MANILA - Malacañang on Monday said the deployment ban to Kuwait stays even after the arrest of the suspects in the killing of overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis.
Demafelis’ death sparked outrage in the Philippines, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to continue imposing the deployment ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait, home to about 252,000 Filipinos.
Demafelis was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment in Kuwait earlier this month, more than a year since she went missing. Investigation found signs of abuse.
The suspects in Demafelis’ killing, couple Nader Essam Assaf and wife Mona, were arrested last week in Syria, marking a major development in the sensational case that has highlighted the plight of Filipino domestic helpers working in the Gulf state and other parts of the Middle East.
“Well, we certainly appreciate the arrest of two of Joanna’s employers. However in addition to the arrest, we would like to see them prosecuted and punished for the murder of Joanna,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“As of now, the deployment ban stays because the latest statement on this made by the President was when he visited the wake of Joanna, and he said that not only must they be apprehended, they must be punished.”
PH OFFICIALS VISIT KUWAIT
A delegation of Philippine labor officials were in Kuwait City Sunday to assess the impact of a new ban on Filipinos working in the emirate, a source of much-needed remittances.
Philippine Deputy Minister of Labor and Employment Ciriaco Lagunzad said the delegation was looking at the side effects of the ban, which will likely impact many families dependent on remittances from relatives who work in Kuwait.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with the Filipino community in Kuwait, he told AFP the ban would not be lifted until his government secured safety guarantees.
Among the key demands are that Filipino workers be allowed to keep their cellphones and passports, which currently can be confiscated by employers.
Anna del Mundo, who met the delegation at the Philippines’ embassy on Saturday, said her recruitment agency had already been hurt by the ban.
She said the agency had hired around 100 nurses for a Kuwait hospital but they were now stuck home due to the ban.
Anna Bunda, who also works in the recruiting sector, said she planned to lobby the Philippines’ Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to lift the ban for skilled workers — who she said enjoy greater protection under a different entry visa.
A second labor delegation tasked with negotiating a bilateral treaty for domestic workers is slated to arrive in Kuwait City next week, Philippines Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa told AFP. - with AFP