'A misunderstanding:' Cayetano defends envoy over Kuwait 'slur'

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2018 11:57 AM | Updated as of Apr 23 2018 01:13 PM

MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday defended a diplomat who came under fire for his allegedly offensive remarks against Kuwait.

Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa was seen in a video over the weekend supposedly saying that his embassy did not need the aid of Kuwaiti authorities in helping undocumented Filipinos.

The video, which also shows embassy officials rescuing distressed Filipino household service workers from Kuwaiti homes, went viral online, prompting the Kuwaiti foreign ministry to summon Villa over the weekend and lodge a diplomatic protest.

Cayetano said there was no abuse of diplomatic privilege in the rescue since embassy officials conducted them in coordination with Kuwaiti authorities.

”Bakit tayo mismo nagre-rescue? Kasi these cases ay may grave danger at pwedeng life or death ang usapan sa OFWs. So kung duguan, ginugulpi, very likely nang nasasaktan siya, continuous ang abuse, kung hinintay mo ang process, baka tumagal ito,” he told reporters.

(Why did we rescue them ourselves? It's because these cases involve grave danger and it may be a matter of life and death for our OFWs. If they are injured, beaten, and the abuse is continuous, if you wait for the process, the rescue would take a long time.)

Cayetano said he will meet Monday with Kuwaiti ambassador to Manila Musaed Saleh Al-Thuwaikh to present the Philippines’ side on the issue.

He will also relay the country’s gratitude for the Kuwaiti government’s assistance in the repatriation of undocumented OFWs, as well as its concerns that should be addressed before the Philippines lifts its deployment ban for Kuwait-bound workers.

“Normal magka-misunderstanding. We will do our best to clarify all of this and to assure our friendship with the Kuwaiti government and that our people there are safe,” Cayetano said.

“Ako ay naniniwala na maaayos ang misunderstanding na 'yun. Ang pinaka-importante mapakinggan natin yung complaint at bago natin pirmahan ang agreement at i-lift ang ban, maayos ang takbo ng systema natin,” he added.

(I believe this misunderstanding can be resolved. What is important is that we listen to the complaint and ensure that the system works before we sign an agreement and lift the ban.)

Cayetano made the remarks at the country's main airport, where he welcomed the last batch of OFWs who availed of the Kuwaiti amnesty program for undocumented workers.

The embassy in Kuwait will continue to process the repatriation of undocumented Filipinos despite the end of the amnesty program last Sunday, he said.

He said private companies, Special Envoy for OFW affairs Eduardo Manalo, and other groups have pledged to pitch in for the airfare of repatriated Filipinos.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, he said, will assess the repatriation's progress possibly until the end of April before making its recommendations for the end of the deployment ban.

Some 5,000 OFWs have returned to the country since February under the amnesty program, half of the initial estimate of 10,000 illegally residing Filipinos in Kuwait, the DFA said.