Police didn’t help her, says mom of stranded commuter who died
CALABANGA, CAMARINES SUR—Marlyn Silvertino could still not accept that her daughter, Michelle, spent the last days of her life on a footbridge in Pasay City. The government, she said, should explain why Michelle died that way.
On June 5, Michelle, a 33-year-old solo parent of four young children, was pronounced dead at Pasay City General Hospital after she was found unconscious on the footbridge in Barangay 159. She had been waiting there for a ride home for five days.
According to the death certificate issued by the hospital on Monday, Michelle was a “probable” case of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Marlyn, a 57-year-old corn farmer from this town, said her daughter phoned her on June 3 to say that she was among a number of stranded passengers bound for Bicol who were camping out at the footbridge. That was the last time she spoke to Michelle.
She was not feeling well, but policemen and soldiers assigned to guard the area ignored her pleas for help, Marlyn quoted her daughter as saying.
Finally, Michelle was listed to depart on June 6 on a bus bound for Bicol and provided by the Office of Vice President Leni Robredo. Marlyn said the family was told only later that her daughter’s body was immediately buried at a public cemetery in Pasay.
Police Lt. Col. Deanry Francisco, assistant chief of the Pasay police, denied accusations that his men did not help Michelle.
He said Corporals Jumie Josue and Emerson Ilac from the Malibay Substation 6 brought her to the government hall of Barangay 159 before 9:30 p.m. of June 4. But since there was no one at the hall at that time, they decided to bring her to their substation so she could rest.
When the police realized that she had a fever, the substation commander ordered that she again be sent to the barangay hall, Francisco said.
“She (Michelle) insisted that she was OK, so they returned her to the footbridge,” he said.
Two hours later, around 4:30 a.m. on June 5, Pasay police chief Col. Ericson Dilag said the police received a call from a concerned citizen about an unconscious woman at the footbridge. Josue and Ilac returned to the area and took Michelle to Pasay City General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival, Francisco said.
Marlyn appealed to the government to conduct an autopsy of Michelle’s remains to determine why she died. But if that’s no longer possible, she said, they could only hope that her ashes could be brought home.
“I also had a call [from the hospital] saying she wasn’t tested for COVID-19. The hospital said she died of high fever and severe asthma,” Marlyn said.
The policemen who had direct contact with Michelle tested negative for infection during rapid testing, Francisco said.
Calabanga Councilor Levi Sta. Ana Jr. blamed the police and the barangay officials for Michelle’s death.
“What happened here is negligence. They neglected our fellow Bicolano … They should have immediately taken her to the hospital and not send her back to the footbridge,” Sta. Ana said.
Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. said he would request Pasay Mayor Imelda Calixto-Rubiano to allow the cremation of the body so her ashes could be given to her family.
Marlyn said her daughter left Calabanga for Manila in January after she was recruited to work as a domestic helper for Saudi Arabia.
But Michelle was unable to leave because she had pneumonia and was declared unfit to travel. She decided to work instead as a househelp for a family in Antipolo City in Rizal province while taking her medication.
Michelle was her family’s breadwinner. The oldest among nine children, she took care of her elderly parents, aside from providing for her children, aged 3 to 11 years old.
Marlyn said that when Michelle learned that it was possible for her to go home because of eased travel restrictions in Metro Manila, she sought permission from her employer to leave. Her employer even brought her to the bus terminal in Cubao, Quezon City, on June 1.
When she was told that provincial bus trips were still banned, her employer brought her to Pasay where free rides home for LSIs (locally stranded individuals) were supposed to be available.
In an interview on Thursday, the employer said they drove her to Pasay terminal. They first went to the Cubao terminal but she insisted on staying so, they drove her to Pasay just so she would see the situation herself. The employer said she refused to return to Antipolo and decided to stay in Pasay as her sister would fetch her there.
Marlyn said they had received all of Michelle’s belongings, except for her last pay from her employer worth P6,000.
Michelle’s death came in the wake of President Duterte’s order for government agencies to bring home about 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) still staying in quarantine and awaiting their test results.
The government has so far brought home over 40,000 OFWs to their provinces by tapping available land, air and sea transportation.
Malacañang on Thursday vowed to prevent a repeat of the tragedy that befell Michelle.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would coordinate with Michelle’s parents and siblings on how to assist them.
“No one wanted this to happen. We are now taking steps to ensure that what happened to Michelle will never happen again,” Roque said.
He said local officials who learned of Silvertino’s plight should have immediately informed the city government or the DSWD.
“To (the local governments), if you notice LSIs near bus stations and airports in Pasay City, please inform the DSWD if you cannot help them yourselves,” Roque said.
The Department of Transportation is now working on a system to bring LSIs to Villamor Golf Course for rapid antibody testing, he added.
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