Press Release
September 4, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) today deplored the plight of 28 Filipino nurses, including Elmer Jacinto, the topnotcher in the 2004 Medical Board Exams, who were denied the salary rates and benefits that were committed by their recruiter to them for their employment in the state of New York.

Pimentel said the ordeal of the unlucky nurses was aggravated when the preventive suspension on the erring placement firm, the Manila-based Sentosa Recruitment Agency, was lifted through the alleged intervention of a Cabinet member two weeks after it was imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) based on the complaint of the victims.

In a privilege speech at the Senate, Pimentel identified the Cabinet member who intervened on behalf of Sentosa as Presidential Chief-of-Staff Michael Defensor, the all-around factotum of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Unknown to the nurses, the Secretary pulled strings to put a none-too-subtle pressure on our officials from the POEA in Manila and the Consulate in New York apparently to make the complaining nurses back off from their case, the senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel said when the nurses were being recruited here, Sentosa made several commitments to them, including: 1. competitive salary ranging from $21 to $35 per hour; 2. medical coverage; 3. relocation and housing allowances; 4. free malpractice insurance; 5. free airfare from Manila to New York; 6. reimbursement of processing certification and licensure fees; 7. generous shift differentials and flexible 8 and 12 hours schedules; and 8. comprehensive training.

But when they got to New York, not only did they not get what was promised to them, but their original recruiter turned them over to the Sentosa Bent Philipson, a New York-based agency. From its name, Sentosa Bent Philipson appears to have a different legal personality from Sentosa, the Manila-based agency.

To complicate the legal tangle that enmeshed the nurses even more, Pimentel said Sentosa Bent Philipson seems to have passed the nurses on to the custody of Sentosa Care, LLC, a limited liability company based in New York, allegedly a healthcare management company.

Pimentel said there was another entity that got entangled in the already tangled web of the travails of the nurses the Prompt Nursing Employment Agency/Sentosa Services, a New York-based nursing employment agency, which now appears to be the actual employer of the sponsored nurses. And yet, it is not registered as a principal of the Sentosa Recruitment Agency with the POEA.

The distressed nurses, who are now employed in various health facilities in New York, engaged the services of lawyers Felix Vinluan in New York and Tim Calumpong in Manila, to renounce their contract and sue for their rights.

Pimentel said, at this point, Sentosa Bent Philipson counter-attacked in the US by seeking the intervention of US Senator Charles Schumer. He said Mr. Schumer did what Philippine senators do in behalf of their constituents by writing letters to Consul General Cecilia Rebong in New York and then Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas and to POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz in Manila.

According to Pimentel, Sentosa Bent Philipson also found a padrino in Manila in the person of Secretary Defensor.

He said Secretary Defensor, in a rapid fire sequence, called up:

1. Administrator Baldoz, who was then with Director Alejandro Padaen of the POEA Adjudication Branch, in Manila on June 6, 2006; and

2. Consul General Cecilia Rebong of the Philippine Consulate in New York on June 7 on the matter of the complaints of the nurses.

On June 8, the POEA issued an order lifting the preventive suspension.

Pimentel said that it is easy to deduce from the circumstances that Defensor, in effect told Baldoz and Rebong and the complaining nurses that they were better off to just take things in stride rather than pursue their complaint before the bar of justice at home or in New York.

I cannot understand how in the world a department secretary could have the gall to act in a manner that in effect obstructs the interests of justice and causes prejudice to the interests of the people he is sworn to serve and do it right here in our country. That is something that we probably will never know under this government whose penchant for the suppression of information knows no bounds and whose desire to confuse the people equals the despotically deceptive record of the martial law regime, he said.

Pimentel urged the Senate and Department of Foreign Affairs to prod the Philippine Consulate in New York, the POEA and other pertinent government agencies to provide justice to the nurses who encountered these problems.

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