Baguio City – A licensed recruitment firm hired Juan dela Cruz (not his real name) to work as a warehouseman for a Doha-based company. The recruitment agency in the Philippines arranged my visa for Qatar. From there, I was able to get through Somalia,” confesses Juan. He adds that while he wants to, he cannot go back home for a vacation because he had violated the deployment ban. Somalia is one of the countries placed under a total deployment ban due to their unstable peace and order situation.

Everyday an estimated 6,000 Filipinos leave to work overseas, they are members of filipino families. They opted to work abroad and have their own reasons why they prefer to work abroad.  Many Filipinos are willing to work abroad because of the low average salary and benefits offered by local employers. Jobs that are in-demand and should have a fair compensation such as nurses, engineers, accountants, and other professionals are inadequately paid compare with the compensation that are waiting for them abroad. Even for skilled workers, such as housemaids, masons, carpenters and laborers are well compensated abroad than the professionals in the country. The truth may hurt, but let’s face it – being employed abroad and doing the same work that we do in the Philippines provide us double or more income and salary than being employed here.

To land a job overseas, a lot of Juans and Juanas spend large amounts of time and money to pay for fees, paperwork, trips to and from their barrios to the city. But in many instances, prospective workers can be scammed by illegal recruitment schemes.

Illegal recruitment shall mean any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring, or procuring workers and includes referring, contract services, promising or advertising for employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by a non-license or non-holder of authority (Republic Act 8042). There are a lot of migrant workers and those willing to work abroad being victimized by illegal recruiters despite laws penalizing illegal recruitment.

Several of our fellow cordillerans end up being victimized by unscrupulous illegal recruiters. Instead of landing a dream job abroad and earning dollars, they find themselves not being able to leave the country despite spending hard earned money to pay the illegal recruiters, or worse, some OFWs become “illegal aliens” for having invalid working permits or visas. These lawless elements also operate locally and victimize our kakailians by promising good paying jobs in Metro Manila and other booming cities in the Visayas and Mindanao.

For OFWs or Would-Be-OFWs, knowing how to avoid being a victim can spell the difference between hope and misery. Here are some ways to guide you: When applying for a job abroad, always apply through Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) – licensed recruitment agencies; with an authorized representative and in a registered office address. You can check agency details at www.poea.gov.ph .

The next step would be: check if the job offer is POEA approved and the recruitment fee is equal to one month salary and paid after employment contract is signed and always demand for an official receipt. Also, avoid internet job offers requiring “Immediate Payment” to secure application and job ads and brochures requiring payments to a post office box or PO Box. Remember that offers to work abroad through tourist visas… a red flag. An illegal recruiter promises faster deployment through tourist visa. As a holder of a tourist visa you cannot legally work in your host country. Legal job offers provide authentic work visas.

Some form of illegal recruitment include: Leaving the country as a tourist but with the intention of working abroad; Escort Services – tourist/workers “escorted” at the country’s airports and seaports; By Correspondence – applicants are encouraged by the recruiter to comply with employment requirements and placements through mail;  Blind Ads – fraudulent and misleading advertisements promising facility of employment; Au Pair – an inter-cultural program wherein a host family sponsors a person to study  Backdoor Exit – going out of the country through some airports and seaports in the southern part of the Philippines;  Camouflaged participation in foreign seminars and sports events; Workers leave as participants in seminars or sports events but eventually finding jobs in the host country; Traineeship Scheme – Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) students leaving in the guise of a traineeship program for hotels abroad but eventually landing jobs in the training establishment.

Illegal recruitment is considered as economic sabotage if it is carried out by a group of three (3) or more persons conspiring or confederating with one another or it is committed against three (3) or more persons individually or as a group.

What is the punishment for illegal recruitment? Republic Act No. 10022 states that any person found guilty of illegal recruitment shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of not less than twelve (12) years and one (1) day but not more than twenty (20) years and a fine of not less than One million pesos (P1,000,000.00) nor more than Two million pesos (P2,000,000.00).

If the illegal recruitment constitutes economic sabotage, the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than Two million pesos (P2,000,000.00) nor more than Five million pesos (P5,000,000.00) shall be imposed.

For more information about illegal recruitment, visit www.dole.gov.ph www.poea.gov.ph or www.owwa.gov.ph or if you know someone victimized by an illegal recruiter or an illegal recruiter…call DOLE Hotline: 1349. To report cases of illegal recruitment, OFWs can file complaints at the POEA offices.

END/Patrick T. Rillorta