Filipino killed in Iraq likely illegal entrant — OWWA exec

By Jhunnex Napallacan
Visayas Bureau
Last updated 07:34pm (Mla time) 07/13/2007

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Filipino worker killed in a mortar attack in Iraq last Tuesday probably entered that war-torn country illegally because of a continuing ban on the deployment of workers there.


Rey Jacalan of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said their records showed Cirilo Borgonia Jr. was supposed to be working in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


OWWA records showed that a Cirilo Panilagan Borgonia Jr. of Toledo City in Cebu processed his documents for Dubai on December 27, 2006 through the agency Prime Project International.


Borgonia was one of three people killed in a mortar attack on Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.


But Borgonia’s elder sister, Juliet B. Gomez, said her brother left the country for Iraq on June 16, 2006, or more than six months before the supposed employment papers were processed.


Jacalan said OWWA is checking whether Prime Project International exists and if it is authorized to send workers abroad.


He also noted that Borgonia’s documents were incomplete since these did not include his address and his insurance beneficiary was identified only by his surname.


However, Borgonia’s beneficiaries could still receive the P220,000 insurance accorded workers registered with the OWWA even if he worked illegally in Iraq, Jalacan said.


Evelia Durato, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in Cebu, said she also believed that, under Philippine regulations, Borgonia was in Iraq illegally.


Borgonia is a native of Lutopan, Toledo City and the youngest of five siblings.


Gomez said a neighbor identified only as Lalay recruited 20 workers from Lutopan, including her brother, to work in Iraq. She said a Cebu City-based agency called Sime Agency hired her brother.


However, Durato said Sime Agency is a local recruitment agency authorized to hire workers for local employment only.


Gomez said her brother went to Dubai as a “tourist businessman.” Borgonia, who turned 33 last July 8, also signed his employment contract for Iraq in Dubai, she added.


Borgonia worked as driver of a bus that ferried US soldiers between their workplace and their quarters, she said.


Gomez said they were still coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs to arrange for the repatriation of her brother’s remains.


She recalled that in their conversations, Borgonia told her bombings usually occurred at night but assured her he was safe because their quarters were in a tunnel.


Gomez said she urged Borgonia to come home but he refused because he had no job here.


Borgonia finished an aeromechanics course and involved himself in skydiving activities. But his mother asked him to look for some other job after he figured in a skydiving accident in Siquijor.


Borgonia drove the family’s L300 van-for-hire, but because his income was not enough, he decided to work abroad, Gomez said.


She noted that her brother, who was single, decided to work in Iraq so he could provide his parents a better life and he could own a house and lot.


Gomez said Borgonia had been sending money regularly to their parents in Toledo City.


She said they learned of the attack an hour after it happened, or at 1 a.m. Wednesday.


Gomez said their parents are still in shock and could not accept the death of her brother.


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