There have been earlier allegations that the Philippine Consulate General in Milan does not take action on the complaints of victims of widespread illegal recruitment.
How true is this?
On September 23, Quattro Club Journals released an article about over 400 Filipinos who fell victim to illegal recruitment in Italy.
Many comments and questions from the OFWs, particularly in Milan, Italy, have surfaced. Some of these involve seeking answers about the steps taken by the consulate to educate OFWs about Flussi.
(Decreto) Flussi refers to the annual quota for non-EU workers who are allowed to temporarily stay and work in the country. It is a system that regulates the flow of foreign workers into Italy. Employers in Italy must apply for a “Flussi” permit to hire non-EU workers, and these permits are typically valid for a specified duration.
Some OFWs are also asking what assistance is provided (by the consulate) to those who have approached as victims of this widespread issue.
Because of this, we mentioned in our previous article the two instances that were discussed in our “Pag-usapan Natin” episodes of the Philippine Consulate General.
Pag-usapan Natin is the virtual town hall meeting that is held through Zoom and simultaneously livestreamed on the PCG’s Facebook page.
The first one was aired on August 29, which allegedly did not conclude due to a power outage, and the second one was on September 15.
In both sessions, one of the topics that have been discussed by the consul general was the news about many OFWs falling victim to an illegal scheme/illegal recruiment/scam and informed that actions are being taken regarding these issues. He also advised the public to be cautious when posting on social media to avoid being charged with cyber libel.
Yesterday, September 26, the Daily Tribune interviewed Jeffrey Villalon, the alleged Marketing Director of Alpha Assistenza. He contested the aforementioned position and insisted that he only created the website, which was utilized as a tool to promote the agency’s recruitment services.
Below is the website of the said agency which was created by Villalon. The contents, though came from Respicio, according to him.
In addition, Villalon also created the Kalayaan 2023 materials which were used during the Independence Day event, where Alpha Assistenza purportedly served as a major sponsor, providing €29,000 for the event’s video wall.
However, Villalon claims to be a victim of Alpha Assistenza, as well. He said that Respicio promised to facilitate his return to Italy, where his children currently reside. He stated that he had no direct involvement in Respicio’s company operations and even conducted interviews with Alpha Assistenza’s clients. It was only later that he discovered from three individuals he spoke to that they are still in the Philippines and have not yet reached Italy.
You can watch Villalon’s complete statement in the video link below.
On September 24, an article by Allan Hernandez was published in the Daily Tribune regarding Respicio’s alleged ‘close ties’ with a certain government official assigned in Italy. The official was not explicitly mentioned in the article, as per the accounts of Respicio’s alleged victims.
However, on September 27, in the article still authored by Allan Hernandez, titled “Ties that bind consulate, Alpha ‘scammers’ bared,” it was explicitly stated that Respicio has a close connection with Consul General Elmer Cato. The allegation of him being the tatay-tatayan or ‘father figure,’ to Respicio as stated in the initial article, doesn’t seem far-fetched, especially considering the photo below as a basis.
But are the claims of some victims true, asserting that their complaints are merely brushed aside by the consulate?
And if it is indeed true that the high-ranking official has a close connection to Respicio, does this imply negligence on his part in carrying out his duties as the consul general?
These are just some of the questions that ordinary citizens who have been following the development of this issue may have.
Meet Consul General Elmer Cato: A Brief Introduction
If one visits the official Facebook page of the PCG, it is evident that it is active, and the official is prominently visible in each of these activities.
But first and foremost, let’s get to know Consul General Elmer Cato. Who is he, and where did he first serve before becoming the highest-ranking official of the Philippine Consulate General in Milan?
Source: The photo is dated December 28, 2022 and was taken from the PCG website.
Elmer G. Cato, a distinguished diplomat, currently holds the position of Consul General of the Republic of the Philippines in Milan, Italy, since December 2022. His extensive career in the Philippine foreign service has been characterized by a series of crucial appointments.
At the Home Office, Consul General Cato’s extensive contributions included serving as Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy and later for Strategic Communications during the tenures of Foreign Affairs Secretaries Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. from 2018 to 2019. Under the leadership of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario, Cato assumed vital roles as Special Assistant for Special Projects at the Office of Administration; Director for Intelligence of the Intelligence and Security Unit under the Office of the Secretary; and Executive Director of the National Council on United Nations Peace Operations from 2010 to 2012.1
Furthermore, Consul General Cato played pivotal roles in the administrations of Foreign Affairs Secretaries Domingo L. Siazon, Jr. and Teofisto T. Guingona. He served as spokesperson and Officer-in-Charge of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, as well as took on the responsibility of Officer in Charge of the Regional Consular Office in San Fernando and Clark Field, Pampanga.
Cato’s diplomatic journey has taken him to various key positions both within the Philippines and abroad. From serving as Peacekeeping Officer and Press Officer at the Permanent Mission, where he played a pivotal role in expanding Philippine participation in UN peacekeeping operations, to leading missions in Iraq and Libya, Cato’s contributions have left a lasting impact. His exceptional leadership during the height of the Islamic State onslaught in Iraq and his efforts to combat human trafficking syndicates in both Iraq and Kurdistan showcase his commitment to the welfare and safety of fellow Filipinos.2
In the 22 years preceding his tenure in the foreign service, Consul General Cato held various significant roles both in the Philippines and overseas.
It was December 2022 when Cato assumed the role of Consul General in Milan, Italy.
And like what has been mentioned earlier, the official is active and prominently visible on the PCG’s official page. There are instances that he even responds using his personal account to address people’s inquiries.
Here are some screenshots of OFWs asking questions and the official addressing them.
In the screenshot below, a netizen named Rodrigo Pascual asked why the consulate has not issued a statement regarding the agency mentioned by the victims.
Here is the response of the consul general to this query.
Coincidently, the name of the website where the article originated, as provided by the official, is Respicio and Co. Is there any connection between Krizelle Respicio (again) and this particular website, or is it just a mere coincidence?
Despite the discussions and conclusions based solely on photos and partial statements from some victims, these matters remain allegations. Many still hope that these are merely accusations against the highest-ranking Philippine government official in Milan.
But the question now that needs to be answered is what our consulate will do in the coming days to assist the victims of Alpha Assistenza.
Everyone is expecting the swift progress of this case. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla gave a statement that they will investigate, with the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation, the root of this widespread fraud.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, also expressed her intention to summon some of the complainants, as well as the Alpha Assistenza officials, who, according to the records of the Bureau of Immigration, are currently in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, here is the statement from Alpha Assistenza on the Facebook account under the name John Krizelle.
While the victims linked Alpha Assitenza being involved in this widespread fraud, it is also believed that there are other individuals or agencies that are also engaged in similar activities.
In the coming days, we anticipate more victims to come out, exposing various individuals or agencies involved in this issue, particularly in the issuance of fake nulla osta.
- A compassionate, dedicated, and seasoned diplomat is the new consul general in New York – Philippine Daily Mirror ↩︎
- Elmer G. Cato – EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki ↩︎
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