MANILA, Philippines – Jason Aguilar hogged headlines upon his return to Manila from Doha, Qatar.
But it was not a hero’s welcome that greeted him at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). He came home with unfulfilled dreams for himself and his family and with a terrible experience that scarred him.
“At kung hindi dahil sa pagkakamali, dapat ang mga pangarap ko sana makukuha ko,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar’s parents pin their hopes on their youngest child.
"Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa namin nababayaran yung mga inutang, ginastos. Minsan luluwas iyan ala pang pamasahe, hahanap pa,” said his mother Lilian.
Aguilar was detained by the Doha police after he was mistakenly identified as American citizen Jason Ivler, the road rage suspect wanted in the Philippines.
Ivler’s mother, Marlene Aguilar, is the sister of famous singer-composer, Freddie Aguilar.
For 7 days following his detention a few hours before New Year’s Eve, Aguilar said all he could do was to think about what he had done wrong to be in that predicament.
“Takot na takot ako nun,” Aguilar said.
Atom Araullo of ABS-CBN News interviewed Aguilar in his hometown in Calumpit, Bulacan. There, the OFW recounted his ordeal, the experience that scarred him and the uncertainty of his and his family’s future.
“Lagi akong lakad ng lakad sa kulungan. Iniisip ko kung anong kasalanan ko tapos lagi akong kinakabahan tuwing may darating na pulis kasi nga hindi ko alam kung anong gagawin sa akin,” he said.
Aguilar left for Doha on the morning of November 18, or several hours before the tragic shooting of Renato Victor Ebarle Jr. Ivler is accused of shooting Ebarle Jr., the son of Palace official, Renato Ebarle Sr.
In a phone conversation, Ebarle Sr. offered apologies to Aguilar for what he has gone through, which the OFW accepted.
“Masasabi natin sorry na lang sa mga pangyayari pero andyan kami tutulong sa iyo,” Ebarle Sr. said.
A representative from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) also visited Aguilar and promised to help him get his job back.
DFA asked to explain
Meanwhile, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center on Friday demanded an explanation from the Philippine post assigned in Qatar on why it failed to provide the much-needed assistance to the OFW.
The Ople Center also sent a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs to look into the “lack of legal representation” accorded to Aguilar while detained in Doha.
"Jason was thrown in jail for 7 days and deported out of the country for a crime that he had no part in, and was not even aware about. Throughout this harrowing ordeal, not once did Jason see or hear anyone from our embassy. This is a clear case of negligence and our embassy must explain why it failed to help Jason clear his name while he was under detention," said Ople Center head and senatorial bet, Susan Ople.
Ople cited that under the Migrant Workers’ Act, all distressed OFWs are entitled to legal and other forms of assistance from the Philippine embassy.
She added that the Ople Center will also write formally to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration on Aguilar's behalf, to ask that his record be cleaned and expunged of any association with the road rage suspect.
Likewise, the Center will also ask the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to look into the recruitment process in connection with a US$500 placement fee charged by Jason's recruiter.
"This is over and above his anticipated monthly salary in Qatar. Baon na sa utang bago pa umalis, napagkamalan na killer habang namamasukan na welder sa Qatar, pinauwi ng ni hindi natulungan ng embahada para malinis ang pangalan -- ang nangyari kay Jason Aguilar ay hindi na dapat maulit pa sa kahit sinong OFW," Ople said.
Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International also demanded an apology from Qatari and Philippine officials for the trouble they have caused Aguilar.
“At the very least, Qatari and Philippine authorities should issue an apology to Jason Aguilar and his family for this serious case of mistaken identity. This blunder has already cost the poor OFW his job, leaving his family who depends on his earnings, with a bleak start in the New Year,” Martinez said. Reports from dzMM and TV Patrol World