Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Citing that many distress Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have cases in various courts in Saudi Arabia and in other Mid-east countries are not properly represented during case hearings, an alliance of Filipino migrant rights group in the Middle East today urges the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to consider the retention service arrangement of local law firm to represent distress OFWs in court especially those who are on death row cases.
John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said at present the various Philippine posts in the Middle East would only hire the services of a local lawyer or a law firm on case to case basis, and only upon the approval by the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA).
“We have found out for instance that the PH post in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar, among others, do not have an on-call service of a local lawyer or law firm so that they could immediately attend on the case hearings of distress OFWs who have cases in courts,” Monterona added.
On a case-to-case basis and depending on the profile of the case, the legal assistance provision as required by the newly amended law (RA 10022) is not readily available for distress OFWs who are in need of legal representation in court.
As a requirement for granting the legal assistance for distress OFW with case at hand, the DFA-OUMWA would normally require the concerned PH post to submit 3 quotations from 3 local law firms.
Upon review of the quotations, it would only then decide to hire the services of one of the 3 local law firms, on a single case basis.
Monterona said: “Thus not all distress OFWs with cases in court for various offenses or as victims, will have the opportunity to be properly represented in court in the absence of the services of a local Sharia lawyer who could attend case hearings and represent the distress OFWs in court and in other government judicial bodies.”
“It is on the best interest of OFWs that they will be properly represented in court in case they have been accused or be the victim of abusive employers; hence we are urging the DFA-OUMWA to consider the hiring a local law firm on a retention contract basis, let us say good for three to 6 years, so that there is a continuity of providing legal assistance to OFWs in distress,” Monterona averred.
Migrante chapters in the Middle East maintain that it continuously to receive an average 7 – 10 cases ranging from abuses, maltreatment, labor malpractices, and the commission of petty crimes such as alcohol, 'mixed' crowd, illegal possession of heroin, among others.
There are about more than 3,000 OFWs in various jails in the Middle East, according to Migrante's conservative estimate. (end)
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator