Sentosa Nurses’ Civil Case Won A People’s Victory, But Many More Battles Against Illegal Recruitment Ahead–NAFCON

PRESS RELEASE
26 May 2010

REFERENCE: Rico Foz, Executive Vice President, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON),
email: info@nafconusa.org

NEW YORK–On May 20, 2010, the New York Supreme Court through Judge Stephen A. Bucaria denied Sentosa Care’s motion for summary judgment for breach of contract against the Sentosa 27++ nurses and physical therapist. This gives the Sentosa 27++ nurses and a physical therapist an opportunity to be heard in a full blown trial.

Another highlight of the order was the decision of the court to nullify the enforceability of Sentosa Care’s claim for liquidated damages in a whopping fixed amount of $25,000 should the employee pre-terminate the contract. While US laws generally considers the liquidated damages clause valid, the anticipated damages must not be “plainly or grossly disproportionate to the probable loss” otherwise, the “liquidated damages clause is deemed to be a penalty designed to secure performance by compulsion and is, therefore, unenforceable”.

Asked for his reaction on the recent order, Mark de la Cruz, one of the beleaguered Sentosa 27++ nurses exclaimed: “This is definitely a ‘gold’ news to us, a big relief for our families as well, and a victory for all Filipino nurses aspiring to work here in the US”.

The biggest winner in the same court order is none other that Fil-Am lawyer, Felix Vinluan. His motion for summary judgment dismissing his case was granted. In 2006, it can be recalled that Atty. Vinluan, by taking the case of the health workers pro bono, was later charged criminally and civilly by Sentosa Care LLC for “tortious interference with contract claim” by allegedly advising the nurses to resign to favor another client of his. In the absence of a physical contract between Vinluan and a third party as claimed, Judge Bucaria dismissed the allegations and “noted the attorney’s constitutional right to provide legal advice to his clients within the bounds of the law”.

“I would like to thank all those who persevered to support us/me. Our crusade is far from over. Let us continue to be together in this long fight until justice is fully served” said Vinluan.

Vinluan also made an appeal to the new Philippine government, “please put in place a monitoring system whereby all those contracts that pass the POEA are actually followed to the letter by the foreign employers”.

Rico Foz, the Executive Vice President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), congratulated the health workers and Atty. Vinluan for their respective victories as he calls on all foreign educated nurses (FENs), regardless of nationality or former employers, who paid these onerous pre-termination penalties, to contact them through Atty. Felix Vinluan at (212) 643-2692 for a possible class action suit against their unscrupulous recruiters/employers and totally end this illegal practice.

“What the former Sentosa nurses faced at the hands of SentosaCare LLC is unfortunately a common practice–human trafficking–that the Philippine government turns a blind eye towards because it is quite profitable,” Foz continued. “But the example that the Sentosa 27++ nurses have set in courageously struggling for justice teaches all of us the true meaning of collective action beating unspeakable odds. Kudos.”

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A Unity Statement of the Filipino Community on Immigrant Rights

Together, We Have. Together, We Are. Together, We Will…

Together, We Have
Worked the fields and in the canneries
Nursed the ill and the elderly
Taught the young and tomorrow’s leaders
Fought for freedom and defeated tyranny
Invented new technologies and perfected the old
Ministered to congregations celebrating life and coping with grief

Together, We Are
The doctors and nurses who heal the sick and tend the wounded
The engineers who build skyscrapers and roads
The accountants who keep businesses running, small and large
The custodians and room cleaners, clerks and dock hands who do thankless jobs with dignity and pride
The veterans who braved world wars to defend democracy
The farm workers, cooks and waiters, who put food on America’s tables
The playwrights and poets, painters and musicians who awaken our dreams and inspire our actions
Four million people who are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, employees, partners and community members

Together, We Will
Continue to cherish the American values of equality and freedom, and oppose misguided policies that undermine them.
Keep families and communities, workplaces and homes together, because dividing us weakens us all
Fight for immigrant rights that value our contributions to society and give us the opportunity to fulfill our potential to build a better world.

