Press Release
May 2, 2018


While hoping that the rift between the Philippines and Kuwait will be resolved soon, Senator Richard J. Gordon yesterday stressed that the government is duty-bound to prioritize the protection and safety of Filipino workers both here and abroad, especially distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Gordon said the Constitution mandates that the State "shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all."

He added the Philippines should also learn from what happened to OFW Joanna Demafelis, the Filipino worker found in a freezer in Kuwait who died due to the severe beating she suffered allegedly at the hands of her employer, and take steps to ensure that a similar unfortunate incident would not be repeated.

"The protection and safety of Filipino workers here and abroad, especially distressed OFWs, is paramount. We should take the tragic case of Joanna Demafelis as a lesson so that it will not happen again, not only in Kuwait but also in other countries where we deploy OFWs. We really should pursue the forging of a memorandum of understanding with host countries to ensure the protection and safety of our overseas workers," he said.

The proposed MOU with Kuwait provides that OFWs will have, among others, the right to retain their passports. Workers in many Gulf States are employed under the Kafala (sponsorship) system, which gives employers the right to keep their passports and have full control over their stay in the country.

The MOU also gives OFWs the right to refuse being transferred to other employers. An OFW must give a written consent in case of transfer from one employer to another, and the transfer must also be approved in writing by the Philippine labor attache in the country where the OFW is located. Rights groups blast the system of transferring workers from one employer to another because it leaves foreign workers in the Gulf region open to exploitation.

The discovery of Demafelis' body stuffed in a freezer in an abandoned apartment prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.

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