Slain Filipina maid's employers in Kuwait face murder raps: Labor chief


Posted at Jan 28 2020 02:52 PM

The stepmother of slain Filipina maid Jeanelyn Villavende weeps as her body arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from Kuwait, Jan. 8, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Two employers of a Filipina maid in Kuwait were charged with murder in connection to her death, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said Tuesday. 

Jeanelyn Villavende's employers, a married couple, were detained at a high crimes facility, Bello said during a Senate hearing on the alleged maltreatment of migrant workers. 

One of the suspects worked at Kuwait's interior ministry, he said. 

Villavende, whose death prompted the government to ban the deployment of workers to the oil-rich state, could have been abused for a long time, as indicated by her wounds and bruises, some of which were already healed while others were still fresh, National Bureau of Investigation medico-legal division chief Dr. Rolando Rodaje said in the same hearing. 

The slain domestic worker, he added, lost so much weight that her stepmother identified her only thanks to a birthmark on her knee. 

Villavende could have also been abused sexually, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said, citing autopsy findings. 

A initial deployment ban imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration only covered newly hired household service workers. President Rodrigo Duterte later expanded the ban to cover skilled workers. 

The ban will stay until Villavende gets justice and Kuwait agrees with a template employment contract that ensures the safety of Filipino workers, Bello earlier said. 
Kuwait hosts some 262,000 Filipinos, nearly 60 percent of whom are domestic workers, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy, according to the foreign ministry.

In 2018, the Philippines also temporarily stopped sending workers to Kuwait after a string of reported abuse and deaths of Filipino workers, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in her employer's freezer. 

This led to the signing of an agreement on OFW protection between Kuwait and Manila. 

In May last year, Malacañang called for a review of the pact following the death of another Filipina in Kuwait. 

With a report from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News