September 15, 2016
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that assists distressed migrant workers, called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to send an investigative team to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York City to look into the alleged abusive behavior of Philippine Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre towards her household staff.
According to the Ople Center, Milagros Braza sought the Center’s help via Facebook after repeated appeals to the DFA to act on her case brought no clear results.
The 59-year old domestic worker is still in the United States but would like to seek the government’s help for her safe return to the Philippines.
“There can be no excuse for an ambassador, especially one of ours, to abuse, threaten and exploit a Filipino domestic worker,” Susan Ople, head of the Center said.
Last December 25, 2015, Ambassador Yparraguirre allegedly threatened to call the police until and unless her domestic worker, Milagros, leave her residence. The latter was thrown out of the house at 11 o’clock in the evening on Christmas Day.
“No matter how angry you are, you don’t do that to a fellow Filipino especially to a domestic worker under your employ in the winter cold an hour before midnight in New York City,” Ople pointed out.
Milagros told Ople that her employer threw her out after she asked permission to look for a cheap place to stay rather than to sleep in the living room where she couldn’t rest because of the presence of seven other visitors that arrived that day.
The housekeeper had been busy serving the seven guests of the ambassador the whole day, and she merely wanted a full night’s rest to prepare for the activities of the ambassador and her guests the following day.
The diplomat allegedly got mad and shouted invectives at Braza and ordered her to pack up her belongings and leave that very moment.
The ambassador also threatened that if Milagros was still in the house within 30 minutes, that the police would be called.
Frightened and hurt, Milagros left the house and called up a friend who went to the city to pick her up and provided her with temporary shelter.
According to a sworn affidavit submitted to the Philippine Mission last April, Milagros Braza was “lent” to various relatives by the ambassador as a domestic worker with no extra pay and hardly any rest.
Among the relatives who benefitted from Braza’s services were the ambassador’s niece Ms. Mariel Flores, based in New Jersey City, who just gave birth at that time and needed assistance. Milagros stayed in New Jersey and worked for 5 days for the diplomat’s relative without pay.
They also went to New Jersey for the family’s Thanksgiving dinner where Milagros attended to the needs of all of the ambassador’s visitors and relatives, while cooking, cleaning and taking care of children.
On November 28, 2015, the ambassador told Milagros that she would bring her to Manhattan to work for the diplomat’s other niece, a certain Ms. Janelle Flores Pike. Despite having reminded the ambassador earlier that her contract was to work for the mission only, Milagros said she felt she had no choice but to follow the ambassador’s orders.
While in Manhattan, she was tasked to take care of 5 children the whole day, also without pay.
This is not the first case that the Ople Center handled involving a Filipino diplomat and household personnel. More than three years ago, the Center assisted a Filipino domestic worker in filing a sexual harassment complaint against Ambassador Shulan Primavera who was then the head of post in Kuwait. The administrative case reached all the way to the Office of the President but no decision was ever handed down during the time of the previous administration.
Aside from the call for an investigation, the Ople Center is seeking the DFA’s help to ensure that the complainant is provided assistance as she already wants to come home and pursue her case against the ambassador with the support of her immediate family and the Center.