Another Filipino worker accused of drug charges freed after 7 months in detention

APRIL 29, 2011, RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Another Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia accused of drug charges freed today early morning, according to OFW Congress, an OFW advocacy group based in Riyadh.


Citing a report from the Philippine embassy in Riyadh, the Filipino, whose identity was withheld upon request of the family, was apprehended on September 2010. The Overseas Filipino Worker  were accosted in an entrapment operation by Saudi authorities on an alleged tip off  that the Filipino was engaged in selling shabu known as poor man’s cocaine.

On November of 2010, the Filipino along with his companion was charged of Drug Pushing. A heinous crime in Saudi Arabia by which if proven guilty will receive  harsh judgment by the Saudi court and that includes beheading.

OFW Congress wrote a formal request for assistance with Philippine Embassy prompted the Assistance to National section of the Embassy to verify the case.

For the past seven months, persistent diplomatic efforts were made to follow up the case in order to avoid severe judgment from the court.

The Philippine post exerted more effort and pressed for royal clemency. The embassy included the name of the OFW in the list submitted to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, for the grant of royal clemency.

The Embassy’s efforts was favorably acted upon, the OFW was eventually released from jail and flown back to Philippines early morning of Friday, 29 April 2011.

Clemency  in drug related cases however, prevents the OFW to return back to Saudi Arabia for employment and to other Gulf  countries in the Middle East as well.

The Filipino worker is the 4th Filipino freed on drug related cases in Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2011. Just recently a Filipino sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia was released successfully through the embassy. Earlier, Michael Roque was released from prison in February 2011, while Nonito Abono was released in November 2010.

The OFW Congress-Riyadh and the OFWempowerment blog  is thankful to Charge D’ Affaires, Consul General Ezzedin Tago and to the Assistance To Nationals section of the Philippine Embassy particularly, ATN head Atty. Roussel Reyes and post representatives Jerome Friaz, Mr. Macapundag and Mr. Haris for the job well done.

To the recruitment agency of the OFW in the Philippines and to his employer who made an important contribution for the early resolution of the case.  -end- BongA


Remittance power of Overseas Filipinos to drive community development

Unlad Kabayan, a migrant worker NGO, is one of the beneficiaries of Remit4Change.

Innovation to Spur Remittance-driven Development thru Corporate Social Responsibility

A new programme, called Remit4changewas launched last week by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) in partnership with the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research & Action (TIGRA), a California-based non-governmental organization. The program promotes an enabling environment for the collective remittance practices of Filipino overseas to boost local economic development.“With this programme, we aim to develop an innovative grassroots model of migrant-centered and driven development that truly embodies President Aquino’s Public-Private Partnership strategy for national economic development,” commented Sec. Imelda Nicolas of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. “We have partnered with TIGRA to adopt and adapt its Remit4change program which will generate funding for community-based projects through principles and practices of corporate social responsibility in the money transfer industry.”

Francis Calpotura, TIGRA Executive Director said: “Every time our kababayans use a US-based money transfer company accredited by TIGRA, that company will contribute $1 to a community development project of the remitter’s choice. The remitter selects from a list of projects aimed to improve the lives of migrant families.” According to TIGRA’s estimates, in 2010 alone, Filipinos overseas transacted more than 50 million money transfers from more than 120 countries.

“We launched Remit4Change for Latin America last year, and we’re ready to replicate the program in the Philippines this year. Our partnership with CFO is a historic step in making migration an option and not a necessity for economic survival for millions of Filipinos,” added Calpotura.