Signed:

National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON)
Rev. Fr. Benjamin E. Alforque, MSC; President, NAFCON
Rev. Fr. Antonio G. Abuan, MS; Treasurer, NAFCON

AnakBayan East Bay
AnakBayan Los Angeles
AnakBayan San Diego
AnakBayan Seattle
AnakBayan New York/New Jersey

Babae SF

BAYAN-USA

Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines – New York
Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines – Portland
Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines – San Francisco

Fellowship for Filipino Migrants-Chicago

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)

Filipino Advocates for Justice

Filipino Community Support – Silicon Valley (FOCUS – SV)

Filipino Migrant Center (FMC)

Filipino Ministry – Diocese of San Bernardino (DSB)
Naida Castro, Chairperson, Filipino Ministry – DSB
Rev. Fr. Dennis Legaspi, Director, Filipino Ministry – DSB

GABRIELA-USA

Habi Arts

Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines

Lay Scalabrinian Missionary Movement – Chicago, USA

League of Filipino Students, San Francsico State University

Parochial Vicar, St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church, Riverside, CA

SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth
Anne Beryl Corotan, National Chairperson, SanDiwa
Ryan A. Leano, National Secretary General, SanDiwa

Sisters of GABRIELA, Awaken! (SiGAw)

South of Market Community Action Network

Vicar Forane, Diocese of San Bernardino, CA

Our Principles and Demands:

Uphold the dignity and humanity of all individuals. Legalization now!

Civilized society embraces equality and upholds the humanity of all people. Labeling individuals “illegal” demeans them, and forces millions to endure dangerous jobs, and to toil in the shadows in slave-like conditions. Criminalizing people for being “undocumented” subjects millions to the exploitation of traffickers, to remain in abusive relationships, or to refrain from reporting crimes because the authorities may imprison the victim instead of the perpetrator. We need legalization now, to free our community from the indignity of being labeled as “illegal”, and the inhumane treatment which is sanctioned by it and endangers us all.

Unify and Protect Families

Families of all shapes and sizes—parents and children, siblings, cousins and grandparents, same sex couples–deserve to be together. Many Filipino families have been waiting over 20 years to have their petitions for loved ones approved. We must clear the Family Visa backlog to stabilize our communities, both in the U.S. and in our homeland. We must protect immigrant women and children escaping abuse, and refuse to allow them to be subjected to the further cruelty of deportation. Children of immigrants should be shielded from all harm, including separation from their families and the threat of deportation. Support services must be provided in our languages and with sensitivity to our cultural values and norms.

Value Our Labor– Workers Rights for All!

The U.S. was built with the blood and sweat of working people. All workers must have the right to organize and to be free from exploitative contracts and working conditions. Having a underclass of workers drives down wages and protections for all of us. We must normalize the status of guest workers, because temporary contracts serve as a tool to undermine all workers. Law enforcement should punish illegal recruitment agencies and unscrupulous employers and lawyers, who maximize profits by preying on vulnerable and desperate workers—workers should not be penalized for the actions of their employers. The labor and contributions of all people, including immigrants and those who are undocumented, should be valued equally.

Dignity, Respect and Due Process for All!

The US government’s aggressive foreign policies of war and exploitation fuel economic and social instability worldwide. Immigrants should not be blamed for our national security concerns. Rampant raids, deportation, and inhumane conditions in detention centers jeopardize the safety of everyone. The billions of tax payer dollars contracted to build up and further militarize the U.S.-Mexico borders does not make us safer. We must build our immigration policies on the sound universality of human rights, not the volatility of criminalization and militarization.

Forced Migration is a Result of the Global Economic Crisis

One-sided and unfair trade agreements that have been designed to maximize profits for greedy corporations have destroyed the economy of the Philippines and many other countries, contributing to the ever-worsening economic crisis that has forced millions of Filipinos to seek jobs and means of survival elsewhere. U.S. political and military support to corrupt regimes who bankrupt their countries and repress their people also fuel worsening migrant and refugee conditions. We will link arms in solidarity with all migrant communities in the U.S. and internationally, until we have built a society where all people can thrive, families are not fragmented and separated by the urgent need for survival, and our homelands have the conditions in which all people can live a decent and humane life.

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