Malacañang on Saturday called for the swift prosecution of the suspects behind the killing of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait in 2016.
It issued the statement as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed that the suspects behind Demafelis’ killing—her employers Nader Essam Assaf and his wife, Mona—were apprehended by Lebanese authorities.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said he is hopeful that justice will be swiftly served.
“We’re thankful, but hoping that they will be prosecuted and punished soonest,” Roque told reporters in a text message.
Demafelis’ employers, a Lebanese and his Syrian wife, were identified as the principal suspects in the torture and murder of the 29-year-old domestic helper.
Asked whether the government will hold Demafelis’ recruiters accountable for what happened to her, Roque said, “PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) asked NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) to summon them.”
Demafelis’ remains were found in a freezer early this month in an apartment abandoned by her employers in Kuwait. An autopsy report showed she was severely beaten before being placed in the freezer more than a year ago.
This prompted President Duterte to implement a total ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait. He also ordered the repatriation of Filipino workers who want to come home.
The President slammed the Kuwaiti government for being “oblivious” to the abuses and maltreatment of OFWs in Kuwait.
Last week, Duterte visited the wake of Demafelis in Sara, Iloilo.
“Galit talaga ako. Wala nang pupunta doon (I am really furious. No one will be going there anymore),” the President said.
“It behooves upon the police of Kuwait and the Interpol, there’s a serious crime. Problema nila ‘yan (Catching the employers is their problem). Basta ako (For me), the ban stays. No deployment of Filipinos, whatsoever, to Kuwait,” he added.
Duterte also floated the possibility of expanding to other countries the deployment ban, saying he could no longer stand persistent reports of abuses against OFWs.
“The (deployment) ban will continue and it will extend to other countries. It will be difficult for them,” the President said. “I will not allow (abuses against OFWs). I don’t have any plans to send you (to other countries) just to let you be treated cruelly. That’s not my style.”
He, however, failed to mention which countries may be included in the expanded deployment ban.
Speaking to Palace reporters on Tuesday last week, Roque said Duterte was referring to nations where OFWs experience inhumane treatment.
“He was referring to countries that would treat Filipinos without due regard to their humanity. But there is no specific country in mind yet,” Roque said.