Shipping firm denies human smuggling claim

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 01 2018 08:59 PM

MANILA - A company has denied illegally recruiting for overseas jobs 139 workers found aboard its cruise ship docked in Orion town in Bataan last July.

“How could we be involved in illegal recruitment when we are not even actively recruiting people for work abroad? There is not a single time when we, or the company, has even asked for any form of payment or fees in exchange for overseas employment,” said Isagani Cabrera, President of Fahrenheit Co Ltd. 

The company owns and operates M/V Forever Lucky cruise ship which was supposed to depart for Micronesia with the recruits. Personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) stopped the ship from departing last July 3.

But the company said the ship was not scheduled to depart anywhere that night as repairs were being done in the vessel. 

Workers from different provinces were allegedly recruited to work as cooks, caregivers, singers and housekeepers.

“We [have been] in the business of port operations and other related businesses for the past 20 years. We have been operating as a law-abiding and responsible business entity. We would not sacrifice our untarnished reputation just to be involved in illegal activities especially in something as grave as human smuggling,” Cabrera said.

In a statement, the company said the case filed against Cabrera and four Fahrenheit workers were downgraded to illegal recruitment. But in a recent decision, the Department of Justice dismissed the case "for lack of probable cause."

Of the 139 rescued workers, the firm said the NBI only got 9 complainants who are on-the-job trainees from Sainte Trinite Academy finishing their internship.

On July 5, the said complainants also submitted their affidavit of desistance.

"Evidently, there is no intent from Fahrenheit Co Ltd to mislead the trainees. In fact, it should be their OJT (on-the-job training) recruiter who should answer what promises were made to them," said the firm's legal counsel John Aquino.

The firm added that the DOJ eventually dismissed the case after it found "no probable cause to indict respondents of the crime charged against them." 

"There is now a dearth of evidence with regard to the alleged acts of the respondents pertaining to the alleged illegal recruitment," it said. 

“We are law-abiding citizens. We are providing decent employment to our workers here in the port. It is unfair that these accusations were leveled against us but it is now the right time to set the record straight,” said Cabrera. “Truth is on our side.”