“We strongly support and campaign for Remit4Change which highlights the vital role of migrants in generating corporate community reinvestments as a viable and practical model that benefits migrant communities,” commented Melanie Valenciano, Program Officer at Unlad Kabayan, a Remit4change beneficiary and the lead Philippine-based, migrant worker NGO that collaborates with TIGRA in implementing the program. “Furthermore, Remit4Change also reinforces the broader need for lower, fairer, and more transparent remittance fee-pricing that will democratize the industry.” read more>>>>

OFW Congress will initiate OFW Contingency Plan

OFW Congress will initiate OFW Contingency Plan

18/04/2011, RIYADH: OFW Congress-Riyadh will initiate OFW Contingency Plan and seek approval from our Philippine Embassy. The said OFW Contingency plan will serve as model contingency plan in any crisis such as natural calamity and other form of uncertainties in the future detrimental to the lives of OFWs in the region.

The group formed a committee assigned to draft and formulate mechanism for an effective contingency plan in the whole area of Riyadh or Central Region as a whole.    

Initial steps were drawn up for an effective OFW contingency plan as follows:

a)  OFWC  will initiate, draft and formulate OFW Contingency Plan or OFWCP.

b)  OFWC will request Philippine Embassy to invite Filipino Community Organizations (Philippine Embassy to host the meeting at the Embassy grounds).

c)  OFWC will request the Philippine Embassy to hear their side of contingency plan. 

d)  OFWC will present their Contingency Plan (Detailed Power Point Presentation) to FILCOM Organization in Riyadh.

e)   OFWC and FilCom agreed  OFWCP should be approved by our Philippine Embassy.

f)    Upon approval, the OFW Contingency Plan should be submitted to Overseas Preparedness and Response Team (OPTR) in Malacanang.

g)  OFWC/FilCom and /Philippine Embassy will request the OPTR to create a “STANDBY EMERGENCY FUND” that can be used in time of the actual needs based on the submitted OFW Contingency Plan (OFWCP).

OFWC Executive Vice President and Committee Chairman,  Engr. Faisal Sarque said irrespective of the nature of their group, all OFW organizations must join the OFWC initiative contingency plan – whether they like it or not,” adding that “the said contingency plan is for the general welfare of the OFWs in the mentioned area.” 

OFWC will identify area coordinators in areas, like Industrial Areas in Riyadh where huge concentrations of OFWs are found. 

OFWC VP-Economic Affairs, Engr. Allan Macabangkit said that 70% of OFWs who are not member of any organizations are covered by the Contingency Plan.” 

The group also urging Filipino Community Organizations to support the Philippine Embassy/POLO/OWWA’s advisory to register all OFWs online. This can be done by compiling all their members information and register it at once via online. (END)

OFW Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia Released, Thankful for Embassy’s Relentless Work

OFW Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia Released, Thankful for Embassy’s Relentless Work

18 April 2011- The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) earlier sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia was granted pardon and freed Sunday. His repatriation to the Philippines has been arranged by the Embassy and he is due to arrive in Manila shortly.

The Embassy is not releasing his name, in deference to the request of the OFW’s family for privacy.

The OFW was earlier sentenced to death by beheading in November 2009 by a tribunal of three judges for involvement in smuggling the illegal drug shabu into Saudi Arabia.

In February 2008, he was apprehended by Saudi law enforcement agents after receiving a postal package with shabu hidden inside. The smuggling and selling of illegal drugs in the country is a crime punishable by the death penalty

Following his arrest, the Embassy exerted utmost efforts in ensuring that his legal rights were respected during the investigation process and in trial.

Through the Embassy’s efforts, an appeal was filed on the original decision. Based on the appeal prepared by the Embassy with the assistance of counsel, two members of the tribunal reduced the earlier penalty from death penalty to 15 years imprisonment, 1500 lashes and a karama (fine) of Saudi Riyals 100,000.

Subsequently, the Embassy included the OFW’s name in the list submitted to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud for the grant of Royal Clemency. The Embassy’s efforts was favorably acted upon, and he was ordered released after serving a total of three years in detention.

Upon release, he tearfully thanked the Embassy for its relentless efforts at working for his release from prison.

