Racism was clearly at play in the murder of four Filipinas in Cyprus by a serial killer.
The grizzly murders numbed the Cypriot people who have just experienced mass killings during an inter-ethnic conflict many years ago.
“Ester Beatty, chair of the Federation of Filipino Organizations in Cyprus, hopes the killings will “serve as a wakeup call” to both the overseas Filipino workers and their employers.
The reaper who confessed to the crimes was a military officer who would have witnessed the Cyprus divide that still exists in the minds of its people.
Nicos Metaxas, a 35-year-old army captain, admitted to killing four Filipinas and another Asian. He denied killing a six-year old daughter of one of the Filipinas, although she is also feared dead.
The killings went undetected for three years until rains washed a body out of contaminated waters off Xyliatos, leading to the discovery of the other gruesome murders.
What followed was a clear display of more cases of racism, including a remark by a police officer who said he was “too old to concern himself with Filipino women.”
This was after he was asked to investigate the murders of several women following the chance discovery of 38-year-old Mary Rose Tiburcio’s bound body.
Tiburcio went missing last year. Her friends have asked authorities to help locate her, but to no avail.
Only when Tiburcio’s decomposed remains washed down a mineshaft on 14 April that a full investigation was started long after she and several other of her compatriots have gone missing.
Fortunately, her online message exchanges with the army captain have left clues on her last activities and gave the murderer’s identity away.
Tiburcio met the army captain at the dating site Badoo. It was there where the army captain hunted for and preyed on his victims.
The soldier admitted before the authorities over several days last month that he killed five foreign women. He did not name them, though.
He dumped their bodies in a flooded mineshaft, an abandoned mine’s toxic lake and a pit at a military firing range.
The officer is now widely acknowledged to be Cyprus’ first serial murderer.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades vowed to scrupulously investigate both the “abhorrent murders” and the “actions or failures” of police in following up on missing person cases.
Tiburcio’s friends and activist groups have badgered the presidential palace in Nicosia and expressed concerns that racism and economic inequality as factors in the killings.
Wire reports quoting Katarzyna Kyrlitsias, a Polish married to a Cypriot citizen, highlighted this as she said: “If it would be a Cypriot woman missing for so long, they would definitely do something. But because we’re foreigners, they think nobody would find them, nobody would look for them.”
Police failures, she said, contributed to the killings instead of preventing them.
President Anastasiades has fired Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou for “possible negligence” in handling the murder cases.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou also resigned.
Cyprus has a Filipino community of about 14,000. Many of them experience discrimination and exploitation.
These make them vulnerable to marriage offers from locals to escape abuse.
A number of Filipino immigrants earn just 400 euros ($450) per month, working long hours as housekeepers for employers who hold their passports and work permits and not a few of them are hoping for ways out of these deplorable work conditions.
Ester Beatty, chair of the Federation of Filipino Organizations in Cyprus, hopes the killings will “serve as a wakeup call” to both the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and their employers.
The serial murders also jolted the Philippines government and the Department of Foreign Affairs now wants all its consul generals and concerned agencies throughout the world to be on their toes in reporting OFW deaths and other cases concerning them.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. signed Department Order 10-2019 or the “Mandatory issuance of the report of death of distressed Filipino citizens abroad upon the burial or repatriation of the human remains on cremains” last week.
This would help, but what surfaced in these murder cases was the need to ensure the safety and security of workers we are sending abroad. Their contracts should also be reviewed, recall and send home those at the losing end of their dreams for better lives at whatever cost.
We should count the living and focus on their welfare. Not the boxes coming in for their families to cry on.