NBI to probe Joanna Demafelis' local recruiters

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — The Justice Department has authorized the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to find and investigate the local recruiters of slain overseas Filipina worker Joanna Demafelis.

In an order signed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Monday, the NBI was also directed to file appropriate charges against Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Global E-Human Resources Inc.

The recruitment agency was shut down in 2016 for a number of violations. The foreign agency that handled Demafelis was Fadilah Farz Kaued Al Khodor Recruitment Office, which is on the watchlist of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency because of a pending case.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque had said that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the NBI to "summon" and question Demafelis' recruiters.

"Because under our scheme, the local recruiters are actually ultimately liable for what happens to the Filipino deployed by the agencies for overseas. So that's what the President wants to find out," Roque said Monday.

The employers and suspects in the death of 29-year-old Demafelis, Nader Essam Assaf and Mona Hassoun, were arrested separately in Lebanon and Syria last week.  The couple had left Kuwait in November 2017.  Authorities found the bruised body of Demafelis inside a freezer in the couple's apartment where they said it may have been kept for over a year.

Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa said murder charges are being prepared by the Kuwaiti government against Assaf and Hassoun.

Roque said Duterte wants the two suspects punished.

"The deployment ban stays because the latest statement on this made by the President was when he visited the wake of Joanna, and he said that not only must they be apprehended, they must be punished," he noted.

PNP chief: We have a lead on the recruiters

National Police chief Dir. Gen. Ronald Dela Rosa said the  Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)  already had a lead on the recruiters of Demafelis.

"Ongoing na ang efforts ng CIDG para hanapin ang recruiters ni Demafelis... Meron nang lead ang CIDG," he said.

[Translation: The CIDG's efforts to look for Demafelis' recruiters are ongoing...They already have a lead.]

He added the CIDG was also checking the recruitment agencies in the country to find out which are operating illegally.