Cagayan de Oro school officials face illegal recruitment, estafa charges

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Illegal recruitment and large-scale estafa cases against officials of the Philippine School of Science and Technology (PSST), a technical-vocational school in this city, are set to proceed.

The 6 complainants – Christopher Sanchez, Clint Cadungol, John Rey Colance, Renaldo Moreno, Ronald Edquilag, and Ulysses Cabanog – had filed the cases on August 17, 2015.

The cases – filed against Amy Bendisula, Pamela Verda, Rubelyn Llovia, Rodrigo Bendisula, Noel Bendisula, Krista Anna Bendisula, Louie Bendisula, and Agnes Bendisula – were initially dismissed by City Prosecutor Fidel Macauyag for lack of merit last March 28.

But the complainants filed a motion for reconsideration and the court has since transferred the cases to Regional State Prosecutor Jaime Umpa.

Complaints of deception

The complainants allege that Amy Bendisula, school director and corporate treasurer, recruited them to enroll in PSST's Food Processing course.

Bendisula supposedly promised guaranteed job placement in Japan for 60 graduates, provided that they pay their tuition on time, with those who pay in full being prioritized for deployment.

The complainants claim Bendisula also promised them a monthly salary of P50,000, with their first month's salary to be given to them in Manila before their deployment – P30,000 in cash and P20,000 through cash bond, claimable when their 3-year contract ends.

Noel Bendisula, the school's vice president and vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, also supposedly told the complainants to pay P2,225 for the processing, authentication, and translation of their employment documents.

In a phone interview with Rappler, Christopher Sanchez said they were enticed to enroll in the school because they were promised in-house overseas placement.

Sanchez, a former overseas Filipino worker (OFW), said Amy Bendisula even talked him into availing of a scholarship grant from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Balik Manggagawa Program.

Sanchez said OWWA paid P14,500 in tuition for a Bartending program and he received a Bartending diploma, but he actually studied Food Processing.

"That alone, the promise of overseas placement, and getting a different diploma for a course you didn't take is deception," Sanchez said. "We were promised that their deployment for Japan will be in December 2014. Until now, nothing has happened."

Aside from Sanchez's group, Umpa said they are looking into what happened to some 200 students who were promised overseas placement by the school.

Blaming the alleged recruiter

In a news conference on Tuesday, May 31, PSST's legal representative Jerome Jarales denied the allegations, saying that the school's function was just to train the students.

He claimed that a certain Jessie Cunahap, head of Jespher Travel Tours and Visa Consultancy, was the one who recruited the students. Cunahap was supposedly introduced to Amy Bendisula in Manila.

PSST entered into a memorandum of agreement with Cunahap for the students' overseas placement. Jarales said it was Cunahap who collected a total of P2.217 million pesos from 217 students of the school.

Jarales then said that PSST cannot be faulted for dealing with the alleged recruiter.

"It is not the function of the school to verify the authenticity of Cunahap or Jespher Travel Tours and Visa Consultancy, because the school is not in the business of recruitment," he said.

Jarales added that the school has filed 22 criminal cases against Cunahap, and will file more in the coming days.