Family of murdered OFW in Kuwait given two months to file case against suspects

Font Size

Jessica (C), sister of Filipina overseas worker Joanna Demafelis whose body was found inside a freezer in Kuwait, cries in front of a wooden casket containing her sister's body shortly after its arrival at the international airport in Manila on February 16, 2018, while Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (C-behind w/glasses) looks on. The Philippines on February 12 expanded a ban on its citizens working in Kuwait after President Rodrigo Duterte angrily lashed out at the Gulf state over reports of Filipino workers suffering abuse and exploitation. Authorities say 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many as maids, yet domestic workers there are not covered by ordinary labour legislation. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

By Gillian M. Cortez

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that the family of slain OFW Joanna Demafelis only has two months to file for a case or their right to pursue the case will be dismissed.

During a organizational meeting of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COCOWA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said the family of Ms. Demafelis “has two months to file a case” against Mona Hassoun, wife of the OFW’s employer, Nader Essam Assaf.

Ms. Arriola added that if the family doesn’t pursue the case within the two-month period, “Under Syrian Law, it’s like you waived your right to file a case.”

“We just need a special power of attorney for [Ms. Demafelis’ family] for our embassy in Syria to file a case against the wife,” Ms. Arriola said.

Both Mr. Assaf and Ms. Hassoun are under police custody.

The DFA reported that the suspects flew to Damascus last May 22 and to Beirut on May 23 to discuss with lawyers the Demafelis case. Legal services will be used to cover the civil and criminal cases filed against Mr. Assaf.

The DFA admitted they are having difficulty in handling the case. “The complexities of the legal systems in the Middle East also baffles us because even if the spouses are tried in Kuwait, they can still be tried in Damascus for the wife and for the husband, in Beirut.”

As for settlement, Ms. Arriola emphasized Demafelis’ family “has exclusive and sole right to determine the amount” of the fee. “In the case for Lebanon, there’s a possibility for the family to get 100,000 dollars. So the advise of the lawyers is not to settle (the case).”