Diplomatic ties strained as Kuwait cops arrest 2 Pinoys, question PH envoy for aiding maids to run away from employers

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By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent

Diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Kuwait may soon break as Kuwaiti police arrested two Filipinos for allegedly abetting housemaids to run away from their employers’ homes and no less than the Philippine ambassador to that Middle East country was held for questioning over his embassy’s work in aiding distressed workers.

The arrests, as reported by the state-run Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA), come as the already tense relations between Kuwait and the Philippines threaten to snap. Kuwait had fired a series of diplomatic complaints to Manila.

President Duterte had earlier banned workers from heading to Kuwait over abuse cases, culminating in a February incident that saw a Filipina’s body discovered in a freezer at a Kuwait City apartment abandoned for more than a year.

KUNA reported that the two Filipinos acknowledged convincing the maids to leave. It wasn’t clear what law the two men were accused of breaking, though KUNA said the two “confessed to the crime in addition to other similar offenses that had been committed in various regions of the country.”

The arrests came after Kuwait summoned Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa over comments he made that were reported in local press about the embassy’s effort to rescue domestic workers who are abused by their employers. Villa was quoted as saying his embassy moves in to help the abused if Kuwaiti authorities fail to respond within 24 hours.

Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano admitted that the rescue operations of distressed Filipino workers have infuriated the Kuwaiti government and resulted in a series of diplomatic complaints from the host country.

“Well, our ambassador (Villa) was summoned three times and our counterparts conveyed some messages. Basically, they questioned our embassy’s rescue action, if we are abiding by their laws, and if there was an abuse in the diplomatic status, because of the car with diplomatic plate,” Cayetano told reporters at the sidelines of the welcoming ceremony for the last batch of repatriates at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Cayetano was referring to the recent rescue operations conducted by certain embassy staff members to extricate some distressed Filipino workers from the household of their employers.

The rescue was documented through snippets of video footages shared to the members of the media last week by DFA Assistant Sec. Elmer Cato, who heads the DFA’s Office of Public Diplomacy.

In one of the videos uploaded by Cato, a Filipina is seen running to a waiting SUV with a man speaking in “Tagalog” helping her load her luggage into the vehicle.

Cayetano justified that rescue operations are intended for cases with “grave danger” or “life-or-death situation” and are coordinated with Kuwaiti authorities.

Despite the diplomatic complaints from Kuwaiti authorities, Cayetano said the Philippine embassy will continue to conduct rescue operations since they have been receiving four or five requests daily.

The DFA chief said, “What’s important is we’ll be able to hear the complaints, and even before we lift the (deployment) ban and sign the agreement, we’ll be able to iron out the system.”

Since February this year, the Philippine government has repatriated a total of 5,066 undocumented Filipinos, according to the DFA. The last batch of repatriates numbering to 215, including six children, arrived Monday morning at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) onboard Qatar Airways flight QR934.

But there are still more than 5,000 undocumented Filipinos who failed to avail themselves of Kuwaiti’s three-month amnesty program that ended last Sunday.

Duterte in January complained that cases of abuse reported by Filipina domestic workers “always” seem to be coming from Kuwait.

There have been prominent cases of abuse in the past, including an incident in December 2014 where a Kuwaiti’s pet lions fatally mauled a Filipina maid.

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