Women diplomats show they’re made of sterner stuff

Former Charge d’ Affaires Cassandra B. Sawadjaan of the Philippine Embassy in Doha, Qatar, and former Charge d’Affaires Vida Soraya Verzosa of the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, Syria.

Harassed Filipino domestic helpers (DHs) in Qatar have been sending text messages one after the other that make us wish that former Charge d’Affaires Vida Soraya Verzosa  of the Philippine Embassy in Syria was still in charge at the Doha post.

        From a distance, we watched Verzosa in action: For the first time in history, the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC)  or Bahay Kalinga (BK), was fully emptied of all its wards on June  24, 2021 after the repatriation of the last group of survivors of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

        Verzosa, a human rights lawyer assigned to the Damascus post on Dec. 20, 2020, also got along well with the Filipino community and nurtured Philippine-Syrian bilateral ties.

        Until  then Charge d’Affaires Cassandra B. Sawadjaan of the Philippine mission in Doha, Qatar came into the picture and acted with dispatch on the complaint of Ludy M. Montefolca, a housemaid.

      As of this writing, Montefolca’s  traumatic state has been overtaken by events.

        Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) announced Montefolca’s arrival in Manila on Feb. 2. Ambassador-designate Lillibeth V. Pono has taken over at the Philippine Embassy in Doha, and Verzosa has been assigned to Calgary, Canada.

     But at the time, Montefolca  was literally screaming for help, asking to be rescued from an inconsiderate  employer. His wife, Faiz Maazi Thaari, was described as kind but her two children, Abdulaziz Shamari and Mozzarela, were said to be bad and naughty.

  “Galit sila sa siyam na taong gulang na kapatid nilang autistic na lalaking alaga ko,” Montefolca said.

     (They were mad at their nine-year-old autistic brother who was under my care.)

       Abdulaziz was also angry at Montefolca for defending her charge when his older siblings were hurting or reprimanding him.

     The Filipino worker claimed  that before she was taken to the residence  of her employer’s sibling to work, Abdulaziz beat her up,  held her by her hair and pulled her around until she was taken out of the house. Mozzarella laughed while watching.

     On reading Montefolca’s complaint from former foreign service officer (FSO) Rafael E. Seguis, Sawadjaan instructed the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) section to call the employer who denied Montefolca was beaten up.

     But the employer told the embassy to ring him up when he got home and he would allow the maid to answer the call.

    Sawadjaan forwarded  the conversation with the employer, which in turn was sent to Montefolca who claimed the employer was lying.

    She said in a text message, ”Sabi ng amo kong babae na tawagan ko raw kayo at sabihin na okay na ako mag-work ulit. Sabi ko wala akong sinabing ganyan. Ang sabi ko pauwiin niyo ako. O, ako mismo ang uuwi.”

    (My employer told me to call you to tell you that I was okay and ready to work again. But I said I did not say that. What I told you was to send me home. Or I’ll go home by myself.) 

    On reading a report online regarding Montefolca’s reaction, the ATN   contacted the police and informed the employer to surrender the DH at the police station where an  embassy staff  would be waiting.

    Montefolca said fear struck  her employer’s heart.

    “Ayaw pumunta sa istasyon ng pulis. Sa loob ng dalawang oras kinansela  ang exit visa ko kaya pwede na akong bumiyahe. Bumili rin ng tiket at nang hapong yun, lumipad ako pauwi sa Pinas sakay ng Qatar Air,” she said.

    (He didn’t want to go to the police station. Within two hours, my exit visa was cancelled, which meant I was on travel status already. He also bought me a plane ticket and, in the afternoon of the same day, I boarded my Qatar Air flight for the Philippines.) 

    That showed – and shows – that Sawadjaan—like Vida Soraya Verzosa— is made of sterner stuff. 

     To put it  another way, it  showed how good those two diplomats and public servants were!

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