February 21, 2011
Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today led families of other OFWs in death row and in jail in a rally held at the Mendiola Bridge to demand government attention and legal assistance for their relatives.
Migrante is presently handling the cases of eight (8) OFWs in death row and 121 in jail (13 of which are drug-related cases). According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, since 2005, six (6) OFWs whose cases they have handled have been executed via beheading.
Some of the OFWs in jail for drug-related offenses, mostly in the Middle East where death penalty is in practice, have not been provided legal assistance and representation by the Philippine government. (please see attached).
According to Migrante’s monitoring, there are currently 125 OFWs in death row. Of the 125, 85 are drug-related and 79 of these are in China jails. The rest are in the Middle East, Malaysia and Thailand.
“Let us also not forget that there are also others in death row who continue to appeal to the government for much-needed attention and intervention,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez also said that while we all heave a sigh of relief and celebrate with the families of the three Filipino nationals whose scheduled execution in China has been suspended indefinitely, there is still a need for the Philippine government to make clear the terms and conditions of the deferment. “Have their sentences been commuted? How long is the suspension, is it a matter of days, months, years? Will this affect the fate of at least 190 others in China jails for the same offense? Or the more than 120 others in death row elsewhere?”
OFWs in death row
Relatives of Joselito Zapanta, Edison and Rolando Gonzales, all in death row in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, joined today’s rally.
Also present were the families of Sonny Palasigue, Edmar Aquino and Carlito Lana, OFWs languishing in Middle East jails. Palasigue and Aquino were charged with drug-related cases, while Lana was sentenced for murder. Their families are also appealing to the Philippine government to provide them with much-needed legal assistance.
According to data from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are at least 7,000 OFWs in jail all over the world.
“Warnings” from DFA, DOLE
Martinez also slammed the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for saying that the case of three Filipino nationals in China “should serve as a warning” to all OFWs and Filipino travelers.
“Instead of laying the blame on OFWs and so-called ‘willing victims’, the government would do better to address the root causes of these cases and act in haste in employing effective resolutions to poverty and joblessness, as well as decisively go after syndicates and their coddlers in government,” he said.
Martinez blamed past and present administrations’ “labor export policy”. “Our Filipino workers will always be subjected to these tragedies for as long as the government sticks to promoting labor export policy unmindful of the welfare and protection of our OFWs. Unless the government creates enough decent jobs at home to curb forced migration, it will always be responsible for every life that is threatened, endangered or lost.”
Migrante and its chapters worldwide are gearing for internationally-coordinated protests against state abandonment and attacks on the rights and welfare of OFWs on March 17, death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion.
Reference: Garry Martinez, Chairperson