By ALMA SINUMLAG
BAGUIO CITY — Cordillera organizations are facilitating the repatriation of Cordilleran compatriots who are suffering from domestic abuse since April this year in Chandigarh, India. Air tickets are being processed as of press time.
Geraldine Banganan, 34 years old and her daughter, Harleen Banganan, four years old were reported by their relatives here to be suffering abuses from their in-laws. Gemalyn Banganan, sister of Geraldine, approached the offices of the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center Inc. (CWEARC) and Innabuyog-Gabriela to report that her sister and niece are being maltreated.
According to Gemalyn, Geraldine married an Indian national in Cyprus where she was working as a domestic helper in 2008 and bore a child, Harleen. January this year, Geraldine’s husband, Sukhjinder Singh persuaded her to live with his family in India promising them a better life. Geraldine and Harleen then flew to the Philippines while her husband flew to India to process their papers to transfer to the said country.
On April 25 this year they flew to India. According to Gemalyn, all the expenses were shouldered by Sukhjinder. However, three days after arriving in India, Geraldine and her daughter have been maltreated by Sukhjinder’s parents.
CWEARC was able to contact Geraldine with the number provided by her sister. Geraldine recounted that they are treated as slaves and are being locked in a room. Worse, they are not fed well. She mentioned that there were several meals that they were only given two pieces of potato. Further, she told CWEARC that her husband do not have the will to help them. It was very fortunate, she added, that she was able to secure her cell phone as a means of communication to her relatives here in the Cordillera.
CWEARC and Innabuyog wrote a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Baguio and to the Philippine Embassy that was course through the Migrante International hoping that the said agencies will take this as an urgent case. On the other hand, aforementioned women’s organizations coordinated with the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) and the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN) for them to contact their partner organizations in India to check the situation of the victims.
Immediately, the India partner organizations of CPA and APIYN replied to the appeal. They were able to locate Geraldine and her daughter and talked to her husband including her in-laws. According to these organizations, Geraldine’s in-laws cannot accept her as part of their family. This was contradictory to what Sukhjinder told Geraldine that his parents will welcome her to the family wholeheartedly.
Moreover, CWEARC and Innabuyog contacted DFA to allocate fund for the immediate repatriation of the two compatriots from the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) noting that the mother and child are in peril. However, DFA Baguio and Philippines Embassy in New Delhi said that the case is not covered by ATN because the victims are not overseas Filipino workers (OFW). As a matter of urgency, CWEARC also reached out to the concerned Committees in the Senate and House of Representatives including the office of the Vice President however responses are not coming as urgent.
As of June 29, the Asia Pacific Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) through its secretary general, Joan Carling started to raise funds for the air fare of Geraldine and Harleen for their immediate repatriation.
On the other hand, the family is disappointed with the concerned government agencies’ action. Gemalyn said that the said agencies are not doing their job. “Porke haan nga OFW ni manang ko, haan dan nga tulungan?,” (Just because my sister is not an OFW, they cannot help her?) she muttered. CWEARC is also dismayed over the inaction of the duty bearers even when lives of compatriots are at stake. # nordis.net