Alleged lack of govt assistance to jailed OFW hit

SAYING that she experienced difficulty in reaching the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) only to hear “alibis” from the agency’s official, a sister of a jailed OFW on Tuesday decried the lack of assistance provided to her brother and a fellow OFW who have been jailed in Saudi Arabia.

Gemma Bansil, sister of jailed OFW Jason (not his real name) from Pampanga, sent an email to Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona asking for help for his brother whom she said was suffering from tuberculosis.

On June 30 last year, Jason and a fellow OFW were nabbed on illegal drugs possession charges in Hail City, about 100 kilometers away from Saudi’s capital Riyadh.

Allegedly, an undisclosed amount of heroin has been confiscated by the local police on that same day.

However, the two OFWs maintained that there was no drugs found on their possession and that what they have are their vitamins.

The two said they have been framed up and the drugs were planted.

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 Saudi Arabia during a phone conversation sometime on mid-October last year.

The families of the two jailed OFWs claimed that they were never been assisted by Philippine embassy officials, and there was no local lawyer hired during case hearings.

“We find it difficult in reaching the DFA because they have many alibis such as they cannot easily go there (Hail City) because the place is far, no approved travel, no approved budget for transportation, and so on,” Basil said.

Philippine Embassy third secretary and vice consul Roussel Reyes replied in his letter that an embassy staff had “visited the two and provided them with the appeal memorandum drafted by a Sharia’h lawyer in their behalf.”

The embassy official, however, did not mention when the embassy staff visited the jailed OFWs and handed a draft copy of the appeal memorandum as the two were only given 15 days to file their appeal.

Monterona disclosed that during conversation over the phone, the vice-consul admitted that they did not hire the services of a local Sharia’h lawyer to attend on the appeal proceedings because their budget request for hiring a local lawyer has not been approved by the DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA).

“So, how could we say that the jailed OFWs rights, who are insisting that they are innocent on the crime charged against them, to a fair and impartial trial would be guaranteed if there is no lawyer hired to attend on the appeal filed in court?” Monterona asked. D’Jay Lazaro

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