Gatchalian urges gov’t to hold Kuwaitis responsible for death of Villavende

Published January 14, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has urged the Philippine government to hold the government of Kuwait responsible for the death of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jeanelyn Villavende.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Gatchalian made the call as he castigated the Kuwaiti government for failing to fulfill its obligations under a May 2018 labor agreement that stipulated better labor conditions and the protection of Filipino migrant workers in the Gulf country.

The senator noted the conflicting reports on the case of Villevende who died in December last year.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) autopsy report showed that Villavende was sexually abused and physically maltreated, while Kuwaiti forensic doctors said Villavende just died of physical injuries.

Amid the conflicting reports, Gatchalian said the government should summon the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Philippines, and seek an explanation on the discrepancies.

But he said he believed Kuwait’s report on Villavende’s death was nothing but “garbage.”

“I think the fact will state that there was bad faith, in behalf of the Kuwaiti government and in behalf of the investigators, and with this we have to make sure that the lives of our OFWs in Kuwait are all protected and that mechanisms are in place for their well-being,” Gatchalian said.

“This is an insult to our government, an insult to our country and, insult to Filipino people especially to the OFWs who’ve been toiling almost blood, sweat and, tears in the Middle East,” the senator added.

“This is a very serious matter and we demand justice, we demand the truth and, this is not how countries and friends treat each other by giving fake reports,” he stressed.

The Philippines and Kuwait signed an agreement in May 2018 on labor reforms which covers both skilled Filipino workers and Filipino household service workers following the death of Joanna Demafelis, who died a gruesome deathin the hands of her employers in Kuwait in April 2018.

Demafelis’ body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait. President Duterte condemned the act and imposed a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers in the Gulf state, until the Kuwaiti government agreed to sign a bilateral agreement instituting labor reforms for OFWs.

Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA), employers are not allowed to confiscate the passports and other travel documents of Filipino workers. Domestic workers must also be allowed to use their phones.

The agreement also covers repatriation of distressed OFWs in need of assistance, activation of a 24/7 hotline for them, and creation of a special police unit that would assist the Philippine embassy in rescue operations for OFWs.

“Kinukuha ang kanilang (They are getting their) passport. They are scattered all over the place. They are not protected by employers or corporations, underpaid and, they complain of delayed salaries”, said Gatchalian.

The lawmaker said it is high time to stop these occurrences from happening again and supports the call to implement a total ban for Filipino household service workers to Kuwait since they are the most vulnerable among workers deployed in the area.

Skilled workers, the lawmaker pointed out, are normally protected by their corporations and they go through formal channels.

In contrast, he said, household service workers normally process their papers under the radar.