Sunday, April 12, 2015

OFW Death, PH Embassy in Riyadh and Al Rajhi Bank

Last May 06, 2014 or almost one year ago, my sister in law, Gemma B. Oplas, a nurse at King Fahad Medical City (KFMC) in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), died of MERS CoV. I wrote it here,

Two issues followed: (1) repatriation of her body back to our province in Negros Occidental, and (2) getting the benefit package that KFMC gave to  Gemma's family, my younger brother Bonifacio/Bobong and their only child, Lois.

After the mandatory body freezing + several problems with an airline, I wrote it here, Gemma's body was finally repatriated and buried the same day as its arrival in Bacolod City last September 04, 2014 or almost four months after her death.

Issue #1 is done, but issue #2 is not yet resolved until  now. I myself am confused where's the problem here.

In July or early August 2014, KFMC-MOH deposited the benefit package of the hospital for Gemma, equivalent  to three years salary + end of service award, to Al Rajhi Bank in Riyadh. Dr. Fahad Al Ateeg of KFMC wrote to Philippine Ambassador to KSA, H.E. Ezzedin H. Tago about this and the desire of the hospital to help repatriate the body.

At first, my brother sent a Special Power of Attorney (SPA) for Gemma's close friend, fellow Filipino co-worker at the hospital, Magda, to receive the amount and transfer it to the joint account of Bobong and Lois in Land Bank Bacolod branch. The SPA went through various official routes -- DFA, notary public, and KSA Embassy in Manila.

After several weeks, the feedback was that the Saudi bank or court said that they would not honor that SPA because according to KSA customs, recipients should not only be the legal and married family of Gemma but also her original family, meaning signatories should include her parents and siblings.

Several weeks more passed, it was suggested by the PH Embassy (PE) in Riyadh that it would be the recipient of the SPA, and PE will get the amount from Al Rajhi Bank (ARB) and deposit it to Bobong and Loi's joint account.

Several follow up attempts by PE to ARB, by phone calls and personal visits, Mr. Bayani of PE told my brother that ARB would not respond to their letters, they have written the bank twice. He visited the bank  and the bank manager would not even entertain  him to update him about the status of the fund.

So where could the problem rest here?
(1) ARB that refuses to release the fund, or (2) PE-Riyadh that is not insistent enough to pressure ARB to release the fund, or (3) my brother for not going to Riyadh himself to follow up  things?

If it's #3, it is indeed a big problem as it is not cheap to go to Riyadh and stay there for several days or weeks. Besides, he already issued the SPA for the PE-Riyadh.

I would like to think that it is primarily #1, and partly #2 too. But I do not want to pin blame whenever possible. Just release the fund, the family has suffered enough with the death of Gemma + delayed repatriation of her body and now delayed repatriation of her benefit package. That money is from the hospital, not from ARB or PE-Riyadh, so why can't it be released? 

ARB says in  its website that it cares for its customers and give them  instant, not even 15 minutes waiting, but instant personal finance. So why would the benefit package of a dead person take many months not to be released?

My brother is shy to write directly to Amb. Tago because DFA Bacolod that helps him advised him not to do it, they themselves will write to the Ambassador as the proper protocol. 

Aside from PE-Riyadh, who else can pressure ARB to release the fund? KSA's Central Bank or other agencies that regulate banks there?

My brother said that Mr. Duran has taken the place of Mr. Bayani in PE-Riyadh in handling the case of fund repatriation of Gemma. He is still waiting for feedback from Mr. Duran until now. No updates yet.

I should write to some officials about this case...

See also:
MERS CoV and OFWs (May 08, 2014) -- death of Gemma
MERS-CoV and OFWs, Part 2 (August 26, 2014) -- hassles with airline in body repatriation

MERS-CoV and OFWs, Part 3 (September 04, 2014) -- final repatriation of the body, burial in Bacolod City

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