By Leslie Ann Aquino and Marjaleen Ramos
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Thursday announced that the government is set to impose a partial ban on the deployment of household service workers to Kuwait.
In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the partial ban may become a total deployment ban “if justice for Jeanelyn Villavende is not met.”
Villavende was the Filipino worker who died recently in Kuwait.
“This should serve as a clear message to Kuwaiti authorities,” Bello said.
In a Palace briefing, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said a full deployment ban of Filipino household service workers to Kuwait would depend on Bello’s recommendation.
“The Secretary of Labor has already executed a partial deployment. Let’s see if it becomes full deployment of the ban… That (full deployment ban) will depend on the endorsement or recommendation of Secretary Bello,” he said.
Panelo, however, dismissed suggestions that the Philippines should cut ties with Kuwait but said that would also depend on the recommendation of the Labor Secretary.
“Baka naman masyado nang seryoso ‘yon. Tignan natin how it develops. As I said earlier, depende yun sa recommendation ni Secretary Bello (I think that is too serious already. Let’s see how it develops. As I said earlier, that would depend on the recommendation of Secretary Bello),” Panelo said.
Bello clarified that the partial deployment ban will cover only first time workers who will serve as household service workers to Kuwait, and excludes skilled and vacationing workers.
Based on preliminary reports submitted by Labor Attache Nassar Mustafa of the Philippine Labor Office in Kuwait, Villevende was beaten to death, and was already dead when brought to a hospital. Attending nurses reported that she was “black and blue.”
Bello said the local placement agency that sent Villavende to the Gulf estate faces possible cancellation of its license for its failure to act on her request for repatriation months prior to her brutal death in the hands of her Kuwaiti employer.
“We will also ask Villavende’s recruitment agency to explain its inaction. As early as September, she already complained about maltreatment and underpayment of salary. She also repeatedly requested the agency for repatriation but it did not do anything,” he said.
DOLE said Villavende’s family was last able to talk to her in October, 2019.
“On December 13, the family again called Jeanelyn but her female employer was the one who answered the call and said that the OFW was busy,” said DOLE.
It added that the exact date of Villavende’s death will be determined after the autopsy.
Officials said the OFW’s employer is currently detained in Kuwait.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, who went to Norala, South Cotabato to condole with Villavende’s family, meantime, said that death and burial benefits will be extended to the OFW, while her family will receive livelihood assistance and educational scholarship for her youngest sibling.
The partial ban was recommended by Mustafa and is subject to the approval of the governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). (With a report from Argyll Geducos)