The attention given to a menace that is causing havoc to the lives of some of the overseas Filipino workers especially those working and living in the Middle East is not enough–given the scale and effect to significant number of OFWs.
This menace is involvement in illegal drugs and participating in drug activities.
Until now we have not heard any concrete program of the Philippine Government to combat this menace. No program has been heard about from government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and its diplomatic posts, and the Philippine Overseas Labor offices (POLOs) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) offices abroad, both adjunct agencies to the Department of Labor and Employment, on any collaboration with the host government to curtail a menace and prevent the unnecessary loss of the lives of some OFWs who have been lured into engaging in devious activities leading to their own demise, if not to their own very deplorable situation.
There were, however, recent advisories issued by at least the two Philippine diplomatic posts in the Middle East cautioning OFWs to turn down enticements to vice and shun deviant activities.
In an exclusive report by GMA News online (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/541173/news/pinoyabroad/60-of-203-detained-pinoys-in-saudi-s-western-region-facing-drug-charges) posted October 19, 2015, the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia revealed that sixty of the 203 detained Filipino workers in the Western Region of Saudi Arabia are facing drug-related cases.
Some of these Filipinos have already been sentenced while others are still facing trial, according to the Philippine consul general.
The figures of drug-related cases cited by the PH Consulate in Saudi Arabia cover only the areas of Jeddah, Yanbu, Madinah, Taif, Mecca, Jizan, Najran, Abha, and Tabuk.
There were drug-related cases, too, involving OFWs in Riyadh and the Central and Eastern regions.
On March 13, 2016, a related report was published (http://filipinotimes.ae/news/2016/03/03/stay-away-from-illegal-drugs-ambassador-tells-pinoy-expats/)
by the Abu-Dhabi based English news online, The Filipino Times, quoting Philippine Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Constancio R. Vingno, Jr.
Illegal drugs are one of the top reasons why OFWs are serving time in UAE jails, according to Ambassador Vingno as quoted in the news report.
He added that there could be over a hundred of OFWs jailed for various drug-related offenses in the Emirates.
The OFWs are either facing charges of smuggling, selling and using illegal drugs.
There was a recent drug-related case in Riyadh, which led to the murder of a 25-year old OFW as the father (also an OFW in Riyadh) of the victim sought my assistance to demand justice for his son. There were at least 7 OFWs involved in this case. Six allegedly committed the murder of their fellow co-worker in an apparent disagreement over a drug-related activity.
The lifeless body of the victim was found August 13, 2015 in Jeddah. According to the
father’s victim, it was on August 3 that his son asked his permission as the latter said he will be going to Jeddah with his friends and co-workes.
Three of the six suspects were apprehended and locked up in a Riyadh jail, while the other three remain at-large and who are believed are already in the Philippines.
In this case, 7 OFW lives have been wasted not to mention the tragic effects, emotionally and financially, to their respective families, for these OFWs were usually the bread winners.
There is really a need for concerted efforts among the affected people and the people and agencies with responsibility over the OFWs. These are the Filipino communities, the Philippine government and all its concerend agencies, and the host governments.
They must all collaborate in programs to squarely face the drug menace wrecking havoc on the lives of Filipinos working and living here in the Middle East.
Meanwhile the calls to all OFWs must be made louder and more persuasive warning them against the illegal drug activities and engaging in any way in the illegal drug trade and supply– for crime does not pay.
About the author: John Leonard Monterona is a leader of the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia. For many years he was the MIGRANTE Middle East Coordinator and in that capacity help many OFWs who found themselves with all kinds of problems there.