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Gov’t should help other Filipinos in foreign jails–solon

By: - Reporter / @cynchdbINQ
/ 04:52 AM December 11, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The government should also provide legal assistance to the 576 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) languishing in various jails in 31 countries, following the execution of a Filipino drug mule in China Thursday, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said on Saturday.

Angara said there should be no “China only” policy when it came to extending legal aid or seeking clemency for Filipinos jailed in foreign lands, although the biggest number of OFWs charged with drug possession was in China at 207.

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Of the number, 69 have been sentenced to death but with a two-year reprieve, while 45 have been sentenced to life imprisonment. The rest are undergoing trial.

Angara said the 207 figure was way above the 157 cases reported by five Philippine consular posts in China last year.

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The Department of Foreign Affairs said 369 OFWs similarly situated in other nations also needed legal assistance.

Angara said that based on a 495-page report on the status of migrant workers for the period July to December 2010 alone, which the DFA collated from its 92 posts abroad, Italy came next to China, with 76 Filipinos facing drug charges.

Third on the list was Saudi Arabia with 70 cases, Brazil (44), Peru (38), Thailand (24), Hong Kong (20), Macau (17), Spain (11), India ( 9), France( 8), Iran (8), Indonesia( 7), Ecuador (6) and South Korea (5).

More women than men

Brunei, Qatar and Vietnam have three cases each while Argentina, Chile and United Kingdom each reported two.  Bolivia, Germany, Guam, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Singapore, Sri Lanka and UAE had one each.

By gender, more Filipino women were behind bars than men, or 289 to 233. Some posts, however, did not indicate the gender of the detainees.

Of the women caught for drug possession, 35 were in Peru, 26 in Brazil, six in Ecuador, two in Argentina, two in Chile, one in Bolivia and one in Surinam.

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“The fact that an increasing number of Filipino women are being caught in South America, where in some parts the cocaine trade is a major export industry, is a cause for alarm,” Angara said.

Angara also noted the emergence of Kuala Lumpur and Macau as favorite jumping-off points to China as they were the ports of origin of at least a dozen Filipino drug mules apprehended by Chinese authorities, including the one executed on Thursday who had flown from the Malaysian capital.

While majority of countries where Filipinos are detained for drug possession do not impose the death penalty, “the certainty of conviction is always present so that the assurance of help from our government must be certain as well,” Angara said.

Light sentence

In Argentina, two Filipino women are serving a relatively light sentence of four years each for drug smuggling but a Filipino caught in Indonesia has been meted out the death penalty, Angara said in citing the “variance of penalties from country to country.”

He said the government should heed the suggestions of its foreign offices on how to curb the recruitment of Filipinos as couriers of international drug syndicates.

The recommendations, according to Angara, range from the call of  embassies in South America for the government to coordinate with the likes of Interpol to smash the drug trafficking syndicates, to the recommendation by the Bangkok embassy that Filipino travellers be informed of the perils of accepting packages from persons they only recently met.

Angara said the data on Filipinos facing drug cases worldwide was not static as it could frequently change due to the deportation of some detainees or the arrest of drug mules.

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TAGS: Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, China, Filipino drug mules, Overseas Filipino workers
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