PHOTO: Carlito Lana was beheaded in Saudi Arabia last Friday for killing his Arab employer, allegedly in self defense
By Jun Concepcion
The beheading on Friday in Saudi Arabia of Filipino national Carlito Lana as punishment for killing his Saudi employer raises very serious and disturbing questions. Troubling questions that must be addressed by OFWs now working there and their kin or friends wishing to work in that country, as well as the Philippine government.
Should Filipinos go for employment in Saudi Arabia, a country that imposes cruel punishments, like beheadings and amputations, for violations of its harsh Islamic law? In this modern day and age, why resort to barbaric beheadings and amputations when more humane lethal injections and jail terms are practiced by countries which still impose death sentences?
If physical and other abuses of migrant male and female workers remain rampant and blatant in Saudi Arabia, and wages are often very low or withheld for months, is it still worth risking life and limb to work in this country?
Should naïve Filipinos, with plans to work abroad, continue biting “fly-now-pay-later” inducements to work in Saudi and other Middle East countries – only to discover later the horrors of working in a region where women are treated shabbily, if not slaves?
Is it now time for the Philippine government to consider stopping deployments to Saudi Arabia because of the seemingly unending tales of misery of Filipinos there?
Carlito’s mother claimed her son was subjected to abuses by his employer, prompting him to consider escaping from work. His employer once pulled a gun and fearing death, Carlito purportedly wrestled the gun from his employer and subsequently shot him dead.
There is no telling what really transpired between Carlito and his employer. But please think hard. Killing is clearly a serious offence everywhere.
But why will a father of three young children go to the extent of killing his employer? It is common knowledge that most OFWs will endure and tolerate hardships and abuses for the sake of their children back home. Unfortunately, scores sometimes reach and even go beyond the breaking point – and forget momentarily about their loved ones back home – if driven by seething rage due to excessive abuses that are being inflicted on them.
These are all speculations. But not preposterous, in my view. With the never ending and continuing barrage of stories about physical, psychological and financial abuses being heaped by Saudi employers on OFWs, both females and males, it is not unthinkable to imagine some OFWs, like Carlito, momentarily losing their sanity and reacting violently to Saudi and other Arab employers who are subjecting them to inhumane treatment.
Whether it was self defense, as Carlito’s mother has asserted, or something else, all is now under the bridge. Carlito is now dead after being beheaded.
But valuable lessons should be learned from the latest beheading of an OFW in Saudi Arabia. And concrete actions should be taken and concerned groups, specifically the Migrante International and the Philippine government, should not just exchange barbs about lack of government action or not.
One very crucial point that should be noted in this latest OFW heading is the deafening absence of media reports in Saudi Arabia of errant employers being prosecuted and punished for abusing OFWs and other migrants from other countries. Almost every month, there are reports about OFWs returning home after being raped or maltreated or deprived of wages that they have earned, but their pains are not ease in any way by lack of reports about Saudi perpetrators being hauled to court and being made accountable or punished for abuses of hapless OFWs.
From all indications, Saudi Arabia’s Muslim Sharia law is always tilted in favor of its nationals and very seldom protects the rights and privileges of migrant workers, including those from the Philippines.
Given this lamentable and deplorable reality, it is likely that there will be more Carlitos in the future who face beheadings or amputations of hands or even rapes of Filipino women as Saudi Arabia’s laws discriminate against migrants.
Given this situation, it is virtually impossible to provide legal protection to distressed OFWs in Saudi Arabia – because its laws always favor its own nationals.
This harsh and cold reality is clear as sun light.
This realization – which is long overdue — now raises a new set of disturbing questions.
Why does the government continue to allow OFWs to leave for Saudi Arabia where they are putting their lives and safety at grave risks as they don’t enjoy any protection under Saudi laws?
Why can’t the government muster the political will to ban further deployments to Saudi?
Why aren’t OFW pressure groups, like Migrante International, batting for this course of action which will prevent more Carlitos from being beheaded in the future?
And for first-time OFWs, why risk your life and safety by venturing to Saudi when there are many other countries where jobs can be sought?
For as long as these questions are not addressed squarely and appropriate actions taken, Pinoys everywhere will lament again and again for more OFWs who will be beheaded, raped, maimed and deprived of salaries in Saudi Arabia.
Bold actions must be taken. Complaints and laments after victims had already been brutalized savaged will unfortunately lead nowhere.
The government should impose a complete ban on Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries with the worst records of abuses of OFWs. This temporary ban should only be lifted after a mutually satisfactory labor agreement — just like what Manila has with Hong Kong — is put in place for the proper protection of the rights and privileges of OFWs, especially women.
This is the best course of action that ought to be taken.
But other vital moves should also be taken. Officials charged with overseeing the overall welfare of OFWs, notably Vice President Jejomar Binay, should be immediately replaced by those who can think of new ways and means of addressing and resolving serious problems facing distressed OFWs — and not simply move after needy OFWs are nearing execution.
A more enlightened and bolder approach to addressing problems and other concerns of OFWs, especially the distressed and helpless, is very much in order.
*** NOTE: The plight of distressed OFWs in Saudi Arabia will be tackled today, Dec. 14, in “Pinoy Life”, a radio program for OFWs aired every Sunday at Radio Television Hong KOng (RTHK) Radio 3 from 4-6 pm. Web link: https://www.google.com.hk/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=voeMVLu6J6SL8Qf774DICA&gws_rd=ssl#q=pinoy+life+on+rthk+ * Facebook page: Pinoy Life on RTHK * Email: firstname.lastname@example.org