Gov’t urged to provide full legal aid to Filipinos imprisoned abroad
MANILA, Philippines – As the execution of a Filipina accused of smuggling illegal drugs into China loomed, a lawmaker urged the Philippine government to ensure that the cases of Filipinos imprisoned abroad are handled by competent lawyers.
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said that the number of Filipinos jailed in other countries over allegations of drug trafficking “should be a cause for alarm.”
He said that Bayan Muna was set to file a House resolution to investigate the government’s alleged failure to provide legal counsel to Filipinos languishing in jail abroad on drug charges.
“This is among the predicaments many OFWs are facing. They are being imprisoned for allegedly being ‘drug mules’ or illegal drugs traffickers,” said the lawmaker.
A Filipina drug mule imprisoned at the Zhejiang Detention Center in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China was set to be executed within the week.
Citing data culled by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Colmenares said there were 710 Filipinos locked up abroad for narcotics offenses.
He said that in China alone, there were already 205 Filipinos accused of smuggling illegal drugs and 28 of them are in death row.
“I don’t believe that these OFWs’ due process rights were respected by the Chinese authorities. I don’t believe they were given a fair trial considering that they have no competent counsel,” said Colmenares.
The Bayan Muna legislator urged the government to “assert at least a commutation of sentence instead of parroting the Chinese mantra that their laws should be followed.”