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Judge’s sacked DH to file labor claims after acquittal

03 July 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina domestic helper accused of theft by her fellow worker in the household of a High Court judge has been acquitted by an Eastern Court magistrate. She now plans to press her claim for compensation.

Marites Canacio was pronounced not guilty by Magistrate Cheung Kit-yee on Jun 15, the last day of her trial at the District Court. Among those in court was her employer, Justice Jonathan Russel Harris, and his Japanese wife.

Cheung rejected the testimony of the main prosecution witness, Rosiene Cuento Cagalitan, who spent two trial days on the witness stand answering questions from the prosecution and the defense lawyers on the events that led to Jan 13, when the judge terminated Canacio.

The defendant, who stayed at the Consulate’s shelter for troubled workers, chose not to take the witness stand.

She was helped by the Mission for Migrant Workers in preparing her statement and evidence, such as the remittance slips for Cagalitan, Googleplay card receipts and a print out of her phone conversations with her accuser.

An officer of the assistance to nationals section of the Consulate accompanied Canacio to Eastern Court to secure a court clearance stating her criminal case had been resolved in her favor, and to get back her bail money. She was to use the clearance to support her application for labor claims.

Canacio was charged with one count of theft for allegedly stealing $3,700 cash from Cagalitan, with whom she shared a room and a bunkbed in the house of Harris on Mt Kellett Road, The Peak.

Another charge over her alleged theft of Harris’ wallet which contained his credit card and $600 cash was earlier withdrawn by the prosecution.

Magistrate Cheung said she could not convict the defendant on the basis of the evidence given by Cagalitan, the prosecution’s main witness, as she was unreliable.

Cheung also chided the prosecutor for wasting court time by insisting on calling Mrs Harris as a witness although she knew the wife had nothing substantial to add to Cagalitan’s evidence.

When the prosecution called Mrs Harris to the stand, Cheung cautioned the prosecutor to make sure she would not just be repeating what Cagalitan had told the court, as that would be a waste of time. 

Defense counsel Mohammed Shah told the court Cagalitan had conspired with Jamini, an Indonesian maid who used to work for Harris, to have the judge fire Canacio.

Shah also said Cagalitan had forced Canacio to sign the termination letter prepared by Harris on Jan 13. Cagalitan denied the accusations.

The helper accused Canacio of stealing an envelope containing $3,700 that she had saved. She said she found the envelope with the missing $1,700 hidden in Canacio’s pillow case after the defendant had left the house.

Police arrested Canacio at the Hong Kong International Airport on the evening of Jan 14 as she was about to board a flight to Manila.

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