LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte – Expressing her sentiments on the plight of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), particularly those in the Middle East, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos in a statement said she supports the current ban on OFW deployment to Kuwait.
The Kuwait ban followed the killing of OFW Joanna Demafelis, who was found dead in the freezer of her employers, Nader Essam Assaf and Mona Hassoun. Both were arrested in February and sentenced to death early this month.
While pleased with this development, President Rodrigo R. Duterte pronounced that the deployment ban stays until the Government of Kuwait is able to guarantee the protection of OFWs through a bilateral accord with the Philippine Government.
“For me, it was actually overdue,” said Governor Marcos of the ban, adding she was thankful that “the President also made concessions para sa mga hindi naman DH (domestic helper) kundi skilled workers, eh hinayaan na rin. So I think tama yung ginagawa ni Presidente.”
Latest news of the Kuwaiti-Philippine bilateral discussions include an agreement vouching for adequate sleeping hours, nutritious meals, and holiday breaks for OFWs, as well as their rights to keep their passports and cellphones.
The agreement would also prohibit the transfer of workers from one employer to another without the worker’s consent nor clearance from overseas labor offices. There is also a proposed ban on employers with records of worker abuse from hiring domestic helpers.
“Yung iba, nagagalit dahil bakit daw biglaan, pero ang totoo, hindi biglaan. Ang haba-haba nang nagtiis ang iba nating kasamahan. Nakita na ‘yan sa Saudi,” said Governor Marcos, “Imagine, umabot na sa 30,000 ang nakakulong at may kaso, eh hindi pa inaaksyunan ng gobyerno dati.”
She cited, “Maski sa Boracay, nagrereklamo na biglaan at walang due process o warning, pero sa totoo lang, pasaway kasi tayo. Ilang beses pinagsasabihan at dinadaan sa magandang usapan, pero ayaw sumunod.”
With the majority of Ilocos Norte residents supported by loved ones working overseas, Governor Marcos has long been prioritizing OFW welfare, even advocating the creation of a separate and specialized department for overseas Filipinos and migrants.
In April of 2017, she also joined President Duterte on a state visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, saying, “Napakaraming Ilocano, napakaraming kababaihan, so importante sa akin na malaman ang sitwasyon nila.”
By Dexter A. See