Kuwait expels Philippine ambassador amid dispute

Hussain al-Qatari - Associated Press
Kuwait expels Philippine ambassador amid dispute
Kuwait's Ministry of Interior had summoned Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa (center) to question the operations conducted by embassy officials to rescue distressed Filipino domestic helpers.
DFA / Released

KUWAIT CITY — Kuwait on Wednesday gave a one-week deadline for the Philippines ambassador to leave the small, oil-rich Gulf Arab nation over a growing diplomatic dispute regarding the abuse of Filipina housemaids and workers in the country.

Kuwait also recalled its own ambassador from Manila over the row, according to a bulletin on the state-run KUNA news agency.

The Philippines had no immediate comment on the decision.

The announcement came after Kuwait summoned the Philippines ambassador over comments he made that were reported in local press about the embassy's effort to rescue domestic workers who are abused by their employers.

Ambassador Renato Villa was quoted as saying his embassy moves in to help the abused if Kuwaiti authorities fail to respond within 24 hours.

Villa offered a public apology Tuesday, as did Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, over the comments. Two Filipinos also were arrested this weekend for allegedly encouraging maids to flee their employers' homes, Kuwaiti police said.

READ: Arrested Filipinos in Kuwait, drivers of OFW rescue teams — Cayetano

The Philippines banned the deployment of new workers to Kuwait after the discovery of Joanna Demafelis' body in a freezer in February.

In late March, Lebanese officials said 40-year-old Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf confessed to killing the woman along with his Syrian wife, who remains at large. Authorities say Assaf faces a possible death sentence.

More than 260,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many of them as housemaids. Kuwait and the Philippines have since been negotiating for new rules governing Filipino workers there.

Philippine officials have demanded that housemaids be allowed to hold their passports and cellphones, which is normal for skilled workers like teachers and office workers. But many Kuwaiti employers seize their phones and passports. 

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