PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ARLENE Martinez was 17 years old when she applied for a job in Syria, but faked her age as 23. Her recruitment agency demanded a killer placement fee. She returned home yesterday with both legs in a cast after slaving for a salary in the household of a couple that had three grandsons.
Martinez, who hails from Cotabato, said the couple, both doctors, was cruel and treated her unfairly after being employed by them in July 2008.
“Ang hindi ko po matiis ay masyado silang malupit. Lagi akong sinasaktan sa konting pagkakamali. (What I couldn’t stand was their cruelty. They hurt me whenever I commit the smallest mistake,” she said, her body still carrying the welts from the severe beating she received.
She quit her job after a year of what she would consider “hard labor.” She jumped from the third floor of her employer’s house after the couple started beating her.
Both her legs were broken from the fall. Martinez was taken to a hospital, but was left to fend for herself when her employers left her with no financial help.
The fourth of seven children, Martinez was lucky to be found by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. among 21 other OFWs, waiting in Damascus to be repatriated for free by those willing to spare a few thousand pesos to help fellow Filipinos in distress.
The 22 OFWs’ repatriation resulted from the intercession of Teodoro Jr., who learned of their plight during a visit to the Syrian capital last August. Most of the OFWs, mostly in their 20s and 30s, were reported to have escaped from their employers for various reasons.
“Now that you are reunited with your families and loved ones, I hope you will stay for good. We thank God that all of you are safe,” said Rep. Nikki Prieto-Teodoro, the Defense chief’s wife who was at the NAIA to welcome the returning workers and later tendered lunch for them.
The OFWs tearfully thanked Secretary Teodoro for his initiative that allowed them to leave Damascus. “In behalf po sa mga kapatid naming nakauwi galing ng Syria, lubos po kaming nagpapasalamat sa kabutihang loob ninyo at tulong po ninyo. Kahit wala po akong kapera-pera ay masaya po ako ng lubos dahil nakauwi po kami ng buhay. Saludo po ako sa inyo, Secretary Teodoro,” said Perla Copino, of Moonwalk, Las Piñas.
Another batch of 33, this time from Jordan, also flew home and were met by OWWA administrator Carmelita Dimzon right at the airport.
Dimzon vowed to extend all the necessary assistance due the distressed OFWs, including temporary lodging and a means to go back to their respective provinces so they can be reunited with their families at the soonest time possible. She said 67 more OFWs are in Syria, waiting to come home. She said the OWWA will extend financial and psychiatric help to the distressed workers.