THE Kuwaiti government vowed it will exert all efforts to capture the Lebanese national and his Syrian wife who are suspects in the killing of Filipino worker Joanna Daniela Demafelis, 29, whose body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment earlier this month.
This was the assurance offered by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano when he met Demafelis’ sister Jessica and brother Jojit, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Friday to receive her remains.
Demafelis’ remains arrived at Terminal 1 past 10 a.m. on board Gulf Air flight GF154 from Kuwait.
Cayetano said the Kuwaiti government was outraged by the killing of Demafelis, who bore stab wounds in the neck and torture marks all over her body.
Kuwaiti police said she could have been in the freezer for over a year.
“I spoke to the Kuwaiti ambassador yesterday and they promised they will do everything to bring the accused to justice. Her [Demafelis] death was very tragic, but will also be a rallying point for all of the government agencies to be more aggressive in helping OFWs,” he said, referring to overseas Filipino workers.
Demafelis’ body was discovered after a Kuwaiti court gave its approval for the authorities to open the apartment of her Lebanese employer Nader Essam Assaf, wanted for falsifying checks.
Cayetano said Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa said the initial autopsy findings showed Demafelis had been beaten several times before she died. She suffered broken ribs, internal bleeding, contusions and trauma to her body, including her pelvis and kidneys.
“We are now working as a one-team approach from the undersecretary level down to the director level, down to the people on the ground. We’re putting a system of communications with our millions of OFWs abroad due to many cases of abuse,” Cayetano said.
Demafelis’ body was later flown to Iloilo for the wake and burial.
Demafelis’ death triggered the Philippine government to declare the total ban on the deployment of workers to Kuwait.
Cayetano admitted that the relationship of Philippines and Kuwait were going through a “rocky” period after the deaths of Filipino workers at the hands of their Kuwaiti employers.
“We’re going through a very rocky period. We have had very, very good relations with them. In general, they love Filipinos,” he said.
“But I think there’s going to be some firm commitments and some resolutions. This is having a cascading effect. The relationship is important, but we have to communicate to them that our core interest is our people.... They’re responding positively, but we want firm commitments and we want fast action,” Cayetano added.
More than 100 Filipino workers who had availed of the amnesty offered by the Kuwaiti government to illegally staying foreigners also arrived Friday at the Naia. Most of them were undocumented workers.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said Friday he would push for the deployment of social welfare attachés to beef up the Philippine diplomatic mission in countries swamped with pleas for help from abused Filipinos or those in trouble with the law.
Angara said there is an urgent need to send more SWAs because there are only four social welfare officers deployed by the government across the globe.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development has two SWAs posted in Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and one each in Kuwait and Malaysia.
Plans are afoot to send three more SWAs to Dubai, Qatar and Hong Kong.
“In the division of labor inside what is basically a multi-agency embassy, there are assigned personnel that can handle legal cases, liaise with local police, as well as military, trade, agriculture attachés,” the senator said.
But what is lacking is a trained professional who can provide the three essential C’s—care, comfort and counseling—to Filipinos in crisis and in need of special protection.
“Traumatized Filipinos require the services of a trained professional,” he said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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