May 8, 2007
Reference: Archiel Buagas, Justice for Sentosa 27 Campaign, email: justice4sentosanurses @ yahoo.com; Rico Foz, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, email: nafconusa @ yahoo.com
Fil-Am Groups Laud “Sentosa 27” Healthworkers for Fighting Injustice
International Campaign, Online Petition Launches on National Nurses Week
New York – At the end of an intensely emotional town hall meeting at the Philippine Forum headquarters last Sunday evening, individuals and groups officially kicked off National Nurses week in the United States with vows to clear the 27 former Sentosa-employed health workers, including one of their lawyers, Atty. Felix Vinluan, from all criminal and civil charges filed against them by the former, officially registered as Sentosa Care LLC and its various health care facilities in New York.
The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), a national alliance of Filipino organizations in the US with international networks, is spearheading the “Justice for the Sentosa 27” campaign along with said healthworkers that also aims to collect unpaid overtime and back wages due the Sentosa refused to release, have the State of New York investigate the agency’s overseas hiring and work operations, and have US Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat of New York and Philippine senatorial candidate Michael Defensor to explain their roles in the lifting of the suspension of the Sentosa license in Philippines two weeks after it was ordered by the Philippine Overseas and Employment Agency (POEA).
An online petition outlining these demands can be found at www.petitiononline.com/j4s27/ .
“We arrived in New York in November, in the cold season. We were brought to the staff house where we were stay for two months for free and save money we need when we move to an apartment. When we got there, Dr. Jacinto (the famous top notcher doctor-turned-top notcher nurse) and I shared the room with other Filipino nurses. We took turns sleeping on the bed and on the floor. It wasn’t comfortable, but I didn’t complain. I told myself, if Dr. Jacinto who topped the board exams is not complaining, I shouldn’t be complaining,” said James Millena, also a nurse-turned-doctor who revealed that he was assigned to handle 100 patients by himself throughout his shift.
NAFCON hailed the “Sentosa 27”, as the health workers are now called, for “standing up to Goliath” in the defense of their rights as immigrant workers and as Filipinos. Stories of how Filipino workers, particularly health professionals, suffer in the hands of their employers in the United States circulate from time to time.
“For the first time, health professionals bravely came out to fight for what is right. To defend not only their dignity but that of the Filipino people in the US,” community lawyer Merit Salud said in his statement of support to the Sentosa 27.
The World Health Organization has cited the Philippines as the “largest source of registered nurses working overseas”. They also cite that there are about 15,000 nurses who leave the Philippines annually to be farmed in 30 different countries. The United States remains to top destination for Filipino nurses, who train aggressively under the Philippine government’s Labor Export Policy (LEP).
“We are launching this campaign with our international friends to expose failures in the US government’s domestic policies on immigration and labor and the Philippine government’s domestic policies in outmigration and protecting the basic rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers,” stated Berna Ellorin, Special Commissioner on Philippine Affairs for NAFCON and secretary-general of BAYAN USA.
International carriers of the “Justice for the Sentosa 27” campaign include the Philippine-based Alliance of Health Workers, Migrante International, Health Alliance for Democracy, and BAYAN Philippines. US-based carriers include labor groups as well as Filipino-American groups spanning over 23 cities under NAFCON.
Philippine Forum conferred the “Gawad Bulosan (Bulosan Award)” to the Sentosa 27 “for their bravery and courage” to fight for their rights as immigrant workers. The award is given annually in honor of Filipino immigrant worker Carlos Bulosan who became a celebrated writer/activist in the United States in the 1930s and 40s.
Sen. Schumer wrote the Philippines Government after the Order for Preventive Suspension was given to the Sentosa Recruitment Agency, the Philippine branch of Sentosa Care Group. Acting on the US senator’s letter, the aspiring Philippine senator Defensor called POEA administrator Rosalinda Baldoz. The “Sentosa 27” acquired copies/records of said correspondences.
“We came to America, like most Filipinos, in search of the better life,” Maricelle Dealo said to stress that what they found out as soon as they arrived in New York to work for the Sentosa facilities was exactly the opposite.
The next public campaign meeting for the Sentosa 27 is this Sunday, May 13th, 5pm at the Philippine Forum office at 54-05 Seabury Street, in Elmhurst. (Take V/G/R to Grand Ave/Newtown).
For more information on the Justice for the Sentosa 27 campaign, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-565-8862. ###