When do we stop deploying domestic helpers to Kuwait?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

The DMW should listen to Senator Raffy Tulfo. There should be a total ban on deployment of all OFWs, not just housemaids. The government and all the people of Kuwait and all the money-making recruiters should get a very strong message of outrage and denunciation. How many maids should die again before any decisive action can be done by this government?

This government refuses to ban deployment to Kuwait. Why? We should be counting cadavers instead of remittances. Many Filipina maids have been murdered, raped, tortured, and abused in Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries. Many of them were falsely accused of crimes and are languishing in detention centers. Hundreds are stranded in the Philippine Embassy. Still, the Philippine government never stops processing contracts and deploying women to work there as virtual slaves.

The photo on the front page of The Philippine STAR last week, showed the Department of Migrant Workers secretary embracing the grieving mother of another murdered Filipina maid in Kuwait. My heart bled as I remembered the years I was assigned to Kuwait as Labor attaché, and witnessed how our domestic helpers were maltreated, raped, and abused while others had been murdered. Despite this, the POEA never stops the deployment of maids there. Only the recruiters are making millions of dollars in the ceaseless pursuit of modern slaves. I have sent memos to the DOLE Head Office to stop the deployment of maids to Kuwait. The government always focuses on the dollar remittances.

In another newspaper photo a few days ago, the OWWA administrator and the DMW undersecretary were in the airport, supervising the batches of maids being repatriated from Kuwait. How many hundreds more are in the shelter in Kuwait? Each one of them has a story to tell. Is OWWA even documenting their injustices? This is becoming a vicious cycle of hurried deployment being pushed by profit-seeking recruiters and abetted by uncaring government officials and personnel who rush processing job orders and work contracts. They don’t even screen the quality of terms and conditions of employment, much less inspect the workplaces and quarters of Filipino migrant workers.

What is really the policy of the Philippine government then? Are dollar remittances more valued than the lives of Filipina maids? What is the priority of this administration? Is it only after more and more deployment, and would not even pause to analyze the number of runaways and failed deployment? Why is POEA not evaluating the volume of failed recruitment and deployment for each of the Philippine-based agencies? Why is there no news of agencies being suspended and cancelled despite all these violations? Why is POEA and DMW not exercising their visitorial powers under the Labor Code?

Filipina maid Jullebee Ranara was killed in Kuwait this month, her body burned then buried in the desert. This is not the first time this kind of inhumanity has been committed against our maids. And if the government continues to send thousands more there, this atrocity will definitely not be the last. On December 29, 2019, another Pinay maid, Jeanelyn Villavende was murdered in Kuwait. President Duterte vowed to "kill" the recruiters who sent her there. But just like all his other promises to stop contractualization, the drug problem, and corruption, they were mere figures of speech. Instead of punishing the recruiters, the Duterte government created the DMW, a telltale signal that this country is pushing its human capital into an unstifled diaspora.

Joanna Demafelis was murdered and her body put in a freezer in February 2018. Constancia Dayag was raped and murdered in May 2019. Villavende was killed by her female employer in December 2019. Now Ranara died after a possible rape. The usual drama is a vicious cycle of recruiting recklessly, processing contracts mindlessly, accepting all employers indiscriminately, then when there are thousands of stranded maids in the embassy, repatriating endlessly, and then repeating the process indefinitely.

If there are some murders every now and then, they show a face of outrage, if there are rapes here and there, express the obligatory exasperation, then appear outraged, angered, and anguished, deploring in empty words the inhumanity of employers and the greed of recruiters. We never stop and we never learn. This will continue to be the destiny of our country, unless and until we put an end to this charade. And Kuwait has absolutely no respect for the Filipinos. When are we going to stand up for our dignity?


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