November 28, 2014     Philippines
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April 4, 2009
A Real Life, Modern-day Hero?

After experiencing being cheated and neglected while working as an OFW, Gil Lebria became determined to fight for the rights of migrant workers wherever he was deployed to work. He exposed the oppression experienced by fellow OFWs while he was in Taiwan and again in Kuwait. Now he is back once more to fight for his and his co-workers’ rights after being victims of contract-substitution and made to endure inhuman working conditions in Qatar.

A real life, modern-day hero? No, he is just an OFW trying to make a living for his family, but he has learned to stand up for his and his fellow OFWs’ rights.

BY THEA AYLA P. BANAG, JUAN ANGELO A. HONGO, and JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat

[flashvideo file=http://bulatlat.net/uploads/audio/2009/04/20/librea/librea_interview.mp3 height=75 width=302 /]
Listen to OFW Gil Lebria narrate what happened to him. (Interview Thea Ayla P. Banag, Juan Angelo A. Hongo, and Janess Ann J. Ellao)

It has all the elements of a Filipino action movie: a villain-oppressor, oppressed masses, and a hero emerging from the ranks of the oppressed. However, the story was not taken from a movie, it happened in real life. The villains in this case are a Korean company with operations in Qatar and a recruitment agency. The oppressed masses are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other fellow migrant workers working at Woolim. And the hero is an OFW who has just returned to the country to bring their case to Philippine authorities.

A few years ago, Lebria exposed the inhuman conditions suffered by fellow OFWs in Taiwan and again in Kuwait. He is doing it once more for his fellow OFWs in Qatar.

A real life, modern-day hero? No, he is just an OFW trying to make a living for his family, but he has learned to stand up for his and his fellow OFWs’ rights.

Taking risks to survive

Despite his previous negative experiences working as a migrant worker in other countries, Lebria chose to push his luck farther.

He saw a newspaper advertisement about a job abroad as material controller posted by the Batangueño Human Resources Inc., a recruitment agency. Lebria applied and submitted all the requirements and signed an employment contract with Hyundai, an engineering firm in Qatar. Although he sheepishly admitted to Bulatlat that he found several irregularities in the contract he signed, he did not question it since it contained all the necessary stamps of approval from the concerned government agencies such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Foreign Affairs and Labor departments.

He said an undergraduate like him always finds it difficult to look for a job here that would give him enough income to support his family. He added in order to survive he has to leave his family behind to work abroad since jobs here in the Philippines are mostly on a contractual basis.

“Mas malaki ang ani sa ibang bansa kesa dito,” (The income is higher abroad than here in our country.) he said. “Sa kahirapan talaga eh. Gutom ako, gutom din ang pamilya ko kapag dito ako nagtrabaho,” (Because of poverty, I have to work abroad, otherwise I and my family will starve.) said Lebria.

Experiencing injustices right from the start

But upon arriving at Qatar, Lebria was told that he would work in Woolim instead of Hyundai. Aside from this, his employers did not acknowledge the contract he signed in the Philippines. They claimed that they could not understand the contract because it does not contain translations in Arabic. Arabic translations should have been written at the left part of an overseas contract bound for countries in the Middle East.

He was placed in charge of purchasing and doing the inventory of all the materials needed for the operations of Woolim. Most of the time, the demands of his job required him to work for more than eight hours but since most of the clauses found in his contract were not recognized by Lebria’s employer, he was not paid for his overtime work.. He shared that aside from the $700 basic salary, he should have received an additional $500 if Woolim gave him his just compensation. Aside from rendering unpaid overtime work, Lebria and his co-workers were declared as ‘absent’ during their days-off, with the corresponding salary deductions.

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9 thoughts on “A Real Life, Modern-day Hero?

  1. Pingback: OFW Recalls Danger in Libya, Denounces Neglect by Philippine Government - Bulatlat

  2. kaming mga ofw ang isa sa mga nagbibigay ng malaking kontribusyon sa ating bansa sa pamamagitan ng pagpapadala ng pera. subalit,bakit kami ang nadedehado pagdating sa mga ganitong sitwasyon.magaling lang ang gobyerno sa pagpapabango bulok naman ang sistema nyo!!! mga bwiset!!!

  3. naman wag mo na pansinin si nag-sasalita lng yan ng wla sa sarili.hak hak.di na dapat patulan matututo pa yan sa aten eh,pabayaan nlng na ngumawngaw yan.dahil kabaliktaran ng mga sinasabi nya ay realidad na nararanasan ng mamamayan.saken naku pugi mo pagnag-aksaya ako ng laway pra icounter ang ang mga sinasabi mo.malinaw nmn wla kang mga batayan s mga sinasabi mo.

  4. Hi Zharina,

    Is there any scientific and academic research to prove your claims that the Phils.' smallness, alleged lack of resources, and overpopulation, is to blame?

    1. The United Nations FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) itself says that the global agricultural system produces more than enough food for ten times the present population. It's not a question of countries like us being overpopulated, its a question of certain classes having the sole dictate of what crops to plant, where to sell it, how much to sell it.

    2. As for resources, if that was true, then an even tinier country like Cuba would have collapsed a long time. But why is it presently a model for energy efficiency? Simple, because it harnessed indigenous technology to use renewable energy. It's not a matter if we don't have oil. You forget, there's water and sun all around us.

    3. Additionally, our mineral deposits are now relatively large considering that some countries are overmining theirs. We could command huge profits for national development, yet the Gov't is simply selling out these to mining TNCs cheap!

    Please do your homework before you go shooting your mouth off.

  5. Has it ever occurred to any of you (and that goes for the rest of the Filipinos too!) the reason why Filipinos become OFW's? Corruption aside (I know it's rampant in the Philippines, some foreigners thnks it's part of Filipino culture), Philippines is such a small country, little resources, and OVERPOPULATED! Phil. is churning out graduates year after year with little to no prospects of employment in the home country. I feel for Librea and his family, but what can he do? He gets screwed by his own government, his own people and the foreigners! What hope do the Filipino have when even their own government and compatriots betray them? I can only say, keep fighting Librea and may you succeed. You are indeed a modern day hero, but don't be a dumb modern day hero!

  6. OFW ang ginawang gatasan ng ating government…

    pg my problema biglang mawawala….

    pg my magandang balita biglang lumutang….

  7. isa lng nmn ang dapat sisihin dito ang system s bansa natin sa madalit salita ang Gubyerno ng mga mapagsamantala s bansa ntin desenyo nila ito eh,sa halip na punan nila ang kawalan ng trabaho ng my dignidad s bansa ntin,pilit na gumawa ng batas pr ang mamamayan tumulak sa labas ng bansa samantalng wla nmn tayung nakikitang pagbabago s mga patakaran nila,

    mga demonyo tlaga yang mula sa malacanyang pababa ppunta sa barabgay hall

    • Actually , ang mismong nagpapatakbo sa ating gobyerno ay walang matibay na programa para sa ating mamamayang Pilipino. Sila ay makakapitalista at para sa mga dayuhan lamang. Walang pinuprotektahan kundi ang kanilang pangsariling interes. Halimbawa sa ating mga OFW's, sa physical pa lamang ng ating mga manggagawa, tayong mga OFW's ay ginagawang gatasan ng mga accrediated goverment clinic and hospital. Walang proteksyon ang ating mga manggagawa ukol sa pagpili ng mas murang clinic. Dapat kung saan mura ay doon tayo pupunta. Kagaya nalang ng St. Patrick, Arguilles, Diagnostis Doctors sa UN, atbp…ang mga iyan ay salbahe sa ating mga manggagawa. Ano ba ang naging action ng ating gobyerno ukol dito????

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