Philippines sets 'partial' deployment ban to Kuwait

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE)  – The Philippine government imposed a partial deployment ban to Kuwait following the recent death of another overseas Filipino worker (OFW). 

The ban, earlier announced on Thursday, January 2, became effective after the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued a resolution on Friday, January 3, "to...effect a deployment ban for newly hired domestic workers to Kuwait effective immediately."

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Thursday that he sent a memorandum to POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia on the proposed deployment ban to Kuwait following the recommendation of Labor Attache Nassar Mustafa.

“With the recent reported cases of maltreatment and deaths involving OFWs in Kuwait, you are hereby instructed to immediately convene the Governing Board for the immediate issuance of a deployment ban involving Visa 20 (domestic workers) new hires and balik-manggagawa. The issuance should include moratorium on the processing and verification of individual contracts and additional Job Order for the same category of workers,” Bello said in the memo.

The POEA issued a resolution adopting the memorandum and implementing the ban on Friday.

Who will the ban cover? First time household service workers with overseas employment certificates issued after 5 pm on January 3 will be barred from leaving to work in Kuwait.

Skilled and vacationing workers will not be covered by the ban.

What happened? OFW Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende was beaten to death in December 2019, purportedly at the hands of her employer. Villavende was already dead when she was brought to the hospital, where nurses on call reported she was "black and blue.'

Kuwaiti authorities have since taken custody of Villavende’s female employer following her death.

According to DOLE, Villavende informed her recruitment agency of maltreatment and underpayment under her employer as early as September. Despite this, the agency did not act on Villavende's case.

DOLE said the recruitment agency faces the possible cancellation of its license following Villavende's brutal death.

Breaching agreements. The Philippine government slammed Villavende’s death, with Malacañang saying it was a “clear violation” of the agreement signed by both Kuwait and the Philippines in 2018 that seeks to uphold and promote the protection of the rights and welfare of Filipino workers in the Gulf state. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs also summoned the Kuwaiti Ambassador in Manila following Villavende’s death “to express the government’s outrage over the seeming lack of protection” of Filipino domestic workers in the Middle Eastern country.

It urged for “complete transparency” and swift justice in investigating Villavende’s death and prosecuting those responsible for her perpetrators “to the fullest extent of the law.”

Why this matters. At least two other Filipina domestic workers died in Kuwait over the last two years.

In February 2018, Joanna Demafelis’ body was found in a freezer in her employers’ abandoned apartment in Kuwait City. Investigators found she had been dead for two years.

In May 2019, Constancia Lago Dayag was declared dead in a hospital in Kuwait after apparently being beaten and sexually abused by her employer.

Demafelis’ case triggered a diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Kuwait, which resulted in an agreement to prohibit employers from confiscating Filipino workers’ passports and other documents, allowing workers to use cellular phones, and to require their consent before being transferred to other employers.

Over 240,000 Filipinos hold jobs in Kuwait, with more than half being female domestic workers. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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