Text and photos by Rodney J. Jaleco
WASHINGTON D.C. Evangeline Angging Dumlao lost her husband, an army intelligence officer, to New Peoples Army hitmen in 1990. She taught at the International School in Makati. Today, shes joined the growing ranks of Filipino teachers whore blazing a trail in Manassas, Virginia schools, and coincidentally, caught in the crux of controversy.
A group of teachers charged Manila-based recruiter Isidro Rodriguez of reneging on his commitment to find them jobs in Virginia and North Carolina. They braved deportation by going public with their charges although they made it to the U.S., they still need to file for the correct work visas.
Through the Philippine Embassy here, they filed a complaint before the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). Labor Attache Florenda Herrera says that blacklisting proceedings will be brought against Rodriguez and his recruitment firm, World Goal Corporation.
In a separate interview, Olegario Olie Cantos VII, special counsel in the U.S. Justice Departments civil rights division, tells Balitang America that the teachers complaint affidavits are being evaluated at the highest level of the department. Cantos is one of the highest ranking Filipino-Americans in the federal government.
[singlepic=151,300,269,,left] I and others in the Justice Department are always on the look-out for various situations, Cantos averred, adding that in my case, Im not the lead in human trafficking but because of my close ties at the leadership level of those who are, I make sure any information I obtain is promptly given to the appropriate officials who need to read those complaints in order to do something with whats happening.
Rodriguez has vehemently denied the charges that he was engaged in illegal recruitment and human trafficking. He is reportedly the leading supplier of Filipino nurses in Virginia and North Carolina. He claims to have deployed nearly 500 Filipino teachers in these and other nearby states.
Lawyer Arnedo Valera, executive director of Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), said that by sending teachers here for non-existent jobs, Rodriguez may be liable for offenses ranging from human trafficking to violation U.S. visa regulations.
[singlepic=150,300,231,,] But Cantos explained that the Justice Department is still in the very early stages of investigation. The results of the evaluation will determine if criminal charges are warranted and what these offenses may be.
Rodriguez has alleged that the controversy stemmed from a soured business relationship with Aurora Calo. He said she was an investor in his recruitment business; Calo said she lent $200,000 that Rodriguez allegedly refuses to pay.
Auroras husband Ronnie denies they had any business ties with Rodriguezs recruitment agency other than lending him their retirement pension, which they cashed in early on Rodriguezs alleged assurance the money would go to help teachers in the Philippines find jobs in America. One of Auroras sisters is a teacher.
Never kami naging business partners. Yung pera na pinahiram sa kanya, sabi niya (Rodriguez) tulungan siya para ma-petisyon yung mga teachers na nandun pa, Ronnie Calo told Balitang America.
Wala kaming pinipilit na teachers na mag-reklamo, kusa nilang ginawa yun, he stressed.
But teachers like Angging Dumlao and May Guzman say the controversy stems from the personal tiff between Rodriguez and Aurora Calo. And they feel teachers are being unfairly dragged into their animosities.
Guzman, who taught in Ateneo, said shes been working as a teacher in the U.S. for three years, first in North Carolina and now in Manassas, Virginia both placements arranged by Rodriguez.
Binili niya kami ng car saka lahat kami may schools nung dumating kami doon, she recalls of her first stint in a North Carolina public school. Dumlao said that Rodriguez fetched her from the airport and even carried his baggage.
Dito sa Manassas ngayon ang dami pa namin kailangang teachers. Ang apprehension namin pag ganito, lumalaki ang usap-usapan na ganito, baka ma-apektuhan ang teachers nasa Philippines pa naghihintay. Baka sabihin ng mga schools na huwag na lang kasi maraming problema itong mga Filipino teachers, Guzman averred.
Like many of the disgruntled teachers, Dumlao also arrived after last years school season started. But she said the school held her position because she had been regularly sending e-mail messages to school administrators, apprising them of the progress of her documentation. I had to do something on my own. I didnt wait for the agency to do things for me, she explained.
She echoed Guzmans unease over the current situation. We had always told each other that lets do our best so that other teachers back home who want to go here, can make it based on how weve been performing here hopefully, build a reputation that we can be at par or better than other teachers here, Dumlao averred.
I really wish they would just leave us teachers alone, she declared.
I worry that school administrations would not want their names and reputations dragged into a conflict such as this. They may not want to hire Filipino teachers anymore, which jeopardizes the chances of the many other teachers back home who want to work here, Dumlao added.
The teachers whove talked to ABS-CBN Balitang America have offered two contrasting tales of their experiences here. But theres a common thread between them a desire to for colleagues back home to get an opportunity to share what they already have a crack at the American dream.