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POEA probes Singaporeans who starved Pinay maid

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is looking into the possible liability of the recruitment agency that deployed an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was allegedly starved by her Singaporean employers.

POEA chief Hans Cacdac yesterday said they have initiated an investigation into reports that a Singaporean couple starved Filipino household service worker (HSW) Thelma Gawidan.

Cacdac said the POEA is gathering information through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Philippine embassy in Singapore.

The POEA said it will summon the recruitment agency to determine the kind of assistance it is providing to the distressed OFW.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the POEA, an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment, will immediately impose appropriate sanctions on the agency and employers if they are found guilty as charged.

‘Blacklist employer’

Meanwhile, Blas Ople Policy Center head Susan Ople yesterday said as a form of support for Gawidan, the POEA should stop her Singaporean employers from hiring other OFWs.

“Let us express our outrage, first through legal channels by making sure that Thelma gets the support needed to win her case, and second, as an act of solidarity, by declaring the Singaporean couple as persona non grata, and permanently barring them from hiring any Filipino worker ever again,” Ople said. 

Cacdac had said that if investigation would show that Gawidan’s employers indeed maltreated her, they will be disqualified from hiring other OFWs.

Cacdac assured the public that the Philippine government will coordinate with Singaporean officials to come out with a measure protecting the welfare of Filipino HSWs.

Based on Gawidan’s testimony, her employers, Lim Choon Hong and his wife, Chong Sui Foon, have been maltreating her since she was first deployed to Singapore in 2013.

The Singaporean couple reportedly starved the OFW for 15 months, causing her to lose weight from 49 kilograms to 29 kg.

Gawidan said she was fed only instant noodles and crackers, and was not even allowed to use the bathroom in the couple’s flat.

Stricter screening procedures

According to Ople, the government must adopt stricter screening procedures for foreign employers seeking Filipino domestic workers.

“It is often the case that we get to know about the life story of the abused domestic worker but know so little about her abusers. In this case, it is important to check whether this Singaporean couple had previous cases of abuse involving foreign domestic workers,” she said. 

Ople proposed that Philippine embassies and consulates immediately inform the Bureau of Immigration, in cooperation with the POEA, about cases involving maltreated, abused and enslaved Filipinos so that the perpetrators are never allowed to enter the country.

She added that the government should also put up a one-stop assistance center for victims of abuse like Gawidan who may soon be returning to the country after her case is resolved.

Ople also expressed support for the creation of a department for OFWs that would provide a more focused and long-term approach to labor migration and development.

“Part of such a long-term approach is a well-defined roadmap to cut the deployment of Filipino domestic workers in the next six years,” she said.

ACIRC

BLAS OPLE POLICY CENTER

BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION

CACDAC

CHONG SUI FOON

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

GAWIDAN

HANS CACDAC

LABOR SECRETARY ROSALINDA BALDOZ

OPLE

SINGAPOREAN

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