Saudi court meted 3 years imprisonment, 600 lashes to 2 Saudi-based OFWs for alleged illegal drug possession; families deplore RP embassy neglecting their case
An alliance of Filipino migrant rights group in the Middle East today said there are two Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in
The family and relatives of the two OFWs have sought assistance to Migrante after the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) allegedly refused to provide legal assistance by hiring a local Shariah lawyer for their defense citing an insufficient assistance fund as reason for its refusal to render assistance for the two troubled OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said the request for assistance came from the families of the two detained OFWs who went to Migrante International office in
Monterona said OFWs Jason and
The two OFWs have been working in
According to the victims’ families, on July 30, 2010, the two OFWs were arrested by Saudi police who have raided their company-provided accommodation. The police have entered into their room, searched and seized some of their personal belongings, then handcuffed the two after the police pulled off allegedly a sachet of heroin.
Monterona cited the signed affidavit issued by the families to Migrante which they claimed that the 2 OFWs have never been assisted by RP embassy officials and without legal defense during a series of case hearings.
On October 4, 2010, the Saudi’s lower court issued its verdict finding the 2 OFWs guilty of illegal drugs possession.
“They have been sentenced to 3 years imprisonment plus 600 lashes,” Monterona citing the OFW brother of one of the victims who is also working in
Monterona said based on the circumstances of this case, which they have gathered, studied and investigated, the 2 OFWs could be innocent on the charges hurled against them; “it appears that the 2 have been framed up,” he added.
“But what is condemnable is the absence of legal assistance provided by the concerned RP embassy to the 2 OFW victims; often the lack of legal assistance fund is cited as justification why there is no local lawyer hired for the defense of the accused OFWs and others on a similar case,” Monterona averred.
“We won’t buy this “no legal assistance fund” alibi, as there are enough un-used funds for the legal assistance of OFWs at the Department of Foreign Affairs as previously revealed by DBM Sec. Butch Abad amounting to 52.6-M and 67.7-M balances of legal assistance funds from 2009 and 2010, respectively,” he added.
Monterona said this is again a clear case of neglecting distress OFWs who have been in jail and accused of illegal drug possession punishable by death, and yet there is no legal assistance provided and no RP embassy personnel to attend scheduled case hearings.
“We won’t be surprised at all if the OFW victims would be imprisoned or even meted death after a series of case hearings without lawyer on their defense, though they are innocent on the crime charged against them. Such government neglect is unpardonable!” Monterona continued.
Meanwhile, Monterona cited the case of Rose Jane Mahilum who was arrested in
“This is another case where the RP embassy in
Migrante International Rights and welfare committee (RWAC) had sent an email dated 12 October to the RP embassy in
Migrante-Middle East inquired to the concerned RP post and it was known yesterday that nobody from the RP embassy in