Ople Center lauds OWWA’s decision to recall Welfare Officer in Jordan

News Release
Blas F. Ople Policy Center
August 11, 2011

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that assists distressed overseas Filipino workers, lauded Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Carmelita Dimzon for issuing a recall order for a welfare officer based in Jordan based on individual formal complaints lodged by recently repatriated OFWs.

Aside from five earlier complainants, the Ople Center in partnership with the Sagip OFW Program of Senator Manny Villar, assisted three more complainants in executing sworn affidavits citing Welfare Officer Carmelita Mag-uyon for neglect of duty and gross misconduct.

“The stories of 8 repatriated workers were consistent and had a common pattern. They alleged that Welfare Officer Mag-uyon advised them to go back to their abusive employers or pay back the cost of deployment which obviously these women could not afford to do. This goes against the mandate of a welfare officer which is to care for and defend the rights of distressed overseas workers especially those trapped in situations of forced labor trafficking,” Susan Ople, president of the BFO Center, said.

Thea E., one of the three new complainants, said that Mag-uyon sided with her female employer in a meeting to resolve their dispute despite the OFW’s fears for her personal safety after her male employer exposed his private parts to her.

“She (Welfare Officer Mag-uyon) insisted that I go back to work or pay the deployment costs of my employer otherwise I’ll go to prison,” Thea recalled in her affidavit. When she refused, the welfare officer surrendered Thea to the police where she was imprisoned for 11 days. While in prison, Thea was maltreated by members of the Jordanian police and was forced to go back to her employer. Upon her return, she was locked up in a room on the fourth floor of the household.

Thea had to take down the curtains, tie the ends, and use it as a ladder so she could climb down and escape at midnight. She took a cab and headed for the Philippine Embassy at around 1.30 AM. Upon hearing of her plight especially on the hands of the police, the welfare officer treated her more kindly, Thea told the Ople Center.

Another complainant, Wilma S., said she was physically abused by her employers and fed spoiled food and at times, was not allowed to eat at all. This forced her to escape and return to her Jordanian agency. Unfortunately, the agency negotiated with her employers that she would be returned and made to work for one year to pay off the deployment costs. Wilma found a way to escape and seek refuge at OWWA’s Bahay Kalinga in Jordan.

According to the distressed OFW, the welfare officer asked her for $500 as payment for an air ticket to the Philippines. She was also instructed to go to the police station to face charges filed against her by her employers. In the end, the said OWWA officer relented and included Wilma in the list of OFWs whose repatriation costs would be shouldered by her agency.

The Blas F. Ople Center also expressed gratitude to the Office of Senator Manny Villar for providing the 8 complainants with a lawyer. “Having a lawyer to guide them and advise them of their rights under the law emboldened these women to file their complaints. Our next step is to help these women get back on their feet again in partnership with the labor department and OWWA,” Ople, a former labor undersecretary, said.

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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