MANILA, Philippines – Fly now, pay later.
This promise by illegal recruiters of fast-tracked job placements abroad are deceptive. They can only ever secure travel and not much else – not even a job.
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Hans Leo Cacdac explained that the government process of managing employment-related migration is in place to ensure, among others, that workers depart the country for valid job orders issued by destination countries. (PODCAST: Ethical recruitment of OFWs)
"Naturally, the government system of regulation will have to take more time.... It entails a process of screening on the part of the recruiter...and it takes a process on the part of government to make sure that the recruitment process is legitimate," he said.
This legitimacy makes it easier to go after abusive employers in foreign land – from those who have no regard of a workers' dignity, to those who violate the terms of job contracts given to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). (READ: Migrant domestic workers in UAE treated like 'animals')
Cacdac said the lure of a supposed job abroad must never blind an aspiring OFW, "because an illegal recruiter will only guarantee travel, which is just a very, very small component."
"So an illegal recruiter will naturally be fast, but fast for all the wrong reasons. Because he or she will only come in with the travel component. And as we all know, a plane ticket will not provide protection to an OFW," he said.
Under the legal process, he said, travel "is an output of all that a worker and a recruiter has gone through after government has processed documentation" – the final phase of a would-be OFWs' toil to secure a job abroad.
According to the 2013 Commission for Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Compendium of Statistics, there are around 1.34 million undocumented Filipino migrant workers – a number the government wishes to shrink.
Cacdac has repeatedly warned against illegal recruitment, stressing the links of the underground industry to drug syndicates.
"The illegal recruiter comes in with a mode of persuasion that is sweet to the taste and to the eyes and ears of a victim," said Cacdac.
"The illegal recruiter will say, 'I will give you a ticket. I will give you a tourist visa or visit visa. In the case of Southeast Asia, you don’t even need a visa. I will pay for your passport'," he said.
He added that other illegal recruiters "will even provide some voluntary donation to the family of the victim to convince the lolo (grandfather), the lola (grandmother), or the parents to convince the victim to go."
The proper recruitment process, on the other hand, would ensure that those who leave the country for a job abroad are fit for overseas employment.
"So this is one thing that our people must or can understand, appreciate: That naturally the legal process would entail more steps because it will have to go through a legitimization process," he said.
On top of the Philippine government's list of illegal recruiters is Isidro Rodriguez, who duped many Filipinos with ghost job offers in the United States.
Streamlining the legal process
Cacdac said Philippine government representatives have met with their counterparts in destination countries to come up with joint initiatives to streamline the legal processes for applicant-OFWs.
"We are constantly trying our best to speed it up. Mainly, our main mode is electronic processing," he said.
"This e-recruitment," he said, "not only is expedient, [but] it’s more transparent, more accountable." (READ: POEA to recruiters: Use 'electronic systems' in hiring OFWs)
"The electronic processes makes it easier for us to trace who brought in or uploaded an illegal document or a fraudulent document. It’s easy to spot who pulled it out or deleted it…electronic footprints," he explained.
"And also, this solves the problem of contract substitution because there would only be one contract. It solves the problem of possible fraudulent Visa utilization," he added.
He explained that "bridging electronic systems also happens between and among Philippine government agencies" and not just between countries.
The POEA, which is in charge of licensing of recruiters, continues to campaign against illegal recruiters.
It has an online database of recruiters with their corresponding statuses – whether they are in good standing, delisted, cancelled, forever banned, inactive, revoked, suspended, or denied renewal of permits.
A free POEA mobile app also shows the status of a recruitment agency, active job orders, as well as information about illegal recruitment and how to identify an illegal recruiter. (READ: Tech-based services needed to protect OFWs – research)
Civil society organizations have lamented that the POEA database is belatedly updated and therefore sometimes contains inaccurate information.
The Philippines' processes in managing migration are meant to protect the interest and rights of OFWs, whose remittances provide a major boost to the economy.
There are over 10.5 million Filipinos overseas who are either permanently residing or temporarily working there, according to the 2013 CFO Compendium of Statistics.
However, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III envisions "a government that creates jobs at home so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity." – Rappler.com