A GROUP of Filipinos operating under the Patronato system in Italy—providing documentation assistance to would-be seasonal workers—have asked Sen. Raffy Tulfo not to lump all of them with the illegal recruiters now facing charges both in Milan and Manila for duping hundreds of P17 million in fees in exchange for nonexistent jobs.
In a letter to Tulfo, chairman of the Senate Commission on Migrant Workers, the group took issue with the senator’s remarks in the first hearing held last week on the case of Alpha Assistenza SRL, describing the CAF/Patronato owned by Filipinos in Italy as “illegal recruiters” and urging Filipinos in Italy not to patronize them.
“We reject these as false and unfair accusations against us. Your accusations insult our group of Filipino professionals and businesspeople who have been working with honesty and integrity in the past several decades, said the Multiservices and Assistance of Pilipino Association (Mapa) in its letter.
They appealed to Tulfo to research further on the “importance of CAF/Patronato and their functions, purposes and services,” working under a system sanctioned by the Italian government for years.
“We regularly pay taxes and contributions f
rom our businesses and respond to the bureaucratic requirements of the Italian government to continuously operate and assure that services we are offering are well-provided not just to our fellow Filipinos, but also to Italian and other nationalities. We send diligently our remittances to support and provide for our families in the Philippines from what we earned from our businesses not as an OFWs,” Mapa’s letter added.
“During the session we heard [DFA] Usec Eduardo De Vega said that he had issued a mandate to Consul General Elmer Cato to ‘Disassociate from Patronatos!’ coming from the directives of Ambassador Nathaniel Imperial,” the Mapa recalled from the February 7 hearing.
“This order is unjust, discriminatory and degradable on our part. The order makes it appears that all CAF/Patronato are criminals taking advantage of our clients. and doing unlawful services for our clients,” it added, stressing that “not all CAF/Patronato are like ALPHA Assistenza SRL, and a few others involved in fraudulent activities.”
De Vega, they said, “stayed only for a day in Milan” when he met with Cato and some of the complainants against Alpha, while Imperial “has never visited Milan,” said Mapa. “Both could not have been able to have a solid grasp of the issue at hand.”
The CAF/Patronato—for Centro Assistenza Fiscale-Tax Assistance Center— aims to assist taxpayers with tax obligations, such as the tax return or the ISEE (Economic Income Indicator Equivalent which is the basis of all gov’t aid and bonuses),” explained Mapa to the Senate panel in its letter.
In the February 7 hearing, senators learned that key officers of Alpha had flown abroad, amid the filing of a total of 92 complaints involving 219 victims and a total amount of 338,100 euros, or over P17 million, scammed.
Alpha’s Krizelle Diane Respicio had already flown to Saudi Arabia from Manila in December, they learned.
Hontiveros expressed hope that the long arm of the law could catch up with Alpha Assistenza, against whom a total of 92 complaints have been filed before the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Milan, as reported by Consul General Cato. His earlier proposal to tap an Italian lawyer for the victims was approved by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In the case buildup before the Milan prosecutor, Respicio and John Dutaro were accused of collecting about 338,000 euros (P17,230,805) from 102 Filipinos in Italy who represent 219 aspiring Filipino workers in Manila, in exchange for promises of nonexistent jobs.