Labor Chief: Kuwait offers to bring lawyers, kin to Demafelis' slay trial

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Joanna Demafelis' body was found in a freezer in the apartment of Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife Mona Hassoun in Kuwait.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — Kuwait has offered to bring the family of household service worker Joanna Demafiles to Lebanon and Syria to witness the trial of her suspected killers,  Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said Wednesday.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Bello said the offer was made to Philippine officials during a recent trip to the Gulf state to sign an agreement to protect Filipino workers there.

Demafiles' body was found in a freezer in the rented apartment of her employers who had left Kuwait a year earlier.  Kuwait had sentenced to death the husband-and-wife suspects who are nationals of Lebanon and Syria.    

The Kuwaiti officials told Bello that the two countries had refused to grant Kuwait's request for the extradition of the couple.

"Ang plano yata ng Lebanese saka ng Syrian government is to conduct their own trial," Bello said. "And sinabi sa'min, 'if that happens, that we will provide all expenses to bring the parents and the relatives of Demafiles to witness the trial. We will provide lawyers, if you need lawyers. And we'll provide expenses for your lawyers, if you want to bring your lawyers."

[Translation: It seems like the plan of the Lebanese and Syrian governments is to conduct their own trial.]

In a separate interview on CNN Philippines' Balitaan, Demafiles' brother Joejet said their family had not been informed about Kuwait's offer.

"Sa ngayon wala po akong update kay Secretary Silvestre Bello. Noong May 12 nag-usap kami, nagtext siya sakin, kasi nagtanong ako sa kanya kung ano status ng case ng kapatid ko. Ang sagot sakin, 'yun nga po, hinahabol ng Kuwaiti government ang mag-asawang killer," Joejet said.

[Translation: Right now I have no updates from Bello. On May 12 we talked, he texted me, because I was asking for the status of my sister's case. In response, he said Kuwait is going after the couple.]

Joejet added that the government had advised them to just wait for further instructions.

But should the offer be made to them, Joejet said they would go to witness the trial.

"Yun ang inaantay ko sa atin pong mahal na Pangulo. Kung ako lang po 'yung tatanungin, gustong-gusto ko na pong masaksihan 'yung pagbitay sa mag-asawa na po 'yun," he said.

[Translation: That's what I'm waiting from our beloved President. If you ask me, I really wish to witness how the couple will be put on the death row.]

Joejet added their family is satisfied with how the government is handling Joanna's case. He said they are coordinating with Overseas Workers Welfare Administrator Hans Cacdac about their needs.

"Sa ngayon po, talagang di naman po sila nagkukulang sa'min [Right now, government is attending to us]," he explained.

In April, the Demafiles family said they wanted to meet the suspects  and hoped that their death sentence would be implemented. 

READ: Demafiles family won't settle for blood money