Senate of the Philippines

Senators slam ‘ineffective’ monitoring of Jullebee Ranara’s recruitment agency

Michelle Abad

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Senators slam ‘ineffective’ monitoring of Jullebee Ranara’s recruitment agency

SEEKING JUSTICE. Women's rights group Gabriela leads a protest calling for justice for slain overseas Filipino worker Jullebee Ranara at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City on January 27, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) The recruitment agency of slain OFW Jullebee Ranara says it did not receive reports of her being abused. But a day before she died, Ranara complained to her family about the 'cruelty' of her employer's son.

MANILA, Philippines – Senators Raffy Tulfo and Joel Villanueva in a hearing on Wednesday, February 8, grilled a representative of the recruitment agency that deployed slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jullebee Ranara to Kuwait over what they called a lack of monitoring of Ranara’s situation before she was killed.

Lawyer David Castillon of Catalist International Manpower Services said the agency regularly checked on Ranara’s situation in her employer’s home. According to Castillon, Ranara told the agency that she was fine and her employer was kind. The agency also saw that she was regularly posting on her social media accounts, and did not see indications that she was being abused, unlike other OFWs Castillon has monitored who posted about abuse.

Ang aming action po, kami po is nagmo-monitor talaga. Under the law, ‘pag nalaman po namin kahit anong insidente kung halimbawa kung merong pang-aabuso, maski hindi sila sinahuran, within five days required po talaga ang agency [umaksiyon],” said Castillon.

(We really monitor. Under the law, when we find out about any incident of abuse or non-payment of salary, within five days the agency must take action.)

Senators slam ‘ineffective’ monitoring of Jullebee Ranara’s recruitment agency

Villanueva interjected that on January 20, a day before Ranara was found dead in the desert, she told her family that “she was experiencing cruelty” from the 17-year-old son of her employer. “She even recounted an incident where she was threatened with an ice pick. Nasaan kayo nito (Where were you)?” he said.

Castillon said Ranara only reported these incidents to her parents, and not to the agency.

“You’re not monitoring. That’s why your monitoring is ineffective. Inutil ‘yung monitoring ‘nyo, am I right or am I right? I’m just asking you. You think your monitoring system works? You’re saying everyday you check, you monitor? A day before she died, ganito ang situation (this was the situation),” said Villanueva.

Tulfo asked what the recruitment agency monitored on Ranara’s TikTok account. Castillon said one particular post that he took note of was a video of Ranara lip-syncing to an audio clip that said, “Kung kasalanan ang pumatol sa mas bata, eh di sorry.”

In Filipino, patol is a colloquial term that can mean either fighting with someone or romantic involvement. It is unclear what Ranara meant by the TikTok post or who she was referring to. The video was posted on December 20, 2022.

“So therefore you knew that something wrong was happening. Then you should have called her attention, talked to her, asked her, ‘What is this post, Jullebee? It looks like there’s something wrong here.’ You should have talked to her employer, but you didn’t do anything,” said Tulfo in a mix of English and Filipino.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) earlier reported that the licenses of Catalist and its foreign counterpart, Platinum International Office for Recruitment of Domestic Manpower, were suspended following Ranara’s death.

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Alleged ‘relationship, pregnancy’

Castillon said Catalist’s foreign recruitment agency (FRA) counterpart found in its investigation that Ranara “had a relationship” with the suspect.

Tulfo asked for proof of the relationship, which led Castillon to explain that the FRA found Ranara was allegedly five months pregnant, there was reportedly evidence on her cell phone, and it was also drawn from the interview with the 17-year-old suspect, who has since been apprehended.

The information was submitted to the Kuwaiti embassy, Castillon said. His agency also submitted it to the DMW.

Arab media had also reported that Ranara was pregnant when she died.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Arnell Ignacio, citing Ranara’s autopsy report from the Kuwaiti government, said Ranara’s uterus was not in the body and that there was no “categorical mention” of pregnancy.

Tulfo said it was possible that the foreign agency “doctored” its investigation following Ranara’s death. The senators moved to strike from the Senate committee’s record everything Castillon said that was related to Ranara’s reproductive health.

Ranara’s family asked the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation to conduct another autopsy, but the NBI’s report has not been publicly released as of writing.

The DMW has also yet to publicly release official documentation on Ranara’s killing. But Ignacio said in the Wednesday hearing that the Kuwaiti autopsy report showed a fractured skull, face, and lower jaw, recent bruises, and a ravaged brain.

DMW Undersecretary Anthonette Velasco-Allones also said in the hearing that, effective immediately, the applications of first-time domestic workers bound for Kuwait will be deferred until after reforms are made in bilateral talks between the Philippines and Kuwait. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.