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Family of doomed OFW clings to hope

SHE LEFT THE COUNTRY BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO help the family,” Susan Ranario, sister-in-law of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Marilou Ranario, had said in October. “But now, she’s the one who desperately needs help.”

Ranario’s job abroad would have given the family a glimmer of hope after they were evicted from a piece of land that her father used to till in Tubod, Surigao del Norte.

But the prospect of a stable income that had lured the 34-year-old woman to leave behind her two children—Raffy John, 13, and Russell, 11—in 2003 suddenly turned into a nightmare when the Kuwaiti Supreme Court sentenced her to die on Nov. 27 for killing her employer in January 2005.

Ranario’s case has given a gloomy face to the millions of OFWs who leave every year for jobs abroad.

The nongovernment group Migrante International finds it ironic that the OFWs, who help prop up the country’s economy by bringing in about $12 billion in remittances each year, are dying from all forms of abuses and receive meager help from the government.
“They’re more of a victim than a criminal,” Migrante said. It revealed that 35 other OFWs all over the world were on death row.

Ranario’s father Rosario, 64, now says that working abroad wasn’t worth it at all. His family is now in a much tighter fix than before, he said.

Tubod, a small farming town of slightly over 10,000 in Surigao del Norte, does not promise much in terms of livelihood, prompting Ranario and some other residents to seek work abroad.

The Ranarios were forced to vacate their old house after their ownership claim over the property was questioned in court. Rosario and his wife Encarnacion have moved into the house of their son and daughter-in-law in another part of Barangay San Isidro.

Rosario tills a borrowed farmlot and plants rice and other crops.

“After she (Marilou) left, we’ve always put the two children on top of our priorities,” he said. “But after what happened, her case has assumed utmost urgency; and she has become the priority.”

Ranario had been able to send money for her children only twice since she left for Kuwait in December 2003. A sister, who has a teacher’s diploma, had also given some money twice.

Even the $100-scholarship assistance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) was never enough for the children’s school expenses.

Raffy John is topping his class in Grade 6 and wants to tell his mother about it. His sister wrote that she envied her classmates because they have their mothers with them. “I only have Nanay and Tatay,” she wrote, referring to her grandparents.

“They need a mother. We are too old to take care of them,” Rosario said.

The family had appealed to President Macapagal-Arroyo for help. When they learned what had happened to their mother, the children wrote a letter to her.

Rosario said that two months before her daughter’s employer was killed, she had called up to say that she wanted to go home to the Philippines. But her employer, she had said, would not give her back her passport.

“I told her, ‘It’s up to you to decide,’” he said.

The next time he heard from her, she was already in trouble.

Hassan Jumdain, Owwa regional director, noted the increasing number of OFWs from Caraga, which covers five provinces, six cities, 66 towns and 1,316 barangays. As of September, they already numbered 31,331, he said.



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