Gatchalian wants Kuwait ambassador summoned over death of OFW
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian wants the government to summon the ambassador of Kuwait in the Philippines for the “insult” dealt by Kuwaiti authorities in giving a “garbage” autopsy report on the cause of death of a Filipina domestic worker, and for failing to ensure protection for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in that country.
In a statement on Tuesday, Gatchalian said the government should demand justice for the gruesome death of Jeanelyn Villavende, and the apparent attempt of the Kuwaiti government to protect the culprit from liability.
“The next move will be to summon the Kuwaiti Ambassador here in the Philippines. Let him explain, let him give us the truth. This report is definitely garbage we cannot use it anymore. We have to let the Kuwaiti Ambassador explain to our government and give us the truth because we want justice for Jeanelyn,” he said.
Gatchalian further said that the autopsy report on Villavende compounded the matter.
“This is an insult to our government, an insult to our country and, insult to Filipino people especially to the OFWs who’ve been toiling almost blood, sweat and, tears in the Middle East,” he added.
“This is not how countries and friends treat each other– by giving fake reports,” he said, as he insisted the real cause of death of Villavende should be thoroughly explained by the Kuwaiti ambassador.
A re-autopsy by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Villavende’s remains showed “clear indications of sexual abuse.”
“There were also old healed wounds indicating that Villavende had been battered weeks prior to the fateful incident,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters over the weekend.
But the Kuwaiti government’s earlier autopsy report did not mention signs of rape or past beatings, angering workers’ group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), which demanded the government respond strongly to the submission of what it called “fake autopsy report.”
“I think the fact will state that there was bad faith, in behalf of the Kuwaiti government and in behalf of the investigators, and with this we have to make sure that the lives of our OFWs in Kuwait are all protected and that mechanisms are in place for their well-being,” Gatchalian went on.
The string of reported abuses of OFWs in Kuwait comes amid a labor agreement between the two countries which seeks protection of Filipino workers from abuses.
Under the agreement, employers cannot confiscate the passports and other travel documents of Filipino workers and that they must be allowed to use their phones.
The agreement also covers repatriation of distressed OFWs in need of assistance, activation of a 24/7 hotline for them, and creation of a special police unit that would assist the Philippine embassy in rescue operations for OFWs.
Gatchalian joined calls for a total ban on the deployment of Filipino household service workers to Kuwait, saying they are the most vulnerable among workers deployed in the area.
He noted that skilled workers are normally protected by their corporations and they go through formal channels but household service workers normally process their papers under the radar.
In 2018, the Philippines also ordered a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait amid the string of reported abuses and deaths of Filipino workers, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer over a year after she was reported missing.
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