OFW found dead in freezer in Kuwait suffered grave physical abuse - PH envoy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 15) — Domestic worker Joanna Demafelis suffered severe physical abuse before she died, her body found inside a freezer in her employer's home in Kuwait possibly more than a year later, a foreign affairs official said Thursday.

Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa said results of the autopsy on Demafelis would be released next week, but initial finding showed she was beaten several times before she died.

"Nabanggit ng forensic doctor na Kuwaiti na ang sanhi ng kanyang pagkamatay ay broken ribs, internal bleeding, at contusions at trauma sa kaniyang katawan, kabilang ang pelvis at kidneys," Villa said in a Viber video call from Kuwait with CNN Philippines .

[Translation: The Kuwaiti forensic doctor said she died due to broken ribs, internal bleeding, contusions and trauma in her body, including her pelvis and kidneys.]

He said forensic doctor revealed the 29-year-old domestic worker was continuously maltreated.

"Ang pambubugbog sa kanya ay hindi raw nangyari ng isang beses lamang. Continous daw ang pagmaltrato sa kanya, ayon sa kanilang findings," Villa said.

Authorities said Demafelis' body may have been kept inside the freezer since November 2016, when her employers left Kuwait. Her body was found after a Kuwaiti court ordered authorities to open the apartment because the Lebanese employer, Nader Essam Assaf, was wanted for cases related to falsified checks.

'Employers covered up her death'

The Philippine envoy said Demafelis' employers reported to Kuwaiti Immigration in 2016 that she had left their apartment. 

'Yun siguro ay kanilang ginawa para pagtakpan ang kanilang ginawang krimen," he said.

[Translation: Maybe they did that to conceal their crime.]

Villa said it would be easier to find the Lebanese employer and his Syrian wife if they were in Lebanon.  The search would be difficult, however, if the couple went Syria because of the ongoing civil war in that country, he noted.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was meeting with the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Philippines on Thursday afternoon.

He explained that under international law, the Kuwaiti government is obliged to provide justice to Filipino workers in that country who are abused by their employers.

The death of Demafelis and seven other overseas Fililpino workers prompted the government to ban the deployment of  workers to Kuwait.

Demafelis' remains will arrive in the Philippines on Friday.