Philippines eases deployment ban to Kuwait

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) approved on Thursday, February 6, the partial lifting of the deployment ban of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait, which was imposed after the killing of a domestic worker there. 

The DOLE on January 10 set the ban after a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) autopsy revealed the grim circumstances surrounding the death of Filipino worker Jeanelyn Villavende in December 2019.

The partial lifting of the ban means that skilled workers, semi-skilled workers, and professionals – both newly-hired and returning – may be deployed to Kuwait. However, new and returning household service workers will still be covered by the ban.  

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the easing of the ban came after the Philippines and Kuwait signed an agreement on the proposed standard employment contract for OFWs working in the Gulf state.  

According to a CNN Philippines report, Bello had earlier said that the template contract included provisions allowing Filipinos to keep their passports and cellphones, affording OFWs one day off with pay, and giving them working and sleeping hours. 

Bello told reporters on Thursday that a total lifting of the ban will "not be happening any time soon."

Why is there a ban? The ban came after an NBI autopsy revealed that Villavende, 26, was raped before her employers beat her to death in Kuwait. The autopsy also showed that she had suffered from past physical abuse before her death in December. 

The DOLE earlier said that Villavende had sought the help of her recruitment agency for repatriation. The recruitment agency faces possible cancellation of its license for failing to act on Villavende's pleas for help. Kuwaiti authorities had also detained Villavende's employer. 

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

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

Bello said that the DOLE continues to monitor Villavende's case.

"Our labor attaché came out with a report that the employers of (Villavende) were charged with murder. They are now presently detained at the Central Jail (in Kuwait)," he said. – Rappler.com