Closely guarded by her employer, beaten up, insulted, and denied rest days for nine months, OFW Rowana Uychiat finally got the opportunity to report to the Hong Kong police the abuse that she had been enduring when her employer’s family left for Macau.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Rowena Uychiat, a widow and a mother of two who hails from the province of Cadiz in Negros Occidental, left for Hong Kong on July 23, 2013 through Gracious Employment Agency Limited and worked for Yui Anna Hoi Yin.
“After three months of working for my employer’s family, my female employer started to hit me, slap me and pull my hair for little mistakes. There was no month that I was not being beaten,” Uychiat said.
When she got the chance, Uychiat went to the Hong Kong police to report that she was regularly beaten by her employer, was denied rest days, and was made to work for 21 to 22 hours a day.
“For more than nine months, I was not allowed to take my holiday though I was being paid for it. Whenever I needed to remit money to my family, my female employer accompanied me to Western Union so I would be forced to return back home,” Uychiat said in a statement she submitted before the Hong Kong police.
In her sworn statement, Uychiat recounted the abuses she got from her employer.
While they were walking along Festival Walk, a shopping center in Hong Kong, Uychiat said, she met a fellow Filipino. Her employer got angry when she saw her talking with another Filipino and confiscated her cellphone. Upon returning to their house, “my female employer pulled my ear.”
On Dec. 16, 2013, Uychiat said, his male employer called her stupid because she could not understand what he was saying. Her male employer then interrogated her when they returned home on why she could not understand his instructions.
“He said fuck you and stupid,” Uychiat said, “Suddenly, my female employer hit both my legs several times with a stick. I remained standing. I did not dare move but my tears were flowing because of the pain. My employer did not do anything to stop my female employer. I had bruises on my legs.”
Sometime in February 2014, Uychiat said, when she forgot to change her clothes, her female employer slapped her and pushed her to the floor. Her employer then kicked her.
“I almost urinated in my pants because of the pain,” she added.
Uychiat also shared that her employer would, at times, use cane to hit her and would slap her in the face.
Last April 21, 2014, Uychiat and the employer’s daughter were both hit by the employer with a broomstick when her employer’s daughter took more than two hours to finish eating her food.
The following day, while cleaning the store room, her employer hit Uychiat three times when she saw that the latter placed the lint brush inside the iron’s box. It left a big bruise on her left forearm.
Uychiat said she wanted to seek medical attention at that time but could not leave because of her employer.
But on April 25, 2014, her employer and her entire family left for Macau. Uychiat then mustered the courage to call her cousin who was also working in Hong Kong and informed her of her ordeal. Her cousin then brought her to Sham Shui Po police station to file a complaint.
The police then brought her to Caritas Medical Centre. The bruise on her forearm measuring 4 cm by 7 cm was treated.
Uychiat filed a case of common assault against her employers.
Before that, Uychiat said she did not have the courage to report the beatings to the police because her employer did not provide her with documents that would allow her to work and stay in Hong Kong. She said she was afraid that instead of filing a case against her employer, she would end up charged for not having a passport and Hong Kong identification card.
“My female employer also took my cellphone from time to time and she was always in the house. I did not have the opportunity to report these incidents,” Uychiat said, “I was also threatened by my employer that if I report to the police, they will make trouble and the police will charge me.”
Uychiat also asked help from the Mission of Migrant Workers, a migrant rights group based in Hong Kong and an affiliate of Migrante International.
In a statement, Migrante International said the Hong Kong police is still investigating the case and that her employer has yet to be charged.
Uychiat is currently staying with Mission of Migrant Workers.
“We call on the Hong Kong Labor Department to immediately address our kababayan’s case. We also call on the Philippine government to do everything to ensure that Uychiat gets the justice she deserves. Her employer and her agency, Gracious Employment Agency Limited, have committed clear violations of the Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995, the ILO Convention on Domestic Work and the Hong Kong rules and regulations on Household Workers,” Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante Sectoral Partylist, said.
Bragas-Regalado called on all Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world, together with their families, to support Uychiat. Migrante Sectoral Partylist is also planning to bring up the case before the House of Representatives and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to demand assistance for Uychiat’s children.
“Her bravery should serve as an inspiration for Filipino migrant workers to always assert their rights and to stand up against any and all forms of injustices and modern-day slavery,” Bragas-Regalado said.