ANTIPOLO CITY, January 14, 2010—There was no music, laughter or cheers for Merlinda Agos, 49, formerly a caregiver in Alberta, Canada as she arrives Manila.
All one could hear was just mourning and weeping. No, it is not because she was deported or without any pasalubong for her family, relatives and friends; because she arrives here, literally boxed—lifeless.
According to Maria Cristina Mangalubnan in a statement Melinda just collapsed while at a money transfer agency, transacting for a few dollars to be sent home in Cabangcalan, Negros Oriental. That was January 3.
With other friends, they have rushed her to University of Alberta Hospital, in attempt to revive her. But it was too late. The blood clot in her brain had already made her comatose. On that same date, around 11:00 PM, Alberta time, the Filipina passed away.
Expired OWWA membership
Merlinda’s body should have been in Manila sooner if the Philippine Embassy in Vancouver has provided the necessary assistance.
Last January 5, says Migrante International in a statement, Merlinda’s third employer has sent an appeal before the Philippine post to assist her to immediately repatriate to the Philippines Merlinda’s remains.
However, the embassy allegedly turned down the request, explaining that Merlinda’s membership to the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) had already expired. The burden to repatriate the poor Filipina is now at her employer’s shoulder, not the Embassy’s.
Because of this, Mangulabnan and other compatriots in Canada sought help of Migrante-Alberta, a nonprofit organization helping nationals in distress.
Through the help of Migrante-Alberta, a fundraising campaign for Merlinda’s repatriation began. Her church, the Agbuloy Christian Ministry, former and current employers, and other nannies, contributed until the needed amount—CA$7,800 (P343,409.04)—wsa raised.
OFW repatriation: government’s duty
Based on the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) Citizens’ Charter, which was adopted last year, one of the agency’s mandates is to deliver welfare benefits and services to the OFW community and that includes repatriation of OFWs who are in distress, physically or mentally ill, and human remains.
However, this is exclusive only to OWWA members or those who are active in OWWA’s list. But in the case of Merlinda, she is not an OWWA member since she has not renewed her contract in Taiwan and has not paid the OWWA dues amounting to US$25.
“Agos previously worked as a domestic helper in Taiwan before going to Canada. However, she and the other Filipinas who have decided to transfer to Canada were never informed about the cancellation of their OWWA membership that is a result of their work transfer. While it is the Philippine government’s duty to keep the OFW’s informed our officials never did that. [This is] a clear case of negligence,” the migrant leader said.
Doblado also stated that, notwithstanding the OFW’s status before the OWWA, it is the government’s duty to help them in case of need.
Meanwhile, Migrante-Alberta and the Migrante International Philippine office in Manila demanded the government to provide further assistance to the family of the late Merlinda.
“They can never use the excuse that Merlinda is not a member of OWWA; the fact the she died working overseas, she’s an OFW—no more, no less. And let me remind the government that our remittances have kept the Philippine economy afloat. We do not deserve any kind of disservice,” Doblado said. (CBCPNews.com)