(Based on personal interviews with relatives and concerned individuals conducted by Migrante KSA on October 27 and October 29; and emails from various sources.)
Victim Name: Aida Palmones Gutierrez
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Residence in Philippines: San Isidro, Nueva Ecija
01 October ~ Co-workers at the workplace reported to her sister Precy that Aida dropped unconscious after complaining of “panghihina.” Aida was then admitted at the Saudi German Hospital and was diagnosed with “disturbed conscious level, diabetes mellitus and renal failure” and was instantly sent to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Aida was not covered by any medical insurance, a legal requirement for foreign workers. Precy immediately went to Aida’s employer to seek assistance but the employer refused.
For the next few days, Precy repeatedly went to Aida’s employer but this would not relent, insisting instead that, (1) Precy shoulder all medical expense since she (and not the employer) sent Aida to the hospital and (2) she should ask fellow Filipinos to raise funds for the hospitalization costs. The employer even told her not to sleep so she could raise the money.
05 October ~ Precy and a friend went to the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah where she was referred to Labor Attache Buliok Nilong. Nilong reportedly said: “wala tayong magagawa dyan. Walang batas na pwedeng magpwersa sa employer na sagutin ang pagpapagamot (kay Aida).”
Nilong then referred her to OWWA, but OWWA staff referred her back to POLO.
At the same time, OWWA insisted that Aida was not covered by Phil Health since her payment was not up-to-date and told her that “ang PhilHealth sa Pilipinas lang makukuha.”
06 October ~ Precy and her friend went to meet Nilong again the next day, and reportedly repeated only what the Labor Attache said the other day. Nilong dismissed Precy by handing her a SAR 100 bill and saying: “Heto, abuloy ko na lang sa kapatid mo.”
Again, people in the Consulate referred her back and forth between POLO and OWWA.
Later in the day, Precy was accompanied to the hospital by Asst. Labor Attache Adam Musa, Welfare Officer Romeo Pablo and Dr. Romualdo Exmundo. The representatives were non-committal (this is our conclusion) but promised Precy they will take action.
08 October ~ Aida was discharged from the Intensive Care Unit.
11 October ~ Aida was returned to the Intensive Care Unit but was released to the ward the next day.
12 October ~ Aida’s hospital bill reached almost SAR 100,000.
Exact date unknown (between 12 Oct. and 25 Oct) ~ A concerned citizen asked the staff of a senator (Senator’s name withheld by documentor) for assistance. The senator’s staff reportedly said that they can only give USD 200.
Aida’s family in the Philippines paid her Phil Health premium to keep her up-to-date.
Consul General Ezzedin Tago and Consul Leo Tito Asuan personally visited Aida in the hospital. ConGen Tago handed Precy some money (exact amount unknown) to help cover the hospital expenses. At the same time, Tago promised “assistance… sa abot ng aming makakaya.”
25 October ~ Total hospital bill reached SAR 118,838.70.
27 October ~ Precy went to the Philippine Consulate and was able to talk to ConGen Tago again. He showed her a fax dated October 21 (or 23, the source was not sure of the date) from DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos urging the OWWA Administrator to “ayusin ang kaso” (Precy’s words).
Precy asked OWWA staff later about the certain fax from the DFA but she was told: “wala kaming natatanggap.”
Going back, ConGen Tago reportedly admitted to Precy: “alam mo ang mga tao dito, parang pako, kung hindi mo pukpukin, hindi babaon.” Tago also promised to look into the matter personally and at the same time, gave her some amount (amount withheld by documentor) to help cover their expenses.
Ambassador Antonio Villamor, in an email circulating among OFs reportedly told a local community leader: "It doesn’t matter now if she is an OWWA member or not. What is important is to get Aida out of the Hospital (because of the huge running bill) and send her home to her family."
29 October ~ A concerned relative called Pablo Singco, supposed Presidential Adviser for Oveseas Filipinos under Vice President Noli De Castro’s office who admitted Aida was (or should be) covered by OWWA.
The same concerned relative also called Jeddah Welfare Officer Romeo Pablo who reportedly said: “wala kaming maibibigay na pondo, kundi tatawag sa Biyernes ng mga charity para makalikom ng pondo.”
1. Abandonment by employer.
The employer clearly abandoned their responsibility for the hospitalization of Aida Gutierez.
2. Abandonment by concerned government agencies.
Government POLO/OWWA staff definitely reneged on their responsibility even with written proof from the OWWA National Office that her case be taken care of and personal assurances from Consul General Ezzedin Tago and Ambassador Antonio Villamor.
1. Mobilize concerned community groups to help raise funds for the hospitalization cost and other expenses. Support other related initiatives.
2. Appeal to the OWWA National Office and other concerned government agencies to release funds for the hospitalization expense, taking note that the longer she stays in the hospital the higher the fees get (fees increase by approximately SAR 500 per day).
3. After resolving issue of hospitalization fees, appeal to concerned government agencies for immediate repatriation and further medical attention in the Philippines.
4. Determine culpability of OWWA / POLO staff and request immediate appropriate action.
5. Initiate dialogues with concerned government agencies to determine proper course of action towards certain cases of abandonment by employers.
6. Call for the return of medical coverage from Phil Health to OWWA; Phil Health only as an optional alternative to OWWA Medical program (similar to the SSS coverage for OFWs); expansion of benefits for overseas Filipinos; and, the scrapping of the OWWA Omnibus Policies implemented in September 2004 which restricted the services beneficial to OFWs.
Committee of Rights and Welfare (CRAW)
Migrante International – Jeddah (KSA) Chapter
Last update: 29 October 2008