More Filipino migrant workers, who have been convicted for petty crimes, are still in Saudi Arabia jails despite having served their sentence, the Filipino migrant rights group Migrante said on Sunday.
John Leonard Monterona, Migrante sectoral party vice chairperson, said that at least 30 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are languishing in jails in Saudi Arabia despite completion of their sentence.
“We have monitored around 30 OFWs overstaying in Saudi jails,” said Monterona, who is also the group coordinator in the Middle East and North Africa.
Monterona said an OFW is considered as overstaying if he or she has served sentence but remains behind bars for about two to six months.
He said the OFWs were sentenced for petty crimes such as gambling, alcohol and drug possession, embezzlement, and illicit relationship.
“The possible reason they’ve been staying in jail is that they have to pay the private rights aspect, usually compensation in favor of the aggrieved party for loss, damage, or liability incurred by the petty crime offenders,” Monterona said.
He noted that there are also OFWs overstaying at jails in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Jordan, “although their number is relatively small compared to those in Saudi Arabia.”
Monterona urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and its Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) to review the cases of OFWs languishing in jails in the Middle East.
“The OFWs overstaying in jails really need legal assistance,” Monterona said.
He said he hopes President Benigno Aquino 3rd will re-issue the order he announced during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) to government agencies to do their best in helping distressed OFWs.
Monterona cited a legal assistance provision which sets aside P100 million annually as mandated by the amended Migrant Workers Act (R.A. 10022).
At a House budget hearing, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario confirmed that P52.2 million of the fund under the care of his department remained unspent.
Del Rosario added that only P7.78 million was used because of the limitations to the amount imposed by the Migrant Workers Act.
He said that only 196 overseas workers had benefited from the fund from 2011 to August 2012.
RITCHIE A. HORARIO