Maria Elizabeth Baja Facundo and the Baja-owned Labaire
International Travel Inc;
WHEREAS, in her complaint Baoanan claims she was told by Norma Baja
that she would arrange for Baoanan to come to the US and work as a
nurse and that for Php 500,000.00 she would get a plane tickets, a US
visa, work authorization and assistance in getting employment in the
WHEREAS, on December 2005, Norma Baja took her regular passport and
accompanied her and a certain "Dorie" to the Department of Foreign
Affairs to apply for a new diplomatic passport as Ambassador Baja's
WHEREAS, Baoanan was able to produce Php 250,000.00, issued a
diplomatic passport and upon arrival in the US on January 2006 was
told that she had to work for the Bajas as domestic helper for six
months to pay off the remaining Php 250,000.00;
WHEREAS, from January to April 2006, Baoanan claims she was made to
work 16 hours daily, seven days a week, in the Baja household and was
paid only a total of $100 for three months of work, and another $100
for taking care of Facundo's son who, she said, was allowed to hit
WHEREAS, in a similar case, Arlene Gado, a Filipina domestic helper
arrived in the US in 2005 after signing a contract in the Philippines
to work for Anthony Mandap, then vice consul in the Consulate General
of the Philippines in San Francisco;
WHEREAS, shortly after arriving in the US she was transferred to the
household of Angelita Reyes, Mandap's mother in law where she served
as the Reyes' domestic helper and caretaker for two years, getting a
meager $250 to $325 a month for her services;
WHEREAS, in May 2007, Angelita Reyes, pleaded guilty to charges of
third degree criminal restraint and was ordered by the courts to pay
$78,000 in back wages to Arlene Gado;
WHEREAS, the Mariposa Alliance and GABRIELA Network USA in their
statement allege the Department of Foreign Affairs is a haven for
WHEREAS, according to the Mariposa Alliance and GABRIELA Network USA,
"There have been innumerable stories of Filipinas seeking sanctuary
from their brutal employers at consulates and embassies only to be
returned to the same employers; of Filipinas funneled into the sex
trade by embassy and consular personnel; of Filipinas traded as
domestic workers by embassy and consular personnel to their relatives
and friends as favors; of Filipinas coerced into paid-for marriages
and sex work to enable embassy and consular personnel to make enormous
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Representatives through the
Committees on Women, Foreign Affairs and Overseas Filipinos to look
into the allegations of trafficking using consular privileges as shown
in the cases of Marichu Baoanan and Arlene Gado and recommend measures
HON. LIZA LARGOZA-MAZA HON. LUZVIMINDA ILAGAN
As progressive Filipinos in
According to reports, Baoanan, a 39-year old nursing graduate from the
It enrages us that many Philippine government officials continue to live in over-indulgence and splendor, exploiting and oppressing women workers who are forced to leave the
The chronic economic crisis under the government of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo continues to force over 3,000 Filipino workers abroad every day. Her anti-people policies and the continuing plunder of the country’s wealth and resources by the elite few and foreigners push us abroad in droves.
The case of Baoanan is similar to countless other cases of Filipina live-in caregivers in
Since the early 1908’s, nearly 100,000 Filipino women have come to
Organizations across Canada, namely under the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada, SIKLAB (Advance and Uphold the Rights of Overseas Filipino Workers) and Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance have been calling for the scrapping of the racist and anti-woman LCP because of the negative short and long-term impacts we have seen on our women and community over the last three decades.
The recent deaths of live-in caregivers like Editha Mangaoang, Jocelyn Dulnuan and Arcelie Laoagan, and the children of former live-in caregivers: Jomar Lanot, Deeward Ponte, and Charle Dalde point to the harshest impacts of the LCP.
It is only from the collective empowerment of the women themselves that they are able to learn and assert their rights against abusive employers. Over the past few years, several SIKLAB members in BC including “Precious” have been able to win back pay and compensation from their former employees by filing complaints with the labour board.
