Department of Labor and Employment Undersecretary Ciricao Lagunzad III , during his recent visit to the Philippine shelters in Kuwait, said, “It is alarming to know that we have nearly five hundred wards in the shelter, definitely moratorium is never out of the table for discussion but this seriously needs consideration immediately after a composite team consisting of different representatives from various government agencies make their assessment after their visit to the shelters within this coming months”.
With two existing shelters located in Hateen and Faiha, the Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait H.E. Renato Pedro Villa told the Philippine press that having such a huge number of runaways with different cases is definitely alarming and that the visit of two top Philippine officials was essential to evaluate the situation.
Mr. Lagunzad III however told the Philippine media during a press conference at the Philippine Embassy that moratorium is now subject for consideration depending on what grounds the moratorium will be implemented. Mr. Lagunzad also admitted that having such a huge number in the shelter is definitely a good ground to discuss further the issue of moratorium.
In an interview with the Administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Hans Cacdac, The Times was told that the department will impose stricter measures to agencies that violate and fail to comply with guidelines and directives. “The rules and guidelines have been there from the beginning and they are very simple to understand and follow. Yet many still refuse to adhere to the directives. This time we will do the necessary to ensure that these agencies follow the guidelines and directives” commented Mr. Cacdac.
Househelpers, known among overseas Filipino workers as the most vulnerable to abuse and weaker protection for human rights, are currently being deployed to Kuwait via recruitment agencies from Philippines and in partnership with their local counterparts. Several violations such as neglect of workers, substitution of contracts, physical, sexual and mental abuse from their deploying agencies, falsification of documents such as change of age of worker, and other essential documents, failure to provide support to deployed workers while in the shelter and absence of monitoring the house helpers’ situations and threat of incarceration should they refuse to return to their employers, have been leveled against the agencies.
Previous Philippine Labor Attache David Des Dicang, who is now currently working in Qatar, has imposed a zero deployment for agencies that have wards in the shelter. Such drive has caused a decrease in the number of runaways and more attention has been given to wards in the shelter. It was also recorded that during his tenure as Labor Attaché, the number of wards in the shelter have never reached such an alarming number and it had once gone down to less than a hundred.
Current Philippine Labor Attaché Atty Cesar Chavez has scheduled dialogues and meetings with the wards to update them on their cases and legal situations. Leaders of Filipino Community in Kuwait are currently rallying to petition Chavez to extend to another term; however an advocate group that strongly pushes for moratorium organization ‘Sandigan’ and other members of the media oppose the petition to extend the Labor Attaché’s tenure. There are 220,000 Filipinos in Kuwait engaged in different jobs and 70% of the population is household helpers with an average of 10-15 runaways every week seeking refuge in the shelter.
By Ricky Laxa