DMW to handle death row cases of OFWs from July

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 31 2023 05:09 PM

ABS-CBN News/file
Mary Jane Veloso's father turned emotional during their prayer rally outside the DFA, appealing to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to negotiate with Indonesian President Joko Widodo the clemency for the said OFW. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA — Supervision over cases of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) facing capital punishment in other countries will be transferred to the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) starting July.

Prior to this development, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had handled cases of OFWs on death row. 

In a hearing conducted by the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (OWWA), DFA Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega assured lawmakers of continued support for Filipinos facing capital offenses.

"Each one, we guarantee you, has a case file. We give legal protection to all cases from beginning to end," De Vega told the House panel.

At least 82 Filipinos are facing cases for capital punishment. Of this number, 54 cases are in Malaysia, eight cases in the United Arab Emirates, five in China, and four in Saudi Arabia. There are also cases in Indonesia, Japan, and Brunei Darussalam.

De Vega said support is being given even to the convicted OFWs.

"Even convicted, we try to at least delay, because as long as they're alive, it's a victory everyday," De Vega said.

"The executive department, through our embassies, always strive to give the best protection, especially legal assistance," he said.

De Vega said they are hopeful that the most prominent case, Mary Jane Veloso, will not be executed soon.

"The Veloso case has been on death row since 2015. We're working with DMW about this and we are hopeful she will not be executed," he said.
Veloso was convicted of drug trafficking and was sentenced to death in 2015 after authorities found 2.6 kilograms of heroin sewn into the lining of her luggage in 2010.

She had pleaded her innocence and told the court that the luggage she used was only given to her by her recruiters. 

Joanna Concepcion of Migrante International appealed for continuous support for incarcerated OFWs, saying they have handled a case wherein a Filipino was allegedly tortured in jail and medical help got delayed.

"Tuloy-tuloy po sana na welfare assistance, maraming nagkakasakit sa kulungan, may case na na-torture sa kulungan, sana tuloy-tuloy checkup kahit nakakulong," Concepcion said.

(We hope that welfare assistance will continue. Many get sick in prison, one case was tortured. We hope checkup is continuous.)

OWWA Administrator Arnel Ignacio also told the House panel that they have decongested the shelter for Filipino OFWs in Kuwait.

From over 500 OFWs, around only 100 workers remain. The rest have been transferred to Kuwaiti shelters.

"We welcome this development on both sides. May kompiyansa kami na magbibigay ito ng patuloy na pag-uusap ng Philippine at Kuwaiti governments," said DMW Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac.

(We are confident that this will allow talks between the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments to continue.)