Senators on Wednesday revisited past deployment bans imposed by the Philippines on Kuwait with the view to ensuring that this time around, additional measures will be in place to prevent a repeat of abuse, even murder, of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) in the hands of ill-suited employers.
Presiding at the second hearing by the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers, jointly with Foreign Relations panel, on the case of HSW murder victim Jullebee Ranara, Senator Raffy Tulfo said he would now push for additional conditions before Kuwaiti employers are allowed to hire OFWs.
These three conditions, which were not included when past deployment bans were lifted, are:
- Conduct of neuro-psychiatric exams for employers to make sure they are not prone to abusing HSWs;
- Police clearance;
- Pre-engagement orientation to ensure the employers’ family is attuned to the rights of workers and employer responsibilities under both Kuwaiti and international law, and with Filipino culture.
At the start of the hearing, Tulfo told representatives of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) he was disappointed when Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople contradicted his recommendation to ban deployment anew in the wake of Ranara’s murder and more recently, the serious injuries suffered by another Filipino maid who jumped from an apartment building to flee an abusive boss.
DMW Undersecretary Maria Anthonette Velasco Allones, representing Ople who is in Japan on official business, explained that Ople is not against a deployment ban per se, but simply wants to make sure such a move is grounded on hard data and “evidence-based.” Along this line, Ople dispatched last Tuesday a fact-finding team to Kuwait to gather more information and the team is expected to render an initial report later this week.
Allones also told senators Ople is seriously considering a ban on deployment of new hires while talks on protection of migrant workers are ongoing between the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments.
Later in the hearing, Majority Leader Joel Villanueva weighed in on a more deliberate approach to deciding a new deployment ban by noting that in the past, records of cases of abuse had been on a seesaw pattern, declining mildly when the bans were imposed, and then spiking anew when the recruitment spree was allowed anew.
Villanueva was aghast to note a “376 percent in welfare cases in Kuwait alone,” which to him signaled a persistent and alarming pattern of abuse.
Sen. Francis Tolentino said it wouldn’t be surprising if more cases arise in a “never-ending” cycle of abuse until better measures are in place.
Tulfo, for his part, said this pattern of abuse may be traced to the lack of more preventive measures once deployment resumes, such as the neuropsychiatric test he is pushing alongside the police clearance and pre-engagement orientation.
Meanwhile, DMW Undersecretary Bernardo Olalia, who has been tasked to do continuing cleanup of recruitment agencies, assured senators they are constantly reviewing the cases against them. He said many cases of neglectful agencies have been blacklisted, and their permits cancelled.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada advised Olalia to check thoroughly for dummies in the incorporation papers and listings of board members of recruitment firms.
Olalia said those applying for new recruitment licenses now have to go through the proverbial “eye of the needle.” He also said that once a company’s license is cancelled, all its officers and incorporators are placed on a “DERO” list and are “forever disqualified” from being an officer of any recruitment agency.
Replying to Tulfo’s concern, Olalia said that once they get reports that previously blacklisted parties are once again in operation via another agency, “we will go to that agency right away” and do spot inspection and issue “RVs” or recruitment violations. -30-