Blas F. Ople Policy Center
May 20, 2012
Two years after suffering severe burns due to electrocution, overseas Filipino worker Alfredo Salmos is finally arriving home.
The 52-year old electrician from Nueva Ecija conveyed his gratitude to all Facebook users who wrote about his plight, uploaded videos about him on their page, and exerted pressure through social media for the government to help bring him home. The OFW suffered electrocution when he was shutting down a 14,000-volts breaker in February 2010 and was comatose for one month. An Indonesian couple has been caring for him since then. It was only recently, when his video and photo became viral, that help started to pour in, and arrangements to bring him home gained traction.
OFW advocate Susan Ople, who has been assisting the family in arranging for Alfred’s homecoming, said that the outpouring of concern from Filipino Facebook users and social media enthusiasts around the world signify a sea-change in how social media directly impacts on cases of distressed OFWs.
“The outpouring of support for Alfred Salmos demonstrates the power of Facebook as a platform for OFW assistance and empowerment,” Ople noted.
During this morning’s Tinapayan media forum in Manila, Alfred’s younger sister, Epifania Salmos Colina gave special thanks to the first Facebook user who posted Salmos’s photo and wrote about his plight. “Gusto ko man banggitin ang pangalan ay baka may mga makaligtaan ako kaya sa tamang oras na lamang po namin babanggitin lahat lahat ng dapat pasalamatan,” Epifania said.
Herself a former OFW, Alfred’s younger sister said that the family’s immediate priority is to give him time to rest and have private moments with his mother and siblings as well as to ensure that his medical needs are attended to. The last time that Alfred saw his mother was seven years ago during a brief vacation in the country.
“Sa amin po titira si Kuya at aalagan namin siya ng husto. Maraming salamat sa lahat ng mga tumulong at gustong tumulong sa kanya,” Colina said. (“My brother will stay with us and we will take good care of him. We would like to thank all those who helped him and who’d like to help him.”)
Alfred’s sister also acknowledged the assistance of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration, the Villar Foundation and the Office of Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.
Senator Manny Villar and the Villar Foundation headed by his wife, former congresswoman Cynthia Villar, pledged to help with the medical expenses and livelihood assistance while Atty. Gwen Pimentel-Gana, chief of staff of the Office of Senator Koko Pimentel offered to coordinate with the Philippine General Hospital for the OFW’s medical treatment.
Previously, Alfred’s sister was also a beneficiary of the Villar Foundation’s Sagip OFW program when she availed of a free ticket home after running away from her abusive employer in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon had earlier assured the Salmos family that Alfred would receive his full disability benefits as OWWA member as well as livelihood assistance. The OWWA official has also directed her staff to provide airport and transportation assistance to Salmos.
Ople appealed in behalf of the Salmos family: “I hope that we can all welcome Alfred Salmos home as a brother who suffered enormous physical and emotional pain while in Saudi Arabia. He deserves a warm, friendly, and dignified welcome after everything that he had to endure mostly by himself in Saudi Arabia.”
The NGO noted that Saudi Prince Mishaal bin Majed bin Abdulaziz al Saud was instrumental in the waiver of fees accruing from the time Alfred’s car was impounded due to a car accident in 1998.
OFWs Romy Carbonel, Frank Resma, Joseph Espiritu and volunteers of Patnubay Riyadh among several others, assisted Alfred in sending a personal letter in Arabic addressed to the Office of the Governor of Jeddah to waive the accumulated fees that barred him from leaving Saudi Arabia. Jeddah-based OFW blogger Jeebee Kenji Solis also helped out in gathering donations from fellow OFW bloggers throughout the world. Other NGOs, Facebook users, and Saudi-based OFWs have been helping Alfred Salmos in coordination with the family and the Philippine Consulate.
In his appeal to Prince al Saud, Alfred Salmos wrote: “Your Royal Highness, I believe that you are fair regardless of race, color or creed. Please send me home to my country. I want to see my family. I haven’t seen them for quite a long time. In the Philippines I have a family who can take care of me. Please tell the Moroor to clear any penalty for my car registration and to consider my physical condition for humanitarian considerations.”
The Prince granted the plea of Alfred Salmos, all fees were waived, and in a matter of days, the OFW most featured in the pages of Pinoy Facebook users around the world, shall soon be home.
For those who wish to help OFW Alfred Salmos, please get in touch with the Blas F. Ople Center via 833-5337/833-9562 for coordination purposes. Donations can be channelled to the bank account set up by Alfred’s sister: Epifania Reem S. Colina, BPI Carmen West Rosales Pangasinan #0639-0859-29.