When overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Terril Atienza’s remains were flown back to the country last December 9, her heart was missing. Her whole body was bruised, beaten and burnt. Autopsy conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Medico-Legal Division further revealed that her other internal organs were “sectioned with missing portions”. A rag was extracted from inside her body.
Atienza was trafficked to Singapore to work as a domestic worker on January 2010. Last June 2011, she expressed to her family her desire to come home to the Philippines. Her agency disagreed, said that she had to finish her two-year contract first and flew her to Mongolia after one and a half years of working in Singapore.
In Mongolia, Atienza met uncertainty and agony while working for her employer Sergelen Davaakhu, who she mentioned in correspondences with friends and family is allegedly the Consul of Austria in Mongolia and a son of a former Mongolian Prime Minister.
She said that her employer was often drunk and held nightly rowdy parties in their home. She was also forbidden from using her mobile phone and laptop. After four months of working for her employer, she was only able to send USD $184.37 to her family. On December 2011, she called her daughter Nyrriel to tell her that she had decided to come home because her employer had not paid her wages for three months.
On November 23, Nyrriel got a call from her mother’s friend and fellow OFW Karen Cruz who was worried because she was supposed to meet with Atienza on November 19 but she never showed up. Cruz said that on the same day, Atienza’s employer called her and said that Atienza would not be able to meet with her because she was not feeling well. On November 21, Atienza’s agency here in Manila got an email from her employer that her body was already in the morgue.
Initial autopsy reports from Mongolia indicated that Atienza died of “severe intoxication from an unknown source”. A conclusive autopsy report from Mongolia is still pending following results from laboratory tests conducted on her body. Her family, however, brought her body to the NBI for a second autopsy where the results of her cause of death was due to “probably secondary to hypertensive cardiovascular disease due to a stabbing incident”.
Atienza is the latest addition to the growing list of OFWs who died under mysterious circumstances abroad. Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International reported that they receive at least two cases of mysterious deaths every month. Migrante International currently handles nine cases of mysterious deaths. Most of the victims are women OFWs.
“A few days before women’s day, we are once again aghast and enraged by this latest injustice against our Pinay kababayan. We join Atienza’s family in calling for a probe on her mysterious death. We believe, based on the condition of Atienza’s body when she arrived and the autopsy conducted by the NBI, that foul play is involved. We fully support Atienza’s family in calling for justice and due punishment for her murderer,”
Martinez said that most of their cases of mysterious deaths have women domestic workers as victims. “Women domestic workers are doubly exploited. They are the most vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. Women domestic workers suffer slave-like conditions because of their defenselessness and the very nature of their work environment.”
“These abuses become compounded if they are irregular or undocumented, like Atienza. She was bound by a contract that it now turns out does not exist. The DFA nor the OWWA or POEA had no records of her working in Singapore or Mongolia, virtually exonerating her local agency here in the Philippines and their counterpart in Singapore of any accountability.”
Martinez also called on the DFA to take a more active stance and interest in Atienza’s case because “a high-ranking person in a diplomatic position may be involved”. “There needs to be an active intervention and clamor for justice from our government officials. We call on the DFA, our lawmakers and the Philippine Consulate in Mongolia to actively and aggressively intervene on behalf of Atienza’s family.”
On March 8, Atienza’s family, together with women OFWs displaced by the civil war in Syria and other parts of the Middle East-North Africa and OFW victims of violence against women, human trafficking, sexual abuse and human and labor rights violations and their families will join the International Women’s Day protests.###