The recent death of another Filipino domestic in Kuwait has prompted the government to impose a partial deployment ban on the Gulf state. But given Kuwait's poor track record, we would argue that the partial ban—which bars the deployment of first-time household workers and those returning on new contracts—is not enough.
We know very little about Jeanalyn Villavende, a native of Nuralla in South Cotabato. who was beaten “black and blue” by the wife of her Kuwaiti employer in December 2019.
We do know that as early as September 2019, she had complained to her recruitment agency about being maltreated and underpaid, but the agency did nothing.
We also know that the last time her family was able to talk to Jeanalyn was in October 2019.
This is not the first time an abusive employer killed a Filipino domestic in Kuwait.
In February 2018, the Philippines imposed a total deployment ban on Kuwait after the body of Joanna Demafelis was found inside a freezer—killed by her employers.
The ban was lifted three months later, in May 2018, after Manila and Kuwait signed an agreement on the protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III says the partial ban may “ripen” into a total deployment ban if justice is not served to Villavende, whose employer apparently works for the Kuwait Interior Department.
The Labor Department reports that Jeanalyn's employers are now under arrest—but fears of a whitewash persist.
In the meantime, we are learning that not all of the provisions of the May 2018 agreement with Kuwait have been implemented.
For instance, the agreement called for the establishment of an escrow fund that would be used to pay for the monetary claims or unpaid benefits our Filipino household workers should their employers refuse to pay them their claims. This provision has gone unimplemented upon a request by the Kuwaiti government.
But a group championing migrant workers says even the escrow fund would not be enough to curb abuses against Filipino domestics in Kuwait.
“The abuses will continue. The only plus there is the workers are assured of compensation,” an official of Kampi, Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino Inc., was quoted as saying.
ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap, on the other hand, has urged the government to hold off on the deployment ban, saying it should first investigate to see if there were lapses on the part of the Kuwaiti government.
With due respect to the congressman, we feel the time for such actions have passed. The lapses are as clear as the black and blue bruises on Jeanalyn's body. We need to move swiftly to prevent more Filipino domestics from being abused and killed in Kuwait. A careful investigation will not do that; a total ban will.