NBI starts probe on Demafelis’ local recruiter

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MANILA, Philippines  — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday started its probe on the local recruitment agency of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was found dead inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait early last month.

NBI National Capital Region (NCR) Regional Director Cesar Bacani invited two former employees of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Global E-Human Resources Inc., namely former assistant general manager Mary Gay Canlas Abrantes and former trainee staff Marissa Ansaji Mohammad.

Bacani said Abrantes went to the NBI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Division (AHTRAD) with her lawyer to give her sworn statement while Mohammad had been invited since Tuesday at the NBI NCR and returned on Thursday.

“Lahat ng lumalabas na pangalan sa imbestigasyon namin iniimbitahan ng NBI (We invited everyone whose name appeared in the course of our investigation),” Bacani told reporters.

Bacani admitted they have yet to determine any legal liability of Mt. Carmel.

So far, Bacani learned Demafelis was deployed by Mt. Carmel to Kuwait on May 18, 2014 under a two-year contract and, after which she is supposed to return home.

When Demafelis reached Kuwait, he said she was sent to the Fadilah Farz Kaued Khodor Recruitment Office which found an employer for her.

The contract of Demafelis had already ended when she managed to get another employer, now the suspects in her killing.

Bacani said Mt. Carmel’s license was suspended in August 2014 but got reinstated on December 2014. However, Mt. Carmel was forced to shut down after its license was finally revoked in January 2015.

Even though the company closed, Bacani believes Mt. Carmel should monitor the status of the workers it has deployed.

For her part, Mohammad denied allegations she recruited Demafelis.

“Hindi ko po siya hinikayat mag-apply. Kusa po siya pumunta sa office (I did not invite her to apply. She went to the office on her own),” Mohammad said, adding she is also not authorized to process the papers of Demafelis and pointed out it was Abrantes who processed the application.

Mohammad recounted that it was Agnes Tuballes, the cousin of Demafelis, who recommended to the latter to go to Mt. Carmel.

Tuballes, who surrendered to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, is considered a material witness in the ongoing investigation against the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Global E-Human Resources, Inc., the agency that deployed Demafelis to Kuwait sometime in 2016, Director Roel Obusan said, according to a Radyo Pilipinas report.

Tuballes has vehemently denied being Demafelis’ recruiter, saying that she merely referred the victim to the agency and received a referral fee as a result.

At the time of Tuballes’ referral, Demafelis was already working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte directed the NBI to look for the local recruiters of Demafelis following the arrest of her employers, Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife, Mona Hassoun.

The two are the principal suspects in the death of the 29-year OFW.

The foreign recruitment agency Demafelis was signed under was identified as Fadilah Farz Kaued Al Khodor Recruitment Office which is currently under the watch list of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration because of a pending case.

The Demafelis family said they went to the recruitment agency that sent her to Kuwait after they lost contact with her in 2016 but they found out that it had been shut down due to recruitment violations.

The migrant worker’s body was found inside a freezer in the Al Shaab district of Kuwait on Feb. 9, a year after she had gone missing.

She reportedly had broken ribs and suffered internal bleeding before she died.

The case prompted Duterte to ban the deployment of new Filipino workers to Kuwait, where many abuses have been reported.

The President reiterated that the ban in the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers to Kuwait will stay and the government is also looking into situations of migrant workers in other countries.

“Yes, we are doing an audit now to find out the places where we deploy Filipinos and (where) our countrymen suffer brutal treatment and human derogation,” he said. However, “that will be a long, long task,” the President added.

Demafelis’ remains arrived in her hometown in Iloilo last February 17.

Her interment is scheduled first week of March. –PNA

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