An overseas Filipino worker detained in Bahrain for four years was granted royal pardon by the Bahraini government and has recently returned to the country and reunited with his family. Roderick Aguinaldo, convicted for the death of a foreign national in Bahrain, was sentenced to death penalty until his subsequent pardon and release from prison as a result of the efforts of the Philippine government.
In an interview, Roderick expressed his gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and other key government officials for their efforts which subsequently led to his freedom.
“Syempre, pasalamat ako kaagad sa itaas, lalong-lalo na sa ating Pangulo. Hindi rin nagsawang sumuporta sa akin na tulungan ako at ang aking pamilya, lalung lalo na si Senator Bong Go, napakabuti nila, hindi sila tumalikod sa akin — kung ipinangako nila, ginagawa nila talaga — mabuti sila,” he added.
Aguinaldo departed from Bahrain on June 6 via Gulf Air 154 and arrived in Manila morning of June 7, around 11:30 am. Upon arrival in the Philippines, Aguinaldo underwent COVID-19 swab testing and was placed under quarantine in accordance to imposed health protocols for returning OFWs before he could return home to his family.
“Hindi ko ma-explain talaga kung ano ang naramdaman ko ng panahon na ‘yun. Lumapit sa akin ‘yung officer, tinawag ako akala ko nagbibiro. Noong sinabing pauwiin na ako, sobrang tuwa ko, ni hindi ko ma-explain,” Aguinaldo recounted.
“Bagong buhay talaga. Tutok sa pamilya, lalung lalo na apat na taon ang bunso ko. Tatlong taon ko siya huling nakita, ngayon napakalaki na. ‘Yung nawala sa kanila sa apat na taon ko sa loob ng kulungan papalitan ko, mas dodoblehin ko pa,” he added.
The pardoned OFW also said that he wants to personally thank President Duterte and Senator Go for their steadfast appeals to secure his release. “Gusto ko magpasalamat nang harapan sa kanila, sa ating Pangulong Duterte at Senator Bong Go. Napakabuti n’yo po, sir. Sana po madagdagan pa ng katulad ninyong tao sa ating gobyerno.”
“Maraming mga Pilipinong matulungan, lalong-lalo na sa ibang bansa,” he said, adding that he would make the most of the “new life” given to him by focusing on his family.
Asked about how he intends to spend quality time with his family now that he is back in the country, Roderick, who worked as a cook in Bahrain, responded, “Ipagluluto ko sila ng sinigang.”
Meanwhile, Imelda Aguinaldo, Roderick’s wife, also thanked Duterte and Go for securing the release of her husband and extending assistance to their family while her husband is detained in Bahrain.
“Salamat po sa lahat ng tumulong, sa gobyerno natin. Walang hanggan ang pasasalamat namin kay Pangulong Duterte, kay Senator Bong Go, sa lahat ng sumama sa amin papuntang Bahrain. Salamat po,” she said.
“Ibinalik ninyo ang ama ng mga anak ko,” she added.
Imelda recounted how Go assisted her family during those difficult times when they were uncertain about the fate of her husband. According to her, the Senator was able to assist her in finding employment in Metro Manila and helped their children continue their schooling.
“Dininig ng Diyos ang aming dasal. Wala pong mintis na kaming mag-anak, lagi po ‘yun, walang mintis ang pagsisimba namin. Kaya thank you po sa lahat, kay Senator Bong Go. Kase biruin mo galing pa kaming Bicol, pinauwi kami sa Manila. Tapos ayun po, naipasok niya ako sa trabaho,” she recounted.
“Pinasundo po kami ni Senador sa Bicol. ‘Yung mga bata, dito na po nag-aral. ‘Yung mga batang ‘yan, nabibigyan sila ni Senador ng allowance. Ang bait po talaga. Kahit wala ‘yung asawa, sabi namin, laban lang, malalampasan natin ito,” she mentioned.
Go has been instrumental in the subsequent granting of pardon to Aguinaldo. The Senator recounted how he was approached by the Aguinaldo family for the release of their kin—from Go’s first meeting with the family in 2018, coordination with Filipino authorities in Bahrain, until the reduction of the detained OFW’s sentence last year.
In 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte wrote a personal letter to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa where the President requested for pardon for imprisoned Filipinos in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The King then gave his personal assurance that President Duterte’s concern for the welfare and well-being of Filipinos in the country will be recognized.
“Matapos ang ilang taon po nating pakikipag-ugnayan sa gobyerno ng Bahrain, nagbunga po sa wakas ang ating pagsisikap,” Go recalled.
Last May 31, President Duterte expressed his gratitude to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for granting Royal Pardon to 16 Filipinos. Aguinaldo and another OFW named Edward Benjamin Garcia were granted a Royal Pardon on the occasion of Eid’l Fitr. Both have already returned to the Philippines.
President Duterte and the Senator also met with the family of Aguinaldo in January 2020 after they were given an opportunity to have a compassionate visit and flew to Bahrain on January 25, 2020.
Aguinaldo’s family also received financial assistance from the Philippine government. Meanwhile, Go provided scholarships to Aguinaldo’s three children.
“Nagpapasalamat din po tayo sa lahat ng pagsisikap ng ating gobyerno lalo na ng Department of Foreign Affairs Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, our embassy in Manama, the Special Envoy to the Gulf Cooperation Council Amable Aguiluz V, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje, at sa representatives natin sa Bahrain, upang mapalaya ang ating mga kababayan,” Go said, acknowledging the efforts of concerned government officials.
“Patunay lamang po ito sa malasakit ng gobyerno sa lahat ng mga Pilipino, nasaan man sila sa mundo,” he added.
To further boost efforts of the government to assist OFWs in distress, Go again reiterated his call for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW), citing that its establishment would cater to the pressing needs of overseas and repatriated Filipinos, especially in times of crisis.
Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019 filed by Go last July 2019 aims to streamline government efforts to protect the welfare Filipinos abroad and ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of government response to OFW concerns.
“Masakit makitang iniiwan nila ang kanilang pamilya upang magtrabaho lang sa mga malalayong bansa. Minsan, nababasa mo na lang sa Facebook ang kanilang paghingi ng saklolo. Suklian natin ang kanilang mga sakripisyo ng mas maayos at mabilis na serbisyo,” he added.