Demafelis’s ‘recruiter’ yields to CIDG

The alleged recruiter of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) whose body was found inside a freezer in Kuwait yielded on Thursday to the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) at Camp Crame.

Agnes Tuballes, tagged as the recruiter of Joana Demafelis, voluntarily surrendered to the CIDG, claiming she was unaware of Demafelis’s fate until she learned about it from stories carried by the media.

Demafelis’s body was found inside a freezer at an abandoned apartment in Kuwait, a year after she went missing. Her case was among the reasons the Duterte administration banned the deployment of Filipino workers in Kuwait.

“I came out to clear the issue, that I am an illegal recruiter and now a suspect. I hoped you sought my side first before you reported on television,” Tuballes said, particularly decrying a report by GMA 7.

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“Now, my children are being bullied in school. You should have sought my side before you judged me. I am not the suspect, now it seems that I am the primary suspect. I was not the one who killed Joana for you to show my pictures without any permission,” she said.

Tuballes, single and a former OFW herself having previously worked in Hong Kong and Qatar, was presented on Thursday in Camp Crame by the CIDG. She admitted that she recommended Demafelis to a certain Mariz, a secretary at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel placement agency, which processed the deployment of Demafelis to Kuwait.

Tuballes said she received P13,000 as commission for referring Demafelis. She admitted that the amount was unusually higher than the P5,000 standard fee received by agents like her.

“I just helped so that she [Demafelis] can go abroad legally. I [helped place] her to [a] legal agency. I did not wish her to get killed or die there,” Tuballes said.

“Now, my work is affected. Who will feed my two children?” she said.

Tuballes said she did not hear any complaint from Demafelis’s family until she learned of her death from the media.

“I was shocked when I heard the news [about Demafelis]…almost one year I was at home [in Iloilo], why no one from the family came to [to tell] me that they have not contacted her for so long,” Tuballes said.

All the while, Tuballes said she thought Demafelis was doing okay in Kuwait.

Director Roel Obusan, CIDG chief, said Tuballes is not yet considered as a suspect, but admitted she is included in the ongoing investigation regarding Demafelis’s case.

Initially, Obusan noted the modus of Tuballes and her contact in Kuwait, identified as Ara Midtimbang, who is married to a Kuwaiti.

According to Tuballes, Midtimbang asked her to find a legal placement agency they can use in deploying OFWs in Kuwait so she established ties with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Obusan said they would continue their investigation into the case, adding they did not present Tuballes as a suspect.

He, however, said Demafelis was a victim of what could be a wrong modus in the deployment of Filipino workers by recruitment agencies.

 

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Rene P. Acosta covers defense, law enforcement and national security for the paper. He had written for a number of publications, including abroad before he joined BusinessMirror. His works had appeared in the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Asia Pacific Defense Forum, both in the US. He took up regional security with the International Visitor Leadership Program, US. He is currently the chairman of the board of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines which he had headed in 2009.