Sunday, September 18, 2011

Accused by Saudi employer, Filipina domestic worker jailed over a piece of underwear

An undated photo of Filipina worker Melanie Cordon released by the Asia Human Rights Commission to the Mindanao Examiner.

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 18, 2011) – A Filipina domestic worker was jailed in Saudi Arabia on false charges by her former employer who accused her of stealing a dirty underwear, the Asia Human Rights Commission reported.

It said Melanie Cordon was taken to the Ha'il Main Prison, where she is presently detained. The woman phoned her brother in the Philippine to say that she was jailed on allegations that she stole the underwear found in her suitcase, an accusation she strongly denied.

She said a Saudi judge sentenced her and other Filipino prisoners up to one year in jail.

“In Melanie's case, she was told that she will be jailed for a period of four months to one year. She was never given the opportunity of making her defense and, in fact, never attended a trial. Also, according to what Melanie told her brother, there were other Filipinos in the cell that were sentenced to four months who had already been there for over a year,” the AHRC said.

Cordon was working for Yasir Abdul Asis Al-Hawas, but upon her arrival in Saudi Arabia this year, she was informed that she would be working in the house of Al-Hawas' brother.

In June, Cordon was told to work to the house of Al-Hawas’ mother, Monera where she had been made to work extremely long hours in cleaning the matriarch’s four-storey house.

Due to extreme hardship, Cordon sought permission from Monera to end her work contract and return to the Philippines, but the matriarch asked her to finish one year of her two year contract on August 7 and told her to stay until after Ramadan and then they would let her go home.

Cordon packed her belongings, but was again told to work in July for Al-Hawas' brother and left her suitcase in Monera’s house. On August 14, the day Cordon was to return to her country, she went to retrieve her luggage but was confronted by Monera and a police officer who opened the suitcase where the underwear was found.

The Filipino group called Migrante-Middle East has called on the Aquino government to look into the case of Cordon and other overseas Filipino workers jailed on false allegations in Saudi Arabia.

“This is quite disturbing, although this has been the usual treatment to our fellow OFWs who were falsely accused, OFW Cordon, like many other cases, was never given the opportunity to defend herself and never attend a hearing,” said John Leonard Monterona, the group’s regional coordinator.

He said there are some 120 Filipino workers detained in Saudi more than their jail term and still awaiting repatriation. (Mindanao Examiner)

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