MANILA – Families of the two overseas Filipino workers who were charged with possession of illegal drugs in Saudi Arabia accused Philippine embassy officials of negligence after their loved ones were sentenced to three years of imprisonment and 600 lashes.
The families of the two OFWs, Jason and Salvador (not their real names), reported to Migrante International Middle East chapter that the two arrived in Saudi Arabia in January 2006 and August 2009, respectively. On July 30, 2009, Saudi police raided their living quarters, which was provided by the company they were working for. The police entered their rooms, searched and seized their things then handcuffed them after a policeman allegedly discovered a sachet of heroin from their belongings.
Both OFWs have maintained their innocence. Their families said Jason and Salvador were never assisted by embassy officials and were not given a legal counsel during the court hearings. A lower court issued its decision and sentenced the two OFWs to three years of imprisonment and 600 lashes.
“It appears that the two (OFWs) have been framed up,” Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona said in a statement. He added that they too have gathered, studied and investigated the circumstances surrounding the charges hurled against the two.
However, the absence of legal assistance provided by Philippine embassy officials, often citing lack of funds, has made the defense of the two OFWs weaker. “We would not be surprised at all if OFW victims would be imprisoned or even sentenced to death after a series of case hearings without a lawyer for their defense, even if they are innocent on the crime charged against them,” Monterona said, “Such government neglect is unpardonable!” (Bulatlat.com)