DFA seeks to mitigate accusations of indifference to OFWs’ plight

November 9, 2009 11:27 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Nov. 10 — As though to debunk the near- daily barrage of accusations by a politically-motivated group that it is negligent of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said it is submitting to Congress a half-year report on assistance to nationals (ATN).

DFA monitoring indicates there are about 3,000 Filipinos in detention centers or facing criminal prosecution overseas. About 70 percent of this number involves immigration-related offenses, and are expected to be deported after serving brief sentences. The rest are in custody for common crimes, including theft and drug trafficking.

The non-governmental “Migrante International,” which has posed itself as an ally of OFWs in the Middle East and recently barred from joining the party-list elections in 2010, has been sending a barrage of press releases in various people’s names discrediting the DFA and the Commission on Elections.

The DFA claims that embassy and consulate officials and personnel conduct monthly jail visits to inquire after the welfare of incarcerated Filipinos. Approval of jail visitation in some countries, however, depends on the host government, DFA noted.

The DFA did not share the report itself with the press, but in a press release, it concentrated on cases of Middle East-based workers, particularly those in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It pointed out that there are domestic administrative procedures in host-countries that are part of why delays occur in the release of Filipinos who have fully served their sentences.

The DFA relates the story of Jason Mallorca Pineda, whose case the politically-motivated Migrante International has espoused and made noises for. “The presiding Judge informed that the case is still under the Court’s study and review,” the DFA quoted a note verbale from the KSA foreign ministry. The note verbale was in response to an earlier inquiry by the Philippine embassy in Riyadh.

Pineda’s case had earlier been endorsed by the General Prosecutor (of KSA) to the Grand Court of Dammam.

Pineda was detained at the Dammam Jail in March 2008 for allegedly receiving 21.2 grams of methamphetamine and selling it to his fellow Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi authorities, he allegedly confessed to the crime.

The embassy said Pineda remains in detention since under local laws, drug-related charges are non-bailable.

In the case of Jose Jonathan Botor Bigas, who has completed serving his sentence for a drug-related offense, also in Saudi Arabia, the DFA said it has already allocated funds for his return fare to the Philippines.

Strictly speaking, Bigas and his family should take care of his repatriation, but “all Filipinos abroad in need of assistance in whatever form must be given assistance by the DFA,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo has always stressed.

Bigas’ sentence was completed in August 2008, after a one-year imprisonment and 250 body lashes on drug charges, but has overstayed in a Saudi jail “due to administrative procedures between the Saudi court and the Governor’s Office,” the DFA explained.

The Pineda and Bigas cases are among the 43 involving Filipinos in drug-related offenses in Riyadh. In total, there are 62 Filipinos incarcerated in nine countries in the Middle East on drug-related cases, according to the DFA.

In Saudi Arabia, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) maintains four Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) located in Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Khobar, and Buraida.

Along with DOLE, the DFA regularly submits a report containing the inventory of Filipinos in jail in other countries. In cooperation with DOLE-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Philippine foreign service posts also maintain a Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) in countries where there are large concentration of Filipinos. (PNA)



5 Responses to “DFA seeks to mitigate accusations of indifference to OFWs’ plight”

  1. eidtorializing on November 10th, 2009 4:09 pm

    “The non-governmental “Migrante International,” which has posed itself as an ally of OFWs in the Middle East and recently barred from joining the party-list elections in 2010, has been sending a barrage of press releases in various people’s names discrediting the DFA and the Commission on Elections.”

    Ms Baylon, WTF are you talking about? What’s with you and Migrante?

  2. eidtorializing on November 10th, 2009 4:12 pm

    “whose case the politically-motivated Migrante International has espoused and made noises for.”

    again, WTF!

  3. man on the street on November 10th, 2009 9:19 pm

    Miss Baylon, isang tanong lang. MAGKANO? Kahihiyan ka sa propesyon mo. Saglet ano bang propesyon mo, magsulat o magbenta ng kaluluwa.

    Magtayo ka ng sarili mong publication. . Bash Migrante, eto ang suggestion kong pangalan. Magkano ba bayad sayo ng DFA? E totoo namang inutil yang mga yan.

    Payo lang, konting swabe naman sa pagtatanggol sa DFA, halatang halata ka
    PR ka ba ng DFA?

  4. John Leonard Monterona on November 10th, 2009 9:30 pm

    Press Release
    10 November 2009

    Actual numbers of jailed OFWs could be more than 3,000; Foreign Affairs dept. failed to come up a dependable count

    Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations with chapters in different countries in the Middle East, today said the Department of Foreign Affairs’ flow estimate of 3,000 OFWs detained in various jails abroad could have been far less than from the actual numbers of OFWs now languishing on various jails in the Middle East.

