It was in 2004 when Jelyn arrived in Dubai to work as a hotel staffer. Then 22, Jelyn was full of hope. She looked forward to giving her family a better life.
But her dreams turned into a nightmare. On her very first day in Dubai, she was kidnapped by a fellow Filipino.
According to some members of her family in the Philippines, they received a call from Jelyn shortly after she disappeared. She shared that a fellow Filipino kidnapped her during a welcome party for her. The kababayan befriended her and offered her a drink. After that, she didn’t know what happened next. She woke up half-naked and discovered that she had been raped by the man and she was locked in his house. Then the phone line went dead.
The family waited for her to call again. They had no idea how to reach her. It was not clear who had met her at the airport and where the ill-fated “welcome party” was held.
It would be seven months before she called again. She was crying so hard that time, and informed her family that she was pregnant and the man kept her locked in his house as his wife. He never allowed her out. She said he promised her marriage once they return to the country. She was still talking when her relatives on the other end of the line heard a commotion. They presumed the man discovered her on the phone and yanked it away. The line was abruptly cut again.
Since then, nine years ago, the family has not heard from Jelyn.
The Bureau of Immigration has no arrival record to show she has returned to the country. The family made an appeal to Bantay OCW to help them locate her, to find out her whereabouts, dead or alive, for them to seek justice.
Bantay OCW was surprised why the family informed the foundation only now.
They said they kept hoping that one day she would call and ask them to fetch her at the airport with her child. They also reported the incident to the recruitment agency that deployed Jelyn, but until now, they still get the same answer: “No news yet.”
When we interviewed Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, via a long distance call over Radyo Inquirer while she was in Abu Dhabi on her way to Dubai, Bantay OCW took the opportunity to inform her about the case. Details were also sent to her via e-mail.
The family is requesting intervention from the Philippine Consulate to file a report with the Dubai police so a search for Jelyn can begin.
Although it has been nine years, Bantay OCW still hopes something can be done and that Jelyn is still alive. The agency that recruited and deployed Jelyn has a lot to answer for. Was Jelyn recruited by a front for a slavery ring?
For our bagong-salta (first-timer) overseas Filipino workers (OFW), be careful. We have received other reports of fellow Filipinos who victimize some of our OFWs during such occasions—the so-called “welcome party.”
Always deal with reputable recruitment agencies. Be alert. Bear in mind that you’re a potential target because of your being alone in a new place. Unfortunately, you cannot trust all kababayans—here or abroad.
Leave photocopies of your important documents with your family, like a copy of your passport and the employment contract. This would make it easier for authorities to investigate, find and hopefully rescue an OFW in trouble. A complaint must be filed immediately.
If you feel you’re in danger, don’t hesitate to report your situation to the Philippine embassy or consulate in your area. You have to leave tracks so people can find you.
Susan Andes, aka Susan K. is on board at Radyo Inquirer 990 dzIQ AM, Monday to Friday 11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon & 12:30-2:00 p.m. with audio/video live streaming: www.dziq.am Studio: 2/F MRP Bldg., Mola St., cor. Pasong Tirad St., Makati City. Helpline: 0927-6499870 / 0920-9684700. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org /email@example.com