14 January 2009
Accused OFW's plea to have a lawyer rejected by PCG;
Migrante-ME said it is gross disservice
"Rejection by the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah to a plea by an accused OFW providing him a lawyer to defend himself in court is gross disservice, not just simply a disregard of one's duty," thus said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
Monterona is reacting to the response by the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to the plea of OFW Ryan Torres, 29 years old, an administrative staff of Resource Science Arabia Limited (RSAL) working for Petro Rabigh Project.
OFW Torres had sought Migrante's assistance as he was falsely accused of distributing fake riyals, Saudi's currency. The said riyals were also given to him as a change when he bought from other stores.
Monterona advised OFW Torres to seek legal assistance to the PCG-Assistance to the National Services (ANS) to provide him a lawyer for his defense.
"The accused OFW informed us the other day that what the PCG-ANS could provide him is a translator, and not a lawyer. For whatever reason, the PCG-ANS only knew," Monterona said.
Monterona said that such intense legal battle to prove that OFW Torres is innocent of the crime charged against him would certainly needs a local lawyer who could defend him during his trial especially that he is perceived belonging to third class category of foreigners.
"What a translator could do is to convey to the accused what the prosecutor and judge are saying during the hearing and interpret the documents written in Arabic. No more, no less," Monterona averred.
Monterona deplores the determination on the circumstances of this case by the PCG-ANS and arrived at a decision of not providing lawyer to the accused OFW despite that it is duty-bound to provide legal assistance to include the provision of hiring a lawyer as mandated in R.A. 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.
"The PCG in Jeddah must take a read on Article V, section 24 to 26 of R.A. 8042. There is no reason why OFW Torres would not be eligible for the legal assistance as mentioned in these provisions of the law," Monterona opined.
Monterona further said that this is not the first time Philippine Embassies and Consular Offices have rejected the plea of distress OFWs to provide them a lawyer for their defense.
He even noted that some of the OFWs in death row, at the beginning, have been denied services of a local hired lawyer. Migrante along with their families would always push the Department of Foreign Affairs to hire a lawyer for their defense during case dialogs.
"So what's the use of the millions of legal assistance fund appropriated yearly in the national budget coming from the tax payer's money, coming from billions of OFW remittances?" Monterona queried.
He said the Congress must look into it how the DFA spent the millions of money appropriated for the legal assistance of OFWs.
'"In the Philippines, poor people could seek the legal services of the Public Attorneys Office for free. Now working in a foreign land, to whom we could ask for legal assistance if our officials abroad would not heed on our plea to provide us a lawyer?" Monterona averred.
"It is now perceived that corruption encompasses in any branch of the government under the Arroyo administration. We don't want to think that the DFA and its foreign offices abroad have been afflicted by this very contagious disease," the OFW leader ended. # # #
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator,
Migrante Sectoral Party Vice-Chairperson
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012