Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No Whitewash!

13 August 2008
Press Release

For Reference:
Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson

No Whitewash!
Migrante demands Justice for Victim of Foul Play Eugenia Baja

Members of Migrante International and families of victims of mysterious deaths trooped to the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand justice and a more thorough investigation on the death of Eugenia Baja, a Filipina domestic worker who allegedly committed suicide in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last February 24. The autopsy report which the family recently received from the KSA further fueled their suspicions that Baja was a victim of foul play. The group presented to DFA officials pictures of the dead body.

Elizabeth Garcia, elder sister of Eugenia, said pictures of her sister's dead body tell another story. "May mga bugbog at galos ang iba't ibang parte ng katawan ng kapatid ko. May saksak pa ng kutsilyo sa may tagiliran," Garcia said.

"How can this be suicide?" questioned Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson of Migrante International. "The autopsy report revealed that Eugenia was starved for 28-35 days. The wounds and marks indicate that she had been severely maltreated. Why didn't DFA officials investigate at all?"

Baja's alleged suicide happened days after her family received text messages from her that she needed help. There were also conflicting reports about the cause of her death. The DFA informed the family that Baja killed herself by banging her head in the toilet tiles after three days of locking herself up in her room. Meanwhile, documents from KSA authorities which arrived with the corpse stated that Baja died in a hospital due to ulcer. It was only after a campaign by Migrante and her family that Baja's body was repatriated to the Philippines three months after, with the support and immediate assistance of Senate President Manny Villar.

Regalado continues, "This is again another case where the DFA and embassy officials have not only proven themselves to be callous and useless in protecting Filipino citizens. They have also shown how blatantly they can become so servile to a foreign government, turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the truth, so willing to sacrifice yet another victim in return for the chance to export cheap labor and profit from our remittances! "

"How dare President Arroyo say she cares for OFWs, in no less than her SONA statement, when we have so many other Eugenia Baja whose deaths cry for justice! If she continues to do nothing about this case, it is a "blatant toleration of human rights violations against OFWs and is tantamount to being accomplice to the crime. The DFA must investigate this at once!"

Migrante has documented 23 cases of OFW "mysterious deaths" under the Arroyo administration.

Regalado also cited the recent "alleged suicides" of Maria Mitos Vergara and Jefrey Alberto So, in Dubai last June 24 and Gilbert Angeles, who was found dead in his apartment in Singapore on June 30

Regalado said these deaths show the real face of migration contrary to what the government is promoting.

She also said these cases and other issues concerning migrants will be tackled in the International Assembly of Migrants & Refugees, a 3-day gathering whereby genuine migrant groups and organizations together with migrant support organizations and institutions, will gather to discuss their own issues. The IAMR is the migrants' response to the Global Forum on Migration and Development to be hosted by the Philippine government this coming October. #

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