VACC to file raps vs government officials over Filipina found in freezer

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2018 05:29 PM | Updated as of Sep 17 2018 09:10 PM

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 - A group of anti-crime advocates on Thursday said it would file charges against government officials who allegedly took no action on the disappearance of a Filipina worker in Kuwait who was found dead inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment this month. 

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said the family of Joanna Demafelis has reached out to the group to reveal the alleged inaction of government officials over the situation of the Filipina domestic helper.

VACC laywer Manuelito Luna said the family informed them that officials of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) were already informed of Demafelis' condition in Kuwait as early as 2016.

The agency, however, referred the family instead to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which in turn, referred them back to the POEA.

"Ang problema nang dumulog ang pamilya sa POEA, pinasa-pasa sila at hindi na nailigtas si Ms. Demafelis," he said.

Luna did not specify charges they plan to file against government officials involved.

Demafelis was found inside a freezer at an abandoned apartment in Kuwait earlier this month. She flew to the Gulf state in 2014 to support her family in Oloilo but expressed intent to come home in 2016. 

She and her family eventually lost touch. She was last seen alive in September 2016. Initial investigation found signs of abuse on her body. 

Luna said the Demafelis family received reports of abuse that Joanna, 29, allegedly experienced in the hands of another Filipino worker in Kuwait.

"Imbes na iligtas [si] Ms. Demafelis, hindi po naligtas. 'Yun po ang problema dito. There has been neglect of duty on the part of officials of POEA and OWWA kaya dumulog po ang pamilya sa VACC at ako po ang inatasan na humawak ng kasong ito," Luna said.

OWWA had said its officials tried their best to contact Demafelis when her family sought help, but failed to reach her since her agency had already closed down. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday said he has demanded an explanation from Philippine officials in Kuwait who allegedly took no action over Demafelis' disappearance.

The discovery of Demafelis' body prompted the government to announce a "total ban" on sending Filipino workers to Kuwait, including those who had already obtained employment permits but have yet to leave for the Gulf state. 

The remains of Demafelis are scheduled to arrive in Manila on Friday and will be immediately brought to her hometown Iloilo for the wake, Luna said.