Santiago pushes bills protecting OFWs

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sAVe ouR mom mark darrel (right) and mark daniel (left) hold placards appealing to the government to save their mother, mary Jane veloso, from death. mary Jane is facing execution in indonesia for drug smuggling. Photo by Mike De Juan

sAVe ouR mom mark darrel (right) and mark daniel (left) hold placards appealing to the government to save their mother, mary Jane veloso, from death. mary Jane is facing execution in indonesia for drug smuggling. Photo by Mike De Juan

AS another Filipino faces execution abroad, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Saturday urged her colleagues to act on pending bills and resolutions aimed at protecting the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

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Santiago, a former trial court judge and a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, has authored several measures in the 16th Congress concerning migrant workers.

“The case of Mary Jane Veloso, who is now on death row in Indonesia amid allegations of drug trafficking, adds sense of urgency for the Senate to intensify legislation protecting our OFW,” she said.

The senator added that she had asked the Senate committee on labor earlier this year to ask that it prioritize her measures, including at least five resolutions seeking inquiries, in aid of legislation, on cases involving OFWs.

In November 2014, Santiago filed Senate Resolution No. 1007, urging the chamber to probe the reported proliferation of illegal recruitment incidents online.

She also pushed for a similar probe in April 2014 through S.R. No. 608.

“It appears that Veloso is a victim not only of illegal recruitment, but also of drug syndicates using unsuspecting OFWs as drug couriers. Such cases may be avoided if we put in place stronger safeguards,” Santiago said.

Veloso was arrested, tried, and convicted in Indonesia in 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into the country.

The migrant worker however claimed that she is a victim of an international drug syndicate. Her counsel meanwhile noted that Veloso was not able to defend herself well, and was deprived of a lawyer and translator during interrogation.

Citing data from an advocacy group for Filipino migrant workers, Santiago said while Veloso is the only Filipino facing execution in Indonesia, globally, some 123 other Filipinos have been sentenced to death.

“All legal and diplomatic means must be exhausted to ensure that Filipinos abroad are not wrongfully deprived of life or liberty. But the ideal situation is one where remedy is not necessary. We must prevent these cases from happening,” the senator said.

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