President Duterte vows to end OFW abuse in Middle East countries


President Rodrigo Duterte and Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go give a warm welcome to returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Pahima Alagasi and her family during a meeting at the Coco’s South Bistro Restaurant in Davao City on April 14, 2018. (Photo courtesy Malacanang)

 

(Eagle News) — President Rodrigo Durerte on Saturday, April 14, assured that the government is taking steps to end the abuse on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East countries, after meeting with an overseas Filipino worker who was abused by her employer in Saudi Arabia.

President Duterte met with Pahima Alagasi, who was scaled by the mother of her employer with boiling water four years ago. She returned home Friday, after staying in a shelter run by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

During their meeting at Coco’s South Bistro Restaurant in Davao City, President Duterte said the government is willing to do everything to help the Filipinos in the Middle East, according to a Malacanang release.

The meeting happened days after the President announced that he would travel to Kuwait to witness the signing of an agreement that would protect OFWs in the country.

President Duterte said that he could not blame the OFWs if they had to work abroad for their families, but still reminded them that they have to be careful when working in countries with a history of abuse of OFWs like the Middle East.

“The Chief Executive said he already reminded the workers to be careful since the culture and laws in a foreign country are different from that of the Philippines,” a Palace release said.

“President Duterte underscored that it is the interest of the Philippines to uphold the welfare and well-being of Filipino workers,” it added.

The President also urged the Filipino Muslims who are in the Islamic states to help in protecting the human dignity of their fellow countrymen.

He said the Middle East was still ““great importance” to the nation, and that it was essential to maintain more than just good relations in the region.

For Alagassi’s part, she expressed her gratitude to the Philippine government, particularly President Duterte, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, ACTS OFW Partylist Rep. Aniceto Bertiz, Ambassador to Riyadh Adnan Alonto, and personnel of the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, and other officials who assisted her with the case.

Alagasi, a 26-year-old mother of two from Pikit town in North Cotabato, suffered second-degree burns on her neck, a large part of her back, and her thighs after she was scalded with boiling water by the mother of her employer in Saudi Arabia.

She filed a maltreatment case against her employer who also filed a counter-claim with damages against her. Both cases were dismissed by the Saudi Court. The legal battle however held back her repatriation for four years.

She returned to the country only on Friday, April 13, after Duterte presented her case to Saudi Prince and Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif during an official visit to Malacañang last March 19.

Alagassi said that she was also thankful to then Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who had approved her final exit from the Kingdom after a protracted four-year legal battle with her employer.

Meanwhile, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) gave Alagassi’s two children scholarships up to college. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also provided P50,000 in cash assistance to the family. (with a PND release)