MANILA, Philippines? (UPDATE) Thirty-eight overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are detained in Brazil and Suriname for various drug trafficking charges since 2008, the Dangerous Drugs Board said Wednesday.
In a press conference, DDB chairman Vicente "Tito" Sotto III stressed that the Filipino government is unable to help the detainees.
"Nakatali ang kamay ng gobyerno ditto (The government?s hands are tied). The policy when it comes to drug trafficking is you cannot seek the government's help," he said.
Citing records from the Philippine embassy in Brazil, DDB revealed that of the 33 detained OFWs in Brazil as of December 31 last year, 22 were female and 11 were male.
Since the start of the year, Sotto said, five more have been detained by Brazilian authorities.
Data from the DDB revealed that most of the detained OFWs were arrested in airports for smuggling cocaine.
The Filipinos are serving sentences ranging from three years to 13 years, Sotto said.
Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Teresita Barsana, also the concurrent Ambassador to Colombia and Suriname, gave the information at the Forum for East Asia-Latin America and the Workshop on the World Drug Problem held in Bogota, Colombia last March which DDB Undersecretary Romeo Vera Cruz also attended.
Some of the OFWs are still undergoing trial and are detained in jails in Brazil, he added.
Sotto also revealed that a Nigerian syndicate was responsible for recruiting Filipinos as drug mules, but declined to give further information pending investigation.
He said the syndicate is operating in various parts of the world, including Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.
To prevent such incidents, Sotto asked migrant workers to "stick to legitimate jobs when they go abroad."
"This is unfair to most (OFWs) dahil nasisira ang pangalan nila (their reputation is destroyed)," he said.