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Saudi-based Filipino workers decry threat by employer for filing a case

On November 1, 2010

Dammam, Saudi Arabia - After they filed a case against their employer at the Saudi labor court last month, two OFW engineers in Dammam, Eastern region of Saudi Arabia, have sought assistance as their erring employer threatened that they could not go home and will be sent to jail instead.

Marcial Abay, welfare case officer of Migrante-Eastern region chapter, identifies the two as OFWs Gerardo B. Almonte, 48 years old from Taguig, Metro Manila and Mark M. Davis, 29 from Mangahan, Pasig City.

Both are mechanical engineers who claimed they are working for a local company Al-haider Group based in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. They were deployed by their respective recruitment agency sometime in August 2008.

A month before the completion of their employment contract, the two OFWs filed their resignation letter and stated their intent of not renewing their contract because both would be staying “for good” in the Philippines.

The two OFW engineers, on their letter handed over to Migrante, stated “Our employer refused to give us exit visa/clearance, end of service or gratuity, and other benefits due us.”

This prompted the two to ask for assistance to Migrante welfare officer Abay, who have accompanied them to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) to formally file a case against their employer.

“Ito ang pangyayari sa unang hearing hindi sumipot ang aming employer na Al-haider Group of Co. at ang representative na galingPOLO. Sa madaling salita walang hearing ang nagaganap. Sa pangalawang hearing Hindi pain sumipot ang aming employer pero ang representative ng POLO ay nandoon. Wala paring hearing na nangyari. (This is what happened on the 1rst hearing, our employer Al-Aider group of Co. and the POLO representative failed to attend; and on the 2nd hearing he did not come, while POLO representative had been there, but again no hearing occurred), the two distress OFWs stated on their 31 October letter to Migrant.

On the same day, the Saudi labor judge issued a subpoena asking the police requiring the attendance of their employer for another scheduled case hearing. A copy of the subpoena has been given to the 2 distress OFWs and were told to hand it over to their employer.

“But upon handing over the subpoena, their employer threatened them that instead of going home, they would go to jail if they will pursue their case against him,” Abay said quoting the two distress OFWs.

Abay said the demand of the two OFWs to be paid of their end of service or gratuity and to have issued an exit clearance is valid and in accordance with the provision of the Saudi labor law as they have completed their employment contract.

Abay added the two requested POLO to have a lawyer to represent them in court but POLO officials said it could not give them as there is no funds intended for the hiring of a lawyer. It could only provide an interpreter.

On his part, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said they will be formally endorsing their case to the attention of DoLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and would be requesting her to approve the hiring of a lawyer for the two.

Monterona said POLO officials revealed that they have been attending numerous cases but there is no full time local lawyers that could attend all these cases because there is no funds intended for that purpose.

“We urged P-Noy to reconsider his decision in cutting the OFWs legal assistance and assistance to the nationals funds, instead he should beef up these funds to ensure that the like of OFWs Almonte and Davis will be given proper legal representation in court,” Monterona added.

The Aquino administration slashed the OFWs LAF to about 27-M based on its 2011 proposed budget allocation outlay under the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Migrant Workers Act requires 100-M budget allocation for LAF.

“Help us convey this concern to the P-Noy so that he may know and act accordingly if he cares for our OFWs in distress here in Saudi Arabia,” Monterona ended. ## #

Written by:

John Leonard

regional coordinator, Migrante-Middle East

email: [email protected]