Experienced and hard working, 23 miners from Benguet had bright hopes for the future as they were offered P40, 000 ($821.81 at an exchange rate of $1=P48.673) a month salaries to work in Saudi Arabia. They expected to earn four times more than what they had been receiving here. But their fate turned for the worse when one of their colleagues was accused of attempting to smuggle 2.3 kilos of gold out of Saudi Arabia.
BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) While the national government praises and commends overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as modern-day heroes for keeping the Philippine economy afloat with their annual remittances, which amounted to U$12.8 billion in 2006, eleven miners arrived from Saudi Arabia feeling betrayed by the very same government that declared them as heroes.
Some 23 miners from different mining companies in Benguet applied and were accepted for jobs at the Mahd Ad’ Dhahab Mines in Saudi Arabia. Experienced and hard working, they had bright hopes for the future as they were offered P40, 000 ($821.81 at an exchange rate of $1=P48.673) a month salaries, an amount almost four times more than what they had been receiving here.
But their fate turned for the worse when one of their colleagues was accused of attempting to smuggle 2.3 kilos of gold out of Saudi Arabia. The suspect was forced to implicate them while under torture. All 23 of them were sentenced to nine months in jail but they were imprisoned for 11 months. Six of them received 50 lashes while the rest from 70-150 lashes. They said that they were also tortured.
Eleven of them were released last February 23 from the Madina jail and were deported home early this month without receiving their unpaid wages and overtime pay. Their colleague who was convicted of the crime is still languishing in a jail in Saudi Arabia.
Manuel Laus, one of the 11 miners released, said that they felt very bad because they did not receive any assistance from the Philippine consulate. To add insult to injury, Laus said, a representative of the Philippine consulate who happened to be in Jeddah when they were released tried to take credit for it when he did not even lift a finger to help them. They ignored him and felt more betrayed and neglected.
They arrived home and felt more depressed when they learned of the hardships their families had to endure when they were in prison at the Mahd jail and later at the provincial jail in Madina province of Saudi Arabia.
“Our children had to quit school and our families had to live on whatever was saved since our last remittance,” lamented 43-year old Geronimo Magciano.
Magciano told Nordis his two older children had to quit college while the two younger siblings continued to go to school but had to make do with meager allowances. “My wife really had a hard time trying to make both ends meet,” he related sadly.
Joel Palicos, 45, said he pities his wife and three small children aged 4, 8 and 9, more than he pities the man who was tortured to implicate them.
Their wives and children, who were at the press conference with their lawyer Reynaldo Paredes last Wednesday afternoon, were teary-eyed and speechless as they listened to the men relate their ordeal.
All eleven miners and their families are appealing to the government to work for the immediate release of the other miners still languishing in a Saudi jail on false charges; provide them with assistance and emergency relief; and to assist them in collecting the unpaid salaries and other compensation due them.