President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a Department of Labor and Employment resolution imposing a total deployment ban
to Kuwait due to the sexual abuse and brutal killing of Filipino household worker Jeanelyn Villavende.
READ: Deployment ban on Kuwait takes effect, DOLE says
In a statement Saturday, Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said “President Duterte has approved the recommendation of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III on the total deployment ban
of Filipino workers in Kuwait.”
The ban was recommended by Bello, who also heads the POEA governing board, after the National Bureau of Investigation autopsy report showed that Villavende was not just tortured but also sexually abused by her employer before she was killed in the Gulf state last month.
The POEA earlier this month imposed a partial deployment ban to Kuwait, which covered only newly hired household service workers.
The Philippine government last imposed a total deployment ban to the Gulf state in 2018 after Filipino migrant worker Joanna Demafelis was killed and discovered inside a freezer at an abandoned apartment.
There are at least 262,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait, 60 percent of them domestic workers, according to DOLE.
The Palace maintained the ban would remain until the memorandum of agreement between the two countries signed in 2018 was “fully implemented and the terms contained therein are incorporated in every labor contract” of overseas Filipino workers.
Panelo was referring to a 2018 agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait, which seeks to protect OFWs there from abuses at the hands of their employers.
He claimed the Kuwait government “was attempting to hide” the real circumstances behind the death of Villavende, who died last December.
An autopsy by the National Bureau of Investigation showed that Villavende suffered sexual abuse and sodomy before she died of alleged torture at the hands of her employers.
The ban, however, does not include skilled workers and professionals who have unexpired contracts and are set to return to Kuwait.
READ: POEA okays total ban of OFWs in Kuwait
“Those who will come home for a vacation and has (sic) an existing contract are still allowed to travel to Kuwait, however, workers with new contracts will be covered by the ban. This move is nothing less than for the protection of our workers,” Bello said.
Meanwhile, the DOLE’s Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is set to provide repatriated and qualified overseas Filipino workers from the Middle East with livelihood and cash assistance.
On January15, 2020, 13 OFWs were repatriated by the Philippine government and welcomed by OWWA OIC Administrator Josefino Torres and Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 from Iraq via Doha, Qatar, it said in a statement.
The returning OFWs were accompanied by Qatar Labor Attaché David Des Dicang and welcomed by Labor Undersecretary Claro Arellano.
A total 1,640 OFWs, documented and undocumented, are currently in Iraq. From these figures, 847 are in Baghdad, 655 in Erbil, and 148 in Sulaymaniyah, according to Dicang.
Bello said that aside from livelihood assistance, the repatriated OFWs were expected to receive a cash assistance of P20,000 for active OWWA members, and P10,000 for non-active members.
Aside from the provision of airport and transportation assistance, upon the arrival of the repatriates, Torres and Uson briefed them on the programs and services of OWWA.
The first batch of the repatriates from Baghdad included OFWs Cristina Barcos; Melinda Bucalos; Rose Pink Tizon; Annajoy Arevalo; Tetchie Zablan; Melba Tayawi; Mortaja Hamzah Tayawi; and Nelicia Guzman. The second batch include OFWs Ednilyn Modesto; Maria Morales; Gerlene Daquiz; and Antonio Lim.
To ensure a smooth repatriation process, the Philippine government has assisted the OFWs in securing exit visas from their employers and other necessary documents while they were in the Middle East.
The government’s thrust to bring home Filipino workers in the Middle East is in relation to the enforced mandatory repatriation in the countries which are affected by the US-Iran conflict, the statement added.