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October 25, 2002

44 Overseas Filipino Workers in Saudi face execution

Why not replace these executed and /or stranded workers with Palestinians as a show of Arab solidarity?
The militant group Migrante International said yesterday that 44 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia are scheduled to be beheaded after being convicted of various crimes.

At the same time, Migrante revealed some 1,500 other OFWs who escaped from their employers are stranded in the country since their passports have been withheld.

"We urge the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to actively monitor and intervene in the cases of the imprisoned OFWs, especially those on Death Row," said Poe Gratela, Migrante secretary general.

Gratela cited the cases of three OFWs recently declared innocent of murder charges but who still remain jailed.

Lito Alejo of Bulacan, Romeo Cordova of Cavite and Ramiro Esmero of Laguna, charged with killing a Saudi Arabian policeman and imprisoned for almost six years, were all declared innocent last July, Gratela said.

He said still they remain behind bars, waiting for the Saudi court to process their release papers.

Gratela said President Arroyo even visited Alejo’s wife and promised he would be home in five weeks.

"That was 13 weeks ago," he added.

Another group of Filipino migrants aching to go home are the stranded workers. Gratela said there are around 1,500 stranded workers in Saudi Arabia, 200 of them in Riyadh.

To be able to return to the Philippines, Gratela said, the stranded workers need release papers from their former employers, as well as their passports and plane tickets which are often also kept by the employers.

In some cases, even when the employers have given the documents, the OFWs still could not return because they did not have money for plane tickets.

"The plight of Filipino migrants in Saudi Arabia is ironic given the Philippine government’s statements about its contingency plans for the OFWs when the United States attacks Iraq," said Gratela.

He urged that in addition to intervening in the legal cases of the imprisoned OFWs, the Arroyo administration should also focus its resources toward bringing home these Filipino migrants.

For this, the government need not wait for the outbreak of war," he said.