MANILA, Philippines --- Bonita Baran on Wednesday told a Senate hearing she was treated "like a dog" by a couple for whom she worked as household helper for four years.
The 21-year-old, now completely blind in one eye and her face heavily scarred from what she said were repeated beatings from Reynold and Analiza Marzan, described the abuse and cruelty she suffered to the Senate Committee on Labor.
Sitting across from her during the hearing were the Marzans. It was the first time Baran and the couple were brought together since she ran away to complain to authorities.
Baran was accompanied to the hearing by Persida Acosta, chief of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO).
She told Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate President Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada there were times when Analiza ordered her to eat cockroaches and scraps.
Asked by Enrile if the Marzans own a dog, Baran replied: "Wala po. Ako po ang aso." (No. I was their dog).
Baran said she joined the Marzan household in Quezon City in 2007, when she was 17. At first, the couple treated her well, even though they paid her only P700 a month.
Things started to change in 2008, when the wife started to beat her, especially when she bungled household chores. About this time, her salary was raised to P2,000.
The beatings became more frequent and severe. Baran said Analiza would cover her mouth to prevent her from screaming while she beat her up.
There were times when she was told to sleep in the bathroom.
The maid said she was not allowed to leave the house and was locked up in a room whenever the whole family went out.
Forensic experts testified at the hearing that a medico-legal report confirmed that Baran's injuries were sustained from repeated beatings.
Dr. Erwin Erfe, from the PAO forensic laboratory, said he found more than 200 scars on the maid's body when he examined her last July 17. "The most severe was from a fracture on the nose and extensive scars in the face and head," Erfe said, adding that some of the scars were a year old and in various stages of healing.
Baran said Analiza pressed a hot iron to her face, causing her to go totally blind in the right eye and partially in the left.
Senate Majority leader Vicente Sotto III asked Erfe if the scars could have been self-inflicted.
"It's impossible because some of the scars are already fading and are characteristics of individuals being abused or tortured," the doctor replied.
During the hearing, Estrada revealed that Analiza had filed a criminal complaint for spousal abuse against her husband before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 225 in 2008.
Analiza said she filed the case without her husband's knowledge. An arrest warrant was issued against Reynold but Analiza decided to drop the case.
She refused to divulge details of the case, saying it was "too personal."
Reynold told the committee he never hurt his wife.
Asked if she knew about the spousal abuse, Baran said the Marzans were already having marital problems when she started to work for them.