OFW rape-slay in Kuwait spurs new calls to halt deployment
MANILA, Philippines — Senators asked the government to again suspend the deployment of migrant workers to Kuwait following the death of a Filipino domestic helper who was allegedly raped before she was killed by the 17-year-old son of her Kuwaiti employers.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, chair of the Senate labor committee, said the killing of Jullebee Ranara, 35, should prompt the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and other concerned agencies to review existing policies in protecting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Due to numerous cases of murdered OFWs in Kuwait, the Philippine government, in several instances, imposed a deployment ban to Kuwait,” Estrada said in a privilege speech on Tuesday.
“In my opinion, there’s a need to reimpose the deployment ban because before [Ranara], several OFWs were also killed in that country. We do not even know the cause of death of many of them,” he said.
He noted that Kuwait was not a signatory to Convention No. 189 — the Domestic Workers Convention of 2011 of the International Labor Organization that recognizes the rights of household workers.
Sen. Cynthia Villar noted that then-President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to order a deployment ban in 2018 resulted in better working conditions for nearly 155,000 OFWs in Kuwait.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said Manila’s “flip-flop” decision on the deployment policy led to more abuses against OFWs.
“How many more Filipinos have to suffer before we put a stop to this abuse? We are calling on the government and the DMW to look into the possibility of a deployment ban until we can be assured of the safety of our migrant workers,” Villanueva said.
“We can no longer claim that what happened to [Ranara] was an isolated case,” he added.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said Ranara’s murder only showed the government’s failure to safeguard OFWs despite the hundreds of recorded cases of abused migrant workers.
“(This incident) necessitates the need for the government to provide employment opportunities with competitive compensation to alleviate the need for them to look for jobs elsewhere,” Gatchalian said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), while still confirming details of Ranara’s death, said it was working to repatriate her remains.
On Thursday, the DFA said Kuwaiti authorities had detained the teenage suspect who was arrested based on evidence gathered by the local police.
The suspect had reportedly confessed to the crime, the agency said.
“The embassy and the Filipino community in Kuwait extend their deepest condolences to the family of the late Ms Ranara as they mourn the loss of their loved one,” the DFA said.
The Arab Times, a Kuwait-based news organization, reported that Ranara was found dead on Sunday on a roadside, her body burned and her head smashed.
Citing autopsy results, Kuwaiti media also reported that the victim was pregnant.
Ranara had complained about the suspect, according to DMW Secretary Susan Ople. “He was… cruel to her. In fact, she said there was a time when he threatened her life,” Ople said in an interview on dzBB.
Hours before Ranara’s death was reported, some of her friends in Kuwait posted on Facebook that she was missing.
Visiting Ranara’s family on Monday, Ople offered her condolences as she condemned the “heinous crime.”
She urged the Kuwaiti government “to work on the early resolution of the case and its perpetrators brought to justice.”
A week before the incident, the DMW sent high-ranking department officials to Kuwait to assist and repatriate over 400 distressed OFWs.
Speaking at the Laging Handa public briefing, Assistant Secretary Toby Nebrida, the DMW spokesperson, said there were 100,223 Filipino workers in Kuwait as of 2022, of whom more than 47,000 were in household services.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING
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