We salute the bravery of Marichu Baoanan to stand up against the abuse and exploitation she faced from the Baja family! We support her demands for unpaid wages and other compensations, a public apology from the Baja family and that the DFA conduct a full investigation of Baja and other diplomats with domestic workers and hold them accountable for any abuse.
Makibaka! Huwag matakot!
Scrap the racist and anti-woman Live-in Caregiver Progam!
End forced migration from the
Justice for Marichu Baoanan and all Overseas Filipino Workers!
Statement issued: July 8, 2008 by the following organizations:
Philippine Women Centre of BC
Filipino Nurses Support Group - BC
BC Committee for Human Rights in the
Philippine Women Centre of
Filipino Nurses Support Group –
Philippine Women Centre of
Philippine Women Centre of
Date: July 9, 2008
To: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo
Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo
United Nations Human Rights Council Vice President Erlinda Basilio
Care of: Consul General Cecilia Rebong
Filipino domestic workers in New York and New Jersey, and our families, allies and supporters are demanding the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to conduct a full investigation of former United Nations Ambassador Lauro Baja, wife Norma Baja, daughter Elizabeth Baja Facundo and their travel agency, the Labaire International Travel Inc. on charges of human trafficking, involuntary servitude, racketeering and US wage and hours violations filed by our fellow domestic worker Marichu Baoanan on June 24, 2008 at the US District Court Southern District of New York.
We call on the United Nations Human Rights Council Vice President Erlinda Basilio to head the DFA investigation on the charges against the former Ambassador who was also the former UN Security Council President.
We also support the demand of Marichu Baoanan for a public apology from the Bajas for violating her human dignity and subjecting her to involuntary servitude.Like Marichu, about 30,000 Filipino domestic workers in New York work for very long hours and low wages, for less than the US minimum wage, and no overtime pay. In the private homes of our employers, we have no protection against abuse, maltreatment and slavery. We suffer from exclusion from major federal and state labor laws. We are also subjected to discrimination and harassment due to immigration status.
According to the preliminary results of a DAMAYAN survey of 210 Filipino domestic workers in the New York metropolitan area, 63 percent reported experiencing one or more wage and hour violations, and 34 percent of survey respondents reported being abused.We are outraged by the thought that the Department of Foreign Affairs is not our haven, and that even top ranking Philippine officials could be traffickers instead of our protectors.
We are the lifeline of the Philippine economy. We will remit about $16 billion dollars, and more than $20 billion including informal channels to the Philippines this year. We were forced to leave our homeland due to the poverty and lack of opportunities in the Philippines. For these reasons, we demand respect and dignity.
Together with all the low wage Filipino workers and professionals, we are appalled at the abuse, exploitation, inhumane treatment and suffering that Marichu and her family have undergone. We call on all Filipino and non-Filipino domestic and low-wageworkers, women, immigrants, racial and social justice advocates, allies and supporters in New York, the US and internationally to show and build solidarity and power for Marichu and all Filipino domestic workers. Justice for Marichu! Justice for all Filipino domestic workers!
Posted by DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association at 10:00 PM 0 comments
- The Bajas should pay for her unpaid wages and other compensation;
- The Bajas should issue a public apology;
- The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should conduct a full investigation and hold accountable the former UN Ambassador.
The civil case filed by Marichu further exposes the greed and corruption in Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government. The Philippine President herself and her family have been at the centers of huge corruption exposés in the Philippines. Indeed, graft and corruption in Gloria’s administration is not new in the United States, nor unique to New York. Last year, the mother of a consul in the San Francisco Philippine Consulate was made to pay $78,000 for exploiting the Filipina domestic worker who worked for her.
