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Posts Tagged ‘Migrant Workers’

Now that the jury has given its finding, we would like to offer a few comments about the inquest. Most important, the Coroner acted impeccably throughout, directing the proceedings with equanimity and offering the jury very specific directions about how it should go about its decision.

Particular attention was given to weighing the evidence and determining whether the witnesses were credible. Despite what the South China Morning Post has been reporting, most of the evidence given was very run of the mill, going to establish Vicky’s character in a positive light. Two specifically negative assessments came from Vicky’s supposed ‘best friend’ in Hong Kong and ‘boyfriend’ in the Philippines (in the later case through the interpreter who spoke to him over the phone).

These assessments seem to have persuaded the jury to make a leap of logic from a woman in Discovery Bay who was suffering from headaches, was clearly overworked and perhaps having some associated, and no doubt stress-related, mental difficulties to a suicide on the other side of Lantau island.

The jury, it must be said, had a difficult task in determining Vicky’s actions when they had next to no material evidence to consider. The inquest was essentially a rehash of the various statements made to the police from April to around June. However, the level of English comprehension expected of them was much higher than the norm in Hong Kong (blog administrator Mike Poole is a managing editor and writer for Chinese speaking people who use English as a second language, so this a professional assessment). There were also numerous references to Filipino cultural phenomena left unexplained, such as the penchant for labeling denominations separate religions and an entire corpus of folklore from southern Luzon remarked upon as though its implications were obvious.

This was compounded by the lawyer for Vicky’s employers, who encouraged the jury to take the view that Vicky’s seemingly unstable mental state should be their major consideration, despite evidence from his own clients that they had noticed nothing unusual about the woman in the days leading up to her death. Essentially, the lawyer acted as a prosecution counsel, as though Vicky’s character were on trial.

Given these aspects of the inquest, and the fact that Vicky’s sister Irene had no legal representation to counter their effects, the finding of suicide – rather than the proffered alternative of an open finding – is not entirely surprising. It is, however, disturbing because the overwhelming majority of the evidence presented was inconclusive, and suicide should be a finding backed by probative facts.

The one jury member who voted against the finding should be congratulated for elevating logic over supposition. Nevertheless, the process has run to its conclusion. In that sense we have ensured that natural justice, which is otherwise know as procedural justice, has been served. There is no appeal mechanism to push the case further, so we have to be satisfied with the fact that we pushed it thus far, when all indications were nothing would be made of it at all.

Tomorrow, most members of the Justice for Vicky concern group will meet again to discuss what we have learned, how we fared and what we can do in future. Tonight we will think of Vicky’s death as an ever unsolved mystery.

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We have just been informed that an inquest into Vicky’s death will be held in mid-November. Word reached us this afternoon from Edith, Vicky’s aunt, who was informed by the Philippine Consulate.

Full details, including dates and other information, will be passed on to us this evening or tomorrow. We will report them as soon as we can.

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Given the current lack of news on whether an inquest will be held into Vicky’s death, we will dedicate the next few posts to details of other cases we have been involved in, both within Discovery Bay and in other parts of Hong Kong.

The saddest fact that we have encountered since coming together after Vicky’s disappearance is that abuse is happening to domestic helpers at many levels, more so than even the more cynical amongst us might think. Aside from the many people we have referred to Helpers for Domestic Helpers, mainly for contract violations by employers, we have been working with the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Shelter and its parent organisation the Mission for Migrant Workers in aiding physically distressed helpers.

We will, of course, offer any news available on Vicky’s case, but the next post will feature Beth’s story, written by one of the concern group and published in the Mission for Migrant Workers newsletter this month.

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A representative of the Philippine Consulate wrote to the Coroner’s Court recently, asking whether a decision has been made about an inquest into Vicky’s death. Since then, numerous follow up calls have not yielded any information.

As we know from our experience in helping other people who are facing the court system in Hong Kong, the process can be excruciatingly slow. A serious assualt case can take six months or more to reach the District Court. This is often due to the sheer number of cases pending, and we don’t rule out that possibility in relation to the Coroner’s Court.

However, it does does seem typical of Vicky’s case that respsonses from the authorities are very slow in coming and somewhat unhelpful when they arrive.

We will relay any further information as soon as it becomes available.

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A representative of the Philippine Consulate here in Hong Kong has finally contacted the Coroner’s Office, inquiring about whether an inquest will be held into Vicky’s disappearance and death. The Coroner is apparently still considering the case.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates when they come to hand.

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Vicky’s sister Irene and aunt Edith have both been attempting to contact the head of the Assistance to Nationals Section of the Philippine Consulate here in Hong Kong. Edith, in particular, has rung a number of times, but she has yet to receive a return call. Both women are attempting to find out whether the Consulate has contacted the Coroner’s Office and has any news about whether Vicky’s case will be subject to an inquest.

The most obvious answer to that question at the moment would be that no contact has been made.

It is very probable that the Coroner is close to reaching a decision on the case, or has already made a decision, but without Consular efforts Vicky’s family is unlikely to hear any news until it is made public.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will report any information here as it comes to hand.

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When recently approached by a member of the Justice for Vicky Flores concern group, the Assistance to Nationals Section of the Philippine Consulate here in Hong Kong was unaware that the police had finalised their investigation into Vicky’s disappearance and death. Section head Mr Gill Salceda indicated that he would attempt to contact Vicky’s family with the news, including the Coroner’s consideration of an inquest.

A representative of the Consulate could well be considered a Properly Interested Person under Schedule 2, Part 9 of the Coroners Ordinance, which would allow them to know when a decision is made about an inquest before the scheduling is announced publicly. Any contact with Vicky’s family now would certain help when requesting to be granted that status.

We urge the Consulate and Mr Salceda to follow through and make official contact once more.

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