Fil-Am among dead in CNY mass shooting in US

A Filipino-American was killed during the Lunar New Year mass shooting incident in California, the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Los Angeles reported on Tuesday.

VIGIL. People gather at a candlelight vigil for victims of a deadly mass shooting at a ballroom dance studio on January 23, 2023 in Monterey Park, California. AFP

In a statement, the Philippine consulate identified the victim as 68-year-old Valentino Alvero, who was among the 11 people killed after a 72-year-old suspect opened fire in Monterey Park over the weekend.

It was not the only death of a Filipino overseas over the weekend, as the Department of Migrant Workers on Monday condemned the demise of a Kuwait-based Pinoy worker, who was reportedly found burned in a desert.

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople has talked to the family of 35-year-old OFW Jullebee Ranara, whose death was reported by Kuwaiti media over the weekend.

In the wake of the gruesome death, the Philippines will seek “additional safeguards” instead of suspending the deployment of workers to Kuwait, Ople said on Tuesday in a Senate hearing.

Senate Committee on Migrant Workers chairman Senator Raffy Tulfo asked the DMW to ensure there will be strong evidence against the suspect who burned Ranara to death.

The 17-year-old suspect in the killing of Ranara, 35, is now under police custody, Ople reported.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada called for justice to be served and for the perpetrators to be punished “for the ordeal of our fellow Filipino.”

Meanwhile, the Philippine consulate said it was “shocked and sad” over the death of Alvero and was ready to assist the shooting victim’s family “in whatever possible way.”

“Our prayers go out to the families of the victims, and we mourn with them during this Lunar New Year Festival, which is supposed to be a time of gathering and celebration,” the consulate said.

The PCG also appealed to the Filipino community in California to exercise caution and be vigilant “during these uncertain times.”

In a statement, the Alvero family expressed its sympathies with the other victims’ families.

“Overnight, we became unwilling members of a community who must mourn the loss of our loved ones due to gun violence. We are left frustrated, stuck with this vicious cycle,” the family said.

It described Valentino as “a loving father, a dedicated son and brother, a grandfather who loved his three granddaughters fiercely, an uncle who loved his nieces and nephews like his own.”

Valentino, according to his family, loved people and their stories. In return, he shared his own stories “with so much gusto and enthusiasm,” it added.

“We wish [we] could let him know that we will all miss him for the rest of our days on this earth. We hope that he danced to his heart’s content until the very end and hope that he is now dancing in heaven,” the Alvero family said.

According to reports, Ranara’s burned remains were found in the desert late Sunday. Kuwaiti authorities have arrested the son of her employer, the DMW said, adding it was waiting for the official report from Kuwaiti authorities and is working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“Secretary Ople and the entire DMW condemn this heinous crime and urge the Kuwaiti government to work on the early resolution of the case,” said the agency.

Ople has informed Ranara’s family that the DMW would provide them with all the necessary support, it added.

“We’re not contemplating suspension of deployment to Kuwait. But yes, we’re looking at additional safeguards to make sure workers bound for Kuwait are better protected. That can only be done with the cooperation of the Kuwaiti government,” Ople told reporters at the sidelines of the Senate hearing.

“Perhaps it’s time to bring back the bilateral agreement so that we could copy the bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia, which has more safeguards for the protection of our workers,” Ople noted.

She noted the suspect in Ranara’s killing was taken into the Kuwaiti police’s custody “within 24 hours.”

“This shows the criminal justice system of Kuwait is working,” she said.

Ranara’s remains will be flown to the Philippines in the coming days, Ople said.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will extend burial assistance for Ranara and support her four children’s educational needs. Her retirement and death benefits will be turned over to her family, who requested privacy, Ople said.

She said Ranara’s killing highlighted the need to increase the participation of women in the country’s domestic labor force.

“As of 2021, it’s only 39 percent. This is why many people go abroad as housekeepers because here in our country, it’s also quite difficult for our women to get decent and proper jobs, especially those in remote areas,” Ople said.

“We condemned in the harshest words possible the commitment of this crime,” she added.

Ople said the screening of employers should also be strengthened.

Ranara previously confided to her family that she was having problems with the allegedly abusive son of her employers. Her mother said she talked with Ranara on Friday. Relatives tried but failed to call her on the phone on Saturday and she was found dead the next day.

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