The Blas F. Ople Policy Center described two overseas Filipino workers as “heroes” for persevering in filing cases against Singaporean national Lim Beng Huat also known as “Alfred Lim” who was convicted last week by the Malaysian court for violating its anti-trafficking act.
“We want to share their story with as many OFWs as possible to show that justice can and will prevail even if the illegal recruiter and human trafficker is influential and powerful. This is a landmark case because the Singaporean trafficker has exploited more than a hundred Filipino women,” Susan Ople, head of the Center, stressed. The two OFWs have been under the care of the Ople Center and the DoJ since 2008.
OFWs Marivic Capistrano and Marilou Bagsit, from Lipa City, Batangas, were recruited separately to work as domestic workers in Malaysia in 2008. Their recruiter promised them quick deployment, good employers, and the option to transfer to another household if and when unhappy with their first employers. The two women alongside other recruits were instructed to wear white T-shirts, and affix a sticker shaped in the form of a letter “A” on the back of their passports. They boarded a van that brought them to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga. At a parking lot across a supermarket, the women met an immigration officer named Racel Ong who asked them to remember her face and to look for her at the immigration area. Ong served as the group’s escort.
In Kuala Lumpur, the women were once again met by Lim’s cohorts at the airport. The younger women were brought to a different vehicle, while the rest including Marilou and Marivic were brought to the townhouse of Singaporean trafficker Beng Hua Lim who goes by the alias of “Alfred Lim”. Upon arrival, the women were ordered to strip while the housekeeper, also a Filipina, did a body search to make sure that they were not hiding any money or cellphone. She also confiscated the passports, money, mobile phone and jewelry of the new recruits.
In a matter of days, Malaysian employers arrived to pick and choose their domestic workers. Marilou Bagsit worked for a Malaysian employer who would monitor her every movement through CCTV cameras set up in different parts of the house. She was not allowed to rest and food items in the refrigerator were measured and counted carefully with a list posted on the door to ensure that the Filipino maid wouldn’t filch the family’s food. Due to exhaustion and hunger, Marilou fainted while cleaning the air condition unit. The doctor told her employer that she would need at least 3 days of complete rest. The employer decided to just bring Marilou back to Lim’s house. Enraged by the need to refund the employer, Lim shouted at and slapped Marilou several times.
Marivic suffered a similar fate when her employer decided to return her “Alfred Lim”. Fortunately, another Filipina staying in the townhouse was able to record Lim while he was slapping Marivic using a hidden cellphone. This video became part of the evidence submitted to the Malaysian police by prosecutors of the Department of Justice, Severino Gana and Deana Perez. The two women also filed a formal complaint against immigration officer Racel Ong which later on turned into a full-blown investigation by the DOJ. Ong admitted to serving as an escort to the two women and other illegal recruitment victims. She also implicated 18 other co-workers at the Bureau of Immigration stationed at DMIA.
Marilou Bagsit expressed relief and joy at the unprecedented court victory. “Natutuwa po kami kasi napakulong namin si Alfred Lim,” Bagsit said. Both women are seeking help from the Philippine government in securing better jobs so that they can move on with their lives.
Both women paid a courtesy call on Vice-President Jejomar Binay to thank him and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for government’s help in putting Lim behind bars. They also called on other victims to surface and cooperate with government to put a stop to human trafficking.
“We are calling on all the victims of ‘Alfred Lim’ to come forward. Now that he has been convicted, they have nothing more to fear. We need their cooperation in running after the illegal recruiters and cohorts of Lim here in the Philippines,” Ople said.
The Ople Center thanked the Office of the Vice-President for its support to the two victims as well as the Department of Justice, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the ChanRobles & Associates which provided free legal assistance to the two OFWs, TESDA for its free skills training program for the two victims and POEA Administrator Hans Cacdac for promising to help the two women look for better jobs overseas.
It also called on victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking to get in touch with the Ople Center through its hotline: 8335337 or via email: [email protected]