Senator Win Gatchalian has castigated the Kuwaiti government for failing to fulfill its promise of providing better labor conditions and to ensure the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf country.
Gatchalian cited reports he has been receiving on the case of OFW Jeanelyn Villavende who died in December last year.
“Kinukuha ang kanilang passport. They are scattered all over the place. They are not protected by employers or corporations, underpaid and, they complain of delayed salaries,”said the veteran legislator.
“We have to make sure that the lives of our OFWs in Kuwait are all protected.”
“I think the fact will state that there was bad faith, in behalf of the Kuwaiti government and in behalf of the investigators, and with this we have to make sure that the lives of our OFWs in Kuwait are all protected and that mechanisms are in place for their well-being,” the seasoned lawmaker added.
The Philippines and Kuwait signed an agreement in May 2018 on labor reforms which covers both skilled Filipino workers and Filipino household service workers.
The MOA stated that employers cannot confiscate the passports and other travel documents of Filipino workers and that they must be allowed to use their phones.
The agreement also covers the repatriation of distressed OFWs in need of assistance, activation of a 24/7 hotline for them, and creation of a special police unit that would assist the Philippine Embassy in rescue operations of OFWs.
The senator stressed that it is high time to stop these occurrences from happening again and supports call to implement a total ban on the deployment of Filipino household service workers to Kuwait since they are the most vulnerable among workers deployed in the area.
“This is a very serious matter and we demand justice.”
He said that skilled workers are normally protected by their corporations and they go through formal channels but household service workers normally process their papers under the radar.
For Gatchalian, the next move should be to summon the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Philippines amid doubts on the real cause of Villavende’s death, insisting that Kuwait’s report is nothing but “garbage.”
“This is an insult to our government, an insult to our country and, insult to Filipino people especially to the OFWs who’ve been toiling almost blood, sweat and, tears in the Middle East. This is a very serious matter and we demand justice, we demand the truth and, this is not how countries and friends treat each other by giving fake reports,” he stressed.
An autopsy report from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showed that Villavende was sexually abused and physically maltreated while Kuwaiti forensic doctors said Villavende only died of physical injuries.
Another Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis died in Kuwait in April 2018 whose body was found in a freezer.