- J Watford
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are the subject of many misconceptions both in and outside the Philippines. In the countries where they work, they're often treated as interlopers and unscrupulous competitors for jobs and resources. In their own country, they're often regarded with bitter envy, all the backbreaking labour and heartache of having left their families behind conveniently ignored.
Luzviminda Siapo was one of the 200,000 OFWs in Kuwait in 2017, having made the heartbreaking decision two years ago to leave her two children behind in their small house in Navotas.
Life in Kuwait was tough, but a mother would do anything to give her children a good future. She kept in touch with them through Facebook, and nothing made her heart happier than seeing the smiles on their faces. Raymart, her eldest, was aware of the sacrifice his mother had made and always expressed his gratitude to his mother in their exchanges.
Luzviminda didn't know of course that her hard work couldn't protect her children from the brutality of the new reality in the Philippines.
On March 27, 2017, Raymart had an argument with a neighbour. The next day, that neighbour went to the village hall and claimed that Raymart was a marijuana dealer. The official on duty took down Raymart's details.
Rumours. Allegations. In the time of Duterte where lies are peddled as truths, the police barely needed an excuse to find their next victim.
On the evening of March 29, a group of armed men wearing ski masks and riding motorbikes went to Raymart's house, demanding to know where he was. He wasn't home at the time, but they managed to find him at a friend's house where they hit him hard on the back of the head with a gun and put a bag over his head. They then dragged the young man and forced him onto one of the motorbikes.
Witnesses reported Raymart's pleas for help throughout his ordeal. The men took him to another village and stopped on a bridge where they taunted him, according to a man who was sleeping in a nearby truck and awakened by the commotion.
'Run,' the men ordered Raymart.
Raymart didn't run. He couldn't. He was born with club feet.
The men then ordered him to sit on the ground. One of them shot him dead.
Luzviminda first had an inkling of something having gone wrong when she started receiving messages with sad emojis from Raymart's friends. She eventually received a message from her niece who told her what had happened to her son.
Luzviminda had to beg her employer to let her go home. He didn't believe that her son had been murdered. She showed him the news reports. He still wouldn't let her leave.
A mother would do anything to bury her dead child. Luzviminda had to kiss her employer's feet three times before he relented.
A mother would do anything to get justice for her murdered child. Luzviminda confronted her village officials and relentlessly followed up on Raymart's case, trying to hold the police to their chief's promise to catch her son's killers. She was trolled online and received death threats. People who had initially promised to help eventually forgot about her and her son.
It's been four years since Raymart was murdered. Nothing has changed, and his killers are still on the loose.
Raymart was 19.