Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III wants to dispel perceptions that Kuwait has become among the most abusive countries in the world where migrant workers are being treated inhumanely or worse, being killed by their employers.
A day after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the lifting of the ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to the oil-rich Arab nation, the DOLE chief, who made an official visit to the Gulf state earlier this month, said that what had happened to Joana Demafelis and other OFWs in Kuwait were isolated cases.
“In fairness naman sa ating mga kaibigang Kuwaiti, doon sa pagdalaw namin do’n, kitang-kita mo naman na hindi tama ‘yong ating perception na inaabuso ‘yong ating mga overseas workers. At nakita namin ginawa do’n. We have more than 262,000 workers do’n sa Kuwait, more than 60 percent of that mga household service workers, do’n… 1.7 percent lang ang inaabuso o minamaltrato,” Bello told dzRH in an interview Thursday morning, May 17.
[To be fair with our Kuwaiti friends, in our visit there, we saw that the perception that our overseas workers there were being abused was not true. And we saw what they were doing there. We have more than 262,000 workers in Kuwait, more than 60 percent of that are household workers, and only 1.7 of them were being abused or maltreated.]
Demafelis disappeared for a year before her mutilated remains were found last February inside a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait that was rented by her Lebanese and Syrian employers. In January, Duterte said that at least six Filipino women were driven to commit suicide because of the abuses allegedly inflicted on them by their employers in Kuwait.
On Thursday, Bello blamed social media for allegedly only spreading reports about the incidents of OFW abuses in Kuwait and not highlighting the success stories of Filipinos in the Arab nation, adding that many of those who had bought condominium units built in the Philippines were OFWs, including those working in Kuwait.
“Kaya lang nagkakaroon ng perception na abusado ‘yong mga Kuwaiti employers dahil ang ang daming…’yong social media hindi hina-highlight ‘yong success stories. Eh alam mo…puntahan mo lahat itong nagtatayo, ang condo ni Henry Sy, karamihan d’yan ang may-ari OFW,” he said.
Bello also praised the Kuwaiti government for swiftly meting out justice to Demafelis’ employers, Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife Mona Hassoun, who last month were tried in absentia and were sentenced to death by hanging.