Philippine envoy accused of slavery

Maid sues former ambassador to the UN, saying abuse made her contemplate suicide.

    Baoanan says the abuse was so bad she contemplated suicide

    'Depressed'

    "I did not have hope of escape," she told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday. "I thought of committing suicide because I was so depressed."

    The US federal lawsuit, which also seeks damages on charges of forced labour, trafficking and slavery, was filed after a criminal investigation by US authorities was closed with no charges filed, her lawyers said.

    Baoanan, 39, went to New York from Manila to work as a nurse.

    She said 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 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.

    Lauro Baja was envoy to the UN from 2003 to 2006
    "He took her passport, prevented her movement and communication, controlled her life to the fullest," Ivy Suriyopas, Baoanan's lawyer, said.

    Baja's wife Norma and daughter Elizabeth were also named in the lawsuit, filed for Baoanan by the Asian American Legal Defence and Education Fund in a court in Manhattan.

    A lawyer for the Bajas, Salvador Tuy, denied the allegations, saying there were no real examples of abuse.

    "She has used the whole case just so she can justify getting a temporary visa in the United States," he said.

    Called 'stupid'

    The complaint said besides long hours with low pay, Baoanan was forced to sleep in the basement with only a sheet, her employers refused to buy her 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 told reporters, breaking down.

    "They did not treat me like a person."

    After three months, she eventually escaped with the help of a fellow Filipina, Baoanan's lawyers said.

    A spokesperson said the Philippine mission to the UN was "looking into these allegations".

    Baja is now working in the Philippines as a consultant to the president of the senate.

    His daughter still resides in the US, lawyers said, and the family still owns a private US residence.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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