Philippines imposes partial ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait

The Philippines announced Thursday it will stop sending domestic workers to Kuwait, following the death of one of its citizens in the Gulf state. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 03 January 2020

Philippines imposes partial ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait

  • The exact date of Villavende’s death is yet to be determined, pending the results of an autopsy

MANILA: The Philippines announced Thursday it will stop sending domestic workers to Kuwait, following the death of one of its citizens in the Gulf 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. “I will issue a directive that there will be a partial deployment ban, which means that we will not deploy new workers in the meantime,” said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

A statement from the Department of Labor and Employment said the partial ban only applied to first-time workers who will serve as household help in Kuwait. It does not cover skilled and returning workers or those who are on vacation. 

But Bello warned that the government may impose a total work ban if justice was not served for Villavende. 

“This should serve as a clear message to Kuwaiti authorities. The partial ban may ripen into a total deployment ban if justice for Jeanelyn Villavende is not met.”

He added that an initial report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Kuwait said: “Villavende was beaten to death, and was already dead when brought to a hospital. Attending nurses reported that she was ‘black and blue’.” 

The exact date of Villavende’s death is yet to be determined, pending the results of an autopsy.

Her female employer is now in the custody of Kuwaiti authorities, Bello said, and Villavende’s local recruitment agency was also being held responsible for its failure to act on her request for repatriation months before her brutal death.

“We will also ask Villavende’s recruitment agency to explain their inaction. As early as September, she already complained about maltreatment and underpayment of salary. She also repeatedly requested the agency for repatriation, but they did not do anything,” said Bello. 

Villavende’s local recruitment agency faces the possible cancellation of its license, according to the secretary. Labor officials said Villavende’s family was last able to talk to her in October. The family called her on Dec. 13 but it was her female employer who answered the call and said that Villavende was busy.

Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, who went to South Cotabato to express his condolences, said her death and funeral expenses would be covered. Her family will receive livelihood assistance and there will be an education scholarship for her youngest sibling.

Villavende’s death has sparked outrage in the Philippines which, in 2018, signed a memorandum of understanding with Kuwait providing protection to overseas foreign workers in the Gulf state.

The presidential palace condemned Villavende’s death, saying it was a clear violation of this agreement.

“We consider Jeanelyn’s tragic death a clear disregard of the agreement signed by both our country and Kuwait in 2018 which seeks to uphold and promote the protection of the rights and welfare of our workers in Kuwait,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. “We look forward to its resolution for the rendition of justice to the deceased and her family.”

The Philippines imposed a total deployment ban in 2018 following the gruesome death of Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer at her employers’ Kuwaiti apartment.

Demafelis’ death led to a diplomatic crisis between Philippines and Kuwait, which lasted several months.

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.


New York cheers arrival of hospital ship as coronavirus cases soar

Updated 3 min 9 sec ago

New York cheers arrival of hospital ship as coronavirus cases soar

  • People gathered on both the New York and New Jersey sides of the Hudson River to cheer the ship’s arrival
  • US health officials are urging Americans to follow stay-at-home orders and other measures to contain the spread of the virus

NEW YORK: People cheered the US Navy hospital ship Comfort as it sailed into New York on Monday, a beacon of the national effort to stanch the coronavirus outbreak at its US epicenter as the number of cases soared.
Painted a gleaming white and adorned with giant red crosses, the 1,000-bed converted oil tanker sailed past the Statue of Liberty, accompanied by a flotilla of support ships and helicopters before docking at a Midtown Manhattan pier.
People gathered on both the New York and New Jersey sides of the Hudson River to cheer the ship’s arrival shortly before midday. Some bystanders chanted, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” as the huge vessel neared the pier where it docked.
The Comfort will treat non-coronavirus patients, including those who require surgery and critical care, the Navy said.
“It’s a wartime atmosphere and we all have to pull together,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was among the dignitaries to greet the ship’s arrival. He said preparations for the ship, including dredging, took eight days, much less than the two weeks initially expected.
Hospitals in the city have been overrun with patients suffering from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. New York state accounts for almost half the country’s more than 152,000 cases and more than 40% of its more than 2,800 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
The United States has the most cases in the world.(Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T)
To ease the pressure, construction of a 68-bed field hospital began on Sunday in Central Park, and the white tents being set up evoked a wartime feel in an island of green typically used by New Yorkers to exercise, picnic and enjoy the first signs of spring.
The makeshift facility, provided by Mount Sinai Health System and non-profit organization Samaritan’s Purse, is expected to be ready to accept patients on Tuesday but will not take walk-ins, and admissions and transfers will be managed by Mount Sinai, de Blasio said.
New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo, one of the most prominent public figures of the coronavirus crisis, told a news conference later that the state might have to step in to close playgrounds in the country’s most populous city.
He said official efforts to reduce the numbers of people in those public spaces had not been successful.
Cuomo and de Blasio are among a growing chorus of officials who have voiced frustration at President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis and shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment needed to fight the virus in hospitals.
“I am not engaging the president in politics,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said of Trump, a Republican. “My only goal is to engage the president in partnership.”
De Blasio said the death toll in his city would rise if Washington did not provide more assistance soon. “Sunday is D-Day, we need help by Sunday,” he told CNN. The mayor, also a Democrat, later thanked Trump for dispatching the Comfort.
CHILLING NUMBERS
US health officials are urging Americans to follow stay-at-home orders and other measures to contain the spread of the virus, which originated in China and has infected about three-quarters of a million people around the world.
“If we do things together well — almost perfectly — we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities,” Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told NBC’s “Today” show.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top US health official, cited those figures on Sunday as a possible outcome, but Birx’s assessment appeared to suggest the figures could be a floor rather than a ceiling.
The virus has spread from its original epicenters in Washington state, New York and California.
Authorities in New Orleans were setting up a field hospital at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center — the same site where thousands of Hurricane Katrina refugees suffered in 2005 — to handle the expected overflow of patients.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued a “stay-at-home” order as cases rose. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced on Monday a stay-at-home order for his state.
In nearby Washington, D.C., congressional officials announced that the US Capitol would be closed to the public through April. They had previously said it would be closed until the end of March.
A number of prominent Americans, including several members of Congress, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Renowned country and folk singer John Prine was in stable condition on Monday after being hospitalized with symptoms of the illness, his wife said on Twitter. Prine, a 73-year-old cancer survivor, lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Trump initially played down the risk to Americans, drawing criticism from health officials and political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden, front-runner in the Democratic race to challenge Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
“We allowed the seeds to be planted. And now there is nothing to do but wait for the bloom. A lot of these deaths are already percolating,” said Dana Miller, 61, of Belmont, Massachusetts, a retired US government health policy official.
Trump on Friday signed a $2 trillion package of emergency measures that helped to soothe rattled nerves on Wall Street, where stocks had fallen sharply. Major US stock indexes were up again on Monday.
Trump abandoned a hotly criticized plan to get the economy up and running by mid-April, extending his original 15-day nationwide stay-at-home order for another 30 days, a step that many Americans accepted with resignation.
“I’m sad to be locked inside, but I think it’s for the best,” said Mia Siracusa, 24, a data manager ordered to work out of her apartment in Brooklyn, whose live-in boyfriend is from Italy and whose mother is a New York City hospital nurse.
“I get frustrated when people don’t stay in,” she said. “I am frustrated that our federal government didn’t get a handle on this sooner.”