Maltreated Bicolano OFW returns home dead; cause of death doubtful

By Rhaydz B. Barcia PILI, Camarines Sur --- Ana Fe Velasco-Bania, 38, mother of three, of Bgy. Ocampo Binobong, this town, left for abroad full of hope two years ago. She was sent by a local agency, Speed Continental Employment Agency, Inc. to Saudi Arabia on April 2015 as a household service worker with her travelling expenses shouldered by her employer under the Fair recruitment in the Philippines (FAIR). In Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), she worked with Yahya Muhamad Ali Alyami as her employer with a monthly compensation of $400 for a 24-month contract period. But Ana Fe’s mother Maria Francia R. Velasco, 58, revealed that her daughter was actually serving two “masters” as he would be occasionally sent by her original employer to work at the latter’s family friend, in violation of her original work contract. “Ana Fe is my eldest daughter whose husband is a construction worker with three sons. She decided to work abroad with desires of providing good life to her children, send them to school until college, rebuild home and recover the less than a hectare of riceland leased to our relative for almost P200,000,” the elder Velasco said. She admitted that Ana Fe’s original employer was kind, in contrast her second “master” who maltreated her as narrated by Ana Fe herself during her earlier communication with family members back home. Barely four months before Ana Fe’s work contract ends in December 2017, Velasco received a report that her daughter died of cardiovascular illness or heart attack on September 29, 2017. Following the incident, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) requested for immediate repatriation of Ana Fe’s remains back to Philippines. Ana Fe’s cadaver arrived at the Legazpi City Domestic Airport on November 2, 2017. Her body was received by grieving family through the assistance of OWWA regional office and immediately transported to Nabua, Camarines Sur where it underwent embalmment at AV Magistrado Funeral Homes. Before the course of embalmment, the elder Velasco said they checked the body of Ana Fe that showed bruises on her body. “My daughter’s cadaver had bruises all over her body. That could be the consequence of maltreatment she went through her other employer,” Ana Fe’s mother said. After the embalmment, Ana Fe’s body was brought to their home in Pili, Camarines Sur. Her family lives in an unfinished partially concrete home with a single room and bare earth for a room. Ana Fe’s eldest son, Leejan Mark, 18, is in Grade 12 and Steven, 16 is in Grade 9 at Binobong High School. The third and youngest son, James Bryan is in Kindergarten at Pili Central School. Husband Ferdinand Bania, 39, a construction worker, said he would like his wife’s body to undergo an autopsy to determine the real cause of her death. But due to budgetary constraints, they could not proceed with the original plan. In a medical report from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Hospital, Ministry of Health King Khalid Hospital, a Dr. Alexander said that Ana Fe succumbed to death due to stroke (acute cerebrovascular accident). But Ana Fe’s family doubted the doctor’s findings. “If government officials from Department of Foreign Affairs will help me out, I will pursue the case against the employers of my wife. But, if there’s nobody willing to help us, I could not do anything because I don’t have the capacity to pursue the case,” the husband said. According to report, Ana Fe was found dead last September 29 by her original employer at King Khalid Hospital in Riyadh after working for a week with her second employer. She was about to finish her contract this December 2017 with her original employer. Last September 23, her employer’s friend once again obtained her services for three days. But after three days, her original employer waited for her to return until she was found dead in a hospital. Last October 4, five days after her death, Ferdinand, received a video from her friend showing that Ana Fe was crying and seeking assistance saying that her other employer would force her to work even if she was sick. Ana Fe’s family hopes that the OWWA and DFA will extend their assistance to pursue an investigation about her case so that justice will be served. Fatima Dazal, Overseas Workers Welfare Officer 3 of OWWA regional office here admitted that Ana Fe succumbed to death while in the hands of her second employer but they could not trace the name of the said second employer. OWWA Bicol said it is the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) that takes care of the labor issues abroad. OWWA Bicol provided P20,000 burial assistance for Anna Fe. The office will also be providing education and livelihood assistance to Ana Fe’s children. Bicol OFWs Based on the records of OWWA and POEA regional office in Bicol, there are 53,808 active members and 120,021 inactive or a total of 173,829 overseas Filipino workers from Bicol as of June 2017. Among the six provinces of Bicol, Camarines Sur has the highest number of OFWs with 71,770. It is followed by Albay with 45,082, then Sorsogon with 20,694. Camarines Norte has 18,093, Masbate with 10,746 and Catanduanes with 7,444. Records at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) show that the Overseas Filipino Workers remitted at least $26.9B in 2016. From January to May 2017 alone, they had sent home $11.3B with a growth rate of 4.5 percent. The rising OFWs remittances shows the country’s dynamic industry for migrant workers, except that unfortunate workers like Ana Fe go home lifeless due to doubtful cause of death while in the hands of abusive employers.