Duterte’s Kuwait deployment ban stays despite arrest of suspects in OFW’s murder

GRIM REUNION As government officials look on, Jessica Demafelis weeps while hugging the sealed casket of her sister, Joanna, whose remains were flown in from Kuwait on Friday morning. Joanna, who was reported missing for a year, was found inside a freezer in an apartment abandoned by her employers. —LYN RILLON


President Rodrigo Duterte will not lift the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait despite the arrest of the suspects in the murder of Joanna Demafelis.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte wanted the suspects in the gruesome killing of Demafelis “punished.”

“As of now, the deployment ban stays because the latest statement on this made by the President was when he visited the wake of Joanna and he said that not only that they must be apprehended, they must be punished,” Roque said in a Palace briefing on Monday.

The suspects in the murder of Demafelis – Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife, Mona – were arrested over the weekend and currently in the custody of authorities in Lebanon.

Demafelis was an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Kuwait whose body was recently found stuffed inside a freezer in the Gulf state.

“Well, we certainly appreciate the arrest of two of Joanna’s employers. However, in addition to the arrest, we would like to see them prosecuted and punished for the murder of Joanna,” Roque said.

Duterte has earlier ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to summon the local recruiters of Demafelis.

READ: Duterte orders NBI to summon Demafelis local recruiters

“Well, he wanted the NBI to question the recruiters actually because under our scheme, the local recruiters are actually ultimately liable for what happens to the Filipino deployed by the agencies for overseas. So that’s what the President wants to find out,” Roque noted.

Demafelis was recruited by Our Lady of Mt Carmel Global E-Human Resources, Incorporated, which was, however, shutdown in 2016.

“Of course, the fact that the NBI will summon will entail the person coming in to the premises of the NBI but I was very careful with the language, I just used the term summon,” Roque said.

“But if they will not appear then they will of course, they could be taken into custody for investigation. But let’s see if they will voluntarily appear,” he added.

Duterte has ordered a total deployment ban of OFWs to Kuwait after the reported abuse of domestic helpers in the Gulf state, including the death of Demafelis.   /kga


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