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Philippines stops deployment of workers to Kuwait
January 20, 2018, 3:59 pm

Repeated instances of mistreatment and physical abuse of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait came to a head last week with the Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III ordering the suspension of deployment of workers to Kuwait “in the interest of justice”.

Through Administrative Order 25, dated 19 January, Mr. Bello directed the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to suspend the processing and issuing of Overseas Employment Certificates (OEC) to all workers bound for Kuwait, pending investigation into the cause of deaths of seven Overseas Filipino Workers.

“We would like to seek justice for our OFWs, and we are doing this for utmost protection and welfare of our kababayan,” Mr. Bello said.

Department of Labor and Employment  Secretary Silvestre Bello III

Overseas Filipino workers, Liezl Truz Hukdong, Vanessa Karissha L. Esguerra, Maria Fe Saliling Librada, Arlene Castillo Manzano, Devine Riche Encarnacion, Patrick Sunga and Mira Luna Juntilla were found dead in various incidents over the past few months, with the authorities in Kuwait maintaining in many cases that investigations to uncover the causes of death were still ongoing.

The ban came on the heels of a statement by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in which he had called for a total ban on deployment of OFWs, especially household workers, to Kuwait following reports of sexual abuses.

The Times Kuwait and other media in Kuwait have repeatedly carried stories of ill-treatment of Overseas Filipino Workers in Kuwait, including cases of rape, physical violence and other abuses, as well as deaths from murder or suicide. Just last week, The Times Kuwait had carried the story about three OFWs who were found dead in two separate incidents. Two of the dead, Arlene Manzano and Patrick Sunga, had succumbed to multiple stab wounds, while the third, Maria Librada, had been found hanging and was alleged to have committed suicide at her employer’s place.

The deaths of these three OFWs were also alluded to in recent remarks by the Philippines President when he warned of a total ban on sending workers to Kuwait because of alleged “sexual abuses that traumatized Filipino women and often lead to their suicide”. 

President Duterte had added that there needed to be a discussion with Kuwait officials to highlight the issue of abuses, which are unacceptable, and that measures had to be taken to protect the rights of the OFWs.

“I do not want a quarrel with Kuwait. I respect their leaders but they have to do something about this because [otherwise] many Filipinas will be committing suicide,” the president said in a recent speech. “We have lost about four Filipino women in the last few months. It’s always in Kuwait,” the president is reported to have said.

In response to the Philippines President’s comments, Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah, expressed his regret that the Filipino president made these remarks. He said that the Foreign Ministry had contacted the “Philippines’ authorities to determine the motives behind the president’s statement and refute the erroneous information in it”.

He pointed out that the “number of the Filipinos in Kuwait has exceeded 170,000, thus the four cases mentioned in the president statement cannot be used as a criterion to assess the overall status of the Philippines' laborers in the country".

Kuwait enjoys "a bright image on treating expatriate workers and has laws that preserve their rights and organize their relations with the employers," the deputy foreign minister added.

Meanwhile, Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano is set to meet with Kuwait’s ambassador in Manila on Monday to discuss the President’s concerns. “I'm expecting a good response from the ambassador, but of course we have to see the response translate into action, meaning protection of our OFWs," said Mr. Cayetano.

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