Helping turns into disillusionment

    Without seeing her real picture and relying mainly on what she said, you would pity her for the injustice she allegedly suffered.

    This must have been the reaction of Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Undersecretary and officer-in-charge (OIC)  Hans Leo J. Cacdac and Consul General (ConGen) Edgar Tomas Q. Auxilian of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia when they received the complaint.

      Both officials acted fast on the case referred by former career Ambassador Rafael E. Seguis.

    On Oct. 7, Grace Heporo,  29, a domestic helper (DH)  in Taif, 130 kilometers from Jeddah, sent this writer a text message saying, “Hi!” I replied, “Hello.”

    Two days later, on Oct. 9, she texted again. She said , ”Ginahasa po kasi ako ng kapatid ng madam ko.”

(The brother of my woman employer raped me.)

     I asked for her real name, as most DHs asking for help often give their Facebook names. She answered  Mary Grace de Leon Tabelisma, 29.

    She said she was four months pregnant and wanted to go home because she did not want to give birth in the Kingdom.

    Asked for personal details, she said she grew up in a convent after nuns found her abandoned. She did not know her biological parents.

    She had been in the Kingdom, she said, for only four months.

    I did not want to give her false hopes that she would be sent home. I told her she and the man who impregnated her would go to jail for committing a criminal offense.

    Determined to leave, she said what happened to her was not her fault because her madam’s brother imposed himself on her.

    I referred the case to Seguis, who forwarded it to Cacdac and Auxilian, who forwarded it to Labor Attaché Roel B. Martin of the MWO-OWWA (Migrant Workers Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) in Jeddah.

    On Oct. 11, Tabelisma texted to say that, since Oct. 4, she had been staying at the Bahay Kalinga, and she and her employer had reached an agreement.

   She said, “Ang gusto ng POLO bayaran ako ng 2 years  salary at ibibigay ang mga gamit ko, passport ko at sahod kong 2 months. Kung hindi ako papayag , ipapasara ng POLO ang agency ko dito at jan sa pinas tapos iakyat sa kurti (sic) ang kaso. “

(What POLO wanted was for me to be paid my salary for two years, get my personal belongings, my passport, and my unpaid salaries for the last two months. If I disagree, POLO would recommend closing my agency here and in the Philippines, and a case would be filed in court.)

    POLO, or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, is now the MWO-OWWA.

    If her case was filed in court, she could not come home.

    I expected her to update me on POLO’s plan so I could write a follow-up report, but I heard nothing more from her.

    On Oct. 24, I requested Seguis to get an update, and he told me that she left on Oct. 17, at 4 p.m., on a Gulf Air flight from Jeddah for Bahrain. From there,  she took a connecting flight to Manila at 8:55 p.m. the same day.

    “She used an FB profile picture that did not belong to her in presenting her case,” said Seguis, who is from San Francisco, Anao-aon, Surigao del Norte.

    The former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary said Tabelisma underwent a pregnancy test (PT), and the result was negative.

    “When asked about the PT she presented earlier, she said she had thrown it away,” said Seguis, who uses his experiences and friendships in helping repatriate Filipinos.

    He secured the release of two Filipino hostages in Iraq— driver Angelo dela Cruz and accountant Roberto Tarongoy —in 2005.

    He served the Philippines in key cities: Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Baghdad (Iraq), Amman (Jordan), Tripoli (Libya), Tehran (Iran) and Cairo (Egypt).

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