PH gov’t approves total deployment ban for Kuwait following domestic worker’s death

Slain OFW Jeanelyn Villavende. <i>Photo: Villavende/FB</i>
Slain OFW Jeanelyn Villavende. Photo: Villavende/FB

The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) yesterday approved a total ban on deploying Filipino workers to Kuwait following the suspected murder of Jeanelyn Villavende there last month.

The POEA, which oversees the welfare of Filipino migrant workers, approved the deployment ban based on the recommendation of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the head of its governing board, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.  Bello made the recommendation after an autopsy conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation showed that aside from being injured, Villavende was sexually assaulted before she died.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the former domestic worker died of “acute failure of heart and respiration as [a] result by shock and multiple injuries in the vascular nervous system.”

Read: Remains of Filipina worker allegedly killed by Kuwaiti employer returned home

The Kuwaiti government’s autopsy did not indicate that Villavende was sexually abused, but said she was merely physically injured, leading Bello to call the Kuwaitis “useless.”

The Labor Department said the ban will cover all workers planning to move to Kuwait, and could possibly also affect tourists who want to visit the Gulf country, according to GMA News. It was in 2016 when President Rodrigo Duterte first ordered a total deployment ban to Kuwait following the death of domestic worker Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer.

But in spite of the shocking nature of both Villavende’s and Demafelis’ deaths, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin lashed out at the POEA over the ban, accusing it of playing politics and seeking to use Villavende’s death to force Kuwait to sign a labor standards agreement that would be hard to implement in the Gulf country. (Right, because forcing Kuwait to step up its labor standards would apparently just be awful.)

“POEA wants to use torture/murder of OFW Jeanalyn Villavende as leverage to get Kuwait to sign on to labor standards,” the often controversial top diplomat tweeted. “Signing on doesn’t mean observing in Middle East. I will not use Jeanalyn as leverage. I want an eye for an eye, 2, 3 Kuwaiti lives for a Filipino life that’s all.”

Villavende’s unidentified employers have been arrested in connection with her killing. The Foreign Affairs Department said they have commissioned a top Kuwaiti lawyer to pursue the case against Villavende’s former bosses.


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