x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Family baffled by Filipino's suicide on plane

The family of a man who was found dead inside a Gulf Air plane last Wednesday are still struggling to find answers on what led him to take his own life.

ABU DHABI // The family of a man found dead inside a Gulf Air plane is struggling to understand his apparent suicide.

Marlon Cueva, 36, had been returning home to the Philippines last Wednesday after working as an electrician in Abu Dhabi for three months. However, a few minutes after his plane landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, his body was found hanging inside the plane's rear lavatory.

Speaking from Mariveles, Bataan, 56km north of Manila, his 35-year-old wife Vilma said: "All he wanted was to be with me and his three children. Now we're left with so many questions."

Cueva leaves behind his wife, 10-year-old daughter Loissa and two sons, Carlos, three, and Arquiles, two. "His plan was to work in Manila to take care of the family's needs," she said. "Our children are still young and he was hoping that they would all finish school."

Family members said Cueva's final conversations with them provided no indication that he was considering ending his life.

Vilma Cueva last spoke to her husband for three minutes by telephone last Tuesday.

"He said he was flying home that night and asked us to pick him up at the airport the next day," she said. "He told me that he loved me and our children and spoke to them too. He asked what they wanted from Abu Dhabi. They asked for chocolates and my three-year-old son wanted a PSP."

Cueva told his wife last month that he was leaving his job, having informed his employer by letter on September 4 that he was "resigning for personal reasons regarding my wife, as soon as possible".

Mrs Cueva denied that the couple had marital problems. "We both love each other and we've been married for 11 years," she said. "He had so many things on his mind then. He was particularly worried about the 70,000-peso (Dh5,833) loan he took from a lending company before he left in July."

Of that amount, more than 55,000 pesos went to a recruitment agency.

Cueva served his one-month notice period in September, but reported difficulties in obtaining his final wages.

Mrs Cueva recalled how "nervous" and "depressed" her husband was after handing in his resignation letter. "Whenever I would call, sometimes he was OK and sometimes he was not his usual self," she said. "One day, he even asked who I was. He said that he was scared but I really don't know who he was scared of and why."

The week before Cueva left he sought help from the Philippine embassy in getting his passport back from his employer and making his airline booking. Ophelia Almenario, the welfare officer in Abu Dhabi, said Cueva seemed stable on Tuesday. However, the previous Friday he had told the ambassador to the UAE,Grace Princesa, that someone wanted to kill him.

Cueva was the youngest of eight children. His sister, Analiza Salac, 38, had sent him 20,000 pesos to pay for his air ticket to Manila. She spoke to him briefly during the flight's stopover in Bahrain on his way home. "We all love him and we wanted to make sure that he arrived home safely," Mrs Salac said. "He said he was happy to be home and told us to wait for him."

Cueva's wife, his sister Majielyn, 47, and brother Lamberto, 42, were waiting for him at the airport. The family has called for a thorough investigation. "We'd like to know what really happened at the airport, inside the plane and when he was still in Abu Dhabi," Mrs Salac said.

Cueva's remains are at the family home in Mariveles, while the family prepares for his funeral tomorrow.

Last week, Cueva's family received his benefits as a member of the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration, a Philippine government agency, amounting to 120,000 pesos. His eldest daughter is entitled to a scholarship programme.