Philippines recalls ambassador who allegedly mistreated maid

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' ambassador to Brazil has been ordered to return home to face investigation after video surfaced allegedly showing her physically mistreating her Filipino house helper, officials said Monday.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that the diplomat, who was identified by his department as Ambassador Marichu Mauro, was recalled rapidly “to explain the maltreatment of her service staff.”

The video footage, reportedly taken from security cameras in the ambassador’s residence in Brasilia and shown by a Brazilian news agency, showed a woman mistreating somebody who appeared to be a house worker, including by pulling her hair and ear.

There was no immediate comment from Mauro and it was unclear where she was on Monday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said in a statement that the unidentified worker left Brasilia, Brazil's capital, on Oct. 21 and has returned to the Philippines.

“The DFA is reaching out to her to ensure her well-being and cooperation in the investigation,” the department said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a populist leader known for his brash language, has vowed to protect the welfare of Filipino workers abroad, especially domestic helpers. Still, reports of abuses remain rampant, especially in Middle Eastern countries. In past speeches, Duterte has asked returning workers to slap airport customs personnel who would try to extort money or gifts from them and vowed to punish such abusive government personnel harshly.

The Philippines is a leading source of global labor. The huge amount of income sent home by the workers — who comprise roughly 10% of the Philippines' more than 100 million people — has helped keep the country's economy afloat for decades.

Many of the workers have been forced to abandon their families in search of better opportunities abroad and to escape crushing poverty at home. But the abuses some have suffered have been horrific.

In 2018, a Filipino housemaid's body was found stuffed in a freezer in a house in Kuwait, sparking an uproar in the Philippines and prompting the Duterte administration to temporarily halt the deployment of Filipino workers to the oil-rich nation.

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