By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Since Camille, not her real name, left for Saudi Arabia in May 14, 2009, she has encountered numerous hardships one after another.
Barely three months into her job as a janitor in a dental clinic in Dammam, Camille was raped by her Bangladeshi coworker. She got pregnant as a result. Accused of having an extramarital affair — her employer refused to believe that she was raped — Camille was jailed. Because of the hard and stressful living conditions in the Hafer Al Baten Jail, Camille had a miscarriage last Dec. 20, 2009.
“Where she is and having a miscarriage is almost equal to or probably worse than giving birth,” Migrante chairman Garry Martinez said. Migrante International, the organization of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) that had been spearheading campaigns for Camille’s release, was alarmed when they learned that Camille would have to suffer 100 lashes. “Her health might not endure 100 lashes.”
Blinded before by the promise that working abroad would help lift her family from poverty, Camille’s relatives now find it hard to accept what she is going through. Camille’s mother, 60 years old, was teary-eyed when she recounted the hardships then that forced her daughter to work abroad.
“She used to be a sales attendant. But with her meager wage, her eldest son was forced to stop schooling after high school,” said Camille’s mother, who requested anonymity. She told Bulatlat that when her daughter left last year, she knew that Camille’s only dream was to give her three children the best education that she could not have offered them if she were to continue working in the country as a saleslady.
At first, Camille told her mother she was apprehensive about the working conditions in Dammam. Her mother thought it weird because Camille is a tough person. A few days after Camille left, her mother said she failed to contact her daughter until her son-in-law got a call from a crying and hysterical Camille. Camille failed to explain why.
“It was only through her best friend that we found out what had happened,” Camille’s mother said, adding that her daughter must have been very afraid at the time.
Camille’s mother said her son-in-law rarely goes home now because he finds it hard to put up a strong front for his children. “He told me he feels like he is suffocating whenever he sees their children,” Camille’s mother said.
As for Camille’s children, her five-year-old youngest son is unaware of her plight while the second son has now stopped going to school. “He seems to be thinking of his mother a lot,” Camille’s mother said, “He cannot concentrate on his studies.”
Migrante More Updated than DFA
Migrante brought up Camille’s case in its dialogue with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on December 26, but Martinez said that instead of the DFA updating the OFW group on the cases they are handling, it was the other way around. “They found out only during our dialogue that Camille had had a miscarriage,” he said.
Martinez told Bulatlat that he was shocked at how officials of the DFA had been disclosing rumors that Camille had a “boyfriend” other than the Bangladeshi who raped her. “They know the rumors but not the facts,” he complained.
The Bangladeshi who raped Camille claims that they were lovers. But Martinez said the Bangladeshi would definitely not admit to the truth because he knows that if he does, he would be beheaded under the Saudi Arabia laws.
Migrante secretary-general Gina Esguerra criticized officials of the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia as Camille remains without legal representation in court. “Even Camille’s wish to be given decent clothes was ignored. She is still wearing the same clothes that she wore when she was imprisoned,” Esguerra said in a statement, adding that this is happening despite the DFA budget amounting to millions of pesos, which ironically comes from the fees being paid and remittances being sent by so-called “modern-day heroes” like Camille. (Bulatlat.com)