The story of Flor Contemplacion, the OFW executed in Singapore

Saturday June 27, 2020 ()

Flor Ramos Contemplacion was a Filipina domestic worker executed in Singapore for murder. Her execution severely strained relations between Singapore and the Philippines, and caused many Filipinos to vent their frustrations over the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers towards both states' governments.

Flor Contemplacion
(Flor Contemplacion)

On May 4, 1991, Delia Mamaril Maga of Tarlac, a Filipino domestic worker, was found strangled to death in Singapore. A three-year-old boy, Nicholas Huang, whom Maga had been taking care of, was discovered drowned. Although Huang's father could not identify a suspect, the police learnt about Contemplacion through Maga's diary. The police interrogated Contemplacion, who initially confessed to the crimes of murdering Maga and Huang. Contemplacion never retracted her confession, and the Philippine Embassy in Singapore deemed her confession credible. She was then sentenced to death by hanging.

The Trial

No medical evidence was introduced either by the prosecution or the defence during the trial, in spite of bizarre symptoms experienced on the day of the murders which she described in her confession. A witness, Evangelline Parale, said later that she had shared the same hospital with Contemplacion. The latter one day narrated how Nicholas Huang accidentally drowned, and that Maga's employer was probably the one who killed her, out of rage for his son's death. The witness also confirmed that Contemplacion related how she was tortured into accepting blame for Maga's death.

On appeal, the case was sent back to the same trial judge to allow medical evidence to be heard. The defence then introduced medical evidence claiming that she had been suffering from a partial complex seizure (an unusual form of epilepsy) at the time of the killings, while the prosecution's medical evidence maintained that she was only suffering from a mild migraine on that day. The defence's medical evidence was rejected and she was again found guilty and sentenced to death.

She received minimal consular support from the Philippine Embassy in Singapore throughout her trial and there was no representative from the Philippine Embassy present in court throughout the duration of the trial. The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Embassy in Singapore showed an active interest only in the weeks leading up to Contemplacion's execution, when emotions in the Philippines were running high.

The Execution

Contemplacion was hanged at dawn on March 17, 1995 at the Changi Women's Prison and Drug Rehabilitation Centre despite a personal plea for clemency to the Singaporean government from President Fidel Ramos.

Although President Ramos seemed initially resigned to the execution, he called Contemplacion a heroine. His wife, First Lady Amelita Ramos, went to receive Contemplacion's coffin at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on 19 March. Contemplacion's body was carried from the airport to San Pablo, and thousands of Filipinos lined the route. President Ramos sent a wreath to Contemplacion's wake and offered financial assistance to Contemplacion's four children, who were dependent on their mother's income as a domestic worker, pledging one month of his salary to a scholarship fund.

The Alex Boncayao Brigade, a Filipino terrorist group, threatened to punish Singaporean and Filipino officials, while prelates of the local Catholic Church also condemned the execution.

There were several protests held across the Philippines over Contemplacion's execution, some of which were organized by politicians and labor organizations. In one of the protests, the then-mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, burned a flag of Singapore while leading 1,000 employees of Davao City in protest.

When Contemplacion and Maga's bodies were repatriated to the Philippines, autopsies revealed that Maga had a fractured skull and her throat was almost crushed due to the force inflicted in it. Further investigations revealed that a typical woman would not have been able to exert that much force.

Many Filipinos believed that Contemplacion was innocent or at least insane, blaming the Singaporean government for a lack of compassion, and the Philippine government for not doing enough to stop the execution. The Philippine Embassy in Singapore in particular was criticised since it did not even have a consular representative as an observer in court throughout the trial. The Philippine Secretaries of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Romulo, and of Labor and Employment, Nieves Confessor, both resigned as a result of the controversy.

Bilateral relations between Singapore and the Philippines soured for several years after the execution. President Ramos recalled the Filipino ambassador to Singapore, and many bilateral exchanges between the countries were cancelled.

Contemplacion, regardless of her innocence or guilt, became an icon for the allegedly inhumane, abusive, and exploitative working conditions that many Filipino domestic workers and labourers face abroad. Public anger in the Philippines continued with the similar case of Sarah Balabagan in the United Arab Emirates several months later; Balabagan's life was ultimately spared.

Flor was born in San Pablo City, Laguna, Philippines on January 7, 1953. Her story was made into a movie called "The Flor Contemplacion Story". Nora Aunor took the role of Contemplacion winning Best Picture in the Cairo Film Festival in 1995.

Sources:

  • The woman leaders of the Philippines must protect their fellow women, September 7, 2007, Mabuhay Radio
  • Wikipedia

781

Comments (The story of Flor Contemplacion, the OFW executed in Singapore)