A migrant workers group on Monday urged the government to utilize the P100-million fund to provide legal assistance to Filipino workers who are ‘overstaying’ in Saudi Arabia jails.
Filipino migrant rights group Migrante noted that P52.2 million of the legal assistance fund under the care of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) remained unspent.
The yearly appropriation of P100-million legal assistance fund is mandated by the amended Migrant Workers Act of Republic Act 10022.
“The government must properly utilize the fund in providing legal assistance to OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]in distress especially those who are still languishing in jails amid completion of jail terms,” Migrante vice chair John Leonard Monterona said.
Monterona earlier cited that in Saudi Arabia, there are at least 30 jailed OFWs for petty crimes who have already completed their jail terms but still languishing in various Saudi jails.
“Certainly, they need a lawyer’s services who will follow up their release,” he added.
Monterona also specifically noted the cases of at least six OFWs, among them is Rodelio Lanuza, in Saudi death row who are in need of a lawyer’s services.
“The case of OFW on death row, Rodelio ‘Dondon’ Lanuza is a case in point that needs close follow up,” he added.
He said Lanuza’s case requires the services of a locally hired lawyer who can facilitate and attend the required proceedings for his release.
The Philippine embassy, he added, is just simply monitoring and following up Lanuza’s case with the Saudi Reconciliation Committee (SRC), a Saudi quasi-government agency that facilitates negotiation for possible settlement involving death row cases just like the case of Lanuza.
“We want pro-active legal and procedural intercession on cases of overstaying OFWs in various jails and those on death row who are awaiting their release,” he added.
Monterona said that “the wait-and-see stance by the Philippine government and its officials abroad must be changed as it not only prolongs the misery of jailed OFWs but also causes injustice not only to jailed OFWs but also to their respective families in the country.”