MANILA – A ban prohibiting Philippine nationals from traveling to perform domestic work in Kuwait came into effect on Friday after one was killed by her employers in the Arab country.
The ban following Jeanelyn Villavende’s death exempts skilled workers or Filipinos who are already in Kuwait for work, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said in a statement on Wednesday announcing the ban.
“This should serve as a clear message to Kuwaiti authorities. The partial ban may ripen into total deployment ban if justice for Jeanelyn Villavende is not met,” Bello warned Kuwait, where about 200,000 Filipinos currently live.
The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait reported that Villavende had been beaten repeatedly and was already dead when she was brought to the hospital.
The exact date of her death is unknown as the results of the autopsy are pending, but her employers have been arrested as the primary suspects in the case.
Bello said the government would also investigate the Philippine recruitment agency involved for its inaction, as Villaverde had reportedly asked to be repatriated in September, complaining of maltreatment and non-payment of the agreed salary.
Philippines had also imposed a ban on sending workers to Kuwait in February 2018, after the body of Joanna Demafelis, a 29-year-old Philippine maid, was found in the freezer of her employers’ house, leading to a diplomatic standoff which was resolved a month later when the ban was lifted.
The killing of Villavende is the latest in a series of abuses faced by Filipino workers in the Middle East, the main destination for about 3,000 Filipinos who leave the country daily on temporary foreign work permits. The women tend to work as domestic workers while men are mostly employed in the construction sector.
In November 2018, the Philippines repatriated Jennifer Dalquez, who had been working as a domestic help in the United Arab Emirates, after she was acquitted of murdering her employer and escaped the death penalty.
Dalquez allegedly killed her employer in self-defense when he tried to rape her at knifepoint, and spent four years in prison.
About 10 million Filipinos are migrant workers overseas and their remittances account for more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP.