Remains of Filipina domestic helper killed in Kuwait arrive in hometown

Marje Pelayo   •   January 9, 2020   •   1263

MANILA, Philippines — Family and friends of Jeanalyn Villavende were both sad and furious as they welcomed the remains of the slain Filipina domestic worker at the General Santos Airport on Thursday (January 8).

Villavende, who was abused and killed by her employer in Kuwait, was immediately flown to her hometown at Norala, South Cotabato.

With placards in hand, her family, relatives and friends united to express their anger as they called for justice for what happened to 26-year-old Jeanelyn.

“Gusto kong mangyari sa employer ni Jeanelyn yung nangyari din sa kanya,” lamented Jeanelyn’s stepmother, Nelly Pardenal.

(I want them to suffer what Jeanelyn had suffered.)

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) immediately conducted a re-autopsy on Jeanelyn’s body to determine the true cause of her death.

Investigations in Kuwait said Jeanelyn died of heart or respiratory failure due to shock after she suffered multiple injuries.

“Hindi namin alam kasi nireport sa amin na patay na talaga doon sa ospital,” said Pardenal, “Patay na siguro talaga, doon pa lang galing sa bahay nila.”

The result of the autopsy is expected to be released soon while her parents expressed confidence that they will get justice for what happened to the Pinay worker.

“Naniniwala ako kasi inaayos naman nila. Tumutulong naman sila para mabigyan ng hustisy ang kamatayan ni Jeanelyn,” Pardenal believed.

(I’m keeping my faith because they are helping to resolve the case and give justice to Jeanelyn’s death.)

Her family expressed gratitude to the assistance the government has offered for the immediate repatriation of Villavende’s remains.

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III is expected to visit Jeanalyn’s wake on Friday (January 10). — MNP (with report from Correspondent Janice Ingente)

Bello vows justice for OFW raped in Saudi Arabia

Marje Pelayo   •   July 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday (July 5) directed Philippine representatives in Saudi Arabia to take immediate action on the case of a Filipina overseas worker who was raped by her foreign recruiter and abused by her employer there.

Specifically, Bello ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh to initiate appropriate legal steps against the suspects, and impose administrative penalties on the local recruitment agency which deployed the victim.

The OFW identified by the name Michelle was allegedly raped by the owner of the foreign recruitment agency (FDA) and molested by one of her employers before she was repatriated recently.

The Labor Chief directed POLO to take legal action and go after Meshail Mabrook Al Bassani Al Qahtani and employer Abdulaziz Ahlas, owners of Home Comfort Recruitment Office/Home Comfort Manpower Services, for the rape and abuse of the Filipina.

Bello also directed the POEA to penalize the local company SAMA International Recruitment Agency which reportedly ignored Michelle’s complaints and her ordeal in Saudi Arabia.

In his urgent memorandum to Labor Attache Fidel Macauyag, Bello instructed the POLO in Riyadh to work with authorities there for immediate legal action there as the case is cannot be processed in the Philippines “due to lack of jurisdiction.”

“The crime happened outside of the Philippines and the principle of extraterritoriality can’t be applied to the case,” he explained.

Nevertheless, Bello vowed justice to the aggrieved OFW.

“I will do everything possible to help our OFW fight back against her tormentors,” Bello said.

He noted that he already ordered the suspension of the FDA’s accreditation with the POLO.

He also directed Macauyag to coordinate closely with Arab authorities for the filing of criminal cases and prosecution of Al Qahtani and Ahlas.

On the other hand, Bello tasked POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia to probe Ahlas over violations of POEA rules and impose penalties for the sexual abuse committed against the OFW.

The Labor chief also told Olalia to sanction the FDA and Qahtani.

Likewise, he ordered POEA to build up an administrative case against SAMA and suspend the agency to prevent further violation and exploitation of Filipino migrant workers.

Upon her arrival in the country, Michelle went to the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) where she was given legal assistance in the preparation for her sworn statement.

PAO also conducted forensic tests on the OFW which yielded results indicating sexual abuse and injuries.

OFWs safe in Israel, only one requested transfer to gov’t shelter — DOLE

Marje Pelayo   •   May 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III confirmed to UNTV on Friday (May 14) that only one overseas Filipino worker (OFW) did ask for help amid the ongoing tension in Israel.

Bello said the OFW requested to be transferred to the Embassy’s shelter for safety.

“Mayroon lang isa na nagpatulong na mailipat dahil iyong kanyang employer muntik ng ma-bull’s eye ang bahay kaya sa takot nagpa-tulong na milipat muna siya,” Bello said citing reports from Labor Attaché in Israel Rodolfo Gabasan.

[Only one asked assistance and be transferred because [an airstrike] nearly hit her employer’s house. In fear, she asked to be transferred.]

“Kaya kinuha siya ng ating labor attache at inilipat sa shelter na kung nasaan ang mga kasamahan siyang mga kababayan natin,” he added.

[So our labor attache fetched her and transported her to our shelter where some of our kababayans are also staying.]

So far, the Labor Chief assured that no Filipino worker has been injured or killed in the conflict although the situation remains volatile.

“Ang sabi niya [Gabasan] lumalala ang tensyon pero awa ng Dios wala pa tayong nadadamay na kababayan, wala pang nasasaktan, wala pang namamatay,” Secretary Bello said.

[According to [Labor Attache Gabasan], the tension is escalating but with God’s mercy, none of our compatriots have been affected, no one is injured, no one is killed.]

In its Facebook page, the Philippine Embassy in Israel constantly reminds Filipinos in the country to be vigilant amid the uprisings, through a detailed advisory written in Filipino for easier understanding.

The Embassy remains closed but its hotline numbers +972 54 466 1188 will always be open for Filipinos to call in case of emergency.

BI warns of illegal recruitment scheme victimizing former Overseas Filipino Workers

Marje Pelayo   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is warning illegal recruiters taking advantage of former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) amid the current employment crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was after members of the BI Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) at the Clark International Airport intercepted the departure of an illegal recruitment victim bound for Dubai last April 5, 2021.

The victim, whose name was not divulged following human trafficking and illegal recruitment laws, attempted to depart for Dubai via an Emirates Airlines flight.

The victim presented an overseas employment certificate (OEC) being a Balik Manggagawa, but upon checking of his documents, Immigration Officer Vanessa Icban noticed some inconsistencies and referred the matter to members of BI’s TCEU for further inspection.

Upon further checking, TCEU officer Tomas David and Vincent Serrano noted that the victim arrived in the country in 2019, and possessed a Dubai work visa.

However, after verification, it was found that his work visa has already been cancelled, and he has an active tourist visa.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente commended the efforts of the Clark immigration officers in intercepting said victim.

“I know it is a challenge to intercept such cases as they are presenting complete documents and are in the guise of being legitimate OFWs,” said Morente.

“We commend the quick eye of our immigration officers, which allowed them to uncover this modus,” he added.

In the said scheme, former OFWs whose visas and contracts have expired are given new tourist visas which allow them to depart and work illegally as tourists, using their old OEC records.

“This is an obvious circumvention of the law, and victims are promised that they can depart using their old OECs that are, in fact, invalid already,” the BI Chief said.

“Victims end up working for a different employer, or worse, fly off to a third country like Iraq or Syria,” he added.

The victim was turned over to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Labor Assistance Center Pampanga for assistance.

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