THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has turned down the appeal of the Kuwaiti government for the lifting of the temporary suspension of deployment of Filipino workers to the oil-rich state, amid investigations into the deaths of seven Filipino household workers.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd disclosed on Thursday the request to lift the processing and issuance of overseas employment certificates (OECs) to Kuwait-bound overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) was relayed to him by Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines Musaed Saleh AM Althwaikh during a meeting.
“He requested for the lifting of the suspension but I told him that I have to wait for the results of the investigation,” Bello said.
Bello said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait was given 15 days to investigate the causes of death of the seven OFWs.
“The instruction of the President is to study the imposition of a total ban on the deployment [of OFWs]to Kuwait if it is proven that the violent deaths of our OFWs were caused by their employers,” he added.
According to Bello, the ambassador has assured him of the Kuwaiti government’s full support and cooperation with the POLO’s investigation, as well as the signing of a long-delayed memorandum of agreement (MoU) between the Philippines and Kuwait that will provide additional protection to Filipino workers.
The labor chief said the MOU provides, among others, that the passport will remain with the Filipino household worker upon arrival in Kuwait, stopping the practice of most employers of confiscating the document while the worker is under their employ.
The confiscation of passports is resorted to by some employers to force their household workers to be subservient even if they are maltreated, the DoLE said.
Bello said the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) was also conducting a separate probe into local recruitment agencies that deploy domestic workers to Kuwait.
“We will review the records of the agencies to determine the number of household workers they deployed to Kuwait. We want to know which agency is the most problematic in terms of household workers who encountered problems, died, were raped and [suffered]other abuses,” he said.
Bello said some of the local recruitment agencies were owned by Kuwaiti or other Middle Eastern individuals, which is prohibited under the law.
The seven Filipino household workers who died in Kuwait were Liezl Truz Hukdong, Vanessa Karissha Esguerra, Marie Fe Saliling Librada, Arlene Castillo Manzano, Devine Riche Encarnacion, Patrick Sunga and Mira Luna Juntilla. They were all deployed in 2016.
Kuwait has about 600,000 domestic helpers, mostly Asian