OFW found dead in hotel quarantine facility in Cebu City, family calls for investigation
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Mercidita Torbeso, 53, worked as a teacher in Cambodia for six years, to earn a living for her family in Barangay Lawaan 2, Talisay City.
She was eager to go home on September 1, 2021, as she had planned to retire and spend her days with her family, yet she did not even reach her family’s home.
Mercedita was found dead in her hotel isolation room in Barangay Apas, Cebu City, on September 4, 2021, by the medical staff of the hotel. She died merely 17 kilometers away from her family whom she was not able to see since 2019.
According to the report of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to the family, the staff had noticed that she did not eat her breakfast and lunch on September 4, 2021.
Around dinner time, the medical staff forced open the door where Mercidita was found unresponsive and without a pulse inside her room.
Ken Torbeso, the son of Mercidita, said that his mother had asthma and was even taken by wheelchair from the airport to the hotel facility on September 1, 2021.
She proved negative to COVID-19 on the swab upon arrival, but her asthma attack flared inside the facility.
The day before she died, Ken delivered Ventolin and medicine for her mother at the hotel, along with a new SIM card that her mother requested so she could contact them better.
From September 1 to 3, 2021, they were able to contact their mother through videocalls, text, and phone calls.
They were initially unbothered that their mother did not contact them on September 4, 2021, because they thought that her SIM card was not working properly.
“Nahibulong mi nga wala siya nitawag. Pero wala mi nabalaka kay nagtuo mi nga basin nakalimot siya sa SIM, nya naa bayay nurses didto. Nag-expect mi nga icheck gyod sila kay regular man daw ilang check-up,” said Ken in a phone interview with CDN Digital.
(We were wondering why she did not call us. But we were not worried because we believed that it was because she forgot about the SIM, and there were also nurses there. We expected that they would check her because they said that their checkups were regular.)
Ken said OWWA’s report of their OFW mother’s death broke their family’s hearts. The family questioned how the medical staff missed their mother’s condition when they were supposed to regularly check the patients.
The staff also knew she had asthma, which should have been another reason for them to check on her more often.
“Naa gyod niy negligence kay nganong wala man namonitor among mama. Nakabantay na gud sila nga wala gikaon ang meals, nya wala silay gibuhat? Nagmonitor man kaha sila, nganong wala man silay gibuhat?” he said.
(There is negligence here because they did not monitor our mama. They already noticed that she did not eat her meals, and they did not do anything? If they were monitoring, then why did they not do anything?)
Ken said the family is further dismayed because the hotel did not even reach out to them and only OWWA helped them during their mother’s passing.
The hotel later reached out to them when another member of their family was able to reach the hotel’s administration because he or she worked as a manager in another hotel.
Still, Ken said the hotel had not been cooperative as he requested call logs, CCTV footages, and other pertinent records about his mother’s stay in the hotel facility.
“Nagsige mig pangayo sa OWWA, sa hotel, hangtod karon wala gihapon. Mao na among hangyo nga maimbestigaran unta kay niingon sila nga naay regular check-up, nganong wala man nila nacheck akong Mama atong adlawa? Nadismaya gyod mi pag-ayo,” he said.
(We have persistently asked OWWA, the hotel until now we still don’t have them. That is what we requested to be investigated because they said that there were regular checkups, then why did they not check on our mama that day?)
The Cebu City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) said that they had no hand in the handling of hotel quarantine facilities as this was being supervised by OWWA and the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ).
Councilor Joel Garganera said that the Cebu City EOC would only handle OFWs if they had completed their isolation period in the hotel.
The EOC said that they also only handle Cebu City residents and other local government units (LGUs) would be the ones coordinating with their own residents.
Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas told CDN Digital that he would have the incident looked into before making any action.
“I’ll get all the details first. I’ll ask the COVID task force to get the details of what happened then we will act accordingly,” said the mayor in a text message.
The hotel facility, OWWA, and the BOQ have yet to comment on the issue.
For Ken, he wants an investigation to be conducted because many OFWs and their families may have experienced a similar incident like them.
“Amoa lang nga naay awareness ang katawhan nga mao niy nahitabo kay basin mahitabo ni sa uban. Dili gyod lalim ang among naagian,” he said.
(For us, this is just for awareness of the public that something like this happened and that this might happen to others. What we experienced was not an easy one.)
Mercidita was laid to rest in Talisay City on September 7, 2021.
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