Duterte to visit slain Kuwait OFW’s wake

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2018 03:52 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is set to visit this week the wake of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, a Filipina worker who was found dead in a freezer in Kuwait.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said death and burial benefits and other forms of financial assistance will be given to the Iloilo-based Demafelis family.

The Demafelis family is hoping Duterte’s focus on the issue will hasten the arrest of the Filipina worker’s employees, 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. 

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.

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 III 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 AFP