Duterte wants distressed OFWs home from Kuwait in 72 hours

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(File photo) President Rodrigo Duterte

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his labor secretary to bring home distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Kuwait in 72 hours.

"I have given the (Labor Secretary Silvestre) Bello 72 hours. Seventy-hours to go there and pick up the Filipinos na gustong umuwi (who want to go home)," Duterte said in a press conference Friday night.

He said he will also tap major airlines to make this possible.

"Those who want to be repatriated. With or without money, I will ask PAL (Philippine Airlines) and Cebu Pacific to provide transportation," he said.

Duterte made the statements shortly after receiving reports that a Filipina overseas worker's body had been found in a freezer in Kuwait.

READ: Body of Filipina found in freezer in Kuwait

The worker was identified as Joanna Daniela Demafelis. Authorities said her body was found with torture marks and there were indications she was strangled to death.

A furious Duterte upheld the ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait as he spouted strong words over the death of another Filipina worker in the West Asian Country.

Duterte decried the mistreatment of Filipino workers overseas, saying he was ready to take "drastic steps" to preserve their lives.

"We do not intend to offend any government or anyone. But if a ban is what is needed, then let it be so," said Duterte.

Duterte, who just weeks ago had asked Kuwaitis to treat Filipino workers with "dignity," decried Demafelis' fate, along with that of other Filipino workers mistreated abroad.

"The Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere," he said.

Kuwait is a top destination for Filipino workers. The latest data from Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said there are some 86,019 Filipinos in the country as of 2015.

Duterte said the Philippines expects the assistance of the Kuwaiti government and other countries with OFWS to help ensure the "inhumane" treatment of Filipino workers ends.

READ: Duterte to Kuwait: Treat Filipino workers with dignity

"Every unlawful physical injury that is inflicted on an OFW is an injury [that] I personally bear as the head of this Republic," he said.

Duterte said, Filipinos do not seek special treatment or privileges for workers, but only want "respect for their dignity and basic human rights."

He also lamented the government's inability to help troubled OFWs, saying its actions do not match its praise of the overseas workers.

"This is a national shame and yet we proclaim the OFW's the modern heroes of our Republic," he said.

Bello, meanwhile, urged the Kuwaiti government to sign a Memorandum of Understanding which provides additional protection for Filipino workers in that country.

The document has been pending for the last three years.

The Department of Labor and Employment in January implemented the immediate suspension of the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait as authorities probe the death of seven other OFWs in the West Asian Country.

In a media briefing Thursday morning, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said  Duterte has plans to visit Kuwait.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this report.