On Wednesday, December 16, overseas Filipino worker Malik S. Darimbang arrived in the country after a grueling struggle to be repatriated. Darimbang had been stuck in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for six years after he got involved in a road accident which led to the death of a Pakistani national. Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has been instrumental in his successful repatriation.

Through the efforts of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh led by Ambassador Adnan V. Alonto, Political Officer Alexander Joseph Estomo of the same embassy, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah headed by Consul General Ed Badajos, the Office of the President, the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA), involved charity groups, and private donors, a Zoom meeting on the repatriation of Darimbang was conducted together with Go in September 2020 to help the OFW go back home.

According to the Senator, a private donor offered to pay for the blood money amounting to US$40,090.38 for the settlement of Darimbang’s case.

“So, ang ginawa ko po, mayroong isang kaibigan na nagkausap po kami noong isang araw, nagkataon lang po na mayroong pagtitipon, naikuwento ko po ito at hindi po siya nag-dalawang-isip na tutulong po kaagad,” Go said.

“So, iyun po ang magandang balita, na pwede natin ma-raise ‘yung amount na ‘yun. Humingi naman ako ng suporta mula sa opisyales, lalo na sa Ambassador doon, na tulungan kami na mapabilis ‘yung kanyang proseso para po makalaya at makabalik na po si Carim (Darimbang) dito sa ating bansa,” he added.

The transfer of funds for Darimbang’s blood money was made in October and November, after which a clearance from the Saudi court was given. A final exit visa for Darimbang was issued by the Shumaisy Jawazat deportation center on December 1, 2020.

Go expressed his elation on the OFW’s arrival to the country on Sunday, December 13. As the catalyst for making the repatriation successful, Go conveyed that this is an example of a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to help fellow Filipinos in distress abroad.

Darimbang, who hails from Marawi City, expressed his relief and gratitude for the help provided to him.

“Opo, sir, gusto ko ng makauwi kasi nami-miss ko na mga pamilya ko sir eh. Sampung taon na ako dito, hindi pa ako nakakauwi,” Darimbang said during the earlier Zoom meeting.

Darimbang’s journey to the Kingdom started in 2010 after being hired by a company as a driver for heavy machinery trucks. Based in Makkah, he got involved in a vehicular accident on February 2014 resulting to the death of a Pakistani national.

Since his company failed to resolve his case, the Saudi Lower Court of Makkah issued a court order stating that Darimbang is also equally liable for the accident. He was ordered to pay the amount of 150,000 Saudi Riyals which is over two million in Philippine currency.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, December 16, Darimbang’s son, Saripoden Ipo Modin Abdul, also expressed his elation towards the good news and thanked Go for helping to bring home his father.

“Senator Bong Go, ako po ‘yung panglimang anak ni Malik Darimbang, sobra po kaming nagpapasalamat sa inyo. Hindi po matutumbasan ng kahit anong salapi ang pasasalamat namin sa inyo dahil sa ginawa ninyong tulong sa papa ko na kahit na sino po ang nilapitan namin, sa tagal ng taon, wala pong nakaresolba dito kundi kayo lang po,” Abdul said.

Ashleya Limbona, a member of Arkay Lawanen from Marawi City and who has been helping Darimbang, also shared their gratitude to the government for their help.

“Nagpapasalamat po kami dahil hindi ho ninyo kinalimutan na may mga Muslim na katulad ni Baba (Darimbang) na nagpakahirap po doon at medyo hindi pinalad pero tuloy pa rin ang buhay dahil ho sa inyo,” Limbona told the press.

“Iparating po natin kay President Rodrigo Duterte, maraming salamat po. Sa inyo po, sa OWWA din po, hindi niya pinabayaan dahil kung wala din ho si Senator Bong Go, wala rin ho magbibigay ng blood money which is very impossible na ma-raise up namin dahil dumaan din ang mga pamilya niya sa Marawi siege, kahit anong gawin nilang mag ipon-ipon hindi po namin kaya ‘yun. Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat,” she added.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte has recently certified as urgent Senate Bill No. 1949 — the newest version of a measure filed by Senator Go providing for the creation of a Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil).

Go then urged his colleagues in the Senate to heed the call of the President and the millions of overseas Filipinos by immediately acting on the passage of the measure and continue the committee deliberations to see how the chamber can reach a viable solution.

In the explanatory note of SB 1949, Go said that the new version of the proposal “represents the unified position of the entire Executive branch of the government” and is intended to “enable the proposed Department to address the most crucial problems, deliver the most important services, and ultimately achieve its goals.”

The Senator emphasized that around ten million of the population are considered overseas Filipinos. While the government does its best to create equal or even better opportunities for these Filipinos to return home, it is still the responsibility of the state to take care of its citizens wherever they are in the world.

“Sila po ‘yung bagong bayani natin, more than ten million po ‘yan, nagpapakamatay sila sa ibang bansa. Alam niyo, hindi po nababayaran ang lungkot na mawalay sa pamilya — kaya po bigyan natin sila ng departamento na pinamumunuan ng isang Cabinet-level Secretary na para sa kanila talaga. Ito ang magtitimon, magpapagitna, poprotekta sa kanilang mga karapatan, magsisiguro sa kanilang kapakanan, at tutugon sa kanilang mga hinaing,” he lamented.

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