President Rodrigo Duterte is “outraged” over the death of a domestic worker in Kuwait, his spokesman said today, as the Philippines implemented a partial deployment ban of migrant workers to the Gulf country.
In a press conference in Malacañang Palace, Salvador Panelo discussed the consequences of the death of Jeanelyn Villavende, a Filipina allegedly killed by her employer who had been arrested by Kuwaiti police in connection with the crime.
“The president is outraged by that,” Panelo said. “It’s a violation of the agreement between the two countries. The incident is under investigation and the [Department of Labor] secretary … has executed a partial deployment [ban]. Let’s see if it becomes full deployment of the ban.”
Panelo said, however, that the government is not yet considering cutting ties with Kuwait. “That’s too serious,” he said of the possibility. “Let’s see how this develops first.”
At present, Villavende’s body is undergoing a forensic examination and the government is coordinating with members of her family for its repatriation.
Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced today on radio station Dobol B that the Philippines will temporarily stop sending first-time domestic workers to work in Kuwait. He said, however, that the deployment ban will not cover returning migrant workers and skilled workers moving to Kuwait for the first time.
Belo also said changes should be made to the template used for contracts when hiring Filipino domestic workers. He said it should include provisions prohibiting the confiscation of passports and cell phones, as well as giving the workers the right to choose which meals to eat.
He added that recruitment agencies should ensure that the workers are being properly treated by their employers.
“That’s part of their obligation when they deploy someone. They can’t just leave them to fend for themselves after earning money from them (workers). They have a responsibility to ensure that the person they deployed ended up with good employers; they should periodically check the condition of the people whom they have deployed,” Bello said in English and Filipino.
In a statement released by Panelo yesterday, he said Villavende’s killing was a “clear disregard of the agreement signed by both our country and Kuwait in 2018 which seeks to uphold and promote the protection of the rights and welfare of our workers in Kuwait.”
The said agreement was signed after Duterte imposed a deployment ban on Kuwait in 2016 following the death of a domestic worker named Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer. After the discovery of Demafelis’ remains, Duterte accused Arab employers of raping their Filipina workers, overworking them, and feeding them scraps.