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OWWA exec who helped OFWs in U.S. quits

OWWA Welfare Officer Adonis Alberto Adonis Duero (left) goes over the complaint with Philippine House Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada filed by 11 Filipino hotel workers who claimed to have been “petitioned” to work in the U.S. by Aramark, a Fortune 500 company, but ended up working for a different company in Mississippi and were paid below the federal wage rate. Photo: Rhony Laigo/Balita Media

By Rhony Laigo
Balita Media

The Philippine Department of Labor officer who was responsible for exposing a human trafficking syndicate with a tie-up in the U.S. has decided to quit his post after threats to his life and his family were apparently ignored.

In a letter submitted to Philippine Labor officials dated May 16, Overseas Workers and Welfare Administration (OWWA) Welfare Officer Alberto Adonis Duero said he “heeded” the advice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which according to Duero, “believe(s) that it is dangerous for me and my family to go home and that hiring a killer in our country would cost one a measly sum of $200 or less.”

According to his letter dated May 16, Duero wrote “I cannot afford to risk my life and that of my family.” He likened going back to the Philippines as “like a suicide.” He wrote, “It is not only my life which is at stake but also my family’s.”

Duero claimed that he received the threats after helping a number of Filipino hotel workers who ended working for a different employer in Mississippi when their visas stated that they were supposed to work for Aramark, a Fortune 500 company that provides for hotel services, uniforms and other types of domestic work in the whole of U.S. It will be recalled that these Filipino workers sought Duero’s aid after realizing that not only did they end up being “absorbed” by a different employer in a different state, but also claimed they were forced to work under difficult conditions – like meeting a certain number of rooms to clean – and allegedly paid below the federal minimum wage.

The threats, Duero said, were made thru his cell phone, where text messages were “sent” by what he calls the members of the Philippine-based syndicate, who in Duero’s amazement, were able to get his cell phone number.

Duero told Labor Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz in his letter that “I truly feel that forwarding my request to (the) NBI (National Bureau of Investigation – FBI’s counterpart in the Philippines) without any concrete plan on our security is not enough assurance of our safety. The threats are real and serious.”

Ever since Duero invited the media to expose the alleged human trafficking incident, Duero claimed that the Philippine Department of Labor’s response has been lukewarm. He said that instead of addressing the issue, he was told to go back to the Philippines.

In his letter, however, Duero told Baldoz that “Madam, I understand your statement that ‘per our records, your tour-of-duty has ended.’ I am fully aware when my tour of duty would end. (But) It was precisely because of this consideration that, I filed for an indefinite leave of absence to give you time to address my security concerns for me and my family.

“Given my situation, I rightfully consider it fitting to reiterate that I have requested for a compelling, convincing and strong assurance that it is safe for me and my family to go home,” reasoned Duero.

“I truly believe, I deserve protection from the government for which I have served faithfully and to the best of my ability. However, since our government does not consider my request serious enough to merit its immediate and rightful attention, I have decided to tender my resignation as OWWA’s Overseas Workers Welfare Officer effective immediately.”

In an email to BALITA MEDIA last year, Aramark denied it has something to do with the supposed human trafficking of OFWs. Kristine Grow, senior director for Aramark Communications, told BALITA MEDIA that there was no job offer made to the OFWs and that the documents submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor were fake.

BALITA MEDIA exclusively exposed the possible involvement of Aramark after a lawyer, Atty. Otieno B. Ombok of the Jackson Lewis LLP, a nationwide law firm of more than 650 lawyers scattered in the U.S., supposedly filed the worker visa petitions of the OFWs on behalf of Aramark that were approved by the Department of Homeland Security. The approved petitions resulted in the issuance of visas in the Philippines by the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

When contacted, Ombok refused to give any statement to BALITA MEDIA. However, this author was referred to a certain Atty. Laura Reiff of the Greenburg Traurig LLP, who according to Ombok “represents” Aramark. The Greenburg Traurig is one of the largest law firms in the U.S., if not the whole world, and has 1,800 lawyers under its wing with 30 office locations nationwide.

But just like Ombok, Reiff’s office also refused to give any comment when this author called and was referred back to Aramark.

Earlier, Philippine Consul General Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon told the media that the 11 OFWs involved this “human trafficking” incident have been granted temporary legal status, while the FBI continues its ongoing probe. â– 

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