In the story Crime victim detained for months, we covered the case of Muthunayagam Saju who was robbed. After reporting the matter to the police, he has been kept in Singapore for months and months because he may be needed as a witness when the robber goes to court. He is not allowed to work while here. He is destitute and his family in India is in deep financial trouble.

Lorena Crucillo Condat is in a similar situation. She reported her employment agency’s misconduct to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in July 2012, and at the time of interview (July 2013) has been confined, jobless, in Singapore for one year. She is not allowed to go back to the Philippines, and has no idea when the case will end.

The 34-year-old Filipina comes across as intelligent and composed, almost stoic. Little about her manner reveals how absurd her situation is, none of which has been her own fault.

She first came to Singapore to work as a domestic help in February 2012. Unfortunately, her first two assignments didn’t work out and she was returned by employers to her agent, Sunway Employment Pte Ltd located in People’s Park Centre.

For a few weeks, she stayed at the employment agency’s boarding house. In the daytime, she was given duties as a “runner” for the agency office. “I buy food for staff, clean the office, take files of maids to give to staff, collect medical test results and deposit cheques,” Lorena explains.

Then on 10 July, she was sent to stay and work at an apartment in the Waterina condominium in the Guillemard Road area, working for the family of Stephen Teo. However, she was never issued with any work permit stating Stephen Teo as her employer. In any case, she was only asked to work two weeks, to fill in for Teo’s primary maid,  “I stopped working there because Stephen’s proper maid came back after an operation,” says Lorena.

“Stephen paid the agency for two weeks’ work, but I wasn’t paid.”

The bigger problem was that neither arrangement — as runner or temp maid — looked legal. Adds Lorena, “I thinking, if I go on like this, cannot. If MOM catch me, then how?”

Since lodging a report at the ministry, she’s been staying at MOM’s Keramat Dormitory (pictured above). It’s been one whole year without income and she wants very much to go home.

TWC2 executive committee member Shelley Thio tried to help. “I rang her case officer at MOM, ” says Shelley, “and she said the case file is with the legal department of MOM and will soon be going to the courts.” However, no firm date was given. She has to continue languishing indefinitely.

Is this the way to treat people when they report offences to the authorities?