    John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said the numbers of OFWs in various jails could have been more, not just 3,000 as claimed by the Foreign Affairs department.

    “First, on the documentation of OFWs in various jail, the DFA and its RP posts failed to come up a dependable count, thus we have all the reasons to believed there are many who are still unaccounted,” Monterona added.

    Monterona said the 70% of the 3,000 cases are not just simply cases involving immigration-related offenses as what the DFA claimed but cases associated to abuses, maltreatment and rampant labor malpractices.

    “The DFA failed to include the rising numbers of OFWs temporarily seeking refuge at the Embassy-run Filipino Workers Resource Centers (FWRCs), Bahay Kalingas’, and safe houses maintained by the regional offices of Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA),” Monterona added.

    The Saudi-based OFW leader said he once asked a consular official if each RP post maintains a data-base of all arriving OFWs including their sponsor-employer but he just received an answer on the negative -meaning there is none.

    “A data-based of all deployed OFWs including their sponsor-employer maintained by the RP post concerned would be a big help as it will give them an easy and ready reference in tracking the whereabouts of OFW and address of its sponsor-employer,” Monterona averred.

    In reference to DFA statement issued yesterday about rising OFWs cases in Saudi Arabia and other Middle-eastern countries, Monterona said this only proved that the Foreign Affairs department could not effectively handle the numerous OFWs cases abroad.

    “The DFA and different RP posts abroad especially in the Middle East are observe to be re-active especially when OFWs cases are reported by the media; the numerous and rising cases involving OFWs rendered the different RP posts to be ineffective and in-efficient at all in providing services to distress OFWs,” Monterona averred.

    “Never-ending abuses (sexual and physical), maltreatment, and rampant labor malpractices forced OFWs, especially domestic helpers, construction and service workers that comprises 80% of the deployed OFWs in the Middle East, to run away from their erring employers,” the OFW leader added.

    Monterona opined it should be a turning point for the Arroyo administration and the next administration to shun from continued wholesale exportation of OFWs abroad without concrete protection mechanism in placed for their well being, rights, and welfare.

    “The only guarantee that no Filipinos will be put behind bars abroad is for the RP government to develop the economy through genuine implementation of agrarian reform program with all the support services provided to farmers, and nationalization of basic industries paving the way to a robust economy that is capable of generating local decent jobs; thereby no one will be forced to accept jobs abroad without protection,” Monterona added.

    Monterona ended saying Migrante chapters in the Middle East are supporting Migrante Partylist because on its Migrants agenda, among many others, it will work to put a stop to intensified labor exportation without clear protection mechanism put in place for OFWs working abroad that runs counter to continued peddling of OFWs by the Arroyo regime, thus the Arroyo-influenced COMELEC will do everything to prevent Migrante from participating in the May 2010 party-list Elections. # # #

    For reference:

    John Leonard Monterona
    Migrante Middle-East regional coordinator
    Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

  5. King Alfonso on November 10th, 2009 10:58 pm

    TO DFA,

    So if DFA claims that they visit people in jail, so why don’t DFA report any action on their release? Any action taken so far?

    Migrant Filipinos in Arabian countries suffer grave abuse and the Philippine Government are too slow or not even doing any further actions to solve this problems. The mitigation process do not promise release based from this article.

    We have to be thankful that Migrante or such political action groups campaign against these injustices faced by migrant workers, because if there were no Civil Society group actively advocating for the welfare of migrants such as Migrante, what could have become to Filipino Migrants?

    The DFA along with the Philippine Government are heavily criticized because you do not represent the Filipino People, if you do, then we could’ve been planning for the better, but because YOU DO NOT, then expect people to ACT!!!

    Filipino Migrants have no choice but to go abroad due to Poverty which is not their fault. A Poverty caused by your Corruption! So it is so shameful of your government to make defenses against this, it shows you are guilty of leaving Filipino people ( whom you pledge to serve ) die and be punished….. You should make an effort in understanding simple knowledge that why Filipino people are imprisoned and do not just blame poor Filipinos about their fates to save your souls!!!

    How many more Filipinos are accused wrongly and you did not even act to represent their ordeals…????

    Mas kriminal kayong dapat na hatulan dahil sa mga kahungkagan ninyo at huwag niyo kaming sabihan na kami ang lahat ng may kasalanan! Ang lipunang Pilipinas ay kailangan ng pagbabago para di na kami umalis sa aming bansa para magpaka-alila at paapi sa mga dayuhang inyo namang pinagsisilbihan, kaya kayong DFA at kasalukuyang gobyerno, Magsipag-tigil kayo sa inyong mga kamangmangan at paninira sa tunay na organisasyong nag-tataguyod ng aming karapatan!!!!