Illegal recruitment victims in Quezon come out

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LUCENA CITY—At least 16 victims from different towns in Quezon have filed complaints against the Manila-based Firststep Consultancy and Career Development, an illegal job recruitment company that has duped its clients here of almost P1 million in placement fees for nonexistent jobs abroad.

The victims filed their complaint at the city police office here on Tuesday, naming as respondents a Melchor Morada, the supposed “chief executive officer” of the agency; Juliana “Juliet” Reyes, the “manager” of Firststep’s branch in this city, and Abegail Reyes, Juliana’s cousin and employee of the agency.

Monaliza Lucena, one of the victims, said in her complaint that the three took P61,500 from her as placement fee in exchange for a job as a “fruit picker” in Australia.

According to the victims’ complaint, the amount taken from them reached P1 million.

Lucena said the money was personally received by Juliana and Abegail. Signed receipts were given to the victims.

Lucena said Juliana introduced herself to the victims as “Juliet Reyes,” branch manager of the Firststep office here with Abegail as a branch employee.

Lucena said Morada identified himself as the “chief executive officer” and “manager” of the company.

POEA order

The agency, which claimed to have a main office in Quezon City, was found to be operating illegally and was ordered shut down on May 23 by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), according to a report in the POEA website.

Lucena said her suspicion started to grow last month when the company failed to deliver the victims’ travel documents for supposed overseas jobs.

On May 16, Lucena said she and the other victims confronted Juliana at the branch office here and demanded the return of their money.

She said Juliana signed promissory letters saying she would return half of their fees on May 30.

Disappeared

The Reyes cousins, however, disappeared and could no longer be contacted, Lucena said in her complaint.

Joseph Marasigan, local coordinator of the Akbayan partylist group who has been helping the victims, said he received reports that Morada continues recruiting in other parts of the province.

“Despite the mounting complaints against him, the criminal cases failed to prosper. It seems that the charges are being fixed,” Marasigan said.

He said most of the victims are from the towns of Sariaya, Candelaria, Tiaong and Lucena City.

Marasigan identified Juliana as former head of the Barangay Health Workers in Sariaya. She ran for town councilor in 2007 but lost, he said.

The agency’s office here has also been closed since last month, added Marasigan.

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