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MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED 1:52 PM) Abused housemaid Bonita Baran told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that she was held in slave-like conditions at the Quezon City home of her employers for four years, repeatedly beaten and tortured, and generally treated like “their dog.”
Baran told senators it was Mrs. Annaliza Marzan in particular, who beat and maltreated her to the point of rendering her blind. Mrs. Marzan denied the accusation.
The Senate hearing was the first occasion for Baran to confront her former employers, who had gone into hiding for weeks until they were arrested and detained temporarily by the Senate while the hearing on Baran’s case is ongoing.
Mr. Reynold Marzan did not personally torment Baran, but it was revealed at the Senate hearing that Mr. Marzan had also abused his wife.
At one point, Annaliza tried to choke her, Baran said, while the woman screamed, “Bakit ang tagal mong mamatay?” Mr. Marzan intervened, but only to ask his wife, “At saan mo itatapon ang katawan niyan pag patay na?”
More torture details
“Anim na beses po akong pinalantsa ni Annaliza (Marzan) sa iba’t ibang panahon sa loob ng apat na taon [Mrs. Marzan pressed a flat iron on my body six times in the course of four years],” Baran said in her testimony before the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment chaired by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.
However, Marzan, together with her husband, Reynold, denied the allegation. “I did not do that to her,” Mrs. Marzan said.
Baran, native of Virac, Catanduanes, said no room or corner was set aside for her sleeping quarters, and she was only made to sleep inside a comfort room; sometimes in the sala.
“Noong 2008 po nagsimula ang pananakit sa akin, sinasampal-sampal nya ako. Doon ko po nagsimulang naramdaman ang pananakit niya sa akin [The abuse started in 2008. She would often slap me],” Baran said.
Baran said at times, Mrs. Marzan would cover her mouth to stop her from screaming while she was being beaten. “Tinatakpan po niya ang bibig ko, kaya hindi ako makasigaw upang makahingi ng tulong sa aming kapitbahay,” Baran said.
She was not also allowed to go out of the house, and they padlocked their doors and gates in order to prevent her from complaining to anyone. “Ikinukulong po nila ako, double padlock pa nga po eh, kapag umalis silang mag-anak,” Baran said.
Lawyers for the maid brought in forensics experts, who in turn testified that a medico-legal report on Baran's injuries were consistent with repeated beatings and torture.
'I was their dog'
Senator Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce enrile asked Baran at the start of the hearing to describe the lay of the Marzan household, her routine as maid, and the general environment oin which she worked starting from when she was 17. Baran is now 21.
Enrile asked what Baran was fed (sometimes breakfast of just bread and mayonnaise, though on other occasions she ate their scraps; Mrs. Marzan, she said, had sometimes forced her to eat cockroaches); whether the Marzans have children (they have three), and where she slept (sometimes the living room, more often the bathroom).
When Enrile asked whether the Marzans had a dog, Baran replied simply, "Ako po ang aso." (I was the dog.)
Wife beaten up by husband
Estrada and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III surprised the Marzans by producing a medico-legal report documenttng a beating sustained by Mrs. Marzan herself.
Pressed by the senators, Annaliza reluctantly acknowledged she had also been beaten by her husband. "But all that is past," she said in Filipino, adding, "And it was between us."
Mr. Marzan protested his innocence, saying any violence that occurred between him and his wife were in the course of him trying to restrain her from acting out her own anger.
Both husband and wife denied hurting Baran. In an earlier TV interview, they theorized that perhaps Baran was maltreated by her own father when she went back to the province, and that her family concocted the abuse story in order to extort money from them.
Charges filed - Acosta
Last Monday, when Baran sought the help of Vice President Jejomar Binay, he was aghast at her appearance, and after hearing her account and that of Public Attorney Persida Rueda Acosta who accompanied the maid, Binay exclaimed, “Their treatment of her was inhuman.”
According to Baran, her employers had hit her repeatedly with plates, vases and a broomstick, and that her female employer pressed a hot flat iron on her face, and as a result, she lost her eyesight.
Acosta, chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) and Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda founder of the Visayan Forum Foundation, are helping the wheelchair-bound Baran.
Baran’s case was tackled in a series of hearings by the Senate labor committee chaired by Estrada.
Acosta said a warrant of arrest with no bail was recommended by Judge Germano Francisco Legaspi of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 77 and an immigration hold- departure order was already issued against the Marzans, of Las Villas Del Cinco, Visayas Avenue.
Acosta said the couple face seven counts of serious physical injuries, two counts of attempted murder and serious illegal detention filed before the Quezon City Prosecutors Office. With a report from Karl John Reyes, InterAksyon.com