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A total and permanent ban

Last week, we had argued in favor of a total deployment ban in Kuwait, after a Filipino domestic was beaten to death, purportedly by her employer, despite an agreement with the Gulf state in 2018 to protect our nationals working there as household help.

This week, that argument was bolstered by the revelation that Kuwait authorities had sent a “fake and dishonest” autopsy result for Jeanalyn Villavende, 26, who died at the hands of her Kuwaiti employers in December 2019.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III called for a permanent deployment ban of Filipino migrant workers after Kuwaiti forensic doctors sent a two-sentence report of the autopsy that concluded that the Filipina worker died of “physical injuries.”

Bello, who visited Villavende’s wake in Norala town, South Cotabato, said he ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct its own autopsy, because he found the report sent by the Kuwaiti government to be made up of lies and “worthless.”

Because of this, Bello said he would recommend to the governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to impose a deployment ban of household service workers to Kuwait.

“We will send nobody there. These Kuwaitis are worthless. Look at what they did to our fellow Filipino,” Bello said in Filipino. “We will not allow injustice [to] done to our [workers.] We will see to it that the culprits will answer for their crimes.”

Making matters worse, the NBI autopsy report said there were signs that Villavende was sexually violated before she was killed.

Philippine officials earlier said the suspect was already in custody, but fears persist that a whitewash will ensue, since Villavende’s employer works for the Kuwait Interior Department.

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.

Now, almost two years later, we learn that certain provisions of that agreement have still not been carried out, primarily because of the Kuwaitis.

It is also becoming painfully apparent that the 2018 agreement did nothing to keep Villavende safe—and alive.

When there is a world to consider, why should we continue sending our workers to a state that cannot keep them safe? We agree with Secretary Bello that we should impose a total and permanent ban to deployment to Kuwait—and say good riddance to abusive employers.

Topics: Gulf war , Silvestre Bello III , Jeanalyn Villavende , National Bureau of Investigation , Kuwait , Middle east , Philippine Overseas Employment Administration

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