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REPATRIATION

Tales of abuses swamp gov’t as OFWs return from Kuwait

By: - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ
/ 07:03 AM February 14, 2018

Harrowing tales of abuses were unloaded at Terminal 1 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport along with 116 migrant workers who were repatriated from Kuwait.

One of the workers, Analee Tabanao, recalled eating just one meal a day as a domestic helper. Starving, Tabanao, 31, said she had to eat a few pieces of grapes in her employer’s kitchen. But her boss had counted the grapes and knew some were missing. Tabanao was pinched all over.

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Her employer sold her off to another family but her ordeal worsened. Teenage sons of her employers often chased her off with knives.

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Tabanao was with 115 other migrant workers who returned to the Philippines aboard an Etihad Airways flight, all fleeing Kuwait.

They took advantage of the free trip home offered by the government following President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to bring home Filipinos being abused in the Arab country.

Another migrant worker, Nellie Baring, said although she did not suffer physical assault, she went through a different type of abuse — getting paid only P19,000 a month to care for 40 children.

Tabanao and Baring, however, expressed different views when asked if they were willing to work in Kuwait again.

Tabanao said she has had enough while Baring said she wanted to give it another shot, especially if better working conditions were assured.

But for now, Baring could not return to Kuwait as a ban on deploying Filipino workers there was now in place.

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The ban, however, was turning out to be not total as earlier reported.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he would recommend an exemption for workers who were just vacationing in the Philippines and had live contracts in Kuwait and those who had entered into new work contracts.

Workers who could not return to Kuwait have alternative job markets, like China and Japan, said Bello.

Mr. Duterte had ordered Filipinos in Kuwait repatriated following the discovery of the body of migrant worker Joanna Daniela Demafelis inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment.

P15,000 in cash

Sen. Manny Pacquiao, in a privilege speech, said the last time Demafelis spoke with her family was in 2016 during which she said she wanted to return to the Philippines this year. Pacquiao said it made him suspect that Demafelis had been dead for more than a year already before her body was found.

Another 150 migrant workers from Kuwait was expected to arrive past 10 p.m. on Tuesday aboard a Qatar Airways flight.

The returning workers were greeted at the airport by Mr. Duterte, who handed out P15,000 in cash to each of the women. —With reports from Tina Santos and Christine Avendaño

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