130 Filipinos in death row overseas, nearly 4,000 in jail - Recto

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2017 06:47 PM

130 Filipinos in death row overseas, nearly 4,000 in jail - Recto 1
Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino migrant worker facing execution over drug trafficking in Indonesia, is among 130 Filipinos in death row around the world. A DFA report revealed that more than half of Filipinos in jail overseas are facing drug-related charges. File photo 

Most Filipinos held abroad have drug-related cases; Malaysia hosts the most number of Filipinos with “fixed-term jail sentences” 

MANILA- Some 130 Filipinos are in death row among 3,827 held in 52 countries around the world mostly due to drug-related cases as of 2016, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said Tuesday as he called for greater funding to provide them legal aid. 

Citing a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) report, Recto said the figure does not include other overseas Filipinos in distress, such as 625 under investigation for various offenses and those who fell victim to abuse. 

“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.

He said it would 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.”

The senator is calling for the augmentation of the “Assistance-to-Nationals (ATN) Fund” of the DFA to help Filipinos in conflict with laws in their host countries.

Under the proposed 2018 national budget, the ATN fund was allocated P1 billion, more than twice the P400 million funding this year, while a legal fund, also managed by the DFA, will double to P200 million.

“...It is a big jump. Pero kulang pa rin. Kung titingnan mo ang dapat tulungan, sadyang maliit ang halaga,” Recto said. 

The DFA report, a compilation of dispatches sent by Philippine embassies and consulates on overseas Filipinos in distress from July to December 2016, showed the scale of legal problems Filipinos are dealing with abroad.

For one, it showed that 130 Filipinos are facing execution in 11 countries. Of this figure, 48 are “praying for clemency" in Malaysia, while 43 are awaiting either execution or "forgiveness" in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, a total of 137 Filipinos, 33 of whom are female, are serving life sentences abroad.

The report bears some silver lining as it cited some 1,181 Filipinos who may be soon be out of jail and are awaiting deportation.


The report revealed that illegal drugs were the most common reason why Filipinos got in legal trouble abroad, with 2,265 recorded cases, or more than half of the total. 

Malaysia has the most number of Filipinos jailed due to drug-related cases with 1,131, followed by Saudi Arabia with 459, and China with 146. 

Of those facing drug charges, 473 were Filipino women, with 50 cases in South America, 21 in Brazil and 23 in Peru, Recto said.

Immigration offenses meanwhile brought 903 Filipinos in jail, followed by robbery or theft, which account for 658 Filipinos. 

Other offenses allegedly committed by Filipinos were murder, homicide, and attempted manslaughter, embezzlement and fraud, physical injury and assault, rape and sexual assault.


Violations of the host country's morals and religious law have also sent hundreds of Filipinos behind bars.

“There were also 351 Filipinos 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 Filipinos landed in jail, mostly in the Middle East,” he added.


Most Filipinos serving “fixed-term jail sentences” are in Malaysia, with a total of 1,927 cases. Saudi Arabia comes in second with 391 Filipinos serving various prison sentences, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 169, China with 147, and Hong Kong with 89.

Most Filipinos serving prison terms including life imprisonment are males with 2,521 cases. Females meanwhile account for 548 cases.