THOSE who wish to work in other countries as household service workers must think twice before accepting employment in the Middle East following the death of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Kuwait last December, cautioned an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) official.
OWWA-Northern Mindanao acting regional director Leonor Mabagal said they kept reminding female job applicants, specifically those deployed to the oil-rich Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, of the dangers they may be facing once employed as domestic helpers there.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are among the countries in the Arabian Gulf where cases of migrant workers suffering from various harassment and abuses from their employers have been reported by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Due to the rising number of abused female OFWs in the Middle East, Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III, in his visit to Riyadh last April, has, in fact, announced last year the government is planning on banning the deployment of Filipino household workers to Saudi Arabia.
Rape, maltreatment, nonpayment of salaries, and torture are among the abuses experienced by OFWs working in other countries as documented by government agencies.
A few Filipino domestic helpers (DHs) were even killed, with their employers as primary suspects, who in turn report these cases to authorities as suicide.
This was the case of Liezl Trus Hukdong, a 33-year-old mother of two from Bukidnon who reportedly died of suicide while working as household help in Kuwait last December.
But Hukdong’s relatives were not convinced she killed herself as they also expressed indignation when they found out some of her internal organs were removed, including her eyes, tongue, lungs, and kidneys.
Hukdong’s niece Grazel Ann, in an interview, said they were not convinced that the Liezl committed suicide.
“We doubted the cause of her death. They said she committed suicide. But why remove her organs? We want somebody to tell us the truth of her death,” she said.
For her part, Mabagal said her office has always reminded employees of the risks they may be facing as domestic helpers in the Middle East.
OWWA facilitates a pre-departure orientation seminar (PDOS) for outbound OFWs and this is where they are made aware of the possible situations once they are there.
“We imparted to them all that we know about working as DH in the Middle East. We gave them the ‘migration realities,” the culture and the behavior of the people there, and what could possibly happen to them when they reach that country,” Mabagal said.
“We tell them, ‘if you want to go to Middle East and Malaysia to work as DH, it’s like a suicide,” she added.
But, Mabagal said, this did not dampen the determination of the OFWs.
“Their usual reply is, “swerte-swerte lang’(leaving it to luck), but I told them, ‘it’s lucky if you are not maltreated, if you don’t experience abuses,’” she said.
In Northern Mindanao, most of those who apply as domestic helpers come from Bukidnon where many recruitment agencies go to find potential jobseekers.
Mabagal said Bukidnon has already about 15,000-20,000 active and inactive OFWs.
In its latest survey, the Phil. Statistical Authority estimated the number of OFWs at 2.2 million.
The survey, conducted from April to September 2016, noted that more than half, or 53.6 percent, of Filipino migrant workers are female, most of them belonging to the age group 25 to 39 years.
“Saudi Arabia continued to be the leading destination of OFWs. About one in every four (23.8%) OFWs worked in this country during the period April to September 2016,” the PSA said in the report.
Other preferred destinations, the agency added, were United Arab Emirates, Europe, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Also during this period, about P203 billion was remitted by OFWs to their families in the Philippines.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 18, 2018.