Rep. Ron Salo of KABAYAN party-list on Monday urged Philippine embassies in Muslim countries—where there are overseas Filipinos (OFWs) incarcerated or facing the death penalty—to intercede on the OFWs’ behalf.
Salo at the same time called on the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to assist in the said cases.
Citing a report from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Salo said there are a total of 83 Filipinos overseas on death row, with 56 in Malaysia; 6 in the UAE; 5 in Saudi Arabia; 1 in Indonesia, which is the case of Mary Jane Veloso; and 15 from other countries such as Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, USA, Japan, Brunei.
Further, there are a total of 1,267 overseas Filipinos currently detained, with 914 in Middle Eastern countries; 321 in the Asia Pacific; 23 in Europe; 5 in America; and 4 in Africa.
“Ramadan, which begins on March 22, is a time of mercy and compassion. It is an opportune time for Muslim majority countries to exercise these virtues by showing leniency to Filipinos who are incarcerated,” Salo said.
Salo, chair of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, noted that historically, leaders of Muslim majority countries agree to pardon or commute the sentences of convicts during Ramadan.
Salo recalled that in previous years, heads of state in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen have marked the Islamic holy month of Ramadan by extending clemency to prisoners under sentence of death by granting pardons or commuting their sentences through the intercession of our embassies.
In 2018, The Emir of Qatar has given a royal pardon to 25 Filipinos who were charged with various offences in his country in a gesture marking the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
“We have to exhaust all means to save the lives and reclaim the liberties of our overseas Filipinos. Let us appeal to the merciful hearts of our Muslim brothers and sisters in this holy month of fasting,” Salo said.
“Thus, I am urging our Philippine embassies, with the possible assistance of the NCMF, to act swiftly and intercede in behalf of our Kabayans who are in jail,” Salo said.
“Our embassies must work closely with local authorities and the families of our overseas Filipinos to gather all necessary information to support their appeals for clemency,” he continued.
“I hope that this call to action will be heeded by Philippine embassies around the world, and that the government of Muslim majority countries will show mercy and compassion towards Filipinos during this holy month of Ramadan,” Salo stressed.