Justice sought for death of female OFW in Saudi Arabia

So how many more DH in KSA will die before the government implements a total ban against sending of DH, caregivers, and nannies to Middle Eastern countries??

This is madness…

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Justice sought for death of female OFW in Saudi Arabia
JANESS ANN J. ELLAO, Bulatlat

It has been two years since Lilibeth Garcia has seen her sister Eugenia Baja who left to work in Saudi Arabia in May, 2007. Their long-awaited reunion should have been joyous and full of significance being on June 12 Independence Day and just five days since Migrants Day. But there was no cause for celebration in Baja’s much awaited return and the day lost its significance to Garcia and her relatives; because they were in grief and mourning as they waited in the cargo area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for the remains of her sister Eugenia Baja.

Baja left the country for Saudi Arabia last May 6, 2007. Her employment abroad was facilitated by the Aisis International Manpower Inc. which has its office in Malate, Manila. She signed a contract stating that she would be employed as a patient server in Saudi Arabia. However, she ended up being a domestic helper.

In January this year, Baja’s family was alarmed after receiving a series of text messages from her: the first pleading for help from her brother and a second message telling them that she did not know what her employers were doing to her and that she felt like losing her mind.

Their greatest fear was confirmed when they received news February 27 that Eugenia died three days earlier. But it was only by March 2008 that Garcia received a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) informing them of her sister’s death. Garcia was first told that Baja died from an illness. But DFA officials later told her that Baja committed suicide by hitting her head with bathroom tiles.

At that moment, their long struggle to have Eugenia Baja’s remains repatriated began.

Three painful months

Garcia followed up the repatriation of her sister’s remains with the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs for three months to no avail. When Garcia felt that her pleas were being ignored, she brought along representatives from the 700 Club, a news talk show of the Christian Broadcasting Network, which is being aired locally in QTV Channel 11.

Garcia told Bulatlat that because of the presence of media, OWWA officials immediately promised to give them P20,000 ($450.349 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.41) for burial expenses, a P100,000 ($2,251.745) life insurance policy for her father and another P2,000 ($45.03) for her father’s transportation expenses in going back to their hometown in Bohol.

Garcia said that even Aisis International Manpower, Inc. gave them P10,000 ($225.17) as financial assistance. The OWWA also gave them a direct contact number to a certain Ed Lamparas who is working in the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

“Nag-iiba sila kapag may kasama kang media. Samantalang dati pinabalik-balik pa nila ako,” (They suddenly changed just because I was accompanied by a media person. Whereas before, they made me come back and forth with no results. ) she added.

On the other hand, through the help of Migrante International, an organization of OFWs and their families, they were able to ask Senate President Manny Villar for assistance. Villar gave money for the plane tickets of Garcia and two other relatives going to Bohol for Baja’s wake. Congressman Edgar Chato of Bohol promised to shoulder the funeral expenses for Baja.

Journey home

“Nawalan na ako ng gana magtanong sa DFA kaya kay Ed Lamparas na lang ako tumatawag sa telepono,” (I lost my confidence with DFA so I called Ed Lamparas directly for updates.) said Garcia. She added that it was Lamparas who informed her that her sister’s remains would be arriving within one week and that they were having a hard time getting a flight back to Manila. Garcia was also informed that her sister’s employer shouldered the expenses for her repatriation.

She added that this was also the first time that someone, either from the government or from the recruitment agency, disclosed the name of the Baja’s employer, Major Abdulasis Alhusim. “Pulis ata yun,” (I think he is a poiceman.) she added.

“Nung nalaman nila na uuwi na yung kapatid ko, yung OWWA na yung tumatawag. Eh dati ako yung nangungulit,” (When OWWA found out that my sister’s remains was scheduled to be sent home, they started communicating with me. Whereas before I had to follow them up persistently. ) Garcia said.

The arrival

The plane that carried that remains of Eugenia Baja landed in NAIA around 7:30 p.m. June 12. Gladys Garcia from the legal department of Senate President Manny Villar was able to negotiate with the NAIA administration to allow the relatives to fetch the casket. Ten people – three relatives of Baja including Garcia, four people from the media, two staff of Migrante International and another from the office of Senate President Villar – went inside the airport to claim the body of Baja.

Garcia and her two accompanying relatives later emerged from the airport hand-in-hand and went to where other people were anxiously waiting. Garcia was crying hard as the rest of her relatives came to hug and comfort her. The night ended with a solemn prayer inside the humble jeepney, which they rode going to the airport.

But their quest for justice has just begun.

In an interview with Bulatlat earlier in the day, Garcia said that they intend to have Baja’s body autopsied here to be able to determine the true cause of her death.

“Yung buhay (na stranded OFWs) nga kaya baligtarin, yung patay pa kaya?” (If the testimonies given by stranded OFWs who are still alive are being twisted, how much more

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