There seems to be no end to the stories of rape and abuse committed against overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Sad and horrifying as it is, Bulatlat decided to write their stories in an effort to call the attention of the government, and to contribute to the efforts of migrant rights advocates in promoting and defending the rights of OFWs and seeking justice for victims of abuse. Here are the stories of two women-victims.
BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
There seems to be no end to the stories of rape and abuse committed against overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Sad and horrifying as it is, Bulatlat decided to write their stories in an effort to call the attention of the government, and to contribute to the efforts of migrant rights advocates in promoting and defending the rights of OFWs and seeking justice for victims of abuse, most especially women.
Here are the stories of two women-victims.
16-year old victim
“Isa” (not her real name), a 16-year old Moro girl working as a domestic helper in Kuwait, is the most recent reported case of rape committed against women OFWs..
Gil Lebria, coordinator of Migrante International in Kuwait, reported the rape and maltreatment of Isa in an email to the Philippine office of Migrante. Lebria said that he first learned about the rape of Isa when a Muslim group in Kuwait, which was approached by Isa’s brother, sought Migrante’s assistance.
Lebria said that Isa’s brother told him that he first approached the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) shelter in Kuwait but the government office refused to handle his sister’s case. Isa’s brother reportedly told Lebria that a POLO official said that it is not their job to handle OFW cases. The government official claimed that it is the recruitment agency’s job to report the matter to the police and to ensure that the proper medical procedures are undertaken.
It was after the POLO’s refusal to help did they approach Migrante to help locate and rescue his sister.
Immediately, Lebria said, they approached Assistant Labor Attaché Emy Sto. Domingo who advised them to talk with POLO officer Ruth Tan.
When they approached Tan, however, they were told that she was too busy to accommodate them, Lebria said. But he noticed that POLO personnel were taking his pictures.
“Diplomatic naman ang pakikitungo ko sa kanila pero ba’t po ako tinuturing nilang kaaway?,” (I deal with them diplomatically but why is it that they treat me as their enemy?) Lebria asked.
He added that Philippine government officials in Kuwait are quite nice in front of him. “Pero ‘pag wala po ako..dapat mamatay na raw ‘yang migrante sa Kuwait. Pahirap lang sa emba (Embassy) at sa trabaho nila,”(When I am not around they would exclaim that they hope Migrante members in Kuwait would die. They claimed that we are making the work of the Philippine embassy more difficult.) Lebria said quoting his sources.
At the moment, Isa is still working with her employer who raped her. She has not yet been located and rescued.
It was “Lina’s” first time to work abroad in December last year. But her dream to give a better life to her family turned into a nightmare.
Lina, 29, left his husband and two children in Cotabato City to work as a domestic helper in Fujaira, United Arab Emirates.
Since the start she noticed inconsistencies in her supposed employment. In her pre-departure orientation seminar (PDOS), she was told that she was to work as a repacker and not as a domestic helper. She also noticed that different agencies were handling her: Ledmer Human Resources recruited her but when she received her certificate of completion of her PDOS, Lucky International was identified as her recruitment agency; when she arrived in UAE, another agency the Emerates accommodated her.
She was also allowed to leave the Philippines without signing a labor contract with the recruitment agency. In fact, she only learned that her monthly salary amounted to 600 dirhams ($163 at an exchange rate of $1= 3.6720 UAE dirhams) when she arrived at the UAE.
As it turned out, Lina worked as a domestic helper for an Arab couple with 13 children. Although she rarely looked after the couple’s children, she did all the chores in the mansion, including washing and ironing all their clothes, cooking, and cleaning the house.
She worked from 4:30 a.m. up to midnight, sometimes up to 2 a.m. the next day if the family had visitors. She was able to eat her only meal at 2 p.m.. She was lucky if she was given kubos (bread) for breakfast and dinner.
Her hands and feet have burns. She suspects that it was caused by the detergent and disinfectant she was using in hand-washing all the clothes of her employer’s family.