Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has urged the Department of Migrant Workers in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs and other relevant offices to conduct a thorough investigation into the brutal killing of a 35-year-old overseas Filipino worker based in Kuwait.
The burned body of Filipino domestic worker Jullebee Ranara was reportedly found in the desert in Kuwait this past weekend, according to local media.
“I am urging the Department of Migrant Workers, relevant government agencies and concerned embassies to conduct an investigation on this issue,” said Go.
“Dapat masiguro nating maayos ang kalagayan ng ating OFWs sa labas ng bansa. Mandato natin yan, ang protektahan ang bawat Pilipino saan mang panig ng mundo,” he added.
Additionally, the senator urged the government to protect and guarantee the safety of every Filipino working abroad.
“Tulungan po natin ang bawat Pilipinong nagsusumikap na magtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Dapat laging nakaantabay sa pag-alalay ang gobyerno. Magsilbi tayong lakas ng bawat isa upang proteksyunan ang kapwa nating Pilipino laban sa abuso at mga nangsasamantala,” the senator said.
The official report on the incident is currently being awaited by the DMW and the DFA. Meanwhile, the son of Jullebee’s employer has already been arrested by Kuwaiti authorities, according to a statement from the DMW.
The DMW also suggested that, in light of the incident, the Philippines’ labor agreement with Kuwait be reviewed in order to better secure Filipinos working abroad in the Gulf state.
The recent incident has prompted some senators to raise important points about how to better protect overseas Filipino workers. During the Senate regular session on Tuesday, January 24, some senators have called on the government to impose a deployment ban in Kuwait.
Senators Loren Legarda and Jinggoy Estrada argued that the government should refrain from sending OFWs to countries that are not signatories of the International Labor Organization Convention on Migrant Workers.
Senator Raffy Tulfo, on the other hand, suggested that screening should be conducted for employers wanting to hire OFWs.
Senator Joel Villanueva noted that Jullebees’ death was not an isolated incident because it had previously occurred many times in Kuwait. In 2019, Filipino household service worker Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende was also murdered by her Kuwaiti employer.
Go then expressed deep disappointment over the unfair treatment of OFWs, saying, “Nakakalungkot dahil sa kabila ng pagsusumikap ng ating mga OFWs sa ibang bansa ay may mga taong tumatapak ng kanilang dignidad.”
“Hindi ko po lubos na maintindihan, na kung sino pa iyong mga tapat at masisipag sa kanilang trabaho, ay sila ang na-aagrabyado at nadedehado. Lantaran na po ang kawalan ng respeto sa ating mga OFWs,” he added.
He then issued a call to action, urging the Philippine government to collaborate in order to ensure that OFWs’ rights are respected and that they are protected.
“Ayaw ko po talagang may makitang mga Pilipino sa ibang bansa na naloloko, naaabuso, o naagrabyado. Masakit na po ang mawalay sa pamilya, huwag na po sanang madagdagan pa ang kanilang dinaranas na pasakit,” said Go.
“Kaya nga isinulong natin kasama ng ating mga kasamahan ang Department of Migrant Workers sa pangunguna ni Majority Leader Sen. Joel Villanueva,” he added.
Go was one of the authors and co-sponsors of the Senate version of Republic Act 11641 which created the DMW. It is the consolidated version of an earlier measure he filed which sought to create the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers, ensuring the efficient and effective delivery of key government services.
The law streamlined the organization and functions of all government agencies related to overseas employment and migration through the creation of the DMW.
The DMW operates as a one-stop shop for both documented and undocumented OFWs, rendering government services from pre-employment to employment and reintegration.
To further ensure the protection of the migrant workers, the DMW is also mandated to regulate private recruitment agencies. In addition, it will work alongside the Department of Justice and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to investigate, pursue and help prosecute illegal recruitment and human trafficking cases.
“Kung anumang tulong ang kakailanganin ng pamilya ng biktima ay handa akong tumulong sa abot ng aking makakaya in coordination with our DMW and officials,” Go assured.
Go has always been a staunch advocate for the rights of OFWs in support of the government’s efforts to assist distressed nationals which was a cornerstone of the Duterte administration.
Years ago, he assisted several OFWs from Kuwait, forced to engage in illegal sexual services in 2019, and who sought the Senator’s help after they were repatriated. Go specifically facilitated the provision of legal and medical assistance for those suffering from diseases related to forced sexual services while those looking for work were also extended the necessary help.
In December 2020, Kuwaiti criminal court sentenced to death by hanging a Kuwaiti woman for killing Filipina domestic worker Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende in December 2019. The husband was sentenced to four years in prison for covering up and not reporting the crime.
The administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte, with the help of Senator Go, exerted efforts to pursue justice and protect other OFWs from abusive employers. The murder of Villavende prompted the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to approve a resolution imposing a deployment ban to Kuwait in early 2020 — a move supported by Go and approved by then President Duterte.
Go has consistently expressed strong condemnation over the violence to OFWs in the hands of foreign employers.
“Kinokondena ko ‘yung pagpatay kay Jeanelyn at despite the May 2018 agreement between the Philippines and Kuwaiti government, there are still reports of violence and abuses committed against our fellow Filipinos in Kuwait,” Go earlier said.
He was referring to the memorandum of agreement on the protection of OFWs in Kuwait signed by the two countries on May 11, 2018. The labor pact between the Philippines and Kuwait was part of an effort to end the persistent human rights violations committed by Kuwaiti employers against their Filipino workers.