70 Pinoy Drivers still stranded in Dubai

May 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

Again, the Hayden Kho sex scandal continues to rage here in the Philippines despite upsetting economic news and other news, such as the first case of A H1N1 virus victim.

Filipinos, especially those living or working abroad, continues to suffer. Seventy Filipino OFW’s who went to Dubai to work as drivers, remained enslaved and impoverished. Seven of the 137 drivers who initially went there under the pretext that they have a great thing doing, just returned home, courtesy of former Labor undersecretary Susan “Toots” Ople. Others who got misled by the employer and the recruiting agency, had some offers from other companies in other Middle Eastern countries. Yet, about 70 more of them live in sub-human conditions.

In fact, in a press conference, I was fortunate enough to hear first-hand accounts of what happened to these drivers. The story goes like this.

A legitimate recruitment agency, CYM International, registered under  the POEA, published an ad encouraging bus drivers to work in Dubai. They were given papers to sign, which allowed the agency to put them under insurance and what appears to be a bond. All in all, in order to fly to Dubai and work there, these drivers each encountered more than 150,000 pesos worth of loans. These loans were secured by Asian United Bank (AUB). They were also made to sign blank checks amounting to 405,000 pesos each, allegedly to cover several expenses to be shouldered by CYM International.

Now, here’s the rub.

When these drivers went to their supposed employer, a firm named RTA, they were surprised that there were no vacancies for drivers there. Since they don’t have any icama, the permit to work there normally secured by OFWs, they became illegal aliens.

In a bid to recoup what they lost, and obviously, shocked at being misled by CYM International, these drivers stayed on in Dubai, after being given assurances by CYM that the matter is just a misunderstanding and they’ll fix it soon.

Months went past, and nothing was heard from CYM International. These drivers persisted, stayed in one dormitory, near the Dubai garbage dump and waited for their fate to improve. It did not. CYM International left them rotting there, living without food for some days while some scrape for rubbish to sell to buy something to eat.

One OFW even narrated that for several days, all they ate was rice and tomatoes.

These OFWs want justice. They want CYM to suffer the penalties of allegedly defrauding them and they want POEA to cancel the license of CYM International.  While I’m writing this, these OFWs are waiting for the resolution of their appeal to POEA and wait for a possible Senate probe into this injustice.

It’s a good thing that Susan Ople and the Ople Labor Center continue their assistance to these drivers.  By the way, I’m truly thankful for Susan “Toots” Ople for continuing the advocacy of his late father, the great Ka Blas. As you know, Ka Blas was the one who fought for the improvement of workers’ rights and welfare. Toots tries hard to continue his father’s revolution and we, ordinary citizens, should support her.

Onward with improving the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers!

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