Philippines defends ambassador summoned by Kuwait

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Monday, April 23, defended its ambassador who was summoned by Kuwait after the Philippine embassy rescued overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) allegedly abused by Kuwaiti employers.

In an interview with reporters, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano confirmed that Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa was summoned by Kuwait at least 3 times. Kuwait's foreign ministry handed Villa two protest notes, the state-run Kuwait News Agency earlier reported.

Cayetano said Kuwait questioned why the Philippine embassy conducted rescue operations, even using a rescue vehicle with a diplomatic plate. 

Cayetano said Villa "calmly" answered that the embassy coordinates with Kuwait's interior ministry, as well as local authorities, on rescue operations like these.

He also said cases of abused OFWs "are cases that could not wait."

He cited the Kuwaiti government's swift response to the case of 29-year-old OFW Joanna Demafelis, who was found dead in a freezer in Kuwait.

"Hihintayin pa ba natin na may mangyari pang ganoon bago tayo kumilos? But of course, iba kultura, iba system of laws. Minsan, normal na magkaroon ng misunderstanding," Cayetano said.

(Will we wait for that to happen again before we act? But of course, we have different cultures, different systems of laws. Sometimes, it's normal to have misunderstandings.)

"We will do our best to clarify all of these, and to assure our friendship with the Kuwaiti government, and that our people there are safe, in the same manner that we are assuring them that their nationals here in the Philippines will be kept safe and will be protected," the Philippines' top diplomat added. 

'No offense'

In his interview with reporters on Monday, Cayetano was also asked if he has heard reports that Kuwait has told Villa to return to the Philippines within 3 days.

He said Kuwait has not explicitly said this, but he assured Kuwait that the Philippine embassy meant no offense.

He was set to meet with Kuwait's ambassador to the Philippines, Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh, later on Monday.

"Hindi explicit na sinabi. Wala pang ganoon. We will tell you kung meron. But they're doing some investigation now on the Kuwait side, and mamaya i-ano natin sa ambassador na sana maging fair lahat at protected mga tao natin sapagkat ginawa lang nila naman mga trabaho nila, and it was really not meant to offend the Kuwaiti government," Cayetano said.

(They did not explicitly say that. We haven't heard anything like that. We will tell you if there's something. But they're doing some investigation now on the Kuwait side, and later we will tell the ambassador that we hope they'll be fair to all, and they'll protect our people, because the Filipino officials just did their jobs, and it was really not meant to offend the Kuwaiti government.)

Kuwait recently arrested two Filipinos for allegedly urging Filipino maids to escape their employers, said the state-run Kuwait News Agency.

The Philippines earlier banned the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait upon the orders of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had slammed Kuwait over the abuse of OFWs there. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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