Duterte orders Bello to repatriate those who want to go home
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday lamented the death of a Filipino woman in Kuwait, saying he is ready to take “drastic steps” to prevent further loss of lives among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf state and other Arab nations.
“The Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere,” Duterte said in a press conference in his home city of Davao.
“Every unlawful physical injury inflicted on an OFW is an injury I personally bear as the head of this republic. Every abuse committed to an OFW is an affront against us as a sovereign nation.”
Duterte did not hold back his anger after learning of the news about the death of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, whose body was found inside a freezer at an abandoned apartment in Kuwait.
He also expressed outrage at reports of Filipinas who were abused by their employers in Kuwait. He showed photos of some of the victims whose body bore bruises and burns from repeated beatings.
“I was reading this report complete with pictures sa eroplano. P****g i*a. Hindi ko masikmura,” he said.
“It is totally unacceptable to me. Kung wala rin ako magagawa sa Pilipino, tapos ganito, eh wala din akong silbi dito sa pagka-presidente.”
Duterte again stressed he does not want a quarrel with oil-rich Arab nations, but he begged the governments of these countries to ensure that Filipino workers in the Middle East are treated humanely.
He said it seemed Middle East governments were “oblivious” to what was happening to Filipino workers in their respective countries.
“What are you doing to my countrymen? And if I were to do it to your citizens here, would you be happy?” Duterte asked.
“Parang pinirito, nilitson. Is there something wrong with your culture? Is there something wrong with the values? P***** i** plinantsa ‘yung katawan.”
DEPLOYMENT BAN CONTINUES
In view of this development, the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait enforced last month stays indefinitely, Duterte said.
He also ordered Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to work on the repatriation of Filipinos in Kuwait within 72 hours.
“Everyone who wants to come home, I said to [Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III], those who want to be repatriated, with or without money, I will ask PAL (Philippine Airlines) and Cebu Pacific to provide the transportation. I want them out of the country, those who want to go out, in 72 hours," said Duterte, who had earlier threatened to withdraw all OFWs in Kuwait.
The President recently met with Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh and was invited to visit the Gulf state.
The meeting between Duterte and the Kuwaiti envoy took place just as news about Demafelis’ death broke.
Duterte said he will “wait and see” whether he will still push through with his Kuwait trip.
“If my appearance... [will solve the problem], I might go,” Duterte quoted himself as saying during his meeting with the Kuwaiti envoy.
Duterte also ordered local authorities to be on guard against human traffickers who might attempt to bring Filipino workers to Kuwait despite the deployment ban.
Bello, meanwhile, said he urged Duterte to have Kuwait sign a memorandum of understanding which shall provide additional protection for OFWs there. He noted that the MOU has been pending for three years.
More than 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, the Department of Foreign Affairs estimates, with most of them as domestic helpers. There are also a large number of Filipino workers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.