Kuwait ban stays despite death sentence on Demafelis’ killers

Kuwait ban stays despite death sentence on maid’s killers

THE deployment ban of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait “still holds,” Malacañang said on Monday, despite the Gulf state’s death sentence on two suspects in the murder of Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis.

THE deployment ban of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait “still holds,” Malacañang said on Monday, despite the Gulf state’s death sentence on two suspects in the murder of Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis.

Speaking to reporters, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the death sentence was not the sole condition to lift the deployment ban to Kuwait.

Manila, he said, wanted an agreement protecting the rights of Filipino domestic workers.

“The total ban on sending OFWs to Kuwait is still on. But of course, an agreement, a memorandum of understanding is being formulated and hopefully, the state parties will come to terms as to how our OFWs in Kuwait, as well as in other Middle Eastern countries will be protected. So basically, that will be a solution to this ban,” Guevarra said during a news conference.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, in a statement, said the death sentence on Demafelis’ employers indicated sincerity on the part of Kuwait, but added he was not ready to recommend to the President the lifting of the total ban on the deployment of workers to the Gulf state.

“If ever…a partial lifting may be considered for skilled workers but only after the formal agreement with Kuwait on the protection of Filipino workers is signed,” Bello’s statement read.

“President Duterte has set two requirements before the deployment ban is lifted. One is the signing of a memorandum of agreement that will give added protection to Filipino workers in Kuwait and second, for the Kuwaiti government to render justice for the death of household service worker Joanna Demafelis,” Bello said.

News out of Kuwait on Sunday said Demafelis’ employers, Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife Mona Hassoun, were tried in absentia by a Kuwaiti court and sentenced with death by hanging.

The two were nabbed separately in February. Assef is in Lebanese custody, while Hassoun is detained in Syria.

The decision came two months since an enraged President Rodrigo Duterte issued a deployment ban following the death of Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait earlier this year.

Labor Undersecretary Jacinto Paras said the Philippine government would continue to pressure Kuwait to extradite or find other ways to get hold of the suspects.

No leftovers

The Philippines is set to sign an agreement with Kuwait to protect Filipino workers in that country.

Among the provisions Duterte wanted added to the deal were: adequate sleeping hours, nutritious meals and not just leftovers, rest on holidays, and the right to keep their passports.

Other provisions include workers being allowed to keep cellphones, the prohibition of transfer of workers from
one employer to another without their consent or clearance from overseas labor offices, banning employers with records of worker abuse from hiring workers, and a $400 minimum wage.

In 2016, about 105,000 OFWs were deployed to Kuwait, 57,061 of which were household service workers. Skilled workers made up the balance of 105,000. There are some 270,000 OFWs in Kuwait, about 150,000 of which are household workers.

Too early to claim legal victory

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said the death sentence handed down by a Kuwaiti court to the couple linked to Demafelis’ death should serve as a venue for the Philippines to “mend ties” with Kuwait.

Senators Nancy Binay, Panfilo Lacson, Grace Poe, and Joel Villanueva however said it was too early to claim victory in Demafelis case.

Lacson said that the conviction in absentia of Demafelis’ employers “may appear like a pyrrhic victory for Joanna’s family and the Filipino people until the execution of the sentence is finally carried out.” Villanueva said: “We sincerely hope that this would not just be a paper victory.”

No to blood money

The Demafelis family said it would not accept any blood money from their sister’s employers.

In an interview over GMA News, Jojet Demafelis, the eldest of the nine Demafelis siblings, said they were seeking justice, which does not come with a price tag.

“Hindi po namin kailangan ang ganoon. Ang kailangan po namin ay hustisya po para sa kapatid namin, pero ang bayad-bayad na ganyan, wala po sa amin ‘yan (We don’t need that. What we want is justice for our sister. Compensation amounts to nothing for us),” Jojet said.

In an earlier interview over radio station dzBB, Jojet said his family was relieved after Bello confirmed the death sentence on Joanna’s killers.

“Unti-unti nababawasan po iyong bigat ng dinadala ng mga magulang ko at tsaka ng mga kapatid ko rin po (Little by little the heaviness borne by my parents and siblings is being eased),” Jojet said.

with WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL, BERNADETTE E. TAMAYAO AND FRANCIS
EARL A. CUETO

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