Stricter PDOS implementation necessary

There is an urgent need for a stricter implementation of the pre-departure orientation seminar ( PDOS) for household service workers (HSWs), particularly domestic helpers (DHs).

    Many cases referred to the Philippine Embassy or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh (POLO Riyadh), Alkhobar or Jeddah involve DHs who ran away from employers alleged to be unfair or unreasonable.

    The overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) lack of understanding or knowledge of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s culture or customs and traditions is the root cause of the problem.

     The culture or customs and traditions are reflected in the way Saudi employers think and behave.

    If they were attentive, taking notes of what was being discussed  by the resource speaker during the PDOS and studied these, they could have been in a better position to cope with their job overseas, dealing properly or getting along with their Saudi sponsors.

    “Karamihan kasi sa kanila (DHs) na dumadalo sa PDOS ay nagkukuwentuhan lang, hindi iniintindi ang nagsasalita o nagbibigay ng impormasyon tungkol sa bansang pupuntahan nila,” said Dr. Resurreccion O. Ramos, a physician in Dammam involved in volunteer work to help distressed OFWs.

    The PDOS is comprehensive enough so anyone who takes it to heart will have fewer difficulties, if any, at the worksite.

    It has seven modules: Migration Realities, Distinctive Country Profile, Employment Contract, Health and Safety, Financial Literacy, Available Government Programs and Travel Procedures and Tips.

    All of the above are  important for an OFW being deployed for the first time. For HSWs are concerned, particularly DHs, the third one is of particular importance: It sets forth the guidelines, rules and regulations of employment.

    A DH’s contract is for two years with a salary of SR1,500 monthly and a worker could not leave the employer without finishing her contract.

    This is why when a housemaid asks to leave before her contract ends because she wants to go home for whatever reason—personal or otherwise— the employer disagrees.

    If the DH insists, the employer demands that she or her agency pay him or her all or part of the expenses incurred in hiring and bringing her to the Kingdom.

    A case in point is Al Ei Hs (a.k.a. Shiela Marie Gonzales), 29, of Binmaley, Pangasinan. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, aged 9 and 7.

     They are under the care of her husband and mother-in-law. She arrived in Kuwait on Sept. 24, 2021, which means she has been on the job for only about a year.

   Later, her employer, a Kuwaiti, and his Saudi wife went to Jeddah for a vacation and brought her with them.

    She wants to go home because she claims her boy does not want to go to school because he is being bullied. She wants to fix the problem and transfer her kids to the care of her mother.

    She has been asking her employer’s wife that she be allowed to leave irritating the Saudi woman. Her employer’s wife told the DH not to talk about leaving she was at work.

    The woman added that her Filipino helper  could leave when her replacement arrives in January.

   If the DH would insist on leaving, the employer said the Filipino should tell the agency that brought her to the Kingdom to pay her employers part of the SR30,000 they spent in hiring her (almost US$8,000).

    If Gonzales listened carefully and asked during the PDOS she would have known that leaving at mid-contract would be a violation.

    Many DHs also ask the Philippine Embassy or POLO to rescue them if they could no longer stand the way they were being treated.

   We asked a charge nurse at the King Fahd University Hospital who was involved  in volunteer work, Dhon C. Fideles, president of the Alkhobar-based Infinity 8 Sunergos (Working Together).

    The volunteer Filipino organization helps distressed OFWs in coordination with POLO in the Eastern Region (POLO ERO), which is under Labor Attaché Hector “Hecky” Cruz.

    Actually, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh or POLO offices in the Kingdom’s key cities of Riyadh, Alkhobar or Jeddah could not legally rescue a DH, or OFW for that matter.

    The proper way is for the agency to inform the Saudi Labor Office (SLO) about the case of the worker who wanted to be rescued for valid reasons, like Mary Grace A. Patong.

    (Official communication mentioned her name as Mary Grace A. Battung.)

    She complained of physical injuries and unpaid salaries for four months.

    Her relatives in the Philippines contacted me for help. The case was referred to former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Rafael E. Seguis, now a consultant with the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue.

    Seguis referred the case to Attaché Saifoden “Ding” Manalao of the Philippine Embassy’s Assistance to Nationals (ATN) section in Riyadh and Consul General Edgar Tomas “Gary” Q. Auxilian of the  Philippine Consulate in Jeddah.

    Meantime, the agency, Abdullah Al Musharef for Recruitment, referred the case to the Saudi Labor Office (SLO). A letter was sent to the police for assistance in rescuing Mary Grace from her employer, Fouzia Nazer Said Al Mahrwe, in Najran.

    Then, she could no longer be contacted. After two days, Auxilian announced that Mary Grace was traveling to Riyadh, quoting Labor Attaché Roel B. Martin,  a lawyer from Angadanan, Isabela.

    Auxilian also coordinated with POLO Riyadh, which was under Labor Attaché Fidel A. Macauyag at the time.

    In Riyadh, the agency handed Mary Grace over to POLO.

    Patong arrived in the Philippines on Aug. 23.

    Many deployed DHs think that running away is the easiest way to solve their problems on the job.

    But there are legal ways and they could have learned about these if they listened attentively and asked questions when attending the one-day PDOs.

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