Thursday, June 14, 2012

Electrocuted OFW comes home

MANILA, Philippines - Overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Alfredo Salmos returned to the country yesterday, nearly two years after he was accidentally electrocuted on the job in Saudi Arabia.

Salmos, 52, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at around 12:50 p.m. aboard Saudia Airlines flight SV872, his plane ticket paid for by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). He was met by his sister Epifania and younger brother Junnie.

Salmos was working as an electrician when, in October 2010, he touched the handle of a volt breaker and about 14,000 volts of electricity coursed through his body.

He was comatose for nearly a month after the accident, which also left him disfigured and unable to work – the electricity fused his fingers together.

At NAIA, though Salmos had difficulty speaking, he thanked all those who helped him through his difficulties, particularly fellow OFWs who chipped in to pay for his hospitalization.

Through colleagues, friends, and the migrant rights group Migrante-Middle East, Salmos’ plight went viral on Facebook, spreading through the Philippine community in Saudi and eventually reaching the Philippine government.

“That’s the beauty of the social media, now governments anywhere have immediate information on their nationals who are in distress and need help,” said Susan Ople, president of the non-government organization (NGO) Blas Ople Center, who welcomed Salmos at the airport.

Ople said she coordinated with other NGOs such as the Villar Foundation, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and others to help bring Salmos home.

OWWA chief Carmelita Dimzon said Salmos will receive P100,000 disability pay as well as benefits from other government agencies.

From the airport, Salmos was brought to the Coconut Palace to have an audience with Vice President Jejomar Binay.

“This only shows that the spirit of bayanihan in our country is still alive. That not only the government, but also ordinary Filipinos, (can) help the OFWs,” Binay said.

The Vice President said Salmos’ return was delayed due to the lack of a final exit clearance from his employer and a police clearance in connection with a car accident he figured in a decade ago. - By Rudy Santos and Jose Rodel Clapano