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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will not lift its partial suspension on deploying domestic workers to Kuwait without justice for slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jullebee Ranara, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday, May 15.
Following Kuwait’s recent move to suspend the issuance of all new entry visas for Filipinos, a Philippine delegation is set to fly to Kuwait to discuss next steps, Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Eduardo de Vega said in a House hearing on Monday. In February, the Philippines halted the applications of first-time domestic workers bound for Kuwait following the brutal killing of Ranara allegedly by her employer’s son.
De Vega earlier said that Kuwait may have made the move to apply diplomatic pressure on the Philippines to lift the suspension on domestic workers.
“Of course… [a] non-negotiable is that there has to be justice for Jullebee Ranara and improvement in the conditions of our workers,” said De Vega.
“Let’s say biglang, for some reason, next month, two months from now, dinismiss nila ‘yung kaso bigla laban sa pumatay kay Jullebee. Ang hirap naman i-lift ‘yung ban, ‘no?” he said. (Let’s say suddenly, for some reason, next month or two months from now, they dismissed the case against the person who allegedly killed Jullebee. That would make it difficult to lift the ban, right?)
De Vega said the delegation, composed of officials from the DFA, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration flew out on Monday afternoon.
Justice for Ranara was just one of the “non-negotiables” De Vega and DMW Undersecretary Hans Cacdac mentioned in the House hearing. De Vega said in an earlier interview with ABS-CBN that Kuwait had an issue with the Philippines operating shelters for runaway workers. The foreign undersecretary said that the shelters would be there to stay.
“We will not compromise on the need to protect our workers and to secure justice for Ranara, and certainly the shelter… we will not close that. Let’s see how we can come to a compromise because Kuwait has a different position on it,” De Vega said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Cacdac said that another non-negotiable condition from the Philippine side is the avoidance of another brutal OFW death. (READ: DMW to assess OFW welfare in Kuwait following Jullebee Ranara killing)
“Wala na dapat Pilipino o Pilipina na masasaktan, mahahalay, magugulpi, and worse, mamamatay, sa kamay ng kanilang mga employer o sino man. Kaya’t sisiguraduhin naitn na dapat merong mga probisyon patungkol sa pag-prevent, pag-avoid ng mga abuses, at pag-address nito – access to justice at iba pang mga reporma sa kontrata para hindi na po maulit ‘yung nangyari kay Jullebee,” said Cacdac.
(There must be no more Filipino who will get hurt, raped, beaten, or even worse, killed, at the hands of their employers or anyone else. So we will make sure that there will be provisions to prevent, avoid, and address abuses. There should be access to justice and other reforms in the contract so that what happened to Jullebee will not happen again.)
De Vega said that as of Monday, there are 466 runaway workers at the shelter in Kuwait.
Meanwhile, Cacdac said that the DMW has monitored around 800 skilled workers who were issued overseas employment contracts and were bound for Kuwait and may have been affected. He said the DMW has encountered at least nine workers affected by Kuwait’s blanket ban – seven who were not allowed to enter Kuwait and had to return to the Philippines, and another two who got stranded in Dubai. The Philippine labor attaché assisted the two in Dubai in their return to the country.
“Just like the way we protect our national territory, our economic interests, [and] our cultural values, we respond [to Kuwait’s move by saying] we will always resolve things through diplomacy but not at the expense of the national pride and honor. After all, we’re talking about the safety and welfare of our countrymen,” said De Vega. – Rappler.com