2 Filipino Workers Die in War-Torn Iraq

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID CAGAHASTIAN

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday reported the deaths of two overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in two separate incidents in war-torn Iraq over the past week, prompting the government to appeal to Filipino workers in Iraq to return home.

Rey Torres, 32, a native of San Fernando, Pampanga, was killed last April 17 in a shoot-out with armed militants reportedly while seeking to buy a new ring tone for his cellphone in downtown Baghdad, the DFA said.

Marcelo Salazar Jr., 46, a native of Cebu City, and employed as a driver for the United States military in Iraq, was found dead last April 14 after what the DFA said was either "a vehicular accident or a terrorist attack on a coalition convoy."

(In other parts of the world, a Filipino wife and her Sri Lankan husband were killed in a hotel fire in France while a Filipino tourist was stabbed dead by an unidentified assailant while he and his family were touring Tiananmen Square in Beijing.)

The deaths in Iraq prompted Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo to renew appeals for OFWs in Iraq to avail themselves of the voluntary repatriation offered by the government.

"I condole with the families of Mr. Salazar and Mr. Torres and I deeply share in their pain and grief," said Romulo. "In this light, I urgently convey to all the OFWs in Iraq the serious concern and apprehension of the government over the extremely dangerous security situation in that country. The threat to their safety and their lives remain critical, making the option of voluntarily coming home to the Philippines and perhaps seek employment elsewhere more crucial."

Torres, a driver and a security guard for the Qatar International Trading Company which has operations in the United States military base Camp Victory, reportedly left his workplace without authorization just to buy a new ring tone for his cellphone.

According to the embassys report, Torres left Camp Victory at about 6 p.m. last April 17, driving a company car and accompanied by an Egyptian co-worker.

Torres and his Egyptian companion drove to Iraqs Amiriyah District, which is known to be infested with Sunni insurgents, apparently to buy a new ring tone for his cellular phone.

Philippine embassy charge d affaires Ricardo Endaya reported that the two apparently were spotted by insurgents and chased their vehicle up until the airport road where a shoot-out occurred.

Torres was killed on the spot, while his Egyptian companion was spared by the attackers. …