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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And She Duly Lost Her Cause

"As long as there remain barbaric and sex maniac Arab employers, there will be no dearth of abused victims being raped and murdered."

Just like any domestic helper working  in the Middle East content with a dirt cheap salary, she did not wish to be rich, she just wanted to feed her loved ones, send her kids  to school and help her old parents.  Asria Samad Abdul  a typical housewife, frail and wrinkled by poverty, became a symbol of a failed struggle by hapless domestic helpers in their pursuit of a better life.. She hailed from Maguindanao, the third poorest province in the Philippines,  famous for its two group of people - the bestial and powerful billionaire Ampatuan clans and the poorest of the poor in the land.

In her struggle to escape untold of poverty, Asria Samad landed a job in Kuwait as a domestic helper. Not surprisingly, her employers maltreated her by starving and beating her - enough reason that she fled from them. The next phase of her precarious adventure would later prove to be her last gasp off the noose. The Kuwaiti couple who subsequently took her in had ferociously feasted on her on a daily basis by subjecting her to extreme physical abuse. The indescribable cruelties she suffered from their hands rendered her weaker each day that they decided to throw her in the desert. Asria was too weak but alive when the evil Kuwaiti couple run her over three times to make it appear that she was a victim of a hit and run. (So that proves that even the fiercest soul-less criminals can sometimes be the most stupid too.) Convinced that they got rid of her, they must be celebrating when police was able to track them down. Thursday, July 15 when the body of Asria was found near a horse stables in Kabad, a desert area. But the sleuths did not buy the idea that it was a case of hit and run when only her eyes were without  bruises.

In retrospect, a three-man team of solons led by Rep. Carlos Padilla went  to the Middle East in November last year on a fact-finding mission to see first hand the conditions of OFWs especially the domestic helpers. On their five-city tour that consisted of Riyadh, Jeddah, Amman, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, they got to interview some runaway domestic helpers housed in those shelters and every one of them had a unanimous recommendation to the government, to put a stop to the deployment of domestic helpers in the Middle East. Each distressed runaway had the saddest story to tell them, that they came up with a strong consensus that it was about time the Philippine government  act on it.

The recommendation from the three solons would have gained ground, because there was no bilateral agreements that existed between Middle East countries and the Philippines, insofar as protection of migrant Filipino workers is concerned. Section 4 of the Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 says, that there must have existing social and labor laws protecting the rights of migrant workers. Rep. Padilla would later hit the government on this, because it keeps on violating its own laws when it cannot ensure the protection of Filipino migrant workers yet aggressive in its  labor export policy.

Another compelling reason according to Padilla why the government has to put an end to the deployment of domestic helpers to the Middle East is, the cost of repatriation of distressed OFWs is too high that it could even cause bankruptcy to the OWWA. It is a fact then that the economy is not projected to suffer (or will not be affected at all) if the government pushes through with the complete ban.

So here we go. If the government is incapable of protecting its exported workers, why not stop exporting the most vulnerable? We know and the government knows that the DHs are the most susceptible to being trafficked, oppressed and abused by their employers. Not to mention those being raped and murdered by their sex maniac employers. I really wanted to hear success stories by our compatriots who worked as domestic helpers to give a bit of rationale (of continually exporting them),  but I could not find one. If there were few in the list, what was the ratio against those who were beaten, starved, raped and went home dead?

Media reports and Human Rights organizations certify that the Middle East is the most dangerous place for domestic helpers. Sans seers and oracles, countless cases of abuses and deaths don't see its end coming in the near future, because the trend is there to stay. So what else are we waiting for? It's a shame that the government has spent more time brainstorming ( as to the new title bestowed on our exported compatriots ) than deciding on their greater good. Hallelujah to them that sit on their thrones for protecting the dignity of our domestic helpers (by upgrading their title)!  Now we can legally and respectfully call them Household Service Workers or HSW and not DH anymore. But here in the Middle East? They will be eternally referred to as "Kadamat" or "Alila" or Servant.

It's still current in my memory how my older sister recounted to me the indignation she suffered at the hands of her recruiter from Bacolod City.  She was offered initially to work in the palace (kuno) for the Sheikhas of Qatar. She was very ecstatic then at the prospect of working in a palace. But when her documents were completed (minus the  ticket), she was told that her profile was liked by a very rich family in Lebanon and that they had no option but to send her to them. "In Lebanon you will be treated with the experience of a lifetime where you can literally walk on the snow, whereas in Qatar, you will  not be allowed to go to the mall nor remove your abayah, you will be a virtual prisoner inside the palace." (They now equated Qatar to hell.) All of us resisted the idea because of reports on some Filipino domestic helpers falling from buildings in Lebanon (like meteorites),  and widespread abuses of domestic helpers, (as evident in the embassy's crowded shelter housing hundreds of distressed runaway). When my sister decided to back out, she was made to pay for the ice cream and lunch the recruiter had earlier ordered in addition to  mouthfuls of profanities. Thank God she did not push through to Lebanon as the war broke out the next year that led to repatriation of thousands of domestic helpers from Lebanon.

Despite  Filipino communities and several Human Rights groups urging the government  to immediately ban the export of domestic helpers in Kuwait in the aftermath of the twin brutal murders of  our compatriots last month, the Philippine government stresses that it is not  placing a ban on deployment of domestic helpers in Kuwait just yet. The DFA was even straightforward in its assessment that placing a ban on domestic helpers in Kuwait is not the solution. So that tells of the wimps in the government how ineffectual and useless are they. All  facts and figures are readily laid out on the table yet they still refuse to act with urgency. Earlier recommendation in November 2009 by the three solons of complete banning did not even stand a chance of deliberation in Congress until it just died in limbo.

We know for a fact that abuses and deaths of our compatriot domestic helpers will not stop unless there is a complete banning of their deployment in the Middle East. As long as there remain barbaric and sex maniac Arab employers, there will be no dearth of abused victims being raped and murdered. The bad news is -  abusive behaviors by these human species have been the way of life here in this part of the world and will never become outdated and it will thrive as long as they propagate. Another bad news is - their cravings for human preys will be satisfied by the enterprising DFA officials, in the form of a fragile poverty-stricken commodity called Filipina domestic helper. Since the government admits its inability to find resolution to the situation, expect that more cases of abuses and murders will fill our primetime appetite in the coming weeks or months, ominously signaling that Asria's cause will be nothing but a 'charge to experience - better luck next time' send - off advice by the Philippine government. Where is the dignity they are advocating when the recipient is already dead?


kayni said...

this news made me so angry.

you wrote it so well. our government MUST straighten their priorities.

Anonymous said...

It really is a gruesome story, Nelson.

And the sad fact is that we all know it's happening everywhere where there are Filipina helpers.

We need to face the truth: sa hirap ng buhay sa Pinas, Filipinos who will continuously apply as househelp abroad.

Let's create a job for them in the Philippines.

Otherwise, let's educate them the way we educate caregivers before sending them abroad.

What can the government do now for Asria? I say, nail the agency which sent her to Kuwait. Wala bang background check ng mga clients bago sila magdeploy ng mga tao?

Anonymous said...

This is awful. Truly awful. There are not enough policies that can combat an evil person. The problem here is neither motive or morality, it is a lack of respect for a person. They do not see her as a person perhaps that is why they did that to her. T_T,

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