Manila denounces gruesome slaying of Filipina maid in Kuwait

Stranded passengers including overseas Filipino workers take shelter under an elevated highway outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, June 11, 2020. Photo: Basilio Sepe/BenarNews
Stranded passengers including overseas Filipino workers take shelter under an elevated highway outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, June 11, 2020. Photo: Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

The Philippines on Tuesday denounced the killing of a Filipina maid in Kuwait, whose body was reportedly burnt and found dumped in the desert at the weekend.

Manila has periodically imposed bans on the deployment of its migrant labor force to Kuwait after the gruesome deaths of several Filipino domestic workers in the Persian Gulf country that hosts more than 200,000 of them.

The body of Jullebee Ranara, the 35-year-old victim, was found Sunday, days after her family in the Philippines said they had lost contact with her. Autopsy findings showed that the Filipina was pregnant, according to information cited by Philippine senators and received from Manila’s embassy in Kuwait.

“[We] urge the Kuwaiti government to work on the early resolution of the case and its perpetrators brought to justice,” Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said during an interview on the dzBB radio station on Tuesday. 

“According to the mother, Jullebee has been complaining about her employer’s son, who was abusive. In fact, there was a time that he threatened her.”

She added that she visited Ranara’s family on Monday and assured them that the department would provide all the necessary support, including death and burial assistance, and scholarships for Ranara’s four children. 

Ople said the employer’s 17-year-old son appeared to be the “primary suspect.” He “is now under the custody of the Kuwaiti police,” Ople said.

Separately, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, citing reports that he had received, said the victim had been “beaten, ran over by the perpetrator’s car twice and … burnt and left for dead in the desert.” The details, he said, were based on an autopsy report.

Ople said it might be time to ensure more stringent safeguards for Philippine workers.

“We will reach out to the Kuwaiti government. Maybe it’s time to review the 2018 bilateral labor agreement so it would be similar to the bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia which has more safeguards for our workers,” Ople said.

Manila had earlier banned the deployment of workers to Kuwait owing to a sharp rise in Filipino deaths there. Then-President Rodrigo Duterte made the decision after the body of 29-year-old Joanna Demafelis, who also worked as a domestic helper, was found stuffed in a freezer.

The ban was lifted in 2018 after Duterte signed an agreement with the Kuwaiti government to ensure better treatment of Filipino workers.

The agreement guaranteed Filipinos’ right to use their phones and keep their passports, which are usually confiscated by Arab employers. The agreement also said that workers or Philippine authorities had to approve transfers to another employer.

Despite the agreement, Filipino domestic workers continued to die under abusive conditions.

In May 2019, Constancia Lago Dayag, 47, was killed by her employer after being physically and sexually assaulted.

The killing of another Filipino domestic worker, Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende, 26, prompted Manila to again halt deployment to Kuwait in January 2020. Deployment resumed the following month after charges were filed against her employers.

Ranara’s killing, though, may not lead to a deployment ban, Ople said, noting that the Kuwaiti government had been quick to arrest the suspect, the teenage son of the victim’s employer.

Migrante Philippines, an alliance of local migrants group, called for an outright end to the government’s labor export program.

“Despite the sufferings of our countrymen, the DMW still wants to continue the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait and similar countries,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Instead of selling Filipino workers abroad, the government must find a sustainable reintegration program for overseas Filipino workers,” it added.

Sen. Rita Hontiveros echoed the sentiment.

“True justice can only be achieved if we ensure the protection of our fellow citizens who work far from the motherland,” she said.

“The most important thing we can possibly do for our OFW (overseas Filipino workers) is to make sure to better our economy so that no one has to leave the country to provide for their families.”

Basilio Sepe in Manila contributed to this report.

Copyright ©2015-2022, BenarNews. Used with the permission of BenarNews



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