Pimentel: More needed to be done to ensure OFWs safety
Despite the reported conviction of the couple accused in the death of a Filipino maid in Kuwait, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III still wants to pursue “high level talks and consultations” with host states in the Middle East.
Reports have said a Kuwaiti court sentenced a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife to death by hanging for killing 29-year-old Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait last February.
Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered that the reports be verified.
While he welcomed the reports on the ruling, Pimentel said there was still “so much more to do in directly engaging the Gulf States as far as protecting the safety and welfare” of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were concerned.
“We’re thankful that justice has been served for Joanna. Our task now is to ensure that such incidents never happen again. We need further high level talks and consultations with our countrymen’s host states in the Middle East to ensure that diplomatic, administrative and legal mechanisms are in place for OFW protection,” the Senate leader said in a statement.
Pimentel expressed confidence that with the latest development, the earlier tensions caused by the incident between the Philippines and Kuwait would normalize as the two countries continue their longstanding diplomatic and economic relationship.
“Urgent now is the mending of ties. We see Kuwait as a partner. We benefit mutually from sending our OFWs to Kuwait, and it’s in the best interest of both countries to continue resolving matters relating to reported work abuses, repatriation, lack of documentation and other key issues affecting Filipino workers there,” he said.
The Senate president said noted that there were some 252,000 OFWs in Kuwait. He added that based on the report of the Philippine embassy, 4,000 had already been repatriated while 6,000 were awaiting amnesty by the Kuwaiti government.
“Now that a decision has been made by the Kuwaiti court on Joanna’s case, let’s look at the bigger picture again. Our focus should be protection of OFW rights and welfare, of course balanced with the respect for local laws and traditions. It’s sometimes a delicate balancing act that’s why we need constant engagement with the host state,” Pimentel said. /cbb
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