Saturday, January 4, 2020

Government urged to defer Kuwait deployment ban

A ranking party-list lawmaker yesterday urged the government to defer plans of banning deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait following the recent killing of domestic helper Jeanelyn Villavende.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) meanwhile issued a resolution imposing a partial deployment ban for newly hired domestic workers to the Middle Eastern state.

ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap said an investigation should first be made to determine if there were lapses on the part of the Kuwaiti government in protecting OFWs.

“We encourage the government not to immediately enforce a new deployment ban because there will be OFWs and families in Kuwait who might suffer the repercussions,” Yap argued.

The chair of the committee on games and amusement called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation of Villavende’s death, which he said was “a blatant disregard not only to the agreement between Kuwait and Philippines on OFW welfare but to human dignity as a whole.”

In May 2018, the Philippines and Kuwait signed a memorandum of agreement on the employment of domestic workers which sought to improve the conditions of Filipino household service workers.

“This case will test if Kuwait honors the agreement which was a result of the deployment ban enforced last year. The Kuwaiti national who killed Jeanelyn should be punished and justice should be served,” he stressed. But should the Kuwaiti government fail to hold Villavende’s killer accountable, Yap said the Philippine government should impose a permanent deployment ban.

“If they fail to resolve this case of Jeanelyn, I am willing to roll (the) dice and even call for an irrevocable permanent deployment ban (to) Kuwait,” he stressed.

Agusan del Norte 1st district Rep. Lawrence Fortun said the government should, in addition, demand blood money and consider dropping the bilateral agreement with Kuwait on the protection of OFWs, which he said is not being honored. “For the sensitive situation in Kuwait, applying the principle of reciprocity, our country should demand blood money from the Kuwaiti employer’s family aside from the expeditious prosecution and conviction of the killer,” he stressed in a statement.

Sen. Bong Go condemned Villavende’s violent killing and lamented that despite the May 2018 agreement between the Philippine and Kuwaiti government, “there are still reports of violence and abuses committed against our fellow Filipinos in Kuwait.” “It’s painful for our countrymen to leave their loved ones to work in faraway places just to give their families a good future. But it’s even more painful to find out that despite their sacrifices, they are abused, and sometimes killed,” the senator said in Filipino. He said his office will provide assistance to the family of the deceased, particularly for the medical needs of the father with the help of the Malasakit Center.

Go added that he will prioritize monitoring the case and ensure that the family gets the benefits due them from the victim’s private insurance company as well as livelihood assistance, death and burial assistance and scholarships.

Partial deployment ban is official

Based on a three-page resolution signed yesterday by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the POEA Governing Board which he chairs had decided to adopt an earlier memorandum for a moratorium on the “processing and verification of individual contracts and additional job orders” for Visa 20, or domestic workers bound for Kuwait. “Now therefore, the POEA Governing Board in a meeting duty convened resolves… to adopt the said memorandum and effect a deployment ban for newly hired domestic workers to Kuwait effective immediately,” the resolution stated.

The resolution provides that all overseas employment certificates (OECs) for domestic workers to Kuwait that were issued “on or before 5 p.m. of Jan. 3, 2020 shall be valid for deployment.”

Bello came up with the memorandum, dated Jan. 2, after consulting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Undersecretary Brigido Dulay, in connection with the maltreatment and deaths of OFWs in Kuwait, specifically the case of Villavende.

According to Bello, domestic helpers who have existing contracts and are in the Philippines for a vacation are not covered by the ban. 

“It might ripen into a total deployment ban if we do not get justice for Jeanelyn Villavende,” he said in an interview. Bello noted that the workers affected by the ban will have to be reimbursed by their recruitment agencies for the expenses that they incurred.

“They (agencies) should know this (reimbursement system). They don’t have to be told,” he added.

Labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) said yesterday that it fully supports the government’s partial deployment ban.

In a statement, FFW vice president for the Visayas Amalia Campos said “such action is timely, called for and within the police power of the state.”

‘A life for a life’

Secretary Locsin has again asked for the head of Villavende’s killer.

“This is the ONLY official line: ‘All I asked for is the life of the taker for the life taken. And I don’t care whose life that is. The life of a Filipino – maid or socialite – is the equal of the life of a queen.’ As for the rest of it, that has nothing to do @DFAPHL foreign policy,” Locsin said on Twitter on Thursday.

Locsin earlier summoned Kuwaiti Ambassador Musaed Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh to convey government outrage over Villavende’s killing and the lack of protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf state. “The friendship between your country which gives our people the jobs they cannot find at home and our people whose faithful service make the life of your people easier depends on justice being done the murdered maid. An eye for an eye, a life for a life,” Locsin said in an earlier tweet on Tuesday.

Back from Singapore

Meanwhile, the body of the second OFW killed in a Singapore car crash is back home.

The remains of 41-year-old Abigail Danao Leste who died in a car crash in the city-state last month arrived in Manila on Thursday night.

Leste’s mother and two children, Jackelyn and Jhef, received her remains, which were immediately brought to Tuguegarao, Cagayan, where they will hold the wake, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said. The DFA, through the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, will provide financial assistance to Leste’s children to support them through this difficult time.

The remains of fellow Filipino, Arlyn Nucos, 50, who also died in the incident, were repatriated on Wednesday after a wake at Sin Ming in Singapore.

Nucos’ sister, 56-year-old Arceli, and three others were seriously injured in the Dec. 29 crash which occurred on the pavement behind Lucky Plaza shopping center. Reports said the still unidentified 64-year-old male driver was arrested for dangerous driving causing death.