By Ben Rosario
A joint congressional investigation has been initiated in the House of Representatives to inquire into the murder of another overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Kuwait.
1PACMAN party-list Representative Enrico Pineda, chairman of the House committee on labor and employment, said the congressional inquiry will be conducted before the resumption of Congress sessions.
This developed as lawmakers backed government’s decision to impose a partial ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait following the death of Jeanelyn Villavende, who was allegedly murdered by her Kuwaiti employer.
Pineda, also vice chairman of the House committee on OFW affairs, said a congressional inquiry has become imperative to determine a possible violation of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Philippines and Kuwait in connection with the sending of Filipino workers to the oil-rich nation.
Pineda recalled that the MOA was triggered by the death of household service worker Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer that her employers left abandoned in their apartment in Kuwait.
“I am pushing for our government to impose a deployment ban to Kuwait until we are satisfied with their government’s actions with respect to the death of overseas Filipino worker Jeanelyn Villavende, until justice is served,” Pineda said.
Pineda said the Kuwaiti government should show genuine concern for OFWs by making sure that they are “well-protected,” adding, “Because we will not allow our vulnerable Filipinos to be deployed to work in foreign lands without the assurance that the foreign state will give them the protection they need.”
Meanwhile, ACTS-CIS party-list Reps. Nina Taduran and Eric Go Yap and DIWA party-list Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay said imposing a total ban is a “knee-jerk reaction” and not advisable.
The three solons said the Kuwaiti government should be given a chance to conduct a thorough investigation and put the culprits before the bar of justice.
Aglipay said the Department of Labor and Employment is tasked under the MOA to make sure that its provisions are fully enforced.
For his part, Yap called on OFWs to be aware of security measures that would make them safe abroad. “At the first sign of abuse, report it to our embassies abroad or leave if you can.”
The lawmaker also rejected proposals for a total deployment ban, saying “it will do more harm than good to our OFWs.”
In a statement, Taduran echoed Yap’s concern against a total ban in the deployment of OFWS to Kuwait, and called for a congressional investigation to determine what measures Philippine officials put in place to prevent harm to OFWS.
“Was there a periodic monitoring of our OFWs? Was there regular coordination with police/labor officers of the host country?” she asked.