Mindanao lawmakers urge gov’t action on OFW deaths in Kuwait, Singapore

Jan. 03, 2020

Overseas Filipino Worker Jeanelyn Villavende died after allegedly beaten to death by her employer in Kuwait in December 2019. (Photo taken from Jeanelyn Villavende’s Facebook account)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Two lawmakers from Mindanao raised their concerns over the death of Filipino overseas workers in Kuwait and Singapore.

Rufus Rodriguez, representative of this city’s second district, condemned the killing of Jeanelyn Villavende who died from the hands of her employers last December in Kuwait.

In a statement Friday (Jan. 3), he said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should secure the best lawyers in Kuwait to prosecute the perpetrators.

Reports said, as early as September, the victim informed her recruitment agency she was being maltreated and underpaid.

Lawrence Fortun, Agusan del Norte’s 1st District representative, said negotiators from the DFA and DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) must demand blood money from Villavende’s killer, aside from the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrator.

“For the sensitive situation in Kuwait, applying the principle of reciprocity, our country should demand blood money from the Kuwaiti employer’s family aside from the expeditious prosecution and conviction of the killer,” Fortun said in a separate statement Friday (Jan. 3).

He said the Kuwaitis are familiar with the concept of paying the corresponding amount to the aggrieved family but they must also be made aware of the government-to-government agreements that made the deployment of domestic workers to Kuwait possible.

“Blood money they understand. The bilateral agreement, that they do not understand. We should communicate with them in ways they can understand,” Fortun said.

The lawmaker said the continued disrespect of the bilateral agreement should be “put to end,” adding it has failed to protect Filipino household service workers (HSWs) from being subjected to slave treatment by their employers.

“Our HSWs deserve to be treated with dignity and humanely. It is time for our country to stop sending domestic workers abroad,” he said, a sentiment concurred by Rodriguez.

Protect the OFWs

Rodriguez has urged that a “more comprehensive and protective agreement” for OFWs should be demanded by the Philippine government.

He has filed House Bill 5832 or an Act creating the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment. The bill defines the mandates, powers, and functions of the proposed agency which will “immediately and fully protect and assist Filipino workers abroad.”

The said bill, Rodriguez said, has already been consolidated with other bills in Congress and “the consolidated bill under a Committee Report has already been debated in the plenary in the House.”

Safe spaces in Singapore

Reacting to the news of Pinay domestic workers who were victims of a car crash while enjoying their day off at a popular shopping center in Singapore, Fortun said the Philippine Embassy must work with other institutions to find “suitable safe spaces where thousands of Pinoys can spend their days off at no cost to the OFWs.”

In the said accident, two Pinays have died while another four were seriously hurt.

“There are still some suitable open spaces in Singapore where our embassy can facilitate some kind of a weekly Pinoy fiesta where cleanliness and orderliness shall be observed in keeping with Singapore’s laws and regulations. The point is, our OFWs in Singapore should not spend their day-offs on sidewalks, walkways, and corridors,” he said. (davaotoday.com)

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