NORALA, SOUTH COTABATO—The Kuwaiti employer of slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jeanelyn Villavende had offered P59 million in blood money if her family desisted from pursuing criminal charges against him and his wife, Jeanelyn’s father, Abelardo Villavende, told reporters on Thursday following his daughter’s interment here.
“But we rejected it,” Villavende said of the offer, which was made through an emissary of the employer who had called him twice several days before Jeanelyn’s burial.
“They took a life; they should pay with theirs,” said the elder Villavende, adding that Jeanelyn’s employer knew their number because his daughter regularly called them up, with the employer’s wife sometimes demanding that the call be set on speaker phone and conducted in English, so she could listen in.
All he had to do was sign a document withdrawing the case the family had filed against the employer, Jeanelyn’s 54-year-old father quoted the emissary as telling him.
“We don’t need money, we need justice,” said Villavende, whose three-fourth hectare farm in this town had been mortgaged.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said the employer and his wife had been detained in Kuwait because of Villavende’s death which, autopsy results showed, was due to constant beatings and sexual abuse. The employer, Bello added, was a ranking government official in the Gulf state.
The 26-year-old domestic worker who was killed on Dec. 28, 2019, suffered severe injuries and was raped, according to the National Bureau of Investigation.
She died of “acute failure of heart and respiration as a result of shock and multiple injuries in the vascular nervous system,” read the embalming certificate that accompanied her body home on Jan. 8.
Jeanelyn’s death led the Philippine government to impose a total labor deployment ban in Kuwait.
On Twitter, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Friday said any offer of blood money must be rejected.
“There will be blood. I renounce [and] reject any offer of blood money for her torture/murder. I want two lives for the life they took. The top-notch lawyer hired by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to prosecute is not authorized to suggest or accept blood money from her killers,” Locsin said.
‘Blood for blood’
“If I catch anyone in DFA making that suggestion they’re fired. I will not accept an improvement in Kuwait’s labor standards either. All I care about is blood for blood. Meanwhile, I will post her autopsy photos in the halls of DFA,” he added.
Philippine and Kuwaiti officials earlier met and expressed hope that issues on the rights and protections for the 150,000 Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait would be resolved through the soon-to-be-convened Joint Committee Meeting on the 2018 Agreement on Domestic Workers.
Moises Villavende, Jeanelyn’s uncle and a former village chief of Tinago, said his niece used to work as a domestic helper in Koronadal and earned P2,500 a month. Like other women in the village, she was lured by higher wages offered for overseas work.
Since being deployed in Kuwait in July last year, Jeanelyn had managed to occasionally send half of her P20,000 monthly salary back home, where it went to the schooling expenses of her 11-year-old half sister and to the P350,000 debt her father had incurred when he mortgaged his farm, according to Jeanelyn’s elder sister Jovelyn.
Jeanelyn had wanted to build a better house for the family like the other OFWs in the village. In fact, the 7-kilometer rough road from the town center to Tinago is dotted with concrete houses in various stages of construction, the fruit of the labor of so many women who had left home for work abroad.
Amid the beatings and abuse for close to six months in Kuwait, Jeanelyn managed to send enough to also help her family buy a carabao, Jovelyn said.
Villavende’s family received almost a million pesos in financial assistance from government agencies and an insurance company, which Bello handed over during Jeanelyn’s wake on Jan. 10. —With reports from Jerome Aning and Bong Sarmiento