By Roy Mabasa
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday admitted that the rescue operations of distressed Filipino workers has infuriated the Kuwaiti government and resulted in a series of diplomatic complaints from the host country.
“Well, our ambassador (Villa) was summoned three times and our counterparts conveyed some messages. Basically, they questioned our embassy’s rescue action, if we are abiding by their laws, and if there was an abuse in the diplomatic status, because of the car with diplomatic plate,” Cayetano told reporters at the sidelines of the welcoming ceremony for the last batch of repatriates at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Cayetano was referring to the recent rescue operations conducted by certain embassy staff to extricate some distressed Filipino workers from the household of their employers.
The rescue was documented through snippets of video footages shared with the members of the media last week by DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato. Cato heads the DFA’s Office of Public Diplomacy.
In one of the videos uploaded by Cato, a female Filipina is seen running to a waiting SUV with a man speaking in ‘Tagalog’ helping her load her luggage into the vehicle.
Cayetano justified that rescue operations are intended for cases with “grave danger” or “life-or-death situation” and are coordinated with Kuwaiti authorities.
He, however, said the process of coordination with the Kuwaiti authorities usually takes sometime.
“Siempre, kung mapaabot sa inyo na duguan na o ginugulpi or, very likely, nasasaktan siya or may gagawin or continuous na ‘yung abuse, ‘pag hinintay mo ‘yung normal process, may katagalan,” Cayetano said.
Pending the diplomatic complaints from Kuwaiti authorities, Cayetano said the Philippine Embassy will continue to conduct rescue operations since they have been receiving four or five requests daily.
The DFA chief expressed optimism that the “misunderstanding” will soon be ironed out even before the Philippines signs a new agreement with Kuwait that would pave the way for the lifting of the current ban on OFW deployment to that country.
“What’s important is we’ll be able to hear the complaints, and even before we lift the (deployment) ban and sign the agreement, we’ll be able to iron out the system,” he explained.
Since February of this year, the Philippine government has repatriated a total of 5,066 undocumented Filipinos, according to the DFA.
The last batch of repatriates numbering 215, including six children, arrived yesterday morning at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) onboard Qatar Airways flight QR934.
In a related development, two Filipinos were arrested by Kuwaiti authorities for allegedly enticing their fellow nationals working as domestic helpers to escape from their employers’ household, the State-run Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) said in a report.
“The couple admitted that they had encouraged Filipinas serving in their employers’ houses to escape,” the KUNA report said quoting a statement from Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior.
Prior to that, the Kuwaiti government summoned and served protest notes to Villa over his alleged “inflammatory comments” and for the “inappropriate behavior” of an unnamed Embassy personnel caught on a video while rescuing a female Filipino worker from an undisclosed place in that country.
Villa was first summoned on Friday over the “scathing remarks” by Philippine officials and for the alleged “misconduct” of a Philippine diplomatic staff.