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Govt goes after recruiter of OFW kept in Kuwait freezer

09 March 2018

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has begun looking at the possible liabilities of the Filipino recruiters of Joanna Demafelis, the 29-year-old worker who was killed and kept in a freezer in an abandoned house for one year in Kuwait.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte had tasked the NBI to summon Demafelis’ recruiters.

The International Police had arrested Demafelis’ employers, Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese, and his wife Mona Hassoun.

Hassoun is in the custody of Syrian authorities in Damascus.

Roque said the government hopes the couple would be prosecuted and punished the soonest time possible.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said they expect Kuwaiti authorities would request the extradition of Assaf to stand trial for murder in Kuwait.

“Assaf’s arrest is a critical first step in our quest for justice for Joanna and we are thankful to our friends in Kuwait and Lebanon for their assistance,” Cayetano said.

He has confirmed that Lebanese authorities already have custody of Assaf.

Citing an initial report from Philippine ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa, Cayetano said Hassoun was arrested with her husband in Syria where the two fled after leaving Kuwait last year.

Kuwaiti authorities discovered early this month the battered body of Demafelis inside a freezer in the couple’s abandoned apartment.

Cayetano said the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) would follow President Duterte’s instructions to vigorously pursue justice for Demafelis.

Duterte visited Demafelis’ wake in Sara town, Iloilo last Thursday, vowing to seek justice as he lashed out at Kuwait for its slow-paced action on the murder of the Filipino worker.

The victim’s mother Eva had said they went to the recruitment agency that sent Demafelis to Kuwait after they lost contact with her in 2016. She found out that the recruitment agency was ordered shut down for numerous violations.

Demafelis was recruited by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Global E-Human Resources Inc., which was shut down in 2016.

The foreign recruitment agency that handled Demafelis’ deployment was Fadilah Farz Kaued Al Khodor Recruitment Office, currently on the watchlist of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) because of a pending case, according to a report on CNN Philippines.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the recruitment agency would be held accountable “civilly or administratively” for what happened to Demafelis.

“Unless the Kuwaiti police have evidence to link them to the violent death of Joanna, in that case they could be held criminally liable. We will look for them,” Bello said.

Authorities said some 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many as domestic helpers. They are among over two million Filipinos employed in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the nation’s economy.

About 10 million Filipinos work overseas and their treatment abroad is often a political issue at home.

Since the Philippine government stopped the deployment of workers to Kuwait five weeks ago, it has also repatriated Filipinos from Kuwait.

The Philippine Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, has so far brought home a total of 1,540 Filipinos from Kuwait for free.

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