Bicolana OFW dies after serving 'two masters' in Saudi Arabia
CAMARINES SUR, Philippines – When she left Barangay Binobong in Pili town in 2015 to work in the Middle East, Ana Fe Velasco-Bania was full of life.
"Ana Fe is my eldest daughter," said Maria Francia Velasco. "She decided to work abroad with desires of providing good life to her children, send them to school until college, rebuild her home, and to recover the less than a hectare riceland leased to our relative for almost P200,000."
The mother of 3 sons left the country as a documented migrant worker. Her expenses to work abroad were shouldered by her employer under the Integrated Programme for Fair Recruitment (FAIR), a global project that seeks to promote fair recruitment practices. The Philippines is among the target countries for the pilot project.
Ana Fe headed to Saudi Arabia for work as a domestic helper in April 2015. In Riyadh, she worked for Yahya Muhamad Ali Alyami for a monthly salary of $400. This was for a 24-month contract.
Velasco said her daughter served two households, in violation of her contract.
“She served two masters in Riyadh. She was sent by her original employer to their family friend as on-call worker to do the household services which we considered as violation of her work contract,” Velasco said.
Velasco said based on her previous communication with her daughter, Yahya Muhamad Ali Alyami was a kind employer but the other employer was reportedly cruel and maltreated her daughter.
A few months before Ana Fe's work contract was to end in December, Velasco received a report that her daughter had died of a heart attack on September 29. She was 38.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) worked on the immediate repatriation of Ana Fe’s remains to the Philippines, which arrived at the Legazpi City Domestic Airport on November 2, where her grieving family received her. Her remains were immediately transported to Nabua town in Camarines Sur.
Before her corpse was embalmed, the family checked it and found bruises on her body. “My daughter’s cadaver has bruises all over her body. That could be the consequence of maltreatment she went through to her second employer," Velasco said.
While the family members checked the corpse, Ana Fe's youngest son, 5-year-old James Bryan, asked them to wake up his mother so they could hug each other.
“We don’t know what to do and how to explain to a 5-year-old boy that his mother would no longer wake up and could no longer kiss and hug him. That he is motherless forever,” Velasco said between sobs.
Ana Fe’s remains were brought to their home in the remote village of Binobong in Pili town, which has an unpaved and muddy road. Her family lives in an unfinished, partially concrete home with a dirt floor and one shared room.
Ana Fe’s eldest son, 18-year-old Leejan Mark, is in Grade 12 while Steven, 16, is in Grade 9. Both studied at Binobong High School. James Bryan is a kindergarten student at Pili Central School.
Construction worker Ferdinand Bania, Ana Fe’s husband, said that he would like his wife's remains to undergo an autopsy to verify the cause of her death, but they couldn't afford it.
A medical report from the King Khalid Hospital in Saudi Arabi said that Ana Fe died of an acute cerebrovascular accident or a stroke. Ana Fe's family, however, doubted this finding.
“If government officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs will help me out, I will pursue the case against the employers of my wife. But, if there’s nobody willing to help us, I could not do anything about because I don’t have the capacity to pursue the case,” Ferdinand said.
Ana Fe reportedly died after working for her second employer. It was found out that on September 23, she started working for her second employer for 3 days.
After the end of her 3-day duty at the second employer, her first employer awaited her return. But she was later found already dead in the hospital.
Ferdinand said that on October 4, he received a video from his wife's friend which showed Ana Fe crying and asking for help – she was sick but her second employer was still forcing her to work. Unfortunately, the video was sent to him a week after Ana Fe died.
The OFW's family hopes that OWWA and the DFA will help them pursue a thorough investigation into Ana Fe's case so that justice will be served.
Fatima Dazal, an officer of the OWWA regional office here, said they have yet to track down the name of Ana Fe's second employer.
Based on the records of OWWA and the POEA regional office in Bicol, there are 53,808 active members and 120,021 inactive members, or a total of 173,829 OFWs from the region as of June 2017.
Among the 6 provinces of Bicol, Camarines Sur has the highest number of OFWs with 71,770, followed by Albay with 45,082, Sorsogon with 20,694, Camarines Norte with 18,093, Masbate with 10,746, and Catanduanes with 7,444. – Rappler.com