As bad as it is, graft and corruption in the Philippine government is not the primary reason why ten percent of the 86 million Filipinos are forced to leave the country. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo not only is running a corrupt bureaucracy—she also maintains and worsens the plaguing poverty and unemployment in the country by not developing basic industrialization and not implementing genuine land reform. She maintains the role of the Philippines in the global economy as a market for surplus goods and surplus capital and a source of cheap skilled labor and raw materials for imperialist countries like the US.
As a result of the chronic economic problems, even educated middle class Filipinos, mostly women like Marichu, are forced to leave the country to work abroad. They do whatever they can to work overseas— borrowing money, even mortgaging their homes like Marichu did. Filipino workers pay an estimated P13 billion in Philippine pesos in various government fees in order to go abroad.
This year alone, migrant Filipino workers will send an estimated US$16 billion in remittances to the Philippines through formal channels, and more than $20 billion including informal channels. Their yearly contribution easily surpasses the loans and direct investments that Gloria begs from the US government and investors. But despite their huge contribution, this workforce remains unprotected and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation not only by white employers but also by wealthy and Filipino employers—including the very people from their own government who should set standards and protect the overseas Filipino workers.
Upon coming to the US, Marichu found herself in work conditions that she never imagined—18 hours a day, 7 times a week of forced labor for the inhumane low wages of six cents per hour. This is neglect and abuse, and an atrocious violation of her human dignity. And yet her story is not isolated—it reflects the experiences of a significant portion of the Filipino domestic workers.
According to the preliminary results of the DAMAYAN survey of 210 Filipino domestic workers in the New York metropolitan area, 63 percent reported wage and hour violations, and 34 percent of survey respondents reported being abused.
In New York, abuse and exploitation is not unique to Filipino domestic workers. The majority of women domestic workers from poor third world countries have suffered the same work experience as Marichu’s. Despite the importance and significant contribution of domestic workers to New York’s economy and to the personal wealth and leisure of the rich and famous, their labor is seen as inferior women’s work—devalued and unprotected, even excluded from US federal and state labor laws.
To this day, Marichu’s abuse by the Bajas continues as the former UN Ambassador, in retaliation for Marichu’s complaint, has gone public with veiled threats about her immigration status, claiming that she is an “illegal immigrant” and “could get deported”. Though she is no longer enslaved in their household, they continue to abuse their positions of power to threaten her.
But Marichu has moved on. After gaining the courage to free herself from the Bajas, she joined DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association and together with fellow Filipino domestic workers, has been active in fighting for rights, respect, dignity and fair labor standards. Filipino domestic workers are part of a statewide coalition fighting for a New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Last year in Atlanta, Filipinos joined their fellow workers from across the US in organizing the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The alliance held its first national congress in New York last June and elected a five-member national lead body that includes DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association.
Marichu’s story will not just be another sad and hopeless story of an abused Filipino domestic worker in the US. It will be a turning point because today, we have the support not only of the Filipino and non- Filipino domestic workers in the state of New York and all across the ten key cities of the US. DAMAYAN is calling for all Filipinos across the globe, who still believe that we can have an honest and efficient Philippine government that will have the political will and determination to help its people back home and overseas, to support Marichu’s campaign for justice! We acknowledge Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and Troutman Sanders in standing for justice with Marichu. We are also calling on our allies from the domestic workers national alliance, the immigrant workers organizations and all the human rights and social justice organizations locally, nationally and internationally to join Marichu’s campaign for justice.
Justice for Marichu!
End the trafficking of Filipino women workers!
End the Modern day Slavery!
Down with bureaucrat capitalism in the Philippines!
Marichu, a graduate nurse and a small business owner in the Philippines, decided to migrate to the United States when business became slow in 2005. In fall 2005, Marichu met Norma Baja through an acquaintance. Allegedly, Norma Baja offered Marichu a “package deal” – in exchange for Php500,000 pesos (about $10,000), Norma would provide Marichu with transportation to the U.S., visa, work authorization, and assurance with finding employment as a nurse.
