The Philippines today welcomed the reported decision of a Kuwaiti court to mete out the death sentence to the principal suspects in the murder of Filipina domestic worker Joanna Demafelis.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait has been informed about the court decision and is now waiting for a formal notification from Kuwaiti authorities.
“We take note of the swift action taken by Kuwaiti authorities in connection with the murder of our kababayan Joanna Demafelis,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said.
“This is a very important development in our quest for justice for Joanna,” Secretary Cayetano added.
“We continue to look forward to the cooperation of our friends not only in Kuwait but also in Lebanon and Syria in our efforts to bring this case to a close,” he said.
The Secretary said Kuwaiti authorities informed Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola of the court decision during a meeting in Kuwait on Sunday but did not provide additional details.
The Embassy, however, was able to obtain a copy of the court order.
Media reports attributed to court authorities in Kuwait later said principal suspect Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife Mouna Hassoun were tried in absentia also on Sunday and sentenced to death for killing the 29-year-old Filipina domestic worker and hiding her body in a freezer.
The couple fled Kuwait immediately after the murder last year but were identified after Demafelis’s body was discovered by authorities inside their abandoned apartment last month. Both were later reported arrested in Lebanon and Syria respectively.
Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa said Kuwaiti authorities have requested the extradition of Assaf but it is possible that Lebanese authorities may decide not to turn him over and will try the case in Beirut instead.
Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said the Department will provide lawyers to assist in the case should Lebanese authorities decide to hold the trials in Beirut.
She said the Philippine Embassy in Beirut is scheduled to meet with Lebanese authorities handling the case on Tuesday to see how they would want to proceed.