MANILA – A lawmaker on Thursday said the renegotiation of the bilateral labor agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait should be done in the Philippines for purposes of transparency and disclosure, while allowing for diplomacy and negotiation space.
Quezon City Rep. Ralph Tulfo, a member of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, said aside from the renegotiation, the government, particularly the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should use new means of conducting frequent welfare checks on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait and in other countries where there are many OFWs in distress.
"The renegotiation of the labor agreement should also get underway at the soonest and the Philippines’ consular and POLO officials must conduct a thorough welfare check on every OFW working and residing in Kuwait," he said.
Tulfo made the call following the killing of Filipino domestic worker Jullebee Ranara in Kuwait.
He said with the repatriation of Ranara's remains, it is necessary to keep the pressure on the law enforcement authorities in Kuwait to make sure her murderer is brought to justice to the fullest extent of the laws in Kuwait.
"Every step of the way, the Philippine officials there in Kuwait must be present whenever necessary in legal and investigation proceedings," he said.
He said there should also be continuous monitoring, reviews and strict standards governing not just the Philippines’ OFW recruitment agencies but also their counterpart agencies in Kuwait and other countries.
"Because when the OFWs are already in other countries, monitoring becomes difficult for the PH recruitment agencies and they depend on their counterpart in the receiving countries. That is the reality of the situation out there," he said.
He said the government must also address how liability can be enforced when the OFW is no longer under contract with the Philippine recruitment agency and becomes a direct hire.
"Welfare checks on direct hires are quite difficult especially when the workplace is far from the nearest Philippine POLO or consular office. Employers usually confiscate OFW cellphones and there is practically no way for the Philippine POLO or consular office to enforce or protect OFWs against this. The welfare and protection provisions of OFW contracts must be enforceable," Tulfo said.
DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said Ranara's remains will be repatriated Friday night.
De Vega said Ranara’s employer, who is also the father of the 17-year-old suspect, agreed to shoulder the cost of the repatriation.
"The embassy has already worked with the employer so that the remains would be brought home and that would be Friday night," he said in a presser.
De Vega said the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait has also provided a lawyer to handle the case and would continue to work with Kuwaiti authorities to bring justice to the slain OFW.
Ranara's charred body, with the skull smashed, was recovered by the Kuwaiti police at the Salmi, Al-Jarah Governorate on Jan. 21.
The suspect is now in police custody.
Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople earlier said Ranara's mother was initially informed by the victim that she was being threatened by her employer's son. (PNA)