Press Release
April 3, 2018

Villanueva hails death sentence for Demafelis' employers

Senator Joel Villanueva on Tuesday hailed the decision of a Kuwaiti court to punish the employers of murdered Filipina helper Joanna Demafelis to death by hanging.

"We welcome this development and we sincerely hope that this would not just be a paper victory," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment, and human resources development.

However, the senator lamented that Demafelis' employers should be transferred to the custody of Kuwait authorities.

Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national, remained in Syrian custody and handed over to Lebanon, while his Syrian wife Mona Hassoun is still in the custody of Damascus authorities.

"Joanna's employers are not under Kuwait custody. They should be made to face the consequences of what they have done in Kuwait before we can even think of any talk with the family of Joanna for forgiveness," Villanueva stressed.

Villanueva further said that the government should not stop its efforts to ensure that no migrant Filipino workers will be under the "kafala" system.

Under the "kafala" system, workers cannot legally leave the country without the consent of their employers. Running away from employers without their consent is a criminal offense in Arab countries like Kuwait.

"Like other Gulf countries, Kuwait has adopted the notorious 'kafala' system or sponsorship system which hinders the rights of our migrant workers," the senator explained.

Villanueva said that the "kafala" system has facilitated the abusive practice of altering the terms of employment contract of migrant workers or taking their passports and identifications as leverage.

"The conviction of Joanna's employers should not stop us from scrutinizing the government's labor policies to ensure that we put an end to this modern-day slavery," Villanueva concluded.

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