In response to the death and subsequent dumped of a housemaid in the desert in Kuwait, the Philippine government says it will take steps to assess and prevent abuses including rape and maltreatment of Filipino workers there. According to Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople, Jullebee Ranara's remains were flown home from Kuwait, where she was reportedly killed and dumped with burn marks by her employer's son.
Philippine officials are trying to confirm news reports that she was raped and pregnant when she was killed by the 17-year-old suspect, who has been taken into custody by Kuwaiti police. The Philippine government would do everything to ensure justice for the victim, she said. “It’s a very gruesome, senseless crime and so the perpetrator must be punished,” Ople said in an online news conference. About a tenth of the country's more than 110 million people have left due to unemployment and poverty, and now work or live in more than 200 countries to provide for their families. The huge income they send home has helped keep Manila’s economy afloat.
Ople said she would send officials to Kuwait to investigate what sparked a rise in abuses of Filipino workers in recent years and what preventive measures could be taken. Sexual abuse and rape, human trafficking, labor contract violations and illegal terminations were among the common complaints of Filipinos, she said.
Approximately 268,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, including many housemaids. According to Migrant Workers Undersecretary Hans Cacdac, more than 400 Filipinos have sought refuge in the Philippine Embassy's emergency center in recent weeks due to labor problems. Nearly half of them have returned to Manila, he said.
Musaed Saleh Althwaikh, Kuwait's ambassador to Manila, expressed his condolences and assured Ople that Ranara's "tragic passing" was an isolated incident. “Kuwaiti society is shocked and saddened to hear about the demise of Mrs. Ranara,” the ambassador said in the letter, copies of which were provided to journalists. “Our justice system will not lose sight in ensuring justice for Mrs. Ranara.”
According to Al-Rai daily, Filipino senators are calling for stopping the sending of their workers to Kuwait following the rape and murder of a Filipino maid. The Upper Chamber voices in Manila called for stopping the sending of Filipino migrant workers to Kuwait, similar to the decision taken by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018. At the forefront of those votes was the Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who said during a special session that this murder “should prompt the Department of Migrant Labor and relevant government agencies to review existing policies regarding the protection of Filipinos working abroad.”
In response to previous killings of Filipinos in Kuwait, the Philippines government has banned sending our workers to Kuwait on several occasions. In my opinion, there is now a need to reimpose such a ban because there were other workers who were killed before this victim, and we still do not even know the reasons for their killing.”
Kuwait is not a signatory to Charter No. 189 of the International Labor Organization, which recognizes the rights of domestic workers. Senate voices continued to demand the suspension of sending Filipino workers to Kuwait, including Senator Cynthia Villar, who said that “the decision taken by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 led at that time to improve working conditions for about 155,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait.” For his part, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said, “The confusion in the Manila government’s decisions regarding the policy of sending workers is what led to more abuses against Filipino migrant workers.”
Villanueva, however, said, “How many Filipinos will suffer before we take action to stop this abuse?” He concluded by saying, “We are asking our government and the Ministry of Migrant Labor to consider the possibility of imposing a ban (on sending workers to Kuwait) until we can ensure the safety of that employment. We can no longer claim that what happened (to Ranara) was an isolated case.”
Jullebee Ranara, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was killed in Kuwait, was repatriated. Ranara’s body arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Friday night. A large number of family members and friends attended the funeral on Saturday.
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