MANILA — An overseas Filipino worker reportedly died after she apparently “threw” herself from the fourth floor balcony of a building in Fanar, Lebanon. Migrante International’s chapter in the Middle East is calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in Beirut to conduct an independent investigation on the reported death.
As-Sarif, a Lebanese newspaper, reported on the death of the OFW identified as Lorena Bedjoan, 24, last February 2. The report, however, did not include other substantial information aside from saying that “she died immediately and the police is investigating.”
John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator, said the incident was later confirmed to him by a fellow OFW from Lebanon who phoned him last week. The same OFW, he said, sent him a link of the said news report in Arabic that was translated in English.
Monterona said that Bedjoan’s death is the first case of death under mysterious circumstances this year. He added that it would be included in the “long list of unsolved cases” they have compiled. The Migrante chapters in the Middle East have recorded at least 15 cases, mostly involving women, of OFWs who died under mysterious circumstances.
“Their respective families are not discounting the possibility of foul play,” Monterona said, “As far as we are concerned, these are not yet closed or solved.”
One of the recent incidents, according to Monterona, was the death of OFW Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez, who was murdered at the house of her employer on September 2 in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. He also cited other cases such Rowena Peremne Arceo, 33, who died on October 22, 2008, Joy Cabansi Sarto, 28, murdered by her Arab employer on September 22, 2009, Eugenia Baja, 24, first reported to have committed suicided but her autopsy revealed she had stab wounds and bruises, Analun de Pena, 33, allegedly committed suicide and Marilou Macam Ating, 37, who allegedly fell from the fourth floor of her employer’s residence.
Migrante’s chapter in the United Arab Emirates, for its part, said they have recorded seven cases of mysterious deaths including Roderick Miranda, who allegedly hanged himself on February 4, 2009, and three more OFWs who allegedly jumped from a building: Norayda Ayuman, Jeffrey Alberto So and Evelyn Lilo on February 6, June 13 and August 10, respectively.
These cases, remain unsolved up to now and Philippine embassy officials, Migrante International said, did not conduct a single investigation to clear the suspicions of the families that foul play led to the death of their loved ones.
No Protection Offered
The deplorable conditions of OFWs and the extent of government reluctance and neglect in providing assistance become more glaring, Monterona said, because of the steady increase in OFW remittances that provide the much needed dollar reserves of the country and pump prime the economy through the local consumption of OFW families and dependents. Eight out of ten Filipino families have a member or relative working abroad, Monterona added.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, on February 15, reported that the cumulative remittances from OFWs coursed through banks ‘were more robust than expected in 2010, rising year-on-year by 8.2 percent to US$18.8 billion.’
“We are, again and again, demanding from the government to provide protection to OFWs, free on-site services and honest-to-goodness services from our embassy and labor officials abroad. This must be a priority since this government is benefitting from OFW remittances,” Monterona said, “But we have not seen any serious concern from the Aquino government.”