By Leslie Ann Aquino
With the conviction of the foreign employers of slain overseas Filipino worker Joana Demafelis, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People said it will support the government if ever it decides to partially lift the total deployment ban of overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait.
“It is most welcoming and encouraging news. We see here the seriousness and sincerity of Kuwait to give justice to Joana, and protection to the wellbeing of our OFWs there,” CBCP ECMI Chairman Bishop Ruperto Santos said in an interview.
A Kuwaiti court sentenced in absentia a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife to death by hanging over the murder of Demafelis who was found dead in a freezer early in February.
The case of Demafelis and other abuses in the Arab State earlier prompted the Philippine government to order a total deployment ban of OFWs to Kuwait.
Aside from the conviction, the Balanga prelate also cited the upcoming signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between Kuwait and the Philippines on the protection of overseas Filipino workers as another reason why they support the partial lifting.
“With their collaboration to promote rights and dignity; and with the forthcoming signing of MOU, we at CBCP ECMI, will support for the partial lifting of deployment ban of our OFWs there,” said Santos.
On Monday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he is not ready to recommend to the President Duterte the lifting of the total ban on the deployment of workers to the Gulf state.
If ever, he added, a partial lifting may be considered for skilled workers but only after the formal agreement with Kuwait on the protection of Filipino workers is signed.
According to Bello, the final draft of the proposed agreement and his recommendations on the protection of Filipino workers had already been sent to the President for his approval for the formal signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Kuwait.
Among the major provisions of the agreement include the prohibition of the surrender of Filipino passport to Kuwaiti employers, the binding effect of a common employment contract, the guaranteed payment of minimum monthly net pay of $400 paid through the bank, and the non-confiscation of mobile phones and other communication gadgets.