Migrants cry cover up on Saudi rape

BAGUIO CITY – A federation of overseas Filipino workers hit the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for allegedly trying to cover up the rape case of a Cordilleran in Saudi Arabia.

DFA earlier said that rape victim retracted her statement on the (rape) case.

Migrante International wants an investigation of embassy officials who allegedly let the victim sign an Arabic document which they (officials) claim now as a retraction of the rape survivor.

Jessa (not her real name), 26 years old, from the Cordillera, alleged she was raped by four Arabs in Qatif, Saudi Arabia on May 19 with her employer (name withheld), present. She worked with her male employer since February 2007.

The victim informed her husband of her horrible experience the next day, according to Migrante Cordillera coordinator chair Flora Belinan, who later contacted the victim’s husband. As the victim’s family sought the help of Migrante on Jessa’s case, it (Migrante) sought the help of its Middle East chapter and the latter immediately informed the embassy officials there to rescue her.

“We fear for cover up. Her husband doubts the DFA’s declaration on his wife’s retraction. In fact, the rape victim was only told to sign a paper in Arabic which she did not understand. She was not even interviewed by embassy officials. The issue now is not the retraction by the victim of her allegation of rape, rather whether or not the government is truly serving our kababayans in distress,” said Lian Santos, Deputy Secretary General of Migrante International.

Belinan’s group worked closely with the Middle East chapter when they did not receive any positive response from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA-CAR). The Middle East chapter informed the Philippine embassy officials in the area but exposed their (officials) inaction to act on the Jessa case.

The local Migrante only learned from DFA officials on the news that the victim was sent home last week to the Philippines after she allegedly retracted her earlier statement that she was raped. The officials claimed that the alleged rape was only used by the victim for her to move out from her employer.

“Under duress”

Belinan narrated Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Antonio Villamor reportedly sent a team to rescue Jessa when it received information from Migrante Middle East. She claimed that the victim instead was made to sign a document in Arabic.

Jessa’s husband, in a statement said, “We believe Jessa signed the document under duress. She thinks that with her signature, it would facilitate her removal from her distressed situation. The staff’ present during the signing did not even advise her on the contents of the document she was signing.”

“It seems that this was no rescue at all. It was an attempt to dupe the victim and silence her. What is sickening is that, if the rape allegation is true, it seems that our embassy officials and the DFA would rather cover up the case rather than seek justice for a Filipino citizen. Certainly, this is betrayal of public trust,” Belinan pointed out.

Santos criticized DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo when the latter lauded Ambassador to Riyadh Antonio Villamor for “the swift and full attention and action accorded” the case.

Without finality that Jessa retracted her statement, we find Romulo’s act of lauding his subordinate as an insult to a woman who is seeking justice on her case under the present administration, ended Santos.

Now with her family, Jessa is presently undergoing a counselling. # Arthur L. Allad-iw

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