MANILA, Philippines - Apart from the three whose execution has been deferred, there are 79 other Filipinos awaiting their fate on China’s death row, an overseas workers group said yesterday.
Migrante International said more than 120 other Filipino workers are also facing death sentences in other countries.
The group lauded the efforts of President Aquino in successfully halting the execution of the three Filipino workers in China.
However, the government should not give its “best shot” at the last minute in saving the lives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row because “this is not a game,” Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said.
“The Aquino government should waste no time to start, as early as this time, appealing to the Chinese government the commutation of the other 79 OFWs on death row, and also the more than 120 others in other countries,” the group said.
Monterona said Migrante is presently handling the cases of eight Filipinos on death row and 121 others in jail in the Middle East. He said 13 of the Filipino workers jailed face drug-related offenses. Since 2005, six Filipinos whose cases Migrante has handled have been executed, mostly in Saudi Arabia.
Monterona said every case of OFWs on death row must be treated with urgency by the Philippine government.
“The case of the three OFWs, who were supposed to be executed on Monday and Tuesday, is a bitter reality to confront; efforts to save OFWs whose cases are punishable by death should start from the time a proper case has been filed and hiring the best legal defense team the government can provide,” Monterona said, noting that most were victims of international drug syndicates.
Monterona suggested the launching of a national campaign involving all concerned government agencies to inform the public of the dangers of being victimized by international drug traffickers and syndicates.
“The foreign affairs department and various Philippine posts abroad must be ready to do their share in the campaign against drug trafficking and syndicates by swapping information and forging cooperation with the host government to combat this drug menace victimizing our dear OFWs,” Monterona said.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada also suggested going after the principal players of the international drug cartel.
Estrada blamed illegal recruiters behind the plight of unsuspecting Filipino workers, mostly women, who are enticed to become “drug mules” or couriers of international drug syndicates.
The women are paid between $500 and $5,000 to swallow tubes containing the drugs, carry them hidden in their luggage or even dissolved and soaked into paper or books. The lack of jobs at home is a major reason why women in particular resort to smuggling drugs. Estrada said authorities must focus their attention on the personalities involved in enticing Filipino workers to transport illegal drugs.
Estrada noted most of the suspected drug mules are not even OFWs registered at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).