House inquiry on Villavende’s death starts today

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House inquiry on Villavende’s death starts today

Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) – January 21, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives will start today the inquiry into the death of Filipina domestic helper Jeanelyn Villavende.

Rep. Raymond Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) partylist said labor and foreign affairs officials are expected to attend the inquiry.

Mendoza chairs the House committee on overseas workers affairs.

“We will examine the botched bilateral agreement on household service workers (HSWs) signed between the Philippines and Kuwait at the start of congressional investigation,” he said.

The  probe will focus on the alleged fake autopsy sent by the Kuwaiti authorities on the remains of Villavende, Mendoza said.

Mendoza said had the agreement been observed and worked out, the death of Villavende would have been prevented.

The agreement provides for the non-confiscation of the HSW’s mobile phone and passport. It mandates the Kuwaiti government to provide important welfare and safety mechanisms for household workers.

Mendoza said the House would look into the two autopsy reports made by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and its Kuwaiti counterpart.

“It is a cause of grave concern because it was apparent that there is an attempt to whitewash the case and cover up the brutal death by making it appear Jeanelyn died of mere physical injuries,” Mendoza said.

He said the House committee would assess government efforts to repatriate Filipino workers in some parts of the Middle East amid rising tension in the region.         

The government is closely monitoring Filipino seafarers deployed in the Middle East.

In an advisory, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) ordered manning agencies to submit a list of all seafarers, including their trade routes and other important information.

The advisory was issued amid the tension between the US and Iran following the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Suleimani.

POEA chief Bernard Olalia said manning agencies are required to submit status reports of all their seafarers on board vessels transiting countries in the Middle East.

“The report should be submitted to the POEA Office of the Director on Welfare Services every Tuesday or immediately as may be necessary,” Olalia said.

All manning agencies, Olalia said, should fill out the monitoring form containing important information of Filipino crewmen on vessels transiting the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean. 

Olalia said manning agencies must coordinate regularly with their principals to closely monitor the condition of their seafarers.

He said agencies must ensure they have contingency plans in place in case tension in the Middle East escalates.

In another advisory, the POEA directed recruitment agencies deploying Filipino workers to the Middle East to monitor the status of their deployed workers.

Recruitment agencies should fill out monitoring forms and submit weekly reports on the condition of their deployed workers.

The POEA reminded agencies to be vigilant in monitoring the condition of their workers as the tension between the US and Iran could affect the entire Gulf region.