The Philippine government recently affirmed the total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait. The ban will stay until certain conditions set by the Philippines are met by the Kuwaiti government.
Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the deployment ban is lifted once the country gets justice for the death of Jeanelyn Pardenal Villavende, as well as an approved consensus on the standard employment contract of household service workers (HSWs).
“If we don’t get these, there will be no deployment. It should be both,” Bello said in a press briefing in Manila.
He said the ban was based on several reasons, among them Villavende’s brutal death and the host country’s attempt to cover up the case.
“Three reasons: One, because of the very brutal killing of our OFW, Ms. Jeanelyn Villavende. Two, because of an attempt to cover-up. Three, because of the failure of the Kuwaiti government to come to an agreement regarding the finalization of the standard employment contract that should be agreed upon by Kuwait and the Philippines in accordance with the memorandum that was signed between the two counties in 2018,” Bello said.
The OFW, he said, was brutally killed based on the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which conducted a separate autopsy on Villavende.
“If you see the autopsy report of the Kuwaiti government, it says that the death was caused by heart failure arising from physical injury. This is contradicted by the findings of our NBI autopsy report, which says that she was sexually abused. A closer scrutiny of the report would show that our OFW Jeanelyn was brutally killed,” Bello said.
Asked about Kuwait’s reaction to the deployment ban, he said they have not yet received any response but they have already requested that the ban be lifted because according to them, they have already charged Villavende’s alleged killers.
Bello explained that the total deployment ban was imposed to prevent a repeat of what happened to Villavende.
“We understand the sentiment of those who will be barred because of the total deployment ban. But we hope they understand our position,” he said. “We don’t want that if we send our workers there, they will again be exposed to (the) dangers of brutal treatment, abuses, including sexual abuse.”
Bello clarified that OFWs who will come home for a vacation would be exempted from the ban.
“This refers to skilled workers or OFWs who will come home for a vacation and they will go back. Kung new contract, hindi na (Those who have new contracts would no longer be allowed),” he said.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) lauded the government’s total deployment ban.
“The action is appropriate. We cannot continue to sacrifice the lives of our workers to the altar of Kuwait in exchange (for) foreign employment,” FFW president Sonny Matula said in a statement. “The constitutional mandate on full protection to labor, local or overseas, includes banning of deployment overseas as not to be exploited, abused and being killed.”
Last Wednesday, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration approved a resolution imposing a total deployment ban on all newly-hired workers bound for Kuwait. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)