“Only the truth could give us a feeling of relief.” – family of OFW
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — It took Trinidad Dimacali, 63, a year before she was informed of her son’s death. About a month has already passed but the details of his death remains unknown, a mystery that breaks her heart every time.
“Andy wanted to ensure that his children would finish their education, something that he never had. He was full of dreams and now he is gone,” Trinidad said.
Trinidad said that Andy, not having the resources to finish his studies, was introduced to hard work at an early stage. He worked as contractual worker in Hacienda Luisita, a 6,430 real estate that President Benigno S. Aquino III co-owns, for roughly two years. At age 18, he then left their hometown in Nicolas, Tarlac to work in a bag factory, and eventually as a shoemaker, in Marikina City. Every pay day, Trinidad said her sonusually kept a little for himself and sent the rest of his money to his family back in the province to make sure that they have money to buy food.
These years were the prime of Marikina’s shoe industry and Andy was earning roughly $70 to $93 a week. But as the industry started to decline, so has Andy’s income. “They were so poor he could barely send his three children to school,” Trinidad said.
Because of this, Andy had to leave for Riyadh, Saudi Arabi on October 27, 2009 with high hopes that he would be able to give his family a bright future. He worked as a family driver with a monthly salary of 12,000 riyals.
Whenever he phoned home, Andy told his mother that he was alright and that his employers were treating him well. “He told me that he has his own room and his very own refrigerator,” Trinidad said, adding that his son would usually give away the mutton he had to other Filipinos who were not fed well by their employers. “I pity them,” she said, quoting Andy.
During Andy’s entire stay in Riyadh, Trinidad said, she received text messages from her son everyday, describing what he was doing and where he had been. In their last conversation, around last week of July 2010, Trinidad said Andy told her, “He bought me clothes that would make me look like a princess.”
Mary Jean Fallaria, Andy’s partner with whom he has three children, said that she last spoke with Andy on July 23, 2010. “We were talking about the details of his scheduled return to the Philippines that week. He was very excited and so were my children.”
After not hearing from Andy for quite sometime, Fallaria went to Al Mustaqbal International Inc., his agency. The agency told her that I “should not bug them on his supposed return because his two year contract is not even up.” But after his contract had expired on October 2010, Fallaria said, the agency employees told her that they, too, have not heard anything from Andy and that maybe, “he is already back in the country.”
From then on, they did not receive a text message nor a call from Andy. And even now that Trinidad knows why, she does not want to think about it, hoping up to the last minute, that the embassy was mistaken in saying that Andy is dead.
Unfortunate as it may sound, Virgilio, Andy’s twin brother, said the embassy got the news right. But what the officials could not get right is the truth about how his brother died. “If truth be told, I do not want them (embassy officials) to repatriate his remains yet. I want to know first what really happened?” he told Bulatlat.com
Last May 6, Fallaria received a letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs, informing them of the “death of your husband.” The letter added that “in order to facilitate the shipment of your husband’s remains to the Philippines, may we request you to visit OUMWA,” or the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrants Workers’ Affairs. They went to DFA’s office in Pasay City the following day and looked for Mayette Casaysayan who was identified in the letter.
“She clapped her hands and told us that they have been waiting for us to come to their office,” Fallaria said. She told us that Andy was killed on August 1, 2010 but they were not able contact them because there was “no contact information to his relatives” provided to them.
“We were told that he was stabbed and that the suspect is in jail,” Fallaria said, “The employer reportedly found him dead in his room and that that there were pieces of jewelry by his side. They said that there were no allegations that he stole it but it was a mere statement of fact.”
On May 25, Fallaria, accompanied by Virgilio, returned to DFA to meet Vice Consul Redentor Genotiva. “This time, we were told that (Andy) stole the jewelry. And when we asked who killed him, the vice consul told us that we should go back some other time,” she said.
Virgilio, for his part, asked Genotiva why there was no further information about his brother’s case, “He said that the case was confidential and that (the embassy) could not get a police report. The suspect, a certain Edgar Maligaya, is already in jail.” But, Virgilio said that Genotivo could not even provide information about Maligaya and how he is acquainted with his brother.
“Even Andy’s belongings are nowhere to be found. The last time we talked, he said that he has some $4,650 at hand,” Virgilio said.
But in a letter dated June 1, 2011, addressed to Migrante Middle East regional coordinator John Monterona, Roussel Reyes, Third Secretary and Vice Consul in Saudi Arabia, said that “Mr. Dimacali died outside the hospital” on July 20, 2010, with “wounds in the head, cracked ribs” and with a bleeding nose.
