The FilAm – The 2008 complaint against Ambassador Lauro Baja who was accused by his maid of slavery has been settled, according to the lawyer of Marichu Baoanan.
“The civil action has been settled to the satisfaction of all parties concerned,” lawyer Ivy Suriyopas told The FilAm. She declined to disclose the terms of the agreement.
Asked by The FilAm if Marichu would be able to receive compensation, Suriyopas of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) said, “No, that is not what I meant.”
Civil cases typically involve payment of damages to settle a case.
On June 24, 2008, Baoanan filed a civil lawsuit of 15 counts including trafficking, forced labor, peonage and slavery against her former employers, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Lauro Baja, his wife Norma Baja and their daughter Maria “Beth” Facundo. According to the lawsuit, Marichu was trafficked to the U.S. by the Bajas and worked as a domestic worker in the Baja household for approximately three months. As maid, she was forced to work at least 18 hours a day, seven days a week, with no days off, for merely $100-approximately 6 cents per hour. Invoking diplomatic immunity, the Bajas asked the court to dismiss the charges.
After a one-year legal and organizing battle to waive Baja’s immunity, Judge Victor Marrero of the New York Southern District Court denied Baja’s motion and effectively removed his immunity so the case could proceed. Three years after filing, the case recently settled.
Since Marichu’s case, many workers have come forward with complaints of abuse by foreign diplomats, said spokesperson Leah Obias of the Damayan Migrant Workers Association.
“Their experiences are similar to Marichu’s: extremely long work hours, very low to no wages, stolen passports, threats of deportation and other forms of abuse,” she said.
Marichu was able to secure a T visa and was reunited with family members who were granted Derivative T visas under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. She was represented by Aaldef and Troutman Sanders LLP as her pro bono counsels.
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Image: ACLU SoCal/flickr