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HK Police looking into case of newly arrived Filipina who died of lupus

24 February 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao  
Taipo Nethersole Hospital

Hong Kong police are reportedly looking into the death of a Filipina domestic worker who died of lupus just five months after coming to Hong Kong to work for an employer in Taipo.

Maristel Pepito, 35, died on Feb 18 in the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po, a night after her employer allegedly refused to heed her appeal to be taken to the hospital because she was already spitting blood.

It was her newfound friend, Sheila Balisi, also a helper, who took her to the hospital.

An officer at the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section said on Feb 21 that the police are investigating the case.

He said an officer of the employment agency that deployed Pepito five months ago went to the Consulate on Feb 21 at the invitation of the ATN to shed light on what happened to her.

The employer, who was also asked to go to the Consulate, did not go. But an agency staff handed a letter from the employer saying she could not give any statement as the case was already being investigated by the Coroner’s Court and police.

However, the employer said she would cooperate in repatriating Pepito’s remains, the ATN officer said.

The coroner’s report on the cause of Pepito’s death is now being awaited by ATN. The ATN officer could not tell whether the body is in the hospital or in a public mortuary.

The death of Pepito was reported by Rodelia Villar, founder of the Domestic Workers Group, on Jan 28 to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Hong Kong after she learned about her situation.

Villar said Balisi noticed the weak and sickly helper at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Tai Po last Dec 26 and accompanied her to the hospital. A doctor there said she would have to be confined due to infected leukemia.

But Pepito, a mother of three, reportedly took no heed and continued working for her employer.  
“Sinamahan ni Sheila sa ospital at ang sabi ng doctor, kailangan na niya ma-confine dahil hindi na maganda ang kanyang kalagayan. Ngunit dahil sa takot sa amo, umuwi siya at magtrabaho,” Villar said.

On Jan 18, Pepito was admitted and confined for a week due to the leukemia infection. But, a week later, the doctor said the maid was suffering from lupus, a long-term autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. Pepito was confined for two weeks.

Villar learned about the case of Pepito on Jan 28 and informed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Hong Kong about her situation.

“Umiiyak na nagkuwento si Maristel tungkol sa kanyang sitwasyon at wala siya umanong magagawa kundi tanggapin ang kanyang sakit,” said Villar, who talked to the patient on the phone.

When Balisi visited Pepito in hospital on Feb 3, a Sunday, the patient said the doctor had told her she would be moved to another hospital. But the next day, she was discharged.

The maid had to return to her employers’ flat to continue working. On Feb 11, she sent a message to Balisi complaining about not being given enough food and not being paid on time.

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