Lebria said they also suffered physical and verbal abuse. “Minumura ka sa Koreano tsaka Arabo na may halong kamay,” (They curse us in Korean and Arabic. They even hurt us physically) narrated Lebria.
Lebria tried to voice out their concerns. But the problem is Clause 21 of the contract stated that any labor dispute should be resolved by arbitration not in Qatar but in Seoul, Korea under the guiding principles of Commercial Arbitration Rules of the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board.
He also later found out that the employment contract he signed was fake because it lacked the signature of the Labor Attache’ and there was no Arabic translation. Aside from these discrepancies, the said provision of the contract that specifically stipulated the arbitration clause was seen as defective.
In action movies, the movie closes with the lead character winning over the villain. But for Lebria, this is just the start of the battle.
Determined to stop the abuses he and his co-workers were experiencing, Lebria decided to make representations in the group’s behalf. “Tumakas ako, Tuesday, para lang makarating itong problema namin sa kinauukulan. Pinapuslit nga ako ng ibang lahi para maexpose na itong nangyayari samin,” (I escaped last Tuesday to be able to bring our complaints to the proper authorities. My co-workers from different countries even helped me escape so that we could expose what was happening to us) narrated Lebria.
Like in previous cases of distressed OFWs, Lebria told Bulatlat that the Philippine Embassy in Qatar was not much of a help. He said Philippine embassy officials gave him the run-around. He did not receive any support from embassy officials and employees. He was sheltered by Migrante while he was away from work because the Philippine Embassy claimed that they could only accommodate women OFWs because of lack of budget.
On March 24 , Lebria was originally scheduled to meet Qatar’s Vice Consul Jabber Ahfrung to finally settle the dispute between the employees and the employers of Woolim. However, he said in dismay, “Nagpunta ako doon tapos wala naman yung mga ka dialogue ko, nagkakanya kanya ng iwas pusoy,” (I went to the said meeting but there was no one to dialogue with. It seems that embassy officials were evading responsibility by not getting involved in the case.)
Fighting the battle up until the end
Because Lebria and the 16 other complainants lacked the support they were seeking overseas, they decided to take the fight home where they hoped to find more supporters and have a greater chance of winning the case. Lebria was given an exit permit due on the last day of March. “Ngayon andito na ako sa Pilipinas, ay ituloy ko na ang laban.” (Now that I’m here in the Philippines, I would continue the battle.) he added.
Lebria thinks that they have somehow won the battle in Woolim. Some of the minor problems that they were complaining about were already resolved such as the need for additional buses for their transportation services. They often see representatives from the Philippine Embassy and recruitment agencies visiting their workplace to see their condition. But the question remains, is this really for good?
Lebria said that he no longer believes in the government. “Wala nang lalapit sa Migrante kung kumikilos ang gobyerno,” (No one would ask assistance from Migrante if the government has been doing its job.) he said.
“Hangga’t andyan ang mga may pakana, kasabwat sa mga lugar na iyan, mas madami pang maloloko,” (For as long as the people behind this and their accomplices remain in position, more people are going to be deceived.) He is planning to file a case against POEA, the Batangueno Agency Inc., Woolim and Hyundai with the hope of being able to find justice for the sufferings that they had to go through.
But Lebria admitted that he would still try to work abroad despite all the problems he experienced. He believes that working abroad is the only way that he and his family would be able to survive. “Ang ayoko yung pamilya ko walang makain dito, kaya, andun na yun, naloloko, mag-iingat na lang sa susunod,” (I don’t want to see my family go hungry. This is why I have to work abroad despite the possibility of being cheated again. I just have to be careful next time.)(Bulatlat.com)>