Philippines announces partial ban on maids deployment to Kuwait


The Philippine government is set to impose a partial ban on the deployment of domestic helpers to Kuwait, following the death of another Filipino maid in the hands her employer in the oil-rich Gulf state.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Thursday, January 02, the ban was recommended by Labor Attaché Nasser Mustafa and subject to the approval of the board of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

“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 in a statement.

Bello clarified the ban would cover only new migrants who would work as maids in Kuwait. It would not affect skilled and vacationing workers, he added.

Bello first announced the death of the 26-year-old Villavende on Tuesday, but provided no details.

According to a preliminary report submitted by Mustafa, Villavende was beaten to death and was already dead when taken to a hospital. Nurses at the hospital described the maid as “black and blue.”

In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government may again stop the deployment of workers to Kuwait after the death of Villavende.

“As we said earlier, President [Duterte] is outraged by that. It is a violation of the agreement between the two countries,” Panelo told reporters.

He was referring to the agreement for the protection of Filipino workers in Kuwait that the Philippines and Kuwait signed in 2018 and that ended a freeze on labor traffic to the Gulf state.

The ban stemmed from the murder of Filipino maid Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in an apartment abandoned by her Arab employers in Kuwait City.

Demafelis’ employers fled Kuwait, but were arrested in Syria. The wife was tried in Damascus and sentenced to 15 years in jail. The husband, a Lebanese, is under trial in Beirut. Both were tried in absentia in Kuwait and sentenced to death.

There are currently more than 264,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait, more than half of them as maids.

Panelo said a complete ban on labor deployment to Kuwait would depend on Bello’s recommendation.

“It has been done before so it can be done again,” Panelo said.

He said the killing of Villavende, reportedly by her employer’s abusive wife, had again “affected” the diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Kuwait.

Speaking in a radio interview, Bello said the local placement agency that had sent Villavende to Kuwait faced cancellation of its license for failing to act on the maid’s request for repatriation months earlier.

“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 [to repatriate her]but they did not do anything,” Bello said.

Recruitment agencies have a responsibility to monitor the welfare of the workers they deploy to other countries, he said.

“That’s part of their obligation. They should be responsible for the workers they deploy. They should ensure that they are in good hands. They should check on their condition periodically,” Bello said.

Nelly Padernal, Villavende’s stepmother, said Villavende was a new migrant who had been deployed to Kuwait by a recruitment agency in Tacurong City whose name she remembered only as Five Star.

Padernal said she did not know the name of Villavende’s employer in Kuwait.

She said Villavende regularly communicated with her family in Norala, but the calls stopped in October.

“Her last call was sometime in late September. We just waited for her call as we could not initiate calls from here,” Padernal said.

The family is crying for justice.

“President Duterte, please help us,” Padernal said. “We are poor and you said your heart is for the poor and the oppressed.” (Source: