Labor Attache Nasser Mustafa is a hero. While in Libya, he fulfilled his promise to bring home two Filipino domestic workers being held against their will by their employer, deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s niece. While the Department of Foreign Affairs had enunciated its position to wait for the Libyan transition council to take over the country’s leadership, Labor Attache Mustafa worked out a bold rescue plan.

What was remarkable about his feat is the modesty attached to it. An initial statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding the Philippine Embassy’s rescue mission conjured images of an elaborate and grandiose plan, citing the use of two embassy teams and a pit stop at the embassy itself. That someone even felt compelled to issue such a premature and half-baked statement without proper coordination with the labor department smacks of territorial assertion rather than the more benign country team approach.

Here are some details about the actual rescue as gathered by this writer:

• Mary Ann and Diana Jill have long wanted to come home and feared for their lives as the conflict in Libya intensified but their employer, a niece of Col. Gadhafi, refused to let them go.
• It took ten days for Labor Attache Mustafa to locate the actual residence of Diana’s employer which at times was surrounded by rebel forces.
• At around 6.30 AM of September 19 (Manila time), Labor Attache Nasser Mustafa, embassy driver Alih Mariwa and his Libyan friend and interpreter Awal Ajanti rescued Diana Jill Rivera and Mary Ann Ducos from their Libyan employers.
• On the morning of the rescue, Mustafa was in touch with the two women via mobile phone and he requested Mary Ann to go up the roof and wave to him as a confirmation that he was in front of the right house.
• While Mary Ann was on top of the roof, Diana Jill was keeping guard on the ground. She made sure that her two little wards were asleep and that none of the armed guards and her employers were awake.
• The two left the house using the front gate, leaving behind all their belongings, as instructed by the labor attaché.
• Once they were in the embassy car, Labor Attache Mustafa instructed Alih Mariwa to drive as fast as he could away from the house and towards the Tunisian border.
• Diana Jill and Mary Ann were able to cross the border from Libya to Tunisia using travel documents prepared by the Philippine Embassy.

On his Facebook page, two days after the daring rescue, Labor Attache Mustafa posted this comment: “Real success is finding your life’s work in the work that you love.” Bravo Labatt Nash Mustafa for your heroism and leadership in bringing our two OFWs home!
Upon hearing of Mustafa’s efforts, civil society groups allied with the Blas F. Ople Policy Center were quick to come together and plan a tribute dinner for him. Jun Aguilar of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group said that the labor attache’s three-man team breathe life to President Aquino’s inaugural directive of an even more responsive DFA and DoLE for distressed OFWs.

There are more people to thank for working behind the scenes and also for assuring the two OFWs of new and better beginnings. First dibs go to Jenny Rivera who tirelessly worked for the freedom of her sister, Diana Jill. Her persistence in going to DoLE, the DFA, and OWWA to follow up her sister’s case led her to become the Ople Center’s liaison officer. Labor Attache Mustafa did the actual rescue but it was Jenny’s fighting spirit that kept that option open from February to September of this year.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis accommodated all our requests, and was ever present at the DFA whenever Jenny had information to share. We at the Ople Center also acknowledge the help of the staff and officers at the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs. Special thanks go to Vice-President Jejomar Binay who had comforted Jenny in the past and kept his promise of making sure that her sister’s case would not be forgotten.

James Concepcion, president of the Days Hotel and Cecille Tan, vice president for operations, have assured Diana Jill and Mary Ann that they could train and work for the Days Hotel in Cebu City. Such a generous job offer gave both OFWs real hope after months of despair and danger in the Gadhafi compound. Special thanks also to Jane Ampeloquio of Emergent Concept for willingly taking on the task of training these two household workers.

Upon their arrival in Manila, the two OFWs bonded with their families at the posh Midas Hotel where their weekend stay was sponsored by good friends, Zaldy and Mylene Co through my best friend Arleen Ong. Finally but never least, we offer perpetual thanks to the Lord who have yet to fail us in our mission to help distressed OFWs. He makes the impossible, simply possible. (Send your comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com. Follow me on Twitter via www.twitter.com/susanople. The Ople Center’s hotline is 8335337.)

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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