JEANELYN Villavende was allegedly beaten to death by her employer in Kuwait, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Thursday, January 2.
Citing a preliminary report submitted by Labor Attache Nasser Mustafa of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Kuwait, Bello said in a statement that Villavende was already dead when she was brought to a hospital.
Attending nurses reported that she was "black and blue", Bello said. The exact time and date of her death will be determined after the autopsy.
Her employer has been arrested and is currently detained by Kuwaiti authorities.
Villavende's death has prompted the government to consider again a partial ban on deployment of household service workers to Kuwait.
The agency that recruited Villavende also faces possible cancellation of its license for failing to act on her request, Bello said. As early as September 2019, Villavende had complained about being maltreated and requested her agency for repatriation.
“We will also ask Villavende’s recruitment agency to explain their inaction. As early as September, she already complained about maltreatment and underpayment of salary. She also repeatedly requested the agency for repatriation, but they did not do anything,” Bello added.
The Labor chief said Mustafa recommended the partial deployment ban, which is still subject to the approval of the governing board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Bello, who chairs the POEA board, said the deployment ban will cover only first-time workers who will serve as household service workers in Kuwait, and excludes skilled and vacationing workers.
“This should serve as a clear message to Kuwaiti authorities. The partial ban may ripen into total deployment ban if justice for Jeanelyn Villavende is not met,” Bello said.
Malacañang as well as the Foreign Affairs and Labor departments have expressed outrage over Villavende's death, which was in violation of a May 2018 agreement that the Philippines and Kuwait signed to protect Filipino workers in Kuwait.
The agreement paved for the lifting of a total deployment ban in 2018, which was imposed after the body of Joanna Demafelis was found inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait.
Bello said Villavende’s family talked to her last in October 2019. On December 13, 2019, the family again called Jeanelyn but her female employer had answered the call and said that Jeanelyn was busy.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, who went to Norala, South Cotabato to condole with Villavende’s family, said that death and burial benefits will be extended to Jeanelyn.
The Villavende family will receive livelihood assistance and while her youngest sibling will get an academic scholarship.
Aside from Villavende and Demafelis, Filipino household service worker Constancia Lago Dayag was also killed allegedly by her employer in Kuwait in May 2019.
Dayag's body bore various contusions and hematoma as well as signs of sexual abuse. (MVI with HDT/SunStar Philippines)