By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
The Philippine government is hoping that authorities will prosecute and punish Nader Essam Assaf, the Lebanese employer of slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait in 2016.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed Saturday the arrest and added that Assaf and his wife Mona, a Syrian national believed to be in her home country, have been the subject of a manhunt by the Interpol.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a statement this morning, welcomed the development but expressed hope that justice will be fully served.
“We are thankful for the arrest but hoping that they be prosecuted and punished for Joanna’s murder,” Roque said.
Duterte has fumed over the death of Demafelis who was reported to be not only beaten to death by her employers, but also stuffed inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in the Gulf State. She was found early February after more than a year.
Duterte slammed the Kuwaiti government for being “oblivious” about the abuses and maltreatment OFWs are experiencing from their employers in their territory.
The death of Demafelis prompted Duterte to implement a total nondeployment ban of new OFWs to Kuwait, and to order the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to facilitate the repatriation of all OFWs who want to go home within 72 hours.
On Thursday, Duterte visited the wake of Demafelis in Sara, Iloilo where he said he will not lift the ban and compelled the Kuwaiti government to work on arresting the employers of the slain Filipina.
“Galit talaga ako. Wala nang pupunta doon (I am really angry. No one will be going there anymore),” Duterte said Thursday.
“It behooves upon the police of Kuwait and the Interpol, there’s a serious crime. Problema nila yan (Catching the employers is their problem). Basta ako (As to me), the ban stays. No deployment of Filipinos, whatsoever, to Kuwait,” he added.
Duterte also said the government is now performing an audit on countries where OFWs are reported to be abused by their employers.
“We are doing an audit now and find out the places where we deploy Filipinos and our countrymen suffer brutal treatment and human degradation,” Duterte said Thursday afternoon.
However, Duterte said he cannot disclose the countries just yet as auditing all cases is a long process.
“Ino-audit pa po (We are still auditing) because you have to have a list then you have to have the individual cases reported and unreported. That will be a long task,” he said.
In a speech yesterday, Duterte said there will be jobs waiting for OFWs who decided to go home because of the manpower required by the government’s infrastructure development programs.
He added that it would be better for them to stay in the country where they would be safer but they would need to bear with the situation a lot longer.
“Hindi na kayo kailangang pumunta sa labas. Huwag kayong pumunta sa labas kasi (You don’t have to go out of the country anymore. Do not go out because) I cannot protect you. Magtiis-tiis na lang tayo dito (Let’s just put up with the situation here),” Duterte said.
“Konting tiis lang (Just bear with it a little bit more). I’m on my second year. Maybe towards the end of the third year and the early part of the fourth year medyo angat na tayo (we have improved a little bit),” he added.