MPs VENT ANGER OVER PHILIPPINE ‘VIOLATION OF SOVEREIGNTY’
KUWAIT CITY, April 21: Kuwait on Saturday summoned the Philippines’ ambassador for the second time this week in protest over “inflammatory comments” he made to a local newspaper, said a foreign ministry source.
The Filipino envoy’s remarks, along with the “inappropriate behavior” of Manila’s diplomatic staff in Kuwait have been deemed a threat to Kuwait’s sovereignty, the source noted. Kuwait had summoned the Filipino ambassador a day earlier in connection with scathing remarks by Filipino officials, in addition to misconduct on the part of the Philippines’ diplomatic staff in the Gulf state.
Several Kuwaiti MPs have expressed displeasure at the measures taken by the Filipino Embassy in Kuwait in the name of protecting its domestic workers from the alleged abuse by their sponsors.
The MPs criticized the Filipino Ambassador for issuing a statement confirming a squad to ‘rescue’ distressed Filipino house workers from their homes calling it a violation of diplomatic norms and infringement on Kuwait’s sovereignty.
They called on Kuwait to apply the Vienna Convention and consider the embassy staff persona non-grata.
MP Askar Al-Enezi said the Philippines Ambassador in Kuwait has violated all diplomatic norms and infringed on the law and powers of the Ministry of the Interior without regard for international norms and relations between the two countries. Al-Enezi said the situation has exceeded the limits of diplomatic tact and reached the point of interference in the affairs of the country.
He added, “it is unreasonable that a team from the Philippine Embassy roams the streets of Kuwait and ‘rescue’ individuals and take them to the embassy under the pretext the maid has been assaulted by the sponsor. This is a violation of our sovereignty.”
MP Adel Al-Dhamkhi said he totally rejects the behavior of the Philippine ambassador in Kuwait, since he has admitted to forming a special squad to (what he said) rescue abused domestic workers from homes. This constitutes a flagrant violation of Kuwait’s sovereignty and laws, he said. He called on the government to take all necessary measures in accordance with international laws to prevent this ‘bullying’ act. He pointed out all workers have the right to follow the legal path in case of abuse or violation of rights. He added, “We are a state of institutions and we must put an end to repeated abuses from the Philippines side.”
MP Talal Al-Jalal said the Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait with his statement has become very unpopular and unwelcome person. Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry must act and be firm. We will not accept any one infringing on our sovereignty under any pretext, and the excuse of the Philippine ambassador who showed his actions is uglier than that of sin, he added.
Al-Jalal added handing a protest note to the ambassador is not enough, and that there should be more decisive measures. He praised the measures taken by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid Al-Jarrah to arrest those involved in smuggling the maids.
Al-Jalal said he rejects signing any agreements with the Philippines on employment for the time being until the embassy respects diplomatic norms and customs and officially apologizes for what it has done. MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said that what is done by the Philippine embassy in Kuwait is a blatant violation of the sovereignty of the state of Kuwait and violation of domestic law and violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations and exceeded all borders linking the two countries.
He explained the field team touring Kuwait claiming to ‘rescue’ the Filipino community is a field action outside the mission’s headquarters, and called for the need to apply Article 9 of the Vienna Convention which states: The Accredited State, at any time and without stating reasons shall inform the accredited State that a head or any member of the staff of its diplomatic mission has become an unacceptable person or that any member of the crew of its mission (non-diplomats) has become undesirable and the accredited State shall summon the person concerned or terminate his work at the mission in accordance with the circumstances.”
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Issa Al- Kandari denounced the statement by the Philippine ambassador about smuggling maids from homes. “This act,” he said, “violates the security aspects and is a flagrant violation of the laws in the country.” He called on the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior to act to stop this operation. Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa, meanwhile, held a press conference at the embassy premises Saturday to clarify the news that came out on the Arabic dailies about the video that went viral on social media and carried by some news outfits that some embassy officials and staff extract distressed Filipino household service workers straight from Kuwaiti homes and take them out using diplomatic vehicles. “I would like to acknowledge the support and cooperation of the government of the State of Kuwait in addressing our government’s concerns on the situation of our domestic workers. We thank the Kuwaiti government for the extension of the amnesty program for undocumented foreign nationals including Filipinos. As a result, we were able to bring home and reunite around 5,000 of our workers in the Philippines,” stated Villa.
Villa denied the statement on Arabic dailies attributed to him that the Philippine Embassy does not need the help of the Kuwaiti authorities in extending assistance to Filipinos in Kuwait. “I would like to underscore that all our efforts to assist our nationals here in Kuwait would not be possible without the support of the Kuwaiti government. I would like to assure that all actions taken by the embassy are all intended to support our collective efforts to find solutions to the problems we have encountered concerning our workers,” he explained.
He stressed that the Embassy always coordinates with the Ministry of Interior when responding to requests for assistance from its Filipino nationals. “This is standard procedure and we will continue to do so. All the efforts undertaken in the past weeks in response to request for assistance by our nationals are undertaken to ensure that we resolve outstanding issues before the signing of the labor agreement and the visit of President Duterte,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Villa on Friday and on Saturday and handed him two diplomatic protest notes. A spokesperson at the ministry said the notes were “related to recent remarks by several Filipino officials which [amounted to] serious offences against the State of Kuwait and [led] to the actions some embassy employees in violation of the diplomatic norms governing relations between the two countries as per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. The spokesperson “expressed regret over such practices which could harm the friendship between the two countries.”
Villa announced during the press conference that the Philippine Embassy will submit an official reply to the diplomatic protest notes handed by the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs to shed light on the video that allegedly shows embassy officials rescuing distressed Filipino household service workers from Kuwaiti homes.
Meanwhile, Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola announced during a meeting with the Filipino community on Friday at the embassy that the embassy led by Villa is coordinating with Kuwaiti authorities for the preparation of the upcoming visit of President Duterte to Kuwait which will most likely happen after the Ramadan, sometime in June. Arriola and her team arrived in Kuwait on Friday to oversee and assist the Philippine Embassy in the repatriation of undocumented Overseas Filipino Workers in Kuwait who availed the amnesty given by the Kuwait government. There will be last two flights that will fly 340 undocumented Filipinos out of Kuwait as the amnesty ends on April 22.
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti authorities have identified and tracked down three Filipino suspects who are believed to have helped a compatriot housemaid to escape from her sponsor’s home. Kuwaiti security forces have named the suspects who are believed to have assisted a Filipina domestic worker in escaping from her sponsor’s home.
The three suspects and the housemaid, all Filipino nationals, have been tracked down, read a statement by the Kuwaiti interior ministry on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the statement cited Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah’s grave concern over the incident, noting that the full force of law will be used to bring those complicit in the wrongdoing to justice. Ambassador Renato Villa meanwhile, has confirmed that the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has called the embassy to notify that they will wait for the Philippine governmentís new proposed date for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s visit. “April is too tight. President Duterte’s visit could be scheduled in May, either before or during Ramadan),” Villa told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Thursday.
In a recent statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said they are preparing for the visit, expected to be in May at the earliest. He said the protocol chief of the MFA sent the response on Wednesday. Duterte earlier said he will visit Kuwait to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the protection of overseas Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
The murder of Joanna Demafelis, along with a series of reported abuse and maltreatment infl icted upon Filipino domestic workers, had prompted Duterte to impose a total deployment ban on new workers to Kuwait. At present, Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior is still reviewing the drafted MoU. The deployment ban, meanwhile, is still in place.
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim & Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff and Agencies