Too early to rejoice over death sentence for Demafelis killers – OFW congressman

MANILA, Philippines – Justice for Filipina worker Joanna Demafelis is not yet served until the murder suspects’ death sentence is carried out, ACTS-OFW Representative Aniceto Bertiz said on Wednesday, April 4. 

In a press briefing, Bertiz pointed out that the suspects in Demafelis’ murder are nationals of different countries and not from Kuwait, which handed the death sentence. 

He added that the Kuwaiti government does not hold custody of the suspects and “cannot carry out the penalty.”   

“The husband is Lebanese and is in Lebanon, while the wife is Syrian and is in Syria. Both Lebanon and Syria are separate states from Kuwait.

The couple were arrested in February following an Interpol manhunt. Syrian authorities handed the husband, Nader Essam Assaf, over to Lebanese authorities, while his Syrian wife remained in custody in Damascus. 

However, the sentencing can still be appealed if the couple returns to Kuwait, a source told Agence France-Presse. 

Don't lift deployment ban yet

Demafelis’ murder prompted the Philippine government to impose a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government has since initiated talks with the Philippines to improve the working conditions of OFWs.

Bertiz also said the deployment ban should not be lifted, given that the sentence has not been carried out. 

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that the deployment ban would only be lifted if the memorandum of understanding with the Kuwaiti government had been signed, or if “justice has been served.” 

On Monday, April 3, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he was “not yet ready” to recommend the lifting of the ban to the President.

But Bello also confirmed that a consensus had been reached on the memorandum, and the labor department was only waiting for Duterte’s approval.

The provisions of the memorandum include prohibiting employers from confiscating travel documents and communication gadgets, binding effect on contracts, and payment of a minimum month net pay of $400 through banks.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration recorded a total of 196 deaths of Filipino workers in the Gulf country since 2016. This figure is on top of 6,000 cases of abuse, sexual harassment, and rape filed with the Philippine embassy in 2017.

There are about 252,000 overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait, mostly doing household service. –


Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.