Parents of OFW slain in Kuwait look to Duterte for justice

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 18 2018 02:26 PM | Updated as of Sep 24 2018 05:56 PM

A relative holds up a shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Justice for Joanna D. Demafelis." ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The family of a Filipina worker who was found dead in a freezer in Kuwait implored President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday to hasten the arrest of her employers, the primary suspects in her death. 

The body of Joanna Daniela Demafelis arrived in the Philippines on Saturday, as Kuwaiti authorities and the Interpol continued to track down her employers, a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife. 

"The government's action over Joanna's death should be sped up," her father Crisanto said in an interview with ABS-CBN News. 

Joanna's mother Eva, meanwhile, said she has not looked at her daughter's body as she cannot imagine the pain the latter went through. Other relatives said bruises and broken bones have made the OFW's features difficult to recognize. 

The death of the 29-year-old maid has worsened a diplomatic flap between the Philippines and Kuwait with President Rodrigo Duterte alleging that Arab employers routinely rape their Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours a day and feed them scraps.

He has also banned the deployment of new workers to Kuwait and ordered airlines to fly home any of the 252,000 Filipinos working there who wish to return.

Joanna's photos are displayed in an alter prepared by her family. ABS-CBN News

About 10 million Filipinos work abroad and the money they remit back is a lifeline of the Philippine economy. Their treatment abroad is often a political issue at home.

Kuwait's foreign minister previously condemned Manila's "escalation," of the issue but Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday the Kuwaiti ambassador had assured him his government was "outraged" over the killing and determined to find those responsible.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said late Friday that "working groups" from Kuwait and the Philippines are discussing forging a memorandum for protecting the rights of Filipinos in Kuwait, many of whom are working as maids.

Domestic workers in that country are not covered by ordinary labor legislation, and accounts of Filipinas being subjected to abuse and exploitation in the Middle East have long circulated. 

Joanna sought work abroad to help her parents repair their house that was damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, as well as finance the college education of her youngest sister, her relatives had said. -- With reports from Cherry Palma, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse