High pay for security jobs in Iraq has more appeal than bleak life at home Victor Ocampo's five-month stint guarding the US embassy in Baghdad paid for his daughter's college diploma. Mr Ocampo considered his illegal recruitment to war-torn Iraq as no less dangerous than being an army bomb disposal expert - his previous job for which he had earned much less than the US$1,000 a month that his local recruiter, Triple Canopy Group, had paid him. 'With life so hard these days, this is better than dying of hunger,' he told his wife and three children before leaving. If given another chance, he may return to Iraq, just like many of the more than 60 former soldiers who went and came back with him. In the past two years, recruitment of Filipinos to serve as security guards and bodyguards in the war-torn nation has continued despite a ban on Filipinos being employed in Iraq. The government-imposed ban came after Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz was abducted in July 2004. When the ban was imposed in August 2004, about 4,200 Filipinos, working mostly in American military camps, were allowed to stay on. Today, about 5,000 Filipinos are reportedly still working in Iraq, foreign affairs department spokesman Gilbert Asuque said. An alarmed Senator Rodolfo Biazon, who chairs the Senate defence committee, fears there are fresh plans to step up recruitment of military men. Senator Biazon, a former armed forces chief, claims there are paper trails linking military subcontractors from the US to recruiters based in the Philippines. The port city of Subic signed a contract in May with US-based group Blackwater - a subcontractor which has already hired men from Fiji, India, and the Philippines - to train troops. Senator Biazon intends to investigate the security and foreign policy implications of this contract because it states 'the company intends to bring in a minimum of 1,000 trainees a month'. He said the deal may break a provision in the constitution which forbids foreign troops on Philippine soil. He is also afraid there would be many 'desperate' applicants for security jobs in Iraq, with salaries from US$1,500 to US$5,000 a month and death benefits of up to 15 million pesos ($2 million) each. A colonel in the Philippine military admitted yesterday that news reports had generated much interest within the army, since military men were preferred. Philippine National Police spokesman Samuel Pagdilao said 'there are some retiring or resigning because they want to try their luck in other countries'. One soldier, a veteran fighter against Islamists in the southern Philippines, said he would go to Iraq because he would rather die there rich than be killed penniless in Mindanao. He also argued it was 'better to become a mercenary rather than join a kidnap-for-ransom gang or a bank robbery syndicate'. Filipino soldiers were ripe for recruitment by foreign security contractors, said Rosanto Labayog, president of Unified Sports, which runs a shooting range. He said his company had been 'getting calls from specialised military training units that would like to come and do some proficiency testing' on the range. The Philippine government has declined to condemn the recruitments. The US embassy in Manila said it was not involved.