An aging engineer, afflicted with a medical condition that has caused him to lose eye sight, is now in a quandary over a bank loan that has totaled Dh150,000 with accrued interest.
Seventy-one-year-old Eduardo Malinao Cervantes, who hails from Quezon province, has also been longing to go home but could not as yet due to a travel ban imposed on him pending resolution of the case.
Cervantes has served more than a year’s jail time in connection with the criminal and civil cases arising from the unpaid debt.
Cervantes, who lives in shared accommodation in Abu Hail, has diabetes that has worsened and caused glaucoma. He also has cataract.
“Nuong nakaraang week, tuluyan na akong hindi makakita,” said Cervantes. “Inaalalayan na lang ko ng mga kasamahan ko dito s abahay sa pagkain at paglalakad,” he added.
Cervantes said the Philippine Consulate’s Assistance to Nationals (ATN) section has been working on his case, appealing that the travel ban imposed on him be lifted on humanitarian grounds. His passport is with the Dubai Court.
“Natulungan naman nila ako kaya lang nagkaruon ng problema kasi kailangan kong maibigay yung amount na hinihingi ng banko through a collection agency,” he said.
Marco Flores, ATN case officer, said they have referred Cervantes’ case to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) in Manila.
“Hindi pa sya makaka-uwi po since may travel ban po sya which is aware naman din po si Tatay,” Flores said.
Cervantes said he applied for a Dh70,000 loan from a private bank in Dubai to consolidate his credit card debts in 2008. He said he had up to five credit cards.
“Nagawa ko lang mangutang ng malakihan sa banko kasi may mga credit cards ako na gusto ko nang isara,” said Cervantes.
He became delinquent with his payments around 2009 which consequently caused interests to pile up, prompting the bank to seek the services of a collection agency to go after him. Cervantes lost his job in the same year as he was not able to renew his residency visa because of the debt case.
A criminal case was filed against him in December of that year to which he served a month-long jail time in January of 2010.
In mid-2011, a civil case was filed for which he went to jail for more than a year. He learned that a travel ban has been imposed on him when he got out of prison in 2012.
Cervantes said he managed to save money in the Philippines when he was still gainfully employed. “Kaya lang naubos na kasi hindi na ako nakapagpapadala dahil nagbabayad ng utang at wala nang trabaho,” he said.
Through the years being jobless, Cervantes’ older sister, who lives in the United States, sent financial help. “Yung food and housing were through his friends,” said Gracie May Kalaw, who is among those providing support for Cervantes.
It was in 1983 when Cervantes joined the Filipino diaspora, arriving in Saudi Arabia to work as communications engineer. In 2003, he was transferred by the company to Dubai for a project.
Failure to meet credit card obligations is among problems besetting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the UAE. Asked how many credit card problems does the consulate have on its desk, Flores said: “Marami po. Hindi na po namin mabilang.”
Atty. Barney Almazar, an OFW advocate and director at Dubai-based Gulf Law Consultancy, said a major legal concern in the UAE is police and civil cases from unpaid loans.
“This month, we have about 200 inquiries and requests for assistance to settle their loan obligations. The best solution is to negotiate with the banks taking into consideration both their personal circumstances and central bank regulations to strengthen their bargaining position. We can also use humanitarian grounds to get some concessions,” he said.
He said that about 60% of the 200 were Filipinos.