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Cause of Filipina helper’s sudden death still a mystery

28 April 2017

Quinto during happier times
By Daisy CL Mandap and Merly T. Bunda

The body of a Filipina domestic helper who died unexpectedly on Apr 4 was flown home to Manila late yesterday, Apr. 27, then brought to her hometown of Sagay, Negros Occidental, as doubts lingered over the cause of her death.
Leonita A. Quinto, 46 years old and single, was found lifeless in bed by her employer in her Mei Foo home, 15 hours after the maid had complained of severe headache.
Quinto was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital in Kowloon where she was declared dead.
The cause of her death has yet to be established, as the autopsy report on the remains won’t be available for some time.
At the time, Quinto had already served a notice of termination to her employer, and was due to end her employment on Apr 19.
Her younger sister, Imelda Q. Abong, who rushed to Hong Kong on hearing of Quinto’s death, was upset that no one could immediately tell her what could have caused her sibling’s death.
Abong also told The SUN that she wanted to know why her sister’s employer did not seek medical help during the 15-hour period that Quinto was apparently so sick she could not even get out of bed.
She said that in a statement the employer gave to police, it was clear that her sister was not even given medicine the whole time she was apparently in pain.
The employer reportedly checked on Quinto three times, from about 9pm on Apr 3, until early the next day when she asked the maid to prepare breakfast. Despite being told that the helper was too ill to get up, the employer did nothing until she found the maid dead at about noon of Apr 4.
Abong (middle) with fellow Ilongga
Merly Bunda (front) and a townmate
In her own statement to the police, Abong said Quinto did not suffer from any serious illness, and only complained of headache before or after her monthly menstruation.
Abong also said Quinto had worked previously in Bahrain for four years, and in Singapore for two years.
After this, she stayed in the Philippines for about two years, before deciding to work abroad again.
Sabi niya sa akin noon, parang tinatawag siya ng Hong Kong. Alam niyang makakarating siya dito,” said Abong.
Her family reportedly tried to stop Quinto from leaving again, arguing that she did not have to work hard anymore as she had already bought her own home, but she was insistent.
Lagi niya kasing iniisip kung paano niyang matutulungan kaming mga kapatid niya, at pati mga pamangkin niya,” Abong said, adding that they are 11 siblings, and many of them had benefited from Quinto’s generosity.
Abong, who is a teacher, was among those sent to school by Quinto, who only finished high school herself.
According to Abong, Quinto did not get along well with her employer, and complained of being made to work until 1:30am, then waking up at 5:30am the next day.
She also resented being spied on all the time because of the CCTV cameras reportedly installed all over her employer’s house.
But what prompted her to end her contract after only four months of working in Hong Kong were the constant arguments she reportedly had with her employer.
In the first week of April, Quinto’s spirits reportedly lifted after finally deciding to give up her job and just go home.
“Tuwang tuwa siya na uuwi na siya,” said Abong.
Quinto’s wish of being back with her family this month did come true. But instead of smiles, there were only tears in the eyes of her loved ones who welcomed her home.

Claims resulting from an OFW’s death abroad
Many benefits due the next-of-kin of OFWs who die abroad are not claimed due to lack of information, or lack of time, especially if a relative is just in Hong Kong to claim the remains of the deceased.
In the case of Leonita Quinto who arrived from the Philippines only in December last year, the biggest claim could be against the mandatory insurance all OFWs departing for work abroad for the first time – or after a long stay at home as in this case – are made to pay for.
For those who die due to accidents, the payout to the beneficiary/ies is US$15,000 (about Php750,000) while it is slightly less, at USD10,000 (Php550,000) for deaths due to natural causes.
There are many other benefits that can be claimed, including the cost of repatriation and air fare of relatives who need to claim the OFW’s remains.
In addition, family members can also claim for death and burial benefits from the the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. For accidental deaths, the payout if Php220,000 and for death due to natural causes, Php120,000.
Since waiting for the payout from these two sources could take time, relatives could also claim a refund of the placement fee the worker would have likely paid, given that such charges are deemed illegal under the POEA guidelines.
In Quinto’s case, her payment of Php45,000 to her Philippine agency, Golden Full Limited was backed up by bank deposit slips.
Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre assured Quinto’s sister, Imelda Abong, that the agency would be asked to refund the payment.
In Hong Kong, there are several funds that could be tapped by OFW relatives, foremost of which is employees’ compensation. This payout from a fund set up by the government from the pooled insurance of employers, would often amount to around $300,000 for a migrant worker who dies or is incapacitated by an accident or work-related injury.
The first step is to go the HK Labour Department for help in claiming against this fund. Should the employer contest the claim, the relatives could ask help from the Legal Aid Department in pursuing the case.
Accident victims, or those who die from acts of violence, could also claim compensation, whatever their status of stay. Those who die or are incapacitated by an accident can file a claim under the Traffic Accident Victims Assistance Scheme (or TAVAS)  administered by the Social Welfare Department while victims of violent acts are entitled to claim compensation from the police.

Labatt dela Torre is now mulling the possibility of designating staff at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office to help relatives of dead or incapacitated OFWs identify what possible claims or actions they could take to get relief.  - DCLM 
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