Senator Raffy Tulfo denounced move by the Kuwaiti government to crackdown on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who are victims of crimes and other abuses despite his suggestions to protect their rights through mandatory pre-engagement seminars, background checks, and psychological and medical exams for employers of domestic workers during a Senate hearing on the murder of domestic helper Jullebee Ranara.

The Kuwaiti government recently moved against documented and undocumented OFWs in Kuwait which resulted in the deportation of multiple Filipinos.

There are also claims that shelters rented out by the Philippine Embassy are violative of the Bilateral agreement and its amendments entered in 2012 between the two countries.

Notably, the recent action of the Kuwaiti government to deport some 350 Filipinos was done while negotiations between Kuwait and the Philippines are being undertaken in order to settle the temporary deployment ban imposed on domestic helpers who are statistically more prone to abuses at the hands of their foreign employers.

Tulfo, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Migrants workers, also deplored demands by the Kuwait government for the Philippines to issue an apology for supposedly violating agreements between the two countries, when it should be the other way around.

“Imbes na masunod ang mga gusto nating terms at conditions, kabilang na ang apology from the Kuwaiti government, binabaliktad pa nila tayo.”

“We cannot come to the negotiating table on bended knees and folded arms,” the legislator said. “Imbes na masunod ang mga gusto nating terms at conditions, kabilang na ang apology from the Kuwaiti government, binabaliktad pa nila tayo.”

The lawmaker emphasized that the Philippines does not lose the right to protect its citizens simply because the crimes and abuses were done in Kuwaiti soil.

“Kadalasan, ang biktimang OFW ay napipilitang pumunta sa ating embahada upang paniguraduhin na hindi sila mapasailalim sa biased na proseso sa paghahabol ng hustisya. Madalas din, kapag pumunta sa pulis ang biktimang OFW, sila ay sinasauli sa kanilang amo kung saan sila ay nababaliktad at nakakasuhan ng pekeng kaso tulad ng pagnanakaw at nakukulong dahil mas pinaniniwalaan ng pulis sa Kuwait ang kanilang mga kababayan,” the senator from Isabela and Davao said.

“Ang ending nito ay makukulong pa kaysa makakauwi ang ating mga OFW sapagkat wala silang kakayahang lumaban mag-isa laban sa Kuwaiti nationals na pinapaboran ng kanilang batas doon,” he added.

Tulfo also stressed that providing shelter for OFWs in distress is a necessity due to the experience of many victims having to sleep in the streets when the embassies’ shelters are at full capacity while they are in the process of complying with the requisites of repatriation or while they are gathering pertinent documents related to filing their own cases.

He likewise pointed out that the renting and maintenance of property to serve as OFW shelters is also non-violative of any accord, bilateral agreement, or contractual obligation between Kuwait and the Philippines.

“Kailangan ng mga biktimang Pilipino ng shelter habang sila ay naghahanda para makauwi o para makapag-file ng kani-kanilang kaso. Tandaan natin na ang mga OFW sa shelter ay naabuso at biniktima ng kanilang mga amo. We cannot expect them to stay in the house of the person who committed crimes against them nor seek help alone from a forum that is notoriously in favor of the abuser,” Tulfo explained.

To address the further escalation of negotiations, he has begun coordinating with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in order to constitute a negotiating team with the involvement of the Joint Committee on Migrant Workers.

“Dahil sa twenty years of experience ko sa pagtulong sa mga OFW, tingin ko mayroon din akong bagong madadala sa negotiating table upang mabuksan ang employment ng domestic workers sa Kuwait,” he said.

“Hindi ako papayag na may mamatay ulit na Pilipinong naghahanap buhay dahil masyado ng maraming kababayan natin ang umuuwing nakakabaong.”

“Pero hindi ako papayag na may mamatay ulit na Pilipinong naghahanap buhay dahil masyado ng maraming kababayan natin ang umuuwing nakakabaong. Kung gaano sila kahigpit sa ating mga OFW, dapat tayo din ay maging mahigpit sa mga employers,” Tulfo stressed.

He is openly coordinating with the DMW and the DFA in order to actively participate in negotiating for better pre-engagement protocols for OFWs and is consulting with the said departments in order to draft legislation that will help secure their safety and ease their enforcement of rights.

To date, the transfer of OFWs in counties that are safer for them, including Guam, Hungary, Austria, Oman, UAE, Jordan, is already being considered.

Tulfo said that Filipinos are looked up to by employers in different parts of the world because of reliable traits and qualities, such as the ability to speak and understand English, and being respectful, and hardworking.



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