Once again, another Filipino woman working as a domestic helper in Kuwait was not only raped and brutally murdered but also burned after being killed.
I do not have the number of our womenfolk who have been killed, sexually assaulted or physically abused while working as domestic helpers in the Middle East.
But the number must run in the hundreds if not thousands by now.
In fact, about 80 Filipino overseas workers were just repatriated from the Middle East who were also victims of abuse.
Lucky for them, they came home alive.
This latest murder case is such that the government must now take a decisive action.
But the shocking response of the Department of Migrant Workers under Secretary Susan Ople is only to improve the protection of our workers with a more stringent government- to-government agreement rather than immediately suspending the deployment of domestic workers to Kuwait.
DMW also wants to sanction the agency that recruited Jullebee Ranasa which in effect is washing its hands from any responsibility to what happened.
Why must DMW be so quick to throw the blame on the recruiting agency?
Our senior officials in the DMW must get it thru their thick skulls that no amount of written agreements can protect domestic helpers who live with their employers. Common sense dictates that women who work as domestics in places where there are no women’s rights are always in danger of sexual abuse especially the younger ones.
Yet, we continue to send our women to these countries.
Do we not have any national pride left in us?
Can’t the country survive without the foreign exchange sent by our domestic helpers? By now, the country should have graduated from deploying women domestic helpers and simply concentrate on sending skilled and professional workers.
Before being drafted in government to head the DMW, Secretary Ople was a voice in migrant worker affairs.
When cases happen like this most recent one, she was always in the forefront in trying to provide assistance.
Now that she is in government, it seems her priorities have changed to sending as many of our women overseas to work as domestic helpers.
Maybe this is the right time to ask what exactly is the mission of the DMW and priority of the government.
Is it the deployment of domestic helpers so that they can contribute to the dollar remittances to the country or the protection of Filipinos deployed abroad?
If the priority in the deployment is simply for the sake of the remittance, then there must be something terribly wrong with our priorities.
I understand the importance of remittances.
The latest worldwide figures indicate that about $850B was remitted by citizens of various countries working overseas in 2022, with the Philippines coming in fourth with about $38B.
India, Mexico and China are the first three. India gets $100B followed by Mexico with $60B and China with $51B.
The $38B remitted by our overseas workers is admittedly a lot of money and helps in keeping the country afloat because we are always spending more than we earn but the price that we are paying is too high.
It does not have to be this way with better planning and getting our priorities right.
We can still deploy our citizens to work abroad but we have to be more selective and deploy only those that are easy to monitor.
We must not send our vulnerable citizens who will work basically as indentured servants in private homes where monitoring is extremely difficult if not almost impossible.
How many more Jullebee Ranara cases are we prepared to accept to convince the government to stop deploying domestic helpers to countries where sexual assaults and murders are happening?
I really wonder how much of the $38B being remitted to the country are coming from our domestic helpers.
My guess is that it constitutes only a small part of what is being remitted.
If we look at the countries where remittances are coming from, the United States is still the top with about 40.5 per cent of all remittances.
Among the top 10, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar are the Middle Eastern countries on the list.
Singapore, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Taiwan and South Korea round up the rest. And if I am not mistaken, the deployment of workers to Kuwait was just recently resumed because of another case that happened during the term of then President Duterte.
As we already know, about 10 per cent of our population are scattered all over the globe working and sacrificing to send money to their families.
The best thing the government can do is to develop programs that ensures the safety of our citizens and one of these is to stop sending our women to work as virtual slaves in countries with no women’s right for the sake of the money that they send home.
What happened to Jullebee Ranasa should outrage us all and Secretary Susan Ople should ban the deployment of domestic workers to Kuwait immediately.
That is the least that she can do.