Press Release
September 15, 2015

OFW leader cites Villar's help in repatriating distressed workers

A leader of distressed overseas Filipino workers in Riyadh met with Sen. Cynthia Villar today, to personally thank her for the help in her repatriation.

Laarni Banaag, 41, a native of Bayambang, Pangasinan, was repatriated last August 28, 2015 from Riyadh, KSA, after experiencing maltreatment from her employer. While waiting for her exit visa, she stayed at the Social Welfare Authority in Jawazat, KSA, where she stood as leader and spokesperson of stranded OFWs staying there.

"Gusto ko po talagang mapasalamatan si Senator Villar at maipahatid na rin sa kanya nang personal ang kalagayan ng mga Filipino sa Saudi na naghihintay na mapauwi sa kanilang pamilya," Banaag said.

The office of Villar coordinated with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to facilitate Banaag's repatriation. Accompanied by her sibling, Banaag also received financial and livelihood assistance from the senator.

Banaag is a single mother of four and was a nurse before leaving in January 2014 to work as a nanny in Riyadh. She worked for 17-18 hours with only a single meal per day. She also complained of not receiving her complete salary. When she sought assistance from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, her employer filed cases against her.

Banaag's fate in Riyadh also caused her kids to stop their studies until her siblings helped to put them back to school. Villar said Banaag's case is a show window of the miserable state of legal assistance extended to distressed Filipinos abroad.

"Sadly, despite the increase in the Legal Assistance Fund from P30 million to P100 million, there are OFWs who continue to attend court hearings on their own without a capable lawyer to represent them. This usually results in lopsided court decisions that favor the employers and not our OFWs," Villar said.

In the presence of embassy officials, Banaag was compelled to sign a document negating her accusations in exchange for the dropping of cases filed against her and the issuance of her exit visa. However, she was not given the exit visa and was even charged SAR 30,000.

The Nacionalista Party senator said one of the things she would ask the DFA, when they face the Senate to defend their 2016 proposed budget, is to account for the P100-million Legal Assistance Fund.

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