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Cancer-stricken OFW dies 9 months after being fired

16 May 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao and Marites Palma

Former Hong Kong-based domestic worker Lorenza A. Tabucol was laid to rest on May 13 after succumbing to breast cancer, barely nine months after returning home for good, then being fired by her employer.

The late Lorenza Tabucol (right)
at the graduation of her daughter Fritzie.

Tabucol, a 47-year-old mother of two, died without filing any claims against her employer for her termination and a snake bite she reportedly suffered a year before she was sent home by her employer.

Tabucol’s daughter Fritzie T. Fonbuena, told friends in Hong Kong her mother died  penniless because her savings of just under Php100,000  all went to her medication and day-to-day expenses.

Fonbuena, 25, and her younger brother, were helped by an uncle who paid for their mother’s funeral. The children still have to file a claim for death and burial benefits from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Fonbuena said her mother told their family in March 2016 that she had Stage 4 breast cancer. Nine months before that – or about June 28, 2015 — the helper reported being bitten by a snake while walking her employer’s dog in Quarry Bay. She did not file a complaint over this incident.

Her relatives and friends are now wondering whether the snake bite had anything to do with Tabucol contracting cancer, saying no one in their family had the disease.

Tabucol, a widow, reportedly went to a hospital where she was treated for the snake bite. Three months later, Fonbuena said her mother started feeling unwell every so often until a blood test showed she had cancer. Then she became too ill to work.

Tabucol returned home to Solano, Nueva Vizcaya, on Aug 5 last year. Her daughter said Tabucol’s employer, Agnes Ip, had told her mother to go home for medical treatment. “Biglaan po na pinauwi siya…agad-agad po na binilhan siya ng tiket pauwi,” Fonbuena said.

But when the helper got home, Ip allegedly terminated their contract, and did not pay for long service for the 13 years that the Filipina had worked for her.

Had a claim been filed, Tabucol could have claimed roughly $36,000 based on last year’s minimum salary for foreign domestic workers.

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre said Tabucol’s next of kin could no longer claim for long service pay as the helper was dismissed nine months ago. “Long service pay claim lapses three months after termination of employment,” the labor official said in reply to a query from The SUN.  As for the 2015 snake attack, work-related compensation lapses after one year, he said.

In addition to such payouts, Tabucol could have applied for a maximum of Php50,000 financial aid from OWWA under the Supplemental Medical Assistance Program for OFWs under treatment for cancer, kidney ailments, emerging infections like Zika, Ebola and other illnesses requiring longtime care.

Tabucol arrived in Hong Kong in 1997 to work for her first employer, then moved to Ip around 2004.
Her daughter was 5 years old and her son, 3, when she left them. The daughter managed to finish university, but the son was not able to complete his studies since Tabucol got ill.

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