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Pinoy Abroad

Senators say efforts should not stop at conviction of Demafelis’ killers

Senators welcomed Monday the reported decision of a Kuwaiti court sentencing to death the couple responsible for the death of Joanna Demafelis, but they believe it should not end there.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the conviction in absentia of the Lebanese man and his Syrian wife may appear like a Pyrrhic victory for Joanna’s family and the Filipino people until the execution of the sentence is finally carried out.

“Then and only then we can claim justice is served. Having said that, the Kuwaiti government should be commended for the swift trial as well as the decision that the court has rendered,” Lacson said in a text message to GMA News Online.

Senator Joel Villanueva also expressed hope that the husband and wife should be made to face the consequences of the crime.

“It’s a welcome development and we sincerely hope that this would not just be a paper victory, the husband and wife is not under Kuwait custody, they should be made to face the consequence of what they have done in Kuwait before we can even think of any talk with the family of Demafelis for forgiveness,” Villanueva said in a separate text message.

He said the government should continue to ensure and see to it that no overseas Filipino workers anywhere in the world will be under the “kafala” system where a migrant worker’s visa is tied to his or her employer and prohibits workers from leaving or changing jobs without prior consent.

Senator JV Ejercito, for his part, said the court decision should be a deterrent to other employers who are thinking of abusing Filipino workers.

“Hoping that justice would soon be served for Joanna Demafelis.  Let this be a deterrent for those who would think of abusing our Overseas Filipino Workers in the future,” he said.

Senator Grace Poe said swift and sure justice is what Joanna Demafelis deserves and the search for it should not stop in its tracks until all those responsible for the fate of 29-year-old house help are punished.

“Joanna's struggle is a reflection of the same reason why many of our kababayan are working abroad, away from their family and loved ones,” Poe said in a press statement.

She expressed hope that the memorandum of understanding between the Philippines and Kuwait for the greater protection of overseas Filipino workers will be signed and that such understanding be present in other countries with OFW population.

“We must remain vigilant in ensuring that the rights and welfare of OFWs are protected, and government is always at hand to assist them,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III urged the government to further enhance the Philippines-Kuwait partnership in protecting migrant workers.

The senator said that “we have so much more to do in directly engaging the Gulf States as far as protecting the safety and welfare of our OFWs are concerned.”

“We’re thankful that justice has been served for Joanna. Our task now is to ensure that such incidents never happen again,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Edgardo Angara echoed the wish of his colleagues that the penalty be actually imposed against those responsible for Demafelis’ death.

“Consuelo na lang ‘yan para sa pamilya niya. We hope the sentence can be carried out and the punishment imposed so it may at the very least, prevent future cases," Angara said in a text message to GMA News Online. — RSJ, GMA News