NGO: Demafelis’ case trigger for change
A nongovernment organization (NGO) helping overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) cope with cases of abuse and illegal recruitment appealed for a new law that would help bring to justice perpetrators of abuses and killings of OFWs, saying the killing of Joanna Demafelis should serve as a wake-up call.
Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, said the case of Demafelis, who was found dead in a freezer in her employer’s home in Kuwait, raised all the red flags on lack of protection for OFWs.
Demafelis, according to Ople, was recruited by Our Lady of Mount Carmel Global E-Human Resources Inc. and deployed in 2014 with a one-year contract.
But when the agency was shut down in 2016 for violations of recruitment laws, Ople said relatives and government officials lost a means to monitor the whereabouts of Demafelis.
“This has to be addressed,” said Ople.
In Demafelis’ case, Ople said there was finger-pointing as to which government agency should monitor and track her whereabouts.
Any investigation on Demafelis’ killing should include a probe into her employment history to show how she ended up with a Lebanese employer and his Syrian wife, now suspects in Demafelis’ killing.
“Most Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, have the ‘kafala’ system where the employer is the sponsor of their visa,” said Ople. “How stringent are we in screening foreign employers?”
“In the same way that the execution of Flor Contemplacion in 1995 led to the enactment of the migrant workers law, then let Joanna’s death open the doors to meaningful reforms in how we deploy and protect our workers,” Ople said. Contemplacion was executed in Singapore for killing a fellow Filipino.
The Senate on Wednesday would open a probe into Demafelis’ death and the government handling of her case.
The probe follows the filing of two resolutions by Senators Nancy Binay and Manny Pacquiao.
In her resolution, Binay said “countless deaths and unceasing maltreatment” of OFWs required action by the Philippine government, including the Senate. —With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy
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