The legal office of the Philippine Embassy in Singapore is still investigating alleged reports that Filipino domestic workers are being peddled in a mall in the city state to prospective employers.
In a press briefing on Monday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said they were verifying reports that Filipino maids in Singapore are being “marketed” in a plaza there.
Vice President Jejomar Binay on Monday said he was deeply concerned by the report.
“The Philippine embassy should investigate the report and if needed, make the proper representations with Singaporean authorities,” Binay, the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ Concerns, said.
He said if the report were true, the act of “displaying” domestic workers in malls to be scrutinized by prospective employers violates human rights and international laws upholding the rights of migrant workers.
Binay expressed confidence that Singapore will act on the matter once it is brought to its attention.
“I am confident that such acts will not be tolerated by Singapore. Singapore is a friend of the Philippines and Filipinos,” he said.
A report by news outlet Al Jazeera depicted the plight of the domestic workers in “maid agencies” in the city-state, where the workers were allegedly made to sit beneath signs and posters that testify to their qualities, or advertise promo rates and discounts.
According to the report, the workers are also made to simulate real-life housework, like taking care of the elderly or children.
But “we are not jumping to conclusions at this point until we complete the investigation,” Jose said, adding that the deadline for the investigation was “as soon as possible.”
Once the report is proven, the legal office promised to pursue recruitment agencies and make them liable for their actions, Jose said.
The matter will also be referred to the Singaporean police if “reports of maltreatment and abuse are verified.”
“The Philippine government, in cooperation with Singapore, is ready to take necessary steps to increase protection of OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]in Singapore,” he said.
But Jose noted that there is still a need to determine if the term “display” was used in the right context.
Reports came out that Filipino maids were being displayed in a mall in Singapore, so that prospective employers can choose among them and test their skills.
Jose said that since it was a labor matter, the department would have to wait for an official report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Singapore.
The recruitment agencies involved in the alleged peddling of Filipino maids are legitimate, Jose said, adding that marketing the household workers may be their way of promoting their business of supplying services.
However, although there is nothing illegal with their businesses, “the manner by which they are promoting their business” might be in violation of human rights laws.
There are 180,000 Filipino workers in Singapore, 70,000 of which are domestic workers, according to DFA data.
Jose said most Filipinos can go there and look for work even if they only have tourist visas.
Singapore, Jose said, allows a change in status from tourist to worker.
That means, some of the Filipinos who found work there may not necessarily be members of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
“We consider them undocumented but Singapore thinks otherwise,” the official explained.
For now, the department has no plans to bring the issue before an international human rights court.