When Marichu was only able to come up with Php250,000 pesos after mortgaging her house, Norma purportedly told her the amount was already sufficient. Marichu paid the amount in three installments. Labaire, in turn, assisted with the processing of her paperwork and housed her in an apartel for several days before her flight to the U.S.
According to Marichu, Norma had her sign a document that she was not allowed to read. To Marichu’s surprise, the document was an employment contract which made it appear that Marichu would work as a domestic worker for the Bajas.
Marichu arrived in New York on January 12, 2006 and went directly to the Baja house on East 66th Street in Manhattan. Allegedly, Norma told Marichu that she still owed Php250,000 pesos and demanded that Marichu work in the Baja house until that alleged debt was paid.
As per the lawsuit, During Marichu’s approximately three-month stay in the Baja household, the Bajas made Marichu work at least 18 hours a day, seven days a week, with no days off for three months for merely $100. In the Bajas’ five-story, eight-bedroom townhouse, Marichu’s duties included cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, ironing the clothes, monitoring the diabetes and blood pressure of Norma Baja, providing child care for Beth Facundo’s then-five-year-old son, Miguel, and other household duties. Marichu also had to prepare and clean up for the Bajas’ weekly parties, which consisted of at least 30 guests.
According to Marichu, these conditions of forced labor, abuse and isolation were extreme, and her basic human rights atrociously violated; that she was limited to eating only the Baja’s leftovers; and that sometimes Beth Facundo watched Marichu as she ate, humiliating Marichu and preventing her from eating further.
Purportedly, the Bajas restricted Marichu’s movement and kept her isolated by preventing her from leaving the Baja household unaccompanied, forbidding her from using the house telephone, and monitoring her movements and how he was taking of Miguel. She also said that the Bajas did not provide her with clothing suitable for the winter months; that when Norma Baja brought Marichu to go grocery shopping with her, Marichu wore only summer clothes, sandals, and no jacket during the winter months. Marichu declared that upon arrival to the baja home, Norma Baja immediately took her passport which she later found.
Marichu related that Ambassador Baja did not even stop and discipline his grandson Miguel when he witnessed the child hit Marichu with a broom, spit on her face, and kick her on the face. Purportedly, the Bajas verbally abused Marichu, calling her “stupid” and “slow”; yelled, denigrated, and cursed at Marichu on a daily basis. Allegedly, they verbally assaulted her further each time she asked why she was doing housework instead of being employed as a nurse, and when Marichu complained about her alleged debt to the Bajas.
In April 2006, after a good samaritan connected her to DAMAYAN and after being informed about her labor and human rights, Marichu courageously escaped. She was then referred by DAMAYAN to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) which provided her with legal education, counseling and legal representation.
** All information above are based on Marichu’s lawsuit against the Bajas et al, filed on June 24, 2008. She is represented by Attorney Ivy Suriyopas of (AALDEF) and Attorney Aaron Mendelsohn of Troutman Sanders. On July 9th, DAMAYAN launched the “Justice for Marichu! End Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery of all Filipina Domestic Workers!”
Baoanan v. Baja et al. Translation from Tagalog to English, by DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association
Good afternoon. My name is Marichu Baoanan and I am 39 years old. I was born in Cavite, Philippines. I graduated from Unciano Paramedical College with a nursing degree. I have a husband and three children. I had a small business, like a deli or grocery store. But the business slowed down because of the economic crisis in the Philippines. I thought about other options that would be able to provide for my family’s needs. I thought about going abroad.
I met Nanay Babes. She said that she knew someone who would be able to help me go to America. She introduced me to Ma’am Norma. Ma’am Norma is the wife of the Ambassador of the Philippines, and he was stationed in New York. Ma’am Norma asked me to give her money for a package deal – transportation to the US, a US visa, working permit and she would help me get a job in a hospital as a nurse. I mortgaged the title of the lot of my house so that I could give the money to Ma’am Norma. We met at the office of Ma’am Norma in Labaire International in Makati. Ma’am Norma and her employees at Labaire arranged my papers. I gave Ma’am Norma and Labaire P250,000, and she had me sign a contract that I was not allowed to read. Ma’am Norma went with me to the Department of Foreign Affairs to process my passport. An employee of Labaire went with me to the US embassy so that I could get a visa. My documents were easily fixed and I was able to leave the Philippines on January 12, 2006.
