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'Total ban on Filipino deployment to Kuwait'; family of slain Filipina maid seeks justice

Angered by report of her body found in Kuwait freezer, Duterte calls for assistance

Gulf News

Manila: The Philippines is set to ban the deployment of new Filipino workers to Kuwait from Monday, it was announced on Saturday.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III is set to issue on Monday, February 12, a total deployment ban order of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait, according to the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

“A formal order on total deployment ban will be issued by Secretary (Silvestre) Bello on Monday,” said DOLE Spokesperson Raul Francia told PNA on Saturday.

The DOLE official said they still have to thresh out other details, specifically on the workers that would be covered by the order.

“(Regarding new recruits), that has to be clarified in the order to be issued by the Secretary on Monday,” Francia said.

With this, he noted that the labor chief is set to meet with two airline companies, which both expressed willingness to help repatriate OFWs.

“He’s meeting with PAL and Cebu Pacific because they signified willingness to help,” Francia added.

He also explained that the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to bring home OFWs within 72 hours only covers workers who would like to come home, distressed workers and the 2,000 who applied for amnesty .

“Yung (order) to go home in 72 hours, that covers those who want to come home, it involves the 2,000 more or less na covered ng amnesty ng Kuwait. ‘Yung mga in distressed,” Francia added. 

Call for justice 

Meanwihle, the family of a slain overseas Filipina worker has called for justice and the immediate repatriation of her body to the Philippines. 

Outraged by report that her body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered massive repatriation assistance to OFWs who want to leave Kuwait.

“I am appealing to the government, help us seek justice for my daughter’s death,” Eva Demafelis, mother of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, told ABS CBN network after she, her husband, and children arrived in Manila from their hometown in Iloilo, central Philippines on Saturday.

“I want her remains to be brought back to us immediately,” said Crisanto Demafelis, father of the slain OFW. She started working in Kuwait in 2014, to help her family and support her siblings, one of whom finished a course in criminology, family members said.

Communication with her family in Iloilo was regular during her first three months in Kuwait. In 2016, her contract was extended for another year. When no word came from her in February 2017, family members said they sought assistance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

OWWA is now processing papers for Demafelis’ insurance and burial coverage, including livelihood assistance for her family, an official said, adding that Filipino officials overseas did their best to locate Demafelis since 2017, but failed because her recruitment agency had closed its office.

The recruitment ban of OFWs to Kuwait will continue until the Philippine government finds the true causes of death of seven OFWs, including the case of Demafelis,” said Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello.

Meanwhile, tickets for 800 OFWs — mostly domestic helpers — have been booked. “They will be repatriated in batches from February 11 to 13,” said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola, adding she was implementing Duterte’s order to assist all OFWs who want to return to the Philippines.

"Those who want to be repatriated, with or without money, I will ask PAL (Philippine Airlines) and Cebu Pacific to provide the transportation. I want them out of the country (Kuwait) in 72 hours,” said Duterte in Davao City, southern Philippines on Friday.

“I am ready to take drastic steps that will help preserve Filipino life and limb. We do not intend to offend any government or anyone. But if a ban is what is needed, let it be so,” said Duterte.

“Why are all these guys (OFWs) suffering? They are there (abroad) because their children cannot go to school if they do not sacrifice. A family becomes dysfunctional once a mother or father works overseas,” said Duterte about sacrifices of Filipinos. He ordered for the arrest of the recruiters of OFWs who died in Kuwait; and human traffickers who try to send OFWs to Kuwait during the recruitment ban.

“The Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere,” Duterte continued, “Every unlawful physical injury inflicted on an OFW is an injury I personally bear as the head of this republic. Every abuse committed against an OFW is an affront against us as a sovereign nation. I was reading this report (of abuses) complete with pictures while aboard the plane ... I could not stomach it. It is totally unacceptable to me. The bodies looked like they were fried or grilled.

“If my appearance ... (will solve the labour problems of OFWs in Kuwait), I might go (there),,, It’s a wait and see,” Duterte told reporters when asked about his response to Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines Saleh Ahmad Al Thwaikh, who invited him (Duterte) last Wednesday to visit the Gulf state.

Demafelis was one of the seven OFWs who died in Kuwait, which prompted the Philippine government to order a recruitment ban to the Gulf State.

Numbers

  • Some 103 OFW died in Kuwait in 2017 and 82 in 2016.
  • Of the 260,000 OFWs in Kuwait, 170,000 are household service workers; 10,800 are undocumented.
  • A total of 10 million OFWs are based worldwide.

(With inputs from PNA)

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