Filipino held in Saudi over tanker explosion

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012


MANILA -- A Filipino truck driver in Saudi Arabia is now under investigation by local authorities over the tanker explosion in Riyadh last week that killed 23 people, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

Citing wire reports, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez identified the Filipino as Robin Kebeng, who was supposedly driving an oil tanker, which caused the explosion last November 3.

Kebeng, who has been working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for a year, is supposedly now under the custody of the Criminal Investigation Office (CIO) in Riyadh.

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Hernandez said the Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Ezzedin Tago had tried to visit the distressed Filipino and to verify his identity, but authorities there prevented their meeting pending the investigation.

Hernandez said the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia is ready to extend legal assistance to Kebeng to help him in his defense.

"The CIO is still investigating the incident. The CIO told the embassy that they have a Filipino guy who is being investigated, so our ambassador went there to find out his condition and verify his nationality, but he was not allowed by the Saudi authorities to visit for now," said Hernandez in a phone interview.

Tago and other embassy officials likewise visited on November 3 the eight other Filipinos who were injured in the traffic accident, which resulted in an explosion along Khurais Road in Naseem District in Riyadh.

Six of the total 14 Filipinos injured from the incident are still confined at four different hospitals in Riyadh, while eight have been earlier discharged.

One Filipino truck driver, Florentino Santiago, was among the 23 people killed when the tanker truck supposedly driven by Kebeng crashed into a concrete flyover in Riyadh, resulting in a massive explosion.

Officials from the Embassy's Assistance-to-Nationals Section (ANS) and Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Polo) in Riyadh conducted a round of visits to the other injured Filipinos on November 1 and 2.

Tago conveyed his sympathies to those still confined in hospitals and expressed the embassy's readiness to extend assistance until they recover. He also thanked the management of the hospitals for the medical attention and care they have extended to the Filipinos.

Workers group Migrante-Middle East, meanwhile, called other Filipinos in the kingdom to be vigilant against potential hate campaigns from Saudi nationals.

"Let's be vigilant and take extra care for the negative repercussion of this recent development implicating our fellow OFW as the driver of the exploded fuel tanker," said the group.

Records show that there is an estimated 1.2 million OFWs in Saudi with many employed as engineers, nurses or hospital workers, accountants, office workers, construction workers, restaurant workers, and maids. (JCV/HDT/Sunnex)

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