Family seeks justice for OFW found in freezer in Kuwait

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2018 01:10 PM | Updated as of Feb 11 2018 07:06 AM

The family of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, the Filipino migrant worker whose body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait, is appealing for justice. Regi Adosto, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATED) - The family of the Filipino worker whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait is demanding justice.

Joanna Daniela Demafelis was described by her family as selfless and kind.

"Nagpanawagan ako sa gobyerno nga buligan kami hatagan sang hustisya ang akon bata (I am appealing for government's help in seeking justice for my daughter's death)," the victim's mother Eva Demafelis said.

According to her father Crisanto, Joanna promised to save money for the repair of their house. He regrets his daughter's fate overseas.

"Gusto ko ya mabalik sa amon ang iya bangkay (I want her remains brought back home to us)," he said.

It was in 2014 when Demafelis worked in Kuwait to help her family and support her siblings.

The first three months went without a hitch, her family said. Communication between the migrant worker and her family was constant. 

In 2016, she called home to express her intent of extending her contract for another year.

At the time, Demafelis was helping her younger sibling who is taking up criminology. 

Gradually, communication stopped, until February of 2017, when family members had to seek help from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

According to OWWA, officials did their best to contact the migrant worker but failed to reach her since her agency had already closed down.

Kuwaiti authorities have yet to determine when Demafelis died. Initial investigation found signs that she may have been tortured and strangled. 

Demafelis' mother Eva holds up a photo of her slain daughter. Regi Adosto, ABS-CBN News

Demafelis' siblings have traveled to Manila and are closely coordinating with OWWA to bring their sister's remains back to their native Iloilo.

OWWA is also validating Demafelis' membership so they can immediately process insurance and burial coverage and livelihood assistance.

The DFA is also coordinating with Kuwaiti police for its official report.

Demafelis' case is among 7 recent Filipino deaths in Kuwait that had prompted the government to order a deployment ban to the Gulf State. President Rodrigo Duterte also threatened to withdraw all Filipinos from Kuwait if another worker dies there. 

In a press conference on Friday, Duterte fumed at Demafelis' death and ordered the labor department to help repatriate all Filipinos from Kuwait who wish to go home.