Murdered OFW in Kuwait sought help from agency months before her death – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   January 3, 2020   •   869

MANILA, Philippines – The recruitment agency that deployed Jeanelyn Villavende to Kuwait is facing possible cancellation of its license over the death of the Filipino household worker, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

In a statement on Thursday, Bello said they will ask Villavende’s agency to explain its inaction on the OFW’s repeated requests for repatriation months before her death.

“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,” he said.

Preliminary reports submitted by Labor Attaché Nasser Mustafa of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Kuwait revealed that Villavende was beaten to death, purportedly by her employer, 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 after the autopsy.

The report said Villavende’s family was last able to talk to her in October. They again tried to contact her on December 13, but it was her female employer who who answered the call and told them that Villavende was “busy.”

The Kuwaiti employer has since been detained by authorities.

According to Overseas Workers Welfare Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, death and burial benefits will be extended to the OFW, while her family will receive livelihood assistance and educational scholarship for her youngest sibling.

Cacdac recently went to Norala in South Cotabato to condole with Villavende’s family and extend government assistance.

Villavende’s death has prompted the Philippine government to impose fresh partial deployment ban to Kuwait.

Bello said the ban will only cover first time workers who will serve as household service workers to Kuwait, and excludes skilled and vacationing workers.

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

In 2018, the Philippines and Kuwait signed a labor pact seeking to protect Filipino workers from abuses. This was after the Philippines implemented a deployment ban following the killing of Joanna Demafelis.

Demafelis’ remains were discovered inside a freezer where she was believed to have been kept for more than a year after she was reported missing in 2016.

Her employers, believed to have fled Kuwait a year before her frozen body was found, were later arrested in Syria and convicted for murder charges.

380 distressed Filipinos from Kuwait to return home this week – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   June 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of Filipino workers repatriated from Kuwait are set to return to the country this week, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

In a statement on Sunday, DOLE cited a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait stating that 380 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFW) will arrive in Manila on June 1 and June 3.

They will be repatriated via two chartered flights, each carrying 190 OFWs, arranged by the Kuwaiti government.

The repatriation of this batch is part of the State of Kuwait’s Amnesty Program which started in April 2020, DOLE said.

According to DOLE Undersecretary Claro Arellano, 2,277 Filipinos were repatriated by the Kuwaiti government following the March 30 implementation of its Amnesty Program covering all expatriates with expired residency visa including those with absconding cases provided that they have no travel ban.

“Kuwaiti government shouldered the airfare costs, including provision for food and accommodation to qualified OFW availees pending their departure to the Philippines,” Arellano said.

DOLE said closely coordinated with the Public Authority for Manpower and the Ministry of Interior, through the POLO in Kuwait, to ensure that qualified OFWs are given priority access on the amnesty program of the host government which ended on April 30.

DOLE reminds companies, employees of COVID-19 prevention protocols as work resumes Monday

Marje Pelayo   •   May 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila and some parts of the country will begin the implementation of general community quarantine (GCQ) on Monday (June 1).

Alongside the shift from modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ)to GCQ is the reopening of companies and establishments with a number of employees returning to their workplaces.

Based on records by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) around 2.8 million workers stopped working, some were laid off, due to the impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-1) pandemic on the country’s economy. 

Thus, many of those whose income were affected during the quarantine will need to work harder to recover their finances with the reopening of industries and sectors.

“Considering na matagal silang nawalan ng trabaho [Considering the length of time that they have been idle], you can just imagine the rush of workers kasi no-work-no-pay,” Bello noted.

“Now that they can work, for sure they will do everything within their means to report back to office,” he added.

The Secretary also expressed concern about the workers’ dilemma over the limited operation of mass transportation.

Street sweeper Lolita Danieles just returned to work on Tuesday (May 26) after two months of staying at home. 

However, she struggles with transportation as she has to pay P70 for a tricycle ride from Payatas to Litex, just halfway to her workplace in Timog Avenue.

“Minsan ang bus pumapara kami hindi kami hinihintuan. Maghintay talaga kami. Tyaga lang, [There are buses passing by but they do not stop. We need to wait patiently,]” she said.

“Kanina nga lang hinintuan kami nung kotse, siningil sa amin tig P50 isa, [Earlier a car owner offered us a ride but charged us P50 each],” she said.

Meanwhile, an employee of a construction company, Crispin Acincieno said he opted for a two-way personal service from his home in Bulacan to his work in Quezon City instead of commuting. 

“Definitely hindi muna. Kasi hindi pa naman sigurado. Hindi pa naman 100% safe na mag-public transport [Not yet for now, definitely, because it’s not yet sure if public transportations are 100% safe],” he said. 

Secretary Bello reminds employers and employees to always observe health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

These include the regular wearing of masks, temperature checking, setting up disinfection stations with alcohol and foot baths as well as maintaining proper social distance. 

Ating sinisiguro na ang ating mga worker na nakapasok ay ligtas sa contamination at transmission ng COVID-19 [We want to make sure, that our returning employees and workers are safe from contamination and transmission of COVID-19],” Bello said. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

DOLE targets send off of remaining OFWs in quarantine facilities this week

Marje Pelayo   •   May 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is doubling its efforts to finally send off all the remaining overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in government quarantine facilities in Metro Manila.

To date, DOLE has sent around 19,000 OFWs and according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, hopefully they will be able to send home the rest of them within this week.

Likewise, Bello apologized to all stranded OFWs for their prolonged stay in quarantine facilities. 

To address the matter, DOLE set up a command center at its central office in Manila to facilitate the gathering of all the necessary information regarding arriving OFWs.

Inaasahan natin with this center hindi na po mauulit ang nangyari sa ating mga minamahal sa buhay [We hope that with this center, what happened to our loved ones will not be repeated],” Bello said. 

“They do not deserve this to happen to them. And I repeat I am very sorry to our OFWs,” the Labor Chief added.

The command center is open 24/7 to accept inquiry and to assist all OFWs.

Also, inquiry may be directed to www.commancenter.dole.gov.ph.

Bello reported that there are still around 300,000 stranded OFWs in different parts of the globe, around 62,000 of them have signified their intention for repatriation. 

DOLE expects the arrival of some 42,000 OFWs by the end of May and June. 

Bello promised a faster quarantine process by administering COVID-19 tests to OFWs’ prior to their departure from their country of origin. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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