Senators mull deployment ban on domestic helpers to Middle East to prevent future abuses

Published August 17, 2022, 6:26 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Senators are considering a deployment ban on Filipino domestic helpers to countries practicing the Kafala system–mostly countries in the Middle East–to prevent future abuses of overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) abroad.

Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel raised this idea during the plenary session Wednesday, Aug. 17 after Senator Raffy Tulfo presented the plight of some OFWs, who were sexually abused, physically assaulted, insulted,m and not being paid on time.

“So under this new era, is it possible that in the future we may prohibit the deployment of domestic workers to other countries, especially those with the Kafala system?” Pimentel asked Tulfo, who is now heading the newly-created Committee on Migrant Workers.

The Kafala system is used to monitor migrant workers in member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council and its neighbouring countries. Aimed at creating cheap and plentiful labor, the system requires migrant workers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status.

Pimentel made the suggestion as he said “One mistake or one unfortunate incident and we destroy the life of a fellow Filipino.”

“That is my goal, everybody’s goal,” Tulfo responded—a sentiment that was also shared by Sen. Pia Cayetano.

Meanwhile, Tulfo also recommended imposing a one-strike policy on agencies recruiting OFWs.

“Magkamali ang isang agency at napatunayan na talagang meron syang nagawang pabayan, then out na sya… Siguraduhin ko na hindi na sya pwedeng mag-apply pa gamit ang ibang pangalan (Once it is proven that an agency committed a mistake and is found guilty, then it will be out. I will make sure that it can no longer apply for registration, even under a new name),” the neophyte senator said.

Another neophyte senator, Robin Padilla, also pushed for jail time for individuals behind the erring agencies.

During the session, Tulfo, a former journalist, shared a video presentation wherein OFWs from UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait sought for his help after suffering abuse from their employers. Some of them were sexually abused, while others suffered from physical trauma like bruises and abrasions, among others.

Tulfo also slammed various government agencies, particularly those that have responsibilities over OFWs, for dismissing such cases and letting them happen.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano also shared that there was even a labor attaché who pushed for the arraignment of the OFW, instead of helping the victim.