MANILA – After six long years in Saudi Arabia with no inkling whether he would be able to return to the Philippines, Malik Darimbang, a native of Marawi City, is home at last.
In February 2014, Malik figured in an accident after a Pakistani rammed the street sweeper vehicle he was driving, killing the foreigner on the spot.
"Hindi ko akalain na mangyari iyon, kasi naglilinis ako ng kalsada, tumatakbo na 'yong sasakyan ko pagkatapos nabangga ako sa likod. 'Pagbaba ko nakita ko na 'yong sasakyan sa likuran ng sasakyan ko (I couldn't believe it happened to me because I was only cleaning the road and a car suddenly rammed my vehicle)," he narrated.
"Noong sinandal na nila siya, kaunti lang 'yong dugo sa ilong lang, doon naiyak na ako kasi alam ko wala na siya, tao 'yon e (When they were helping the man, I can see that the blood was dripping from his nose and that's when I realized that he's already gone)," he recalled.
He was detained for only 24 hours and the incident was tagged as a "road traffic accident", according to a briefer shared by the Department of Labor and Employment.
At that time, Malik was still able to work for months until Dec. 2014. The Saudi Lower Court of Makkah, later on, ruled that the OFW is 50 percent liable and must pay SAR150,000 for blood money, forcing him to stay in the Kingdom undocumented and awaiting financial assistance.
His son Amalhaya Abdul Carim said they only learned of his situation in 2016, two years after the incident.
"Hindi naman siya palaboy-laboy doon lang siya sa area ng kumpanya niya pero walang trabaho. Doon lang siya nakatira sa bahay ng mga ka-trabaho niya dati, binibigyan lang siya ng pagkain, nanghihingi (He's not really homeless but he gets by with the help of his former colleagues, sometimes he'd ask for food)," he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
"Noong malaman namin, naghanap talaga kami ng makakatulong sa amin kasi sobrang awang-awa na kami sa kanya. Kaso hindi talaga namin kayang i-put up 'yong PHP2.1 million kaya nagtagal talaga siya doon (When we heard about his situation, we felt sorry for our father, then we decided to raise money but we really can't put up the needed PHP2.1 million that's why he was not able to return)," he told PNA.
Another problem surfaced in 2017 when the Marawi siege happened that the family had to evacuate and continue raising the SAR150,000 in Iligan and Manila.
"Sa mga kaibigan ko lumapit ako sa kanila, tapos nagbenta rin kami ng mga t-shirt kaso sobrang liit lang din ng naipon, nagsimula kami noong 2017, hindi po umabot ng PHP50,000 (I asked my friends for help, we even sold t-shirts but we weren't able to save much, it hasn't even reached PHP50,000)," Amalhaya said.
According to DOLE, the country's foreign service post in Saudi Arabia endorsed Malik's case to its legal retainer in June 2018.
It also forwarded his appeal to the Al Otair Charity Group on February 17, 2020 for possible payment of blood money, but there was no response from the said group.
In September 2020, the family saw another hope. Amalhaya said Senator Christopher Lawrence Go gave his commitment to finding a donor who is willing to pay for the blood money.
"September 2020 doon kami naka-connect kay Senator Bong Go, then nag-video call kami at nangako siya na bago mag-Pasko kumpleto na (kami), maghahanap daw siya ng sponsor kasi bawal kunin sa kaban ng bayan 'yong blood money niya (It was September 2020 when we talked to Senator Bong Go, he promised that by Christmastime, we will all be together)," he said.
In a statement, Go said a private donor offered to pay for the blood money amounting to USD40,090.38.
“Ang ginawa ko po, mayroong isang kaibigan na nagkausap po kami noong isang araw, nagkataon lang po na mayroong pagtitipon, naikuwento ko po ito at hindi po siya nag-dalawang-isip na tutulong po kaagad (What I did was talk to a friend and when I shared about the case of Darimbang, that person did not hesitate to help),” Go said.
“Iyon po ang magandang balita, na puwede natin ma-raise 'yong amount na 'yon. Humingi naman ako ng suporta mula sa opisyales, lalo na (kay) Ambassador (Adnan Alonto) doon na tulungan kami na mapabilis 'yong kanyang proseso para po makalaya at makabalik na po si Carim (Darimbang) dito sa ating bansa (That was thegood news then that we'll be able to raise the amount needed. I also asked the officials of the Embassy, including the Ambassador in Saudi Arabia to help with the process),” he added.
The blood money was paid through a charity group sometime in October and the clearance from the Saudi court was issued in November. Malik arrived in Manila this month after his final exit visa was issued on December 1.
Ashleya Limbona, a member of Arkay Lawanen from Marawi City who also helped the family, expressed her gratitude to the government.
“Nagpapasalamat po kami dahil hindi ho ninyo kinalimutan na may mga Muslim na katulad ni Baba (Darimbang) na nagpakahirap po doon at medyo hindi pinalad pero tuloy pa rin ang buhay dahil ho sa inyo (We want to thank everyone because they did not forget that a Muslim like Baba is struggling abroad),” Limbona said.
“Iparating po natin kay President Rodrigo Duterte, maraming salamat po. Sa inyo po, sa OWWA din po, hindi niya pinabayaan dahil kung wala din ho si Senator Bong Go, wala rin ho magbibigay ng blood money which is very impossible na ma-raise up namin dahil dumaan din ang mga pamilya niya sa Marawi siege, kahit anong gawin nilang mag ipon-ipon hindi po namin kaya ‘yun. Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat (We thank President Rodrigo Duterte, OWWA and Senator Bong Go, without whom we won't be able to raise the blood money),” she added.
Malik is set to return to his hometown in Marawi City, the flight of which will be shouldered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Aside from his flight ticket, the government also provided the family with cash assistance and a livelihood package, which will be turned over upon assessment in the coming weeks, said OWWA chief Hans Leo Cacdac. (PNA)