Murdered OFW in Kuwait wanted to go home months before death

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jeanelyn Villavende had repeatedly asked to be brought back home to the Philippines at least 3 months before she was beaten to death in Kuwait in December 2019.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said in a statement on Thursday, January 2, that Villavende informed her recruitment agency of maltreatment and underpayment under her employer as early as September 2019.

Her cries went unanswered.

"We will...ask Villavende's recruitment agency to explain their inaction. As early as September, she already complained about maltreatment and underpayment of salary. She also repeatedly requested the agency for repatriation, but they did not do anything," Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

The recruitment agency, Bello added, faces the possible cancellation of its license for failing to act on Villavende's case.

Why this matters: Preliminary reports submitted by Labor Attaché Nassar Mustafa of the Philippine Labor Office in Kuwait showed Villevende was beaten to death, purportedly in the hands of her employer.

DOLE said Villavende was already dead when brought to the hospital and that nurses there reported she was "black and blue." The agency added that an autopsy was needed to determine the exact date of Villavende's death.

According to DOLE, Villavende's family last spoke to her in October 2019. When they tried to call her again on December 13, her female employer answered and said Villavende was "busy."

Kuwaiti authorities have since detained Villavende's employer.

How the Philippines has responded: Philippine authorities slammed Villavende's death, describing it as a "clear violation" of the agreement signed by both Kuwait and the Philippines 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.

After the death of yet another OFW in Kuwait, DOLE announced it was set to issue a partial deployment ban to the country where over 240,000 Filipinos are currently employed, half of whom are female domestic workers. – 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.

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