UN Envoy Sued Over Labor Abuses

On June 24, Marichu Baoanan filed a civil lawsuit of 15 counts, including trafficking, forced labor, peonage, racketeering and slavery, against her former employers, former UN envoy to the Philippines Lauro Baja, his wife Norma Baja, their daughter Maria Elizabeth Facundo and the Baja-owned travel agency Labaire International Travel, Inc.

According to the lawsuit, Baoanan was trafficked to the US by the Bajas under the pretense that they would find her work as a nurse. Instead, she was forced to work as a domestic worker in the Baja household for approximately three months, for at least 18 hours a day, seven days a week, with no days off, for merely $100. She received another $100 to serve as a nanny to Facundo’s son.

Baoanan also alleged the Bajas tricked her into paying a sort of recruiting fee of 250,000 pesos (USD 5,500) to go to the US.

Lauro Baja, 71, said on local television that he was “shocked” and “surprised” by the claims by his former maid. As is usual in cases of oppression with an immigrant, Baja stated the maid’s claims were simply based on her desire for permanent residency in the US.

“Her recruitment and going to New York was done according to all the rules and regulations in accordance to US law and visa policy,” said the retired diplomat.

Baoanan started working for the family in January 2006, but left after three months without their knowledge.

“I served the Bajas for three months, I cooked, I took care of the child, cleaned their really big house, did the laundry, ironed and did other tasks as a domestic worker. In return, they paid me with curses, insults, disrespect and 100 dollars,” Baoanan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Baja said: “The moment she left my employ I immediately reported her to US immigration authorities. So she is now an illegal alien and should be deported.”

Baja said his New York-based lawyer Salvador Tuy filed a counter suit against Baoanan.

Read the piece from the AFP and Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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