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DH accused of stealing shampoo was verbally and physically abused by employer, says lawyer

01 February 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao
A lawyer for a Filipina domestic worker accused of stealing toiletries told the court the employer must have made up the case to stop the helper from reporting to police the verbal and physical abuse she had suffered from the employer’s husband.

Thelma Damiago was accused of stealing small bottles of shampoo, shower gel and lotion, plus a bar of soap by her employer Jennifer Wong Wen-yi on Oct 15 last year, about two weeks after she handed in her resignation letter.

Her Duty Lawyer-assigned counsel William Wong said in summing up the defense case on Jan 31 that Damiago decided to quit just two months into her two-year contract because she could no longer tolerate her “bad-tempered” male employer.

In an audio recording played back in Eastern court during Wong’s cross examination by the defense, a man was heard shouting angrily at Damiago while calling her “stupid” a few times.

At one point, Damiago was heard reacting aloud, “Sir, don’t hurt me, Sir, please don’t hurt me” when the man allegedly hit her in the neck with a plastic folder.

Then the maid was heard telling another woman, “Sir hit me in my neck with a folder”. The woman, who Wong admitted “sounds like me”, simply said “What?”

The defense counsel said the audio was recorded by Damiago one day last September, before she handed her resignation letter.

The prosecution tried to exclude the audio and a longer handwritten version of the resignation letter the defense lawyer presented just before the trial, but Magistrate Leona Chan accepted them.

Prosecution lawyer Alexander Cheung suggested to the maid that she made up the letter after police arrested her, but the Filipina insisted it was the first resignation letter that she handed to her employer on Sept 22 last year.

She said Wong did not sign it, saying she did not like the reason cited there. The employer allegedly ordered her to write a shorter letter stating that she was quitting “due to personal issues”.

Wong, who lives in Repulse Bay with her husband and their two children, said in her testimony that she was unhappy with Damiago’s work, her second maid who did the cooking and cleaning, because it was “below my standard”.

She also said the maid was using so many things in her cooking that were bad for her diabetic husband and asthmatic son.

She said that on Oct 15 last year, while looking for a new pair of running shoes, her other maid Jazel Urbanes, told her she had seen the defendant put the shoes in her luggage.

Wong said she told Urbanes to tell Damiago she would check the contents of her luggage at 11pm that day because she might have taken other items from the household.

On inspection Wong said she found in Damiago’s bag the toiletry set she had bought in Thailand, and a pack of dried cranberry given by her sister. Wong claimed she also found the shoes, although these were not included in the charge sheet against Damiago.

Urbanes was also called to the witness stand, where the defense lawyer and the judge questioned her about her inconsistent time reckoning of when she told Damiago about the luggage check.

Magistrate Chan reserved her verdict for Feb 13.

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