Aside from diplomacy, the Department of Foreign Affairs has also been busy providing legal assistance to at least 4,775 Filipinos — of which 1,103 are women — who are languishing in foreign prisons as of the end of 2004, Senator Ralph Recto said yesterday.
Citing an official report from DFA, Recto said the number of “prisoner OFWs” is about 10 percent of the number of current domestic prisoners.
“The dispersal of Filipinos worldwide has also resulted in the incarceration of a few of them in diverse places. Some of those who have joined the great Filipino diaspora have never found their own ‘Promised Land,’” Recto said.
Of the 82 Philippine diplomatic posts abroad, only 12 reported that there was no Filipino detained or awaiting trial in their area of jurisdiction, Recto said, noting that most of the Filipinos imprisoned violated immigration laws.
Recto said the DFA’s global situationer on OFWs revealed that at least 1,200 Filipinos were detained in Malaysia, mostly in Sabah, following the country’s crackdown on undocumented workers.
Next to Malaysia was Israel, where the Philippine embassy in Tel Aviv reported that 1,028 Filipinos were facing charges in court. Those not out on bail are detained in jails in Ramle, Hadera, Nazareth, Beersheva and Holon.
Others were caught trying to sneak into the country without papers, as in the case of 13 Filipinos caught in Croatia.
Recto said the other countries with Filipino prisoners were Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.
“But many Filipinos in five continents were facing charges other than those that pertain to work or immigration concerns. Name it, they allegedly did it,” Recto said.
“One OFW issued fake checks in Vietnam. A nurse in Ireland was arrested for alleged Al Qaida links. A Filipina physical therapist in Michigan allegedly committed health fraud, and an aircraft engineer was arrested for smuggling contrabands into Nigeria,” he added.
In many Muslim countries, Filipinos were arrested and jailed for drinking alcohol, he said.
Recto also noted the rise in the number of Filipino women arrested for serving as “mules” or couriers of international drug syndicates.
There were also Filipinas in jails in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Hong Kong and Peru, among others, last year.
Other cases mentioned in the DFA report involved crimes of passion, including detention of a Filipino in a South American country for seducing teenagers.
In view of the rising number of Filipino prisoners abroad, Recto asked Congress to increase the DFA’s legal assistance fund in the proposed 2006 General Appropriations Act.