Palace welcomes death sentence vs Demafelis’ employers

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 02 2018 12:01 PM | Updated as of Apr 02 2018 12:58 PM

MANILA - Malacañang on Monday welcomed the reported handing of death sentence on the employers of slain overseas Filipino worker in Kuwait, Joanna Demafelis, even as it stressed that the development may have little impact on Manila’s deployment ban to the Gulf state.

A Kuwaiti court on Sunday sentenced in absentia a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife to death by hanging over the murder of a Filipina maid, a judicial source said.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Philippine government is now verifying with Kuwait authorities the reported development in Demafelis’ case, which came about 2 months since an enraged President Rodrigo Duterte issued a deployment ban over the female worker’s death.

"I suppose the entire Filipino will be happy to know that that is true. Of course, that’s what we want, justice for Demafelis,” Guevarra said in a Palace press briefing.

"Let’s hope that is true and the couple will be apprehended.”

While Guevarra lauded the reported handing of death sentence, he said the government’s decision whether to lift the deployment ban or not rests on the outcome of the Philippines and Kuwait’s negotiation for an agreement that will outline the rights of Filipino domestic workers.

The death of Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait earlier this year, has prompted a diplomatic crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines, prompting Manila to impose a departure ban for its citizens planning to work in the Gulf state.

The Lebanese-Syrian couple was arrested in February in the Syrian capital Damascus following an Interpol manhunt.

Syrian authorities handed the husband, Nader Essam Assaf, over to Lebanese authorities, while his Syrian wife remained in custody in Damascus.

An estimated 252,000 Filipinos and Filipinas work in Kuwait and depend on remittances to help their families back home.

Rights groups have raised alarm around the plight of workers in the Gulf and other Arab countries, where migrant labor is regulated under a system known as "kafala."

The kafala, or sponsorship, system ties migrant workers' visas to their employers, prohibiting workers from leaving or changing jobs without prior consent. - with Agence France-Presse