Pinoy Abroad

DMW eyeing more safeguards for OFWs in Kuwait after Ranara slay

By HANA BORDEY,GMA Integrated News

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) is not considering the imposition of a deployment ban against Kuwait following the brutal death of an overseas Filipino worker.

"No, we’re not contemplating the suspension of deployment to Kuwait, but yes, we are looking at additional safeguards and reforms to make sure that our workers bound for Kuwait are better protected," Ople said in a press conference at the Senate.

The DMW secretary explained that the case of Jullebee Ranara was a crime committed by a Kuwaiti national but not the government itself.

"Brutal, hindi dahil gustong gawin ng Kuwaiti government. Brutal dahil halimaw yung anak ng employer. For whatever reason, walang bansa o walang matinong tao that would welcome such behavior," Ople said.

"Now, should we condemn the Kuwaiti government sa kagagawan ng anak ng employer? I think those are two separate things," she added.

Further, Ople said the Kuwaiti police have also responded quickly to the death of Ranara.

"Ang nakikita namin on the ground, mabilis umaksyon yung Kuwaiti government sa pag-aresto don at sa ngayon, malapit na masakdal for the crime," she said.

At the same time, Ople said the DWM "condemned in the harshest words possible the commitment of this crime."

On Monday, Ople vowed justice for the death of Ranara-- a 35-year-old OFW whose body was found burned and was retrieved in the desert.

The DMW said Kuwaiti authorities have arrested the son of the victim's employer.

Ranara's death is the latest of Filipino fatalities in Kuwait in recent years.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte earlier directed the OFW deployment ban to Kuwait following the killing of Filipina domestic worker Joanna Daniela Demafelis in 2018.

Demafelis was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment in the Gulf state. Reports said Demafelis' employers, a Lebanese man, and his Syrian wife, hid the body in the freezer before fleeing the apartment.

Duterte then appealed to Arab nations to treat Filipino workers with dignity and respect.

A partial lifting of the ban took place in May 2018 after the signing of the protection deal for overseas Filipino workers in the Gulf state.


But in May 2019, the Labor Department said 47-year-old overseas Filipino worker Constancia Lago Dayag died at the hands of her employer also in Kuwait.

In 2020, it was reported that Jeanelyn Villavende was killed by her female employer in Kuwait due to jealousy on December 28, 2019.

Results of the autopsy made by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Health showed that the victim died after multiple organ failures following a severe beating.

Reports said Villavende’s female employer was served the death penalty while her husband was charged with 4-year imprisonment for covering up and not reporting the crime.

In February 2020, the Philippine government lifted the deployment ban on Filipino migrant workers to Kuwait.

Then-Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced this after the Kuwaiti government conceded to the conditions set by the Philippines during a board meeting at that time.

Ople said it was time to impose stricter screening for employers.

"We will reach out to the Kuwaiti Government. Panahon na siguro ireview ng bilateral agreement na 2018 pa yata yon para magaya bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia na mas maraming safeguards para sa proteksyon ng ating mga manggagawa," she said.

However, Senator Jinggoy Estrada wanted the Philippine government to impose a deployment ban against Kuwait due to numerous cases of OFWs deaths in the said country.

"Ako nanggigigil ako dito sa bansang Kuwait sapagkat sa dami kong nababalitaan, and it is also recorded, marami na ho talagang panga-abuso na ginagawa itong mga amo nitong ating mga OFW. That’s why, I want to recommend to the Department of Migrant Workers to ban our OFWs from working in the state of Kuwait," Estrada, chairman of the Senate labor, employment, and human resources development, said during the interpellation of his privilege speech.

In his privilege speech, Estrada stressed that regardless of the agreement that was reached by the two governments, "we still failed to shield" our countrymen from abusive employers.

"Gustuhin man nating itrato ito bilang isang isolated case, hindi natin maikakaila na ang Kuwait ay isa sa mga bansa na may mataas na kaso ng pang-aabuso at pagkamatay ng ating mga OFWs," he said.

The lawmaker urged the DMW as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs to craft a mechanism wherein the government can monitor the conditions of the OFWs and the screening of the possible employers to assure that Filipinos "will not end up in the hands of exploitative and vicious individuals."

He also wanted the Kafala system to be removed, saying this results in modern-day slavery.

Under "kafala," all foreign workers require a local sponsor—an individual or company—and need the permission of this employer to switch jobs or leave the country.

Estrada also suggested the government deploy OFWs to countries that are signatories of the International Labor Organization's Domestic Workers Convention.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros hoped for the Senate's positive action in ratifying the ILO Convention 189 which concerns the welfare of domestic workers across the globe. 

However, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri disclosed that the ILO convention is yet to be transmitted to the chamber. —NB, GMA Integrated News