FOLLOWING the deaths of seven overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III on Friday ordered the suspension of deployment of workers to the Gulf state.
Bello directed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to stop the processing and issuance of overseas employment certificates to all Kuwait-bound workers pending the investigation of the cause of deaths of the Filipino workers.
“We would like to seek justice for our OFWs, and while the investigation is undergoing, we are suspending the processing and issuance of OECs. We are doing this for utmost protection and welfare of our kababayan,” Bello said.
The seven Filipino workers who died in Kuwait were Liezl Truz Hukdong, Vanessa Karissha L. Esguerra, Marie Fe Saliling Librada, Arlene Castillo Manzano, Devine Riche Encarnacion, Patrick Sunga, and Mira Luna Juntilla.
All of the identified Filipina migrant workers were household services workers, and most of them were deployed in 2016.
However, the DoLE clarified that OFWs already holding a plane ticket and an Overseas Employment Certificate can still travel to Kuwait despite the deployment suspension.
Bello III said only those who do not yet have an OEC will be covered by the deployment suspension prompted by reported cases of maltreatment of OFWs by their Kuwaiti employers.
“Apektado ‘yung mga ‘di pa nabibigyan ng OEC. ‘Yung mga na-isyuhan na, may ticket na, may OEC na, hindi sila covered,” Bello clarified.
Bello said it is doubtful that some of the deaths were because of suicide, adding that he has given the investigators a maximum of 15 days to produce results.
President Rodrigo Duterte is mulling a “total ban” of OFW deployment to Kuwait after receiving reports of abuses on OFWs, many of them household helpers.
“We have lost about four Filipino women in the last few months. It’s always in Kuwait,” said Duterte during the launching of the Overseas Filipino Bank.