#Manila: The Philippines today welcomed the reported decision of a Kuwaiti court to mete out the death sentence to the principal suspects in the murder of Filipina domestic worker Joanna Demafelis.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait has been informed about the court decision and is now waiting for a formal notification from Kuwaiti authorities.
“We take note of the swift action taken by Kuwaiti authorities in connection with the murder of our kababayan Joanna Demafelis,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said.
“This is a very important development in our quest for justice for Joanna,” Secretary Cayetano added.
“We continue to look forward to the cooperation of our friends not only in Kuwait but also in Lebanon and Syria in our efforts to bring this case to a close,” he said.
The Secretary said Kuwaiti authorities informed Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola of the court decision during a meeting in Kuwait on Sunday but did not provide additional details.
The Embassy, however, was able to obtain a copy of the court order.
Media reports attributed to court authorities in Kuwait later said principal suspect Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife Mouna Hassoun were tried in absentia also on Sunday and sentenced to death for killing the 29-year-old Filipina domestic worker and hiding her body in a freezer.
The couple fled Kuwait immediately after the murder last year but were identified after Demafelis’s body was discovered by authorities inside their abandoned apartment last month. Both were later reported arrested in Lebanon and Syria respectively.
Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa said Kuwaiti authorities have requested the extradition of Assaf but it is possible that Lebanese authorities may decide not to turn him over and will try the case in Beirut instead.
Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said the Department will provide lawyers to assist in the case should Lebanese authorities decide to hold the trials in Beirut.
She said the Philippine Embassy in Beirut is scheduled to meet with Lebanese authorities handling the case on Tuesday to see how they would want to proceed.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday said the death sentence on the principal suspects in Joana Demafelis’ murder indicates the sincerity and good faith of the Kuwaiti government in giving justice to the slain Filipina worker.
But this early, Bello said he is not ready to recommend to the President the lifting of the total ban on the deployment of workers to the Gulf state. If ever, he added, 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.
A Kuwaiti court has sentenced in absentia a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife to death by hanging over the murder of Demafelis who was found dead in a freezer early in February.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Kuwaiti government in bringing justice to the family of Joana Demafelis and it is a clear manifestation of their sincerity in complying with the conditions set by the President,” Bello said.
He said the final draft of the proposed agreement and his recommendations on the protection of Filipino workers had already been sent to the President for his approval for the formal signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Kuwait.
“Nagkaroon na ng consensus, we already have a final draft of the agreement and I sent my recommendations to the President for his approval. The moment the President approves it, then it will be ready for signing. The President has the last and the final call on this agreement,” Bello said.
Among the major provisions of the agreement include the prohibition of the surrender of Filipino passport to Kuwaiti employers, the binding effect of a common employment contract, the guaranteed payment of minimum monthly net pay of $400 paid through the bank, and the non-confiscation of mobile phones and other communication gadgets.
Bello also said pending and on-going bilateral agreements with other receiving countries in the Middle East are up for review to further ensure that the welfare and protection of OFWs are given utmost consideration.
#Manila: Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd on Monday said that he may recommend the partial lifting of the deployment ban on Filipino workers to Kuwait after its government announced that it had sentenced to death the employers of a slain Filipina.
Bello’s statement comes as a Kuwaiti court sentenced in absentia a Lebanese and Syrian couple to hang for the death of Joanna Demafelis, Bello said that Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Philippines Musaed Saleh AM Althwaikh relayed the court decision to him, adding that the conviction and the corresponding death penalty showed the Kuwaiti government’s resolve to address the pressing problem of maltreatment against Filipino workers, Labor Undersecretary Jacinto V. Paras said, however, that while the Kuwaiti government’s speedy action against the killers of Demafelis was a welcome development, the battle was only been half-won as the killers were still in their respective countries.
#Manila: The labor department is finalizing arrangements for the formal signing of an agreement with Kuwait on the protection of Filipino workers, mostly household service workers deployed in the Gulf state.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the signing may take place in the first week of April, while the venue is yet to be determined.
This following the conclusion Friday night of formal talks between a top level delegation of Kuwaiti officials and their Philippine counterparts on the provisions of the proposed agreement which will govern the deployment, employment and treatment of Filipino workers while staying in Kuwait, Bello also said the talks were a success, but added that its formal signing would not automatically result to the lifting of the government deployment ban.
Manila: A fire that hit Pavilion Hotel and casino complex in the Philippine capital on Sunday killed at least 5 employees, several others were injured and forced the evacuation of more than 300 guests, some by helicopter.
The State of Kuwait and the Philippines signed a draft deal to regulate the work of domestic helpers, said a Kuwaiti diplomat Saturday.
Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Consulate Affairs Sami Al-Hamad said that the deal which was signed last night, came as a result of a meeting between a visiting Kuwaiti ministerial delegation and Filipino authorities in Manila.
The deal will ensure the rights of both employers and employees, said Al-Hamad who affirmed that the Kuwaiti side requested that the doors for labor recruitment would be re-opened for Kuwaiti agencies, especially the government-backed Al-Durra company.
Al-Hamad noted that those interested in employing domestic workers would be able to do so by paying reasonable fees.
He added that employers must ensure that their laborers would have the right to retain their passport, as well as the right of refusing transfer of their working visa to another employer.
A Filipino request to obtain any criminal records that employers might have was denied because Kuwaiti authorities would not allow anyone with a record to recruit labor, said the Foreign Ministry official.
Manila: 10 people died when a small plane crashed into a house in Plaridel Bulacan on Saturday, aviation and police officials said the plane was en route to Laoag in northwestern Luzon.