Manila: A labour official asked for forgiveness from the family of an overseas Filipina worker whose bound was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait last week. An autopsy later showed Joanna Demafelis had been mistreated several times in the run up to her death in 2016.
Hans Leo Cacdac, chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), said the government body had offered its condolences and an apology to the grieving family.
Cacdac said this as he joined the family, amid tear-jerking scenes, to welcome the body of the deceased maid back home to Iloilo City, central Philippines, on Saturday.
Joanna’s mother Eva wailed as soon as she saw the sealed casket containing the body of her daughter.
“Wake up, my baby. You’ve already left us,” a tearful Eva said. One of the family members, Licelle, had to be rushed into an ambulance after fainting with grief.
The other members of the family wore shirts emblazoned with calls for justice for Joanna and carried banners with the same message.
Cacdac said the OWWA had also recalled its labour officer in Kuwait, Sarah Concepcion, over her failure to respond to the calls of the Demafelis family after they failed to hear from Joanna.
“We had established level of inaction on her part,” Cacdac said.
Cacdac also outlined the support extended by the OWWA to the grieving family.
“Aside from the financial assistance given by OWWA Board of Trustees, further assistance of livelihood and help [for] her youngest sister who is still studying, including a sick relative, will be given to the family,” said Cacdac.
He said investigations were underway to establish what had happened to Joanna, adding that the Philippine government had sought the assistance of Interpol in locating the primary suspects, Joanna’s employers — a Lebanese-Syrian couple.
“Definitely, criminal charges will be filed under the Kuwaiti Law to make sure the suspects — the couple — will be made answerable,” said Cacdac.
Demafelis is one of seven OFWs who died in Kuwait, prompting the Philippine government to order a total deployment ban of domestic helpers to the Gulf state.
It is not yet confirmed if President Rodrigo Duterte will go to Kuwait despite an invitation being extended to him by Saleh Ahmad Al Thwaikh, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the Philippines, last week.
Of the 260,000 OFWs in Kuwait, 170,000 are household workers while another 10,800 are undocumented. A total of 10 million OFWs are based in 150 countries worldwide.