Philippines, Kuwait need to review labor deals after OFW's slay: official

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2023 04:22 PM

DMW handout photo
Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople vows justice for slain OFW Jullebee Ranaza as she consoles the mother of the murdered OFW. DMW handout photo

MANILA — The Philippines and Kuwait need to review labor agreements following the brutal slay of a Filipina worker allegedly at the hands of her employer, an official of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said on Wednesday. 

The charred remains of 35-year-old OFW Jullebee Ranara were found in the desert late Sunday. Kuwaiti authorities have arrested the 17-year-old son of her employer. 

The DMW is also looking into employment contract violations and abuses other OFWs may have experienced in Kuwait, said the agency's spokesperson Toby Nebrida. 

"Kailangan balikan natin, i-revisit natin ang kasunduan between ng pamahalaan natin at pamahalaan ng Kuwait tungkol sa ating bilateral labor arrangements," he said in a televised briefing. 

"Kailangan yatang pagtibayin pa yung protection mechanism for our workers. Mukhang hindi tayo papayag na ganoon na lang at nakakalusot ang violations and abuses." 

(We need to revisit the labor agreements of our government with Kuwait. We need to strengthen the protection mechanism for our workers. We will not allow these violations and abuses.)

Citing Kuwaiti news reports, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada on Monday noted that the 17-year-old son of Ranara's employer allegedly raped and impregnated her. The OFW "was beaten, ran over by the perpetrator’s car twice and was burnt and left for dead in the desert," the senator said. 

The DMW retained a Kuwaiti lawyer familiar with the country's laws to represent the Philippines in Ranara's case, Nebrida said. 

"Tama yung observation, minor nga [ang suspect]. We will have to work within the bounds of the... justice system ng Kuwait," the official said. 

"Nakikipag-ugnayan tayo sa ating retained na abugado, to take into consideration yung circumstances na ganyan. Pero siyempre itutulak natin na there should be justice for Jullebee," he added. 

(The observation is correct. The suspect is. a minor... We are coordinating with the lawyer we retained to take into consideration those circumstances. But of course, we will push for justice for Jullebee.)

Video from PTV

The Philippines "is not contemplating suspension of deployment to Kuwait" and will instead seek "additional safeguards", Migrant Workers Secretary Toots Ople said on Tuesday. 

Some 100,220 Filipinos were working in Kuwait last year. At least 47,000 or around 68 percent of them are household workers, according to DMW data. 

The Commission on Human Rights noted "reports of distressed OFWs in huge numbers seeking refuge in shelters and are awaiting repatriation" in Kuwait. 

It urged the Philippines to demand from foreign employers and other states the "full implementation of employment standards—including safe working conditions, timely remuneration, and protection from maltreatment." 

The Department of Foreign Affairs for this year was given around P259.1 million to provide legal assistance to migrant workers and overseas Filipinos in distress, DFA Assistant. Secretary Paul Cortes said during a House hearing. 

The DMW also has a P1.2-billion "action fund" that can also be tapped to help in legal expenses of OFWs. 

"We affirm our commitment to provide services to our OFWs, especially in need of legal assistance," DMW Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said in the same hearing of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs. 

"Ang tinutumbok po natin ay (our focus is on) legal and medical assistance that can be provided to all OFW on the ground," he added.

— With reports from Joyce Balancio and Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News