Bong Go

Bong Go urges thorough review of deployment policies to protect OFWs

February 6, 2023 People's Journal 261 views

FOLLOWING the brutal killing of Filipino domestic worker Jullebee Ranara in Kuwait, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go is urging a thorough review of the policies regulating the deployment of overseas Filipino workers.

In an ambush interview after personally aiding fire victims in Valenzuela City on Friday, February 3, Go asked the government to consider stricter vetting procedures when it comes to deployment of OFWs in certain countries especially to high risk areas, those where abuse have been reported and experienced, as well as in areas with weak labor welfare practices.

“Ayaw naman natin na may mawalan ng trabaho ang mga kababayan natin na gustong magtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Pero importante sa akin na maproteksyunan ang buhay at mga karapatan nila nasaan man sila sa mundo,” said Go.

“Naintindihan ko po ang katayuan ng ating mga OFWs. Mahirap pong magtrabaho sa ibang bansa, mahirap mapalayo sa pamilya, hindi po nababayaran ang lungkot. Ngunit kailangan nilang magtrabaho doon at ayaw natin sila pa ang nasasaktan,” he added.

The body of Ranara was found in a desert in Kuwait on January 22 and was reportedly burned, according to local Kuwaiti media. The primary suspect, a 17-year-old Kuwaiti citizen who is the son of Ranara’s employer, has been arrested by the authorities.

This is not the first time a Filipina domestic worker was murdered in Kuwait. In 2019, Filipino household service worker Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende was also murdered by her Kuwaiti employer.

In 2018, the body of another domestic worker, Joanna Demafelis, was discovered inside an abandoned warehouse.

In January 2020, in response to Villavende’s murder, then president Rodrigo Duterte issued a temporary ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait which was eventually lifted.

In 2018, Duterte also approved a ban on OFW deployment to Kuwait in response to the discovery of the body of Demafelis which had been in an abandoned warehouse since November 2016.

During these times, the Philippine government has offered voluntary repatriation to OFWs in Kuwait. On May 11, 2018, a memorandum of agreement was signed between the Philippines and Kuwait. The labor pact was part of an effort to end the persistent human rights violations committed by Kuwaiti employers against their Filipino workers.

Go then urged the government to conduct a comprehensive study of the policies and measures and make certain that Filipino migrant workers are safeguarded.

“So pag-aralan nating mabuti, repasuhin pong mabuti at protected dapat ang mga OFWs,” said Go.

“So ‘yun po ang dapat unang gawin po ng gobyerno sa ngayon. Ako naman po nananawagan po ako ng hustisya po sa pagkamatay ni Jullebee,” he added.

Earlier, the Department of Migrant Workers stated that the Philippine government is not yet considering suspending the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait. DMW Secretary Susan Ople said that the agency is instead looking at developing more measures to secure the safety of overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait.

“Ang nakikita namin on the ground, mabilis umaksyon ang Kuwaiti government,” Ople told media.

“So no, we’re not contemplating suspension of deployment to Kuwait, but yes, we are looking at additional safeguards and reforms to make sure workers bound for Kuwait are better protected,” she added.

Expressing his concern for Filipinos who work overseas to support their families, Go then underlined the need for the government to exert continuing efforts to protect the lives of Filipinos who have opted to pursue economic opportunities outside of the country.

“Ako po ay nalulungkot sa mga kababayan natin na nagsasakripisyo po, mga modern-day heroes natin na sila po ang nabibiktima ng karahasan sa ibang bansa,” said Go.

“Dapat silipin, repasuhin, importante po ang proteksyon ng ating mga OFWs, buhay po nila ang proteksyunan natin parati,” he reiterated.

Go was one of the authors and co-sponsors of the Senate version of the Republic Act 11641 which created the DMW. It is the consolidated version of an earlier measure he filed which sought to create the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, ensuring the efficient and effective delivery of key government services for OFWs.

The law streamlined the organization and functions of all government agencies related to overseas employment and migration through the creation of the DMW.

The DMW also operates as a one-stop shop for both documented and undocumented OFWs, rendering government services from pre-employment to employment and reintegration.