‘We will get Isidro Rodriguez,’ Amb. Cuisia assures trafficked teachers

Picture of Isidro Rodriguez on a flier of Gabriela USA

Picture of Isidro Rodriguez on a flier of Gabriela USA

Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Jr. is urging some 500 undocumented Filipino teachers who were victimized by illegal recruiters to “step out of the shadows” so that the Philippine Embassy could assist them.

“Our teachers need not be afraid,” he said in a statement. “We are here to help.”

Cuisia issued the call after he was told of the sad plight of the undocumented teachers who fell prey to human traffickers several years ago. He assured some 25 teachers he met at the Embassy that Philippine authorities will continue to seek justice for them by going after Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is facing multiple cases of illegal recruitment, alien smuggling, visa fraud and human trafficking filed against him in the Philippines and the U.S. He was put behind bars briefly but was later released from detention.

“We will not stop until we get Isidro Rodriguez,” Cuisia told the teachers and other trafficking victims who expressed their appreciation for the embassy’s offer of assistance.
Cuisia added the embassy would also support the teachers’ request for immigration relief with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Labor Attaché Angel Borja, who attended the meeting, said the embassy will also recommend that employment opportunities being offered to Filipinos in the U.S. be first verified to determine if such jobs exist.

“This is intended to protect our kababayans from other Isidro Rodriguezes out there,” he told the teachers.

Borja said Rodriguez remains on top of the watchlist of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bureau of Immigration.

A total of 21 illegal recruitment cases have been filed against Rodriguez while 41 recruitment violation cases have been filed against his company, Renaissance Staffing Support Center Inc. in Manila, said Borja.

Lawyer Arnedo Valera, Executive Director of the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), a nongovernment organization that has been providing legal assistance to many of the teachers, said cases have also been filed against Rodriguez with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Valera, who accompanied the teachers to their meeting with Cuisia, commended the Embassy’s anti-trafficking efforts, saying it was the report of then Ambassador Willy Gaa to Manila in 2008 that eventually led to the arrest and detention of Rodriguez.

“Since 2007, we have been engaged in a meaningful partnership with the Embassy in the investigation and filing of charges against Rodriguez as well as in other cases of human and labor trafficking perpetrated by other recruitment agencies and individuals,” said Valera.

He said Rodriguez’s victims could be as many as 1,000—all of them teachers whom he allegedly was able to convince to pay from $10,000 to $15,000 each for non-existing jobs in various public schools across the U.S. from 2003 to 2007.

Valera said that while some of the teachers decided to head back to the Philippines most of opted to take a chance by staying and working illegally in the US. He said these teachers had no choice but to take menial jobs to allow them to provide for their families and at the same time pay the high-interest loans they secured for their placement fees.

“Although as many as 300 of the teachers have already been issued trafficking visas and can now legally stay and work in the U.S., most are hesitant to surface because of shame and fear,” Valera said. “But they are now coming forward one by one.”

Earlier, activists from Gabriela USA demanded justice for teachers who are victims of labor trafficking. The grassroots organization accused the government of dragging its feet and not moving swiftly enough to find Rodriguez.—Maricar Hampton

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