SAIPAN STRIPPERS CARRIED ILLEGAL PASSPORTS

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By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa and Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 12) – The minor dancers hired by Starlite Club used other peoples’ birth certificates to obtain Philippine passports and gain entry into the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, according to the affidavit filed in court by the Department of Public Safety.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR news files, in March, six minors were taken out of the Saipan nightclub investigated for employment of minors and illegal confinement of workers.]

The minors also signed "waivers" of their personal rights – including the right to have a boyfriend or to go out on their own once they reached Saipan, the affidavit stated.

Before their arrival here, they were informed that they would dance naked in front of nightclub customers who would not be allowed to touch their bodies.

But upon their arrival here, they said their supervisors would scold them if they complained about customers touching them or making them perform lewd acts.

They said their barracks on Capitol Hill had an alarm that would sound an alert if somebody tried to leave.

The only time they could go out was if they had escorts, who were usually their supervisors.

Before coming to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the employees said they were told by their employees that the company would provide them with all basic supplies like clothes and toiletries but they were actually charged for these items at excessively high rates so they ended up receiving as low as US$50 every pay day due to deductions.

These are some of the statements made by seven former Starlite Club dancers to the Department of Public Safety, which submitted a nine-page affidavit of probable cause in support of the issuance of search and arrest warrants against Starlite Club owners and corporate officers.

The former dancers are now either in government custody or have been taken away by authorities from their employer-provided housing on Capitol Hill due to the ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Public Safety that led to the arrests of the club’s owners – David and Corazon Atalig, Nilda Maniego and Precilla Rulloda who all posted bail on Monday.

Robert T. Torres, counsel for the Ataligs and their company, said his clients are presumed innocent and that the affidavits in support of the arrest and search warrant are "mere statements" made by Department of Public Safety.

The Ataligs also operate Stardust Club in San Jose.

Two of the former Starlite Club dancers are still minors.

Others were also recruited as minors last year.

According to the Department of Public Safety affidavit, one of the minors was only 16 when recruited.

She said she was told by recruiter Maritess Sambo in the Philippines to "get another name."

The minor said she used a relative’s birth certificate and gave it to Sambo who processed the passport.

Another employee, who was a 17-year-old when hired, also used a family member’s name to get a passport.

An 18-year-old used a neighbor’s birth certificate because she was told by Sambo that she could not work on Saipan if she was not 21 years old.

April 13, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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