Senator Cynthia Villar vowed to personally look into the delay in the repatriation of the remains of 45-year old Roger Dignadice, an overseas worker in Dammam, Saudi Arabia who died last March.
The lady senator known for her advocacy for the rights and welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) noted that Dignadice died of natural cause after going through an appendectomy, which revealed that the OFW had stomach cancer.
“Roger Dignadice died on March 11 and until now, his body is in the morgue, awaiting repatriation. His widow had to fly from Iloilo to Manila and go from one agency to another to seek help because she cannot afford to pay the remainder of his hospital bills. I think both the DFA and OWWA must explain why it has taken so long for his body to be brought home,” the veteran legislator said.
The OFW was stranded in Saudi Arabia for two years after the company that hired him as a driver, Rajeh H. Al Marri and Son, declared bankruptcy thus leaving its workers including Roger Dignadice penniless and without proper accommodations.
His brother, Charlie, who was also an OFW, brought the case to the attention of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center out of frustration with the inaction of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah.
The seasoned lawmaker said that the repatriation process involving remains of a deceased OFW should be simplified, with every grieving OFW family’s request treated with utmost urgency and compassion.
“His family had been suffering even while Roger was still alive and fighting for his benefits and back wages. He was a stranded OFW for two years. Now that he is dead, the family continues to suffer because they cannot even grieve over his coffin. I want to understand why this happened and which agency should be held accountable,” Villar said.
Yesterday, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac promised to take care of the unpaid hospital bills so that the body of Roger Dignadice can finally be brought home and laid to rest. The DFA also promised to help the Dignadice family. It took several requests from the Dignadice family and the Blas F. Ople Policy Center before such assurances were obtained.
She said that nearly three months have passed since Dignadice died, and the undue delay has added to the anxiety and grief of her wife and children.
The staunch OFW advocate urged the DFA and OWWA to make it easier for grieving families to receive the remains of relatives who died abroad.
“Why must the widow travel all the way from Iloilo to Manila to seek the help of our government? I will officially write to the DFA and OWWA to seek an explanation on this matter,” Senator Villar quipped.