Deployment ban to Kuwait stays says Malacanang Spokesman Sal Panelo

Malacanang Spokesman Sal Panelo.

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the deployment ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait stays even as charges were accordingly filed against the employers of killed Filipina domestic helper Jeanelyn Villavende.

“Ganun pa rin (It stays),” said Panelo said Tuesday at a press briefing in Malacanang in reference to the issue of sending workers to Kuwait following the death of Villavende, the second time the Duterte administration implemented such policy.

The Philippines also banned the deployment of workers to Kuwait two years ago as a response to the death of at least eight Filipino workers abused by their employers, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found stuffed inside a freezer.

It was only lifted and Philippines resumed sending workers again to Kuwait after the two countries signed a bilateral agreement aimed at safeguarding and ensuring working conditions of Filipino workers in the Gulf state.

One very important provision state that passports of Filipino workers shall not be confiscated by their Kuwaiti employers and shall be under their personal custody while rendering work in the oil-rich nation.   

Panelo stressed the ban remains until the terms of the memorandum of understanding are included in the contracts of Filipino workers. 

“What we are seeking is justice. They filed cases and we welcome that,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also announced Kuwait notified the Philippine government regarding the filing of criminal case against the employers of Villavende.

However, Bello considers the notification informal because the DOLE has yet to receive a copy of the charge sheet.

“They just called to inform us that charges have been filed. But there is no proof (of filing),” Bello disclosed adding that PH is not inclined at this time to lift the ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.

With regards to blood money, the family of Villavende said they won’t accept any blood money to settle the case and they would rather seek justice for her Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who met the family of the slain worker Tuesday, said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin also warned embassy workers to not even mention anything about blood money and anybody caught violating his order will accordingly be met with corresponding punishment or summarily discharged from service.

Sen. Joel Villanueva also consoled the family of Villavende after the hearing at the Senate.

Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), DOLE and its attached agencies Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) claimed they were not aware of the alleged blood money being offered.

“The officials of DFA, DOLE, OWWA and POEA… promised to look into it,” said Villanueva adding that the offer of blood money, if true, was “insensitive since life does not have a price tag.”

On the same senate hearing, the father of Villavende requested that he be allowed to attend the court proceedings against her employers.

The Kuwait autopsy report indicated gory details on the cause of death of Villavende on Dec. 28, 2019. A copy was submitted to the Senate yesterday. (IAMIGO/CPH)

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