BY JOHNNY FIALEN
Abigail Cabbigat, 32, is a native of Lagawe, Ifugao. She spent two years in Hong Kong and 10 months in Lebanon as a domestic helper. She escaped on February 17 this year from her employer because of grave threats on her person and violation of her employment contract. She was repatriated to the country on April 9.
BAGUIO CITY (May 26, 2006) – It is the remittances from the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) that is giving life to the dying Philippine economy. That is why the government calls these OFWs the “Bagong Bayani” or new heroes. Yes they are heroes.
But most of them are being maltreated abroad – whether physical and/or mental abuses by their employers. Yet, they do not receive the protection of their rights and welfare from the very government they helped economically, claimed OFWs in the Cordillera repatriated early this month.
Abigail Cabbigat, 32, is a native of Lagawe, Ifugao. She spent two years in Hong Kong as a domestic helper. As her income from that odd job was not enough for her family, she applied as domestic helper in Lebanon where her stay should be two years but she only stayed for 10 months as she escaped on February 17 this year from her employer. She was repatriated in the country on April 9.
She claimed that her employer committed grave threat on her person and violation of her employment contract.
She recalls that she submitted her application at Jake International Placement Agency (JIPA) located at the 5th floor Paragon Tower, A. Flores St., Ermita, Mabini, Manila.
“I applied to support my family and they claimed that it is fine in Lebanon. It is an open country where you can apply in other countries if your contract expires,” she explained in Filipino.
On April 29, 2005, she was deployed by the said agency for Lebanon. However, before releasing her documents for her flight, the agency allegedly forced her to sign a waiver stating that the salary per month was US$ 150 instead of US$200 that she signed earlier in her original contract.
“Wala na akong ibang alternatibo dahil napasubo na ako at saka malaki na rin ang nagastos ko gaya ng dalawang beses na medical, pregnancy test, at video” (I didn’t have any alternative because I was trapped already and besides I’ve already spent money for the medical examination, pregnancy test, and for the video coverage).
In her original contract, it was stated that she will be affiliated to The Blueline Services as her agency in Lebanon. When she arrived there, it was the New Services Agency that represented her. The said agency is owned and managed by a certain Ellie Abon Chaya.
There, the New Service Agency confiscated all her travel documents including her passport and a copy of her employment contract. Even her Nokia 6210 cellular phone was taken by the agency. When she asked a certain Jocelyn, one of the Filipino staff there, she was informed by the latter that the confiscation was normally done to new workers.
She adds that sometimes she was required to work for 24 hours sometimes seven days a week. But to her dismay, she was not paid of her overtime pay. While her contract provided for one rest day a week, her employer failed to observe it. Cabbigat is now suffering from serious pain in both eyes and also in her left arm. She traced her sickness as job-related. She laments how she was ordered to clean dusty carpets under the strong heat of the sun.
She laments that even her salary – reduced from $200 to $150 was usually not released on time.
Problems facing Lebanon OFWs
While in Lebanon, she came to know workers that had worse experiences. She knew workers sent to their respective agencies, then to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) due to false accusations against them. Some of them went home personally paying their plane tickets.
There were cases of forced extension of OFW contracts. The failure to complete the said additional year would be used against them to pay the sum of $2,000 as an alleged payment for the employer’s expenses. If they failed to pay, they will be sued, Nordis learned from Cabbigat.