MANILA: The Philippines said on Wednesday it could once again ban its citizens from working in Kuwait following the death of a 26-year old woman in the oil-rich state, allegedly at the hands of her employer’s wife.
Reports say that Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende, from South Cotabato, died of injuries after being taken to a hospital by her male employer. Manila has condemned the reported killing and demanded swift justice.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said an initial assessment showed that the death of Villavende was a violation of the agreement for the protection of Filipino workers, which the two countries signed in 2018.
“If you remember (in 2018), President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a total deployment ban in Kuwait because of the death of (Joanna) Demafelis,” Bello said, referring to a woman whose body was found stuffed in a freezer at her employers’ Kuwaiti apartment.
“Now this is another possibility, a deployment ban in Kuwait is not remote unless they can show us that they can give justice to Jeanelyn. I’m ready to do that (deployment ban),” he added, saying the country’s labor attache in Kuwait was monitoring the investigation of the Villavende case. “My instruction is very clear — we have to know the immediate cause of the death of Jeanelyn.”
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Kuwaiti Ambassador Musaed Saleh Ahmad Al-Thwaikh to convey its outrage over the “seeming lack of protection” offered to Filipino workers.
Continuing violence and abuse violates a May 2018 agreement to protect more than 250,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait, it said earlier this week.
Demafelis’ death led to a diplomatic crisis between Philippines and Kuwait, which lasted several months.
• Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende was allegedly tortured by her employer’s wife.
• Following the death of another Filipina, Kuwait and Manila signed an agreement for the protection of workers in 2018.
• More than 250,000 Filipinos currently work in Kuwait.
Manila imposed a ban on Filipino workers in the Gulf state, while Kuwait ordered the Philippines ambassador to leave the country and recalled its own envoy.
The rocky period ended after a deal was signed to protect overseas foreign workers and the Philippines announced the lifting of the deployment ban.
But the death of Villavende has renewed calls for the government to stop sending Filipino workers to Kuwait.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines has pushed for a deployment ban and the repatriation of overseas foreign workers already in Kuwait, as it expressed frustration over the 2018 deal, which it said was not working.
“The Philippine government has no other choice but to send a strong reaction like it did in the wake of gruesome deaths of Filipino workers there by suspending immediately the deployment of Filipino household service workers,” Raymond Mendoza, the union’s president, said in a statement issued on Tuesday evening.
Bello said he had summoned the Kuwaiti ambassador for a meeting on Thursday.