Philippines president grants scholarship to freed OFW

May. 10, 2007

MANILA — Out of the dark and into the arms of one who has championed their cause since the start, freed domestic helper Sarah Jane Dematera couldnt help but let go of her tears as she gave President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a grateful embrace when they met this morning in Malacanang.

It was the first time the two saw each other. But as she broke down in front of the very person who made possible her release from 15 years of ordeal in a Saudi Arabian jail, Sarah was profuse with gratitude.

“Maraming-maraming salamat po,” she told the President who in turn told her that everything would be all right from now on.

Sarah is the Filipina domestic helper who was saved from the death row following negotiations made by the Chief Executive with the Saudi Arabian King during her visit to the oil-rich kingdom last year.

Now 35, the Antipolo native was accused of murdering her lady employer in 1992. Sarah said in her defense that she had been maltreated when she started working there at the age of 20.

“Welcome back, Sarah. Kalimutan mo na ang lahat. Ang importante ay makapagsimula kang muli dito sa ating bayan,” the President told Sarah after their embrace.

To help her get back on her feet, the President awarded Sarah a scholarship grant in cooperation with the AMA Education System, entitling her to enroll in any four-year college course at any of the AMA schools with a full waiver on all fees.

The freed Filipina OFW was accompanied to Malaca?ang by her mother, Josie Dematera, sisters Ivylyn and Jonalyn, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Marianito Roque, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos and Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Antonio Villamor.

Sarahs mother expressed gratitude to the President and all other government officials and private organizations who have helped her daughter.

“Ako po ay nagpapasalamat sa kanila, sa ating mahal na Pangulo, sa DFA, sa OWWA, sa DOLE, kay Ambassador Aguiluz na hanggang ngayon ay tumutulong sa amin,” she told media.

Secretary Brion said they want Sarah to take a rest first so she could recover from extremely stressful situation she went through. She would then be given a stress debriefing program by the Department of Social Welfare and Development led by Secretary Esperanza Cabral.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Conejos recounted how the Saudi Arabia King promised President Arroyo to resolve the issue of Sarahs forgiveness.

OWWA Administrator Roque said they had to fast-track the release of Sarah since the execution date was set on May 27.

“Mayroon tayong petsa na hinahabol kaya natin minadali si Sarah, kasi kung aabutin tayo ng May 27 at hindi natin maayos ang kanyang release mababale-wala ang lahat ng efforts at negotiations pati forgiveness. Baka ituloy ang sentensiya sa kanya,” Roque said. (OPS)

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