Lebanese Official Offer Condolences Over Gruesome Death of OFW Demafelis

Describing as “inhuman couple” the Lebanese and Syrian employers of slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Daniela Demafelis in Kuwait City, Kuwait, a Lebanese official offered his deepest condolences over “the tragic and brutal killing” of the Filipino household worker.

Joseph F. Assad, honorary consul of Lebanon in the Philippines, voiced this sentiment in response to a Facebook page assailing the killing of Demafelis, whose body was found after a year inside a freezer in an apartment abandoned by the fleeing couple, identified in news reports as Lebanese Nader Assaf and his Syrian wife.

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On behalf of my Ambassador H.E. Nidal Yehya and of the Lebanese community in the Philippines, my family and I sincerely convey our profoundest condolences on the tragic and brutal death of OFW Joanna Daniela Demafelis,” said Assad.

He added that Lebanese and Filipinos alike “are shocked and saddened beyond words. Never in our lifetime has such a horrible crime hit so close to home.”

The spate of abuses of Arab employers of Filipino household workers in the Middle East, notably from the six member countries of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC), topped off by the death of Demafelis, incensed President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

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Comprising the AGCC are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. In the AGCC nations alone, the number of Filipinos has reached around 2.4 million-strong. Saudi Arabia has been the top destinations of Filipino workers for many years in the Middle East.

As a result, the President ordered last week a total ban on the sending of all Filipino workers — including skilled manpower — to Kuwait. The other day Duterte threatened to widen the ban of sending workers to other countries that also abused OFWs.

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Meantime, the Lebanese consul, a long time resident of the Philippines, said they are also waiting for the results of the efforts on the killing of Demafelis being conducted by the Kuwaiti police, Lebanese police and the international Police (Interpol), who which are pursuing the suspects and “arrest and prosecute this inhuman couple to the full extent of the law.”

What happened, said Assad, serves as a reminder of the existence of cruelty across the world with the presence of individuals who are capable of executing heinous crimes, whatever their nationality or social background.

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“Inevitably, our safety depends on how caringly we look at out for one another, especially in unfamiliar territory,” the Lebanese official said.

He described Demafelis as “a 21st century heroine.” Assad expressed confidence that justice will be served. “As we mourn the circumstances of her death, we are buoyed by the hope that this unfortunate turn of events will find justice swiftly, and lead to more effective ways of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our OFWs.”

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The ill-fated OFW sought the proverbial greener pasture in Kuwait in 2014 after Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) destroyed their house in Sara, Iloilo, in November 2013. She wanted to have their hometown house rebuilt and also send a sibling to school.

Her remains arrived in Manila on Friday, flown to Iloilo the next day, and finally got home to her hometown Sara by Sunday. Duterte was reported to be flying to Iloilo to join the wake of Demafelis.

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EDD K. Usman

Presently, Edd Usman is a freelance journalist contributing as Stringer to Newsbytes.ph, Rappler.com, and Malaya Business Insight. From May 2016 to December 2017, he is a senior correspondent of Newsbytes.ph. He was also a Senior reporter at Manila Bulletin until April 15, 2016.

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