OWWA administrator: Slain Filipino domestic worker could not be found after Kuwaiti agency closed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12) — The  government looked for Filipino domestic helper Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait when she was reported missing, but gave up after the agency that recruited her to the Middle East closed down.

"A communication was sent to our welfare officers in Kuwait, and there was a follow-up email on March 17, 2017, and what happened thereafter is that our welfare officers ascertained the existence of the Kuwaiti agency," Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) administrator Hans Cacdac told CNN Philippines' News Night on Monday.

The check was done after the older sister of Demafelis, Jessica, reported to the agency on February 28, 2017 that their family had lost contact with Joanna after May 2016.

READ: Family of slain OFW in Kuwait had no idea she was maltreated

However, the welfare officers discovered the Kuwaiti agency had already closed.

Cacdac said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration also learned that Demafelis' recruitment agency in the Philippines likewise closed in June 2016 over recruitment infractions.

Reaching a dead-end, the OWWA administrator said authorities stopped the search for the missing domestic worker.

Demafelis' body was later found in the freezer of her Lebanese employer's apartment. The employer had legal problems over falsified cheques and had unpaid rent.

If it weren't for the unpaid rent, Kuwaiti authorities would not have found Demafelis' remains.

Cacdac said that while the Philippines has general bilateral agreements with Kuwait, the two nations have none on Filipino workers.

Aside from Demafelis, the death of seven other Filipino household workers in Kuwait are also being investigated.

The recent spate of killings in the Middle Eastern country prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to order a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers there and the repatriation of Filipino workers in that country who want to go home.

READ: Hundreds of OFWs from Kuwait back in PH

Over 400 such workers were brought back to the Philippines on Monday as part of the government's mass repatriation program. Some 150 more will arrive on Tuesday and another 250 the next day.

Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa said about 10,000 Filipino workers are overstaying in that country. Around 8,000 or 80 percent of them are domestic workers. The majority have claimed that their employers abuse them.

CNN Philippines' Ver Marcelo, Yvette Morales, and Lara Tan contributed to this report