25 OFWs in Kuwaiti jail need assistance - group

MANILA, Philippines — A group based in the Middle East on Saturday said there are 25 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) languishing at Salmiya jail in Kuwait and need immediate assistant by the Philippine government.

Migrante-Middle East said its representatives managed to discreetly visit the jail recently and found out that the workers, all women, were victims of abuses and maltreatment by their employers.

"They ran away their employers got them jailed by reporting to the police that they absconded. What a deplorable condition!" said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante’s regional coordinator for the Middle East.

Monterona identified the jailed OFWs as Eva Ilagan, Jonalyn Hechanova, Josie Calicdan, Elena Tamparia, Florifel Francisco, Rosalinda Hasim, Rahima Castillo, Evelyn Sale, Annie Rose Guzman, Elizabeth Guinto, Leonora Quintero, Noriam Abdulmama, Erlinda Pena, Janet Yago, Janet Cabatu, Arolin Calma, Vivian Velziz, Roselyn Balanion, Ma. Elena Ancillas, Dely Talandang, Sorayna Timpoluc, Analeah Amil, Wilijada Damasina, and Canora Paloma.

Monterona said that contrary to Ambassador Ricardo Endaya's claim that assistance was being given to the jailed OFWs, the workers complained that nobody from the Philippine Embassy or Philippine-Overseas Labor Office and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA) have visited them.

Philippine officials had earlier denied previous charges of negligence, saying they are doing their best to assist distressed Filipino workers but there are also procedures in accordance with the laws of the host government to be followed.

Monterona quoted one of the distressed workers as saying the jailed migrant workers from India were luckier and better off as their embassy officials often visited them and provided necessary items such as toiletries for them.

"We would like to remind RP officials in Kuwait that they have a duty to perform; foremost of which is to provide assistance to OFWs especially those in distress. This includes regular jail visitation so that they may know what assistance they need to provide to jailed OFWs such as sanitary and medical items," Monterona said.

“Jail visitation helps raise the morale of our OFWs in distress," he added.

Migrante-ME further prodded the OWWA contingent in Kuwait to start doing their job properly, otherwise the $25 membership fee the agency collects from OFWs would be for naught.

“The OWWA fund is intended to provide welfare programs, services and assistance to distress OFWs like Canora Paloma and 24 others in Salmiya jail," Migrante reminded OWWA personnel.

Monterona explained that Migrante has no recourse but to expose the alleged negligence and ineptness of Philippine officials abroad in handling the cases of fellow OFWs in distress.

"We can't simply turn our back to fellow OFWs especially in distress who have sought our assistance. Migrante will always act and will do something in order to extend assistance," he said.