Press Release
April 2, 2018

Koko: Move forward with RP-Kuwait Partnership after conviction on Pinay OFW's death

Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III on Monday welcomed news of a Kuwaiti court's conviction of the couple responsible for the death of a Filipina domestic worker whose body was found stuffed in a freezer last year, but stressed that "we have so much more to do in directly engaging the Gulf States as far as protecting the safety and welfare of our OFWs are concerned."

A Lebanese man and his Syrian wife were sentenced last April 1 in absentia to suffer the death penalty for killing Joanna Demafelis, 29, who went missing in September 2016 and whose body was found only on February 6 in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait City.

"We're thankful that justice has been served for Joanna. Our task now is to ensure that such incidents never happen again. We need further high level talks and consultations with our countrymen's host states in the Middle East to ensure that diplomatic, administrative and legal mechanisms are in place for OFW protection," Pimentel said.

The Senate chief further expressed confidence that with the latest development, the earlier tensions caused by the incident between the Philippines and Kuwait will normalize as the two countries continue their longstanding diplomatic and economic relationship.

"Urgent now is the mending of ties. We see Kuwait as a partner. We benefit mutually from sending our OFWs to Kuwait, and it's in the best interest of both countries to continue resolving matters relating to reported work abuses, repatriation, lack of documentation and other key issues affecting Filipino workers there."

It is estimated that 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait. The Philippine embassy has reported that 4,000 OFWs without the necessary paperwork have already been repatriated, with another 6,000 awaiting an amnesty by the Kuwaiti government.

"Now that a decision has been made by the Kuwaiti court on Joanna's case, let's look at the bigger picture again. Our focus should be protection of OFW rights and welfare, of course balanced with the respect for local laws and traditions. It's sometimes a delicate balancing act that's why we need constant engagement with the host state," the senator stressed.

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