Press Release
January 13, 2020

Senator Win Gatchalian's Headstart Interview with Karen Davila on Taal Volcano ashfall and total deployment ban on Kuwait household workers

[start recording]

Q: I know you wanted to comment on the eruption of Taal, you posted last night from Quezon City that the ashfall already reached your home.

SEN WIN: Correct. From a governance standpoint, the local governments including the provincial government should do a rapid assessment so they can already declare a state of calamity and they can use their calamity funds to repair, to buy food and for the evacuees. Right now, it is still uncertain. I heard the comment of Dr. Caloy Arcilla who's a well-known geologist and it's really uncertain because it is a new animal he said, and for the next few days, the local government should have the capability and the finances to support the evacuees. At the same time by declaring a state of calamity, national government can come in including us, the Senate, and other entities can talk and give support to the local government and to the constituents of those local governments.

Q: Would have been a disaster resilience department make a difference in this whole situation?

SEN WIN: In my view, it is important to capacitate the local government. I would rather give more capacity, more capability to the local governments because they are the first responders and all of these research agencies like PHIVOLCS and PAGASA can be strengthened also. My fear if it is too top-heavy, if it is too centralized, the local governments cannot move but if it's the local government that's really at the forefront of all of this disaster. It is important to capacitate them with a mechanism so they can be capacitated quickly, so they can move quickly and respond quickly.

Q: I think three priority departments are formed; the Department of Water, OFW, and disaster preparedness so in terms of disaster preparedness, will you support that?

SEN WIN: We will study it carefully because we don't want a system where it is too centralized, it's too top-heavy, and it's too centric in Metro Manila, because if calamity strikes outside of Metro Manila, it is very hard to move. I think what's the most important mechanism here is really to empower the local governments to respond quickly because they are at the forefront. That's where disaster response comes in and it's very important for them to play this role.

Deployment ban

Q: In terms of the Department of OFW, the NBI's report is very different from the two-sentence report sent by the Kuwaiti government on the autopsy report on Jeanelyn Villavende.

SEN WIN: This is an insult to our government, an insult to our country and insult to Filipino people especially to the OFWs who've been toiling almost blood sweat and tears in the Middle East. This is a very serious matter because Jeanelyn was killed in that area and we demand justice, we demand the truth and this is not how countries and friend treat each other by giving fake reports. The next move will be to summon the Kuwaiti Ambassador here in the Philippines, let him explain, let him give us the truth. This report is definitely garbage, we cannot use it anymore, we have to let the Kuwaiti Ambassador explain to our government and give us the truth because we want justice for Jeanelyn, we want justice for OFWs, we want protection for our OFWs.

Q: Partial deployment ban was imposed by DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello and he said, if the Kuwaiti government charges, because the couple are Kuwaiti nationals, then they may lift partial deployment ban. But following these two set intense supposedly fake autopsy report, do you still believe Senator that a partial deployment ban, a certain ban, an MOU, is the solution or is it time to call in a total deployment ban for Kuwait?

SEN WIN: I think the fact will state that there was bad faith, in behalf of the Kuwaiti government and in behalf of the investigators, and with this bad faith we have to make sure that the lives of our OFWs in Kuwait are all protected and make sure that mechanisms are in place for their well-being. Having said that, we have to make sure now that the Kuwaiti government can give justice to Jeanelyn and avoid this type of issues from happening again. So, a total ban on our household workers should be in effect as soon as possible because they are the most vulnerable, kinukuha nila ang passport, they are scattered all over the place, they are not protected by employers or corporations for that matter so it is important now to stop this type of occurrences from happening by implementing total ban for household service workers.

Q: How will that affect the country? Right now, there are 260,000 workers in Kuwait of which is quite interesting, a 160,000 of the 260 are household service workers. Only a 100,000 are skilled workers.

SEN WIN: The skilled workers are normally protected by their corporations and they go through formal conduits and formal channels. But the household service workers, a lot of them go in through illegal means and they go in under the radar. A lot of them also are quite vulnerable for this type of service.

Q: They complain of delayed salaries, they are underpaid-

SEN WIN: Until we get justice for Jeanelyn, until we get the truth, until we get clarity on the implementation of all the agreements because if you remember in 2018 when one of our OFWs also suffered the same fate, she was killed.

Q: Yes, it was Joanna Demafelis found inside a freezer.

SEN WIN: Correct and the Kuwaiti government promised to implement a lot of reforms when it comes to protection and labor laws but reports are saying that these are not being implemented so until we see implementation of this laws, we should ban household service workers from being deployed there because they are the most vulnerable and there is no guarantee that this would not happen again in the near future.

Q: Now, some portions of the MOA in 2018 say that the domestic helpers should have one-day off a week, they should have their cellphones and they should also have their contracts with them and yet, there is no way to check if someone like Jeanelyn actually had them.

SEN WIN: We have to be proactive and the Kuwaiti government should be proactive in this manner. They have to recognize that our kababayans are the most vulnerable in that area. They have to do whatever they can to be proactive.

[end recording]

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