Press Release
October 31, 2014

Villar seeks DFA help for distressed OFWs in Saudi

Sen. Cynthia Villar sought the commitment of the Department of Foreign Affairs to immediately act on the plea for repatriation of two overseas Filipino workers suffering in Saudi Arabia.

In a letter dated October 6, 2014 to Sen. Loren Legarda who chairs the subcommittee hearing the budget of DFA, Villar sought the DFA's commitment "to make full use of all diplomatic means possible, as well as both the Legal Assistance Fund and Assistance to Nationals Fund to help" two OFWs who are suffering abroad.

Villar said 23-year old Pahima "Candice" Alagasi Palicasi of Pikit, North Cotabato, was scalded with boiling water by her employer in Saudi Arabia. She is now facing charges of slander filed by her employer.

"Because of this pending case, "Candice" is unable to come home despite her own personal needs for repatriation, and the desire of her husband and two children to see her safely home. Why have the tables been turned, with our own kababayan facing the risk of a jail term after suffering so much at the hands of her employers?" Villar said.

Another case is that of 33-year-old Mc Cormick Rabina of Kibawe, Bukidnon, a male sales staff of an ice cream store in Saudi Arabia who was raped, assaulted and left for dead in a desert by four men last May.

Villar added that Mr. Rabina had to undergo brain surgery and was comatose and critically ill for a period of time due to massive physical injuries. Because of this, he has unpaid hospital bills amounting to SR 200,000 or Php 2.5 million.

The Nacionalista Party senator said the DFA should take steps to settle Rabina's hospital bills and repatriate him the soonest time possible.

"These are but two cases where our OFWs through no fault of their own are unable to come home despite the horrific trauma of their ordeal in Saudi Arabia. As we deliberate on the budget of the DFA for next year, it is incumbent upon the Senate to know how such funds are being used for the protection, welfare, and repatriation of our distressed OFWs," Villar said.

During the budget hearing, DFA Sec. Albert del Rosario said they are extending legal assistance to "Candice" in the case of libel filed by the employer. However, she cannot be repatriated because she could not be given an exit visa due to the pendency of this case.

As to Rabina, Del Rosario said that they have already appealed, through the DFA post in Saudi Arabia, to the employer and the insurance company to pay the accumulated hospital bills of Rabina. Both appeals were unheeded because the accident was not work related. The hospital in the meantime has agreed to give discount to lower the bills.

The DFA is in the process of refining its recommendation in order to access the ATN Fund to pay Rabina's hospital bills, said Del Rosario.

Villar authored Proposed Senate Resolution No. 931 which seeks an inquiry into the implementation of Republic Act 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, specifically the provision on the repatriation of OFWs.

"Despite the existence of provisions placing the responsibility to repatriate to the principal, employer, or agency that recruited or deployed the OFW, there are plenty of OFWs who still personally bear the cost of their own repatriation," Villar said.

"For some who do not have any other means, they are constrained to seek the help of non-government organizations and other "Good Samaritans" in order to be repatriated," she added.

Section 15 of the law states that the cost of repatriation of the OFW shall be borne by the agency that recruited or deployed the OFW.

In addition, Section 37-A requires the compulsory insurance coverage of agency-hired workers, which covers the repatriation of the OFW in case of employment termination and for medical reasons.

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