Lawmakers link alleged ISIS member to OFW medical service provider

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers have linked a recently-arrested Kuwaiti national suspected to be a member of the Islamic State (ISIS), to a firm that once monopolized the provision of medical services to Kuwait-bound overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Several legislators called for a press conference on Tuesday, April 11, to remind OFWs to avoid availing of medical services from clinics associated with Winston Q8 Certification Solutions International Incorporated. They suspect the company is linked to alleged ISIS member Husayn Al-Dhafiri, who was nabbed by authorities a week ago.

They are Pangasinan 3rd District Representative Rosemarie Arenas, interparliamentary relations and diplomacy committee chairperson; Gabriela Women's Party Emmi de Jesus; ANGKLA Representative Jesulito Manalo; and
Kabayan Representative Harry Roque.

They said Al-Dhafiri shared the same name as the registered operations manager of Winston Q8. 

"Ang raket po ng Winston Q8, ito po ay kumikita ng P5 million to P6 million daily dahil ang sinisingil niya, P5,480 na bukod pa sa ibabayad doon sa 8 clinics na mandatory mong pupuntahan kung gusto mong magtrabaho sa Kuwait," said Roque.

(Winston Q8's scheme leads it to earn P5 million to P6 million daily because it asks for P5,480 apart from the payment to be given to the 8 clinics that should be mandatorily visited if you want to work in Kuwait.)

"At 'yung balita nga po ngayon na itong si Husayn Al-Dhafiri na hinuli dahil siya ay diumano'y ISIS, siya po ay operations manager ng Winston Q8. Ang kanyang address po ay address ng Winston Q8. So apparently, hindi lang po sila naninikil at pinagsasamantalahan ang ating OFWs. Ngayon, diumano sila po ay miyembro rin ng ISIS," added Roque.

(And Husayn Al-Dhafiri, who is reportedly part of ISIS, is the operations manager of Winston Q8. His address is that of Winston Q8. So apparently, they're not just abusing our OFWs. They are also alleged members of ISIS.) 

The lawmakers also claimed Al-Dhafiri is the brother of Winston Q8 president Robandar Al-Dhafiri. They identified the other Winston Q8 officials as Ahmad Almutairi, treasurer; and Bienvenido Amora Jr, corporate secretary.

In mid-2016, a new system was introduced for Kuwait-bound OFWs in getting medical services for their visa application. Under the scheme, OFWs were only able to get medical services through 8 accredited clinics in Metro Manila by Winston Q8. (READ: OFW rights groups decry Kuwait's new medical screening system)

The law, however, allows all aspiring OFWs to choose any medical testing center or clinic that is accredited by the Department of Health (DOH), not just by Winston Q8. 

Winston Q8's scheme then became the subject of a probe by the House committee on overseas workers affairs. Last month, the DOH ordered the closure of Winston Q8's 8 medical clinics.

Deeper Winston Q8 probe urged  

Arenas is urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to further look into Winston Q8's operations in the Philippines.  

"Kahit naipasara na namin ['yung mga clinics], kailangang malaman ng ating mga OFW na 'wag na silang pumunta diyan dahil napa-padlock na namin 'yan. Kaya nga 'yung mga kababayan natin galing sa ibang baryo, hindi nila alam," said Arenas. 

(Even if we managed to shut down the clinics, the OFWs need to know they shouldn't visit them anymore because we have padlocked them. But we have countrymen coming from the barrios who don't know about this.)

"Hindi namin alam na 'yan naman pala, may ka-link-link na [sa ISIS]. Para namang nakakataka: Ano naman ang ginagawa ng ibang branch ng government? Kami naman ay mambabatas lang," she added. 

(We didn't realize they have links to ISIS. Now we're wondering: What are the other branches of government doing? We are just lawmakers.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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