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Who’s taking care of those taking care of others

HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : Community leaders are expressing anger and frustration over the inability of the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia to protect a migrant worker, Marilyn Restor, who disappeared one year ago and then was found dead in June this year.

Restor was reported by her family to have been kidnapped last year to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine embassy in Riyadh. Recently, a body in a morgue in Saudi Arabia was identified as being hers.

The body of the 45-year-old-worker was discovered by her family after a hospital in Saudi Arabia informed the employer of her husband, Arnulfo Restor, that her remains had been in the morgue for 42 days.

It was only when he called the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia that Philippine authorities confirmed her death.

The embassy says that Restor was pushed and fell from a rooftop.

The mother of four came from North Cotabato. Her three children live in General Santos City, while her youngest child, who is eight-years-old, was born in Saudi Arabia and is still living there with his father.

The couple had been working in the domestic sector for a Saudi royal couple, along with other Filipinos.

Her husband says that on the night of July 13 last year, his wife went out of the house to put out the garbage, when she was abducted by one of the royal couple’s relatives, who is referred to as Princess Jada, although it is not her real name, who was helped by armed men.

Her husband, together with his employer immediately reported the kidnapping to the Northern Riyadh Police.

He said that earlier that day that the princess had gone to his employer’s house and ranted about her own Filipino worker absconding. She blamed the Filipino household staff of his employer and accused them of helping the worker to escape.

When authorities failed to take action, Restor’s husband and his male employer went to the house of the princess on June 25 to bring his wife back, but the princess’ husband, a military official, fired gunshots at them.

Days after, Saudi police conducted an investigation and learned that there were several existing complaints against the princess and her husband, all of which had been filed by their Filipino household staff. The police then advised Restor’s husband to seek help from the Philippine embassy.

After several months, there still had not been any clear response from the embassy, so Restor demanded the documents related to his wife’s case.

He then learned that the embassy was aware of and well informed about the case, along with complaints filed by nine other migrant workers who had claimed they had experienced grave abuse or maltreatment at the hands of the bogey princess and her husband.

In a letter dated 16 September 2014, the Philippine embassy requested the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create a committee to conduct an investigation and to furnish the embassy with a full report.

It also requested the Saudi police to immediately ensure the security of Restor’s wife and two other workers, Dorothy Blancaflor and Levine Batague, and present them to the embassy.

Blancaflor and Batague remain missing to this day.

Restor’s family sought help from Migrante in March this year. Rights workers and the sister of Restor went to talk to the Department of Foreign Affairs on March 24. The officials did not disclose any information, but promised to provide the family with a written report on her within one week.

However, the family later received only a letter stating that the embassy was cooperating with the authorities in Saudi Arabia.

According to Sol Pillas, Migrante International secretary-general, Restor’s family was overcome with grief and really angry about the neglect of the Philippine government.

She pointed out that the embassy knew about the death of the worker, but did not even have the courtesy to inform them officially about it.

“If Arnulfo had not contacted the Philippine embassy to confirm the call his employer received, they would still be in the dark right now,” she said in a statement on July 7.

Pillas said that in the case of Restor, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the embassy in Saudi were well aware of and properly informed about her case, as well as the urgent requests for rescue and repatriation of nine other Filipino workers employed by the princess.

Of the 10 workers, six have sought the help of Migrante. Four of them have already been repatriated and filed complaints in appropriate government agencies.

“There was clearly no active intervention or urgent action from the Philippine embassy to rescue them despite their dangerous circumstances,” she said.

Pillas said that this pattern of negligence and passive action from Philippine diplomatic posts has happened in many cases.

She cited the cases of Terril Atienza, Romilyn Ibanez and Rochelle Masubay, all of whom were reported to have been abused and maltreated by their employers, and all of whom had sought the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the embassy, only to have their families learn later that they had already died.

 

Migrante called on the congress to launch an investigation into the mysterious death of Restor and the handling of what can be regarded as an urgent case by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the embassy officials.