Friday, July 11, 2008

Former Philippine Diplomat Argues Trafficking Charge is False


Lauro Baja Jr., the Philippines' former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said Tuesday that the Philippine consulate general in New York has yet to call him up regarding the human trafficking case filed against him by a former housemaid.

"Being summoned by a judicial authority in the States is a serious matter. And if it's against a colleague in the service, out of courtesy and camaraderie, [someone should have called me up]," said Baja, who now works as a foreign affairs consultant of Senate President Manuel Villar.

Baja said he is also puzzled at the silence of retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., the current Philippine representative to the UN.

"I have not [heard] a word, nothing," Baja told a radio dzMM interview when asked if Davide has contacted him about the charges filed by Marichu Suarez Baoanan.

With regard to his plans of filing a counter-suit, Baja said he still studying his options.

"I'm thinking about that. You do know that I advocate human rights in all of my foreign postings," he said.

Baja said it is clear at this point that he and his family were double-crossed by the same person they helped land a job.

He said that Baoanan was recommended to his wife by a friend in Manila.

Baoanan, a registered nurse, came to the US in January 2006 holding a red Philippine passport, the travel document usually given to employees of Philippine diplomats.

"It cannot be human trafficking because their recruitment was in accordance with rules and regulations. It was because of [the Department of Foreign Affairs] that she was given red passport...," he said.

Baja added that Baoanan had a room to herself on the same floor of the Philippine consulate's building in New York.

"She was sleeping on the second floor, she was eating the same food," he said.

He said Baoanan's duties included washing clothes, cleaning dishes and vacuum-cleaning the floor.

Search in vain

Two months after her arrival, Baoanan disappeared, Baja said.

"We asked around because we didn't have the means to scout the whole of New York. Besides, we had our jobs to attend to," he said.

Baja added that when the search failed, he thought then that Baoanan may have found a more lucrative source of livelihood.

"She was treated fairly. We went to the motion of trying to locate her."

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