He expressed gratitude to Charge d’Affaires (CDA) Ezzedin H. Tago for the Embassy’s tireless efforts on his case. Vice Consul Roussel Reyes, legal officer Jerome Friaz and interpreter Jamel Haris worked relentlessly for his release. The OFW vowed to pursue a different course in his life as a freed man with his family in the Philippines.

“His release is testament to the hard work and tireless dedication of the men and women of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh in safeguarding the welfare of every Filipino in Saudi Arabia,” CDA Tago said.

The OFW is the third Filipino sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia whose release was successfully secured by the Embassy. Earlier, Michael Roque was released from prison in February 2011, while Nonito Abono was released in November 2010. END

Philippine Embassy Advisory 24-2011


Phillippine Embassy Advisory 24-2011


To: All Filipino Community Organizations in Saudi Arabia/ Fellow OFWs 

This is to inform you-all that the Philippine Embassy has launched an ONLINE REGISTRATION for all Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, as per above Philippine Advisory 24-2011

We all knew that not all Filipinos in the Kingdom have access in the internet, in view of this, the OFW Congress-Riyadh is requesting all Filipino community organizations to register the names of your members

To those companies where there are large numbers of OFWs, one or two OFWs in the company can collect the names of their fellow OFWs and register it at once.

Hinihingi po namin ang “Bayanihan” ng lahat upang maging successful po ang proyekto na ito ng ating Embahada, POLO/OWWA.  Isantabi muna po natin ang mga hindi pagkakaunawaan, kundi bagkus magtulongan para sa kapakanan at kagalingan ng ating hanay.

Maraming Salamat Po.

From: OFW Congress-Riyadh   

Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule

Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule

Countries With Severe Anti Drug Laws: In Indonesia you’d be looking at 10 to 15 years for drug possession, while in other places like Malaysia and Singapore it can range up to 50 years. Serious drugs charges in Tunisia can land you in jail for up to 20 years.

Turkey’s jails are notorious, and a drugs conviction could mean you’d be seeing the inside of one for up to 20 years. Smoke cannabis in India and you could lose 10 years of your life behind bars. If you’re caught smuggling drugs in Venezuela, it’s at least 10 years, while Morocco has a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine for possession. Perhaps surprisingly, Jamaica is tough on drugs possession, with mandatory jail terms and heavy fines even for possessing small quantities of drugs.

Even Europe isn’t all liberal in its attitude to drugs. Not only does Greece have life in prison as a deterrent, but Italy can put you away for up to 20 years, and Spain is only slightly less lenient – a maximum of 12 years.

If you’re a migrant workers overseas and arrested on drugs charges, you have the right to see the Embassy or Consulate – in fact, the local police are obliged to contact the Consulate or Embassy. Be aware, however, that they can’t do much. They can’t get you out of jail, or even see that you obtain better living conditions.

The solution, of course, is to not use or carry drugs abroad. Don’t be tempted to take them in your luggage for money or let yourself be tricked into it.
Parts of the Middle East, especially the Gulf States, treat drug possession harshly. In Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, even possession of miniscule amounts of marijuana – too small to be seen – can result in several years in prison.
Saudi Arabia, where those convicted of drug trafficking can end up beheaded in public. Pushers and Users will be jailed for an unknown number of years prior to trial. 
 Say NO to Drugs, Say NO as a Drug Mule!
An Anti-DRUG Courier Campaign of OFW Congress-Riyadh

Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislation?

Babalik AKO Bayan Ko!

A few months ago, I featured an excerpt of a blog entry from a former OFW who was known in the OFW Community in Riyadh. In fact we met each other in 2003 during the 1st OFW Conference on Reintegration in KSA initiated by then Labor Attaché Jainal Rasul, Jr.  Like me, he was one of the resource speakers in that conference but we haven’t got the chance to be introduced with each other.

That particular blog entry titled “Dream Big Dreams – a Gadfly’s Wish Listcaught to my attention.  It is a dream for a creation of a specific body tasked with OFW economic reintegration.  And this could only be realized through a legislation to be enacted as a law by the Philippine Congress.  

