Filipino migrant worker killed in Slovakia hailed a hero

Henry John Acorda died May 31 after being beaten for trying to stop suspected neo-Nazi harassing two women in Bratislava
Filipino migrant worker killed in Slovakia hailed a hero

Women place flowers at a makeshift memorial as thousands of Slovaks rally in Bratislava on June 8 to pay tribute to murdered Filipino expat Henry Acorda, who was beaten to death by a young man believed to be a neo-Nazi on May 26. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/AFP)

Church leaders said a Filipino migrant worker recently murdered in Slovakia was a hero whose death carries a potent message that the millions of Philippine nationals working overseas are there to help, not harm.

Henry John Acorda, 36, a financial analyst, died on May 31 from injuries sustained after being beaten and kicked in the head by a man believed to be a neo-Nazi on May 26.

Acorda had reportedly intervened to stop the alleged attacker from harassing two women in Slovakian capital Bratislava.

A 28-year-old local man, identified only as Juraj H., was arrested and charged with manslaughter.

Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People of the Philippine bishops' conference, said Acorda showed the real face of a Filipino migrant worker.

"With what [Acorda] did, we see the true and noble intentions of our migrant workers," said the bishop. "They came to work honestly to help their loved ones and those in need," he added.

He said Acorda's act of defending the women from attack "reflects our true nature of giving all we have, even our life, to improve lives, to defend lives."

"His death is a powerful message that Filipinos migrate not to harm but to help, to serve and to save," said Bishop Santos, adding that Acorda died a hero.

The death of the Filipino migrant worker enraged Slovaks, mostly young people, who rallied in the streets of Bratislava on June 8. 

Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pelligrini condemned the incident and assured that justice will be served. 

"We mourn the loss of another of our own who by all accounts is a hero who came to the rescue of the defenseless in a land that is not even his," said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in a statement.

The Slovak government has offered to provide an aircraft to fly the remains and personal effects of Acorda along with his mother and two siblings to the Philippines on June 13.

Cayetano thanked Slovakia for the "kind gesture of offering to bring home [the body of Acorda] and reuniting him with his loved ones here in the Philippines."

About 3,000 protesters turned out for a memorial rally in Bratislava last week, some carrying banners that read "Justice for Henry" and "Nazi brain burn in hell."

Flowers were offered and candles were later lit at an improvised memorial where the attack occurred.

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Prime Minister Pellegrini described the attack as "very bad signals to our society."

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