Philippines, Kuwait agree on migrant labor protection pact

Filipino workers returning home from Kuwait arrive at Manila International Airport on February 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018
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Philippines, Kuwait agree on migrant labor protection pact

MANILA: A bilateral agreement to provide protection to Filipino workers will be signed soon by the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments.
Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that after a brief impasse in the two-day negotiations held in Manila, officials from both countries finally concurred on a draft migrant labor protection pact Friday evening.
In a telephone interview, Bello said the brief impasse was due to two remaining ticklish issues - one addressing the issue on OFW (overseas Filipino worker) passports being withheld by employers, and the second about employment contracts.
Bello said that while the Kuwaiti officials agreed to the Philippine government’s proposal that passports of Filipino workers should be deposited at the Philippine embassy and not withheld by employers, they (Kuwaiti officials) did not want this to be put in writing.
“But we insisted on putting that in the agreement. Finally they agreed,” Bello told Arab News.
“The other issue is that they wanted the employment contract to follow the Kuwaiti standard contract form. We did not agree. Eventually we had a neutral formulation that the contract will be drafted upon the joint agreement of Philippines and Kuwaiti,” said Bello.
That way, the employment contract will be in accordance with Philippine laws, he explained.
Other provisions of the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is the $400 net-per-month salary of OFWs, with the employer opening a bank account where the salary of the worker will be deposited. This will be proof that the worker is being paid.
It was also agreed that an OFW must give a written consent in case of transfer from one employer to another, and the transfer must also be approved in writing by the Philippine labor attaché.
Bello said the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Philippines will see him on Monday morning to discuss and decide on the date and venue of the signing of the agreement and who will be the signatories.
Usually the signatories are the head of the Kuwait Ministry of Labor and the Philippines’ secretary of labor, Bello said. He said the signing of the MoU would be easier and swifter if it were between the labor ministers of both countries. “Then probably we can schedule the signing next week,” he said.
At the same time, Bello said the signing of the pact will not guarantee the lifting of the ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
“If you recall, the president imposed two conditions (for the lifting of the ban). First is that we have an agreement with Kuwait and second, Joanna (Demafelis) will be given justice. So we’ll have to wait for that,” said Bello.
It was the discovery of Demafelis’ body stuffed in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait that triggered the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait.
Bello, however, said that this ban will not affect the Philippines-Kuwait relationship.
 


Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

Updated 26 April 2018
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Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

NORRISTOWN-PENNSILVANIA: Bill Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era,
completing the spectacular late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as America’s Dad.
Cosby, 80, could end up spending his final years in prison after a jury concluded he sexually violated Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He claimed the encounter was consensual.
Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele and called him an “a--hole” after the prosecutor asked that Cosby be immediately jailed because he might flee. Cosby denied he has an airplane and shouted, “I’m sick of him!“
The judge decided Cosby can remain free on bail while he awaits sentencing.
Shrieks erupted in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and some of his accusers whimpered and cried. Constand remained stoic, then hugged her lawyer and members of the prosecution team.
“Justice has been done!” celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represented some of Cosby’s accusers, said on the courthouse steps. “We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed.”
The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors put five other women on the stand who testified that Cosby, married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too. One of those women asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?“
The panel of seven men and five women reached a verdict after deliberating 14 hours over two days, vindicating prosecutors’ decision to retry Cosby after his first trial ended with a hung jury less than a year ago.
Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison on each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He is likely to get less than that under state sentencing guidelines, but given his age, even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.
Constand, 45, a former Temple women’s basketball administrator, told jurors that Cosby knocked her out with three blue pills he called “your friends” and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized, unable to resist or say no.
It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said the former TV star drugged and molested them over a span of five decades.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan said in his closing argument. “It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences.”
Another prosecutor, Kristen Feden, said Cosby was “nothing like the image that he played on TV” as sweater-wearing, wisdom-dispensing father of five Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”