Thursday, February 15, 2018

Dead in the freezer

"Dead in the water” is an expression that refers to something bereft of any outcome or future, like a crippled ship with nowhere to go but the dark depths below. In politics, it would apply to bills killed before they could see the light of day. And because yesterday was Valentine’s Day and also Ash Wednesday, the phrase might well apply to a starting fire reduced to a pile of ashes before it had a chance to become a lovely conflagration.
Seriously, the phrase kept repeating itself in my mind. “Dead in the water” and “dead in the freezer” do rhyme, I thought to myself, while wrapping my head around what happened to a Filipino domestic helper in Kuwait, Joanna Demafelis, whose corpse — ice-hard and preserved — was found in a freezer.
“Dead in the freezer” could well be an expression to refer to what could happen to overseas Filipino workers bent on setting off to parts unknown, aka the Middle East, where many of our compatriots suffer unspeakable cruelty in the hands of their employers who are also Muslims.
In using the expression, I am not trivializing the plight of the likes of Demafelis. I am, in fact, livid with rage. But I am not hearing about such a case for the first time, someone might tell me. I say, first time or not, my rage is undiminished. But yes, this is the first time we learn about a dead OFW found inside a freezer. But not the first time about fly-by-night recruiters and neglectful government agencies.

As a journalist, I have written a number of feature stories on OFWs — from an abused Filipino domestic helper who killed a Saudi princess to the so-called “japayukis” to the spouses and children they have left behind, etc. I had thought of putting these OFW stories between covers, but I later decided on a variety of stories instead.
We will keep on telling the stories until there are no more. Centuries from now, when Filipinos in the Philippines have long enjoyed living in a different country of the same name (and the descendants of Filipinos in the diaspora as well) and they read about OFWs, they might find themselves shedding tears over the travails of their ancestors. Like we do when we read Carlos Bulosan’s “America is in the Heart.”
As I said, I again find myself wrapping my head around the abuses committed against OFWs, the domestic workers particularly, and I ask: What is it about them, how are they regarded, and why are they treated with such cruelty? But even more importantly, what is it about their employers that they must subject their household workers to such habitual abuse? There is in many of them the intent, the habit, to inflict suffering. What kind of human beings are they? How do they regard those in their household employ? As slaves?
Some things need to be said. I might have reason to believe that the employers who are Muslims regard non-Muslims in their employ as unbelievers, infidels and therefore worthy to be exterminated or wiped off the face of the earth. A mindset? Am I right or am I right? Somebody should write a dissertation on why I should not think so. And don’t bring up the Crusades because we now have the International Declaration on Human Rights.
In the case of Demafelis’ employers, a Syrian-Lebanese couple living in Kuwait and who left the country a year ago after stuffing her corpse in the freezer, I presume they are Muslims. If proven guilty they deserve the worst punishment that the Koran prescribes for those who kill helpless innocents. Hey, there is no paradise and waiting virgins for you
I do not delight in listening to President Duterte’s trash talk but if there was a time that I wish he had cussed more than he did, it was when he spoke about Demafelis’ fate and called the Kuwaiti government to account for the abuses committed against OFWs. >:*#&X?!< That many OFWs are driven to end their misery by jumping off high-rise buildings is proof of their loneliness and helplessness aggravated by constant abuse.#