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Employer's companion accused of 'torturing' Filipina maid

16 November 2017

(UPDATED)

by The SUN 

If this is not slavery, what is?


Signs of abuse on the vcctim’s forehead.


Two Filipina domestic workers fled on Nov 9 from the house of their employer in Tseung Kwan O, with one claiming she had been abused “physically, mentally and verbally” by the employer's live-in companion, and did not pay her salary for more than six months, allegedly as punishment for her "mistakes."

The two women claimed the abuse on Lanie Grace Rosareal, 27 was with the knowledge and tacit approval of their employer, Leung Sher-ying, 63.

But it was Leung's companion, Au Wai-chun, 65, a former civil servant who was convicted on Sept. 1, 2014, of scalding a Bangladeshi maid with hot water, who allegedly abused Rosareal almost daily. (see: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1583001/ex-civil-servant-found-guilty-burning-maid-scalding-hot-water)

The claim is backed up by Rowela Sobiono Suete, 36, who was hired by Leung as a second helper, and fled just 19 days after being employed, claiming she could not stand the regular punishments being meted by Au on Rosareal.

As in the case of the Bangladeshi maid, both Suete and Rosareal were signed up as domestic helpers by Leung who lived with Au in a 35th floor flat in The Grandiose, a private residential tower in Tseung Kwan O. On top of this, the two Filipinas said they were made to work in the house of Au's son in an adjacent building.

Rosareal and Suete were fetched by a concerned citizen who responded to their appeals for help to a friend, then escorted them to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office where they complained against the employer.

“I think this employer does not deserve to hire a foreign domestic worker permanently. It is cruelty akin to modern-day slavery,” Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre remarked after meeting with the two women in his office.

Dela Torre immediately put both Leung and Au on the Philippine Overseas Labor Office's watch list, meaning they won't be able to hire Filipina domestic workers again unless they get to clear their names with the labor attache.

Rosareal, who had served Leung since Jan 24, 2014, tearfully related before Labatt dela Torre her daily ordeal at the hands of Au that included head-banging, being kicked and bopped on her top with a knife or a TV remote control, being jabbed in the arm with a pair of scissors, or clawed on her wrists and neck.

Fingernail marks can still be found on her wrists and biceps as well as on her left neck. The maid said she suffered headaches due to the banging but could not go for a medical check-up, as she worked even on her holidays so she could pay the “fines” imposed on her by Au.

The list of pay deductions as punishment.
For October alone, the fines on Rosareal totaled $7,670, according to a notebook where Au had listed down all the alleged shortcomings of the maid for which she was fined

Under Hong Kong’s labour laws, justifiable fines charged aginst a foreign domestic worker’s salary should not exceed $300 a month.

From April to October this year, Rosareal said Leung paid her $4210 monthly salary, plus payments for her cancelled days off, then told her to go to Au to settle her "fines". She ended up turning over all that she received from Leung, to Au.

In a labor case she filed against Leung, Rosareal listed down a claim for around $50,000, including $31,500 in unpaid wages for six months and 19 days; $4, 210 monthly pay in lieu of notice; severance pay of $10,600; plus food allowance and return air fare.

The labor case is separate from the police complaint she filed against Au, with help from POLO and the Consulate's assistance to nationals section.

According to Suete, she had tried to protest the abuse and the fines on Rosareal with Leung, but was allegedly told to just let Au be. Leung also allegedly told Suete that it was Rosareal who had  been "torturing" Au.

Asked why she put up with the abuse for so long, Rosareal said she was scared that Leung would make good on the threat to have her jailed for using an Octopus card lent her by the employer to buy a $28 meal when she was out on an errand once, and got hungry.

The employer had also taken away her passport, an act that is prohibited under Hong Kong’s labour laws.

But it was the apparent shame on being punished repeatedly that kept her from protesting, or telling other people about her ordeal.

"Ewan ko nga ho ba kung bakit pumayag na lang ako na saktan niya," Rosareal told The SUN.

She said that Au often told her that she needed to also feel the pain that she was causing the elderly woman.

"Sabi din niya, nawawala yung sakit na nararamdaman niya kapag nasasaktan niya ako."

Rosareal said Au's favorite punishment for her was to make her kneel in front of the old woman and bang her own forehead on the floor. If she didn't comply, she would either be kicked hard, or hit on the head with the TV's remote control.

If Au thought the banging was weak, she would allegedly step on the back of the maid’s head and thump it to the floor even if the Filipina was already crying in pain.

“Sometimes, she would grab my hair with both hands and bang my head against the concrete wall, and say ‘I want you to feel the pain that I feel’,” Rosareal said.

There were also times when Leung was reportedly forced to hit her with a stick on Au's orders.

"Kapag kasi hindi niya (Leung) sinunod, sila ang nag-aaway," said Rosareal.

The hiring of Suete, a nursing aide and mother of two, in mid-October came as a blessing for Rosareal, who is single. Seeing Au's cruelty, Suete reminded Rosareal about her rights and reported the abuse to her agency in the Philippines, which then forwarded the complaint to its Hong Kong counterpart.

When the Hong Kong agency staff called Leung, Au reportedly turned on Suete and had since verbally abused her, too. Au also threatened to confiscate her passport.

“I’m now afraid because she might also hurt me, so, I decided to run away with Lanie,” Suete said.

It was Suete who reached out on Nov. 8 to her friend and The SUN contributor, Rodelia P. Villar, about her and Rosareal’s plight. Their rescue the next day was coordinated with Labatt Dela Torre.

Both Rosareal and Suete talked about their being made to work in the two houses, as well as cleaning the outside of windows despite the ban on such domestic task imposed by the Hong Kong government effective Jan 1 this year.

They also complained about being given just a few slices of bread to eat and no food allowance. Every part of the employer's flat was allegedly monitored by CCTV, including their beds.

On Nov. 13 they were due to meet with Leung at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for conciliation but the employer reportedly begged off, saying she would be out of town. Two days later, Leung did appear before Labatt dela Torre, aided by two lawyers, but no settlement was reached.

Rosareal's labor claim against Leung is due to be heard tomorrow, Nov. 21.

The two workers have also filed affidavits of complaint at the Consulate's assistance to nationals section, which in turn referred their case to the Western Police Station which initiated an investigation.

Suete said she and Rosareal worked from 11am to 2am the next day. But while Suerte was allowed to sleep immediately after, Rosareal had to stay up until 8am, as she had to watch over Au, who despite suffering from a spinal cord injury, is reportedly able to walk on her own around the house.

Suete said she could not sleep because she would hear Rosareal crying while being punished. Even the neighbors disturbed by Au's rants had protested, she said.

The two Filipinas are now hoping to settle their cases so they could find new employers who hopefully, would treat them better.
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