Total ban on Kuwait: Too late, too little, too overacting?
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - January 20, 2020 - 12:00am

As a former Labor attaché to Kuwait, I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad when I learned that the POEA Governing Board came up with a resolution imposing a total ban on deployment of all OFWs to that tiny gulf state.

I have highest respect for Secretary Bebot Bello, a man of honor and integrity. But this move is ill-advised. The ban should be amended. Ban all maids to all countries, I totally agree. But I hasten to add that the ban should exclude professionals and highly technical jobs. There many well-paid professionals in Kuwait working happily in the Kuwait government as health services professional service providers, doctors, medical technologists, dentists, as well as engineers, aircraft technicians, IT experts, hotel staff, restaurant employees, shop clerks, and sales personnel. These people are happy and well-paid. Why jeopardize their jobs? If they and others who have already paid placement fees aren’t allowed to work there, where shall the government put them? The ban shall cause college students to drop out of school, and many housing loans to foreclose.

I feel the ban is appropriate, but only for domestic helpers. A total ban is absolutely wrong when it includes engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, hotel and restaurant staff, and office personnel. There are about 300,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, but only about 275,000 are documented. Of the 300,000 Filipino migrant workers, about 220,000 are domestic helpers. These women who are constantly being abused should be repatriated. No ifs, no buts. Immediately. But the ban unnecessarily prejudiced the jobs of 80,000 well-paid, skilled, and highly-educated OFWs. We have no problems with them. The ban is like killing mosquitoes with an armalite. It is overreacting, to say the least.

Helpers in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, even in Libya, are the ones being constantly abused, maltreated, raped, and even murdered. They are held as virtual slaves and prisoners, their cellphones and passports confiscated and held by their cruel masters. They aren’t allowed to go out, not even to church to worship, or to the hospitals when they are sick. If there’s a need to renew passports and visas, they are closely guarded by guards or the masters themselves when they go to the embassy. The total ban is a correct government action concerning them. And not just to Kuwait but to all countries importing maids like modern slaves.

We have had a long history of murders, false accusations, and rapes involving our domestic helpers, but the ban is too late now after the saga of Sarah Balabagan, Flor Contemplacion, Delia Maga, Marilou Veloso, Jerain Asuncion, Ziti Zainab, Joanna Dimafeliz and now Jeanelyn Villavende. And it’s too little because the ban should have been done right after Contemplacion’s case in the mid-nineties. All the government did was to pass Republic Act 8042, the so-called Migrant Workers' Act, which was bastardized by the recruiters and their cohorts in Congress by inserting surreptitiously a caveat limiting backwages of illegally-dismissed OFWs to only three months. Such caveat was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But the rascals in the recruitment industry inserted it again in Republic Act 10022. The Supreme Court again annulled such an immoral insertion.

I don’t know if members of the POEA governing board has ever visited the gulf countries, or if they understand the problem. They acted to please the people crying for blood because of the rape and murder of Villavende. But they never made a distinction between good and bad employers. They should meet again and reconsider their great mistake.

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