DFA Usec says Kuwaiti gov’t forensic report on Villavende ‘similar’ to NBI findings

Published January 28, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The government of Kuwait has given the Philippines a new report on the case of Filipina domestic worker Jeanalyn Villavende who was allegedly beaten to death by her employers.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Sarah Arriola (Facebook)
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Sarah Arriola (Facebook)

At the Senate labor committee’s inquiry on Tuesday into the reported killing of the Filipina in Kuwait, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Sarah Arriola said Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior sent the agency its forensic report on the slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW).

Arriola clarified that brief report initially sent by the Gulf state saying Villavende died of “acute failure of the heart and respiration” was not an autopsy report but a death certificate.

Arriola, the DFA point person for migrant workers affairs, said the forensic report, which was translated from Arabic, contained “some similarities” with the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

An “interesting” finding of the Kuwaiti government was that Villavende had suffered abuses as early as October, two months before she died on Dec. 28 last year.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello earlier described as a “cover-up report” the initial communication sent by Kuwait to the Philippines about Villavende’s death.

“I looked at it as an attempt to cover up. That is the reason why I asked for the conduct of another autopsy,” Bello said in the hearing.

‘Beaten, kicked, stabbed’

Citing lack of expertise, Arriola initially refused to divulge in the public hearing the contents of Kuwait’s autopsy report and instead gave a copy to the Senate committee.

But statements from Villavende’s recruitment agency prompted officials to read out instances of the abuses suffered by the 26-year-old OFW at the hands of her foreign employers.

Reynaldo Madamba, president of 5-Star Recruitment Corporation which deployed Villavende to Kuwait, denied that their agency had been informed about the maltreatment and abuse of the Filipina household worker.

“Your honor, ginawa po namin ang lahat ng magagawa namin tungkol sa problema ni Jeanalyn (we did everything that we could do about Jeanalyn’s problem),” he said.

Madamba said Villavende did not mention anything about harassment but only complained about underpayment by her employers in September last year.

When Villavende’s family lost contact with her in November, Madamba said they sent one of the company’s employees to check on the condition of the Filipina worker last Dec. 10.

“Doon po kinausap namin si Jeanalyn para makita yong sitwasyon, kasi ‘di na siya matawagan…Nakita naman po si Jeanalyn doon sa bahay (We talked to Jeanalyn so we could see her situation because we could not contact her…We saw her there at the house),” he said he as explained why the recruitment agency opted not report the incident to the Philippine Overseas and Employment Administration (POEA). The POEA earlier suspended the agency’s operations after Villavende’s death.

“Wala siyang sinasabi from July to October, wala siyang binabanggit na sinasaktan daw siya o ano man, so doon po ako nagtataka bakit ang report ay matagal na siyang sinasaktan (She did not mention anything to us from July to October, she did not tell us that she was being maltreated or whatever, so that’s why I was puzzled why the report said that she had long been abused by her employer),” Madamba said.

Refuting Madamba, Arriola said the Kuwaiti government’s report on Villavende’s death was “very telling because it says that the abuse started in October, until Dec. 22, 2019.”

She went on to read the details of the abuse, saying Villavende was “assaulted with an iron on her shoulder” and was beaten on her back and the face.

Labor committee chair Sen. Joel Villanueva, who was given a copy of the report, continued, “Yes, I read it here. She (Villavende) was beaten with a wooden spoon on the head, then kicked to the waist, and stabbed with a vehicle key on her back.”

Kuwait’s report echoed the autopsy of the NBI, which found several injuries and wounds on Villavende’s body. The NBI also said Villavende could have been sexually abused.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Hans Cacdac also said the OFW was “under pressure” when her mother last talked to her in October.

Total deployment ban proposed

In the hearing, Senators Villanueva and Nancy Binay urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to consider implementing a permanent, total deployment ban of Filipino household service workers to Kuwait.

While noting that cases of abuse have declined since the signing of the agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait on the protection of OFWs, Villanueva said that as long as there is the “kafala” system or the control of the mobility of workers, there will still be incidents of harassment or deaths of Filipinos in the Gulf state.

“I think some of our colleagues in Senate have strong reservations about sending more household service workers to Kuwait, where there are abuses, physical maltreatment,” Villanueva told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino.

“As per Sec. Bello, we are the only country that is deploying household service workers despite the fact that we have repeatedly heard of cases like those of Villavende, Demafelis, Dayag. These are all the same, they were abused, hurt, and killed,” he added, recalling the brutal deaths of Filipina domestic workers in Kuwait.

Labor officials, however, said they have yet to look into this proposal and its possible repercussions.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who is closest to President Duterte, said he supports a permanent total deployment ban to Kuwait.