When I arrived in America, I was taken straight to the townhouse where the Bajas lived. The very first day of my arrival in their house, Ma’am Norma took my passport. When I asked about our agreement, she got mad at me and started to curse at me. She gave me tasks to do as a domestic worker. Then she said that I needed to work for her so that I could pay off my “debt” to her. This was not part of our agreement. I felt she tricked and lied to me.
My hardship began my very first day with them. Oftentimes, I would start my work even before the sun would rise. I had not slept more than a few hours, there was already someone waking me up. I would be the only one to clean the whole house. And if Ma’am Norma would go out to go grocery shopping or go to her appointments, she would have me go with her. At that time, it was the middle of winter. It was my first time to come to America so I did not have any idea how very cold it was during the month of January. The only clothes I had were from the Philippines: thin pairs of pants, t-shirts, and slippers. They didn’t even give me a jacket or any sort of protection from the cold. I endured it even if my entire body was shivering from the cold. I asked Ma’am Norma if she would buy me anything, even just a pair of shoes. But she ignored me. In addition to cleaning the whole house and accompanying Ma’am Norma, I took care of the then five-year-old son of Beth, the daughter of Ma’am Norma and Sir Lauro. I did everything for the child – cook, clean, and take care of him until Beth arrived passed 11pm. The earliest I would finish my work would be at midnight. My body ached from exhaustion and I felt so devastated.
Because Sir Lauro was an ambassador, there were always parties in the house. The visitors would not be any less than 30 people. I was only one person who did tasks as a domestic worker. I would start washing dishes from the party and I would wash non-stop for several hours until I was the only one left in the whole house who was awake, still working. All of them would be sleeping and I would be the only one cleaning after the party. They also did not feed me well. They would give me leftovers and if I was going to eat, I would be watched to the point that I could not swallow my food. One time, Sir Lauro saw that his grandson hit me with a broom, but he did not do anything. He didn’t even stop his grandson. I felt like they treated me worse than an animal.
Every time I would remind Ma’am Norma about our agreement, she would curse at me. I couldn’t do anything because Ma’am Norma said I couldn’t use or answer the phone. They wouldn’t let visitors see me and I was forbidden to talk to them. Ma’am Norma told me that I was not to leave the house. Even if I could have left I did not know anywhere to go in the city for help and I would not have been able to get back into the house. None of this was part of our agreement. She lied to me.My eyes became blurry from crying every night. It was like I did not have hope to escape or to continue to live. I thought about committing suicide because I was so depressed – I couldn’t even send money for my family’s food. I wholeheartedly thought that if I went to America, I would make a lot of money, eat good food, and that I would be able to send my children to a good school. I was wrong. I really felt like I couldn’t get help. Ma’am Norma and Sir Lauro are powerful people. While working for the Bajas, I found out that Sir Lauro was the Representative of the Philippines in the UN. It was a huge house. There were a lot of them and I was only one person. Because of Ma’am Norma and her family, my life was miserable. They didn’t treat me like a person.I always thought about my family. The only reason why I came here was to work and make money to support my family – for their day-to-day survival and so that they could have a good education. But that’s not what happened. I served the Bajas for three months – cooked, took care of the child, cleaned the really big townhouse, did the laundry, ironed and other tasks as a domestic worker. In return, they paid me with curses, insults, disrespect, and $100 from Beth. What do I call this kind of experience? Oppression. Slavery.
That’s why I am here today, in front of you, so that I can share with you what happened to me. It is a good thing that there are good people that helped me like DAMAYAN, AALDEF, and NYANA. 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. 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.