Monday, September 01, 2008

UN Diplomats Using Immunity Status For Human Trafficking, Cooking, Cleaning and the Dishes

Meet Lauro Baja: a former UN Ambassador with a smile like some Filipino Rupert Murdoch. Baja's a defendant (along with his wife Norma, their adult daughter and the family-owned Labaire Travel Agency) in 15 civil charges including trafficking, forced labor and racketeering. After filing a motion motion to dismiss all 15 civil charges last July, Baja is now invoking the Vienna Convention and is seeking the shelter of diplomatic immunity.

While most of these specific charges stem from the Baja's escaped housekeeper, Marichu Baoanan, the practice seems to be scandalously widespread with upwards of 42 separate allegations noted by the Government Accounting Office. Worse still, the U.S. State Department keeps no record of abuse allegations accusing foreign diplomats—probably for the same reason that the Department of the Interior is toking up, snorting blow and having sex with oil industry reps. But let's take these scandals one at a time:

Baoanan, 39, a nurse, came to New York from Manila to the United States to earn money for her family. According to a federal lawsuit filed in June, she paid $5,000 to Baja and a travel agency run by Baja's wife for a promised nursing job.

But she ended up working full-time as the Baja's personal maid and was paid only $100 for three months of work, including cooking, doing laundry and cleaning the four-level ambassador's residence in Manhattan, she said.

[...] besides long hours with low pay, Baoanan was forced to sleep in the basement with only a sheet, her employers refused to buy proper shoes and clothes, and she was called "stupid" and "slow."

During one incident, she said the former ambassador "just stared" and did nothing as Facundo's 5-year-old son hit her with a broom, spat and kicked her in the face.

"My eyes became blurry ... from crying every night," she said, breaking down. "They did not treat me like a person."

After three months, she eventually escaped with the help of a fellow Filipina, lawyers for Baoanan said.
In the Bajas' defense, they do throw a nice cotillion:

[Via The Phillipine Reporter, The Epoch Times and the activist blog, End Trafficking]

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