JUST LIKE most of Filipino workers who tried their luck abroad, 28-year-old Joanna Daniela Demafelis dreamt of two things for her family when she left for Kuwait – build them a decent house and send her siblings to school.
But that dream turned into a nightmare after Demafiles, a native of Barangay Ferraris, Sara, Iloilo, was found dead inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait on Feb 6, 2018.
Her family said they want the perpetrators to suffer Joanna’s fate – to be stuffed inside a freezer.
Joanna’s mother Eva described the victim as a good daughter and a kind sister.
The sixth in a brood of nine, she worked as a house help in Manila after graduating from Sara National High School.
On May 18, 2014, she left the country to work as a domestic helper in Kuwait.
Her elder sister Criselda, in an interview over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, said that Joanna rarely called them after being deployed to Kuwait.
In those rare occasions, she asked for a mobile phone load saying it was more expensive to top up her phone abroad.
Her family sent her P150 worth of cellphone load twice a month.
“She doesn’t tell anything about us. She just said she’s okay every time we asked her about her work,” Criselda said.
By late 2016, Joanna called her Manila-based sister Juliet and informed the latter that she would extend her employment for one more year.
The victim had a three-year work contract in Kuwait.
Joanna used to work for a Lebanese employer and his Syrian wife. Her family assumed that it was with the same employer.
Joanna also informed her family that she could not send them an allowance because she was saving money for their home once she ends her contract.
But after two months with no communication with any member of her family, Criselda said they began to worry.
She could not be contacted through her employer’s landline or her mobile phone.
Her Facebook account was also deactivated.
By February 2017, Juliet went to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) office in Manila to ask for help in looking for Joanna.
The family was told that they have other cases that were reported ahead of Joanna’s.
No news was heard about Joanna’s disappearance until OWWA representatives in Iloilo personally went to Sara and revealed to her family the discovery of her body.
Joanna’s mother said she did not see the picture of her daughter inside the freezer.
It was her brother-in-law, Barangay Kagawad Pablo Demafiles, who saw the picture and confirmed that it was indeed Joanna.
“When I saw it on television, I knew it was her,” Pablo said.
Criselda said that she had no doubt that it was Joanna’s body that was stuffed half naked in a freezer.
“My sister doesn’t deserve it. Justice must be served,” she said in the vernacular.
Joanna’s mother also cried for justice, saying the perpetrators must suffer her daughter’s death.
“I hope they would be arrested soon,” Eva added.
Aside from building a home for his parents, Joanna also desired to send her youngest sibling to school.
“That’s one of the reasons why she decided to go abroad,” Criselda said.
Her sister Joyce, used to take up criminology but had to temporarily stop going to school because Joyce failed to send her allowance.
“She used to tell me that she would be there when I graduate,” Joyce said.
Despite what happened, Joyce said she is now more driven to find ways to finish her studies.
Their mother is doing farm works while their father had to temporarily stop working due to an illness.
The OWWA office in Iloilo said that they made a follow-up on the complaint filed by Joanna’s family but the agency which sent her to Kuwait could not be reached anymore after it closed shop.
Jack Arroyo, OWWA-Iloilo public information officer, said the government would shoulder the repatriation of Joanna’s remains.
Arroyo said they personally went to Sara, as per instruction from their main office in Manila.
Presently, the OWWA is still awaiting the official report surrounding Joanna’s death from Kuwait authorities.
Arroyo said they are also checking on the validity of Joanna’s OWWA membership to ascertain if she would be entitled to insurance, burial, and livelihood assistance to be extended to her family.
He also assured that the government would bear the costs once charges would be pursued against the perpetrators.
Her body will also undergo an autopsy after investigators noticed strangulation marks on her neck.
Joanna’s case is among the seven recent Filipino deaths in Kuwait which prompted the government to order a deployment ban to the Gulf State.
President Rodrigo Duterte also warned to withdraw all Filipinos from Kuwait if another worker dies there.
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