Flor R. Contemplacion
- March 17
) was a Filipina domestic worker
who was executed in Singapore
. Her execution severely strained relations between Singapore and the Philippines
and caused many Filipinos to vent their frustration at their own government and the Singaporean government over the helplessness, abuse, and mental stresses that many Filipino overseas workers face around the world.
Circumstances surrounding the execution
On May 4
, a Filipino domestic worker named Delia Maga
was found strangled to death in Singapore. The four-year-old child that she was taking care of, Nicholas Huang, was discovered drowned. Although Nicholas's father could not identify a suspect, the police learned about Flor Contemplacion through Maga's diary. The police interrogated Contemplacion, who then confessed the crime of murdering Maga and the child. Contemplacion never renounced her confession, and the Philippine embassy
in Singapore deemed her confession to be credible. She was then sentenced to death by hanging.
Just before her execution, two Filipino witnesses claimed that Huang's father framed Contemplacion for the murders. They alleged that the father killed Maga in rage after finding his son to have accidentally drowned. The son was an epileptic who was alleged to have an attack while in the bath tub of which Maga was not aware. The Singaporean court considered and rejected the testimony. The execution went ahead despite Philippines President Fidel Ramos's personal plea to the Singaporean government to stop it.
Although President Ramos seemed initially resigned to the execution, he called Contemplacion a hero. Ramos' wife came to receive the coffin at Manila
's airport. The President sent a wreath to Contemplacion's funeral and offered financial assistance to Contemplacion's children who were dependent on their mother's income from her work as a domestic worker. Many Filipinos believed that Contemplacion was innocent, or at least suffering from insanity
if she did commit the murders. They blamed the Singaporean government for not being merciful and were resentful that their own government apparently did not do much to stop the execution. The Alex Boncayao Brigade
, a Communist terrorist group
in the Philippines
, threatened to punish Singaporean and Filipino officials. The Catholic Church
, which wields considerable influence in the Philippines, condemned the execution.
Regardless of her innocence or guilt, others took up Contemplacion as a rallying cry against the allegedly inhumane, abusive, and exploitive working conditions that many Filipino domestic workers and laborers faced abroad. A movie called The Flor Contemplacion Story was made in the Philippines to highlight this as well as the harsh punishment Filipino overseas workers face when they totally break down from their jobs. The film won Best Picture in the Cairo Film Festival. This anger continued when a rather similar case arose only a few months later with Sarah Balabagan in the United Arab Emirates (though Balabagan was not ultimately executed).
Relations between Singapore and the Philippines chilled for several years after the execution. To counter domestic backlash, President Ramos recalled the Filipino ambassador to Singapore and many bilateral exchanges between both countries were cancelled.
- Regional Briefing Philippines: Death Threat (March 23, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p.13.
- Rose-Coloured Glasses (March 30, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p.12.
- Manila Justice: Executed Filipina Hailed as Hero (March 30, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p.5.
- Regional Briefing Philippines: Autopsy Conflict (April 13, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p.13.
- Regional Briefing Philippines: Singapore Reopens Case (April 20, 1995). Far Eastern Economic Review, p.13.
- The Fight For Flor (March 24, 1995). Asiaweek, p.27.
- The Furor Over Flor (March 31, 1995). Asiaweek, p.36.
- Beyond the Rage: Lessons from the Case of Flor Contemplacion (April 7, 1995). Asiaweek, p.17.
- The Fallout From Flor: A President's Political Worries Over a Hanged Maid (April 7, 1995). Asiaweek, p.30.
- Savage Blows (April 14, 1995). Asiaweek, p.33.
- More Fallout From Flor (April 28, 1995). Asiaweek, p.34.