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Senate to probe death of OFW in Kuwait

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is set to investigate the deaths of Overseas Filipino Workers, including that of a 29-year-old domestic helper in Kuwait.

Senator Manny Pacquiao filed Senate Resolution 626, urging the Senate committees on labor and employment and foreign relations to probe the gruesome death of Joanna Daniella Demafelis, as well as other OFWs.

Demafelis, who worked as a domestic worker, was found dead in a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait. Her remains had reportedly been stored there for a year. Authorities said marks on her body indicated she was strangled to death.

Senate labor committee chairman Joel Villanueva told Rappler the probe is set on February 21.

The resolution seeks to reexamine the Philippine government’s labor and foreign policies and programs amid continued abuses and exploitation of OFWs.

“An inquiry and investigation must be conducted to ferret out the truth surrounding the deaths of our modern heroes, as well as a reexamination of our current labor and foreign laws, with the end view of strengthening such policies,” the resolution read.

Pacquiao also delivered a privilege speech on Tuesday, February 26, denouncing the death of Demafelis. He also called for a review of the responsibilities of government agencies such as Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

“Si Joanna Daniella Demafelis ay taga-Iloilo na ipinanganak noong June 24, 1988… Alam natin kung kalian ipinanganak si Joanna ngunit hindi natin alam kung kailan siya namatay. Nariyan ang posibilidad na mahigit isang taon na mula nang siya ay pinaslang,” Pacquiao said.

(Joanna Daniella Demafelis hails from Iloilo and was born on June 24, 1988. We know when she was born but we don't know when she left. There is the possibility that it has been more than a year since she was killed.)

Tama na, Mr President. Huwag na nating hayaan na magpatuloy ang karumal-dumal na pagtrato sa ating mga OFWs,” he said. (Let's stop this. Let us not allow this mistreatment of OFWs to continue.)

Citing data from the Department of Labor and Employment, Pacquiao said the government is still investigating the deaths of 7 other OFWs in Kuwait, namely Liezl Truz Hukdong, Vanessa Karissha Esguerra, Marie Fe Saliling Librada, Arlene Castillo Manzano, Devine Riche Encarnacion, Patrick Sunga, and Mira Luna Juntilla.

Villanueva, for his part, said he would wanted to look into the possibility that the victims came from the same recruitment agencies.

"We want to investigate why this is happening. We want to know if the government is monitoring these cases and if the victims came from the same agencies," Villanueva told Rappler in a text message.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier lashed out at Kuwait for the continuous mistreatment of Filipinos.

On Monday, DOLE issued a total ban on the deployment of OFWs to the foreign country. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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