Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ex-Pinay workers denounce welfare officer in Saudi Arabia

MANILA, Philippines - Former Filipino caregivers trooped to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Manila to file formal charges against a welfare officer in Saudi Arabia who allegedly advised another worker to jump from the 3rd floor of their accommodation to get away from her abusive employer.

The women who were former caregivers of Annasban Company joined Merlinda Aquino, who arrived recently, in filing formal charges against the accused, Nestor Burayag, for grave misconduct and neglect of duties.

“Tinawagan ko si Mr. Burayag para magpasaklolo dahil hindi ko na matagalan ang pang-aabuso ng employer ko sa akin. Pero sinabihan niya lang ako na tumalon mula sa 3rd floor ng aming building para daw may dahilan para matulungan niya ako,” said Aquino.

(I phoned Mr. Burayag to seek help because I cannot stand anymore the abuses of my employer. But instead of helping me, he told me to jump from the 3rd floor of our building so I may have a reason for him to help me.)

Merlinda said jumping from the building can kill her.

Aquino said she was physically abused by her site manager since January this year and that her mobile phone and bank cards were also confiscated. She reported the offenses to the company, but there had been no action to protect her from her manager.

She said she was hoping to be rescued from her plight upon informing Filipino welfare officials of her condition, but nothing was done.

Aquino said she originally planned to join a protest of other abused Filipino workers as she was also a victim of the company’s gross contract violations.

Her wages were also cut and made to work for long hours without pay, she said. But because of fear and hopelessness due to the government’s inaction, she decided to keep a distance.

Earlier this month, the workers had called on OWWA officials to recall Burayag for neglecting his duty to secure with the Annasban management the exit visas for their release and forced them to pay a huge amount for repatriation.

Up to now, she said, no action has been taken by Administrator Carmelita Dimzon, adding, Burayag remains in his post while more than 30 women workers are still locked up in the company’s barracks.

“Burayag’s attitude reflects the Arroyo administration’s general mis-conduct toward overseas Filipino workers. They really do not pay attention to the well-being of our fellow Filipinos working abroad. In truth, many of them connive with foreign employers such as Annasban in subjecting Filipino workers in dire conditions. Kalakal ang turing sa OFWs, hindi tao. Habol lang nila ang kita na makukuha mula sa pagsasamantala sa aming lakas-paggawa,” said Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

(They treat us like trade and not human beings. They are only after their own interests.)

Migrante, an international alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, challenged the new regime under President-elect Benigno Simeon Aquino III to probe and sack erring officials and reorient the OWWA to be a genuine service institution.

The group also urged Aquino to scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies, which it branded as an “anti-migrant” policy unilaterally imposed by the Arroyo administration.

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