Friday, April 6, 2007

Domestic Workers Group Demands Full Investigation of Filipina's Death

Felisa Garcia, 58

News Release
April 2, 2007

Reference: Lorena Sanchez & Shirley Cuyugan-O'Brien, Coordinators, KABALIKAT Domestic Workers Support, Phone: 718-565-8862

Domestic Workers Group Demands Full Investigation of Filipina's Death
Consulate Sought to Answer Urgent Questions in Townhall Meeting

New York-- The Filipina domestic workers support network known as KABALIKAT, an organizing project of the Philippine Forum, convened over 75 domestic workers and concerned community members for a forum last Sunday, April 1, demanding a full investigation behind the mysterious death of Felisa "Fely" Garcia, 58, a Filipina domestic caregiver found dead by an alleged suicide in her bedroom last March 14 in the Bronx. The forum gathered community support and featured live phone-in's with Garcia's US-based lawyer, Atty. Arnedo Valera of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), and daughter Geraldine Gamboa in Batangas, Philippines.

In a tearful plea for help, Gamboa thanked the Philippine Forum/KABALIKAT for their direct support, including securing a pro-bono attorney and raising initial support funds, and conveyed the Garcia children's burning questions over the mysterious reasons behind their mother's alleged suicide.

"Our mother was in good spirits days before her death. We had no reason to question her emotional health or detect that she was distressed. That is why we are suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her death. The circumstances suggest foul play," stated an emotional Gamboa over the phone conference.

According to Valera, Garcia's four children in the Philippines have maintained that besides a thorough autopsy of their mother's body for alleged physical and/or sexual abuse, a full investigation of all parties involved is necessary. Garcia had left a letter for her landlord stating her "abuse and harassment" at the hands of her employer.

Autopsy reports are scheduled to be released in two weeks by the Bronx Medical Examiner's office.

Shortly after receiving an official authorization by the Garcia's family to act on their behalf, both Valera and Philippine Forum/KABALIKAT have been been pushing for the family's wishes, while pressuring for accountability from the Philippine Consulate to shoulder the necessary expenses for Garcia's medical procedures, transportation costs back to the Philippines, and other expenditures.

In addition, Philippine Forum/KABALIKAT has agreed to launch the "Justice for Fely" campaign, which aims to support the Garcia family demands while raising a minimum of $7000 for funeral costs.

As part of the campaign, a townhall meeting will be convened on Sunday, April 15th, 2pm at the Philippine Forum's Bonifacio Hall at 54-05 Seabury Street in Elmhurst, Queens (V/G/R to Grand Avenue Newtown). Representatives from the Philippine Consulate are specifically requested to appear in order to answer pressing questions regarding Garcia's case.

"It is unconscionable that the Consulate has not communicated with the Fely's family. They cannot be left off the hook so easily," stated Rico Foz, Executive Vice President of NAFCON, who also spoke at the forum.

Foz heavily criticized the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) failure to contact Garcia's next of kin until March 29th, nearly two weeks after Garcia's death.

"If not for the constant pressure coming from Philippine Forum/KABALIKAT and Migrante International from the ground, we doubt that the Philippine government would be moved to address this case," Foz added.

Foz also criticized the DFA's handling of the Garcia's family, which did not include a discussion of the case details but rather included pressuring for the signing of consent forms for the Consulate to have the body shipped to the Philippines, with the family's exemption from paying the necessary fees as an incentive.

"The DFA's support to should be unconditional, regardless of consent forms. It should not offer to pay for the fees as a negotiation to keep the details of the case under wraps. It is solely their responsibility to make sure this Philippine national is transported back to her family back home, even as the family pushes for an investigation. We are seriously concerned over this type of politicking with Garcia's family," Foz added.

"Now with the family's authorization, Philippine Forum/KABALIKAT aims to look after Fely's and her family's interests first and foremost, rather than the Philippine government's push to close the case," Foz ended.

NAFCON is a nationwide alliance of Filipino organizations spread over 23 cities. The Philippine Forum, a community service organization in Queens, is a founding member of NAFCON.

The forum also garnered statements of support from allied organizations including Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE), Anakbayan, and others.

To make a donation to the Justice for Fely Campaign, make checks to Philippine Forum, write Justice for Fely on the memo, and mail to Philippine Forum at 54-05 Seabury Street, Elmhurst, New York 11373.

For more information on the Justice for Fely Campaign, contact the Philippine Forum/KABALIKAT at 718-565-8862 or email To get to the Philippine Forum office, take the V, G and R trains to Grand Avenue/Newtown Station in Elmhurst, Queens. Exit on Southside of Queens Boulevard . Walk towards 54th Avenue and turn left on Seabury St . Take the side entrance to the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown. ###

1. Kabalikat co-coordinator Lorena Sanchez looks at Felisa Garcia's picture

2. Audience of domestic workers and community advocates listen as Fely's family tells their side of the story

3. Philippine Forum Co-Executive Director Julia Camagong and Kabalikat's Lorena Sanchez