Recto: 130 Pinoys on death row overseas

SOME 130 Filipinos face execution for crimes committed abroad, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Tuesday as he called for higher allocation to provide legal aid to those suffering in foreign jails.

Recto said that at least 3,827 Filipinos are languishing in jails in 52 countries and territories as of the end of last year.

Citing a 1,084-page Department of Foreign Affairs report to the Senate, the senator said the figure could go up to 4,452 if 625 Filipinos reported to be under investigation will be treated as behind bars.

The report is a compendium of dispatches sent by Philippine embassies and consulates on the problems confronted by Filipinos in distress within their jurisdiction from July to December 2016.

Recto said it will be hard "to pin a final number, or piece together a complete picture of Filipinos in trouble with the law abroad" as many of the reports submitted by the DFA's 81 foreign posts "lacked details or were incomplete."

The Assistance to Nationals Fund proposed in 2018 national budget will jump two-and-half times to P1 billion in 2018, while a legal fund, also managed by the DFA, will double to P200 million.

"That would be a 150 percent increase, from this year's P400 million. It is a big jump. Pero kulang pa rin. Kung titingnan mo ang dapat tulungan, sadyang maliit ang halaga (It's still lacking. If you look at those who needs help, it's just a small amount)," Recto said.

Recto said 130 were in death row in 11 countries, with Malaysia having the most with 48 Filipinos "praying for clemency." Next is Saudi Arabia, with 43 awaiting execution or "forgiveness".

Recto observed that there was a "marked decrease" in the number of Filipinos sentenced to death in China.

"With only six reported Filipinos in death row, could this be a result of the thaw in Philippine-China relations?" Recto said.

Serving life sentences abroad were 137 Filipinos, 33 of them female.

As to the reason for incarceration, illegal drugs topped the list, responsible for putting 2,265 Filipinos in foreign jails, with 1,131 in Malaysia, 459 in Saudi Arabia, 146 in China, 106 in the United Arab Emirates and 63 in Italy.

Of those facing drug raps, 473 were Filipino women.

Recto noted that 50 Filipino women are jailed in South America, 21 in Brazil, 2 in Colombia, 23 in Peru and 4 in Ecuador.

Immigration offenses came next, accounting for 903 Filipinos jailed abroad, while robbery or theft was the reasons why 658 overseas Filipinos were locked up.

Other offenses allegedly committed were murder, homicide, and attempted manslaughter (270), embezzlement and fraud (307), physical injury and assault (171), rape and sexual assault (148).

Violation of host country's morals and religious law also sent many OFWs to jail.

"There were also 351 Filipinos in jail for homosexuality, immorality and what our diplomats classified as 'love cases,'" Recto said.

"There were other unique cases like witchcraft, sorcery and black magic, with 30 OFWs charged of or convicted for these. For consuming alcohol, 167 Filipinos landed in jail, mostly in the Middle East," Recto said.

"Mayroon ding nakulong dahil sa hindi nakabayad ng utang (19) at sa paglabag ng batas trapiko (17), pero marami ay dahil sa illegal fishing (246)," Recto said.

(Some are jailed for non-payment of debt [19] and violation of traffic laws[17], but many are due to illegal fishing [246])

By country, Malaysia hosts the most number of Filipinos serving "fixed-term jail sentences" with 1,927, followed by Saudi Arabia (391), United Arab Emirates (169), China (147), and Hong Kong (89).

By gender, of the 3,069 Filipinos slapped with "fixed-term including life imprisonment", 2,521 were male, and 548, female.

However, many of those in jail will soon be out of detention as the collated DFA report counted 1,181 OFWs waiting for deportation.

Overall, there were at least 4,745 Filipinos in trouble with the law in their host countries from July to December last year.

"This is just, however, the tip of the iceberg of Filipinos in distress in foreign lands. Sila yung nagkasala. Hindi kasama dito ang mga kababayan nating nabiktima. Di hamak na mas maraming Pilipino ang nakaranas ng pang-aapi or naabuso ang karapatan," Recto said

(They committed offenses. It does not include our countrymen who have been victimized. More Filipinos have experienced oppression or abuse of the right.)

Recto said a reading of the DFA's OFW situationer "would bring one to places, some with exotic sounding names, where one wouldn't imagine a Filipino landing in jail." (SunStar Philippines)
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