House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs Vice Chairperson Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo said that other foreign governments should take steps to ensure the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in their respective jurisdictions after the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued an administrative order for the total ban of deployment of all workers to Kuwait in response to the deaths of seven OFWs in the gulf state.
“In the span of one year, over a hundred of our citizens have died in Kuwait as a result of abuse and torture. If the Kuwaiti government will not act on these crimes or take action to prevent more deaths, then the President is justified in ordering this total ban,” said the Quezon City representative.
Castelo said that the country should support the President’s decision to send a strong message to the Kuwaiti government, and also stressed that the country should adopt a “no protection, no deployment policy” in the case of Kuwait – as well as other countries that fail to protect its foreign workers.
“This is not just a message for the government of Kuwait, but for all the other countries whose businesses and citizens employ our countrymen,” said Castelo.
“As the President said, we do not expect special privileges or special treatment for OFWs. But just as we expect our citizens to respect the laws and customs of the countries they are deployed to, we expect the governments of these countries to respect the rights of our countrymen, and to protect them from abuse and maltreatment.”
As early as September of last year, Castelo had called for a temporary moratorium on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait because of multiple complaints of abuses reported in the oil-rich nation, which employs an estimated 250,000 Filipinos.
The legislator said that he understood that many families were dependent on the income earned by OFWs in the Middle East, but in the same breath said that it was the obligation of the Philippine government to take whatever steps necessary to ensure the safety and security of Filipinos abroad.
“There is no question we should recognize that these employment opportunities abroad are a godsend to many of our citizens who just want to earn a decent living and a good wage,” Castelo said.
When our citizens’ lives are threatened, government is obligated to act.
“But we cannot turn a blind eye when our countrymen are treated inhumanely. Whether here or abroad, when our citizens’ lives are threatened, government is obligated to act – and that it what it is doing now.”