Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima seeks to redefine the crime of illegal recruitment committed by a syndicate by lowering the number of perpetrators from three to two to qualify as large-scale illegal recruitment.
De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1466 to address the injustice suffered by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the hands of illegal recruiters by amending Article 38 of Presidential Decree no. 442, or the “Labor Code of the Philippines,” as amended and Section 6 of Republic Act (RA) No. 8042, or the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995,” as amended.
“Illegal recruitment is a great menace to our society. It is one of the most detestable crimes a Filipino can commit to a fellow Filipino; a crime that has brought about sufferings to thousands of poor and innocent victims and their families,” she said.
“Under the present set up, persons accused of illegal recruitment by a syndicate may evade the penalty as provided by the existing law, by simply alleging that the victim failed to establish that the crime was carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another.
Under the present law, illegal recruitment by a syndicate is meted with life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P2 million but not more than P5 million.
In filing the measure, the lady Senator from Bicol cited the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a human trafficking victim convicted for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin at the Yogyakarta Airport in 2010, as she continues to be at the brink of death to this date.
Last 11 October 2019, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ ruling and allowed her to testify via a deposition in a local trafficking case against her recruiters.
“This is perhaps just one of the most heart wrenching realities of some of our countrymen who fly abroad, dreaming of better futures for their families but instead finding themselves trapped and helpless in a foreign country,” De Lima said.
If De Lima’s proposed measure will be enacted into law, De Lima said illegal recruitment will be deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by two, instead of three, or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another.
“With this bill, our OFWs shall have greater and mightier shield from injustice,” said De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
During the previous Aquino administration, De Lima chaired the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) which spearheads the country’s campaign against all forms of human trafficking.
Incidentally, in the 17th Congress, it may be recalled that De Lima pursued her advocacy against human trafficking by filing a measure which seeks to designate human rights attaches in select Philippine embassies and consulates to address cases of human rights violations committed against overseas Filipino workers. (30)