By Chito A. Chavez
A human rights group has joined the family of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Mary Jean Alberto in seeking justice for her cruel ordeal and eventual death.
Alberto is a Filipino migrant worker in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, who was reportedly killed by her Moroccan employer on October 2, 2019.
“We echo the sentiments and calls of the Alberto family amid the death of a Filipina who worked overseas to provide for her loved ones here in the Philippines. It is truly horrifying how migrants’ rights remain unrecognized in many countries, as indicated by the alarming cases of abuse and killings against migrant workers. We join the family in urging the Philippine government to conduct an impartial investigation and to ensure the swift delivery of justice,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Contrary to claims that she committed suicide, the Alberto family believes that “she was murdered by her employer, who, according to Mary Jean’s last messages, was jealous of her,” Palabay said.
As narrated by her cousin Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, Palabay said Alberto sent messages to her sister to ask for help, claiming she was physically abused.
But the human rights group believes she did not commit suicide and that she did not even think of ending her life, Palabay said.
“Given the state of life here in the country, Mary Jean is just one of the millions of Filipinos who sacrificed to work overseas in order to provide comfort for her family. Recounting her communication with her family, the victim was looking forward to going home permanently, as well as showed signs of fear of her employer. The possibility that she was killed should be seriously pursued,” she said.
Palabay linked the struggles and eventual death of Alberto to the continuing abuses against migrant workers.
“For third world countries that highly depend on remittances from overseas Filipino workers, there is a parallel responsibility to likewise ensure their safety and the protection of their rights. The situation of Mary Jean is reflected in the struggles of many other migrant workers. They are forced by their situation to risk dangers overseas because the long-standing thrust of this government is to export Filipinos, instead of developing the country’s national industries to create jobs domestically,” Palabay said.
Amid the increasing number of OFWs being murdered, Palabay said the Duterte administration should already start taking actions seriously.
“We understand the intricacies of bilateral and multilateral relations between countries, but the welfare of Filipinos must be prioritized. Policies that protect migrant rights and penalize violators should be taken seriously. Furthermore, poverty remains a core issue which enables the wave of Filipinas leaving the country. Instead of solving these socio-economic ills, this government is instead killing the poor and implementing policies that facilitate the increase of OFWs without implementing thorough measures for their protection outside the country,” she said.
Palabay also called on the government to ensure the immediate repatriation of Alberto’s remains and to provide assistance for her loved ones.
“Documented or not, it is the responsibility of the State to help Filipinos in any part of the world. We must acknowledge that a Filipino was abused and killed, and that there is a need for justice. In the first place, failures of the government and its policies are part of the reasons many Filipinos end up working in other countries,” she said.
Palabay maintained the worsening feudal exploitation in the countryside makes the Philippines a source for cheap and docile labor.
“As we campaign to bring Mary Jean’s employer to justice, we must call on the government’s attention to junk labor export policies and backtrack on neoliberal policies that have stripped the country of its right to development,” she noted.
“It is also in these trying times that we see the need to push for socio-economic reforms such as genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization to build a self-reliant economy,” Palabay concluded.