One Month ago, On Sunday, December 29, police received a report from Sabah Hospital where a Filipina housemaid, who had died, was found to have bruises on various parts of her body, Since the day, diplomatic relations between Kuwait and Philippines are in limbo.
What Happened to Jeanelyn Villavende?
Jaenelyn arrived in Kuwait on May 5, 2019, upon her death in hospital horrifying details emerged from the autopsy of Villavende remains conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation.
Her body showed indications of sexual abuse. The autopsy also found signs of physical abuse dating back weeks before her death. The injuries were sustained by the victim not at the time of her death suggesting that she was being maltreated weeks or months before her death. Even her ears and head showed old wounds, while bruises on her private parts indicated that she had been sexually abused.
Her father has claimed that the Philippines government has offered nearly 59 million Philippine pesos ($1.158 million) to drop the case but he has refused financial compensation for her death.
Who killed Jaenelyn? And what happened to them?
An interior ministry official and his wife are detained following the death of their Filipina maid; Public Prosecutor Dherar Al Asousi charged the Kuwaiti couple with the premeditated murder of Jeanalyn Villavende and referred them to stand trial at the Criminal court. A source said that the Public Prosecution had asked the court for a tough sentence against the couple, which may involve the death penalty. Meanwhile, the couple was remanded for 21 days at the central prison.
What does Philippines say?
The Philippine government was enraged and is seeking justice for the death of another overseas worker in Kuwait. Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in the Philippines issued a statement deploring the continued attacks against Filipino household workers in Kuwait. The Home Office in Manila summoned Kuwait’s ambassador in the Philippines to protest “the seeming lack of protection” of Filipino domestic workers at the hands of their employers
“The continuing incidents of violence and abuse of Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait violates the spirit of the agreement signed in May 2018 that seeks to promote and protect their welfare,” a DFA statement said. Calling for “complete transparency” in the investigation of the case, the DFA pressed Kuwait to ensure “swift prosecution of the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law”.
In 2018, following numerous instances of abuses and even deaths of Filipino domestic workers, the Philippines government had enforced a deployment ban that sparked a diplomatic spat between the two countries. The ban was lifted only after an agreement was signed by Kuwait to protect Filipino domestic workers in the country. There are more than 250,000 Filipinos employed in Kuwait, mostly as household workers.
The Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr. has announced that the Manila government has rejected any offer of blood money and was pursuing legal action against the Kuwaiti employers
The Philippines has instituted a ban on deployment after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) autopsy report.
The deployment ban would cover all newly-hired domestic workers or household service workers, semi-skilled workers, skilled workers and professionals, including crew changes and shore leaves of Filipino seafarers in Kuwait
How Did Kuwait respond?
Responding to the total deployment ban, Kuwait’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs Ambassador Samie Al-Hamad voiced Kuwait’s dismay at the Philippine government’s decision. The move by the Philippines came despite the legal action taken by concerned Kuwaiti authorities in the aftermath of the killing of a Filipino in Kuwait, Al-Hamad said in a press statement.
“As we express our extreme sorrow at this appalling crime, which is uncommon in the Kuwaiti society and even against our Islamic values, the legal action was taken against the culprits, including arresting them and filing a case with the Public Prosecution. This reflects Kuwait’s keenness on applying the law and ensuring justice to guarantee the safety and protection of all those living on its soil, and that’s why it is a favorable destination for people of different nationalities, including Filipinos who are nearly a quarter-million workers in number,” he said.
The visiting Philippines’ Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers, Abdullah Mamao, held a meeting with Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah on Sunday to discuss ties between the Philippines and Kuwait, following the decision by Manila to impose a total ban on labor deployment to Kuwait.
Praising Kuwait for the legal procedures the country has taken to address the issue, ahead of a meeting between officials from both countries scheduled for next month, Mamao clarified on the deployment ban imposed by his country.
He said that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued Advisory Number 04 Series of 2020, signed by Administrator Bernardo P. Olalia, on 16 January to clarify that the decision on the total deployment ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait is as follows: “Further to POEA Governing Board Resolution (GBR) No. 4 Series of 2020 issued on Jan 15, 2020, imposing a ban on the deployment of all overseas Filipino workers bound for Kuwait, except skilled workers and professionals who are categorized as balik-manggagawa, all concerned parties are hereby informed that overseas employment certificates (OECs) for all category of workers, except domestic workers or household service workers, bound for Kuwait [and] issued prior to the issuance of the above-cited GBR dated Jan 15, 2020, shall be valid for deployment.”
What will happen to Kuwait’s Domestic workers’ demands now?
Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs Sami Al-Hamad met with Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kuwait Abdulfattah Hassan on Tuesday to discuss a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on recruiting Ethiopian domestic helpers for Kuwait.
A Kuwaiti-Ethiopian working team tasked with negotiating a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on domestic workers has fulfilled 90 percent of its work.
Following the discussions, it was agreed that a committee led by officials from Kuwait Foreign Ministry will travel to Addis Ababa next week to understand the labor recruitment mechanisms in the African country. According to official figures, there are nearly 18,000 Ethiopians, mainly women, working as domestic helpers in Kuwait.
And also, Philippine Labor Minister, Sylvester Bello, has announced that he had received an official invitation to visit Kuwait on the second and third of February. The minister is expected to meet with his Kuwaiti counterpart and other ministers to discuss a resolution to the ban on deployment of Filipino household workers to Kuwait.