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Buhay Pinay




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Fight for justice

14 April 2016

Looking back to the year that just passed is a lot easier with technology. On your phone, you can easily see the highlights of the year with all the photos that you have taken of each event.
Thus, it's easy to see how well the year started with a Hong Kong court deciding in February to jail Erwiana's employer for six years because of the horrific injuries she inflicted on the hapless Indonesian maid.
It was a decision that was well applauded by many rights activists, with only a few complaining that the penalty was not as severe as it should have been, given that Erwiana was tortured for long eight months.
Unfortunately, the year ended with exactly the opposite of this. A Filipina domestic helper who had claimed to have been scalded on her back with a hot flat iron by her elderly employer, inexplicably decided to give up her case and go back home.
Many people angered by Rizza's case were left dumbfounded. After all, her claim appeared to have been substantially proven by photographs of her badly burned back with the unmistakable imprint of a flat iron on each side.
She did not lack for supporters, either. Among those who immediately offered help were the Consulate and the Mission for Migrant Workers, which both offered her shelter and help with her case. Even her sister Rona, who claimed that her employer, the son of Rizza's boss. had terminated her contract because of the case, received help outright.
So what was it that made Rizza decide to give up on a case that from a Consulate official's account, had caused even Hong Kong's labor officials to offer quick help?
One can only surmise, but what is clear is that justice, elusive as it has been for many of our domestic workers, has again slipped from grasp in Rizza's case.
This was not how it should have been, given the various actions we have taken over the past year to ensure members of our community always receive equal treatment.
In February, for example, hundreds of us again took to the streets to dance and show support for One Billion Rising, a worldwide campaign to end violence against women.
In April, we again showed Hong Kong that we would not tolerate any form of racism when we marched to the Central Government Offices in Tamar after Executive Councillor Regina Ip branded our migrant workers as "home wreckers". Ip herself moved to douse the fire by calling the protest organizers to a meeting to feebly apologize for what she had called a misunderstanding.
On the home front, we joined forces with more than a hundred other organizations to form a coalition against excessive fees charged by our government to departing workers. This coalition led a few protests in the next couple of months, mainly as a result of new levies being imposed, including the so-called tax on goodies in balikbayan boxes sent home by OFWs.
When a congressional delegation came to conduct a hearing, a big number of us turned out to talk about our long-held grievances and denounce the serious misconduct of a former labor official.
As a community, we also acted as one in taking steps to ensure the long queues for the OEC are eased. Likewise, we spoke with one voice when we showed indignation over the "laglag bala" scam at our airports which had led to one of our OFWs to lose her job.
Ours is a community of doers, one that believes that we can only achieve what is due us if we safeguard our rights, and fight for them when necessary. We should never quit on what is right and just, if only to ensure justice is always served, especially to the most vulnerable among us.

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