Wednesday, 15 July 2009, DAMMAM – Twenty-six Filipinos were arrested by local police over the weekend in two separate raids held in Dammam, Saudi Arabia for possessing fake documents, the Philippine embassy in Riyadh reported.
Local authorities found out that those arrested possessed fake marriage contracts and “iqama” or resident certificates. Last Thursday, eight couples were arrested when police found them drinking inside a flat. An irked neighbor tipped off the authorities because of the noise, an informant identified only as Becka told ABS-CBN.
Becka said that two of those arrested were her co-workers at a ladies shop in Dammam. One is a master-cutter and the other one is a beautician. “All sixteen of them got arrested, eight men and eight women. Of those arrested, two are my workmates,”Becka said. Due to the arrest of her two co-workers, Becka said their employer temporarily closed their shop. Becka fears that she might also lose her income if the dress shop will not be reopened soon. Becka told ABS-CBN that she only learned about the arrest on Friday morning.
“My friends called me while inside the prison asking to transfer celfone loads so that they can call their families back in the Philippines. I have been in constant contact with them because I am also worried their situation,” she said. The eight couples, as Becka was told by her friend, were planning to go night swimming on Thursday. They were busy preparing their food which they will bring to the beach when the police came. At first they were apparently caught drinking liquor. Becka said her friends denied this during their telephone conversation. When the police asked for their identification, some of those arrested ere caught having fake marriage contracts and iqama.
Becka said the Filipinos fear they may be charged with prostitution. “My friend said its not true that they were doing something wrong. They were just preparing for the picnic. However, it was a big mistake that they planned to go out in the evening,”Becka said.
Meanwhile, 10 more Filipinos were arrested also last Saturday night. Labor attache David Dicang admitted that five more couples were arrested for having also fake marriage contracts. Dicang said that the local authorities are currently conducting saturation drives to stop the illegal activities of expatriates, particularly those who do not have work permits or resident certificates. This, however, also led to the arrest of couples who have fake marriage contracts. But according to the labor attache, they have yet to receive the formal reports from the local police. He already sent his staff to get the names of those arrested and the charges filed against them. “Some of them are runaways, and some have fake marriage contracts. So these might be the cases to be filed against them. One couple who got arrested do have legal documents. However, they may be charged of harboring illegal workers or harboring runaways,”Dicang said.
Ambassador Antonio Villamor instructed Dicang to closely monitor on the situation of the 26 Filipinos arrested and to give them the required assistance. Villamor again reiterated that Filipinos in the kingdom must abide with the laws and regulations of the host country. He said that the embassy noticed an increasing number of OFWs being caught and incarcerated due to illegal activities. “As guest workers in the kingdom, we are not only expected but are obliged to follow and respect the laws and regulation being enforced by the Saudi authorities,” Villamor said. The ambassador stressed that fake marriages and giving refuge to workers who fled from their employers are serious offenses which carry a penalty of imprisonment, lashes and excessive fines if found guilty.
By DINAN ARANA ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau