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Filipina DH in shampoo theft case acquitted

13 February 2019

Thelma B. Damiago 
By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina domestic worker accused of theft by her employer has been acquitted by an Eastern Court magistrate who said the prosecution failed to provide enough evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt.

“In a situation like this, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution. Defendant, you are therefore acquitted,” Magistrate Leona Chan told the helper, Thelma B. Damiago, who immediately wailed uncontrollably and embraced her Filipina interpreter tightly.

Magistrate Chan also said the disclosure of the defendant that she had been hit and verbally abused by her male employer should be given attention by the authorities.

During the trial, a voice recording was played in which a man identified by Damiago as her male employer could be heard hurling abuse at the helper.

Following her acquittal, Damiago, told The SUN how relieved she was about being cleared of any wrongdoing. But the 33-year-old single mother she said she wanted to look for a new employer as she had been jobless for four months.

Damiago was given shelter by her employment agent, Technic Employment Service Centre, since she was released on bail.

The Filipina was accused by her employer, Jennifer Wong Wen-yi of stealing small bottles of shampoo, shower gel and lotion, plus a bar of soap on Oct 15 last year.

The allegation was made two weeks after Damiago handed in her resignation letter, citing the alleged verbal and physical abuse inflicted on her by Wong’s husband.

Solicitor William Wong, who represented Damiago, said during the trial that the employer must have made up the case to stop the helper from reporting to police the abuse she suffered from the employer’s husband.

In an audio recording played during Jennifer 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 the employer 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 resignation letter the defense lawyer presented just before the trial, but Magistrate Chan accepted them.

Prosecution lawyer Alexander Cheung suggested to the maid that she made up the letter after police arrested her.

But Damiago insisted it was the first resignation letter she had given her employer on Sept 22 last year but which Wong did not sign because she did not like the reason cited there.

Wong, who lives in Repulse Bay with her husband and their two children, 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 Damiago put the shoes in her luggage.

Wong said she told Urbanes to tell Damiago she would check her luggage at 11pm that day, the defendant’s day off, as she might have taken other items from the household.

On inspection, Wong said she found the toiletry set she had bought in Thailand. A pack of dried cranberry given by her sister was also allegedly found in a bag on Damiago’s bed.

Wong claimed she also found the shoes, although these were not included in the charge sheet.

Urbanes also testified against Damiago, but the defense managed to show several inconsistencies in her evidence.

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