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‘Who hurt me if I lied?,’ says Filipina whose employer was acquitted of assaulting her

31 March 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap


Pales says she is not crazy to have inflicted this kind of injury on herself  

Hindi naman ako baliw para saktan ang sarili ko.” (I am not crazy to have hurt myself).

This was the lament of Eden Gumba Pales, 37, who sobbed on the phone when asked for her reaction to the acquittal on Wednesday of her former employer on six charges relating to her alleged assault of the Filipina helper over a seven-month period.

In acquitting 35-year-old female teacher Mak Pui-shan, West Kowloon deputy magistrate Li Cheuk-wai said Pales, the main witness in the case, was unreliable, and gave statements that were full of loopholes and flaws.


Mak was acquitted of one count of common assault, three counts of assault occasioning bodily harm, one count of administering poison to Pales – a dishwashing liquid which the employer allegedly mixed with congee which she then forced the helper to eat – and a count of criminal intimidation.

The first five charges were related to various events that allegedly happened at Mak’s family home in Tsuen Wan between October 2020 and May 2021 and the last, on May 29, 2021, four days after Pales left to complain about the alleged assault.

The most striking evidence presented during the trial were photos of the bruises on Pales’ thighs which she claimed were caused by a steel spatula that Mak had used to hit her, and several long scratches on her back which the employer also allegedly caused earlier.


Also part of the evidence of the prosecution was a medical report on the bruises sustained by Pales and a police officer who took her to the hospital for the check-up.

Pales claimed she was never allowed to take a day-off since she started working for Mak in late March 2020 until she was forced to escape in May last year, so how could she have sustained all the injuries shown to the court without anyone knowing about them?

She also asked, what might have been her motivation for bringing false charges against her former employer?

Mak, a secondary school teacher, was acquitted on 6 charges of assaulting and threatening Pales

But for the magistrate, the prosecution’s case hinged on Pales’ credibility as a witness, saying the case was one of “one versus one” situation. Ip noted that the alleged victim’s statement were contradictory and that she changed her answers several times during cross-examination.

Among the contradictory statements cited by Li were Pales’ claim that only she and Mak were present when she was forced to eat congee with cleaning detergent, but later said Mak’s husband was in the master bedroom.

Li also noted that the police who searched Mak’s house did not find the actual bottle of cleaning detergent in the flat that the employer had allegedly used in the incident, so the court could not determine if there was indeed poison in it.


The magistrate also pointed out that Pales had claimed the skin on her head became swollen after Mak pulled her hair and banged her head against a wall, yet she did not include this in her written statement with the police.

As for the allegation that Mak had scratched the helper’s back, Li found the claim incredible as that would have involved the employer jumping over a bed and inserting her hands under the helper’s clothes to carry out the alleged assault.

Li also pointed out that Pales had told police that Mak scratched her back once with one hand, but in court, said the employer had used both hands.

Asked why they were 18 scratch marks on her back, Pales told the court some of them were made in the past.

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The magistrate also said police did not find the frying pan that Mak had allegedly used to hit her on both her thighs. In court, Pales said there was a mistake in translation because what she had told police was that she was assaulted with a spatula but Li dismissed this as another untruth, saying the helper was well-versed in English.

Pales said she was hurt by the finding that she had been untruthful, and also by the magistrate’s failure to address the various injuries she sustained during what she claimed were repeated assaults on her.

Nagkaroon po ako ng maraming mga scars sa katawan dahil sa pauli-ulit na pananakit sa akin,” Pales said. “Tapos ako pa ang pinalabas na sinungaling. Grabe po talaga.”

(I have a lot of scars on my body from the repeated assaults committed against me. But now I am the one being branded as a liar? That is seriously unfair.)

Eden also showed off scratches on the side of her body and back allegedly caused by Mak

In-between sobs, Pales said the decision made her lose trust in Hong Kong’s justice system.

Kung alam ko lang po na hindi ko makukuha ang justice dito buti pang umuwi na lang ako.” (Had I known that I wouldn’t get justice here I would have just gone home. )

But not all hopes are lost for Pales. According to Kitty Chong, a solicitor at Daly and Associates which is representing Pales in a civil claim against Mak, the case can still be pursued.

“At this stage, we can still pursue the civil claim. However, as to whether we will continue pursuing the same, the decision ultimately lies with Eden. We will be having further meetings with Eden to render advice to her, including the range of any potential damages.”

Chong said her firm was frustrated by the acquittal but since they were not present at Mak’s trial, they did not know yet what the employer had said in court and what led to the magistrate’s finding.

“If there is any potential challenge of the finding of facts, it would be up to the prosecution to appeal the decision,” she said.

But she added a civil case may still be pursued because the standard of proof that is required is not as high as that for criminal cases where a conviction could only be rendered if the charges are proved “beyond reasonable doubt.”

Edwina Antonio, a case officer of the Mission for Migrant Workers who has accompanied Pales during all her court appearances as a witness, was also saddened by the decision. But she said the Mission remains firmly by her side on whatever moves she wants to take next.

Antonio said Pales is in a dire strait as she is a single parent to a 17-year-old daughter whom she has failed to provide for in the past 10 months that her case had been in court.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration which has given her shelter has reportedly given the helper a small amount to set up a business back home, but that recently failed.

Pales says her experience in Hong Kong has traumatized her so much that she cannot imagine herself working abroad again. But at the same time, she does not know how she could continue supporting her daughter when she goes home.

Pales, a first-time domestic helper, arrived in Hong Kong on Mar 9, 2020 and moved in with Mak, her husband and their two sons, aged 5 years and 5 months at their Tsuen Wan home after spending 20 days in quarantine.

Pales claimed the first time the defendant attacked her was between October and November in 2020 when the employer pulled her hair and banged her head against the wall when she forgot an order to clean the baby’s toys.

The next assault allegedly happened in mid-February last year, when the baby started crying inconsolably as she tried to let him finish his bowl of porridge. This time, Mak allegedly pumped dishwashing detergent onto a bowl with congee and ordered the helper to eat it.

A few days later Mak allegedly attacked her again for no reason while she was fixing the couple’s bed. The employer allegedly clawed her back, leaving it with about 10 fingernail scratches that caused the skin to bleed.

The worst of the alleged attacks happened on May 25 when Mak was angered by the baby’s crying who refused to finish his congee. Mak allegedly grabbed hold of a spatula and used it to beat the helper’s stomach and thighs.

Pales said she escaped the next day when Mak’s family went out for lunch and went to her agency's boarding house before seeking police help.

During her cross-examination, Pales said Mak destroyed her orginal phone and gave her a new one that she would lock during the daytime and unlock during the night so she could communicate with her family in the Philippines.

As she was not allowed to take a day-off the defendant transferred her entire salary of 4,630 to her sister’s bank account every month.

Pales said she did not disclose the attacks to anyone because she did not want to lose her job as she was the breadwinner in her family and had no savings.

She also said her mother had high blood pressure and could suffer a stroke if she knew about her ordeal.

In dismissing this explanation, magistrate Li said Pales knew her rights very well and could have asked her agency to find her another job.

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