Similar to what Genovito said, the letter stipulates that the Embassy repeatedly attempted to request “a copy of the police report from Olaya Police Station and the prosecutor’s office” and all were “declined.”
“The embassy was advised that the document in question is confidential in nature and, as such, could not be provided to its representatives. Any report on the circumstances surrounding OFW Dimacali’s death thus may only be speculative without a conclusive report by the police in the investigation it has conducted on the case,” the letter further read.
Reyes added in his letter that it was the Philippine embassy who shouldered the costs of repatriating Andy’s remains because the “employer refused to assume the responsibility” after “it was discovered that missing jewelry of undisclosed value were allegedly (found) among the personal effects of Mr. Dimacali.”
“We were able to talk to him on July 23 so it seems that the report is not true,” Virgilio said. He added that the version of the story where Andy died in his room sounded more acceptable. “It is hard to picture him dying outside the hospital, with the many wounds he had, it is obvious that his killers ganged up on him. He was made to suffer. But what hurts more is that he is now being accused of being a thief when it is his belongings which are seemingly missing.”
“It is our priority not just to have his remains repatriated but also to know the truth and for justice to be served,” Virgilio said, “Only the truth could give us a feeling of relief.”
He added that they want to know who Maligaya is, hoping that he is not another victim. “Maybe he was just set up, blamed for a crime he did not commit. If (Andy’s) employer did not want to be linked to his murder, they should have cooperated (during the investigation). Surely, they have a copy of my brother’s papers,” referring to his passports and work visa, “where they could get contact information to his family. I am sure that no employer would have hired an employee without these.”
Andy’s case, however, is not isolated. Migrante Middle East, a chapter of OFW group Migrante International, has recorded several cases of OFWs who died under mysterious circumstances and whose cases remain unresolved. One of their high profile cases, that of Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez, 22, is still at the morgue of King Fahad hospital in Al-Khobar, some eight months later since she died. Ibanez was rushed to the hospital on September 2, 2010 after she was found in the kitchen of her employer’s house, soaking in her own blood. Her death, according to her attending physicians, was caused by acid ingestion and several stab wounds.
Another case is the death of Lorena Bedjoan, 24 on February 1, who “threw” herself from the 4th floor of a building in Fanar, Lebanon. Reports say that “she died immediately” and that “the police is investigating.” No additional information, however, was found, Monterona said.
Below is the list of some of the unresolved cases of OFWs who died under mysterious circumstances:
1. Rowena Peremne Arceo, 33, from Cordillera province, mysterious death, died October 22, 2008 in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
2. Joy Cabansi Sarto, 28, from Echague, Isabela province, murdered by her Arab employer on Sept.22, 2009.
3. Eugenia Baja, 24, initial reports said she committed suicide, but according to the autopsy report, which was later issued, Baja bore stab wounds and bruises.
4. Analyn De Pena, 33, from Old Sta. Mesa, Manila allegedly committed suicide sometime in November 2009, but family believes there is foul play
5. Marilou Macam Ating, 37, from Lingayen, Pangasinan, sketchy reports reaching the family said that she died after she fell from the fourth floor of her employer’s residence. Family believes there is foul play in her death on November 24, 2008.
Migrante’s chapter in Dubai, for its part, have recorded at least seven deaths of OFWs who died under mysterious circumstances yet remains unresolved from February to August 2009. They are:
1. Roderick Miranda who reportedly hanged himself on February 4
2. Norayda Ayuman who reportedly jumped from the 7th floor of a building on February 6
3. Jeffrey Alberto So who reportedly jumped from the 3rd floor of a building on June 13, and
4. Evelyn Lilo who allegedly jumped from a building on August 10
Migrante International is currently assisting the Dimacali family in their struggle to repatriate Andy’s remains. And, to make sure that he did not die in vain. They are also working hand in hand to know what really happened to Andy. Monterona criticized the Philippine embassy for “its failure to conduct its own investigation and for solely relying to the reports they got from Dimacali’s employer.”
Fallaria said that she is going to do her best to make sure that all her children would be able to finish their schooling. “That is what Andy wanted.”
“It is hard to believe that I have lost a son. Until now, I am hoping that it is not true and that he will come back well and healthy,” Trinidad said, “I hope that the DFA would do their job and act on (Andy’s) case. Have pity on his family whom he left behind.”