• The DMW suggested Hong Kong and Singapore as possible destinations for first-time domestic helpers
  • Sen. Raffy Tulfo called for a total OFW deployment ban to Kuwait
  • Domestic helper Jullebee Ranara's burnt remains were found in a Kuwaiti desert on Jan. 21

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) has temporarily halted processing the contracts of first-time household helpers applying to work in Kuwait, until more rules are implemented to protect Filipino workers in the Middle Eastern country.

"Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said that the application of first-time migrant workers specifically for household services in Kuwait shall be deferred until after significant reforms have been made resulting from upcoming bilateral talks with the said country," the DMW said in a statement Wednesday.

In the meantime, first-time domestic work applicants have other countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore to choose from, the agency noted.

"Those who never worked as a household worker abroad, or those who did work as a household worker but not in Kuwait, will have to wait first because the department wants to make sure that there is an effective monitoring and response system in place before Filipino workers go there," Ople further explained, CNN Philippines reported.

Undersecretary Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones also said "the bulk of cases of maltreatment involve new hires."

News of the DMW's latest advisory regarding the temporary stoppage came after a lawmaker called for a total deployment ban of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to the country.

Sen. Raffy Tulfo, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Migrant Workers, proposed the notion late last month after the reported murder of 35-year-old domestic helper Jullebee Ranara in Kuwait.

"As a start, Tulfo suggested to gradually pull out OFWs in Kuwait and send them instead to work in places where OFWs are properly compensated and treated with respect," the Senate said in a press release.

During Wednesday's Senate hearing on the death of Ranara, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Joel Villanueva criticized the monitoring system of the victim's recruitment agency, calling it "ineffective," the Manila Bulletin reported.

Sen.Villanueva reiterated that the agency should have monitored the case of Ranara consistently to determine when the abuse on the victim started, even if she supposedly often posted on social media that she was doing well.

The lawmaker further revealed during the hearing that Ranara informed her parents on Jan. 20 about "experiencing cruelty from the 17-year-old son [of her employer]," as per Rappler.

Sen. Tulfo asked Ranara's recruitment agency for "proof" that the victim had a relationship with the son of her employer as the agency claimed.

"You should have done something," the senator said after the agency's representative mentioned they received a report about Ranara's supposed relationship with the suspect.

Ranara's burnt body was found in the Al-Salmi desert in Kuwait on Jan. 21, the DMW previously said, on the same day, she reportedly lost contact with her loved ones.

Ranara's skull was crushed when it was found, the Arab Times reported. The outlet added an autopsy on the victim's body had determined that Ranara was pregnant.

A separate report from the Arab Times stated that Kuwait's Public Prosecution said its investigations found Ranara was subjected to sexual assault before she was murdered. The DMW previously said the suspect was already in Kuwaiti law enforcement custody.

This was not the first time the notion of a total OFW deployment ban to Kuwait was raised.

Early in 2020, then President Rodrigo Duterte gave the Department of Labor and Employment the authority to impose a total ban of OFWs to Kuwait after 26-year-old domestic helper Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende was killed by her employer late in 2019.

Then presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said a second autopsy conducted on the body of Villavende by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showed the victim was "sexually abused and sodomized."

Villavende's Kuwaiti employer was sentenced to death in December 2020, while her husband was sentenced to four years in prison for not reporting the crime.

Representational image. Joshua Woroniecki/Pixabay