SENATOR Sherwin T. Gatchalian said Thursday that the government needs to find other possible destinations which are safer for household workers following the death of another domestic helper in Kuwait.

Dapat maghanap pa tayo ng ibang merkado para sa OFW (We need to find other markets for OFWs)“ Mr. Gatchalian said in a briefing, referring to Overseas Filipino Workers.

May mga bansang mas binibigyang halaga ang ating OFW, doon ang dapat natin bigyan ng prioridad (We need to give priority to other countries that value our OFWs).” He cited the UK and France, among other potential destinations.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) imposed a total deployment ban on workers to Kuwait after the death of Jeanelyn Villavende. A Kuwaiti autopsy confirmed she died after sustaining multiple injuries. A Philippine autopsy found that in addition, she was sexually assaulted.

The government in 2018 declared a Kuwait deployment which lasted four months after the murder of domestic helper Joanna Demafelis. In May 2019 Malacañang pushed for the review of its memorandum of understanding with the Kuwaiti government after the killing of another Filipina, Constancia Dayag.

Mr. Gatchalian supports the ban, and proposes that it remain in effect until Kuwait addresses labor standards and delivers justice for the deceased OFWs.

Para sa akin moratorium hanggang magkaroon ng linaw ang issue sa MoA at hustisya (I support a moratorium until we achieve clarity on the MoA and obtain justice),” he said.

He said employers of household workers continue to violate the rights of their workers by confiscating their passports and mobile phones and denying them days off.

Mr. Gatchalian, however, said that the moratorium do not need to cover highly-skilled Filipino workers in Kuwait, who are protected by an official contract.

Asked to comment on bills that will create an OFW Department, Mr. Gatchalian said he deems it is more necessary to focus on bilateral agreements.

“During the last hearing, ’di klaro kung ano ang dahilan kung bakit natin kailangan magpatayo ng Department of OFW dahil may mga ahensya na tayong gumagana. Ang importante lang ang mga bagay na magbibigay proteksyon sa mga OFW, like MoAs, bilateral agreements at mga batas ay pantay pantay para sa lahat (It was not made clear why we need an OFW department because we have functioning agencies looking after these workers. The important thing is agreements with the host countries and a fair justice system.)” — Charmaine A. Tadalan