June 13, 2019
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization that assists distressed migrant workers, called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to slow down on the deployment of Filipino domestic workers to Kuwait until the rape case involving a Filipino domestic worker who just landed at the Kuwait international airport is deemed resolved.
Susan Ople, head of the policy center, noted that though the perpetrator was not the domestic worker’s employer, DoLE can still make a strong case that lax security protocols in the international airport led to the victimization of an innocent, recently arrived OFW.
“Until and unless the Kuwait government, particularly its airport and law enforcement authorities, demonstrate political will in going after the perpetrator and overhauling its airport security protocols, then how can we be assured that nothing of this sordid sort would ever happen again?” Ople said.
The NGO also noted that nothing concrete has ever been reported about the convictions of the killers of OFW Joanna Demafelis. “Have they been convicted? Have they undergone trial? These things, we also need to know.”
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Kuwaiti authorities have issued a warrant of arrest against the suspect, Mr. Fayed Naser Hamad Alajmy, a 22-year old Kuwait police officer. Embassy Charge’ d’Affaires Mohd Noordin Lomondot reported that Alajmy was the one who assisted the OFW for finger scanning registration at the airport upon her arrival in Kuwait on June 4. It was alleged that the police officer then kidnapped and assaulted the OFW.
“In this particular case, it was the employer who informed the police about the rape incident which transpired even before the OFW could set foot in their residence. This is quite worrisome that our OFWs are not even safe upon arrival in Kuwait due to the laxity in the airport’s security protocols and in the haphazard manner by which they select their employees,” the Ople Center said.
A slowdown in deployment of domestic workers would show the Philippine government’s deep concern and displeasure over the incident. Meanwhile, the DFA has pledged to provide full legal assistance is made available to the aggrieved worker.
“Filipino domestic workers, especially those traveling for the first time, need to be assured that there are no rapists-in-uniform waiting for them at the Kuwait international airport. For an OFW to be abducted and raped a few minutes after arrival is beyond despicable,” Ople said.
She said that the bilateral labor agreement signed by the Philippine and Kuwait governments in May 2018 covered migrant workers’ rights in a work environment. The BLA enumerated the obligations of both governments in ensuring that domestic workers are protected against abusive employers.
The rape incident, however, involved a member of Kuwait’s security force assigned to the international airport.
“She deserves our sympathy and her privacy as a rape victim must be protected. Justice is part of the healing process and our government must do everything possible to make sure that the rapist is immediately arrested and be held liable under Kuwait’s judicial process,” the Ople Center said.
The NGO also urged the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration to provide the OFW’s family with livelihood assistance while the case is being investigated in Kuwait.
“At this time, she should not be worrying about the loss in income. Our government should step in to make sure that her family will continue to receive financial support while she pursues justice in Kuwait,” Ople said.
Last February 2018, no less than President Duterte told OFWs to stop working in Kuwait after the discovery of the frozen corpse of Joanna Demafelis inside the freezer of her employer’s flat. The moratorium was lifted after the Philippines and Kuwait signed a bilateral agreement in May 2018. There are more than 200,000 OFWs in Kuwait, composed mainly of domestic workers.