MANILA – The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization that assists distressed overseas Filipino workers, called on the government on Saturday to invoke its earlier bilateral labor agreement with the Kuwaiti government to strengthen protective and welfare mechanisms for domestic workers in light of repeated cases of maltreatment and enslavement of Filipino women.
“We urge our government to initiate talks with Kuwait on how both countries can act in unison in order to prevent the exploitation and trafficking of Filipino women workers, particularly our domestic workers,” the Ople Center said.
The Center said that additional safeguards are necessary to uphold the dignity of Filipino women workers in Kuwait, otherwise a moratorium on deployment should be seriously considered by the government.
Most recent in this string of cases involving Filipino domestic workers is the case of 22-year old “Almira” who suffered burns and physical deformities as a result of physical torture inflicted by her lady employer in Kuwait.
“Almira” is now under the care of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait. With the help of the Philippine Embassy, the human trafficking victim has filed formal charges against her employer.
The Ople Center also cited a recent rape and abduction case involving a female OFW who was beaten by two people and forced into a car driven by a third man. The three assailants allegedly took her to an open area in Jahra, Kuwait and took turns raping her.
Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, pointed that, in 2012, the two countries signed a “Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the State of Kuwait and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in the Field of Labor Cooperation.”
Under the MoU, both parties agreed to create a Philippine-Kuwait Joint Working Group that shall (a) Ensure the implementation of the Agreement; (b) Jointly review and agree on a standard employment contract for OFWs; (c) Propose revisions of the MoU as may be necessary to resolve problems in its implementation; and, (d) Study emerging employment opportunities and suggest measures of technical cooperation to provide all sectors with technically skilled personnel.
“The Philippine government, through our Embassy can initiate talks on a review of this MoU, as well as revisions to favor the protection of our domestic workers in Kuwait. Such a review is timely, considering cases of forced labor trafficking and human slavery involving Filipino domestic workers,” Ople stressed.
The Ople Center also cited Section 3 of Republic Act No. 10022 on the Selective Deployment Policy, “The State shall allow the deployment of overseas Filipino workers only in countries where the rights of Filipino migrant workers are protected.”
“The government recognizes any of the following as a guarantee on the part of the receiving country for the protection of the rights of overseas Filipino workers:
a) It has existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of workers, including migrant workers; b) It is a signatory to and/or ratifier of multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions relating to the protection of workers, including migrant workers, and, c) It has concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement with the government on the protection of the rights of overseas Filipino workers.”
While Kuwait has recently passed a historic law on domestic workers, the Ople Center believes that it still needs to show positive, concrete measures to protect the rights of migrant workers in practical, operational terms.
“We urge both governments to agree on stronger protective mechanisms such as mandatory orientation seminars for both Kuwait employers and their domestic workers on the latter’s rights and welfare, as well as on the new law passed by the Kuwaiti parliament,” Ople said, adding that Kuwait may consider putting up a special hotline that distressed foreign domestic workers can call for urgent assistance.
She said that Philippine diplomatic posts could adopt a stricter accreditation process for foreign placement agencies and foreign employers in the Middle East as part of its over-all anti-human trafficking efforts.
“Because of its growing population, the Middle East would still be in need of Filipino domestic workers to serve their households while their employers are working. It is up to us to ensure that our workers are not shortchanged by these foreign employers, or, worse, abused and exploited at every turn even by their own recruitment agencies here and overseas.
“Until we are able to create an abundance of jobs in the country, let’s choose quality employers over quantity of labor contracts.”