Couple in slain Kuwait OFW case in custody, recruiter remains to be prosecuted


By William Casis | FilAm Star Correspondent

The principal suspect in the murder of Joanna Demafelis, the 29-year-old OFW found dead in a freezer in Kuwait, has been arrested, confirmed the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Demafelis’ body was brought back to the Philippines on February 16. She was found dead in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait.

Her death was among the incidents that President Rodrigo Duterte had cited in ordering a deployment ban to Kuwait starting February 12.

DFA Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano said he informed Duterte about the arrest of Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national.

“The President welcomes the news that Nader Essam Assaf is now in the hands of authorities in Lebanon,” said Cayetano, describing Assaf’s arrest a critical first step in our quest for justice for Demafelis.

Duterte has vowed to bring justice to Demafelis’s family, lashing out at the Gulf state and alleging Arab employers routinely rape Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours a day and feed them scraps.

“We are thankful to our friends in Kuwait and Lebanon for their assistance,” said Cayetano.

Assaf and his Syrian wife Mona Hassoun have been the subject of a manhunt by Interpol.

Cayetano said he expects Kuwait to request Assaf’s extradition “so he could stand trial in Kuwait.”

It was later reported that Hassoun was nabbed in Syrian capital Damascus.

She remains in custody in Damascus.

After leaving Kuwait, the couple had made a very brief stop-over in Lebanon before travelling on to neighboring Syria.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced the President has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to summon the agency that recruited Demafelis.

He said the slain OFW was recruited locally by Our Lady of Mt Carmel Global E-Human Resources, Incorporated.

“We’re thankful but hoping that they will be prosecuted and punished soonest,” Roque said.

Earlier, the Blas Ople Policy Center, a non-governmental organization (NGO) on labor and migration affairs, said that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has revoked the license of the recruitment agency, making it harder to bring them into the legal process.