MANILA - The Philippines and Saudi Arabia are set to finalize a treaty that will allow the transfer of sentenced inmates between the two countries, a Department of Justice (DOJ) official said Thursday.
Under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement (TSPA), Filipino citizens jailed in Saudi may opt to complete their jail term in prisons in the Philippines, DOJ spokesperson Usec. Markk Perete told DZMM.
Saudi nationals incarcerated in the Philippines can also request to be transferred to a correctional facility in their home country, he said.
"Based on humanitarian consideration talaga siya kasi ang theory behind it is mas madaling marehabilitate 'yung mga prisoners if 'yung support system nila ay nandiyan, halimbawa mga family members," he said.
(It is based on humanitarian consideration because the theory behind it is prisoners can be rehabilitated faster if their support system, like family members, are there.)
"Mas madali silang magbagong buhay kung parating pinupuntahan sila ng kanilang mga kapamilya," he said.
(It is easier for prisoners to change their life if they are frequently visited by their family.)
It will also be easier for inmates to be reintegrated into society if they are confined in a facility where officials speak the same language, the spokesperson said.
The treaty covers all convicted Filipino and Saudi nationals, except for those who "committed [a crime] against the head of the government or cases considered as political," Perete said.
Filipinos who were charged with murder in the Middle Eastern state must settled the blood money first, before he or she can request to be transferred to the Philippines.
"Kung siya mismo (prisoner) ayaw bumalik sa Pilipinas at dito tapusin 'yung kaniyang sintensya, then hindi mag a-apply 'yung TSPA," he said.
(If the prisoner does not want to go back to the Philippines to complete his or her sentence here, then the TSPA cannot be applied to his or her case.)
Prisoners who are sentenced to less than 6 months are usually not covered by the TSPA as the "transfer work" usually takes about half a year, the undersecretary said.
"It might not be efficient for us to ask na ibalik dito sa kulungan pero may exemption din tayo like for humanitarian considerations," he said.
(It might not be efficient for us to ask for a prisoner to be returned here if he or she has 6 months of jail time left, but there are exemptions like for humanitarian considerations.)
The DOJ is trying to have a similar treaty with Italy, China, UAE, Perete said.
"Inuna nating mag negotiate with Saudi Arabia because we know na maraming Pilipino ang nakakulong doon," he said, noting that about 900 Filipinos are jailed in the Arabic Kingdom, while another 1,000 overseas Filipino workers are facing cases there.
The TSPA with Saudi Arabia is expected to be signed "early next year," Perete said.
Once signed by both parties, the Senate will have to ratify the agreement before it can take effect.
- with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News