MANILA — The Philippines will seek "additional safeguards" instead of suspending the deployment of workers to Kuwait, Migrant Workers Secretary Toots Ople said on Tuesday, after a Filipina worker's brutal killing.
The charred remains of 35-year-old OFW Jullebee Ranara were found in the desert late Sunday. Kuwaiti authorities have arrested the son of her employer, the Department of Migrant Workers said on Monday.
“We’re not contemplating suspension of deployment to Kuwait. But yes, we’re looking at additional safeguards to make sure workers bound for Kuwait are better protected. That can only be done with cooperation of the Kuwaiti government,” Ople told reporters at the sidelines of a Senate hearing.
“We will reach out to the Kuwaiti government. Panahon na siguro para ibalik yung bilateral agreement...para magaya natin yung bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia na mas maraming safeguards para sa proteksyon ng ating mga manggagawa,” she added.
(Perhaps it's time to bring back the bilateral agreement so that we could copy the bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia which has more safeguards for the protection of our workers.)
Ople noted the the suspect in Ranara's killing was taken into the Kuwaiti police's custody "within 24 hours."
"Nakikita umaandar yung criminal justice system ng Kuwait," she said.
(This shows the criminal justice system of Kuwait is working.)
Ranara's remains will be flown to the Philippines in the coming days, Ople said. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will extend burial assistance for Ranara and support her 4 children’s educational needs. Her retirement and death benefits will be turned over to her family, who requested privacy, Ople said.
She said Ranara's killing highlighted the need to increase the participation of women in the labor force.
“As of 2021, nasa 39 percent lang eh. Nakikita ko dito, kaya maraming nag-a-abroad bilang kasambahay dahil dito sa atin medyo mahirap ding makakuha ng disente at maayos na trabaho yung mga kababaihan natin, lalo na yung sa mga malalayong lugar,” Ople said.
(As of 2021, it's only 39 percent. This is why many people go abroad as housekeepers because here in our country, it's also quite difficult for our women to get decent and proper jobs, especially those in remote areas.)
"We condemned in the harshest words possible the commitment of this crime,” she added.
Ople said the screening of employers should also be strengthened.
Ranara previously confided to her family that she was having problems with the allegedly abusive son of her employers. Her mother said she talked with Ranara on Friday. Relatives tried but failed to call her on the phone on Saturday and she was found dead the next day.
For Sen. Cynthia Villar, government personnel tasked to protect migrant workers should really be capable of doing their job.
Asked if there was a need to impose a deployment ban to Kuwait, Villar said, “Siguro. Tingnan nila kung so-solve-in nila, kung hindi, i-ban na nila.”
(Maybe. Let them see if they can solve it; if not, ban them.)
The government, she added, should also spur the creation of better-paying jobs that would encourage Filipinos to stay in the country instead of working overseas.
“In the Philippines may mga opportunities naman sila eh, di ba? Hindi naman masyado ganoon kalaki sweldo doon compared to us. Kaysa naman i-endanger mo yung life mo doon. Kasi iba ang kanilang culture doon. Pag katulong parang slavery,” Villar said.
(They have opportunities in the Philippines, right? The salary there is not that big compared to us. Rather than endanger your life there. Because their culture is different there. Being a helper is like slavery.)
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva added, "We can be better."
“Let’s convey that strong message to these countries na pinupuntahan ng ating mga kababayan, na pag di niyo kayang protektahan yung aming mga kababayan, na in demand sa buong mundo e hindi namin papasukin diyan. Marami naman pong pwedeng puntahan,” the senator stressed.
( Let's convey a strong message to these countries, that if you can't protect our compatriots, who are in demand all over the world, we will not let them go there. There are many other places.)
Villanueva authored the “National Employment Action Plan” bill, which aims to introduce a medium and longer-term plan that would produce jobs, regularly check on the labor demand, and introduce appropriate courses in schools.
“Hindi na kailangang umalis ng ating mga kababayan, mangibang-bansa para maghanap ng trabaho. Naniniwala ako, kahit mas mataas ang sweldo sa ibang bansa, kung may trabaho, may oportunidad, hindi sila aalis, at hindi nila isa-sacrifice na mahiwalay sila sa kanilang mahal sa buhay,” Villanueva told reporters.
(There is no need for our compatriots to leave, go abroad to look for work. I believe, even if the salary is higher in other countries, if there is a job, there is an opportunity, they will not leave, and they will not sacrifice being separated from their loved ones.)