Justice for Marilyn Restor! “Missing” OFW found in Saudi Arabia morgue, PH embassy neglect slammed

photoA Filipina domestic worker who was reported “kidnapped and missing” last year by her family to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Embassy was recently found dead in a morgue in Saudi Arabia.

The body of Marilyn Restor, 45 years old, was discovered by her family after a hospital in Saudi Arabia informed the employers of her husband Arnulfo that her remains had been resting in their morgue for 42 days. It was only when Arnulfo called the PH Embassy in Saudi Arabia that PH authorities confirmed her death.

According to the PH Embassy, Marilyn  was “pushed” and “fell” from a rooftop.

Marilyn, 45 years old, a mother of four, hailed from North Cotabato. Her three children are based in General Santos City while her youngest child (8 years old) was born in Saudi Arabia. The youngest presently still lives in Saudi Arabia with Arnulfo. Marilyn and Arnulfo had been working as household service workers for a Saudi royal couple together with other Filipino domestic workers. (Note: The names of the royal couple and their relatives are withheld upon request of Marilyn’s family, for security purposes)

On the night of July 13, 2014, according to Arnulfo’s account, Marilyn went out of the house to dump garbage when she was abducted by one of the royal couple’s relatives, Princess Jada (not her real name), along with armed men. He said that earlier that day, Princess Jada went to their employers’ house furious about the “absconding” of her Filipina maid. The princess blamed the royal couple’s Filipino household staff and accused them of “conspiring” with her maid to help her escape.

Arnulfo and their employers immediately reported the kidnapping to the Northern Riyadh Police. When authorities failed to take action, Arnulfo and his male employer went to the house of Princess Jada on June 25, 2014 to retrieve custody of Marilyn. They were accosted by Princess Jada’s husband, a ranking official of the Saudi military. The prince reportedly fired gunshots at them and ordered the arrest of Arnulfo’s male employer.

Days after, Saudi police conducted an investigation and learned that there were several existing complaints against Princess Jada and her husband by members of their Filipino household staff. The Saudi police then advised Arnulfo to seek the help of the PH Embassy which he urgently and diligently did.

Meanwhile, Marilyn’s family here in the Philippines also sought the help of the DFA. Her children in General Santos also wrote letters to various government agencies, including the offices of the President and the Vice-President, but received no replies. Marilyn’s sister, Lani, went to the DFA Main Office in Manila on August 2014 and filed a request for assistance.

After several months and still no clear response from the PH authorities, Arnulfo demanded documents related to Marilyn’s case from the PH Embassy in Saudi and learned the following:

  • That the PH Embassy was well aware and informed of Marilyn’s case along with the cases and complaints of nine other OFWs who have experienced grave abuse and maltreatment in the hands of Princess Jada and her husband;
  • Through official letters dated September 16, 2014, the PH Embassy requested the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to: 1) create a committee that will conduct an investigation on the cases of OFWs abused by Princess Jada and her husband; 2) furnish the PH Embassy a full report on the investigation conducted into each of the 10 cases; and 3) direct the Saudi police to immediately secure Marilyn and two others, Dorothy Blancaflor and Levine Batague, and present them to the Embassy. (Blancaflor and Batague remain missing to this day. Blancaflor’s family has relayed unconfirmed reports to Migrante that Dorothy might be in a mental facility in Saudi.)

Since Marilyn’s family reported her abduction to Saudi police and PH authorities, they have not received any updates from the PH Embassy or the DFA. Her family had lost contact with Marilyn since the kidnapping save for a very brief call to Arnulfo last year.

Marilyn’s family sought the help of Migrante in March of this year. On March 24, 2015, Migrante accompanied Lani to a dialogue with DFA officials and case officers. The DFA did not disclose any information but agreed to provide the family with a written report on Marilyn’s case within the week. However, the family was later disappointed to receive a letter merely stating that the “Embassy is coordinating with Saudi authorities, will follow-up the reply with the MOFA”. In Saudi Arabia, Arnulfo was merely told by the PH Embassy that they wrote a letter to the new head of the MOFA.

A year after the abduction, last June 17, Arnulfo’s employers received a call from a hospital informing them that Marilyn is dead and that her remains have been resting in their morgue for 42 days. As of this posting, the DFA and the PH Embassy are yet to provide Marilyn’s family with police, forensic and medical reports related to her death, her death certificate and other pertinent information on her mysterious fall. It is also not clear when her remains are scheduled to be repatriated back to the Philippines.

Justice for Marilyn Restor!

According to Sol Pillas, Migrante International secretary-general, “Marilyn’s family is overcome with grief but they are understandably very, very angry. Angry at Princess Jada and her husband, and as furious with the PH government. It has been a year since they sought the government’s help, only to learn that she had already died, that the PH embassy knew about it and did not even have the courtesy to inform them officially. If Arnulfo had not contacted the PH Embassy to confirm the call his employer received, they would still be in the dark right now.”

Pillas said that this pattern of negligence and passive action from PH Embassies is “like a broken agonizing record for OFWs like Marilyn who died under mysterious circumstances” under Pres. Aquino’s term. She cited the cases of Terril Atienza, Romilyn Ibanez and Rochelle Masubay, all were reported to have been abused and maltreated by their employers, all sought the help of the DFA and their PH embassies, only to be learned later by their families that they have already died. Like Atienza, Marilyn’s employers are persons with high-ranking government positions in their respective host countries.

“There was clearly no active intervention or urgent action from the PH Embassies to rescue them despite their dangerous circumstances. In Marilyn’s case, PH embassy neglect is apparent. This is blood on their hands. The mere fact that nine others had existing complaints against Princess Jada and her husband should have been a ‘red flag’, an alert for the PH Embassy to act with haste before it is too late. Unfortunately and sadly, for Marilyn, it was,” Pillas said.

In the case of Marilyn, Pillas said, the DFA and the PH Embassy in Saudi are well aware and were properly informed of her case as well as the urgent requests for “rescue and repatriation” of nine other OFWs employed by Princess Jada. Of the 10 OFWs, six are cases being handled and facilitated by Migrante.

“We learned of the other four OFWs from the OFWs and their kin who sought our help and expressed concern for their companions who are still under the princess’ custody. Four of them have already been repatriated and have filed appropriate complaints in different government agencies,” Pillas said.

Migrante called on Congress to launch an investigation on the case of the mysterious death of Marilyn Restor, and on how the DFA and PH Embassy officials addressed her urgent case. It said that it will also bring Marilyn’s case to international human rights bodies. “It is the PH Embassy’s task to ensure that Marilyn’s murderer/s are held accountable for her death and justice be served. And should it be found that PH embassy officials failed to urgently act on her case resulting in her untimely death, heads must roll.” ###

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