MANILA, Philippines – An alliance of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East Thursday said the case of a migrant worker committing suicide on board a Gulf Air flight from Abu Dhabi to Manila is a sad twist of an overseas Filipino worker's (OFW) struggle, a twist that shocked not only the Filipino community and OFWs abroad but the whole Filipino nation.
“His so far is the saddest of all the OFWs struggles of life and death, aside from those who have been victims of abuses," John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said in a statement.
According to news reports, Marlon Cueva, 36, of Lubang Island in Mindoro Occidental, worked as an electrician in Abu Dhabi barely three months from his deployment.
He was among the passengers of GF-154 flight which landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 at around 11:20 a.m. last Wednesday.
Monterona, who is an OFW himself based in Saudi Arabia, said returning OFWs would be normally happy that they would be meeting their loved ones after years of working in a foreign land "no matter how hard they have worked abroad, with or without earnings and 'pasalubong', just to be home and reunited with their loved ones."
Monterona said Cueva's case is another face of a struggling OFW, "like many others whose pure intent is to work to give decent living for their children."
Monterona cited the case of an OFW who dumped her newly born child on a Gulf Air's trash bin before the flight landed.
"These two cases, aside from the 7 to ten cases of abuses, maltreatment, and labor malpractices we have been receiving daily in the Middle East, which we have been consistently reporting to concerned government agencies and to the public, are serious concerns that need special attention," Monterona said.
Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said it is readying the benefits for the family of the overseas Filipino workers who allegedly committed suicide inside the toilet of Gulf Air plane last Wednesday morning.
OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon said that Cueva’s family is entitled to OWWA’s benefit because the victim registered as member of their agency when he left the country last July 5.
Dimzon said that the OWWA is already preparing the checks to be given to the family of Cueva amounting to P100,000 plus P20,000 assistance for burial.
She also said that the OWWA will also help one Cueva’s children by giving a scholarship grant and will provide P40,000 worth of merchandise to his wife to start a “nego-cart” business.
OWWA records show the Cueva left the country last July 5 after being hired by International Mechanical and Electrical Company in the United Arab Emirates to work as electrician-technician.
After learning of the incident, Dimzon immediately ordered a check on Cueva’s status as an OWWA member and to process the immediate release of his benefits.
According to a police report, Cueva was among the passengers of GF-152 flight which landed the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal I at around 11:20 a.m.
Aviation Security Group chief Senior Supt. Napoleon Cuaton said the victim was found hanging inside the lavatory at the rear of the Airbus 330 by flight stewardess a few minutes after it landed.
Cuaton said that investigators found the victim slumped on the aisle outside the lavatory lying face up, wearing black jacket and blue polo shirt.
He also said that the strangulation injuries found in the victim seems to be self-inflicted and probably used clothing article to hang himself because there no ropes or wires and the lavatory was intact.
“There are no signs of foul play. But we’ll leave it to our forensics experts to establish the suicide,” Cuaton said.
He added that a Filipino nurse, who was among the passengers, tried to revive Cueva.
It was also learned that Cueva’s “unusual actions” had caused some alarm shortly before the flight took off at Bahrain International Airport because the victim was approaching passengers and stewards alike, inexplicably apologizing for something.
“He was saying sorry for something and then shook their hands one by one. The stewardesses could not understand what he was saying so they requested the Filipino passengers to calm him down,” Cuaton said.
Roy Mabasa & Jean Fernando, Manila Bulletin