MANILA - Government agencies and ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya worked together to rescue an overseas Filipino worker from abusive employers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Renato Rimando and wife Lilian Abenoja heard of abuses OFWs faced at the hands of their employers, but they thought it would not happen to them.
“We thought abusive employers weren’t too common, until Lilian started calling me in fear because her male employer was harassing her,” Rimando said.
Abenoja quickly told her husband about her situation. Through the help of a lawyer-friend, Rimando went to the ABS-CBN Integrated Public Service Tulong Center help desk.
Within a month, Abenoja was able to go back home.
Abenoja first went to Riyadh in April 2018 in search of a better livelihood for her family.
The couple met at a restaurant where Rimando worked as a cook, and Abenoja, a waitress and cashier. They eventually opened their own eatery when Rimando retired.
They managed their small business but decided to close it down when the opportunity to work abroad came.
“Even though we had our eatery, what we earned wasn’t really enough. I decided to take the opportunity because we have small children and Renato’s has arthritis and asthma, making it hard for him to get regular work," Abenoja said.
A few months into her contract, Abenoja started to fear for her safety. She worked for a married couple with their two children. Her job included doing all the household chores and even taking care of the children, with no days off.
Abenoja's employers expected her to do almost 20 hours of work daily, something she thought she could bear, but not until her employer started to make advances.
It started with text messages where her employer would tell Abenoja he was attracted to her, until it escalated.
"Soon it escalated. He would try to grab me, try to force himself on to me, and eventually he would suddenly strip naked in front of me while I worked—often, it was while his family was in the next room," Abenoja said.
Soon, the whole family started abusing Abenoja. Her female employer started accusing her of seducing her husband, verbally abusing her and even withholding food and her salary. The children would also hit her and mistreat her.
Rimando knew time is crucial, so he decided to go to ABS-CBN's Tulong Center.
Tulong Center's caseworkers provided him with an endorsement letter to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Abenoja's story was also endorsed to the DZMM TeleRadyo program “Lingkod Kapamilya” with Julius Babao and Bernadette Sembrano-Aguinaldo, who featured Romando and Abenoja's situation and made immediate action on it possible.
They contacted the Repatriation Assistance Unit of OWWA while on air and got the agency's commitment to do its best to rescue Abenoja.
“We are so grateful for the help extended to us,” said Rimando. “We have had friends and coworkers who had to wait months or more before being repatriated. We also know about horror stories of starvation, rape, and worse. But thanks to ABS-CBN, who alerted the authorities on our situation attention and acted quickly, my wife was saved from further harm.”
Like the couple, many other Filipinos have come to the Tulong Center for help. Most of them are from Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, while some come all the way from Visayas and Mindanao.
Launched in February 2014, the Tulong Center aims to serve Filipinos in need of legal, medical and other forms of assistance and has served more than 40,000 individuals and counting since then.
While it does not provide direct financial assistance, Tulong Center works with various groups, including hospitals, pharmacies and government agencies to respond to the needs of Kapamilyas who need help.
Clients are also endorsed to DZMM TeleRadyo’s “Lingkod Kapamilya” program so they can air their stories and pleas for help to alert concerned organizations and government agencies.
The Tulong Center is located along Eugenio Lopez Drive at the ABS-CBN Compound in Quezon City every weekday from 8 am to 5 pm. They can also call the hotline at 4141296 or 4145431, or get in touch via Facebook at facebook.com/abscbnfoundationkapamilya.
Pleas for help sent via phone, email, social media, or referrals are acted upon within 24 hours. Volunteers and interested donors and partners can call the same hotline to join the Tulong Centers efforts.
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