President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday lamented the death of a Filipino woman in Kuwait, saying he is ready to take “drastic measures” to prevent further loss of lives among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf state and other Arab nations.
“The Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere,” Duterte said in a press conference in his home city of Davao.
“Every unlawful physical injury inflicted on an OFW is an injury I personally bear as the head of this republic. Every abuse committed to an OFW is an affront against us as a sovereign nation.”
Duterte could not hold back his anger after reading the news about the death of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, whose body was found inside a freezer at an abandoned apartment in Kuwait.
“I was reading this report complete with pictures sa eroplano. P****g i*a. Hindi ko masikmura,” he said.
“It is totally unacceptable. Kung wala rin ako magagawa sa Pilipino, wala din akong silbi.”
Duterte again stressed he does not want a quarrel with oil-rich Arab nations, but he begged the governments of these countries to ensure that Filipino workers in the Middle East are treated humanely.
“What are you doing to my countrymen? And if I were to do it to your citizens here, would you be happy?” Duterte asked.
“Is there something wrong with your culture? Is there something wrong with the values?”
In view of this development, the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait enforced last month stays indefinitely, Duterte said.
“Everyone who wants to come home, I said to [Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III], those who want to be repatriated, with or without money, I will ask PAL (Philippine Airlines) and Cebu Pacific to provide the transpo[rtation]. I want them out of the country, those who want to go out, in 72 hours,” said Duterte, who had earlier threatened to withdraw all OFWs in Kuwait.
The President recently met with Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh and was invited to visit the Gulf state.
The meeting between Duterte and the Kuwaiti envoy took place just as news about Demafelis’ death broke.
More than 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, the Department of Foreign Affairs estimates, most of them as domestic helpers. There are also large numbers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.