June 24, 2018, 11:14 am
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PH reminds Kuwait: Treat OFWs right

BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR AND GERARD NAVAL

PRESIDENTIAL spokesman Harry Roque Jr. yesterday said President Duterte’s statements against the abuses endured by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from their employers in Kuwait stand as he reminded Kuwait that it is bound by international laws to treat foreign nationals like the Filipinos the way it treats its own citizens.

Roque was reacting to the statement of Kuwaiti Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah condemning President Duterte’s order to evacuate Filipino workers from Kuwait following a deployment ban due to perennial cases of abuse. 

Sheikh Sabah said Duterte’s statement could damage relations between Kuwait and the Philippines.

“…(It is) the obligation of the Kuwaiti government and that is to treat Filipinos in the same manner as it treats its own nationals,” Roque said.

“And of course, in terms of when there will be a breach of its international obligation, it must amount to an outrage, bad faith or willful neglect of duty,” he added.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also defended Duterte’s statements.

Bello said the bold actions of Duterte only befit that of the maltreatment and abuses received by several OFWs, and Sheikh Sabah should understand Duterte’s position.

“He should put himself in the position of the President. Seeing your countrymen being ironed at the back or be frozen like an ice cream, I am sure he would act the same way as our President acted,” he added.

Roque said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has been instructed to deal with the Kuwaiti government and to get a commitment that it would protect Filipino workers.

He said Cayetano was set to meet with Kuwaiti officials led by Ambassador Saleh Ahmad Alhwaikh.

“I know you would want a reaction on the condemnation of the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs will react to that statement. He will hold a press conference in the DFA after his consultations with the Kuwaiti Ambassador,” he said.

He expressed hope that the ties of the two countries would be strong enough to withstand the effects of recent events.
 
DEMAFELIS

Roque assured that government will provide assistance to the family of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, the Filipino worker whose body was found stored in a freezer in Kuwait.

He said financial assistance as well as livelihood and educational aid for the heirs of the victims would be provided.

He said the President may also extend his own assistance to the family.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the remains of Demafelis was expected to arrive in Manila on Friday at 11:15 a.m. on board flight GF154.

“On Thursday afternoon, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Rene Villa went to Al-Sabah Hospital to view her remains as part of the Philippine Embassy’s preparations for the repatriation,” said the DFA.

Demafelis’ body is then expected to be flown to her hometown of Iloilo on Saturday at 4:30 a.m. via flight PR 2139.

The DFA, quoting Villa, said Kuwaiti authorities were shocked and angered by the incident and had vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

“Ambassador Villa said he has again been assured by Kuwaiti authorities that they are doing their best to locate and arrest the Lebanese employer of Demafelis and his Syrian wife for her murder,” it said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he has already ordered the recall of Welfare Officer Sarah Conception, who received the report on Demafelis’ case, while the performance of Labor Attaché Alejandro Padaen is under evaluation.

In an interview, Bello said, “The explanation of Ms. Concepcion is that there are too many work. That’s not a good explanation. If you can’t handle the job, come back to the Philippines.”

He said Padaen was not yet in charge of the Philippine overseas labor office when the case was reported. 

“We will find out if his explanation is reasonable. Otherwise, he could also be a recipient of a welcome back card,” said Bello.
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