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Thursday, February 29, 2024

DFA says 83 OFWs on death row

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday disclosed to Congress that a total of 83 Filipinos are awaiting their fate on death row in various countries abroad.

DFA Assistant Secretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Paul Raymund Cortes revealed this to legislators during the hearing of the House committee on overseas workers affairs, chaired by Rep. Ron Salo of Kabayan party-list group.

Cortes said Malaysia tops the list with 56 OFWs on death row—30 of whom were sentenced to death due to murder charges, while 18 had drug-related offenses.

This is followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with six and five in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

Similarly, fifteen Filipino inmates are awaiting the death penalty in the United States (US), China, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Bangladesh.

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Meanwhile, Indonesia has one Filipino on death row—Mary Jane Veloso, a domestic helper from Nueva Ecija, who was arrested in 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia.

The committee conducted the hearing to hear from relevant government agencies in charge of protecting Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) of their efforts to protect OFWs.

Salo said the committee intends to come up with measures or policies that could help the OFWs, as well as improve the process extending assistance to the families of the victims.

Salo called the briefing after the burnt remains of OFW Jullebee Ranara were found in a desert in Kuwait on January 21, 2023.

“There were calls from our members for them to be informed also (on) how many cases are actually pending or how many of our OFWs have possibly met the same fate, but we may not have been informed or we don’t have knowledge or information of those. We are sure the frontline department or agencies may have the information,” Salo said.

It was also revealed that a total of 2,104 criminal cases filed against OFWs is also pending. These cases are usually filed as retaliation for absconding, theft, breach of trust and drugs, Cortes said.

Meanwhile Cortes said the top causes of OFW deaths in the last 10 years have been “COVID-19, vehicular accidents, natural causes, and medical illnesses, such as cancer, cardiac arrest, or organ failure.”

Cortes stated that for the past five years, the DFA has provided P288 million in assistance for the repatriation of the remains of OFWs.

It was also reported that only a total of 20 OFWs died as a result of murder or foul play.

Cortes stated that in such cases, the  DFA assists with the shipment or burial of remains, as well as financial and legal assistance for the prosecution, court fees, and other assistance requested by the next-of-kin.

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