March 22, 2018

Transcript of Speech from the Office of the Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III

Co-Sponsorship Speech on
PSRN 676: Resolution Expressing the Sense of the Senate that the Deployment of Overseas Filipino Household Service Workers to Countries that Do Not Afford Migrants the Same Rights and Work Conditions as Their Nationals and Allow the Withholding of Philippine Passports Be Totally Banned

21 March 2018


I stand before you to speak on a matter that strikes close to the heart of every Filipino, from the members of the Senate and other high officials in government to Filipino workers here in our country and all over the world.

On August 19, 2016, Irma Avila Edloy died in a Saudi hospital after being rushed there six days prior. Before she fell into a comma, she pointed to her employer when a nurse asked her who has maltreated her. Apart from the lacerations on her private parts, discovered upon initial examination, the hospital report recited the end results of the suffering she had endured. At the time of her death, her lungs were inflamed. Her kidneys were no longer working, she had blood in her urine and there was increased intra-cranial pressure inside her skull due to head trauma.

Almost two years later, our country was rocked by the chilling fate of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, another household service worker in Kuwait. Her body was found in her employer's freezer almost two years after she last spoke to her family. Her body bore signs of torture and indications that she had been strangled to death. The discovery of her murder prompted President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to order a deployment ban to Kuwait for all Overseas Filipino Workers, or OFWs.

Just days after news of Joanna's discovery broke, Josie Lloren died two weeks after returning home to the Philippines from Kuwait. Josie had told her sister, that she was being maltreated by her employer's wife and needed to find another job. She returned to the Philippines gravely ill, and was rushed to a hospital where she died from a stroke.

We can only imagine the full extent of the horrors that these Filipinos endured at the hands of people who imagined them as property and not as human beings. These Filipinos risked their lives for their families, and encountered only tragedy.

These are not isolated cases. The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait receives hundreds of complaints and shelters hundreds of Filipino workers, most of them women.

There are some stories of older injustices.

In 2014, Lourdes Hingco Abejuela, was mauled to death by her employer's illegally-kept lions. Sheryl Cabrera Javillano fell to her death trying to escape her employer in 2013. Her employer did not even report what took place and Filipino authorities only learned of her death almost a month after the fact. In a rare case decided in February 2012, a Kuwaiti woman was convicted for the murder of a Filipina maid--whose name was not disclosed in the official report. The employer regularly tortured her maid before taking the unconscious Filipina out into the desert and driving over her with her car until our kababayan died.

These are but a handful of the experiences of our OFWs in countries that do not accord migrant workers the same rights and working conditions as their own nationals. In these places it is often the practice that employers are permitted to withhold the passports of their foreign staff because foreign staff need to be sponsored by an employer to work in their country, these employers see their foreign staff as acquisitions, as property, functionally, as slaves.

This must end.

It is a fact that many Filipinos are constrained to seek employment abroad in the hopes of bettering their circumstances, or at least affording their families basic sustenance. Until our country is better able to provide for all Filipinos so that no Filipino will feel the need to leave home, we will not be able to stop our kababayans from seeking employment elsewhere. However, we can--and we should--limit the places where they seek employment in to only those countries that provide Filipino workers the same rights and protections given to nationals of that country.

Filipino workers should not be allowed to work in countries that do not recognize that migrants have the same rights as their own citizens, and/or that allow passports of migrant workers to be confiscated by their employers.

It is for this purpose that senators have crossed party lines to file Proposed Senate Joint Resolution No. 676 entitled Resolution Expressing the Sense of the Senate that the Deployment of Overseas Filipino Household Service Workers to Countries that Do Not Afford Migrants the Same Rights and Work Conditions as Their Nationals and Allow the Withholding of Philippine Passports Be Totally Banned. I have the honor of sponsoring this Resolution with Senators Emmanuel Pacquiao and Antonio Trillanes IV.

This resolution applies only to OFWs who work in households as domestic help. Filipino workers in households are more vulnerable to abuse, as their place of work is shielded from public view.

I now ask for the support of my other esteemed colleagues. Let us put an end to the practice of allowing our citizens to fall into the hands of cruel people who make no distinction between slaves and staff. The Filipino is not a slave. Our forefathers shed blood so that the Filipino may never again be enslaved by foreigners.

Let us not forget their sacrifices. Let us protect our citizens the best way we can. Let us pass this resolution now, or at the soonest possible time, before time runs out for the other Filipino workers in similar situations. And hope that the Executive Branch heeds our call.

Maraming salamat po

News Latest News Feed