MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday said he has demanded an explanation from Philippine officials in Kuwait who allegedly took no action over the disappearance of a Filipina worker who was eventually found dead in a freezer.
Bello last week confirmed the death of Filipina maid Joanna Daniela Demafelis. Her body had torture marks and was found stored in a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait, where it may have been kept for over a year.
The family of Demafelis said they lost contact with her as early as February of 2017 and that they sought help from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to locate her.
"Ang sagot ng ating welfare officer daw, 'Maghintay-hintay ka. Hindi pa nakikita ang tambak na papel sa harap niya,'" he told DZMM.
"Kahapon, nag-issue ako ng memo for them to explain their inaction na presented by the sister of Joanna," he added.
(Our welfare officer allegedly told them, "Just wait, I have to finish this paperwork. Yesterday, I issued a memo for for them to explain their inaction as presented by the sister of Joanna.)
OWWA officials will face a recall order and administrative charges if their alleged neglect of duty is proven, Bello said.
OWWA had said its officials did their best to contact the 29-year-old Demafelis, but failed to reach her since her agency had already closed down.
Kuwaiti officials and Interpol are tracking down the Filipina's employers: a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife.
President Rodrigo Duterte has lashed out at Kuwait, as he brandished photos of Demafelis, saying she had been "roasted like a pig".
The Philippines on Monday announced a "total ban" on sending Kuwait-bound OFWs, including those who had already obtained employment permits but had not yet left for the wealthy oil-producing country.
Authorities say 252,000 Filipinos work in the Gulf state, many as maids. They are among over 2 million employed in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said authorities were repatriating 10,000 overstaying Filipinos from Kuwait, taking advantage of an amnesty program arranged with the Kuwaiti government. With a report from Agence France-Presse