July 17, 2014
|Phil Kaplan (second from the right) with members of the 1998|
Clinton Administration Task Force and foreign workers who testified
at the 1998 Senate Hearing.
Phil was a devoted advocate for the CNMI's foreign workers. He served as the human rights advocate for the Catholic Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, Saipan in the early 1990s. He assisted dozens of foreign workers on Saipan and Rota.
Many times Phil flew to Rota to support our efforts to help the foreign workers seek justice from abusive employers. On several trips he brought some of the workers back to Saipan so they could seek help from law enforcement officials there. He often paid their legal fees. He provided them with food, found them shelter and watched over them.
In 1994, after months of attacks and threatening phone calls, Phil and an employee of the Governor Tenorio's office hired a body guard to stay with our family. Phil was with our family on the last night we spent in Rota. He brought a turkey and cooked dinner for us and some of our closest Chamorro and Filipino friends. His famous "green sage turkey" recipe was shared many times at our table in Florida when Phil and his beloved wife, Celia visited us.
Phil was Uncle Phil to our children. When we lived on Saipan every weekend he took them bowling, to the beach or to the movies to entertain them. After we moved to Florida, Phil found the bowling lanes and spent afternoons bowling with the kids during every visit.
Phil served as a member of the seven-member team of human rights advocates and attorneys that was contracted by the Clinton Administration in 1998 to investigate and report upon the conditions of the foreign contract workers. After the investigation five foreign workers from Saipan were called upon to testify at a U.S. Senate Hearing. Four of the five individuals were given asylum in the United States. Phil generously took three of them back to his hometown of Seattle where he and Celia took them under their wings helping them to acclimate, find jobs and start their new lives.
Phil's humility hid the fact that he was truly one of the rare unsung heroes.
I remember Phil for his warmth, genuine kindness and pure heart. One of his most repeated comments was, "Life is good!" Every time I hear that phrase I think of Phil.
We are of course heartbroken by this news, as are many of the workers whose lives he touched. We are grateful to have had such a kind and loving person in our lives. He was an earthly guardian angel to thousands. Rest in peace, dear Phil.