An appeal to President Gadhafi’s nephew — please let Diana return to her family

Jennifer Rivera had quit her job from the time hostilities in Libya broke out. Nowadays, you would often find her shuttling to and fro the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Blas F. Ople Center, all in the vicinity of Pasay City to Intramuros in Manila.

Her mission: to prod Philippine government authorities to work on the release of her sister, Diana Jill, as household helper of Sahal Al Shariff, the nephew of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The last time Diana was able to call up her sister was Monday this week. We were together at the DFA in the office of Undersecretary Rafael Seguis. Jennifer picked up her mobile phone and her face was suddenly a palette of conflicting emotions. “Ate, I’m okay. I’m okay,” Diana said in an exaggerated voice. Jennifer overheard the female employer ask her sister to speak in English. Through every stilted word, she heard and felt her sister holding back the tears.

The truth is that Diana and three other Filipino kasambahays of Gadhafi’s nephew have long sent word through Jennifer asking the Philippine government for help so that they could come home. They fear for their lives, they said.

“We are the targets, not you,” Diana’s employer would tell the Filipino domestic helpers every time the issue of going home was raised.

Last Tuesday, the Philippine Ambassador was able to talk to Diana’s employer with the help of some contacts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The employer said that they were moving out of Tripoli to transfer to Surt, Libya – the President’s birthplace. The four household staff would be going with them. Not to worry, the employer said.

The Philippine Embassy is located in Tripoli. Surt is more than 370 kilometers away and is tightly controlled by Gadhafi forces. The president’s hometown lies strategically between Tripoli and Benghazi.

Through this blog, we would like to join Jennifer and her family in appealing to the Sahal Al Sharif to release Diana Jill and her 3 other household co-workers to the Philippine Embassy. We understand the reluctance of her employer and his family to let go of their domestic workers at this highly difficult time.

But Diana’s five-year old son cries everyday, asking Aunt Jennifer when his mom would be among the throngs of Filipinos shown nightly on the television news as workers repatriated from Libya.

And Diana’s father has not been sleeping soundly nor eating as well as he should. His thoughts are always on Diana. Jennifer barely eats as well. Every day she leaves the house in search of new information and updates from people who have now become her friends in the DFA and DoLE.

If you want to join me and several others in appealing for Diana Jill’s safety, please add SOS Libya (Diana Jill Rivera Manso) on Facebook. We will be posting updates about her situation and the Philippine government’s efforts to help her on that cause page. At the very least, your joining this page would signal to Jennifer and her family that they are not alone and that our prayers are with them.

Diana has been with her employer’s family for only six months. She doesn’t deserve to be caught in Libya’s battle zones simply because of the nature of her job.

Join and Share the Facebook page – SOS Libya (Diana Jill Rivera Manso). And please continue to pray for the safe return of Diana and all the rest of our OFWs and thousands of other migrant workers still remaining in Libya.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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