21 November 2008
Garry Martinez, Chairperson,
Tel. No.: (0921-7229740)
OFWs CALLS FOR JUSTICE NOT CLEMENCY
"We are innocent. We have nothing to apologize for. We are ready to die fighting for the truth rather than to admit to crimes we did not commit." These were the messages by the Gonzales brothers to their sister Norie Gonzales in their last phone conversation two days ago.
OFWs Edison and Rolando Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla were convicted for the crime of murder and sentenced to death by beheading by the Lower Court in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The sentence was upheld by the Appellate Court in September 15, 2008.
Crescente R. Relacion, Executive Director of the Office of the Undersecretary on Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the DFA allegedly told the families of the three OFWs in death row to ask for apologies to the families of those who were murdered in Saudi Arabia. According to Norie they were also told that a blood money should be paid to the victims' families in order to complete the requirement for a clemency.
"This is outrageous! First and foremost, the three OFWs were tortured during interrogation. Why is the Arroyo administration trying to persuade them to admit to the crimes they have not committed?" exclaimed Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.
The group claims that Relacion's action is a follow-up move after President Gloria Arroyo talked personally to Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud during the United Nations General Assembly in New York last November 13.
"The Arroyo administration is bungling this case from the very start. DFA officials were aware of the fact that the accused OFWs were tortured and they were even informed that Rolando Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla was hospitalized in the process of interrogation, " Martinez said.
Migrante also expressed their concern that the three OFWs will suffer the same fate like Jenifer Beduya who was beheaded last October 4 allegedly due to the criminal neglect of the government. Consul General Tago admitted during an interview that Beduya was only given an interpreter instead of a lawyer during preliminary court hearings.
'Bring them home before Christmas'
In a press conference held in front of the gates of the Department of Foreign Affairs building, Migrante together with families of OFWs in death row also launched their campaign called "Bring Them Home Before Christmas."
"The yuletide season is nearing and one of those who are praying hard to be with their love ones this Christmas are the families of distressed OFWs," Martinez explains.
The group claims that there are thousands of distressed OFWs who have ask to be repatriated back to the country yet were not being attended to by the government. Migrante cited that this clearly violates repatriation provisions of RA 8042 or the Magna Carta for Overseas Filipinos.
"The campaign will cover not only OFWs in death row but also those who are stranded abroad like OFWs in Kish Island in Iran among other places, Filipina domestic workers who are in welfare and deportation centers specifically in Jordan and Kuwait. And sadly, the campaign will also call for the repatriation of OFW remains such as Manuel Ocreto's, which have not been reunited with their loved ones even after months or even more than a year after their death," adds Martinez.
The group plans to drum beat their campaign up to the International Migrants Day on December 18. On that day, in 1990, the UN General Assembly adopted the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families of which the Philippines signed and ratified in July 2001. ###