MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III defended Thursday President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to expand a ban on Filipinos working in Kuwait due to reports of Filipino workers suffering abuse and exploitation.
The Philippines on Monday announced a ban on sending Kuwait-bound overseas Filipino workers, including those who had already obtained employment permits but had not yet left for the wealthy oil-producing country. The deployment ban excludes OFWs vacationing in the Philippines or those returning to Kuwait under a renewed contract.
Duterte said his government would ask private airlines to evacuate Filipino nationals from Kuwait within 72 hours, after the discovery of the dead body of a Filipino migrant worker in a freezer.
The development could damage ties between the Philippines and Kuwait, warned the latter's foreign affairs minister, Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah.
In response, Bello said the President wants to make sure that Filipino workers are safe in Kuwait.
"Dapat intindihin naman niya iyung posisyon ng ating Pangulo. Ikaw ba naman ang presidente ng isang manggagawa na pinasa ang buong katawan at inilagay sa freezer," Bello told DZMM.
(He should try to understand the position of the President. He is the president of a worker whose entire body was bruised and then placed inside a freezer.)
Filipina maid Joanna Daniela Demafelis lost contact with her family in February 2017. Her body had torture marks and was found stored in a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait, where it may have been kept for over a year, Bello had said.
Authorities say 252,000 Filipinos work in the Gulf state, many as maids. They are among over 2 million employed in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.