Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chiz urges Phl for prisoner exchange with other country

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, February 22, 2011-Senator Chiz Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights yesterday has urged the government for the prisoner-exchange agreement that should be pursued through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) by way of a bilateral treaty, explaining that there is a need that the country should initiate a prisoner exchange treaty with countries hosting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“In the light of the case of Ramon Credo, Sally Villanueva and Elizabeth Batain, Filipinos condemned to die for drug trafficking in China,” the Senator said, saying that their executions were temporarily suspended after China's Supreme Court extended a special arrangement regarding their cases.

“The government could work out negotiations with other countries similar to the RP-Spain Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement, which aims to ensure the effective reformation and rehabilitation of Filipinos serving sentences in Spain since they will be afforded the opportunity to serve their sentences in the Philippines,” he said, adding that our OFWs serving long sentences and are awaiting death sentences in countries where no family can visit them.

“This is already a scourge to both the convicted and their families. The anguish of not being able to talk to or see their families forever is already a sentence that amounts to death," Escudero said, adding that the agreement should not be on a quid-pro-quo-basis, which means that all prisoners should be transferred to their country of origin regardless of the number of foreign nationals in Philippine prisons.

“There is a need to pursue this treaty,” Escudero said, since our countrymen are in foreign jails rather than the other way around.

Escudero said that the government should move on it but not to condone what their deeds are but because it is the government's duty to look after the welfare of its citizens no matter if they are guilty or not, reiterating that the government should make available remedies and steps be exhausted to assist our countrymen.

More than 3,000 Filipinos abroad who are either in detention or facing criminal prosecution according to the DFA records and 70 percent are embroiled in immigration-related offenses and will be deported after serving brief sentences while the rest are in custody for crimes such as theft and drug trafficking.

78 Filipinos are convicted for drug charges and awaiting death sentences in China.

There are 630 Filipinos currently serving jail sentences worldwide for transporting drugs who are mostly dummies for drug lords where sixty two percent of them are female according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. (Jason de Asis)

3 million OFWs in Middle East need immediate attention

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, February 22, 2011-Senator Manny Villar, chairman of the Senate trade committee said that there is a need for immediate attention for a thorough study on the implications of the spread of hostilities across more Middle East countries on world oil prices and the national economy where around 3,000,000 Filipinos are situated in the Middle East and North Africa, adding that an estimated 6,000 Filipinos are in Egypt, around 40,000 workers in Bahrain and more than 10,000 workers in Libya.

Villar urged the government to make sure that the embassies in these two countries are fully-supported with contingency funds and manpower to assist our workers to safety when the situation calls for it while outbreaks of violence continue the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) advocate in the Senate said that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should lose no time in coming up with the appropriate travel advisories to warn Filipinos against traveling to Bahrain and Libya.

In the rising political tension in the two countries, Villar said that there may be workers leaving the country who are unaware about what's going on in Bahrain and Libya, advising that it may be wiser and safer for them to wait until the situation normalizes.

He called that at the very least, these workers should be instructed to immediately get in touch with the Philippine Embassy upon arrival for better coordination as tensions continue to engulf the Middle East.

He added that there is a need to be vigilant and to be prepared to deal with its impact on tens of thousands of Filipino workers in the region as well as on the incomes of their families here at home.

“The world oil prices continue to be affected by outbreaks of violence in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia and Bahrain,” he said, adding that the soaring oil prices could lead to further erosion of incomes and savings here at home. Thus, the government needs to be completely thorough in studying the effects of a prolonged crisis in the Middle East on world oil prices and overseas remittances.

Earlier, Villar also urged the trade, energy and labor departments to come up with a comprehensive study and concrete proposals on how an escalation of hostilities between protesters and government forces could impact on the national economy and the welfare of overseas Filipino workers. (Jason de Asis)


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