THE case of Sarah Balabagan has once again drawn world attention to the plight of Filipino migrant workers. A court in the United Arab Emirates sentenced Ms. Balabagan to death for murdering her employer. She was reportedly 15 years old at the time and says she acted in self-defense after her employer raped her. An earlier court verdict sentenced her to seven years but awarded her damages for the rape.
The death sentence, now under appeal, has caused a furor in the Philippines, where people are still angry over the March execution in Singapore of a Filipina maid for double murder.
More than 4 million Filipinos, most of them women, work overseas. They frequently complain of nonpayment of salaries, beatings, and rape by their employers. Philippino President Fidel Ramos claimed last week that only 3,000 overseas workers have legal problems. But that's no excuse for the meager and bureaucratic help Filipinos receive from their government and its embassies.
The Philippines must do more to protect the interests of its citizens abroad. Kuwait has just sentenced an Iraqi woman to five years in prison for beating to death her Filipina maid, the second such conviction in a month. That's a step, if only a step, in the right direction.