DAVAO CITY — Christine, 35, had always dreamed of becoming a teacher. But coming from poor parents in Cabadbaran, a sixth class municipality in Agusan del Norte, forced her to stop schooling until second year in college.
Like most Filipinos finding no job opportunities here, she opted to leave her family of four and worked abroad. Her dreams were shattered when employers abused her as she recounted her ordeal in a press conference together with the militant Migrante and the Kilusang Mayo Uno Monday here.
Christine worked as a domestic helper in Al Taif, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since September 18 this year, to employers who are both medical professionals.
On her first night, her employer began inspecting all her belongings and confiscated all her identification cards including her ATM card and one of her cellphones.
“I didn’t complain because I was there to work,” she said.
On her third day at work, she experienced physical and verbal abuse from her lady employer.
“My employer hauled me to the comfort room, cursing and shouting at me to stop crying while shaking my body,” she said.
Her employer later apologized, but Christina said she was subjected to beatings daily, even without provocation.
Christine said she appealed but was denied by her employer to return her to the employment agency where she was under contract.
She worked in the mornings on empty stomach. “I will only drink water, then,” she said.
She suffered from burnt hands as a result of regular use of disinfectants on furnitures without protective gloves.
Her employer merely gave her topical lotion and not proper medical treatment when she showed them her bleeding hands, she said.
“But it never helped because even if my hands were still bleeding, I was forced to continue with house cleaning and using the disinfectants without protection,” she said.
During afternoons, she takes care of her 6-year old ward.
Christine said her employer forced her to go out of the house without an abaya, a cloak worn by Muslim women.
“Akong gikaya ang tanan tungod sa akong mga anak, tungod naa koy pamilya nga buhion (I endured everything because of my children, because I have a family to feed),” she said.
Whenever her family would call her, her employer would be there to listen and tell them that she was “living like a princess.”
Her employer forced her to reveal her social media account password and to translate her conversations with her family.
“She ordered me to tell my family that I am okay,” she said.
The suffering was endless, she said. “It came to a point when I wanted to end my life because I can’t bear all the pain,” she lamented.
“I thought that there was no one who can help me. It was a good thing that my family could contact me on my other cell phone which I hid from my employers,” she said.
Christine’s family later sought the help of Migrante for her repatriation.
Because of her instability, her siblings take care of her children.
“I feel that I have disappointed my children. I feel that I was a failure because I came home with nothing,” she said.
Her salary of 1,500 SAR (Saudi Riyal) a month, which roughly amounts to more than P18,000, was not enough to pay for their debts incurred for the processing of her trip.
Kilusang Mayo Uno vice president Joel Maglungsod said labor export policy has “fueled the exodus of desperate citizens searching for jobs abroad to feed their families.”
“The country’s labor export policy will no doubt take center stage during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit,” he said.
Maglungsod said APEC will “further legitimize what imperialist countries consider as trade-enhancing policies such as contractualization, labor export policies, wage theft, and a host of workers’ rights violations.”
“What we need is jobs creation here in our own soil,” he said.
For its part, Migrante International called on the government to take swift action on the increasing number of OFWs in need of repatriation.
Migrante is calling for the repatriation of five other victims of maltreatment, including three OFWs from Davao City, one from Panabo City, and another from Cotabato City.
Salma Lumandong, coordinator of Tanggol Migrante Davao said “these OFWs are usually migrant workers who have fled from their employers due to maltreatment and abuse and are now languishing in tents and bunkhouses abroad.”
“The government remains slow in providing assistance to OFWs but is quick to receive remittance,” she said.
Lumandong said there are already 6,092 OFWs who leave the country every day.
“Because of this increasing number, there are also a lot of OFWs who are in need of repatriation due to maltreatment and abuse,” she said.
“We are all victims, this is why we call for an end to the labor export policy,” she said.
For now, Christine said she demands that the government would assist undergraduates like her to find a decent and regular job “so we would not have to leave our families here.” (davaotoday.com)