PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday asked overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait to leave the country “within 72 hours” after receiving a report about the body of a Filipina maid believed to have been frozen for more than a year.

“I want them out of the country — those who want to go out — in 72 hours,” Mr. Duterte said in a televised press briefing in Davao City.

He added: “When will this inhuman treatment of our Filipino workers end? When will the upliftment of their human dignity begin? To the Kuwaiti government and all others where our OFWs work, we seek and expect your assistance in this regard.”

Mr. Duterte said that the government “does not seek special treatment or privileges for its workers.

“But we do expect respect for their dignity and basic human rights. Keep them free from harm. I implore you. Nakikiusap ako sa lahat ng mga Arabo,” the President further said.

The President also stressed that every abuse committed against an OFW “is an affront against the nation.”

“We send to you a Filipino worker, hale and hearty, determined to work his heart out in order to give his family a decent and comfortable life in the Philippines. Do not give us back a battered worker or a mutilated corpse,” Mr. Duterte added.

He warned that if the Philippine government is reduced into “helplessness because other foreign governments do not heed [the Philippines’] requests to protect and give justice to [the] overseas Filipino workers within the limits that their laws allow, he is “ready to take drastic steps that will help preserve Filipino life and limb.”

“If a ban is what is needed, then let it be so,” he said.

Labor secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, who was also present at the briefing, said that the suspension of OFW deployment to Kuwait “continues.”

In an administrative order last month, Mr. Bello directed the Philippine Overseas Welfare Administration to suspend the processing and issuance of Overseas Employment Certificate to all Kuwait-bound passengers.

Mr. Bello issued the suspension order following the deaths of seven Overseas Filipino Workers in the Gulf state.

The seven OFWs 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 whom were employed as household service workers.

Last month, Mr. Duterte had also warned that he would impose a total ban on the deployment of OFWs, particularly household workers to Kuwait following reports of sexual abuses. — Arjay L. Balinbin