Main suspect in Joanna Demafelis murder arrested – DFA

MANILA, Philippines - The primary suspect to the killing and torture of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis has been arrested, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the news on Friday, February 23.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited the wake of Joanna Demafelis
President Rodrigo Duterte visited the wake of slain Kuwait overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis in her hometown in Sara, Iloilo.

DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano revealed that Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national, was arrested by the Lebanese authorities.

Assaf, with his wife Mona, a Syrian national, are the principal suspects in the killing of Demafelis, 29, who had served as their house helper.

Cayetano admitted that Kuwaiti authorities cooperated to help locate the suspects. He said in a statement, “Kuwaiti authorities requested the assistance of Interpol in locating and arresting the couple who they believed fled to Lebanon or Syria shortly after the torture and murder of Demafelis.”

“Kuwaiti authorities conveyed the arrest of Assaf to Ambassador Renato Villa during a meeting at the Ministry of Interior on Thursday,” he added.

The secretary also shared that the news had reached the President who welcomed the update positively. He said, “The President welcomes the news that Nader Essam Assaf is now in the hands of authorities in Lebanon.”

Cayetano conveyed their hope for justice to be served soon. He said, “Assaf’s arrest is a critical first step in our quest for justice for Joanna and we are thankful to our friends in Kuwait and Lebanon for their assistance.”

Public outcry for justice

The death of OFW Joanna Demafelis became the symbol of OFWs’ plight and struggles against abuses. When her remain was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait earlier this month, there was a public outcry to finally end the abuses in the Gulf state. An autopsy report even showed that she was severely beaten before being frozen for more than a year.

The horrific murder had led President Duterte to call for a deployment ban in Kuwait.

Memorandum of Agreement to protect OFWS

President Duterte is set to hold a meeting with Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines Musaed Saleh Althwaikh. Aside from discussing the deployment ban, the Philippine government is urging the Kuwaiti government to sign the long-standing memorandum of agreement that will protect OFWs in Kuwait.

— Sally, The Summit Express

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