By Roy Mabasa
Has the Department of Foreign Affairs acted with too much haste in announcing the arrest of the suspects in the brutal murder of overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait without even seeing those accused actually in the custody of law enforcement authorities?
If we are to depend on the accounts of Philippines’ Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa, the reports about the supposed arrest of Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national, and his wife, Mona Hassoun, a Syrian national, were based solely on second-hand information from sources and not through formal notification coming from government authorities.
In a television interview Tuesday, Ambassador Villa revealed that last Thursday he was able to talk to a “security official” in Kuwait–later identified as Assistant Undersecretary for General Security Affairs Major General Ibrahim Al-Tarah-who relayed to him the information he received from the Lebanon Interpol that Assaf has been arrested but the wife was still at-large.
Two days later, the top Filipino diplomat in Kuwait said he received another report, this time from a source who is a member of the press who said that according to information from a Lebanese judicial official, the wife has also been apprehended and she is now in the custody of authorities in Syria.
Meanwhile, the office of The Undersecretary for Migrant Worker Affairs executive director Raul Dado clarified that they did not say that they were still uncertain about the arrest of Demafelis’ employers.
“We did not use the word ‘unsure,’ but that we are confirming reports from our concerned posts,” Dado explained in a short statement.
Assaf and his wife have been the subject of an Interpol manhunt after Kuwaiti authorities discovered early this month the battered body of Demafelis inside a freezer in the couple’s abandoned apartment unit more than a year after her family reported her missing.
According to Villa, he can confirm that Assaf has indeed been captured since the information came from the Lebanon Interpol. However, it is a different case with regards to the report about apprehension of the suspect’s wife.
Nevertheless, he quickly noted that the day after he received the information about Mona from his private source, her capture was front page news throughout the Gulf state.