Family calls for justice as Filipina’s body arrives from Kuwait

Residents display placards, as they wait for the arrival of the body of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina domestic helper who was killed and found inside a freezer in Kuwait, in her hometown in Iloilo province on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 17 February 2018
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Family calls for justice as Filipina’s body arrives from Kuwait

ILOILO: More than a hundred relatives and supporters of a Filipino maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait brandished banners demanding justice as her coffin was returned home on Saturday.
The family of Joanna Demafelis openly wept as the white casket was unloaded at an airport cargo terminal in the central city of Iloilo.
“Justice for Joanna D. Demafelis,” was emblazoned on banners and on T-shirts worn by the crowd which included a congressman and local officials expressing their anger over the death of the Filipino whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait earlier this month.
The incident worsened a diplomatic flap between the Philippines and Kuwait with President Rodrigo Duterte alleging that Arab employers routinely rape their Filipino workers, force them to work 21 hours a day and feed them scraps.
He has also banned the deployment of new workers to Kuwait and ordered airlines to fly home any of the 252,000 Filipinos working there who wish to return.
About 10 million Filipinos work abroad and the money they remit back is a lifeline of the Philippine economy. Their treatment abroad is often a political issue at home.
Kuwait’s foreign minister previously condemned Manila’s “escalation,” of the issue but Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on Friday the Kuwaiti ambassador had assured him his government was “outraged” over the killing and determined to find those responsible.
A distraught Eva Demafelis could only say “I am sad,” when asked by reporters about the death of her daughter.
“She does not deserve the manner in which she died. She was beaten up,” said an aunt, Rosela Demafelis Taunan, referring to local news reports about the 29-year-old maid’s death.
“She decided to go abroad because she wanted to help her parents repair the house that was damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan),” in 2013, the aunt recalled.
The slain maid also wanted to finance the college education of her youngest sister, Joyce, the aunt said.
Residents lined the highway as the funeral convoy escorted by police cars and motorcycles made its way to Demafelis’s hometown, about a two hour’s drive from the city.
Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said late Friday that “working groups” from both countries were discussing forging a memorandum for protecting the rights of Filipinos in Kuwait, many of whom are working as maids.
Domestic workers in that country are not covered by ordinary labor legislation, and accounts of Filipinos being subjected to abuse and exploitation in the Middle East have long circulated.


Nigeria’s president and main rival confident as polls close

Updated 1 min 5 sec ago
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Nigeria’s president and main rival confident as polls close

  • Suspected militants attacked Geidam town in northeastern Yobe state on Saturday forcing people to flee
ABUJA/MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: Nigeria began counting votes in Saturday’s closely-fought presidential election although the electoral commission extended voting in some places where polling stations opened late or ballot machines malfunctioned.
President Muhammadu Buhari and his main challenger, businessman Atiku Abubakar, both said they were confident of victory when casting their ballots in an election which was already delayed by a week due to logistical problems.
The vote in Africa’s biggest economic power is too close to call, with the outcome hinging on which man voters trust most to revamp an economy still struggling from a 2016 recession.
Buhari, a former military ruler who is seeking a second elected term faces Atiku, a former vice president who has pledged to expand the role of the private sector in Africa’s most populous nation and top oil producer.
They lead a field of more than 70 candidates in an election which was postponed last Saturday just hours before it was due to begin.
On Saturday, voting had been completed in some areas and the counting of ballots was taking place, Reuters witnesses said.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission is generally satisfied with the process and the procedures for the conduct of these present elections,” INEC official Festus Okoye told reporters in the capital, Abuja.
But he said there had been challenges related to the delayed start of voting in some polling stations and INEC had extended hours in the places affected.
Voting officially began at 8 a.m. (0700 GMT) and was due to close at 2 p.m. Okoye said 68 percent of polling units had opened by 10 a.m.
Okoye said INEC was investigating reports of attempts to steal electoral material in Lagos state and the southeastern state of Anambra, as well as violence in the oil-rich southern state of Rivers.
Problems related to malfunctioning voter card machines were mostly resolved, he added.

TERRORIST ATTACK
In the northeast, where radical insurgents have waged a decade-long war, blasts were heard in Maiduguri, state capital of Borno state, shortly before polls were due to open. In neighboring Yobe state, residents in the town of Geidam fled an attack around the same time.
A group called Daesh West Africa Province, an off-shoot of Boko Haram, claimed it had carried out an attack in Maiduguri. Boko Haram had warned people not to vote.
Army spokesman Col. Sagir Musa earlier said there had not been any attack on Maiduguri, but there had been an exercise by the military. He called the Geidam attack “futile” and said there were no casualties.
Buhari, who voted in his hometown of Daura in the northern state of Katsina, said: “I will congratulate myself, I’m going to be the winner,” when asked by reporters if he would congratulate his rival, should Atiku win.
Atiku cast his ballot in the eastern Adamawa state.
“I am impressed by the turnout of the people,” he told reporters.
“I look forward to a successful transition.”

DELAYS
Some of the country’s 72.8 million eligible voters were frustrated by delays.
Kingsley Moghalu, a presidential candidate for the Young Progressives Party, said he had only managed to vote at noon in the southeastern state of Anambra. He said polls opened two hours late and machines were not working.
“If as a presidential candidate my polling unit can be treated in this manner, I can imagine what a lot of Nigerians are going through in many parts of the country,” he said.
Other voters echoed his concerns.
“I’ve been to 10 polling units today. I’ve been redirected many times,” said Victor Kanoba, a voter in Lagos.
John Tomaszewski, an observer with the joint US National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute delegation, said delays had been expected given the challenge of getting materials to the polling stations in time.
“Logistics weren’t properly managed despite the postponement of the polls,” said Idayat Hassan, director of Abuja-based think-tank Center for Democracy and Development.
However, in Lagos’ business district Victoria Island, Reginald Anthony, 45, who runs a transport business, said: “We are seeing a transparent election, everything is open for everyone to see.”
After voting in the northern Kano state, Hadisa Hayatu, a 38-year old housewife, said: “I voted for Buhari because he has assured us that he is going to build on what he has done on security and other issues.”
An Atiku supporter in Kano, stylist Laurie Isaac, 27, said: “We need change. I need more work. I need my salary to increase.”