Kuwaiti employers of OFW Villavende charged with murder – Bello

MANILA, Philippines – The employers of slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jeanelyn Villavende have been charged with murder in Kuwait, said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday, January 28.

Bello announced the development during a hearing of the Senate committee on labor and employment.

"I was informed that the employers have been formally charged with murder," Bello said, adding that the suspects are detained in a facility for high criminals.

What happened to Villavende? Autopsy reports revealed the OFW was sexually abused and physically battered for weeks before she was beaten to death.

Villavende had repeatedly asked to be brought back home to the Philippines at least 3 months before she died in December 2019, though her cries to her recruitment agency went unanswered.

According to Bello, one of Villavende's employers worked for Kuwait's Ministry of Interior.

How has the Philippines responded? Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Duterte government welcomes the development.

"Okay 'yun kasi 'di ba, 'yun 'yung hinihingi natin (That's good because that's what we asked for) – justice. We welcome that," Panelo told reporters in a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday.

Philippine authorities have slammed Villavende's death, describing it as a "clear violation" of the agreement signed by both the Philippines and Kuwait in 2018.

The agreement, which came at the end of a diplomatic crisis over the gruesome murder of OFW Joanna Demafelis, seeks to uphold the protection of the rights and welfare of Filipino workers in the Gulf state.

Following the killing of Villavende, the Department of Labor and Employment issued a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait on January 15.

Bello said the ban will stay in place until justice is served for Villavende and terms of the 2018 labor agreement are incorporated in standard contracts for all OFWs in the Gulf state. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.