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Meatballs conviction sets a dangerous precedent— Unifil

17 April 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap

The recent conviction of Filipina domestic worker Mildred Nilo Ladia for eating $100 worth of meatballs belonging to her employer and her being fined $800 for the offence has caused anxiety among migrant support groups in Hong Kong.

In a letter sent to Philippine Consul General Bernardita Catalla and Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre on Apr 9, United Filipinos-Migrante Hong Kong said it was concerned that the verdict could set a dangerous precedent for domestic workers forced to live with their employers.

“We cannot comprehend why a migrant domestic worker (MDW) like Mildred and like most of us, who live with our employers and are provided with food and accommodation as mandated by law, can be found guilty of “eating” a food that is in the same household where we eat and live,” said the letter.

“We are extremely angered by the fact that a human being can be criminally liable for eating the food of the person who lives with her in the same household. This poses danger and potential criminal liability to the more than 300,000 MDWs (migrant domestic workers) in the territory, majority of whom are your Filipino constituents.”

Ladia, 40, was arrested on May 30 last year after Lan reported to police that some  meatballs stored in the freezer of her Repulse Bay flat had gone missing. The alleged offence took place at least a month earlier.

Lan also accused the maid of stealing a pair of leather slippers and a branded pouch.
The Filipina was detained but was allowed to post a $1,000 bail.

In court on Apr. 7, the other theft charges were dropped, while Ladia pleaded guilty to stealing the meatballs. The Eastern Court magistrate, noting that Lan had already deducted $100 from the maid’s salary, imposed a fine of $800, to be deducted from the defendant’s bail.

Reacting to the sentence, Unifil said in its letter that it was way too harsh, and not commensurate to the questionable offence for which Ladia  was charged.

“More than the fine imposed on Mildred, this conviction will result to her not getting the chance to be employed in Hong Kong ever again. This would mean losing her livelihood and the only source of income for her family. All these for eating the “meatballs of her employer”,” said the letter.

Unifil asked both Congen Catalla and Labatt dela Torre to put Ladia’s employer, barrister Gekko Lan Suet-ying “and her entire household” in the blacklist, meaning the list of employers who are not allowed to hire a Filipino domestic worker again.

Unifil said Lan called heartless and unreasonable, as she could have just terminated Ladia’s contract, instead of pressing charges over the meatballs.

Asked for his response, dela Torre said, “I have to watchlist her (Lan) because there is a request. But she can appeal”.

Dela Torre also said he wanted to review the files of the case first to see if it does set a dangerous precedent for Filipino domestic workers in the territory.

Congen Catalla reportedly confirmed the move to put Lan in the Consulate’s watchlist. Unifil said she has also been put in a similar list by the consulates of Indonesia and Thailand.

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