On February 14 this year, 38-year-old Teresa Quedding from Guimba, Tarlac arrived in Kuwait to work as a domestic helper — to pursue her dream of bigger earnings and a better future for her family.
> But on July 15 or just five months into her work in Kuwait, her cold body was brought home to Tarlac — apparently brutalized, with a broken neck, bruises in different parts of her body and cigarette burns on her shoulder. Intriguingly, both of her eyes and mouth were wide open as if in great fear before she died.
> Did she die of accident? Or natural causes? Or killed deliberately? No one can say with certainty. Not now, not in the coming weeks or months perhaps.
> While speculating on the real cause of her death is unhealthy, it is inevitable to ask how and why she suffered cigarette burns on her shoulder. It defies reason and logic to assume that Quedding deliberately did this sadistic act to herself. How she broke her neck and suffered bruises in different parts of her body also raises more questions than answers.
> The questionable circumstances of Quedding’s death, together with the execution also in Kuwait of Jacatia Pawa, an OFW, on January 25 this year are just the latest in a trail of horrible physical abuses and questionable deaths of Filipino domestic helpers in that Middle Eastern country.
> Pawa was accused of killing her employer’s daughter in 2007, an accusation that she denied until her execution early this year.
> What is the Philippine government doing in the face of the continuing abuses and deaths of Pinay helpers in Kuwait? Senior Filipino officials made some noises last year about considering imposing a temporary ban on the deployment of Pinay helpers to that country.
> Presumably, this threat of a temporary freeze on deployment will pressure Kuwaiti authorities to take measures to strengthen protection of OFWs at work in that country.
> But does the Philippine government have sufficient political will to carry out this threat? From all indications and from the prolonged silence of relevant officials since the temporary ban plan was spoken of, nothing much has happened. In the apparent absence of political will, it appears that OFWs will simply have to endure whatever treatment they will get from employers in Kuwait. Very sad.
> In the meantime, can the families of Quedding and Pawa get any redress for what they believe were injustices suffered by their kin in Kuwait? Sadly, the wheels of justice in most Middle Eastern countries often favor their own nationals — not migrant workers, including those from the Philippines.
> A temporary ban on deployment of Pinay helpers to Kuwait can certainly have negative repercussions. These may include the Kuwaitis pressuring OFWs now at work in that country to leave and be replaced by migrant workers from other Asian countries. This scenario can be a problem as it was estimated that there were about 180,000 OFWs in Kuwait as of 2012.
> A Kuwaiti reprisal is possible. However, the Alliance of Overseas Filipinos for Change (AOFC) believes that such problem is not insurmountable as there are other countries in the Middle East which can absorb those who might be displaced in Kuwait.
> If the Philippine government truly and sincerely cares for OFWs, it should not merely heap praises on OFWs as the modern heroes of our land and make promises of improved benefits.
> More than praises and promises, the AOFC urges the government to take action when necessary, and the series of tragedies involving OFWs in Kuwait now require political will and concrete action. Without this action, the Philippine government will send out the wrong signal — that it’s fine if one or several OFWs are brutalized as long as many more OFWs are still at work in the Middle East and sending home much-needed earnings to their loved ones and our country’s economy.
> In the end, it’s worthwhile for OFWs to ask this question — Do their government truly care for them? The answer is best measured in terms of concrete action and assistance, not merely in terms of praises and promises.
> OFW LABOR, SOCIAL & LIVELIHOOD PROBLEMS & OTHER ISSUES WILL BE TACKLED BY TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ON AUGUST 26 & 27 AT THE “GLOBAL FORUM OF OVERSEAS FILIPINOS & LIVELIHOOD & INVESTMENTS EXHIBITION” IN MANILA
> THIS 2-DAY CONFERENCE WILL BE SHOWN LIVE ON THIS FACEBOOK PAGE — ALLIANCE OF OVERSEAS FILIPINOS — AND THIS WEB LINK — WWW.OFWS4CHANGE.COM — FROM 8AM TO 5PM on August 26 & 27
> Please visit this Facebook page — ALLIANCE OF OVERSEAS FILIPINOS — for regular postings about OFWs in Hong Kong and other parts of the world, as well as major developments in the Philippines
> Please visit this web link — http://www.rthk.hk/radio/radio3/programme/pinoy_life — to listen to “Pinoy Life” radio show in Hong Kong which tackles the hottest issues relating to OFWs and the most important developments in the Philippines.