Nineteen Filipinos formerly employed at a US military base in Iraq returned home on Saturday after having their contracts terminated for security reasons.
The 19, most of them women, were welcomed by overseas welfare officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after working in Iraq for almost a year, most of it at Camp Cooke, a US outpost in Tajik, near Baghdad.
Earlier, overseas welfare officials said the 19, who worked as cooks, janitors and carpenters at the base, were sacked before their yearlong contracts had ended “apparently due to security problems in their workplace.”
Annalyn Terio, one of the returning workers, said that about 100 Filipinos were working in the camp, but that most of them later chose to be transferred to a camp in Tikrit rather than be repatriated.
The 19 returned home shortly after it was disclosed that Roberto Tarongoy, a Filipino accountant working with a contractor for the US forces, had recently been kidnapped in Baghdad.
Al-Jazeera television said on Friday Tarongoy had been freed but the Philippine government would not confirm this.
The government banned the further deployment of Filipino workers in Iraq and pulled out a small military contingent there in July after Iraqi militants kidnapped the Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz.
Dela Cruz was freed after the Filipino troops were withdrawn, although President Arroyo was criticized by close allies, the United States and Australia, for encouraging more kidnappings by giving in to terrorists.
Despite the government ban on Filipinos working in Iraq, as many as 6,000 Filipinos are believed to still be in that country, most of them working for US military camps or contractors serving those camps.