MANILA, Philippines - Some 400 Filipinos working at the Villagio Mall in Doha, Qatar, that was gutted by fire on Monday, stand losing their jobs as the mall has been closed.
The Monday fire killed 19 people, including three Filipinos.
On Tuesday the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed and identified the three Filipinos killed in the blaze. Two other Filipinos have been reported hurt and are now being treated in a hospital in Doha.
The DFA said the three fatalities were undocumented workers who went to Qatar on tourist visas.
Migrante-Middle East Regional Coordinator John Leonard Monterona said 60 percent of the estimated 400 Filipinos working at the Villagio Mall are women performing sales-related jobs. Some of the males are store merchandisers.
“We were able to talk to a number of Filipinos working at the Villagio Mall who expressed fears of their losing jobs as the said mall has been closed,” Monterona added.
Bobby, not his real name, who works as store merchandiser, aired his worries of the effect of the fire such as eventually losing his job.
“We don’t know yet what will happen. We would be lucky if we will be transferred to another store,” Bobby said.
Monterona urged the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Doha to look into the problem and extend assistance to those who were displaced by the fire.
He also called on the Aquino administration through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to immediately provide assistance to the families of the Filipinos killed in the fire.
“Burial assistance and other financial assistance must be given to the families.Those who will be displaced from their job must be assisted,” Monterona added.
Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay announced that three Filipinos have been spared the death penalty in Sabah after receiving pardon from the Malaysian government.
The Philippine Embassy in Malaysia identified the three as Basir Omar, Jaliman Salleh and Aldipal Hadani.
In his talk with Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato Sri Anifah Aman on Tuesday, Binay, Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Concerns, thanked the Malaysian government for granting the pardons.
“We sincerely appreciate the grant of pardon and see it as further validation of the strong ties between the Philippines and Malaysia,” Binay said.
In January Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya called on Sabah Gov. Tun Datuk Seri Panglima, Pardons Board chairman, and requested for his intervention to commute the death sentences imposed on six Filipinos, including the three.
The Pardons Board handed down on May 22 a decision commuting the death sentence of Omar to 13 years and seven months. The new sentence will commence its counting from the date of pardon.
Meanwhile, the death sentences for Salleh and Hadani were reduced to 15 years imprisonment in a decision rendered on May 14 in Kota Kinabalu.
The two were arrested on July 8, 2008, in Kota Kinabalu when police found 867.1 grams of cannabis in their bags, and were sentenced to death by the Sabah High Court on June 25, 2010.
Binay cautioned Filipinos in Malaysia not to be lured by criminal syndicates into becoming drug mules or to engage in the illegal drug trade. (With B. Fernandez)