Hector Martolino pleaded guilty to defrauding his kababayans. (Photo:Canadian Press)

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Close to $500,000 in unpaid wages

By Ted Alcuitas

The owner of Mantolino Property Services Ltd. pleaded guilty to immigration fraud in a Halifax court January 25. He could face two years in jail.

Hector Mantolino was originally charged in June 2013 with 56 counts of immigration fraud but those charges were rolled into a single indictment.

“I would just like to say something to my family. … I would like to apologize for what I have done,” Hector Mantolino told Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Glen McDougall, his voice breaking, reports the CBC.

The owner of several cleaning and maintenance businesses in Halifax pleaded guilty in December 2017 to misrepresentation under provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

“If I would have known the consequences to what I would done, I would not have done it ever.”

McDougall reserved his decision until March 1.

Martolino used the temporary foreign worker program to staff his companies, bringing 28 workers to Canada from the Philippines over a number of years.

But he paid them at least $500,000 less in total than their official reported salaries, according to the Crown.

The case has divided the local Filipino community.

Some workers who have read victim impact statements say they were underpaid and worked long hours, remaining quiet for fear of being deported back to the Southeast Asian country.

Jason Sta Juana Jr., stands outside a Halifax courtroom after Hector Mantolino pleaded guilty to misrepresentation under provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

But others remain supportive of Mantolino, saying he helped them and improved their lives for the better.

Joe Mari Mangunay said the businessman was “very nice to us.” He said he was aware there were issues with his salary.

“It’s nothing compared to what I earned here in Canada’s opportunity,” he said in front of a packed courtroom. “I am very thankful and so is my family.”

But Jamie Jason Sta Juana Jr. painted a much different picture, saying Mantolino was “heartless” and that he couldn’t afford to buy diapers or formula for his child.

He described tears rolling down his face as he collected bottles for extra cash.

“He broke my dream for the future of my family, and had a great impact in my life,” he said. “The financial and emotional devastation is too intense to be able to describe in words.”

Filipinos who were victims of Martolino wait outside court. (Inquirer)