IN GRIEF. The families of the four female overseas Filipino workers killed in a fire in Iraq on February 5, lament the delay of the assistance given to them by the employer during their meeting with Episcopal Diocese of Davao bishop Jonathan Casimina. (Ace R. Morandante/

IN GRIEF. The families of the four female overseas Filipino workers killed in a fire in Iraq on February 5, lament the delay of the assistance given to them by the employer during their meeting with Episcopal Diocese of Davao bishop Jonathan Casimina. (Ace R. Morandante/

DAVAO CITY – Several kins of Filipino workers killed in a hotel fire in Iraq refused to sign documents sent by the victims’ employer as they doubt that by doing so would mean an unresolved closure.

The families of Loradel Arojado, Jaycell Chang, Ihrine Jade Udasan, and Mabeth Tumampos, were asked to sign waivers and quitclaims which oblige Aroma Spa to transfer financial assistance worth P250,000 for each victim.

The P250,000 asistance covers funeral and burial expenses, and does not include unpaid salaries of each of the victims for the month of January.

“If we sign the quitclaim waiver, we will not be able to get what should be accorded for our daughters,” said Elena Arojado, the mother of Loradel.

The bodies of four victims arrived in this city on Sunday, February 14. They were among the 13 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were trapped in their room located at the basement of the Capitol Hotel.

In the hotel, they were working as massage therapists at Aroma Spa and were on duty when the fire happened on February 5.

In the Philippines, their employer is represented through Filipino lawyer Floyd Lalwet, who arranged to negotiate with the families through the Episcopal Diocese of Davao.

In that way, the Diocese would be in charge of turning over the financial assistance, DavaoToday learned on Monday, February 29.

The Diocese identified Lalwet to be someone “engaged as legal counsel by the owners of the hotel and spa which burned in Erbil, Iraq,” according to an e-mail they received from the lawyer.

Lalwet also happens to be the provincial secretary of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines.

The legal representative said the victims’ employer agreed to provide a total of P250,000 as financial assistance to each family, excluding the $300 unpaid salary for the four victims.

Families received the first tranche of the financial assistance through wire transfer only on February 22, which turned to be inconvenient on the side of the kins. To recall, the bodies arrived in Davao City on February 14.

“They did not provide us with assistance until after nine days, that was Monday (February 22) and our daughters’ schedule of interment is on February 23, so we extended our stay in the funeral house,” Ruth Udasan, mother of Ihrine Jade Udasan, said in a meeting with the Diocese.

The delay of transfering the assistance made Lucymarie Tumampos, the mother of Mabeth, to incur at least P30,000 of additional expenses just to pay the 4-day package at St. Peter’s Funeral Homes in Panacan.

Tumampos said a night costs P7,500.


Udasan said they gave a quote of P198,000 to a person who identified to be a representative of the victim’s employer on February 15, a day after the bodies arrived. Two days later, the contact asked whether they have received the money as it has supposedly been transfered.

They have not, said Udasan.

To clear things out, on February 17, Udasan said they contacted Lalwet, who, on the other hand, told them that the money was not yet available at the time.

Misunderstanding erupted from both parties, and things got worse when the lawyer allegedly told them that they were difficult to deal with.

In their defense, Tumampos said they were sensitive at the time because “we were confused where we would get the money and we were all in grief because of what happened to our children.”

Employer’s counsel: just doing my job

DavaoToday sent an e-mail to Lalwet on Monday, February 29, to ask what caused the delay of the assistance.

He replied, saying: “immediately upon arrival of the remains in Davao City, we inquired how much was the total cost of the services and St. Peter quoted about P33,000 each which was accordingly the base price and not the final costing as this would depend on other arrangements that clients accordingly will choose.”

“We did not hear from any of them as to the final costing and so I called up after a few days, but even then I had to wait the next day before the total figures were sent to me,” he added.

Now that the families are refusing to sign the acknolwedgement, release, and quitclaim forms, Lalwet said he will have to return the money to his clients.

“That ends my job in this particular engagement,” he said.

The families, except for Chang’s, did not claim the second and last tranche of the payment.

Bishop Jonathan Casimina, who was at the February 29 meeting with the families, said the lawyer’s seemingly ‘angry’ intonation might have been misinterpreted by the kins.

Casimina said he vouch for the integrity of the lawyer who hails from the Mountain Province. He has known Lalwet to have been serving the church for more than 20 years.

‘Compensation not enough’

What the bishop does not agree with, however, is the employee’s compensation for the families left behind.

“It’s not even enough based on the sacrifices the overseas Filipino workers are doing for the country,” he said. Casimina said if the victims have better choice in the country, “I believe they would not want to go to Iraq.”

Out of the four victims — Loradel Arojado, Jaycel Chang, Ihrine Jade Udasan, and Mabeth Tumampos — only Udasan and Chang were registered with the Overseas Filipino Workers Welfare Association (OWWA).

This was confirmed by OWWA Regional Director Eduardo Bellido in a phone interview with DavaoToday.

Arojado and Tumampos, he said, “passed through irregular channels” to reach Kurdistan, North Iraq, the location of the hotel.

“They passed through Dubai before going to Kurdistan. Dubai allows visiting or tourist visas, otherwise they will be stopped by the Bureau of Immigration,” he told DavaoToday on Tuesday, March 1.

He said the OFWs have their ways of going to abroad even without passing through government agencies.

However, even if two of the four Davaoeña OFWs passed through irregular channels before reaching Kurdistan, all of them have ‘iqama’ or work permit provided by their employers.

Therefore, OFWs will still be granted work permit even if they passed through irregular channels as employers are mandated to secure them working permits.

Three of the victims – Udasan, Chang, and Arojado worked at the Aroma Spa for eight months, while Tumampos for six months.


And this is another reason why the families refuse to sign the forms.

If they do, Arojado’s mother Elena said that they would not be able to get what should be accorded for their daughters.

“We have relatives who worked abroad. And they say that if you are a legal worker, then you have an insurance,” she said.

There are at least 6,092 Filipinos who leave the country each day for precarious work abroad, according to Ibon Foundation. More than half of them are women.

The dearth of opportunities for work back home pushes many of the OFWs to leave their families, and worse, never come back alive.

Casimina said the government should take concrete action to address the issue of the OFWs.

“There’s no point of calling them modern heroes if they are not accorded with heroic services,” he said. (

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