At least 3,827 Pinoys in jail in 52 countries

Pinoys in Jail Worldwide

At least 3,827 Filipinos were languishing in jails in 52 countries and territories as of the end of last year, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said, citing a 1,084-page Department of Foreign Affairs report to the Senate.

But the figure could go up to 4,452 if 625 Filipinos reported to be under investigation will be treated as behind bars, Recto added.

The report is a compendium of dispatches sent by Philippine embassies and consulates on the problems confronted by Filipinos in distress within their jurisdiction from July to December 2016.

Recto said it will be hard “to pin a final number, or piece together a complete picture of Filipinos in trouble with the law abroad” as many of the reports submitted by the DFA’s 81 foreign posts “lacked details or were incomplete.”

Of the 3,827 incarcerated Filipinos, 130 were in death row in 11 countries, with Malaysia having the most with 48 Filipinos “praying for clemency,” Recto said. Next is Saudi Arabia, with 43 awaiting execution or “forgiveness”.

Recto observed that there was a “marked decrease” in the number of Filipinos sentenced to death in China.

“With only six reported Filipinos in death row, could this be a result of the thaw in Philippine-China relations?” Recto said.

Serving life sentences abroad were 137 Filipinos, 33 of them female.

As to reason for incarceration, illegal drugs topped the list, responsible for putting 2,265 Pinoys in jail abroad, with 1,131 in Malaysia, 459 in Saudi Arabia, 146 in China, 106 in United Arab Emirates and 63 in Italy.

Of those facing drug raps, 473 were Filipinas. “Pati doon sa South America, may 50 na mga Filipina na nakakulong o may kaso dahil sa droga. 21 sa Brazil, 2 sa Colombia, 23 sa Peru, 4 sa Ecuador,” Recto said.

Immigration offenses came next, accounting for 903 Pinoys in jail abroad, while robbery or theft was the reasons why 658 overseas Filipinos were locked up.

Other offenses allegedly committed were murder, homicide, and attempted manslaughter (270), embezzlement and fraud (307), physical injury and assault (171), rape and sexual assault (148).

Violation of host country’s morals and religious law also sent many OFWs to jail. “There were also 351 Pinoys in jail for homosexuality, immorality and what our diplomats classified as ‘love cases,’” Recto said.

“There were other unique cases like witchcraft, sorcery and black magic, with 30 OFWs charged of or convicted for these. For consuming alcohol, 167 Pinoys in jail, mostly in the Middle East,” Recto said.

Mayroon ding nakulong dahil sa hindi nakabayad ng utang (19) at sa paglabag ng batas trapiko (17), pero marami ay dahil sa illegal fishing (246),” Recto said.

By country, Malaysia hosts the most number of Filipinos serving “fixed-term jail sentences” with 1,927, followed by Saudi Arabia (391), UAE (169), China (147), and Hong Kong (89), rounding up the top five.

By gender, of the 3,069 Filipinos slapped with “fixed-term including life imprisonment”, 2,521 were male, and 548, female.

However, many of those in jail will soon be out of detention as the collated DFA report counted 1,181 OFWs waiting for deportation.

Overall, there were at least 4,745 Filipinos in trouble with the law in their host countries from July to December last year.

“This is just, however, the tip of the iceberg of Filipinos in distress in foreign lands. Sila yung nagkasala. Hindi kasama dito ang mga kababayan nating nabiktima. Di hamak na mas maraming Pilipino ang nakaranas ng pang-aapi or naabuso ang karapatan,” Recto said

Recto said a reading of the DFA’s ‘OFW situationer’ “would bring one to places, some with exotic sounding names, where you wouldn’t imagine a Filipino landing in jail.”

Because of the rising number of OFWs in jail, Recto called for the augmentation of the “Assistance-to-Nationals (ATN) Fund” of the DFA.

Under the proposed 2018 national budget, the said fund will jump two-and-half times to P1 billion in 2018, while a legal fund, also managed by the DFA, will double to P200 million.

“That would be a 150 percent increase, from this year’s P400 million. It is a big jump. Pero kulang pa rin. Kung titingnan mo ang dapat tulungan, sadyang maliit ang halaga,” Recto said.

Recto praised DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano “for stepping up our foreign service’s efforts to help Filipinos caught in difficult circumstances abroad.”

He said Cayetano has strengthened DFA’s migrant workers’ welfare team, “whose efforts must be adequately funded.”