SYMPATHY. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. visits the wake of slain overseas Filipino worker Jullebee Cabilis Ranara in Las Piñas City on Monday (Jan. 30, 2023) to personally extend his sympathies to the bereaved family. 2023).  Marcos assured Ranara’s family that they would receive assistance from the government. (Photo courtesy of PCO)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Monday visited the wake of slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jullebee Ranara in Las Piñas City to extend sympathies and give assurance to her family that they would receive assistance from the government.

Marcos arrived at Ranara’s wake at around 4:10 p.m.

“I just want to offer my sympathies to the family and to assure them all the assistance that they might need for the family,” Marcos said in a chance interview with reporters after attending Ranara’s wake.

He said it is the government’s duty to continue turning Ranara’s dream of providing her family with a better life into reality.

“Kaya naman nag sakripisyo ang anak nila na mag trabaho sa abroad ay dahil may mga pangarap siya para sa kanyang pamilya. Sinabi ko, nung nawala na yung anak niyo, kami na lang ang tutupad ng pangarap... Lahat ng assistance na pwedeng naming ibigay, ibibigay namin (The reason why their daughter made the sacrifice to work abroad is because of her dream for her family. I said, because your daughter passed away, we will fulfil that dream…We will give all the assistance we can give),” he added.

Marcos said Ranara’s retirement and death benefits have been turned over by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to her family.

He said the OWWA has also extended burial assistance and support her four children’s educational needs.

“Nabigay na yata yung death benefit na galing sa OWWA. Meron kaming hinahandang scholarship…Basta makapagaral ng mabuti at lahat pa ng ibang benepisyo… (I think the death benefit from OWWA has been given. We are also preparing scholarships…As long as her children can go to school and other benefits). That’s what we are doing for them,” he added.

Bilateral labor pact

Meanwhile, Marcos said the government is also scheduling bilateral meetings with the government of Kuwait to review its bilateral labor agreement with the Gulf state.

“We are also scheduling bilateral meetings with Kuwait to look at the agreement…We have to see if there are weaknesses in the agreement that allow this to happen and to make sure that those weaknesses are remedied so that the agreement is stronger…we’ll be more supportive of our workers and furthermore that we hope this will not happen again to anyone of our countrymen,” he said.

Marcos went straight to Ranara’s wake after attending the presentation of the 2023 Basic Education Report (BER) at Sofitel Hotel and the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028 Forum at the Philippine International Convention Center both in Pasay City.

He was joined by Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople, Las Piñas Rep. Camille Villar-Genuino and Senator Mark Villar.

Ranara's burned body was found in a desert in Kuwait last week. The suspect, the 17-year-old son of Ranara's employers, is now in the custody of Kuwaiti authorities.

Ranara's body was brought home last Friday.

Congested temporary shelters

OFW Party List Representative Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino urged the government to address the predicament of OFWs stranded in congested temporary shelters, run by the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), now known as the Migrant Workers Offices (MWOs).

In a privilege speech, Magsino said hundreds of the country’s OFWs were reported to have gotten sick while cramped in shelters, awaiting their repatriation.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) earlier said there were 421 OFWs, both documented and undocumented, that have been in refuge in a Bahay Kalinga (Home Care) in Kuwait.

Magsino learned that the shelter has been congested since it can only accommodate around 200 persons, adding that most of those in the shelter were victims of various forms of abuse by employers and many of them were getting sick or suffering from depression.

Although the DMW immediately addressed the situation in Kuwait, “this is just symptomatic of deeper and more crucial issues,” she said.

“The real and persistent problems here are the intertwined challenges of maltreatment of our OFWs by their employers forcing them to run away; the status of our shelters run by the government through our POLOs, now known as MWOs; and our government’s repatriation funding and system for distressed OFWs,” she said. (with reports from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)