THE case of the Filipino female worker who died after she was raped by her Saudi Arabian employer shows one of the risks overseas Filipinos face and one of the priorities for government.

Irma Avila Edloy, 35, arrived in Saudi Arabia in the last week of July to work as a household helper. In less than a month, she was dead at the King Salman Hospital in Riyadh due to severe injuries sustained when she was allegedly raped. While at the hospital, and before she lapsed into a coma, she was asked who was responsible for her injuries. She pointed to her employer and soon after, reports said, she became agitated and fell unconscious.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, who was in Saudi Arabia last week to check on overseas Filipino workers (OFW) there, reportedly said, “The medical record shows she was assaulted. Her face was bloated and there were signs of hematoma indicative of sexual assault.” Reports said Edloy arrived at the hospital with various injuries and plenty of blood in her underwear.

The case of Edloy was brought to media’s attention only after Bello was informed of her situation and he visited her at the hospital.

Edloy has become one of those who went abroad to seek a better future for herself and her children only to return home in a coffin to a heartbroken and despondent family. That is exactly what the Blas F. Ople Policy Center does not want – that Edloy be one of the statistics.

The center, named after a former Labor secretary and dedicated to helping distressed OFWs, called for an investigation into Edloy’s death. “She has been there for less than a month, and now she's coming home in a coffin. We cannot just brush her death aside, as just another news report, or an added number in an endless string of welfare cases,” Susan Ople, center president, said. She asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to follow up with Saudi Arabian officials the investigation into her death and to make sure her case would not be forgotten.

Ople asked Congress to investigate the rape of domestic workers, especially in the Middle East. She said Congress could look into the number of cases, conviction rate, if any, what assistance could be given to victims when they are returned to their families, and the policies needed to strengthen their protection.

President Rodrigo Duterte said he would create a department to focus on OFW concerns. One such concern is the abuse of Filipino workers by their employers. If that department were existing at the time of Edloy’s death, then perhaps quick action to hold the employer for questioning could have been done. It appeared accidental that Bello came to know of Edloy’s case because he was at that time in Riyadh. With the department envisioned by Duterte, embassy personnel would have been better equipped to respond to such situation.

Filipino overseas workers contributed US$25.76 billion to the economy in remittances in 2015, up 4.6 percent from $24.63 billion in 2014. Their contribution would make it unlikely for government to change its policy that encourages Filipinos to work abroad. But government would have to do more for OFWs in terms of policy and protection.

The department envisioned by Duterte could be the first step. Much of the focus, so far, has been on efforts at sustaining the bloody war against illegal drugs.

Here is the case of Edloy that is calling for attention.