MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is negotiating the release of an allegedly “abused” overseas Filipina worker (OFW), currently detained in Burayda, Qassim, Saudi Arabia after being accused of stealing from her employer, according to Jenny Rivera of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.
In a phone interview with Rappler, Glenn Avila Marudo, appealed for help in getting his 24-year-old common law wife Catrina Genova Escultor repatriated. She works as a helper in a salon in Saudi Arabia.
According to Marudo, his wife started working in the kingdom in January 2016, initially as a laundry worker then eventually helping out in her employer’s salon. Escultor told him she was being physically abused.
“Sinasaktan daw siya ng amo niya. Minsan, inagaw ng amo niya ang cellphone sa kanya at sinapak siya. Pagkatapos niyon ay kinulong siya sa kuwarto niya,” said Marudo.
(She said her employer is hurting her. One time, his employer grabbed her cellphone then hit her. After that, he locked her inside her room.)
Marudo said he received a photo of Escultor with a scorched arm – it appeared to have been burned with an iron. The lower part of her arm was filled with cuts.
Aside from the physical abuses, Marudo said his wife also complained of not being regularly paid her wages.
On April 20, 2016, Marudo said his wife was able to escape after being locked inside her room by removing the air conditioner and squeezing through the hole where the aircon was.
Escultor immediately sought the help of her Filipina friends who wanted to take her to the Philippine embassy. Her passport and other documents, however, were in the possession of her employer.
Out of fear they wouldn’t make it past the checkpoints without her papers, they took her to the police station instead where she filed a case against her employer and stayed there for 7 days.
On the eve of April 27, her employer came to take her. The next day, however, he brought her back to the police station and this time, filed a case against her.
He said she was caught “in the act of stealing 18,000 USD”. She was then detained immediately. That was the last time Marudo was able to talk to her.
Bring her home
Marudo immediately sought the help of the Philippine government. With Rivera, he attended meetings with the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and his wife’s employment agency, Boom International Recruitment.
The agency, according to Rivera and Marudo, has so far been cooperative with the authorities and has even offered financial assistance to the victim’s family.
According to Rivera, the DFA is already negotiating with the employer and Saudi authorities to be able to free and bring Escultor home. She was still in jail as of May 27, 2016.
“Ang priority is mailabas at maiuwi lang muna. After that, tsaka na natin pag-uusapan ano pa ang puwede nilang gawin,” said Rivera. (Our priority is to get her out of jail and bring her home first. After that, we’ll talk about what else we can do.)
In a press release sent to Rappler, John Leonard Monterona, convener of the United OFW Worldwide (U-OFW) who has also been helping Marudo and his wife, called for the review of the PH-Saudi bilateral agreement on the hiring of Filipino household service workers (HSWs), adding that they have been receiving an average of 8 OFW cases daily, mostly involving HSWs.
“The PH government should urge its counterpart and host government to ratify, adopt, and pass local social legislations that will adhere [to] and implement the International Labor Convention No. 189 or the Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers,” Monterona said.
In the same press release, Marudo also called on President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to step in and help.
“I am calling on the DFA and the POEA, to seriously attend to my wife’s case. Provide her legal and other assistance she needs. She was a victim of maltreatment and yet she’s now in jail. Me and our two children are begging the incoming president Mayor Rody Duterte to help us. We want her home, soon, kayo na lang po ang pag-asa namin (You are our only hope),” he said. – Rappler.com
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