Murdered maid’s relative says she is no illegal recruiter
A distant relative who had referred murdered Filipino maid Joanna Demafelis to a labor recruitment agency for employment in Kuwait surfaced on Thursday to clear herself of liability for her death.
Agnes Tuballes denied being an illegal recruiter, as she had been reported to be, and said that the disclosure of her identity in the press and on social media had made her a target of bullying.
In a press conference at the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Tuballes said in Filipino: “I came out to correct the irresponsible news report that I am an illegal recruiter. Its impact on me is like I was the suspect [in the killing]. You could have gotten my side before airing that.”
Bullied on social media
She claimed that since the news came out, she and her two kids had been subjected to bullying on social networking sites.
“I am not the suspect but it appeared I was the prime suspect. I did not kill Joanna [and you cannot] just use my picture without permission,” Tuballes said, adding that her children were suffering from the media attention.
“I am a single mother. I have been an [overseas worker] since 2013. I worked as a domestic helper. I never wanted Joanna to die there (Kuwait). I never dreamed of endangering anybody,” she said.
She told reporters that she had simply recommended Demafelis for overseas employment to the recruitment agency, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Global E-Human Resources.
“I did not kill Joanna. I only helped her work legally abroad. I referred her to a legal agency. I never thought she would get killed there,” she said.
At the Department of Labor and Employment, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III presented to reporters Marissa Ansaji Mohammad, who processed Demafelis’ papers at Mt. Carmel Global in 2014.
Mohammad said she voluntarily surfaced to clear her name, stressing that she had nothing to do with Demafelis’ deployment to Kuwait.
Mt. Carmel officers
She said she was only a trainee in the agency at the time and her job was “to give applicants application forms.”
Mohammad said she worked in the agency for only a year.
Bello said there were two or three other persons of interest in Demafelis’ case but he was not allowed to name them.
Two officers of Mt. Carmel Global are expected to show up at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters on Friday.
Cesar Bacani, chief of the NBI-National Capital Region, said Adrian Briones, president, and Mary Gay Abrasina, assistant general manager, of Mt. Carmel Global had been summoned to the NBI for questioning.
Labor Undersecretary Claro Arellano said the Kuwait government was willing to negotiate an agreement with the Philippine government for the protection of Filipinos in the Gulf state.
“Kuwaiti delegates are expected to arrive in Manila next week,” Arellano said.
The death of Demafelis, whose body was discovered stuffed in a freezer in an abandoned flat in Kuwait City last Feb. 7, prompted President Duterte to ban new labor traffic to Kuwait until the Kuwait government agreed to regulating working conditions for Filipinos.
He also authorized a repatriation program, under which 1,700 distressed Filipinos had returned from Kuwait on free flights.
At the PNP headquarters, Director Roel Obusan, the CIDG chief, told reporters that his command, in presenting Tuballes to the press, was providing her a platform to clear her name.
Not a suspect
“We are presenting her not as a suspect because our case buildup is not yet complete. But for the purposes of giving the truth to the public, this is already a very sensational case, and with her submission that she needs to speak out so the people would know her participation in [Joanna’s deployment to] Kuwait,” Obusan said.
Tuballes said she did not recruit Demafelis. Instead, it was Demafelis who asked her to help her find work in another country.
“I recommended, referred her to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I told her to apply there because passport was free, there was no placement fee and no salary deduction … She was able to work overseas for free and legally,” she said.
Tuballes claimed that she made referrals and got P5,000 in commission from the recruitment agency for every applicant she recommended.
She said she herself was an overseas worker during the time that Demafelis submitted her application to Mt. Carmel. She was paid P13,000 for referring Demafelis to the company. —WITH TINA G. SANTOS AND AIE BALAGTAS SEE
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