By Antonio Colina
President Duterte said he will order the arrest of the illegal recruiters who are sending Filipino workers abroad and warned to hold responsible those government officials conniving with them.
The President said this after ordered a ban on the deployment ban of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait due to the increasing number of abuses and deaths, including Filipina Joanne Daniela Demafelis whose body was recently discovered inside a freezer of an abandoned apartment in Al-Shaab, Kuwait.
“I want all of them, connected already by this time, arrested and placed behind bars, to face charges. I will order Aguirre to issue the order. It’s a continuing crime. I will not go to a specific visa or passport that was issued with their intervention,” Duterte said during a press conference Friday evening at the Matina Enclaves.
The President ordered the police, National Bureau of Investigation, and Philippine Coast Guard to “walk the extra” mile to ensure no illegally recruited Filipino workers can sneak into airports’ security and even the country’s backdoor.
The Chief Executive said he wants illegal recruiters detained and charged.
“Nonbailable ang nagi-illegal recruitment (Illegal recruitment is nonbailable),” he said.
Duterte ordered the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait, expressing alarm over the increasing number of deaths of Filipino workers due to the abuses by their employers. He said 103 deaths were reported in 2017 as compared with 82 in 2016 in Kuwait.
He said “a review of the incidents of violence, curtailment of freedom and abuse of basic human rights committed against Filipino workers” compelled the government to question what it has done to protect and give justice to the distressed OFWs.
Duterte said he could no longer endure the abuses committed against the Filipino workers there and appealed to the Kuwaiti government and to the Arab employers to treat them with dignity, respect their basic human rights, and keep them free from harm.
“We send to you a Filipino worker, hale and healthy, determined to work his heart out in order to give a decent and comfortable life in the Philippines. Do not give us back a battered worker or a mutilated corpse,” Duterte said.
He added that Filipino workers are not slaves and that “every unlawful physical injury that is inflicted on an OFW is an injury that I personally bear as the head of this Republic.”
Duterte added abuses committed against overseas workers are an affront against the Philippines as a sovereign nation.
The President lamented the inaction of the Kuwaiti government on the abuses, despite helping the Kuwaiti government than when it resisted the invasion of its neighboring Gulf state, Iraq.
“We were there, were enthusiastic, we fought to protect your interests. We did not fail you. How come my countrymen are suffering brutality, cruelty, and death and you seem to be oblivious about it?” he said.
“What are you doing to my countrymen? If I were to do it to your citizens here, would you be happy?” he asked.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who fully supports the deployment ban to Kuwait, said he earlier recommended to the President that the suspension of processing and issuances of new overseas employment certificates (OECs) would remain until after they could determine the cause of death of seven OFWs from December 2017 until January 2018 and unless the Kuwaiti government signs the memorandum of understanding (MOU).
Bello added that MOU, which awaits signature from the Kuwaiti government, has been pending for three years. He said it would provide for the additional protection for Filipino workers in Kuwait.