By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — The prostitution case that was to be filed against 18 members of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan, a Migrante-affiliated group in the Middle East, and the runaway overseas Filipino workers arrested and detained since August 14 has been dismissed.
“All of them were already released except for the three domestic helpers whose iqama or working permit has already expired,” Migrante International chairman Garry Martinez told Bulatlat. The three — Clemia Corpuz, Rosa Salazar and Amauri Meriz – might be deported soon, Martinez said.
Reynaldo Balagtas had only been working in Saudi Arabia for two months. But since he has a pending case against his employers at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh, and with his arrest together with other KGS members, Balagtas will be deported as well, Martinez said.
In a press release, Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona said the dismissal and the release have been confirmed by Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, saying that their case officers convinced the police that there had been no prostitution inside the KGS premises and that the Filipinos are members of a legitamate organization providing assistance to migrant workers in distress.
The muttawa, Saudi’s cultural police, raided the KGS’s safehouse in the afternoon of August 14 and arrested the members and leaders of the migrant group. Martinez said that the muttawa were surprised to see many cars parked in front of the safehouse. Unknown to the muttawa, KGS leaders were holding their weekly dialogues and counseling to the OFWs at that time.
It is against the customary laws of Saudi Arabia for people of opposite sex to live together unless they are married or relatives. The safe house was home to OFWs who escaped from their employers. But Martinez clarified that only the women OFWs sleep in the safehouse and that the KGS leaders would only check them once in a while during daytime to see if they are okay.
Martinez is calling for an immediate investigation into the non-return of the personal valuables of KGS members confiscated at the time of the raid. It includes a laptop, a digital camera, three flash drives and two cellular phones. “While they are personal belongings of the KGS members, it also contains organizational matters, too,” he said. “Keeping them would not make them rich.”
Now that the ordeal of the OFW leaders is almost over, Monterona believes that the next good thing the Philippine embassy in the Middle East should do is to work for the legalization of all undocumented and runway OFWs who are mostly victims of abuses and maltreatment from their employers.
Monterona said that there are about 26,000 undocumented and runaway OFWs in the Middle East and most of them are in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon. (Bulatlat.com)