Monday, March 26, 2007

Filipinos lose money on missing Canadian jobs

Updated Thu. Feb. 1 2007 10:18 PM ET

Kathy Tomlinson, CTV News

Virgilio Cabillan has a dream -- to help his countrymen retrieve thousands of dollars they paid to a Toronto lawyer, for jobs that didn't materialize.

"I am fighting for the people who lost their money and who are now crying for justice," Cabillan told CTV News. "My fight is that the truth will come through."

Cabillan is a former employee of immigration lawyer Rose Legagneur. In 2005, she sent him to the Philippines as her representative. His job was to collect money from Filipinos, who were desperately hoping to buy a better life in Canada.

Dozens of job hopefuls were told that -- if they paid Legagneur's employment agency up front -- she would help them find a Canadian employer and get a work permit.

"Because she is a lawyer the trust they put in her through me," he said. "People sold their houses to pay."

Legagneur's company sent dozens of job orders to the Philippines, under various Canadian business names and addresses. The salaries listed ranged from $20,000 to $50,000 per year. Perks were listed, too -- free round trip air fare, free accommodation and free health care.

Records show Cabillan collected US$181,000 from dozens of Filipinos on Legagneur's behalf, before he quit his job.

"I have all the documents with me," Calliban said, while showing CTV News a binder full of correspondence and bank records. "I have all the remittance that was given to me by the applicants."

Rodolfo Manalo is one of the Filipino clients who says he paid US$4,800 to Legagneur, almost two years ago. He did receive a job offer -- for construction work that was supposed to pay $23.00 per hour. Manalo told CTV News the visa officer at the Canadian Embassy eventually told him the job was bogus.

"We were very shocked then because we were denied by the Embassy," Manalo told CTV News, in an interview from Manila. "It doesn't exist so that is the reason we were denied."

"It ruined my child's future because instead of the money going to my child for his education or for his daily necessities it is going to pay my loan," said Manalo.

CTV News tried to find the Toronto firm named in Manalo's job offer, with no luck. The address given is a post office box. The phone number is out of service.

"It is painful. Because I work hard for this," said Filipino-Canadian Desiree Espinosa. She paid Legagneur US$4000, hoping to get her brother a job in Canada. She hasn't been able to find the company that was supposed to hire him.

"I finance my brother to help him in good faith that he can come here to Canada and join us," Espinosa said. "It's a lot of money. A lot of money."

CTV News called Legagneur and asked her to explain all of this, in an on-camera interview. She refused. We knocked on her office door -- but as soon as we said we were from CTV News, she slammed the door and locked it.

"It's shameful. So very shameful," said Jenneth Gordo, the manager at Jeremiah Queen International Services, a Manila employment agency which helped find job recruits for Legagneur.

"We are the ones facing the applicants," Gordo said. "They were so mad at us. They were so angry."

Gordo said Canada's reputation in her country has suffered as a result. "You know here in the Philippines it is very hard to earn money," she said. "The applicants invest a lot for this case and it all goes to nothing."

CTV News asked Immigration Minister Diane Finley whether she was concerned.

"Oh, we work so closely with our own operations abroad to make sure that people wanting to come to Canada do get all the facts," Finley told CTV News in Ottawa.

"We take a very dim view of anyone who is trying to misrepresent Canada's standards...because we want to make sure that the image of Canada the people receive is the right one."

Cabillan and several other Filipinos have filed complaints with the RCMP and the Law Society of Upper Canada. They hope someone in Canada will take action and perhaps even get the applicants' money back.

"I am appealing to the Law Society ... to hear my grievance. Appealing to the RCMP," said Cabillan. "Filipino people have such high regard when it comes to Canada. That's why they are full of applicants who want to come."