Envoy tells sad fate of Filipina worker in Iraq

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2016 07:14 PM

MANILA - An overseas Filipino worker trafficked into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has been dead for more than a month before Philippine diplomats were notified of her passing, an official revealed Wednesday.

Iraq Chargé d'Affaires Elmer Cato, in an emotion-filled Facebook post, shared the story of an unnamed 36-year-old Filipina who passed away in her sleep, but whose death was reported to the embassy 40 days late.

The Filipina worker's employer reported the incident to her manpower agency in Erbil, which should have been responsible for bringing her to Iraq, but "the Embassy never received a call from them."

Two weeks after the Filipina worker died, he noted, they had asked Kurdish authorities to summon the agency managers to confront them about a trafficking case involving another Filipina.

"When the agency had the chance to, it still did not bother to tell us there was a Filipina in the freezer of a hospital in Erbil who needs to be brought home," wrote Cato.

He said, it was the employer, not the agency who reported her death to the Philippine post a week ago.

"[The employer] felt sorry for the Filipina when he found out she was still in the freezer 40 days after she died. When he asked if the Embassy had already been informed, the agency insisted it was his responsibility and not theirs," he added.

Upon the Embassy's inquiry about the Filipina, the agency "lied and said they were only informed about her death a few days earlier," according to Cato.

The agency also failed to provide the Embassy her emergency contact details when they asked for information on her next of kin.

"That's when we did a DU30 and said things you would never hear diplomats say. This was totally unacceptable. This is not the way to treat both the living and the dead," he said, pertaining to the brash way of speaking for President Rodrigo Duterte that has been described "undiplomatic" at the very least.

Through the help of the Filipinos in Kurdistan, they were able to get her real name and reach her family in Mindanao.

"We condoled with them and assured them we will bring her home. This afternoon, we came to see the woman in the freezer and quietly told her, she will be home soon. Her husband and her children are there waiting," he said.

The woman, said Cato, assumed a different name when she applied for a job abroad. Illegal recruiters in Mindanao offered her and several others a job in Dubai or Turkey.

After a "perilous" boat ride to Malaysia, she ended up in Iraq, where there is an existing ban on the deployment of Filipinos. In Kurdistan, added Cato, she worked for an employer who "paid thousands of dollars to the agency for her."