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Marcos visits Ranara’s wake, vows support

President Marcos Jr. visits the wake of slain overseas Filipino worker Jullebee Ranara in Las Piñas City on January 30, 2023, to extend his sympathies to the bereaved family. Marcos assured Ranara’s family that they would receive assistance from the government.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. vowed on January 30 to extend aid to the bereaved family of Jullebee Ranara, the 35-year-old Filipino household worker whose burnt body was found in a desert in Kuwait on January 21, 2023. Her remains were repatriated to the Philippines on Friday, January 27. The main suspect in her killing was the 17-year-old son of her employer who is now in Kuwaiti police custody.

“I just wanted to offer my sympathies to the family and to assure them that all the assistance that they might need ... for the family and for whatever else, ang pangako ko sa kanila. Kaya naman nagsakripisyo ang anak nila na magtrabaho sa abroad ay dahil may mga pangarap siya para sa kaniyang pamilya. Sinabi ko, noong nawala na yung anak n’yo, kami na lang ang tutupad ng pangarap … Lahat ng assistance na puwede naming ibigay, ibibigay naming, (The reason why their daughter made the sacrifice to work abroad is because of her dream for her family. I said, because your daughter passed away, we will fulfil that dream ... we will give all the assistance we can give),” said Marcos.

Marcos said Ranara’s retirement and death benefits have been turned over by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to her family.

He said the OWWA has also extended burial assistance and support for her children’s educational needs. Marcos said that the government will provide scholarships for Ranara’s four children.

“Nabigay na yata yung death benefit na galing sa OWWA. Mayroon kaming hinahandang scholarship…Basta makapag-aral nang mabuti at lahat pa ng ibang benepisyo … (I think the death benefit from OWWA has been given. We are also preparing scholarships… As long as her children can go to school and other benefits). That’s what we are doing for them,” he added.

Bilateral labour pact

Meanwhile, Marcos said the government is also scheduling meetings with the government of Kuwait to review its bilateral labour agreement (BLA) with the Gulf state.

“We are also scheduling bilateral meetings with Kuwait to look at the agreement …We have to see if there are weaknesses in the agreement that allow this to happen and to make sure that those weaknesses are remedied so that the agreement is stronger … we’ll be more supportive of our workers and furthermore that we hope this will not happen again to anyone of our countrymen,” he said.

After Ranara’s killing, the Department of Migrant Workers said it would review the BLA that was signed to protect the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by allowing them to keep their passports and mobile devices, which Kuwaiti employers would apparently confiscate from OFWs. The BLA was signed in 2018 following the Philippines’ imposition of an OFW placement ban on Kuwait after a domestic worker was killed and stuffed into a freezer inside an abandoned apartment in Kuwait. However, this ban was lifted shortly after. Another ban was imposed in 2020 after two OFWs died at the hands of their employers in 2019. This ban was lifted just one month later in February 2020.

Congested temporary shelters

OFW Party List Representative Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino urged the government to address the predicament of OFWs stranded in congested temporary shelters run by the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), now known as the Migrant Workers Offices (MWOs).

In a privilege speech, Magsino said hundreds of the country’s OFWs were reported to have gotten sick while cramped in shelters, awaiting their repatriation.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) earlier said there were 421 OFWs, both documented and undocumented, that have been in refuge in a Bahay Kalinga (Home Care) in Kuwait.

Magsino learned that the shelter has been congested since it can only accommodate around 200 persons, adding that most of those in the shelter were victims of various forms of abuse by employers and many of them were getting sick or suffering from depression.

Although the DMW immediately addressed the situation in Kuwait, “this is just symptomatic of deeper and more crucial issues,” she said.

“The real and persistent problems here are the intertwined challenges of maltreatment of our OFWs by their employers forcing them to run away; the status of our shelters run by the government through our POLOs, now known as MWOs; and our government’s repatriation funding and system for distressed OFWs,” she said.

With reports from Zaldy De Layola/PNA/PCO