Total deployment ban to Kuwait stays until Duterte’s conditions are met — Roque

Published April 4, 2018, 8:28 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Despite the positive development in the case of slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis, Malacañang said that the total deployment ban to Kuwait stays until President Duterte’s conditions are met.
Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque (YANCY LIM/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement in a text message to Malacañang reporters as President Duterte presided over a Cabinet meeting Wednesday evening.

According to Roque, President Duterte is considering in proceeding to Kuwait as planned but if his earlier conditions about the welfare of OFWs are met.

“PRRD might proceed to Kuwait if DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) can assure the implementation of the conditions,” Roque said in a text message.

The Palace official was referring to President Duterte’s earlier statement where he said that there should be no confiscation of passport and would instead be deposited with the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait. Duterte also wants OFWs to have a Seven-hour sleep, one day-off per week, be able to cook their own food aside from pork, and be spared from physical abuse.

According to Roque, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III assured the President during the Cabinet meeting that the department is working on including the said conditions on the OFWs’ contracts.

While these efforts are ongoing, Roque also said that according to Foreign Affairs Secretary (SFA) Alan Peter Cayetano, the deployment ban on OFWs to Kuwait will stay.

“Secretary Bello said they’re moving to include these in the employment contract. Per SFA, no final agreement [was] reached yet. Deployment ban stays,” Roque said.

Over the weekend, the Kuwait Criminal Court sentenced Demafelis’ employers by hanging after being convicted for killing the OFW. Demafelis was beaten to death by her employers and was stuffed inside a freezer that was left inside an abandoned apartment unit for a year in Kuwait until early February, 2018.

But despite the verdict on Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf and Syrian wife Mona Hassoum, Malacañang had said that this was not enough for the government to lift the deployment ban.

“(T)he total ban on sending OFWs to Kuwait is still on. But of course, an agreement, a memorandum of understanding is being formulated and hopefully, the state parties will come to terms as to how our OFWs in Kuwait, as well as in other Middle Eastern countries, will be protected. So basically that will be a solution to this total ban about sending OFWs to Kuwait,” Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday.

“I think it’s still the agreement between the countries in the manner of treating our OFWs that will matter. Not the matter of the couple being brought to justice,” he added.

In mid-March, Duterte revealed that the government was already working for the final draft of the document which will be brought by Bello to Kuwait.

According to Duterte, he demanded that the agreement will be a contract of government to government which seeks to improve the working conditions of OFWs in Kuwait.

Duterte has fumed over the death of Demafelis and slammed the Kuwaiti government for being “oblivious” about the abuses and maltreatment OFWs are experiencing from their employers in their territory, saying the Philippines did not do Kuwait anything wrong.

The death of Demafelis prompted Duterte to implement a total deployment ban of new OFWs to Kuwait, and to order the DOLE to facilitate the repatriation of all OFWs who want to go home within 72 hours.

The President also revealed that the government is now performing an audit on countries where OFWs are reportedly experiencing “brutal treatment and human degradation” from their employers.