Solon wants probe into gov't agencies that overlooked slain OFW case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12) — The House of Representatives should look into the government agencies that should have investigated the case of overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis, a congressman said Monday.

ACTS OFW Party-list Representative John Bertiz told CNN Philippines' The Source that because the recruitment agency handling Demafelis was shut down by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, it fell on government to find her.

"Nagpapaimbestiga tayo kung itong pamilya, lumapit... kung sinu-sino pala ang tinatawagan ng pamilya [We're investigating who this family approached and called]," Bertiz said.

Demafelis is a Filipino domestic worker whose body was stored in a Kuwait apartment freezer for over a year. Her siblings said they approached to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) about not hearing from their sister in late 2016 -- but they did not get much help.

"Umaasa kami na aaksyunan ng OWWA tsaka sa embassy sa Kuwait pero walang aksyon eh," her sister Jessica said on Monday.

[Translation: We were hoping OWWA and the embassy in Kuwait would take action, but there was none.]

OWWA Chief Hans Cacdac assured Demafelis' family that they are looking into the welfare officers who supposedly brushed them off.

"Titignan din namin kung sino itong mga empleyado namin na sumagot ng ganitong klase dahil hindi nararapat iyon," he said.

[Translation: We will look into who among our employees answered this way, because that was not appropriate.]

Bertiz also named the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and POEA as having been approached. However, the DFA said the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait did not receive any request for assistance. POEA yet to respond to CNN Philippines' request for comment.

A government source said the foreign recruiter should be held liable and sued from the Philippines. The local recruiter, despite being non-operational, should also be responsible.

Under Republic Act 10022 or the Migrant Workers Act, employers and the recruitment agency have a joint liability over the worker.

The foreign recruitment agency Demafelis was signed under is Fadilah Farz Kaued Al Khodor Recruitment Office. The agency is on the POEA watchlist because of a pending case.

Demafelis was recruited locally by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Global E-Human Resources, Inc., which was shut down in 2016 according to Cadac.

"Nag-fofollow-up (ang family) and they did not get any response, hindi pa rin daw nila ma-locate and sinasabi nila they tasked the agency to locate [her]. Eh cancelled na (ang agency) e, ano pang pakialam (nila) diyan di ba?" said Bertiz.

[Translation: (The family) followed up and did not get any response. Government could not locate her and they said they tasked the agency to do so. But the agency was already cancelled, what would they care?]

According to a copy of her contract obtained by CNN Philippines, Demafelis was earning about US $400 monthly and her contract only ran for a year. She was deployed in 2014.

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

Her employer at the time of her death, a Lebanese national named Nader Essam Assaf, is wanted for cases related to falsified cheques.

Amanda Araneta, President of Philippine Association of Agencies for Kuwait, suspects Demafelis' first employer illegally passed her to someone else, because recruitment agencies require Kuwaiti visas from employers.

"That's already trafficking. Dapat managot dito ang original employer niya because nakasaad sa batas at sa kontrata na hindi mo pwedeng i-transfer iyan without the information or authority coming from the (Philippine Overseas Labor & Office)," said Araneta.

[Translation: That's already trafficking. Her original employer should be held liable because the law and contract states you can't transfer her without the information or authority coming from the (POLO).]

In House Resolution 1617 dated last January 29, Bertiz called for a probe to look into whether concerned government offices and officers were fulfilling their mandate in implementing laws protecting OFWs.

The government on Monday ordered a "total ban" on deployment of all workers to Kuwait. The Labor Department is also probing the deaths of seven Filipina household service workers.

Related: DOLE orders total ban on deployment of OFWs to Kuwait

CNN Philippines correspondent AC Nicholls and digital producer Eimor Santos contributed to this story.