The recent ouster of Vitaliano Aguirre II as Justice secretary confirms that President Rodrigo Duterte will not tolerate misfits in his cabinet. Aguirre’s dismissal, however, is not enough. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III should be fired next. Public interest demands it.
Bello has been the secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment for the past two years. His performance has been lackluster and utterly disappointing.
It was during Bello’s watch as labor secretary when a Filipina housemaid working in Kuwait was reportedly raped there. Last month, likewise during Bello’s watch, Joanna Demafelis, another Filipina working also as a housemaid in Kuwait, was murdered by her two employers. Her body was left in a freezer.
More revolting is the fact that it took Bello and his DoLE simpletons in Kuwait a whole year before learning about the death of Demafelis. That is a glaring indication that Bello’s DoLE personnel in Kuwait do not even bother to constantly monitor the safety and whereabouts of Filipino domestic workers in that awful country in the Middle East.
Yes, that awful country is Kuwait. It is notorious for its rich but uncivilized and perverted employers who abuse, rape and even kill Filipino domestic helpers. Those domestic helpers are recruited by uncaring employment agencies in the Philippines, and are left by those agencies and those lazy DoLE officials in Kuwait to fend for themselves in that awful desert.
During Bello’s watch as DoLE Secretary, more than a hundred Filipino domestic workers died or were killed in Kuwait.
Fortunately, when President Duterte learned about the murder of Demafelis in Kuwait last month, he immediately ordered a total ban against the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait. After making known to the public his disapproval of the way Filipino workers have been systematically maltreated in Kuwait, Duterte announced that the deployment ban will be lifted only if Kuwait agrees to sign a bilateral agreement which will guaranty the safety and the proper treatment of Filipino workers there.
Among the specific demands of President Duterte is that Kuwaiti employers should abandon their practice of taking away the passport of Filipino workers. He also demanded that Filipino workers be given sufficient time for rest.
Surprisingly, Bello tried to dilute the impact of the President’s statement by allowing an attempt to negotiate a deal with the Kuwaitis, with a view towards having the deployment ban lifted, and lifted quickly. Someone in the corridors of power asked Bello to explain his unusual interest in getting the Kuwaiti deal signed. “What’s your hurry?” Bello was reportedly asked.
Indeed, what’s your hurry, Mr. Secretary?
Last month, a Kuwaiti trial court tried the two employers of Demafelis in absentia, found them guilty, and sentenced them to death—all in a span of just several days. The extraordinarily unusual haste in the disposition of the case surprised many veterans in the diplomatic community because past court cases involving abused foreign domestic workers in Kuwait always took several years to resolve.
Observers attribute the haste of the Kuwait trial court to the desperate need of those abusive Kuwaitis for domestic helpers. It was obviously an attempt by the Kuwaiti government to pacify an angry President Duterte, and to get him to reconsider his total ban against the deployment of domestic workers to that awful country.
Actually, the Kuwaiti court judgment is a hollow victory because the death sentence cannot be enforced outside Kuwait, and the convicted employers are no longer in Kuwait—one is now in Lebanon and the other one is in Syria. There are no indications if the convicted felons will be extradited to Kuwait anytime soon.
Bello, however, praised the court decision the very day it came out. For him, the court decision is the Kuwaiti government’s resolve to improve the treatment of Filipino workers in that awful country.
That’s not all. Just last week, Bello’s minions at the DoLE predicted that the bilateral agreement demanded by President Duterte from Kuwait will be signed by May 2018. Thereafter, Bello’s camp happily announced that the deployment ban against Kuwait will be lifted very soon.
Be that as it may, Bello must answer several questions.
Republic Act No. 8042 (the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995), as amended by Republic Act No. 9422 and Republic Act No. 10022, prohibits, among others, the deployment of Filipino workers to a country which has no law or a bilateral agreement with the Philippines which assures the safety and security of the Filipino domestic helpers working in that awful country.
As the labor secretary, ex-secretary of justice, and a lawyer, Bello is supposed to be aware of Philippine laws. Why then did he allow the mass deployment of Filipino domestic helpers to Kuwait when that awful country has no bilateral agreement with the Philippines (regarding the safety and security of Filipino domestic helpers working there) in the first place?
From all indications, Bello has demonstrated unusual interest in getting the deployment ban against Kuwait lifted quickly, even if it means pre-empting President Duterte. Why?
A recruitment agency in the Philippines that deploys Filipino housemaids to Kuwait usually earns about US$1500 for each housemaid it deploys. On the average, a recruitment agency gets to deploy around 200 housemaids to Kuwait every three months. That translates to a yearly net profit of around P50-million. Multiply that by the number of recruitment agencies deploying housemaids to Kuwait. To entrepreneurs interested only in profit, P50 million is enough reason to ignore the countless harm and indignities Kuwaiti employers inflict on their Filipino housemaids.
Obviously, a total ban against the deployment of Filipino housemaids to Kuwait is bad news for any recruitment agency that makes an annual net profit of P50 million just by sending housemaids to that awful country. That recruitment agency, and others similarly situated, will have millions of reasons to have that total ban lifted, and lifted quickly.
More details will be discussed next week.