A Catholic bishop in the Philippines decried the death of Filipino seafarer Mariah Jocson, calling the incident a “tragic ending.”
“A life was lost. A life could be saved,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos, vice chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People.
“Our attention should be more focused on the situation of our [overseas migrant workers] as to give them hope, to help and heal them,” said the prelate.
“Prioritize to help our [workers], let them come home and let them feel welcome home,” said Bishop Santos of the Diocese of Balanga in Bataan province.
Jocson, 28, a crew of a cruise ship that stopped operations due to the pandemic, reportedly committed suicide after months of waiting for repatriation back to the Philippines.
She was found dead in her cabin on the Royal Caribbean ship, Harmony of the Seas, which was anchored off Barbados, on June 9.
Bishop Santos the government should bring home Filipino workers because there are “repatriation funds” and chartered planes can bring stranded workers home.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. confirmed in a statement that Jocson took her own life onboard the cruise ship where some 2,000 crew members were also waiting to be returned home.
“[I]t is my sad duty to report that a 28-year old female mariner committed suicide in her cabin in the ship where she’s had to stay because repatriation flights back to the Philippines have been suspended again,” Locsin said in his Twitter account.
“We are tartly reminded that Filipino resilience is no excuse to stretch them to breaking point. They are not rubber; they are people,” he added.
Locsin said Jocson’s was the second suicide among Filipino migrant workers who were unable to come home since the pandemic struck.
Jocson reportedly worked as assistant waitress of the Rhapsody of the Seas, which is also operated by Royal Caribbean. She and the ship’s crew were later quarantined on the Harmony of the Seas.
Reports said eight other crew members had reportedly committed suicide since May.
The suicides included that of a 32-year old Filipino hotel utility employee who died in mid-May on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady anchored off the coast of Florida.
Jocson’s suicide brought to at least five the number of suicides among Filipino migrant workers amid the global health crisis.
Bishop Santos called for prayers and Holy Masses for Jocson and other migrant workers who have lost their lives.
“We invoke our almighty God in His mercy to remember their services and sacrifices for their loved ones, and forgive their human frailties,” said the prelate.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the death of Jocson heightened the need for greater awareness and advocacy on the psycho-social needs and mental wellness of overseas Filipino workers.
“An array of counselling and helpline services should always be available to our [migrant workers], especially those still onboard cruise ships,” he said in a statement on June 12.
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