Monday, January 26, 2009

Migrant groups support bill deploying more Legal Attache' in the Middle East

Press Release
24 January 2009

Migrant groups support bill deploying more Legal Attache' in the Middle East

Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers organizations with chapters in Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and with members in other Middle Eastern countries throw its strong support on the proposed bill that would provide the provision of deploying Legal Attache in the Middle East.

On Thursday, Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo filed House Bill 5657 creating Legal Attache Office whose legal diplomats will be deployed in the Middle East to provide legal assistance to OFWs facing criminal charges.

Migrante-Middle East said the deployment of Legal Attache has long been a campaign launched by the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), a pioneering member-organization of Migrante based in Riyadh, along with other OFW organizations since 1998.

"Deployment of government's Labor Attache was the very promised by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she visited Saudi Arabia on May 2006 during a meeting with the Filipino Community at the Philippine Embassy," said Mario Ben, KGS-Migrante Chairperson.

However, Ben added it's just "a promise that was made to be broken".

He said the necessity of having Legal diplomats deployed in the Middle East is as much as important as having Labor Attache.

"The fact that the statistics of OFWs in distress are increasing and many of which encountered legal problems with no legal representation during trial who would end up in jail would give justification for the Philippine Government through the DFA to seriously decide to deploy a considerable numbers of Legal Attache that will provide assistance to OFWs with legal problems," Ben averred.

Migrante-Middle East and Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter last week urged the Arroyo administration through the DFA and Philippine Consular Office in Jeddah to provide legal assistance to OFWs Ryan Anievas who was accused of distributing fake riyals and Eddie Javier who was driving a truck that (was) smashed (by) a Saudi national.

On a case dialog with Migrante-Saudi Arabia on 14 January, Consul General Ezzadin Tago said PCG "did not reject" OFW Anievas request for a lawyer because they "simply cannot hire one". It manifested that the order to hire a lawyer must come from the DFA's Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) in Manila.

"OFWs Anievas and Javier are only among the many OFWs who are facing legal problems; in fact majority of those languishing in jails were deprived of legal representation during their trials," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Migrante-ME said despite the huge amount appropriated from the national budget to the DFA's Assistance to the Nationals (ATN) as mandated by R.A. 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, the Arroyo administration and the Foreign Affairs department miserably failed to hire lawyers to readily defend OFWs on trial.

"The government should hire the services of Filipino Muslim lawyers who have better knowledge in Sharia law or conduct legal trainings and seminars among diplomatic staff abroad for this purpose," Monterona added.

Migrante-ME manifested that if the Arroyo regime has genuine will and care for the protection of OFWs rights and welfare, a bill is no more needed which usually take time to becoming a law.

"What the Arroyo administration should do is to issue an Administrative Order to concerned government agencies such as DFA and Department of Justice and thus, effect the creation and deployment of Legal Attache in the Middle East, since budgetary requirement for the provision of legal assistance is already appropriated to DFA's ATN and is not an issue at all" Monterona averred.

Migrante-ME ended saying since the present administration does not have serious concern and care for OFWs and their families, Bayan Muna Rep. Ocampo's initiative of filing HB 5657 is better than never. Thus, OFWs and their families will campaign and lobby to members of the Congress for its immediate passage by sending lobby letters and email barrage.

For reference:

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator,
Migrante Sectoral Party Vice-Chairperson
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

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