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Kin’s grief, doubts linger over DH’s death fall

17 July 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Ruby Ann Diola, Jessie and their only son.
Nearly three years after the fatal fall of domestic worker Ruby Ann Diola from a residential tower in Mid-Levels, life has not yet returned to normal for her pained  husband and son as questions surrounding her death linger.

“Mahirap pala ang mag-move on. Kapag naaalala ko si Ruby Ann ay hindi ko mapigilang umiyak,” said Virginio “Jessie” Jose, the 63-year-old common-law husband of the deceased helper.

Jose, or Mang Jessie, as he is called by friends and relatives, met over lunch with this writer three weeks ago in a seafood restaurant in Lingayen City, Pangasinan where he and his son live.

“Maski ang anak namin, sinasabi sa akin na nami-miss daw niya ang nanay niya,” the widower told the SUN.

When we met, Jose said he still operated the mineral water station where Diola, a young Leyteña who strayed into Lingayen to look for a job, worked as a sales staff until they fell for each other and lived together. She bore her a son, Vivejo, now 9 years old and in Grade 5.

The water business had weakened due to competition and Jose’s lack of time to manage it as he drove his son to school and back on his tricycle bought with Diola’s death benefit from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

But in a text message he sent on July 11, Jose said he had finally shut the water business and was now relying on income from driving passengers on his tricycle.

Since Ruby Ann’s death on Oct 23, 2014, questions regarding her untimely demise have been haunting Jose.

“Natanggap ko na ang report ng pulisya pero marami akong tanong na hindi nila nasagot,” Jose said.

His questions include why, despite the numerous CCTV cameras installed inside the house of Ruby Ann’s employer on Robinson Road, police have not mentioned in their report any CCTV footage they might have recovered from the flat.

Another lingering question, Jose said, was why the Tagalog SMS message he received that broke the news about Ruby Ann’s death fall on that fateful morning was sent to him using his wife’s mobile phone.        

Shortly after his wife’s death, Jose submitted a sworn statement to the Hong Kong police recounting his phone conversations with her regarding her employment situation.

The statement detailed how the helper, then 26, was taken to Beijing by her employer, Cheung Yeuk Lee, shortly after her arrival in Hong Kong in July 2014 and made to work in the latter’s house for about a month without a contract.

It also related how she was taken afterwards to Macau by the employer’s grown-up son to stay for two months in the enclave while waiting for her Hong Kong work visa. She finally got it in September 2014.

On Dec 8, the District Court will begin hearing a claim for employee’s compensation and burial benefits filed by the Mission for Migrant Workers on behalf of Jose and his son against Ruby Ann’s employer.

Judge Katina Levy was to have begun hearing the case on June 2, but she adjourned the hearing as Diola’s next of kin and the respondent were absent.

Only Edwina Antonio of the Mission was in court to represent the claimants, but the judge said she did not have the capacity to represent them.

Antonio said the case has dragged on also because the police have yet to issue the results of their investigation into Ruby Ann’s death.

The Mission is now applying for legal aid on behalf of Jose for the Dec 8 hearing in District Court.

During the meeting in Lingayen, Jose handed this writer a set of documents, mostly Diola’s remittance receipts and bank statements that the Mission needs to support the application for legal aid for the claimants.

Jose will, however, also need the help of Good Samaritans to help bring him back to Hong Kong for the hearing.

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