Labor chief orders removal of welfare officer in Kuwait for Demafelis' case oversight

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 15) — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III won't accept excuses for the oversight on the case of the slain OFW in Kuwait.

Overseas worker welfare officer Maria Sarah Concepcion explained in a letter that it is impossible for her to accommodate all requests for assistance from Filipinos working in Kuwait or their families. She said they receive an average of 15 requests for assistance daily.

"No matter how hardworking and efficient a person can be, under the present system, it is humanly impossible for one person to be able to manage all the emails received at post especially when one needs to multitask," her explanation letter read.

She said this is why she failed to act promptly on the case of 29-year-old Joanna Demafelis, the overseas Filipino worker who was found dead in a freezer in Kuwait.

Despite Concepcion's explanation, Bello has ordered her removal from her post.

"Masyado raw maraming trabaho. Eh palagay ko that's not a good explanation. Kung hindi mo kaya, umalis ka," he said on Thursday.

The Labor Secretary earlier demanded an explanation from Concepcion and Labor Attache in Kuwait Alejandro Padaen following claims of the Demafelis family that their case was ignored by Philippine authorities.

Padaen, in his response, explained he assumed his post three weeks after his office received the Demafelis case in February 7, 2017. He added the case had been referred to Concepcion by his predecessor.

Bello said he has to find out whether his explanation is reasonable or not because he was new in his post.

Prior to the Demafelis case, seven other Filipino housemaids were reported dead in Kuwait.

President Rodrigo Duterte has lashed out at Kuwait and ordered the issuance of a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to the gulf state.

Kuwait's foreign affairs minister condemned the move and said this could damage ties between the two countries.

But Bello said the welfare of Filipino workers is their priority.

"Lagay niya sarili niya dun kay presidente natin makita mo ang isang national mo pina-plantsa o kaya ginagawang ice cream. I think he would also react same way our president acted," he said.

Bello said he met with Kuwait's Ambassador to the Philippines who expressed a sense of urgency in pushing through with the signing of a memorandum of agreement that will give Filipino workers greater protection in Kuwait. He is hopeful the deal will be signed sooner than later. There are 136,000 documented overseas Filipinos working in Kuwait.

He added the signing of the deal could lead to the lifting of the ban on workers deployment to Kuwait.