Murder raps filed against OFW killers

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    MURDER charges have been filed against the Kuwaiti employers of Jeanelyn Villavende, the Filipina household service worker killed in Kuwait last month.

    Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III revealed this yesterday during the Senate committee on labor hearing looking into the government’s migration policies promoting the welfare and rights of Filipino migrant workers.

    Bello told senators that the Kuwaiti couple is now detained at a facility for high criminals.

    Committee chairman Sen. Joel Villanueva told reporters after the hearing that Bello and other labor officials will be flying to Kuwait on Friday to join the parents of Villavende in attending the first court hearing on the murder case.

    Villavende was reportedly killed by her own Kuwaiti employers last December, five months after she left the country to work abroad. Reports said one of the suspects is connected to the Kuwait Ministry of Interior.

    An initial report from a Kuwaiti hospital showed Villavende died due to heart and lungs failure caused by shock and multiple injuries to the vascular nervous system.

    An autopsy conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Villavende’s remains upon its arrival early this month, indicated she was not only physically abused but sexually abused as well.

    Also during the Senate hearing, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said they received a report last Friday from the Kuwait Ministry of Interior showing that Villavende endured physical abuse from October until her death on December 22 last year.

    Arriola said what they have an unofficial translation of the report which was written in Arabic.

    Arriola said the report bore similarities with the findings of the NBI autopsy and that of the Kuwaiti government’s autopsy report.

    Based on the Kuwaiti report, Villavende was assaulted with a flat iron on her shoulder, kicked on her waist, and stabbed with a car key to her back, and beaten on the head and back of the face.

    Bello clarified that the initial document sent by the Kuwaiti government to the Philippines’ labor department was a death certificate from a Kuwaiti hospital, not an autopsy report as earlier reported.

    Dr. Chie Umandap, chair of AKO OFW Inc. who also testified during the hearing, said most Filipina household service workers were beaten by the wives of their employers due to jealousy.

    “The wives feel insecure that’s why they beat their household workers. They feel that their husbands would turn their attention on the house helper,” Umandap said in Filipino.

    He said there was an instance that an employer tortured a Filipina helper by trimming her lips with a nail cutter and cutting her hair unevenly to make her look terribly ugly.

    Villanueva said he will recommend to Malacañang a total deployment ban of household service workers to Kuwait.

    He said his committee will likewise evaluate the condition of Filipino workers in other Middle East countries to determine if they can also suggest the same.

    Earlier reports said DFA personnel attended the funeral of Villavende in Norala, South Cotabato Thursday last week and asked that the victim’s parents sign a document reportedly indicating a settlement in the amount of P50 million offered by the employers of Villavende.

    The family of the slain worker purportedly rejected the offer.

    Sen. Christopher Go said he was able to talk to the relatives of Villavende yesterday and assured them that the government is monitoring the developments in the case.

    “They were asking for justice nothing more. It’s good they rejected the blood money offered. I assured them that the DOLE, and DFA are monitoring the case so we can pressure the Kuwaiti government to serve justice on the victim,” Go said in Filipino.

    He said the DOLE and DFA are also pressuring the Kuwaiti government to implement the agreements entered into between the two governments committing a better working environment for Filipino workers in the Arab country.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait remains in effect.

    Panelo said that while Malacañang welcomes the filing of criminal charges against Villavende’s employers, this will not automatically lead to the lifting of the deployment ban.

    He reiterated the embargo will not be lifted until Kuwait fully implements the 2018 PH-Kuwait labor deal. – With Jocelyn Montemayor