The same blog entry that inspired OFW Congress Executive Council members to pass a resolution addressed to Pnoy and VP Binay, to quote as follows:     

**“WHEREAS, some of our returning OFWs failed in their business endeavors for lack of  entrepreneurial preparation, short of knowledge in savings mobilizations and unguided investment schemes resulting into failures and bankruptcy. In view of this, we strongly believed that a separate agency or institution is necessary to handle the complex issue of OFW Economic Reintegration. In line with the Presidents’ commitment for transformational leadership and the governments’ agenda that working abroad would not be anymore a necessity for Filipinos; WE therefore urge the President to facilitate the creation of a special body whose task is to craft up policies and comprehensive approach as well as concrete mechanisms for OFW Reintegration Program.**

Three days ago Romie Cahucom in his new blog entry “Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislationexplains the necessity why our Congress should pass a comprehensive OFW reintegration legislation as early as possible. What was happening in Middle East and the natural calamity that hit Japan means displacement and suffering  for our modern day heroes.  Therefore, the government must be economically prepared for the eventual return of OFWs.

Click here>>> to read more “Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislation.

Binay to set up foundation for the needs of distressed OFWs

Riyadh, KSA: Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay arrived and tired from Qatar  fulfills his promise to met Filipino Community in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last Friday, April 1, 2011 at Liwasang Bonifacio ground of the Philippine Embassy,  to tackle OFW issues and concerns. But prior to that, Binay visited first the Bahay Kalinga (Filipino Workers Resource Center) to see for himself the real situation of the Filipina distressed workers housed in the mentioned shelter.

Philippine Delegation (seated): Alexander Aguilar of HDMF, former Agusan Del Sur Congressman Rodolfo "Ompong" Plaza, VP Jojo Binay & CDA Ezz Tago.

He vowed to create a foundation that could supplement to the needs of the distressed OFWs in emergency situation such as availability of  funds in securing tickets for immediate repatriation of those OFWs who have already the clearance to leave Saudi Arabia.

During the open forum, he was asked about why  there’s been such a long delay in making the appointment of a new Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom, Binay said “an appointment had already been made but  he can’t reveal it at the moment who the appointee was.” But it was noticed that the Vice President addressed Philippine Embassy Charge D’ Affaires Ezzedin Tago,  as “Ambassador”.  

Binay who is also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Affairs, said that a technical committee in Manila was formed to review the issue of the host country’s temporary ban on deployment of Filipina Household Service Workers. The OFW Congress-Riyadh on the other hand presented to Vice President Binay a letter supporting the temporary ban and perhaps stops sending FHSW in the host country.

FilCom leaders Engr. Eli Mua, Gob Dimalotang, Alex Bello, Jhune Barbadillo

The letter expressed deep concern of our FHSW on their welfare and safety. There are more countless stories that can be shared by our “kababayans” which to them can no longer be erased and will just remain a traumatic experience that will hound them in the remaining years of their lives. The risks  is too much for us to take, although, we are aware that sending these domestic helpers here in the kingdom would somehow decrease the rate  of unemployment in the Philippines and will bring additional dollar remittances to the country  however, we should also try to weigh our concerns.” The letter also challenges the Philippine government and Filipino Community leaders in the kingdom, asking “which is bigger in scope and responsibility? The dollar remittances or their welfare and safety.”  The letter also includes,  expediting the status of those OFWs in Death Rows and working for a possible commutation of their death sentences.

Aside from labor matters, the Vice President is expecting to discuss trade and investment with officials of the Saudi government. The Philippine delegation led by Binay are former Senator Kit Tatad, former Philippine Congress representatives, Apolinario “Jun” Lozada of Negros Occidental and Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza of Agusan Del Sur, Jesus Varela and Alexander Aguilar of Home Development Mutual Fund, former Governor Ben Loong of Sulu, and Binay’s son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay –end-