By Gavin Gibbon
Employers of Jeanelyn Villavende have reportedly been formally charged and detained
Murder charges have been filed against the Kuwaiti employers of Filipino domestic worker Jeanelyn Villavende, according to the Philippines News Agency.
The news was revealed by labour secretary Silvestre Bello III, during a Senate labour committee hearing, who said the employers had been formally charged and detained.
“That’s good because that’s what we’re asking for - justice. We welcome that,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a palace briefing.
However, there is no plan to lift the temporary ban on overseas Filipino workers to the Gulf state, which was enforced following the death of Villavende.
“It stays. The ban is temporary,” said Panelo, who is also chief presidential legal counsel.
Bello said the temporary ban stays until the Kuwaiti Government agrees to “harmonise” the memorandum of agreement on the protection of OFWs in the Arab nation signed by the two countries on May 11, 2018.
The agreement was aimed at putting an end to inhumane treatment committed against Filipino workers by their Kuwaiti employers.
It contains provisions which include requiring workers’ passports to be deposited to the Philippine embassy and not confiscated by employers; workers are given one day off every week; workers are given seven hours of sleep a day; workers provided with decent meals and sleeping quarters; and workers provided with cellphones.
Panelo earlier said the Kuwaiti Government has yet to honour the pact on the protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
Prior to the signing of the labour pact, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a total deployment ban on new workers to Kuwait after the murder of domestic worker Joanna Demafelis, along with a series of reported abuse and maltreatment of Filipino domestic workers.
On May 15, 2018, four days after the signing of the labour pact, Duterte ordered the lifting of the ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
However, Villavenda’s death prompted Duterte to re-impose the ban on January 17, 2020.
On December 28, 2019, Villavende was brought dead to a hospital in Kuwait after reportedly being beaten by her lady employer. Her family in the Philippines were informed of her death on December 30.
Results of the National Bureau of Investigation’s examination of Villavende’s remains showed signs of sexual abuse on the victim. There were also “old healed wounds” which indicate that Villavende had been battered weeks prior to her killing.