Sunday, November 23, 2008

August 8, 2008

Saudi Arabia pardons 22 Filipino detainees
08/08/2008 08:08 PM

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - About 22 Filipino workers who have been languishing in jails in western Saudi Arabia were given amnesty recently by the host government, the Philippine consul general in Jeddah said on Friday.

Consul General Ezzedin Tago said the detainees, all facing minor charges. He did not give details but most of the minor violations Filipinos are involved in are liquor- or sex-related.Tago said the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs also reportedly expects more Filipino prisoners to be pardoned during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on September 1.

He said the ministry advised the consulate to secure the travel documents of the repatriates and facilitate their journey back home. "I’m happy with the good example and generosity shown by the Saudi government to Filipino prisoners," Tago told GMANews.TV.

Filipino diplomats and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been involved in rescue and relief work for distressed compatriots say Saudi authorities have actually been lenient on Filipinos amid rampant complaints of maltreatment of workers by their employers.

In mid 2007, then Consul General Pendosino N. Lomondot asked help from Saudi officials when some 200 runaway OFWs from the Eastern and Central regions, which are under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, sought help from the consulate.

The runaways paid a syndicate who smuggled them to Jeddah with a promise to repatriate them through the so-called “backdoor exit." When the effort failed, the runaways trooped to the consulate and demanded to be repatriated.

In a show of good will, the Saudi government agreed to repatriate not just 200 but also more than 700 mostly women adults and children, who have been stranded in the kingdom for years.

When President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited Saudi Arabia in May 2006, she asked King Abdullah to grant pardon to 50 Filipinos detained in various jails for minor charges. King Abdullah responded by pardoning more than 300 Pinoys.

Saudi Arabia employs more than one million skilled and unskilled Filipino workers, making it the top destination for OFWs. - Ronaldo Concha, GMANews.TV

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