Government acting on OFW death penalty cases

MALACAÑANG on Saturday reassured the families of some 102 Filipinos in death row abroad that the government is pulling all the stops to help them.

Presidential Communications Group official Herminio Coloma said it is “standing policy” for government to extend all possible assistance to the Filipinos and make sure justice is served.

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“Anyone in government will do everything to make sure our fellow Filipinos abroad get justice and protection),” he said on government-run dzRB radio.

“Rest assured we will monitor the cases. We will make sure our countrymen abroad will not be denied their rights,” he added.

At least three agencies – the Departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Labor and Employment (Dole), and Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) – are involved in such cases.

While the DFA and Dole coordinate with the proper authorities to ensure the rights of the Filipinos in Death Row are respected, the DSWD attends to the Filipinos’ families at home.

“I think it is a standing policy for agencies like the DFA and Dole and for the DSWD to help the OFWs’ families,” he said.

Earlier, the DFA said it is extending full legal and other assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) involved in death penalty cases.

As of July 2010, there are 102 active OFW death penalty cases. Of these, 16 are OFWs in the Middle East who are charged with murder/homicide (including rape/robbery with murder).

The DFA said 74 are drug-related cases, most of which are in China, while three are non-drug related cases.

“All the accused OFWs are assisted by legal counsel and regular updates on the status of their cases are submitted by the concerned embassies or consulates general to the DFA,” the DFA said in its website.

It added that the Philippine government has regularly interceded on behalf of numerous OFWs with death penalty cases, and will recommend further presidential intercessions as the need arises.

The DFA said since January 2006, 35 death penalty cases have been commuted to life imprisonment. Of these, 15 were repatriated to the Philippines while 20 are serving commuted sentences.

Of the 16 pending death penalty cases in the Middle East, the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) has already obtained four signed tanazuls and currently negotiating or commencing negotiations for 10 OFWs.

Meanwhile, six cases pending in China “without reprieve” are on appeal with the Chinese Supreme Court.

The non-critical death penalty cases in China “with reprieve” allow a two-year suspension of sentence and possible commutation to life imprisonment for good behavior.

The DFA has constantly warned OFWs from becoming drug couriers given the high penalties imposable on these offenses in China and other places. (JMR/Sunnex)
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