MANILA, Philippines – Two overseas Filipino workers are still trapped in a heavily-guarded mansion in Damascus in strife-torn Syria.
Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said Juliet Lapaza and Cristina Garay sought their help after their employer and his family left Syria almost three months ago.
The two were left to clean and look after the family’s mansion in Damascus with armed guards posted at its gates.
“We appeal to the Philippine and Syrian governments to work together to ensure the safe return of Juliet and Cristina to their respective families in Mindanao keeping in mind their rights under ILO Convention 189 that prescribes decent work for all domestic workers," said Ople.
They also complained of hunger since the mansion's caretaker is the only person able to visit the mansion to bring them food occasionally. Their employer is said to be a close presidential relative.
The workers were also paid less at US150 a month, well below the government-prescribed minimum salary of US400.
“These two women asked to be brought back to the Philippine Embassy while the employer was preparing to leave Syria. The request of the two women was ignored, and now they couldn't leave the heavily-guarded mansion though the Philippine Embassy is located just a few minutes away from where they are,” Ople said.
Meanwhile, Ople also lauded the efforts of both the Philippine and Syrian Governments that enable overseas Filipino workers to be repatriated without the required exit clearances.
“This shows that the channels of communication between the two countries are working thus we remain hopeful that the plight of the two domestic workers left behind in a heavily-guarded mansion in Damascus can be similarly resolved,” Ople said.