By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Sammy Bachiller, 24, applied for a job abroad, believing that he would earn sufficient money for his family. His recruiter told him that he would earn P20,000 ($465) a month. But he was paid only 400SAR plus an additional of 200SAR (P6,600 or $153). Bachiller and 40 more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are victims of labor malpractice. They are now seeking repatriation and demanding to get their money back to pay off their loans. “I would rather go home than to suffer here in Saudi Arabia,” Bachiller said in an affidavit.
The 41 OFWs, all male, were hired by a local establishment in Saudi Arabia named Al-Zahran Operations and Maintenance. There are 855 OFWs working in that establishment, said John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East. They were deployed by its Manila-based agent Al-Ahram International Human Resources Group, Inc.
The OFWs said in their written affidavit that after working for 3 months or more they still were not given an Iqama or residence card, their salaries have been downgraded from 800SAR (P8,800 or $204) to 600SAR (P6,600 or $143), and they were forced to sign another contract written in Arabic upon their arrival to the job site.
Robby Luck M. Flores, 26, for one, said he was told to stop working any explanation. “I have no job for almost two months now. I only had my Iqama or residence card for only one month but they took it away. Now I cannot even look for a job because I don’t have an Iqama. My wife is pregnant and I can’t even send money to her.”
Flores arrived in Saudi Arabia on October 2011. He said he signed a contract, before leaving, that stipulated that his salary would be 800SAR per month, but the Zahran Company only gave him 550SAR (P6,010 or $143). The company also did not give them pay slips. He also got beaten up by his Egyptian supervisor. “He punched me, stepped on my hand and choked me.” Flores wishes that he could come home as he survives only by asking food from friends. Flores, together with his co-workers, filed a complaint before the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Polo) in Saudi Arabia on January 2012. Sadly, they were told last April that their case against the company is weak.
Bachiller, on the other hand, was recruited by a certain Rosafe Cepria of the Al-Ahram International Human Resources Group, Inc.. He was told that his salary would be P20,000 ($465). However, he was also told by Cepria that he would have to pay a placement fee of P35,000 ($813). Bachiller asked his parents to mortgage their land in Abra.
“I asked my parents to acquire a loan and mortgage our land so that I could go abroad. We mortgaged our land for P50,000 ($1,162) and we also acquired a loan. Our total debt amounted to P60,000 ($1,395). All were used to pay for my requirements to work abroad,” he said.
He only found out that he would not receive the promised monthly salary of P20,000 when he was asked to sign another contract upon arriving in Saudi Arabia.
“When we arrived in Saudi Arabia, we signed another contract stating that our salary would only be 400SAR (P4,400 or $102) and no free food. The company fooled us. Sometimes they would even take a cut from our salaries,” Bachiller said in his affidavit.
Bachiller arrived in Saudi Arabia on February 25, 2012. He only received 103SAR (P1,113 or $26) in March and only 350SAR (P3,850 or $89) last April.
According to the job order of Al-Ahram, hired workers would receive $300 to $400 with free accommodation, food allowance and medical assistance.
Antonio Mijares Siao, Jr., 24, works as cleaner in a hospital in Jeddah. He said he is being given a salary of 400SAR and sometimes he would not even receive it all. “If we were absent for one day, they deducted two days from our salary and five days when we would be absent on a Thursday.” He said he received from 270SAR to 200SAR (P2,200 or $51).
He added, “It is very difficult here with that kind of management. Our salaries are only enough to cover our expenses here – sometimes it’s not even enough. We’re only working to keep ourselves alive here. It is very difficult here, we want to go back to the Philippines, we cannot even send money to our family there in the Philippines.”
Monterona said this is not the first time his group received a complaint against Al-Zahran and its agent in Manila. He cited a case of about 51 female OFWs hired by the said company last year as cleaners in a government hospital in Al-Baha, southeastern part of Saudi Arabia. They all complained of the same malpractices committed by Al-Zahran Establishment.
“We have taken note that this company and its recruitment agent in Manila are notorious violators of our OFWs’ labor rights. Despite numerous complaints against them by OFWs, they are still able to hire and deploy,” Monterona noted.
Unemployed Filipino in the country, like Bachiller, Flores and Siao are compelled to seek employment overseas to support their family.
In the meantime, the kin of the 41 OFWs, with the assistance of Migrante, would file a class suit against the company and its recruitment agency. They are also demanding from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for the blacklisting of Al-Zahran and its Manila agent, Al-Ahram International Human Resources Group, Inc..
Sonny Rivera of OFW Join Force-Migrante Eastern Saudi Arabia said, “We will be formally endorsing this case to the attention of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and will demand that the recruitment agency and its employer be investigated amid numerous complaints from the victims,” Monterona added.
The OFWs who sought assistance from OFW Join Force-Migrante are Antonio M. Siao Jr.,Christopher A. Vergara, Edgar C. Dato, Esmael C. Lobaton, Jed G. Vicente, Jonathan Dela Cruz Ilaya, Jovanni R. Sorezo, Miguelito M. Villanca, Percival N. Mapote, Robby Lucky M. Fernandez, Sammy A. Bachiller, Anwar Abdul Antoling, Raul C. Castillo, Christopher Babida,Abdulsalam M. Manamparan, Fahad D. Ibrahim, Rufino Lantes Jr., Borkiya Graciano Yahsin,Jonard Quino Dadole, Domingo R. Ribot Jr., Abdulmotalib Mama Salilama, Abdulla T. Kanda,Samer T. Badawi, Kamarudin P. Ahmad, Saikona S. Mamatos, Benjamin M. Esmael, Omar Adting Bangon, Rhonel U. Cuesta, Morad Kuwalo Ibad, Arnel Q. Pascua, Mohaliden G. Tanggote, Leo G. Safe, Mohammad I. Asari, Momar Limaung Janihim, Rene Dela Cruz Acosta, Richard P. Cardona, Charlie S. Tadeo, Rowel H. Ganeb, Nicolo P. Uberita, Deo Bryan Dominic Martinez, Marlon Sto. Domingo Villalobos.
“We would like to reiterate our demand to the Aquino administration, through the DoLE-POEA, to seriously act on the cases filed by OFWs against abusive foreign principals or employers and their recruitment agents who wantonly violate OFWs rights and hiring/deployment regulations,” Monterona said.