By Marita Moaje and Wilnard Bacelonia

Jullebee Ranara (Courtesy of Charald Dy Facebook)

MANILA – The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) sees no hindrance to the immediate return of the body of Jullebee Ranara, the Filipino worker found dead in a dessert in Kuwait.

In a radio interview on Tuesday, DMW Secretary Susan Ople said with the arrest and confession of the suspected killer, the remains of the 35-year-old OFW can be sent home to her family in no time.

Mukhang hindi siya kailangang magtagal, ‘yung labi, kasi nga nahuli na ‘yung suspect so I guess next na diyan ‘yung trial so wala naman kaming nakikitang balakid para lalong magtagal pa ‘yung repatriation ng remains (I think the remains need not stay long there because the suspect has been arrested. I guess the trial would be next so there’s no hindrance for the early repatriation of the remains),” Ople said

Ople said Philippine officials in Kuwait are on top of the arrangements for repatriation while a law office connected with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is handling the case.

She confirmed that the suspect, the 17-year-old son of Ranara’s employer, was arrested within 24 hours since her charred body was discovered Sunday.

The English-language publication Arab Times reported Monday that the teen confessed to the crime and that Rabara was pregnant at the time of her death as indicated in the autopsy.

As per the account of Ranara’s mother, Ople said the victim has long been complaining about her employer’s son.

“According sa nanay, ang nirereklamo ni Jullebee ‘yung anak ng employer na lalaki, ‘yun daw ‘yung malupit sa kanya. In fact, may isang time daw pa na parang binantaan pa ‘yung buhay niya (According to the mother, Jullebee complained about her employer’s son who was nasy to her. In fact, she said there was a time when her life was even threatened),” Ople said.

The DMW is still waiting for the reports from the law firm and the police.

Ranara was registered with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and is entitled to death and burial assistance.

Her four minor children will also receive scholarships while the family will get the full amount of her mandatory insurance.

More control

Senator Cynthia Villar said government offices abroad should have control over the difficult situations faced by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

If Ranara’s case will not be solved, she suggested that the Philippine government re-implement the OFW deployment ban in Kuwait.

The Philippines lifted the ban on household workers to Kuwait in February 2020 after the signing of an agreement on the standard employment contract and the filing of cases against the male killer of OFW Jeanelyn Villavende.

In December 2020 or a year after the crime, the Kuwaiti killer was sentenced to death while the wife received a four-year prison term for non-reporting.

Villavende, then 26, died of acute heart failure and multiple injuries after being attacked and imprisoned in her room for days.

Villar said a lot of opportunities are already available in the country.

“Di naman masyadong malaki ang sweldo nila dun compared to us kaysa naman endangered ang life mo doon kasi iba ang kanilang culture doon. Kapag katulong parang slavery. ‘Yun ang problema eh (Their salary is not that high compared to us. We are endangering their lives because they have a different culture there. They treat housemaids like slaves. That’s the problem),” she said in an interview.

For Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, protection and monitoring of OFWs should be strengthened in countries labeled as hot spots.

More importantly, there should be more jobs in the country to prevent Filipinos from leaving.

Kahit mas mataas ang sweldo sa ibang bansa, kung may trabaho dito, may oportunidad, hindi sila aalis at hindi nila isa-sacrifice na mahiwalay sila sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay (Even if they can earn more in other countries, if there are jobs here, opportunities, they would not leave or sacrifice to be away from their loved ones),” Villanueva said in a media briefing.

In a privilege speech, Senator Jinggoy Estrada called on the DMW, DFA and other concerned agencies to beef up communication system, monitoring, support and immediate assistance for OFWs.

He also reminded licensed recruitment agencies to be responsible and ensure that OFWs are secured with their employers.

Senator Raffy Tulfo, who chairs the Committee on Migrant Workers, commended Ople, DMW Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac and OWWA chief Arnell Ignacio because “they are doing a heck of a job.”

“I have been informed that they will be given by OWWA a guaranteed financial aid of PHP220,000 and an additional PHP800,000 from the life insurance provided by the agency,” Tulfo said.

No ban yet

Ople, however, do not see the need yet to impose a deployment ban because the Kuwaiti government is fully cooperating to resolve the case.

Instead, the Philippines should discuss the reforms that must be implemented under their bilateral labor agreement.

Balak naming na sundin ang formula namin with Saudi Arabia na ipapasok sa kontrata, ipapasok sa labor agreement, mas maraming garantiya para sa seguridad ng ating workers (We are planning to have the same formula we have with Saudi Arabia where more guarantees and safety features will be specified in the contract, in the labor agreement),” she said. (PNA)