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OFW’s remains repatriated; tongue, eye missing

/ 07:16 PM September 12, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—A year after her death, the cadaver of an overseas Filipino worker was finally sent home last week, but her tongue and an eye were missing, a migrant rights group said Monday.

The relatives of Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez were furious after “seeing the remains of their loved one’s mutilated and burned body,” said Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

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He said Eroy-Ibanez’s sister, Mira, e-mailed him to ask what had happened to her sister, whose mouth and face bore acid burns.

“There is something I want to ask. The body of my sister has arrived (but) she’s not complete—one of her eyes is missing and her tongue is gone,” Monterona quoted Mira as saying in Filipino in an e-mail on September 10.

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“What did they do to my sister and why did this happen?” she added.

Eroy-Ibanez’s family had earlier asked for an investigation into the OFW’s death after Saudi officials supposedly ruled that she committed suicide by drinking acid and stabbing herself several times.

On September last year, Eroy-Ibanez was rushed to the hospital in Al-Khobar after a Red Crescent staff member allegedly found her, soaked in her own blood, inside the kitchen of her employer’s house, Monterona said.

Hours later, she was pronounced dead by the hospital’s attending physicians, who reported that she died due to acid ingestion and several stab wounds, he added.

Monterona said Eroy-Ibanez, a native of North Cotabato, was an education graduate but was forced to work as a domestic helper in Al-Khobar in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia.

On September 29, 2010, then Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Antonio Villamor met with HRH Prince Mohammad bin Fahad bin Abdulaziz al Saud, Emir of the Eastern Province, to discuss the case, Monterona said.

He added that the prince assured the ambassador that Saudi officials were looking closely into the case and that he will see to it that justice was served.

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On February 16, 2011, the Filipino embassy received copies of the investigation and forensic reports from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the former did not disclose their content, Monterona said.

“An embassy official, who requested not to be named, revealed that the investigation and forensic reports concluded (that) Eroy-Ibanez committed suicide, which we totally rejected because it totally contradicted the earlier medical report issued by the hospital’s attending physicians,” Monterona added.

He said the victim’s family and Migrante urged the Philippine embassy to formally request for reinvestigation and hire the legal services of a local Shariah lawyer.

But six months later, the victim’s family, “sensing that pursuing the case would lead to nowhere and eager to see her remains,” decided to withdraw their request for a reinvestigation so that her cadaver could finally be repatriated, Monterona said.

On Saturday, Monterona said he received confirmation from Mira that the remains of her sister had finally arrived in the Philippines.

“I hate to say this: OFW Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez case won’t be the last, unless the deplorable and situation of our OFWs, especially domestic workers, will be improved,” Monterona said.

The Saudi government earlier this year banned the hiring of Filipino domestic helpers after Manila insisted that they receive a minimum monthly salary of US$400.

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TAGS: Employment, Human Rights, Labor, Overseas employment, overseas Filipino worker
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