April 13, 2018
A non-profit organization that assists distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) welcomed home OFW Pahima Alagasi after nearly four years of staying at the Bahay Kalinga shelter of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.
“What happened to Pahima is a textbook case of how our intricate system of migrant workers’ protection and diplomacy failed her. We are thankful to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for bringing up her case in his bilateral talks with Saudi Arabia,” Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said.
The Ople Center noted that Pahima’s repatriation dragged on because the Saudi prosecutor dismissed the complaint she filed against her employer in 2014 for physical abuse and maltreatment. It was her lady employer who poured boiling water down Pahima’s back, while the OFW was picking up the lid of a thermos bottle that had fallen to the floor.
In a rare twist, the Saudi employer decided to file a slander case against Alagasi citing news reports and Facebook photos of the OFW’s scalded body that went viral. That case went on for nearly four years thus affecting the OFW’s repatriation to her hometown of Pikit, North Cotabato.
It took the intervention of His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif upon the request of President Duterte, to resolve the case leading to Pahima’s freedom.
“We urge the leadership of the DFA to review Pahima’s case and look at gaps in legal assistance and humanitarian service delivery. It is only by looking back that we can correct the flaws in the system and make sure that this kind of injustice never happens again,” Ople said.
She noted that the OFW whose body contained multiple burns due to scalding was placed on the defensive, and the government allowed her to quietly endure the pain of being separated from her children and her family for nearly four years.
“There are lessons to be learned here, not for nitpicking purposes, but to ensure every OFW’s right to access to justice and human rights. We consider Pahima like a long lost sister. We hope that what happened to her would not happen to any one else hence our call for a thorough review of her case,” the Ople Center said. ###