THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) will secure the services of Italian lawyers to help Filipino victims of fraud and illegal recruitment in Italy file a class suit against those they accuse of running off with more than P38.7 million of their hard-earned money.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo Jose de Vega made the announcement during a meeting with victims at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Consulate General in Milan on Friday.
De Vega said he has approved the recommendations made by Consul General Elmer Cato to hire a lawyer for the 33 Filipinos in Italy who claim to have been defrauded by at least two Milan-based agencies.
Cato said the complainants are mostly relatives or agents of 215 jobseekers from the Philippines who paid or sent as much as P180,000 each for what they thought were jobs under the decreto flussi program of the Italian government.
According to Cato, the Consulate first requested authority to hire a lawyer on August 31, 2023, a few weeks after the first complainant requested the Consulate’s assistance. The request was reiterated in subsequent reports to the DFA on the status of its investigation of the complaints.
During the meeting that was attended by more than 30 complainants, De Vega explained that although legal assistance will be provided, it may take some time before the cases to be filed in Milan and Manila could be resolved.
He, however, assured complainants that the Consulate will continue to work on this case and will be coordinating closely with the lawyers that the DFA and the DMW will be hiring.
During the meeting, Cato also shared the actions taken by the Consulate since the first complainant requested assistance in getting her money back from one of the agencies.
He disclosed the Consulate had been working quietly to build up the cases against those involved by seeking out and interviewing complainants and witnesses and gathering supporting documents and other evidence.
In addition, he said, the Consulate had issued at least three advisories, discussed the cases in its “Pagusapan Natin” online townhall meetings and other venues, as well as during an interview with Usapang OFW in Manila.
Cato said the Consulate had also been calling on individuals and agencies that have been assisting Filipinos in their transactions with local authorities to make sure their clients understand the terms of the services they are providing and not to charge exorbitant fees for such services.
Cato said the Consulate has also been investigating other individuals and agencies in Milan that have also defrauded Filipinos in transactions involving work permit conversions, airline tickets, and citizenship applications.
“Although these are private transactions, the Consulate had to take a more active role in order to protect kababayan who may end up as victims if we do not step in,” Cato said.
Image credits: PHL Consulate General