Employer of murdered OFW arrested, work ban to Kuwait widened

The Kuwaiti employers of murdered Filipina domestic worker Jeanalyn Villavende have been arrested and will be charged soon, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Friday.

READ: Uproar over OFW death: PH slams Kuwait defiance of deal

“Villavende who was allegedly beaten black and blue will soon get justice after her Kuwaiti employers were detained,” Bello said.

Meanwhile, Bello said the government will also ban the deployment of vacationing household service workers to Kuwait and not only new ones as initially announced.

“Initially, I was inclined to exempt the [returning workers] because they are just vacationing. But in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs they suggested that we include even the [returning workers],” Bello said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

“These are workers who went on vacation during the holidays. So if they go back now they will be affected by this partial ban,” he added.

Bello noted that skilled workers and professionals will not be covered by the ban.

He also assured workers covered by the deployment ban that their employment contracts would not be affected.

“They will still be able to continue working once the partial deployment ban is lifted. They will still be able to work. Their employers need them,” Bello said.

“Their employers know that this was not the workers’ choice. This was an effect of an incident which showed that employers are not able to protect our workers. We deploy our workers to them to serve them and yet they end up getting killed,” he said.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines urged the government to immediately convene the joint monitoring committee provided for by the May 2018 agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait to prevent a possible whitewash of Villavende’s case.

“The monitoring committee must be convened immediately because the spouse of the suspect is an employee at the Kuwait Interior Department and we fear that it might influence the government authorities investigating the incident and alter the facts and evidence of the case around Villavende’s death,” said TUCP president and TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza.

Manila and Kuwait’s 2018 employment pact came after a string of cases of abuse and deaths of Filipino workers, including Joana Demafelis, whose body was found in her employer’s freezer.

The death of Demafelis prompted the Philippine government to suspend the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait and initiate a repatriation program for those who would like to come home.

In an interview over radio dzMM, Bello said the Philippines will negotiate a template contract for its workers in Kuwait, which would ban Kuwaiti employers from confiscating the passports and cell phones of Filipino worker.

Filipino workers will also have working and sleeping hours under the contract, and cannot be transferred to another employer without the consent of the Philippine labor attaché, he said.

A lawmaker said the government should move to take Filipino workers out of the market for domestic help by offering them subsidized skills training.

“Our country should already depart from the household service market. This practice and policy have created a very wrong impression for our workers. Household services overseas have been regarded as jobs for the unskilled and most of those employed in this sector are Filipinos. We cannot allow this to continue,” said Rep. Lawrence Fortun of Agusan del Norte.

“Most of our household service workers are skilled or very trainable and the Labor D, in cooperation with TESDA, should implement government-subsidized training programs to upgrade their skills for jobs in the hotel and tourism markets, where work is dignified and decently compensated. Our domestic workers deserve to be treated with dignity and humanely,” he added.

In the Senate, Senator Joel Villanueva said he supported the partial deployment ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait

The welfare of our overseas Filipino workers, particularly their safety and security in their places of work, Villanueva said, is of paramount importance to the government, he said, and other countries should recognize this.

“We have already seen one OFW death in Kuwait too many. If we cannot get safety and security guarantees for our OFWs in Kuwait, a most basic and reasonable demand in our view, perhaps our government should make the ban permanent,” he said.

He, too, called for retraining to help those affected by the partial deployment ban.

In the long term, he added, the government must exert all efforts to create more job opportunities locally so that Filipinos will not need to go abroad and leave their families to find well-paying jobs.

Topics: Jeanalyn Villavende , Silvestre Bello III , deployment ban , Department of Foreign Affairs
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